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Excellence in Martial Arts

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“The expectations of life depend on diligence.
The mechanic that would perfect his work
must first sharpen his tools.”
-Confucius

While Confucius himself was not a martial artist, this thought goes right to the heart of what it is that we do.  The “work” that we strive so hard to perfect – ourselves and who we are as human beings – is dependent totally on the tools that we bring to bear: our bodies and minds, spirit and attitude.

When we embark on this work, it’s with high expectations—and expectations often bring with them frustration.  We notice that the first big motivational hurdle our students confront comes shortly after the newness of this endeavor wears off – the “infatuation” stage in a relationship – and the student realizes that there’s a lot of sleeves-rolled-up, nose-to-the-grindstone work to be done before they are going to be able to perform at the level they want to.  Think of the scene where a frustrated Ralph Machio gets fed up with his training, before Mr. Miyagi, in a flurry of punches and kicks, shows young Ralph that all his hard work has amounted to more than just a smooth deck, a freshly-painted fence and a bunch of shiny cars.

For me, the secret to diligence—persevering through all the tool-sharpening necessary to achieving what we want—lies in the appreciation of developing all the little skills and qualities that will help us grasp them.   We should never take our eyes off the work itself, the person we want to be and the big things we want to accomplish, but big expectations should never dull our appreciation of a workshop full of awesome tools.

Posted: August 28, 2017 | In: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Pessimism never won any battle.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”
-Colin Powell

First, an apology and confession: I never finished my traditional weekly rumination on martial arts living and values lat week because I felt too beaten down by the subject.  Civility is what I wanted to talk as I read about and saw the pictures of the anger, hate and violence in Virginia last weekend.

I was even more deflated reading about Heather Heyer, killed in Charlottesville that weekend, who reminds me of slightly older version of my own daughter: a young woman with strong convictions on justice and equality and a desire to act on those values.  I found myself wrestling with the desire to ask Autumn to maybe stay away from any protests or demonstrations, at least until things in this country aren’t so crazy.  And that bummed me out even more.  No parent should have to worry about their children getting hurt speaking out about their beliefs–especially in this country.

Then, of course, there were the Barcelona attacks and the reminder that there are people so consumed by hate that they are willing to commit any atrocity against any man, woman or child.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by what we see going on in the world.  It’s easy to feel anxious and helpless.  But I’ve been reminded of a couple things that bring me great peace of mind and — yes– optimism.

The bad guys are in the minority.  Look at any demonstration held by a hate group.  Fr every person throwing a Nazi salute, or every person who shows up looking for violence and chaos, you will see dozens — even hundreds — of people who show up to champion peace, compassion and reason.  And they do it in reasonable, compassionate and reasonable ways.  Pictures of the hateful and violent will always get more air time on the news… but they take up far less space on this earth than the good guys.

Don’t worry about the war–there are battles to be won every day.  I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the best of human nature is constantly at war with the worst.  This struggle between hate and fear on one side and love and hope on the other has always been going on, and — barring any huge evolutionary leap on our part — always will.  It’s easy for an individual to feel powerless when faced with conflict on such a huge scale.

The fact is, every one of us has a hundred opportunities a day to strike a blow for good in our immediate community.  Those opportunities come in every single interaction we have with the people around us: the opportunity to be friendly rather than aloof, to be patient rather than frustrated, to smile at someone rather than ignore them.  To (as any of our young martial artists will tell you about the meaning of “respect”) treat others the way we want to be treated.

And there is perhaps the greatest reason for optimism: those young warriors who are learning and living these lessons in the Dojo and beyond.  They are becoming strong and fearless.  And most importantly, they are growing up kind and compassionate.   They are developing themselves every day as warriors in the service of all that is best in us, and that is a reason to be very optimistic indeed.

Posted: August 21, 2017 | In: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; 
true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
―Ernest Hemingway

Plenty of things to feel great about this past several days.  Family Day at Maudslay State Park was a blast–with not even a couple bursts of rain dampening spirits at the Outdoor Dojo.  Shodan Joe Repczynski’s glorious Crane Bed, was there, as was our incredible Demo Team, which capped off a very busy (and hot) week with some of their best performances yet.  Thanks to everyone involved.

But for me, one of the real high points was a text I got later Saturday from Sensei Ricky Comeau of 5 Dragons Martial Arts, a Salisbury dojo also at Maudslay that day.  He had some really wonderful things to say about our young students who he encountered, and who stopped by the 5 Dragons booth to watch their own (very impressive) students warming up and working out.  Our students, Sensei Ricky observed, were “humble, polite and confident.”  These, to me, are some of the highest compliments our young warriors can ever receive.

Generally when I meet a person who is boastful or boorish, I shrug it off and just do my best to avoid them.  When that person is a martial artist, though (and there are plenty of trash-talking, strutting fighters out there), it really bothers me.   Just like a missionary or member of the clergy represents their faith, we as martial artists represent our Art.   We can either educate people as to all the wonderful ways that our training builds stronger individuals and stronger communities, or we can turn people off and shut their minds to it.  That’s why it’s always such a pleasure to run into fellow martial artists like Rick Comeau and his students, and to hear that our students are representing.

You could say I’m extremely proud of their humility.

Posted: August 7, 2017 | In: Uncategorized | Leave a comment