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Making Sense Of The Universe With Kata/Form

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“As Above – So Below”

In ritual magic you affect the macrocosm by understanding and changing the microcosm.

If you want to really understand kata/form and what was in the mind of the originators and you have enough knowledge – try inventing your own.

Why would you invent one?
It would have to improve the understanding and standard of the practitioner.
Do you want to categorise an entire training system into one form?
Maybe there are specific ideas and principles that you want to put together and train in one sequence?

Very quickly you will begin to understand the problems the originators had and how they had to overcome them. You realise that some are an entire training system compressed into one form, that you have to look beyond the technique to see the ideas and principles that are being trained, because there’s no point in endless repetition of the same idea with different techniques, then some are focusing on body skills like the internal system, core manipulation or power sourcing. It’s only when you try to do this and walk in the shoes of the ancestors that the doors of understanding open to you.

You can’t communicate on a broken phone….

On a deeper level, by widening your perspective, you realise that the basic ideas behind all martial training is align the body, breath and mind ( ‘Sanchin’ the resolution of the conflict of mind, body and breath) that brings about a harmony where the wordless language of your body and the rest of universe can be perceived, felt and heard. When the mechanism of your universal communicator is fixed, an entirely new perspective is found.

This gives you the opportunity to understand the universe around you, how do you do that?

By using your newly found skills to ask the questions.

Why would you invent a universe?
It may be the result of one mind or an evolutionary process by accident, or most probably something well beyond the mind of mankind, but the result is the same.
Does the universe have a purpose?
If it does what could it be?
Why does it have to be a world of opposites?
How is everything joined up?
How does it communicate?
Who am ‘I’ and what is my place in it and how do I fit in with harmony?

You realise that you’ve taken the first steps by fixing the communicator, that the universe was talking to you all the time but your communicator was broken.

Now you can receive as well as transmit more fruitfully.

The meditative conversation begins…..

“When you speak it is silent, when you are silent it speaks…”

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Winter Sun

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Sitting out in the winter sun with my old faithful mongrel dog at my feet.
His old legs don’t carry him well anymore and he groans just as much as me as he gets up and sits down.
But we are at peace, the sun glints through shaded trees;
The breeze makes him twitch his nose as he ‘reads the doggy papers’;
I meditate with slow deep breaths from the dantien calming my system down with neigong;
We both commune with the Dao, me with skill, him naturally;
All the fuss of politics, social media and martial arts dissipates in nature;
As the ‘unborn’ rises to the top,
Still, calm, powerful and true – like the sea, laying beneath but connected to the movement of the waves;
This is where I go for refuge – and happy to be with my companion.
And a large cup of chamomile tea.

 

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Articles, Uncategorized

Come Together…

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The Martial Arts are a broad church and should be based in respect.  You’d think that martial artists would always want to show how their training  had taught them patience, kindness, tolerance, compassion, respect, courtesy, resolve, determination and courage and many good practitioners do show those qualities, unfortunately those that make the most noise on social media don’t.

40 years ago we were a cult. There was a good and bad side to that. On the good side many were taught and showed those good qualities and on the bad side there were bullies and blind worship, we travelled the World to learn and suffered horrendous injuries in our training and were loyal to our Instructors and fellow students to a fault.  There was no internet or social media, children weren’t taught and martial arts were just practiced by a few nutty adults in dark corners.

With the advent of Bruce Lee in ‘Enter The Dragon’ and David Carradine in the ‘Kung Fu’ television series in 1973 the general population learned about Kung Fu and Karate and the arts started to change.

Business and politics moved in and constantly restructured the arts into what we see today. Now 75% of the students are children and many of the adults are parents of the children that train and the prospective students priorities tend to be how local the Dojo is, what days and times are the training, how much does it cost, how friendly are the instructors and students and can they lose weight, get fit and maybe learn a bit of self defence. It’s now congruent with modern gym culture with children’s classes.

A different world indeed.

The standard in martial arts has gone up – not down.  There are simply far more people training than ever. The MMA fighters are tougher and better trained than any of us were. With the knowledge from books, videos, DVD’s, online media, constant translations of the classics, ease of travel and everyone becoming more cosmopolitan, high end traditional training is far better than it’s ever been. The contentious world of self defence means that there is a far wider range of training and more information than ever.  The ‘high end’ of this training probably accounts for around 5% of the people training, the rest only want ease of access, good rates, friendly faces and to get fit and lose a bit of weight and the kids want active fun.

