We, the martial arts players of the world, have two significant roles in our practice: Tori and Uke. Granted, I am using Japanese terms because I study a Japanese style; you are free to insert whatever terms you use that are relative to mine. For clarity’s sake, the tori (取り) is the “defender” who uses prescribed movements (kata), responses if you will, to an attack perpetrated by the uke (受け) in a very specific manner.Continue reading “Budo Bits: The Care and Keeping of Your Uke”
It’s that time again boys and girls for that magical, mystical ride into the untold wisdom of the Cookie of Fortune. Not to be confused with the Wheel of Fortune of course. You can eat a cookie, but a wheel won’t work out for you because a rolling wheel will gather no floss…or something. Let’s see what the Magical Cookie Makers have to say below…Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: Fortune Cookie Wisdom”
Dear White Belt (WB):
I’ve decided it’s important to delve into the topic of failure. You see, failure is a key component of martial arts training. I want you to allow yourself to fail, and not feel bad about it. As is with most martial arts training, there is nuance in the term failure many don’t understand. As you walk into the dojo today, I want you to take this tidbit with you and consider it as you fall and stumble your way through training today. Let’s start with the actual definition of failure, shall we?
[ feyl-yer ]
- an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success: His effort ended in failure. The campaign was a failure.
- nonperformance of something due, required, or expected: a failure to do what one has promised; a failure to appear.
- a subnormal quantity or quality; an insufficiency: the failure of crops.
- deterioration or decay, especially of vigor, strength, etc.: The failure of her health made retirement necessary.
- a condition of being bankrupt by reason of insolvency.
- a becoming insolvent or bankrupt: the failure of a bank.
Sounds pretty grim. Why, dear WB, would anyone want to fail, let alone be friends with failure?
I’m so glad you asked.
There’s a Japanese proverb used frequently in the martial arts: Fall down seven, stand up eight. While this seems mathematically impossible (like, if you fall down seven, don’t you stand up seven???), it does speak to the concept of failure and resilience. The kanji for the saying is 七転び八起き (Nana korobi ya oki) and is transliterated as “seven falling down eight get up.” There’s some disagreement on what the transliteration and kanji mean, suffice to say, the proverb is speaking to not giving up.
Failure as a concept is feared and dreaded by many. People go to great lengths to avoid failure. Some will do anything to succeed, even when dishonesty gets them there. Some will avoid anything that smells of the possibility of failure, not wanting to look foolish. Perfection, the unobtainable goal of many leads many down the path to destruction. Popular memes constantly talk about failure as an abstract, something to be conquered. We must FIGHT! and keep climbing that proverbial mountain for the prize at the top. Which is presumably attaining a goal. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to sucker punch Failure in the face?
Failure as your friend seems odd. White Belt, you might ask why would I expose myself to ridicule and negativity? Isn’t failure like a slime mold, content to keep mucking up the works? That depends. I like to say that perception is key. How your brain filters incoming data about a thing, processes it, then spits out options for action determines whether something is good or bad, not how the thing itself behaves. We can see this difference in people who’ve been stung by bees that are now deathly afraid of any flying thing with black and yellow stripes, and beekeepers. Bees are doing what bees do. They aren’t capable of malice (no matter what the movies say) and cannot plot one’s doom. Beekeepers will mess with their hives, nonplussed about being contact with the bees. Years of experience and knowledge guiding their hands and actions. The others? Definitely freaking out. What if you’re allergic?? Bees are a mortal enemy. The circumstances determine how one thinks about bees.
Let’s ride this wave into the martial arts WB. As per the definition above, failure is the instance of something failing or proving unsuccessful. How does on fail in training? Let me count the ways:
- Not completing kata
- Falling down to soon, or not soon enough
- Punching your training partner in the face
- Dropping your weapon mid-strike
- Smacking your hands
- Smacking your partners hands
- Missing the target
- Failing a test
- Failing to rank
- Doing the opposite of what Sensei says
- Forgetting your manners
- Forgetting to kiai (my specialty)
- Never coming back
I could go on. But, I’ll move on to proving my point, White Belt, so you can go back to your day.
All but one on the above list are kinds of failure, in a moment of weakness, but aren’t ultimate failure. The only true failure in that list is stopping. Prodigies are rare, and even they have to practice their inherent talents and gifts to polish up their technique. The rest of us don’t have the luxury of inborn skills we can fully rely on, we have to work at it. So what is work in the martial arts, and how is success won? It’s learning and practicing, WB. Practicing being the key element in this success formula. If we were computers and were coded correctly, we’d do everything perfectly from our programming on the first go. But, we aren’t computers, so we rely on our neurology to help us our learn and get better. Practicing something sets us up for growing new, or connected related, neural pathways in our brains. The amount times something is repeated reinforces, then stores as memories, our “programming.” If it truly takes 10,000 repetitions to fully automatize a technique in our brains, then practice is how we get there.
