The town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado is known for its outstanding natural hot springs. None are more famous than the Hot Spring Pool nestled in the town proper.
This immense swimming area is filled naturally with mineral water from beneath the Earth and is built like an Olympic swimming pool. One end features diving boards, swimming lanes, and water slides. The other provides a tranquil wading pool lined with natural rock benches.
My girlfriend Lauren and I realized that we couldn’t miss the chance to attend this hot spring, and were extremely excited at the prospect of a “night swim”. As we returned to town after a day of hiking, we decided to grab our suits and trek down.
As amazing as the scenery around the hot spring was during the day, the setting evening sun was even more stunning. As night fell, lights came on all over the facility and created a relaxing and soothing atmosphere.
Lauren and I settled onto a rock bench between an older couple and two young girls between the ages of 16-18. As the benches were long and public in nature, everyone simply shared the space together.
At first Lauren and I were occupied by the unusually hot water and the slight sulfur smell around us. It was a shock to the senses and warranted quite a bit of remarking. Eventually though we acclimated and began a quiet, restful dip.
As our conversation dwindled we couldn’t help but see and overhear what was going on right next to us. The two young girls were conversing with a slightly pudgy man of middle age. He was unassuming looking and quick with a smile.
The man chatted with the girls for awhile and asked questions about their trip to Glenwood.
What shocked us as we sat there was not that a middle age man would try to chat up young girls (that’s all too common), but the careless answers which the girls gave.
When asked if they had family in Glenwood one girl responded: “Ohh no I have some family back home. They actually don’t even know I’m out here. I basically do whatever I want.”
When asked if they were there with anyone they responded: “No it’s just us. We’re out traveling and having a good time.”
When asked if they had seen the whole town yet one girl responded: “Ohh no we’ll probably do some more exploring tonight and tomorrow.”
If you were to create a checklist of “things young girls should not do or say”, these two would have accomplished most of the items on that list. Whether or not the middle aged man was actually a predator, the girls gave him all the information he would have needed to know that they were alone, unaccounted for, and easily manipulated.
One would think that in today’s society of easily accessible news and increased awareness of rape and stalking cases that young women would be on high alert for this kind of behavior. However that assumption would be dead wrong.
With youth and adventure comes a sense of invincibility, and young girls (especially entitled and potentially sheltered ones) never get the dose of reality that it takes to actively avoid potentially risky situations.
As martial arts instructors it is not our role to give boy advice or dating tips, but it is our role to improve situational awareness and the ability to place oneself in a defensible position. This situation was a stark reminder to me of yet another way martial arts training can help young individuals who walk through the door. I hope those girls turn out ok, and I hope the young women at all of our dojos take a note here of what not to do!
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I’d like to share a story given by Bill Hayes Sensei. Pardon any paraphrasing.
One time Hayes Sensei was training with his instructor Eizo Shimabukuro on the kata Passai. This kata is known for its power generation and its sweeping motions that feel for the opponent and almost reach out to him/her.
After training, Shimabukuro mentioned that this kata was like fighting at night.
The statement caught Hayes Sensei’s attention who thought he had gained some valuable insight into the original impetus for the form. Brave Okinawans, he decided, must have crept along during the night and dispatched their opponents using the passai kata! Certainly that explains the ‘feeling’ and ‘scanning’ hand and foot work.
Some time later the topic of Passai came up again, and Hayes Sensei engaged in discussion about how the kata came from night time fighting.
At that point Shimabukuro peered into Hayes Sensei’s eyes as if to see if there were any lights on.
“No, no”, he said. “Not at night. Like at night.”
Many times things can be lost in translation, especially when it comes to the mysteries of kata. In this case Shimabukuro Sensei was never suggesting that Passai kata was specifically for night time fighting, or that it was born from it. Instead he was trying to express that the same sensations and abilities you would rely upon at night are summoned and utilized via training in the Passai system.
Consider this: at night, you would not be able to see well. Therefore, when you make contact with an opponent, you must maintain Muchimi, or stickiness. Once that contact is made you can instinctively know where each part of your opponent’s body is. Essentially, should it be necessary, you could fight blindly.
This is an important concept to remember when considering the adrenaline dump that occurs during combat. Humans acquire tunnel vision when under extreme stress, which means you will have much less visibility (even during broad daylight) than you are used to. Therefore you have to rely on proprioception and touch response to first acquire your target and then properly eliminate him/her.
