Saturday, February 24, 2007

Just some thoughts.

Life gets complicated. Things change, problems arise, people come in and out of your life. Sometimes, and i know this is true in my case, some of that complication is aggrivated by you. You dont take the time to think things through maybe, or past experiences already determine how you view some things. From my standpoint the most complicated thing i face is the future; what will i do, is what i picked the right thing, will i be able to support myself with what makes me happy. I don't really have anything figured out just yet, but every now and then something will pop up that sorta helps put things in perspective. Pat recently made a post on aiki and there's something i'll quote from it here

"Often aiki is translated as something like “coordinated energy” but lately I have preferred to translate aikido as the art of making peace with the energy in the world. People who are able to do the magical aiki effects are able to make peace with the things going on in the world. They have reduced their desire to impose their will on a situation so they are able to move around with uke and live with the results. They are at peace with the energy around them.And that’s real, magical aiki – being able to move so that you can live with uke’s actions. "

It's pretty easy to replace uke as what might be troubling you i suppose. I sorta like the implications that makes.

Something else i stumbled across just a few minutes ago i would like to share. I'll post the whole things so i can come back to it.. it may be long, but i think it's worth the read.

So You Chose the Martial Arts as Your Career Path: What Were You Thinking?
By Tom Callos

As I write this I’m preparing for the graduation ceremony for participants in my first Ultimate Black Belt Test ( I’ve been searching for the right words to put the 13 months each of the candidates has invested in their test into perspective –and that lead me to writing the following piece, A “Career” Black Belt’s Graduation Address.

The piece, as it is here, is for an imaginary group of black belts, a graduating class at a “Black Belt University,” who have chosen to pursue the martial arts as a career. If the martial arts are your chosen career, maybe you’ll find some value in reading it? In my mind, every day is a graduation of sorts, so the truth is that maybe I wrote this for myself –and for you too?

A “Career” Black Belt’s Graduation Address

When planning this address, I realized that I don’t have a single answer to give you, only questions. However, the questions, mine and your own, are what I think contain the real power in life. At least that is what I have learned, but continually need to practice to remember.

Up to this time in your martial arts journey, there have been any number of people who have cared for your education, nurtured you along, and cared about how you performed –your teachers, your seniors, your fellow students, some friends. But beginning next week, you will, more or less, be on your own (like you have always been) and back with that one person who got you into this thing in the first place –your inspiration, your truest critic, your most faithful supporter, and your some-time-enemy … yourself.

Yes, this is the same person who (might have?) chose the martial arts over, oh, say a law degree, medicine, architecture, and all the other noble careers you could have had --had you not been on the mat so often.

What were you thinking?

You weren’t, were you? At least not in the sense of considering the ins-and-outs and calculating your choices. Being a martial artist --or pursuing art of any kind--is a path that doesn’t make a lot of sense at all when you think about it logically. But the internal call of the martial arts is compelling and powerful. And there are lots of other kinds of thinking other than analysis.

Did Baryshnikov think when he danced? Did he analyze and calculate? Did Michael Jordan think when he ran down the court, stopped, took three steps back, faked, turned the other way, turned again then jumped and sent the ball through the hoop that he hadn’t looked at since mid-court? Is that thinking? One important thinker, Educator Howard Gardener, calls it intelligence in his book Multiple Intelligences. He calls it kinetic intelligence. Athletes use it. So do neurosurgeons. This isn’t a surprise to you, is it?

And he cites other intelligences –musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence –and adds them to mathematical and verbal intelligence, which were, for years, the only ones most educators acknowledged. Technology isn’t set up to measure all of these intelligences, but everyone can recognize the truth in the idea. And here’s the thing: They all come into play when one pursues the lifestyle of a black belt –and then the path of the professional martial arts teacher. We may not understand it all, but we use them, just as we didn’t have to understand grammar when we started talking.

So, through some invisible process, you choose to pursue this path. Maybe you saw something in a movie or on TV, maybe you met a black belt who inspired you, perhaps it was simply an idea you found in your head? But when you put on that uniform and you felt your power on the mat, you were changed.

It isn’t always easy, this martial arts thing. There’s pain, there’s push, there’s humiliation and defeat. But like the oyster that turns a grain of sand into a pearl, you take all the experiences and find transformation. As a result of training you are different than you were before. You are expanded by it all.

I’m not speaking figuratively here. Thanks to brain imaging, we have started to see something of how we are changed by our experiences. When the brain encounters something new, something it has never seen before, its neural pathways shift, and some synapses become more active while others become less so. Properly wired up and monitored by a scientist or doctor, the image of your brain lights up like a pinball machine. When the stimulus is removed the brain reverts back to its prior state –but not all the way back. It retains some of the new patterning. You create neurons every time you learn something new as a record of sorts of how to do the thing. The first years of your life were completely taken up by this patterning and stretching as you encountered the bright light of birth, then Mama, then water, and on and on.

