Perspective is important.
If you think about it one way, I’ve been involved in the martial arts for a long time (14 years). I’ve been doing kata for longer than I’ve been driving.
If you think about it another way, I’m a karate baby. Bill Hayes knew twice as much as I do now 30 years ago. Sadness and depression for me.
That’s why it’s never too soon to address not just the physical nature of your training, but the mental approach as well. In my opinion, you should think by year and train by day.
Think By Year
In order to access the deepest parts of your martial arts you simply cannot be in a hurry. Everything takes time and the pacing of proper training can’t be done at modern-world-speed.
We have a joke in our dojo called “okinawa time”, which means that things will happen when they happen.
For instance, if a class starts a little late – don’t worry about it. If you can’t figure out a technique, there is no need to stress. You have the rest of your life after all.
Thinking By Year is a process in which you set your goals not a few months ahead but a few years ahead. For example:
- Is there a new kata you’d like to learn? Settle into the idea of focusing on it for two years.
- Would you like to improve your kicking? Set a reasonable regiment of kick drills that you can accomplish every week for a year.
- Do you wish to understand the bunkai of your forms? Pick a form and critically analyze it over the course of three years.
The goal of this process is to reset the mind out of modern pacing and slow…things down…a bit. Instead of hurriedly acquiring the gross movements of a kata, why not examine every little body change and nuance? After all, you’ve got two years to think about this kata so there’s no rush to get on with it.
Now you might be thinking – Matt, it’s a little tough to think in years when my next testing is 3 months away! You’re right about that. In modern training where structured kyu ranking is involved, year-thinking is often not a great option. However, once you achieve black belt, designing your own training should be a top priority.
Train By Day
The main problem with Thinking By Year is procrastination. If you’ve got all the time in the world, it’s easy to wait until next week to put in some real effort. Of course, when next week arrives there are new reasons not to focus. And the week after that will hold new reasons again.
The idea of “surviving” or “coasting” through a class is a big-time disease for many students. It can take the form of physical laziness (which we’ve all seen), or mental laziness. Mental laziness is an acceptance of going through the motions and “getting your workout” without putting any thought into improvement.
Training By Day is a method wherein every time you step onto the dojo floor you strive to improve just a little bit. You reach for a small piece of understanding that you didn’t possess the day before.
One of the great big , mysterious, super inner circle secrets of the martial arts is that improvement takes place in painfully small increments over a hefty amount of time (interspersed with highly valuable ‘ah ha’ moments).
You need the short term fortitude to make those small steps, and the long term commitment to not feel hurried or impatient.
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As a sidenote – living on “okinawa time” has been a great means of stress reduction in my life, and a source of aggravation for my friends and loved ones when they try to make plans with me.
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Some startling news broken by Josh Dickey of The Wrap, a Hollywood watchdog website:
“Steven Seagal is accused of hiring young women as personal attendants whose real job was to serve his strange and sometimes violent sexual desires, according to a civil lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles by a 23-year-old former model who describes her experience in harrowing detail.
The plaintiff, Kayden Nguyen, said she met the action star in February through an ad on Craigslist seeking an executive assistant and, after three interviews, was told to pack for a trip to New Orleans, where the A&E show “Steven Seagal Lawman” was taping. When she arrived, the lawsuit says, she discovered that Seagal had been keeping two young female Russian “attendants” who were essentially on-call for sex — 24-seven.”
According to reporting sources, Nguyen had been hired by Seagal under the pretenses of a normal assistant job, but found the reality of the situation to be quite different almost at the onset of the meeting.
“The lawsuit says Nguyen accepted the job on Feb. 22, a Monday, and was sped in a limo to a waiting private jet. Her first indication that something was awry was when Seagal told her, as the plane was taking off, that his wife “wouldn’t mind if we had a sexual relationship. Once in New Orleans, she was taken to Seagal’s house in a remote area of Jefferson Parish. The two Russian “attendants,” Sasha and Natasha (pseudonyms) shared a bedroom upstairs, where Seagal’s wife and baby also stayed.