WB, You may have noticed that in the beginning, a new technique is awkward. We miss the target, we step the wrong way, forget to put our hips into it, or whatever the techniques requires for full strength. Or maybe, the new technique runs counter to what was previously learned. Many people experience this when asked to do the movement on the other side of the body. After learning that whole thing on the right side, doing it on the left side is like starting over. Repeat efforts to obtain the movement instinctively starts to smooth out the flow of the body. Your brain is signaling your muscles (some call this “muscle memory”) again and again to move on a certain path. As time marches across the Eternal Mats, you stumble less and move effortlessly. You can’t get there if you don’t allow yourself to fail hundreds of times during the transitions through Shuhari (a discussion for another day, but here is a link if you want to read about it). It’s nearly impossible to complete the journey without failure as the key component. Because that is a universal truth, a wise person befriends that which causes stumbling when viewed as an enemy. Getting chummy with failure means you will allow yourself to ebb and flow with the tides of hard-earned sweat. Attempting to stand against the waves will bring you down.
I hope you find the pearls of wisdom here White Belt, and apply them to your training, and your life.
As we all know, ninja are most likely to be found in dark corners, on rooftops, and dressed as the occasional Buddhist priest, because hiding in plain sight. Ninja are well-known for being prepared for every possible obstacle. Throwing stars, climbing rope, lunchboxes, and concealed cobras are part of the shinobi toolkit. Crawling in walls, tiptoeing in homes, and grabbing pizzas from manholes are part of savvy ninja shimmies in wee hours of the night. What we don’t know is how clandestine shinobi “use the facilities” in the middle of a mission. When the traipsing over rooftops, surely the masters of deflection feel the incidental urge to use the “Little Ninjas Room.”
One would think shinobi have this covered, being procurers of dirt, tip-offs, and hot tips its essential to have all bases covered, especially the evacuation of the pee. But, how can a shinobi casually walk into a public restroom and not draw suspicion you ask? Wouldn’t the above-average sneakster need a room-‘o-rest now and again? Or, do they have bladders of iron as part of their kit?
When embarking on another errand for their employer, ninja are challenged to find whizz pots along the way. If one watches carefully in the night, you might find a ninja piddling in a port-a-potty, spending a penny in the subway (apparently this is British slang for peeing), wee-weeing on the flora, or tinkling in your powder room. Because, a ninja got to do what a ninja got to do.
Next time you’re out and about make sure to take the time to look for your friendly neighborhood ninja in your local latrine. They like their privacy, so don’t bother with any selfies, because, it might just be your last time to take a leak.
We Ninja loooooove a terrible 80’s martial arts movie, especially ones involving mullets and cheesy one liners. Last night we had the dubious pleasure of witnessing one such movie: Gymkata. Sake and IPA’s might have been present to numb the senses to the over-achieving sensibilities of Kurt Thomas and a rather scurrilous cast of characters.
Our high-flying hero, Jonathan Cabot, is recruited by…somebody, to do…something. Okay the plots not clear, or I had had enough sake by then to not really care. Anyway, our gymnast hero gets trained by a Japanese dude who likes swinging kama at his crotch blindfolded, a selectively mute “Princess of Parmistan,” and some random “karate” expert who tosses out cliches like ninja stars thrown by the blind. This crazy quilt of training montages results in what appears to be some fusion of gymnastics, ninja stuff, knife work, and karate…? I guess the title of the movies sums up this new art fairly simply.
Several key things stuck out to me about this movie: the conveniently placed gym equipment, a discount Chuck Norris, the love interest and of course, the inevitable Ninja.
When one knows gymkata and finds themselves running through the Middle Eastern equivalent of zombie land, its helpful when useful and familiar gymnastics equipment suddenly appears. Those flying feet of death need the force generated by gravity defying leg circles, moores, spindles, and flairs. How convenient then that our hero just so happened to find a pommel horse when the local crazies where closing in, or one half of the uneven bars randomly attached to a couple of walls.
The Princess of Parmistan is Jonathan’s love interest. It seems inevitable from the get-go that these two crazy kids ought to end up together, but there’s too many mullets, cheese, and political tension in the way. Somehow, with nary a word in the first act, Rubali, the princess, conveys her sexual tension by pulling knives on Jonathan fairly regularly. She wants him bad, but she’s not going to say that. He has to figure it out with wide-eyed stares and the occasional flicks of a switchblade. But she’s supposed to marry her dad’s right-hand man, because that what was in the script. Being the princess of her dad’s cheese empire means she has to do what he says, and dammit, he’s gonna make her marry that mullet-headed discount Chuck Norris whether she likes it or not.
The producers really wanted that effervescent know-it-all and badass of the universe Chuck Norris to play the bad guy, but as luck would have it he was too busy proving his immortality on the internet by pointing big guns at his own bad guys. So, instead of ‘Ol Chucky we get this guy:
Zamir somehow manages to be on the kahn’s (intentional misspelling) good side, and Rubali’s bad side, AT THE SAME TIME. It’s as if the sexual confusion of his wardrobe and hairstyle choices convey ambiguity, or something. Is he good? Is he bad? Who knows, or cares? Given the discounted nature of this fellow’s acting skills, we ninja feel he is rightly dubbed Nuck Chorris.
Thanks to the ninja boom of the 80’s they tend show up in every martial arts flick from that era. But one has to wonder what these guys were doing in Parmistan, and why they look the Foot Clan? Was it Nuck Chorris’ fault? Did he extend his confusion to his soldiers, or were they white belts undergoing a hazing by their seniors? It’s kinda hard to tell what’s really going on under their masks, but we’re thankful they were standing there with their flags, pointing the way for our hero.
When it comes to films, the goings on of Parmistan is a highly marked-down wheel of cheese. With the help of his metaphysically superhuman aptitude, and some depreciated citizens of the Cheese Cartel, this movie will drive you to drink, especially since this was apparently the point?
