Thursday, November 27, 2008

No Class on Saturday

Just wanted to let you all know that there's no class this Saturday. We will resume next week, and look for extra classes I'll be throwing in during the week!

Have a great Thanksgiving, mm-kay?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I am so excited!

Sensei Andrew Pena and I are doing this video series, and it has really gotten me pumped!
Check out our first video!


Sensei Andrew and I have a sneaky idea!

More details to follow!

It's not sneaky, really, it is very creative, actually. It's ART, man! lol

It's actually a demonstration of the universality of energy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lots going on

There are a lot of things going on in my mind about. As I was trying to create this blog, I had about 3 different blog titles/subjects, and then deleted them, because a gut instinct told me it wasn't the time to discuss those topics just would feel very forced.

I want this to be an organic expression of myself.

I got a piece advice from one of my mentors the other day. She said, "Sometimes, you have to be fearless, and jump off that cliff, and trust that where you'll land will be the right place."

Wow. That's a whole lotta guts, and a whole lotta trust!

The bigger lesson is when we fear, it means we fear losing something that we are attached to. In Buddhism, you'd question why that attachment exists, and seek to understand the attachment and ultimately lose it. In Taoism, it would be more about understanding fear by understanding it's opposite, which I suppose is courage. And of course, we understand courage by understanding fear. In other words, does fear = the absence of courage, and courage = the absence of fear? Having fear and courage would not be things to necessarily seek out and eliminate, but moreso to understand their relationship to each other.

I'm getting sleepy so I'll stop here from now.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Video boxes

I love to go to video stores and just browse the video/DVD cover boxes. I don't know why. I can spend hours in a video store just browsing the boxes and titles...well, I should qualify that - video stores like I Luv Video, Vulcan Video, and That's Rentertainment.

The artwork, design, and creativity that goes into creating the video boxes is an art in it of itself. Especially retro-cult films, sci fi, horror, and action.

Maybe it's just me. But I can't just go to a video store, get a video, and leave. I have to browse all the sections. I actually do the same at the video/DVD sections of places like Best Buy and Borders.

Maybe it's something that stems from my childhood - I loved going to the library, like all the time. Not necessarily to read, but moreso to browse.

I think there's an underlying impetus that some boxes will really catch my eye, and inspire new ideas to create something. Maybe even compelling enough to rent/buy...or at the very least, to google!

I guess I'm always on the search to find something to inspire and compel my own sense of creativity.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

what if...

what if i updated my blog? what would happen on facebook? a whole lotta nuthin?

How to Kung-Fu your Emotional mind

So I was talking to a fellow Kung-Fu practitioner who I've known for a long time. He was telling me how he felt like he was in a state where he was not allowed to scream, go crazy, vigorously and physically vent out his frustrations...that he always had to keep them bottled or "filtered".

By having done so much bottling and filtering, he said he felt like he has had the joy of life sucked out of him and thrust into an existential vacuum.

He said, "life keeps getting harder and harder, I'm being becoming duller and duller of a person, and I keep getting sadder and sadder, because I lost my confidence in my ability to handle it all."

I told him, "I know what you mean, I have had some major life changes, but I'm making a concerted effort to being positive and thankful for everything that I do have."

He replied, "If I were to try to put a positive spin and attempt a happy disposition, I'd really be wearing a mask. It's kind of like trying to improve my Kung-Fu techniques by wearing a different uniform."

I got engaged into the dialogue instantly. "So what do you need to do to improve your techniques?"

He: Improve the foundation.

Me: What's the first thing you have to do to improve your foundation?

He: Figure out what I'm doing wrong, or what's missing.

Me: And then?

He: Readjust.

Me: So how is your life circumstance any different?

He: I guess it's because I haven't figured out what is wrong or what's missing.

Me: I don't know if that's it, though.

He: Huh?

Me: We both come from Taoist philosophies, that is physical manifestation of our training, no?

He: Haha, well, to say that it is instantly negates it, but I get what you're saying.

Me: So, ultimately, we know whatever in life happens, is what it is. And we have to be fine with it.