The first assault took place on the first night, when Seagal showed up in Nguyen’s bedroom with one of the girls and said he wanted ‘a massage.’” - The Blemish
The situation is said to have gotten steadily worse, as Mr. Seagal’s actions became more brazen and more sexually charged. After protests at his initial advances, it is reported by Ms. Nguyen that Seagal used “illegal pills” and more forceable coersion to get her to comply to his desires.
After a few attempted confrontations to both fellow employees and Mr. Seagal himself, Nguyen attempted to extract herself from the situation.
“The ordeal carried on for several days, and it wasn’t until Feb. 28 — the following Sunday — that she was able to escape the situation.
The lawsuit says Nguyen told Seagal that she had to leave to meet with family members who would be suspicious if she didn’t show up. Nonetheless, he told her not to leave the house and followed her with a gun equipped with a flashlight as she went out to a waiting cab, which sped away as she jumped in the front seat.” – MSN.com
“Nguyen’s lawsuit claims that even after she got away, Seagal and his employees tried desperately to persuade her to return. When she escaped, she left behind “everything of value she owned,” including car keys, her laptop, clothes, and “hundreds of dollars worth of makeup.” She was told she would not get the items back until she signed an agreement stating she would not report the sexual attacks.
The lawsuit alleges sexual harassment in violation of federal labor laws; illegal sex trafficking; retaliation; wrongful termination; and false representations about employment. Each of the six counts seeks in excess of $1 million in damages.” – TheWrap.com
Seagal’s lawyer, Marty Singer, has responded to TMZ that: “Kayden’s lawsuit is an absurd pack of lies and she was fired for using illegal narcotics”.
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Over the weekend I had a chance to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival in Fairmount Park outside of Philadelphia, PA. More specifically, I attended “Sakura Sunday”, which was a celebration of various aspects of Japanese culture.
Despite the fact that the cherry blossom trees had bloomed and passed, the event was still full of lively activity and large throngs of Japan enthusiasts.
For those who may not be familiar with it, the Cherry Blossom Festival is a large event that occurs during the brief period when cherry blossom trees are in bloom with lovely white and pink flowers. But, as is the case with many things in Japan, the festival holds a deeper significance than simple flower appreciation. Many samurai clans used the cherry blossom as a symbol of their way of life: beautiful and vibrant, but extremely short lived and able to be snuffed out in a moment.
Of course, on Sakura Sunday, that bittersweet sentiment gives way to Japanese hard rockers and cosplay.
The diversity of events was excellent. The first thing we attended was a sushi making-and-tasting demonstration. The sushi itself was quite good, but it was the other little odds and ends that came with it that made the experience unique. There was a dessert roll called Daifuku that was made of an unusual gelatin that contained bean paste on the inside. The noodles also had a very interesting texture, quite unlike what you get at a normal Chinese restaurant.
I was also pleased to find out that various martial arts demonstrations had been going on throughout the day. Featured were groups that studied Aikido, Iaido, and Shotokan Karate.
For those who might not be familiar, all three arts are based out of Japan. Despite the fact that karate is Okinawan born, Shotokan is the popular style based off of the teachings of Funakoshi Gichin, who was instrumental in bringing karate from Okinawa to Japan.
There were also a few events that I decided not to actively engage in. The “cutest dog in pink” competition, for example. It’s never been a secret that Japanese people are into some weird stuff, and I simply can’t go along with all of it.
Some other highlights from the day included getting to view a Chado tea ceremony. Leading the demo was a very well-composed and artful Japanese woman, with a knowledgeable man narrating for her (allowing her to stay focused).
Also housed in Fairmount Park is an authentic Japanese dwelling known as “Shofuso” built by Junzo Yoshimura in 1953. The house was designed to illustrate some of the most unique and intriguing aspects of classical Japanese design.
It was a fun time. Unfortunately, I was acutely aware of just how brief a sense we were receiving of each Japanese pursuit.
I wondered, could we possibly appreciate the skill and serenity of the Chadoka in that crowded environment, investing only a few minutes of our time and attention with her?
Part of me knew the passing glimpses of each activity was not enough to understand them even on a superficial level, but I tried to forget that and simply enjoy the festival for what it was: a nice gesture of appreciation for a culture that has given us much.
And, as one Japanese rocker put it: “we glad you like Japanese culture. My English pretty good too right?”
I think that sums it up.
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