Ah, yes. That ol’ Zen koan (philosophical riddle)– What is the sound of one hand clapping? Is it something? Is it nothing? If a tree claps in the woods and know one hears it, did it HAPPEN?? What is the point this riddle anyway? As far as I’m concerned trying to figure this silliness out is:
But I digress.
“Clapping” is boring. Especially trying to clap with one hand. Isn’t that just finger tapping on your palm? I mean clapping is really just a precursor for hitting things anyway isn’t it? If you think about it, clapping is just slapping yourself. Don’t get me wrong, slaps aren’t a bad thing. Everybody needs a good slap now and again. Take this slap for instance:
But, don’t you think Batman would rather punch pretty boy Robin straight in the thinker rather than tickling his cheeks with a piddling excuse for a strike? I’d say slapping is kinda like the T-Ball of hitting, whereas punching, well that’s major league stuff. If nothing else, the movies (and some TV shows) have taught us that when all else fails, punch ’em fast, hard, and right between the eyes. But only once, and with one hand. Which brings me back around to our original question: What IS the sound of one hand punching?
One thing’s for certain, martial artists of ALL kinds enjoy hitting things. After all, the point of anything related to war, hence the term martial, involves striking and destroying other things, and sometimes other people. We train to hit fast, hard, and with precision. We spend literal HOURS throwing our fists, feet, legs, arms, tips of weapons, and sometimes heads at stuff…and ENJOY IT. We might walk away sore, covered in bruises, but we love it and find it fun. So of course, one of the greatest highlights in any movie involving fighting is the sound of punches being laid on a bad guy. In our collective fever dreams of greatness, we too want to look and sound as awesome as THAT hero on the screen as we knock them to kingdom on their assess.
With the certainty of victory, and an embellished soundtrack, I present you The SOUND of One Fist punching.
I’m Dai Senpai (大先輩 for the uninitiated dai senpai simply means Big Senior) now. I passed all tests required before shodan and now I’m in the hold-onto-your-gi-pants-cuz-its-getting-crazy-up-in-here pattern until February. What does being dai senpai get me? More responsibilities, like the kind where herding cats seems like a dream job. Seriously though, I’m doing my best to lead people into their best selves but sometimes the process moves like molasses, or is it mole asses? My friend texted me this morning and said they (her and her family) were moving like mole asses (Autocorrect? Or did she TYPE ass…hmmm…) trying to get out the door to the gym. And I’m like, how slow do mole asses move? She never answered. BUT, it’s an idea worth exploring, because LOOK AT THAT MOLE BUTT.
I’m getting my first tastes of teaching because I’m headed toward sensei territory and guess what, more responsibility awaits. I’m pretty sure my sensei is throwing me into the deep end of the instructor pool, but it’s kinda hard to tell what with these messy swim goggles and all that splashing I’m doing in my tiny, half-dead water wings. I mean, he’s the kind of guy who gives bruises for free then says “You’re welcome” when you complain about it, but I digress (Uh-oh, a song parody of Money for Nothing is lurching around in my brain. Maybe next blog post, heh heh). Figuring out my role, duties, and authority is going a lot like I imagine mole asses go when the front end is busy digging tunnels– a jarring, muddy ride full of long-dead bug carcasses pushing up daisies.
But it’s good for me, right? After all, the shortest path to trial-by-fire learning is paved on the road of the do-or-die method of teaching. Remarkably, here I stand in the center of the volcano, pretty sure my underpants are on fire and the pool noodle of justice is headed my way (No, we’re not THAT sadistic. We gently whack each other in the name of NOT making knuckle-headed moves), but feeling determined to give it my best, despite the rambunctious moles and their yucky ass-dragging-ness.
Truly, I appreciate flailing around in the dark like a blind guy at the disco, because getting my mole-asses butt headed in the right direction is bit like corralling bulls bent on shopping for china ware. Because I’m THICK-headed. Thick like the fur on a mole ass. I can be pretty slow on picking up details, clues, and the occasional direct command. Butt, I try, oh, how I try. I guess that’s what got me here in the first place. Being bullheaded has its place in the martial arts. Dogged determination to see the training through to the next level is what makes a decent person decent-er. Even if getting there flows like mole asses.
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I missed last week because time passed quickly Monday, and there just wasn’t time to get into silly mode. As this Monday approached, I started to dreading finding time to be silly again. Being silly is one of my favorite things, writing hasn’t always been a favorite for me. However, having a handful of people who enjoy my silly writing makes it worthwhile, hence making the time to write. BUT (and this is a big but) life is now hectic because of several factors. It’s like an already-assembled jigsaw puzzle a martial artist accidentally kicked on the floor when they went down trying get that bottle cap. So many pieces have been tossed about and I’m attempting to settle into my new reality.
It does take me a little longer than most people to get used to new routines, I remain an undiagnosed female with Asperger’s Syndrome (How can I know if I’m not diagnosed? That’s a question for another day) which means I takes me at least 2 months to get used to changes, sometimes longer. There are lots of good things happening and one key to reducing stress and anxiety for myself is putting on hold things that are lower down on the priority list. I’m gonna take a moment and list my priorities for you in case you’re wondering “What the heck??” If you’re interested in my reasons for taking a break, read on my friend, otherwise, see you later excuse hater. These are not in any particular order. Rather, they’re like a 10-ring circus in my head right now, all featuring some whacked version of reality at once.