He: So to be able to blend with any change that life thrusts on us...yeah I get that. But still.

Me: Well, yes and no.

He: Of course, that's the Taoist answer!

Me: Haha, no no, this is more concrete than that actually. It's actually the opposite of the blending and adaptability you were talking about. What's the opposite of adaptability?

He: Unchanging.

Me: Right, because changing implies movement. Unchanging implies?

He: Haha stillness.

Me: YES!!

He: Uh, so in order to deal with changing and difficult life circumstances, I have to inflexible, unchanging of my ways? I don't get that - then how do I cope, if my current mechanism is broken?

Me: If you're in wavy waters, you stand in a solid Front Stance, and a wave comes, do you fall or do you stay standing?

He: Oh.

Me: You're allowing yourself to interact, when the only motion you need to exert is stillness.

He: I get it. I suppose it's one thing to be able to have a still mind in a quiet room, but the real test is can you maintain a still mind when you're in the middle of 5pm traffic.

Me: Pretty much.

He: So basically I need to do more Tai Chi.

Me: Well, there's a time to interact and a time to be still.

He: Actually, I disagree. I think there is an ultimate - that is to be able to interact with stillness.

Me: True, I do agree with that, however, if we have not mastered stillness, we cannot interact with stillness. If we cannot demonstrate pure stillness, ie, holding that Front Stance against the most vigorous wave, it may not be a good idea to try interacting just yet.

He: So I have to train my stillness.

Me: Yes, but training stillness doesn't mean to stop listening to yourself, either. Part of attaining stillness requires you to listen to yourself - not with judgement, just to listen. Do certain things make you sad? What does it mean to be sad? Do certain things anger you? What does it mean to be angry?

He: That sounds like Krishnamurti! haha

Me: Haha! And if Krishnamurti heard you say that, he would probably say, "Why do you feel a need to attach my name to anything?"

Anyways, our conversation went much longer and deeper than this, but this was the crux. But the heart of it is that if emotion leads to thought, which leads to action, let's examine where this emotion comes from. Our temptation is to stay fixated on the thought part, and over analyze, over-reason, over-spin everything...when we really need to understand the emotion that got us to the thought in the first place.

I'll stop here! lol

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Social Identity Theory

So I was having a really interesting discussion with a colleague about what classifies under the bracket of social identity.
I came up with race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability/disability, and age. He added national origin.

Then I started asking him questions like, what about people who are smokers, or left handed, or vegetarian, or war veterans...we went back and forth, and he finally gave me a new concept to think about: there is an unstated hierarchy of oppression. But it is unstated because then it puts oppressed groups in comparison mode...and when comparison mode starts happening, subjectivity obscures.

I wasn't compelled in a theoretical/intellectual way that smokers, lefties, vegetarians, and war veterans aren't considered social identities, because the hierarchy of oppression proves to be a subjective matter. But in a functional way I am compelled...but perhaps only because I am socialized to think that way? lol

Almost makes me want to go back and finish my doctorate! But I saw a t-shirt today that does tend to describe my approach to academics:

Finding the Connection

The longer you spend time with your martial arts training, the more you find connections the art has or the process of the art has with anything and everything around you.

Ultimately, all of any education is about learning about the universe and how it works. It's up to you to pick the vessel.

Sometimes, the vessel picks you!

Everything is interconnected. I'll give you an example. Right now, I am looking at a thick stack of Post-It notes on my desk. How does this relate to Chen Style Tai Chi or Choy Lay Fut Kung-Fu?
Well, it is made of paper, which comes from the Wood Element. It took a person to take some thing as pure as wood to convert it into refined paper. We could do that with our art - take it from what we learned it into something very unexpected. 
This stack of Post-Its is very thick. But each individual Post-It note is thin. But put all these thin strips together, and it becomes very thick and strong. Think about the details in our techniques. By themselves, they are pretty simple - turning the feet; shifting the weight; turning the waist; turning the hips, turning the trunk; turning the shoulders...all of these individually are not complex. Put them together, like this stack of Post-Its, become very thick and strong! (that's called synergy, by the way = the whole is greater than the sum of its parts).
Finally, the genius of the Post-It note, a piece of paper with some sticky stuff. Simple. The effectiveness is its simplicity. Very much in line with our strategies - keep it simple...stupid! (you know, KISS).

