Go to Failure.

“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.

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The Inner Life of The Martial Artist

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.

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For the Love of My Ego: A True Tale of Martial Naughtiness

I have no idea if he said this, but it’s good stuff anyway.

I’ve been struggling for a couple weeks to write something meaningful for my 2nd post of the week. Then Jackie Bradbury of The Stick Chick Blog writes about ego in her That Guy post on a kind of martial artist she calls Ranky McGee. In essence, Ranky McGee is the kind of person who attaches too much meaning to his rank in the dojo which either grows an already outsized ego, or develops a new one based on previous neuroses founded largely on the need for approval. She then asked us if WE (the dear readers) have ever been THAT GUY. As I considered the likeliness of me having somewhat of an ego problem I felt the rattan stick of truth hit me in the eyeball.

Yeah, I’ve been that guy.

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Lineage and Legitimacy, The Imposing Twin Peaks of Martial Arts.

In my short three years as a ninpoka (In Japanese, “ka” as a suffix means practitioner) , I’ve seen, and read a lot of thoughts on lineage and legitimacy. I’ll take a moment and explain these terms in relation to the martial arts. Lineage refers to the succession of teachers who taught any given art from its inception to you, the practitioner. Legitimacy refers whether, or not, a style is inherently able to teach a person actual self-defense skills. In other words, would this person walk away from a fight intact?

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Calm Aggression: A Paradoxical Reality of the Martial Arts

I was working with a young girl who I knew struggled with being aggressive in her sparring.  It was just her and me for that particular class so I could slow things down and explain some concepts that she had not intuited yet in her training.  I mean, she’s pretty young, so this concept wouldn’t have occurred to her anyway.  Whenever she sparred with the other students she would get overwhelmed, particularly if one young boy was her partner and freeze in response. We talked about what it means to be aggressive, she gave me a list of definitions that were most centered on being physically aggressive, I added really going after something and a couple of other ideas to the list.  Then we talked about remaining calm while sparring and what that looked like.  I told her that she could be both calm, and aggressive, at the same time.  She was skeptical of that idea. Through a series of exercises I proved that it was possible, and apparently that was a game changer for her according to her dad.

At this point in my training, certain things have become instinctual so I barely think about them until I’m faced with a higher level of danger or commitment.  Being calm, but aggressive is one of those things. It dawned on me after class that being calm AND aggressive at the same time in the face of danger is a bit of a paradox.  The terms seem mutually exclusive and opposites.  How can one remain calm, yet be also aggressive during a fight, or sparring, or during testing?  

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