- Living. This one is key to all the other ones below. No life-y, no list-y. Capiche?
- Drinking coffee. I’m pretty useless without coffee in the morning. Like don’t-know-what-day-it-is useless.
- Breathing. Breathing is essential to life. I occasionally hold my breath and forget to breath normally. Which leads me to my next reason…
- Spiritual life. Keeping that healthy, growing, and fruitful is essential to the rest of the stuff I have to deal with.
- Trauma recovery. I am knee-deep in my latest bout of PTSD recovery and am in therapy. Thankfully I have a wonderful therapist who knows of a kind of recovery tool called EMDR (look it up) for flashbacks, and PTSD.
- Depression, panic, and anxiety management. I’m on some good meds to keep me from losing it. Its a good regimen, but my sleep is whacked, I still have bad days, and constantly fluctuating moods and emotions. It’s like being a roller coaster where the tracks look familiar but keep changing position.
- Exercising. I am a fitness nut. I work out a lot, usually 6 times a week (that includes training) plus teaching self-defense.
- Oh, yeah, I’ve started a new business with my best friend and my sister. Talk about dealing with moodiness. Change is good, but dang if doesn’t come with a side of WTH?!?! I love it, but is stressful. Lots of meetings and talking, and other stuff that needs doing.
- Napping. I take naps almost every day. I keep trying to fool myself into believing I don’t need one. All that exercising of my body, and my mind, keeps me tired.
- Taking care of the family. My husband works constantly, my son is an Asperger’s child, and my sister, who lives with us, works full-time. I am the only adult not working a full-time job. So, it’s up to me to keep order.
- Taking mental health breaks from everything. Which usually looks like hiding in my room while Brooklyn 99, or some Murder and Mayhem show is playing while I eat snacks and do my nails. Or sleep.
- And, finally, my favorite thing keeping me busy is training in Ninpo. I have a goal to test for my black belt in February. I have 2 more tests to do to be at the correct level for testing in shodan. There is a lot of work to do between now and February. So many things to memorize, practice, drill, and etc to get me ready.
Hope to be back soon, bringing some silliness your way! Oh, uh, speaking of naps, zzzzzzzzzzzzz…..😴
The desire to practice a martial art is a bit like a madness that takes over your entire being. Your soul starts to burn for more horse stance while your body and mind agree that that your soul needs a chill pill. However, not all the signs of this kind of lunacy are quite so obvious and one might wonder if they have taken the red pill, instead of the blue.
Special groups often have lingo that only the members know. Shorthand, code, and special terms are flung around like shuriken (aka throwing stars for you non-ninjers). So, in the company of martial arts groups you might hear a few things that require interpretation.
TORIS OF THE WORLD!! Taking care of your uke right after hitting, twisting, slamming, punching, kicking, slapping, throwing, and otherwise giving them the slightly more evil version of chiropractic care is essential for their long-term viability. No worries average citizen, we weirdos do this for fuuuuuuuuuun to each other. Nothing shows a great time in the dojo like some sore knuckles, wrists, and a handful of new bruises.
Lately, I’ve been acquiring weapons like the local Cat Lady acquires felines. I have a good reason, I’m going to start teaching women’s self-defense soon and need good recommendations for useful weapons. Of course, I also realized my personal arsenal was a bit, um, puny and I needed to up my flexing game with more wood and metal clout. Or maybe I’ve developed that disease that martial artists get once they become serious about their art: Armamentilepsy– The disease that causes an overwhelming desire for the possession of weapons that leaves you broke, but slobbering in anticipation of the UPS truck. Whatever the case, Mama’s got some new toys (rubs hands in glee with a ridiculous and slightly scary grin).
I recently acquired from a wholesale company, a slapjack (or some call it a beaver tail), a black jack, and a telescoping baton. I was showing my new toys to my husband, and, as he handled the baton, he said, “Be careful, or you’ll poke your eye out with that!” He hates “A Christmas Story,” but I LOVE it. And of course, he would never deliberately quote a movie he hates, but he said it, and now he’s stuck with it, and so are you.
Welcome to the Modern Kunoichi’s Guide to Weapons Handling.
We all know that as soon as one gets a new sword, one should immediately whack things with it. And, if you and your buddy both get swords, then, by golly, get out there and have a sword battle. Get a new knife? Stab as much stuff as you can, but don’t let your mom see it or she’ll tanny your fanny.
But, we have to keep it safe guys and know how to handle these weapons or else you might be this guy…
Tip #1: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.
When you get that Highlander replica katana, or, that war hammer you’ve slobbered on your keyboard over finally arrives and gosh-darn-it, after you excitedly rip open that Amazon packaging you find that the edges on said weapons are as dull as Grandma’s butter knives. Time to get out the sharpening stones? Or, no? Chances are, if yourself in the ER getting shrapnel picked out of your hiney, it’s a no-go.
Tip #2: If it Moves, Hit Yourself in the Head With It…Or, NOT.
Look, if Paul Bunyan can carry around a giant wood axe and not maim Babe the Blue Ox, and if Moses can carry a big stick without tripping every last Israelite, you can secure your weapon too. That especially goes for all you non-chuckers. Just cause it has a rope-de-do in the middle doesn’t mean you have to swing it, and hit yourself in the head. SECURE THAT WEAPON (i.e. Put it back on the wall where it belongs. And for Lee’s sake, get some lessons you chucker-head!).