So in last night's grappling class that Sensei Andrew and Seth were teaching, I found a correlation with some of the stomping twist stance work that I've been emphasizing this term, with doing the kick around motion to doing an absolutely brutal leg lock. Sensei Andrew and I have been doing martial arts for over 20 years, and he could instantly sense when I made that connection, and I knew he knew I knew - all within a fraction of a second.

My most senior student, who is in Illinois, Putty, asked me questions about our Choy Lay Fut lineages and some of the traditions and history. I gave him a very philosophical answer that I'll save for another entry. But in the meantime, I thought that was a timely question, because I just uploaded this onto youtube:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Time to spread...

All right. I'm going to e-mail everyone in Austin Kung-Fu Academy about this blog. Here goes.

Anyhow, one of the issues that I have had with "conventional" martial arts is that it survives/thrives in a culture of dependency thus leading to a lack of creativity. The art part has vanished. 

Many view martial arts as a toolbox, and have termed it martial sciences, which I respect, and ascribe to...but the thing is this - if you explore science deep enough, it starts becoming art. And if you explore art deep enough, it starts becoming science. In other words, science and art are not mutually exclusive, although we tend be socialized into thinking so.

The challenge becomes at what point does one take creative liberties? If you become creative too much too soon, you risk losing developing an integral foundation. If you stay within the boundaries too often, too long, you'll have a very difficult time trying to break out to find yourself, and have doomed yourself into roboticism. 

The truth is, as it tends to be, somewhere in the middle. I would say, if you keep a creative spirit while learning the technical foundations, and try to play with the variables given to you (and showing your creativity to a mentor for feedback), you can effectively do both. 

The trick is for the instructor to promote this idea. Traditionally, in martial arts, the integration of mental disciplined was a component that really aimed at shaping character. However, in that process, there was a lot of getting yelled at and physical abuse for doing things wrong. In other words, fear-based discipline...this was the method employed at developing mastery over technical content.

In this framework, however, it does not lend itself to a safe or conducive atmosphere to develop the right hemisphere of the brain. 

There have been schools labeled as McDojos, that developed a reputation for not developing enough of a technical foundation...however, it is not an opposite scenario, because I doubt that they are actively seeking to develop much creativity either.

The creativity that I see basically revolved around marketing, such as XMA, camouflage colored belts, etc.

Martial sport is what is currently popular, with the rise of the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) industry. Sport is good for zeroing in on a handful of techniques, and developing high levels of proficiency, in order to compete. 

In the Chinese martial arts, martial arts as choreographed performance art was in vogue. So, it was used to a great extent in film and television, and raising the bar for what stunt people have to go through in their training curriculum.

As the popularity of the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is leveling, what we'll be presented with are a lot of options in terms of where one wants to take their training.

I, for one, love the perfection of technique through sport, some of the mental discipline of the traditional ways to develop a deeper sense of investment into the art, and also exploring and encouraging creative energies within the art, without loosing a footing on the technical side.

Okay, that's enough for now! :)


Using this

I've always enjoyed blogging. But I haven't really blogged for Austin Kung-Fu Academy. I mean, there would be mass e-mails about things coming up like tests and such. But actually expressing my thoughts on topics and such is new.

We do have a video blog for membership viewing only...but that doesn't really count.

So I will keep this blog updated on my thoughts and goings-on regarding, well just about anything. It will have a tie to martial arts don't worry.

Actually, it all ties to martial arts, because it is all energy in motion. There are parallels and correlations you can take from just about anything and tie it to martial arts.

So with that, I'll end this post, hopefully to have another one up again very soon. 
Check back frequently and have your friends visit this blog as well.
I'll also be updating the youtube page, and perhaps the twitter as well.

Monday, November 10, 2008

First Post!

Austin Kung-Fu Academy will be posting all sorts of interesting thoughts, pictures, videos, and announcements here.