It’s important to remember that kata were not created for one specific environment or circumstance. That would be far too limiting a form of practice. Instead the concepts that are contained within each kata are omni-useful and work in harmony with the concepts of other kata.
The translation for the term Passai, which is frequently stated to be “penetrating the fortress” or “extracting from the fortress”, is not to be taken literally. The name may have a poetic connection to breaking down the barriers of an opponent, but it was never necessary to have an actual castle involved.
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The past two weeks have been busy times for me. I managed to sneak in a week-long trip to Colorado and Utah with the girlfriend in order to check out some amazing towns and natural landscapes. Upon return I immediately rolled into the IKKF’s 26th Annual Training Gasshuku.
I’d like to highlight a few of the events that took place during those times, especially the ones relevant to martial arts. In the coming weeks I will be creating a series of posts inspired by either my trip or my time at the IKKF Annual Training. Hope you dig it!
Hitting the Rockies
Colorado is a state of great beauty and great microbreweries. The GF and I were certain to partake of both throughout our travels. We flew into Denver and visited the nearby town of Boulder (also known as the Republic of Boulder for it’s uniquely hippie ways). We then embarked on a multiday mission to check out some of the outstanding mountain towns of Colorado and even venture out into Utah to visit Arches National Park.
Our first stop was in Glenwood Springs, where it just so happened two fans of Ikigai Way lived and taught martial arts. Through the magic of the internet we were able to get together and have a drink. Imagine karateka of different styles (I Okinawa Kenpo and they Shotokan) sitting amicably at the same table!?
My thanks to David Light and his student Jamin for reaching out and helping make my visit to Glenwood all the more special.
Arches was the next stop on our tour after we made our way through the mountains, and the sheer size and intensity of the geography there was more than I had ever seen before in my life. Some of the rock structures defied gravity and explanation.
If you ever find yourself out Utah way, try your best to stop in at Arches. Many of the landmarks can be reached by driving, and there is as much or as little hiking as you want in order to get a sense of the place.
After our all-too-brief time in the desert we moved back into the mountains where the lush pine forests of Steamboat Springs awaited us. Interestingly, as we drove past many ranches, I noticed an unusual gateway at the entrance of each one. They consisted of two rudimentary logs sticking upward out of the ground, connected across the top by a third beam. They came in a wide variety of designs and sizes, but each kept the same basic pattern. It struck me that the same symbol was often used in Japan and Okinawa in the form of the Torii Gate:
Certainly the ranch gates are not used to invoke any Shinto rites or rituals, but passing through the gate is significant in both cultures. They both developed the wooden form independently, and I gained a certain amount of pleasure from seeing such a thing spring up unexpectedly by the side of the road.
When we got to the town of Steamboat we visited the Fish Creek Falls. Sadly I didn’t get a chance to do any waterfall meditation as it probably would have killed me.
Ultimately, after our multiday excursion, we came back to Denver and flew home. I had a day’s rest before annual training which gave me a small chance to prepare for the painful and valuable “festivities” to come.
Hitting the Mat
IKKF Annual Training is the yearly gathering created by my instructor to bring together a bevy of highly qualified practitioners of various styles to help expose students to different methods of learning and understanding. Individuals such as Chuck Merriman, Patrick McCarthy, Forrest Morgan, Bill Hayes, and Miguel Ibarra (amongst others) have all shared their knowledge over the years, which has always proven valuable and insightful.
The learning this year was excellent and the training intense. Our school (The Heilman Karate Academy) had three students up for testing, two for shodan and one for sandan, all of whom passed with exceptional skill. I was very pleased by their efforts and results.
The ‘man of the hour’ for the whole event was Jody Paul Sensei, who achieved the rank of 9th Dan in his style of Okinawa Seidokan Motobu Ryu.
Paul Sensei provides a unique glimpse into karate’s old ways as he was one of the first westerners ever to be accepted as a direct student by Seikichi Uehara of Motobu Udun Di, the “palace hand” style of karate. Paul Sensei also studied extensively under Seikichi Odo Sensei and Shian Toma Sensei.
His insights and abilities are truly unique, and it has been a pleasure learning from him over the years.
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