Tip #3: Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean…AW! What the Hell, Bonehead?
“Just put the gun down and back away from it. That’s it, put it on the ground nice and slow. Easy now, eeeeaaaaassssy. Yep, now back away. 10 paces please. Alright, stop right there. Can somebody get Bonehead here a towel, and some ice? You know what, better get that branding steel and torch too, we gotta gusher! Hey Fred! Fred! Get over here and secure that weapon right now! I mean it Fred! And don’t let Bonehead near it again! I blame you Fred! I. Blame. You.”
There you go folks! Just follow these three easy steps and you’ll be safe forever!
It’s that time again boys and girls for that magical, mystical ride into the untold wisdom of the Cookie of Fortune. Not to be confused with the Wheel of Fortune of course. You can eat a cookie, but a wheel won’t work out for you because a rolling wheel will gather no floss.Continue reading “Fortune Cookie Wisdom Wednesday”
From the bottom of our hearts we thank you brave warriors for your sacrifice 💜
Once upon a time, in a land lost to mist from too many fog machines (old wizards like to put on a show), a magically wizened person of uncertain gender decided to mess with the locals by making crispy, dry, BUT DELICIOUS cookies with little wisdom scrolls hidden in them. On these Lilliputian papers, the wizard would write sayings that were a bit…strange and mystifying. His tiny trick caused quite the stir amongst the people of the village. People found that making decisions based on these mystical crunchy treat’s inner wisdom engendered absolutely nothing in the way of gain, or loss. Still, the wizard had a fat pile of cash that he acquired from the duped village people as they sought an explanation from him.Continue reading “Fortune Cookie Wisdom Wednesday”
Facebook sensation, Martial Arts Humor, recently posted a carefully curated clip of a Brazilian LEO performing deadly martial arts tactics, in public. As we all know, Brazilians love to party, and with partying comes many Latin style dances, including their beloved Samba. In Brazil, the Samba has lots of hip swaying, flying footwork, voluminous feathers, and naked butt-cheeks (see clip below). Being a passionate people, Brazilians take their samba, and cachaça (click link for more info) very seriously.Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em…Brazilian Edition.”
Ninja are exceptional creatures. They are world renowned for being the best magical tricksters/spies that seemingly appear out of nowhere, do what needs doing, then vanish mid leap. They don’t make friends easily because of their cat-like qualities of sneaking around and then pouncing on unsuspecting humans.
Humans might unwittingly befriend and ninja not know it, which is just fine with the ninja. After all, their ability to ninja is predicated on secrecy, misdirection, and hiding in plain sight. But what if some random person finds out their friends with a ninja and confronts said terror of the night??
How do they keep their friendship and survive?
That’s a really great question and I’m glad you asked! Because now I’m going to let you in on some little-known, super-secret and other arcane mystical know-how. I present to you:
The Modern Kunoichi’s Guide to Surviving Your Friendship with a Ninja
Survival Tip 1: Make Food Offerings
Give them pizza. Lotsa, lotsa pizza. After all, pizza is the perfect food: it’s full of carbohydrates for energy, fat for fullness, and pepperoni to build those finely-tuned ninja muscles. As a matter of fact, just always have pizza around, you never know when they’ll sneak in the back window from the fire escape.
Survival Tip #2: Keep the Ninja Puns in Your Head
Okay, look, we all know ninja are often the butt of many jokes when it comes to martial arts. And that’s okay, the ninja can take it because being underestimated is part of their strategy. But do we really need to perpetuate ninja puns? DO WE? Really, just keep the puns in your head for your own safety.
Survival Tip #3: Secretly Learn Their Ways
I won’t lie, this is a tough one. First, you have to even know that you’ve befriended a ninja, then you have to watch them carefully without looking like you’re watching them and learn their techniques. Ninja love it when other people take up their art. After all ninja are clannish and often work in groups. Pulling a smoke bomb out your pocket then disappearing will endear you to them forever… and they won’t kill you when you’re not looking.
And there you go folks! Another definitive and succinct guide to life.
Two weeks ago I was marveling at the amount of bruises I acquired on one arm. Because I skipped a week to go on vacation, I decided you really need a new “how-to” manual. I mean, that’s why I’m here, to tell you how to do things, right?
Spring has sprung, and all the colors of the rainbow are spewing joy and dancing on the landscape. Most people believe that Spring is a time of celebrating newness and life that comes with rain and sunny skies. Which means, Easter is right around the corner. Many mommies and daddies are already regaling their children with promises of candy and toys left by that wanton, and dangerous creature known as the Easter Bunny.
Oh, you DIDN’T know he’s dangerous?
That’s okay friend, because I’m here to save you from the terror of the Easter Bunny by teaching you his secrets.Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: The Easter Bunny is Really a Ninja Master, or You Didn’t Know That the Easter Bunny Can Kill You Before You Know He’s There?”