So the ‘McDonalds’ of the martial arts world, usually called ‘McDojo’s’ thankfully accommodate the bulk of leisure martial artists and children. I don’t see ‘McDojo’ as a derogatory term, most people want to start off with a version of ‘martial arts lite’ and if they like their training and need to move up there is plenty of high end instructors that can take them on.

We have no political structure to speak of in the Martial Arts because our politicians were incapable of working for the benefit of the Arts and all the structures collapsed leaving most martial arts clubs to structure themselves. Sport England and the Government’s interference only ever made matters worse.

But the law structures us. We can’t cheat, lie or bully anymore without repercussion. Some of the biggest franchises are highly successful and have made millionaires out of their founders, I don’t begrudge them a penny because I know how difficult it is just to run a few clubs and make a living let alone deal with 600 clubs, their Instructors and thousands of students!

The noise on social media comes from the few who either don’t think it through or begrudge them their success, mostly they are people trying hard to emulate them or are just generally unsuccessful in the way they are structured and want someone to blame. I think what makes it worse for them is the fact that one of the biggest secrets of success is ‘don’t wrestle with a pig, because you’ll get covered in muck and the pig will like it’ – and ‘don’t feed the trolls’. Successful people are too nice to rise to the bait and too busy to become embroiled in the mosh pit of internet trolling.

We see a lot of video clips on social media of people doing martial arts at what is purported to be a low standard by people ridiculing them, but why post them? Surely it would be better to post good martial arts? Social media is a good recruiting tool so we would do far better if we weren’t bitching, arguing, posting clips of people and ridiculing them but instead showed the best side of what we do and how martial arts has developed our character and emotional intelligence for the better.

Those clips are also inevitably old – and I’m sure we’ve all done demo’s etc that haven’t gone particularly well and we wouldn’t want people to keep pulling them up and drawing attention to them. Also, what’s ‘bad’ to one person, isn’t to another, like I said, the Martial Arts is a broad church ranging from meditating monk, to top athlete and street fighter.

If you run a successful franchise where you are constantly visiting your clubs and teaching famous TV and movie stars, you can’t be THAT bad, and any media exposure can only be good for us all.  The wider the net is cast and the bigger the pool of beginners the more people will rise up to us teaching at the high end.

It makes sense for us all to work together.  We may not like each other or even the martial arts we do, but what do we tell our students?

“In our club and in the Martial Arts we work with each other whatever our personal likes and dislikes so that we all develop together.  We NEVER bully or ridicule each other.”

Maybe we should all take a big spoonful our own medicine?

 

 

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Find Your Own Martial Art

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Been training for a while and feel dissatisfied? Feel like you’re not learning the right things? The martial arts not meeting your expectations?

Meditate – ask yourself what you really want from your training, I don’t mean all the usual blanket answers but what do YOU want? What are YOUR individual expectations? This can lead to quite a few surprises because you’ve probably been taking on other people’s expectations without realising it and that’s why you have to go deep to discover what it is you REALLY need from your efforts.

Look at what you’re doing – having realised fully why you’re training, is your current path going to get you there? Look at the end result of what you’re training for and start to plot a path towards each bit. You will probably find that you will have take up separate aspects to get them to converge at the right point. I had to study philosophy, Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, and my own culture of Wicca and paganism, the healing arts of reiki and massage and the softer and more internal side of traditional Tai Chi to match the Kickboxing, Karate, Ju Jitsu, Judo along with the Chinese and Japanese weapons arts of Iaido, Jodo, Broadsword, Double Edge sword and Spear to reach the standard that I wanted and had to learn from the top Coaches in each field of study.

Be yourself – Everyone wants you to become what they want. Masters want soldiers and blind followers, students and family want you become what suits them. They will put their expectations on you. DON’T LET THEM! Be yourself! Don’t let anyone else put you in a box you are an individual and to be who you really are – and unlike them you have worked it out and plotted a path!

Be discerning – Can these people do what they say? How many top level practitioners and coaches have they produced? people lie, they exaggerate, they don’t put in the work themselves, they try and hide their lack of skill with mystique, secrecy and lineages – don’t fall for it!

Find balance – work at a pace that you can sustain. Become emotionally intelligent. Any path is only as strong as it’s weakest point, so know what your strong and weak points are – discover them for yourself, don’t wait for others to tell you! Other people always have an agenda know yourself inside out and find that essential level of balance.

Stick to your guns – have resolve, determination, courage, patience, tolerance, kindness and compassion and simply don’t give up. This is a lifelong quest! Fall down 7 times and get up 8. That’s the rule of thumb for life. That 1 step forwards through all the trials and tribulations is worth it’s weight in gold – it’s the winning step, it’s what sorts out the winners from the losers.