This is all exhilarating, but after 20, 30 or 40 years of it, it can be a bit too intense for some people. Maybe that’s why some people tend to get careful and conservative as they get older. They want things to stay the way they are, so they can get a handle on life.

But not martial artists; we go looking for the change. The fear of the unknown, a quick triumph over fear, something new, the crafty new opponent --then a rush of dopamine to the brain. Of course there are other things that change us. New arguments change us, new concepts, new people, and new places. But martial artists make most of their change from the inside. They use it to grow themselves. It is exalting –and exaltation is pretty hard to find in the everyday.

So there’s a succinct definition of a good training day for you: You come home and you’re not the same person as when you left in the morning. Your daily efforts may not always create a huge change, but it’s there and it adds up.

Will you ever wonder why you chose the martial arts over everything else you could have done? Probably. Will you ever “hit the wall?” I think you will. Will you ever doubt yourself and your decisions? Most certainly. The famous artist Richard Serra said, “The place where you are dumfounded by your own lack of understanding is the place to start working. Once you stop doubting you might as well stop working.”
Now, graduating to a new level, your real work begins. It’s not about being a great martial artist, this journey. It’s about being a great human being. That’s your graduation thought.

My last bit of advice: Stay awake, stay out of your comfort zone. Keep searching. Keep working. Don’t get stuck for too long. Practice evolving physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That is The Way.

You’ve chosen the right career. Make it a great one. Make the martial arts industry, no, make the world better --because you were involved.

About the AuthorTom Callos is a veteran consultant to the martial arts industry. His latest project, The Ultimate Black Belt Test can be seen at His personal website is He resides with his wife and three children in Placerville, CA.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Aiki weekend

So John came down this week and Pat Sensei let us do some judo and aikido friday and saturday. It was a pretty productive weekend in my book. Sparring with John made me notice for the first time just how much judo and aikido are related. It's one thing being told they are and another actually feeling the similarities. I was able to keep up with him standing but more or less lost it on the ground. The different arm bars and that kinda strategy isn't really firm in my head.

Still, doing judo again was fun. It's been many moons since the last time i got to practice it at all and to me it's kinda neat to look back and see just how much the aikido i've learned has helped. I used to be deathly afraid of being foot swept and now it's no big deal at all. Although i still think Vincent would put the fear of God in me were he to show up again.

As well as some sparring, John and i also did the basic throws of judo and played around with those some. Pat Sensei came in and we sorta moved back and forth from judo to aikido, and at some point Kary showed up and we did....something (here's where posting when i get back to town would be helpful). At some point that night Pat nailed me rather well with ALL of nijusan. Ouch!

Saturday we did a couple of reps of tegatana and hanasu. I helped refresh kary on them since he's only been to a few clases and has been absent a while. We did some ki bump exercises with oshitaoshi and the broke out the crash pad for some owaza. After class John had Pat and i demonstrate nijusan and all of the different technique chains so he'd have a video to compare things to while he's learning from Bryce. I was practically exhausted, which won't be hard to tell once the video John took makes it to the internet, so i'm sure it'll be an interesting thing for me to see from an outside perspective.

John and i got a chance to catch up on things, compare notes and whatnot. More on that in a different post. An interesting thing occurred to me on the way back home though. The way i've been absorbing aikido is a lot like tetris, the blocks fall down and every once in a while make a line that actually becomes something learned. That's why after the umpteenth time i'm told something i'll finally grasp it. I think i did pretty good this weekend. I definitely had fun.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


This one's a tad short. I've just sorta been thinking about my training and how dedicated i seem to be. I live 85 or so miles from the dojo, so it's sorta a long haul from home to class and back. I've missed a lot of class nights lately and though most of them have been due to random events from school to car work and things in between, there have been a couple where i just didn't want to make the trip. I love aikido and enjoy going to class, but sometimes the will to go just isn't there. On the nights i don't go i know i'm not going to be getting any practice in elsewhere to compensate for what i've missed as a matter of fact class is the only time i get any reall practice at all other than doing tegatana and pondering on things in my noggin. Dave Lowry once wrote to the effect that one who is serious should go to class no matter what because you never know if it will be there tomorrow. I happen to know how true this actually is through various experiences in the past but if a student misses class on purpose is he slacking off? I feel guilty (and more to follow as soon as i hit publish) because i'm not giving it a hundred percent. Anyhoo, those are my thoughts at the moment.