Over the millennia, as people turned from fighting to getting along with their neighbors, they needed something to do with all those fighting skills they accumulated. So, to keep their skills sharp many warrior turned to dancing as way to get their groove on AND keep practicing their kata. Capoeira does it, some forms of Indian Martial Arts does it, and apparently, Russians do it too. I’ve combed the internet looking for examples of dancing that came from fighting. Lo and behold, the Russians have done it again. They’ve reversed the trend and have turned dancing into fighting! Who knew?! I’m so impressed by their example I’ve decided to write a song in their honor and celebrate their Dance Fu. The Safety Dance song by Men Without Hats is the best song choice for this little ditty I’ve crafted. I’ve titled my version “Is It Safe To Dance?” because apparently dancing can be deadly. As a refresher, I’ve included the music video of the chosen song. See below. (P.S. It helps if you sing this with a Russian accent with lots of “Da’s!”)Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: Is It Safe Dance? Or, How to Slap Your Opponents Silly with Russian Dance Fighting (Safety Dance Parody)”
Today’s world is full of mean people. I get on the internet, step out the door, or look to the left (or sometimes right) and WHAM-O! Mean people everywhere! I suppose their madness comes from a desire to change the universe, or something, and shouting as loudly as possible, threatening death and dismemberment, and generally being a donkey’s hind end is the way to do it.
Or IS IT…?Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: How to Conquer Your Enemy with Niceness”
Woe to America! The government’s done it again: they’ve taken our precious sleep right out from under us! Unless you live in Arizona, or some obscure parts of the mid-West, they’re A-ok all snug in their hoity-toity god-like smarty pants beds snoring while the rest of us suffer. I think most Americans agree by now that this here DST is getting down right annoying. 90% percent of us don’t farm, or whatever, and don’t really care about when the sun rises, or sets. We only care that it keeps on keepin’ on, because ARMAGEDDON.Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: It’s Time to Spring Forward, or How to Karate Chop Your Way Through the Week After the Daylight Savings Time Change”
Some time ago, I decided to cross train for a while in another setting, with a couple of different styles. Being dedicated to Ninpo and my organization, I was looking for something to supplement my style. At first things went pretty well, I was getting to know the students and instructors, and beginning to feel comfortable in the environment. Then, something happened and suddenly I was “let out of my contract.” Of course, my initial reaction was shock and dismay. The incident involved me and another student doing a difficult and high-level technique, that neither of us should have been doing. I started to lose control and torqued the other student’s shoulder a little too much, but did not actually injure her. I was basically told I was dangerous and a liability and was not welcome back to their school.Continue reading “Lessons from the Mats: The Principles I Learned After Getting Thrown Under the Bus by a Training Center.”
*Author’s note: I realize that the people who will get this without traipsing across the Interwebs are legit martial arts players: average Joes and Janes who train in certified dojos. So, for the sake of you NOOBS, I will give a short explanation. “No-touch” martial arts are practiced by those who believe they can summon, at will, their own “chi energy” and use it to throw people, block punches, knock people down, and otherwise control others (see below video).Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: Always Gonna Lift You Up (Never Gonna Give You Up Parody. Ha ha! I Rick Rolled You!)”
“I want you to go to failure,” says my personal fitness trainer as my heart rate swoops upward, and I grunt my way through the fifth rep of single leg walkouts. For the uninitiated: a single leg walkout consists of squatting, leaning over to walkout to a plank with my hands, do a pushup or hold the plank, then walk myself back to squatting and then standing up while pushing through my heel, ALL ON ONE LEG (see video below). I can modify this exercise so that 60% of my weight is on the side I’m working on, and 40% is on the other leg. I am absolutely not able to do this without my other leg sharing the load, at least not yet (I watched someone he was training do this all on one leg, so I know it’s possible). As he introduces each knew exercise into the day’s routine, he says he wants me to grunt, to fail, to push when my muscles are burning, until I cannot move that way anymore in that moment. This way of exercise is exhausting, and maybe a little intimidating.Continue reading “Go to Failure.”
If you’re a violence nerd (totally stole that from the Stick Chick), or a martial artist, it’s possible you’ve spent countless hours in the dead of night, or with your nerdy friends, creating battles between superheroes, long-dead martial arts masters, or the ultimate warrior groups to fight off evil in every form. Depending on which comics universe you support, you may get into…internecine fights. I’ve decide it’s time to settle this once and for all and create the ultimate fighting group ever, and forever…amen. This guide is meant to soothe your violent little soul, sort of like chicken soup does for the virus-ravaged.Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: Battle Group for the Martial Artist’s Soul (Because Chicken Soup for the MA’s Soul is Already Taken)”
Every person has an internal life. Thoughts, feelings, beliefs, imagination, and etc take place in the mind. Our experiences and personality shape our inner life which in turn frames both our perception and response. Depending on stage of life, levels of stress, beliefs and resiliency one’s internal life can be rich and full or fairly shallow.
This is good news for everyone.Continue reading “The Inner Life of The Martial Artist”
I know what you’re thinking. Memes are pretty straightforward, right? I mean it says right on the meme what it’s all about, duh.