Do it – do it now – don’t put it off. Get your arse in that chair or on that cushion NOW, sit straight, breathe deep, calm your mind down and focus your attention – then ask yourself “what do I REALLY want?”

 

 

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Why ‘Positive Thinking’ Doesn’t Work…

steve profile booksWhy ‘positive thinking’ doesn’t work.

That happy mask, the fixed inane grin, the stupid idea that ‘anything’s possible’ if you think positive hard enough, usually comes from someone desperately unhappy or someone with their hand in your pocket.

Let me be honest. At least 50% of life is shit. It ranges from dissatisfaction to ‘please kill me now’ suffering. If you learn to deal with with it by becoming durable, it ‘enobles’ you. It means you’ve been hurt so bad for so long, nothing or no one can hurt you as much as you’ve been hurt already. It gives you depth and the ability to deal with life and help others from direct experience.

It means you REALLY appreciate the other 50% of life, when you have no pain life is incredibly beautiful. You appreciate all the beauty in the universe because it’s only beautiful because of it’s fragility, you know it will inevitably wither and die.

So deep happiness and sustainable success comes from wisdom and experience viewed from the right perspective. Life is about BALANCE understanding the way the universe creates it’s own form of harmony. In hindsight, what is hard and painful teaches you how to cope with life and appreciate that other 50%.

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The ‘Empty Force’ Of Tai Chi

 

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‘Empty force’ sounds nebulous and difficult to understand, but it isn’t. The body is a spring, when the posture is correct and the joints unlocked, when the soft tissue carries no unnecessary tension – the compression and release of a combination of the joints, including the spine, bodycore and soft tissue is a skill that can be trained in a multitude of ways.

The first level of skill is to unlock the body and keep it unlocked, start with good posture and then unlock the ankles, knees, hips, back and chest with the mantra ‘soften and connect’ when you can drop your bodyweight into the arches of your feet and feel them spread to the floor with the weight you’re ready to pump.

If you were to then jump in the air you would bend the joints and spring upwards, making the body ‘float’ upwards with an emptiness – and that’s what we’re looking for. Then try it without leaving the ground making the arms raise and float upwards with the Tai Chi technique at the beginning of the form called ‘raise hands’ although the hands float up they should still be connected to the feet so it they contacted the opponent at any point, the power would still come directly from the feet.

Then practice a series of exercises, (the Yang Family qigong is specifically designed for this purpose) making each part of the body float in every range of movement with that ’empty but connected to the feet’ sensation constantly unlocking and springing through the joints and soft tissue.

The next stage is the Tai Chi form with every technique practised in the same way so that you ‘float’ through the form with that characteristic soft, smooth, spiralling but still powerfully connected manner where at any point you can repel an opponent and also send an additional pulse in the same manner of a dynamic ‘pinball’ of energy into an opponent without overextending into them or collapsing from their pressure or your own technical failure.

This can then be applied to push hands and application work in a variety of skillsets.

The idea is simple. The action takes considerable training, but the skill is layered in at each stage. The purpose of this blog is to give you the vision of where to go and be able to recognise the training plan to get you there.

In Karate you may recognise the same process as ‘sink, swallow, float and spit’.

It’s an old internal skill that is rapidly getting lost as martial artists move from principles to technique only and a gym style of muscular development, throwing the baby out with the bathwater as they do so.

It wasn’t called ‘Soft Cotton Boxing’ and ‘Deceptive Boxing’ for nothing!

 

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Like Waves On The Sea

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You’re born out of this world – not into it;
An important difference,
Like waves are born out of the sea,
They are still the sea,
Made up from it,
Still joined to it,
And return to it.

So we are born out of this world,
Are still a part of it,
Made up from it,
Nourished by it,
Still joined to it,
And return to it.

We are truly ‘at one with the universe’;
Whether we know it or not;
When we ‘know’ it – life is easier,
We are like we are,
Because everything is as it is;
And we are always in the right place at the right time.

The universe doesn’t have human values;
Pain and suffering exist because happiness and joy do,
You can’t have one without the other;
Time is only a spiral in infinity,
All lifetime’s are actually the same length,
One life long.

Acknowledge what exists;
But don’t cling to it, let it pass,
Pain, suffering, happiness and joy,
2 sides of the same coin;
If you cling to any you will suffer;
For they are impermanent and do not belong to you.

Impermanence, dissatisfaction and no self,
The 3 marks of existence,
Observe their truth,
And life and death become natural,
And easier to deal with.

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