What if I told you there is a hidden message that only truly great masters can understand? Ancient wisdom passed down through the ages must be hidden in the most archaic forms of art, philosophy, and religion. Those of lucky enough to find this wisdom can indubitably become better versions of ourselves.Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: The True Meaning of Martial Arts Memes”
You know, you should really check out The Stick Chick Blog. She’s sassy, smart, and funny. I really enjoy reading stuff by a martial artist who knows her stuff. She practices Presas Arnis and Kobudo (Okinawan Weapons), very different from what I study in a lot of ways, but I find some of the themes she writes about translate over to any martial art style.Continue reading “There’s More Than Meets the Eye: A Look at the Hidden Features of Martial Arts Training”
Farts come, and farts go. We’ve all been there, right? RIGHT?? Hello?? Farts are one of the many major pitfalls of group dynamics. Some of the great questions of human society are, how does one let one out and not sending the team packing? How loud is too loud? Is it ok to use the Ninja Fart method? Can I blame the person next to me without casting suspicion on myself? Was it really THAT bad?Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: The Art of the Fart (a.k.a. How to Break Wind like a Ninja)”
My friend, bestie, twin and fellow homeschool mom, Evelyn was teaching our boys a portion of a high school writing course, One Year Adventure Novel. This particular lesson was “someone to care about” which is generally the hero. As I was sitting there watching the lesson and doing my duty as the TA/Lunch Lady, I saw the three elements of a hero we care about evolve on the whiteboard. Desire, will, and morality are the three things we need to give to our heroes in stories. What makes them keep going in the face of danger? What give them determination and strength? What makes them relatable. We need to make them realistic and someone we relate to so we want to finish the story. After all, why would we continue to watch shows like The Walking Dead if the hero’s weren’t like us?Continue reading “Desire, Will, and Morality: The Holy Trinity of Grit”
*Disclaimer: I study Ninpo, Ninjutsu, Ninja Weapons, and Classic Jujutsu.
So, yeah, I’m a ninja and I’m making fun of myself.Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: WE ARE NINJA! (Sung to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”)”
As you might’ve guessed, I’m a woman (10 Awesome Points for you if I didn’t need to tell you that). And, I’m a martial artist which puts in the category of warrior (if you’re someone who believes that the term warrior is only reserved for people who have experienced actual combat, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m interested in discussing mindsets. So, put your diatribe a side and just listen), because I’m training very closely to the ways ancient people did to fight each other in battles and wars. Also, I’m philosophical so I like to think about things and find answers to my questions. Questions like, I represent a minority in the martial arts, why is that so? Why are many women not-so-inclined to become martial artists? Is it too male? Too violent? Too… something? I’ve spent many hours researching the warrior mentality, what it means to be a martial artist as a woman, and etc.Continue reading “The Woman Warrior: What Does That Even MEAN?”
In all honesty, I love white belts. I was one once just like every other martial artist. So I more making fun of myself than anyone else. Nonetheless, I took A LOT of poetic license here to poke fun at the white belt phenom. Have fun!Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: I Like White Belts (Sung to the Tune of Baby Got Back)”
The line between arrogance and confidence is very thin. Once crossed the budoka becomes something I don’t want to encounter on the mats, or anywhere else for that matter.Continue reading “The Most Important Martial Skill: Humility”
This one’s for all you sensei/instructor/whatever who like to dole out physical punishment, I mean training to your students. Read ’em and weep. These verses I mean.Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: To the Hawker of Horror and Hijinks, the Purveyor of Punishment and Purpose, the Retailer of Reality and Regurgitation: An Ode to the Sensei.”
When people talk about the martial arts, most of what I hear is how cool this move was, or that kick, or how flexible or physically skilled so and so was in their competition. Training to hit, kick, take down, and otherwise incapacitate someone is the basic premise of martial arts. Necessity being the mother of invention means she birthed warrior training, and for obvious reasons.Continue reading “The Moral Center of Martial Arts: Emotions, Beliefs, and Spirituality.”
You ever just say something that seemed like a good idea before it left your lips but caused a chain reaction that ended up in blood, sweat, and/or tears? No? Well your life must be normal.Continue reading “Monday’s Martial Madness: The Art of Saying Dumb Things (a.k.a. What NOT to Say in the Dojo)”
This week in the dojo, both nights were what I call hard training. I was thrown harder than normal (for me) to the mats, my limbs were twisted into painful pretzels, I acquired a few bruises, bumps, went through a round of sparring with five separate attacks I had to avoid or fend off. I got hit in the face. I was put in chokehold. Another person had my face and body smashed into the mats. By Thursday morning I was pretty sore and tired (My chiropractor had a field day with all of the loud CRACKS! my body was making).Continue reading “The Greatest Irony of Martial Arts (and Life): Failure, pain and loss as accurate measures of success.”
I remember sitting on my knees on the mats to the far left, Mark Sensei was beside me asking me what was stopping me from successfully executing ukemi (safely falling). I had been at it for weeks by that point. Fear stiffened my body, either preventing a decent roll, or stopping me altogether. I had to keep going no matter what, but man oh man, was it difficult to push myself into this art.Continue reading “Taking the Road Less Traveled (Part 2): Fear, Panic, Anxiety, and the Calming Effect of the Martial Arts”
As I sit here on my couch, I find myself reflecting on my past. A lot of things people normally experience in their youth were lost to me: happiness, security, a sense of purpose, and so on. It wasn’t until I became acquainted with Jesus that I got on the true path to recovery. He usually sends me on an unusual path, unusual even in Christian circles, to find healing and wholeness. Like a surprise laid out long ago for me to find at the right time and place.Continue reading “Taking the Road Less Traveled (Part 1): From Victim to Victor, Within the Context of the Martial Arts.”
I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past 2 years as a martial artist, and as a woman I don’t think I could have learned in just any environment. Learning a martial art takes a lot of perseverance and grit, it’s not easy, and it shouldn’t be. I’ve been downright frightened at times and had to grit my teeth and force myself to keep going. Because of this, the greatest lessons I’ve learned through ninpo have to do with my internal life, how I think, how I behave, what I allow to bother me, or not, and what I think about myself and others. My sense of value changed through several intense experiences in class and private lessons. I went from only valuing my usefulness, to valuing my existence. Learning one’s true value is something I desire to transmit to other women.Continue reading “How to Find Your Fighting Spirit”
People make a lot of assumptions about women. Sure, we are smaller than men, and we have less muscle mass, but does that translate to automatically losing a fight? The short answer is “no.” The long answer is “only if you’ve been trained and know what you’re doing.”Continue reading “Little hands, little feet, doesn’t mean you can’t be beat.”
I’ve heard rumors that once a person reaches a black belt, they’ve only just begun to train. All of what happened before was preparing for the next level of training which is sort of like starting fresh at something. Not say that all of the previous belt levels are useless, but they are essentially basics. Many of the black belts I know seem to be on a different plane of learning. It seems they’ve achieved something, are more aware of themselves and their capabilities, they can think a little more out of the box. However, there is an understanding that the real work is just beginning. In a blog by the Budo Bum, when speaking of budo (武道 “way of war”) he often refers to how budo is a journey, in other words it’s not a means to an end, it’s a way of living. The ideas behind budo translates well into the notion that a black belt is just getting started.Continue reading “The Battle Has Just Begun”
“Kiai is more art than anything else.”
I had asked sensei, for probably the millionth time, if the technique I was doing was defensive, or an attack. The above was his reply. No explanations of what he meant, just that cryptic phrase and slight smile.Continue reading “The Breath of a Lion, or a Mouse.”
I’ve never seen the movie The Godfather. But like many in my generation (X to be exact), the movie is referenced by so many other movies, literature, and TV shows, I might as well have seen it. The Godfather being sourced frequently through other media is like getting the Cliff Notes version accidentally. Honestly, I don’t think I can stomach this movie’s particular version of Murder and Mayhem so I’ve avoided it. That won’t stop me from referencing The Godfather via another pleasanter movie genre, the rom-com.Continue reading “I go to the mats.”
When I began my Ninpo training, I was not automatically handed a white belt. The tenth level required that I show proper etiquette towards the sensei, senpai, and other students. Rei ho is fairly easy to mimic in movement and speech, but not so much in spirit. That’s a post for another day. The more dreaded portion of the tenth kyu for myself was the ukemi. Ukemi (受け身), or the receiving body, can be taught, but must ultimately be experienced to fully understood. Our particular curriculum required the ninpoka to demonstrate that they could safely fall forwards, backwards, and sideways, and roll in various combinations of leg and arm positions to win their stripe. For myself, learning how to do this required a huge leap of faith in my instructors, and, perhaps more significantly, in myself. I grew up awkward and uncoordinated, very easily falling over for no apparent reason. This often resulted in magnificent injuries to which I could only explain with a shrug and the oft repeated phrase “I’m a klutz.” Asking me to intentionally fall down in a coordinated fashion at the time seemed, well, ridiculous.Continue reading “The Art of Falling”
I remember the fright I felt at these words, “Remember, what you give out is what I will respond with…”
I was tasked with sparring with my one female sensei, a 2nd or 3rd dan, and immediately felt overwhelmed. I had no idea how to hit, or kick, or where to aim. I certainly didn’t desire to feel more pain than necessary, I had only just started my journey as a ninpoka. I swallowed the lump in my throat and made an attempt at a strike, which was easily countered by my way more experienced partner. I paused and considered the next attempt: a kick. Again, this was easily countered. On we went for what felt like an eternity, but was only like two minutes. That was two years ago. I have traversed many of the same nerve-wracking scenarios since then, faced with far superior opponents wondering how I would get through.Continue reading “Purification through dedication: Get on that crazy train as soon as possible.”
In the age of COVID, many a ninja finds themselves practicing all alone at home. Ninj-ing (a new verb for the Oxford Dictionary) is no fun when there’s no one to ninj on. We NEED each other. One lonely ninja, the dear and lovely Foo Foo Head poured out her heart’s cry for someone to ninj with one October day when she, our friend and sister Bun Bun-chan, and myself (a.k.a. Weirdo) were chatting on the FB messenger. I filled in a couple of verses, and Voilà! We have a song for the ages. We’ve provided the sound track below to help you sing this out for yourself.
Verse 1 When I was young, I never shuto’d anyone And kamae was just for fun Those days are gone Verse 2 Kicking alone I think of all the friends I've thrown But when I seoi nage alone Inside my home Chorus All by myself Don't wanna ninj, all by myself, anymore All by myself Don't wanna ninj, all by myself, anymore Verse 3 Hard to be sure A little sparring won't secure And give the ribs a new contour There's no allure (Guitar Solo) Chorus All by myself Don't wanna ninj, all by myself, anymore All by myself Don't wanna ninj, all by myself, anymore (Very Looooong Orchestral Interlude) Verse 4 Now that I’m old Ya know I just can’t be so bold Omote kote lost its hold Because you’re gone! Chorus All by myself Don't wanna ninj, all by myself, anymore All by myself Don't wanna ninj, all by myself, anymore All by myself Don't wanna ninj, all by myself, anymore All by myself Don't wanna ninj, all by myself, anymore All by myself Don't wanna ninj, all by myself, anymore