Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Energy, Karma, God, the universe, 42, everything

I am sitting in Denver airport. I have been traveling for about 24 hours now, trying to get to my love. I have been posting about it on Facebook and asked for people to send positive energy my way. People worry too much about terms. I don't think Jesus did. If he did the term leper, prostitute and outlaw would have probably bothered him more. I follow most of the things that Jesus taught but i do not consider myself a Christian. I really feel like that term has way too much baggage attached to it nowadays and i do not think that Jesus would have called himself a Christian either. Most of the people who are Christians seem a lot like the Pharisees to me and we know what Christ thought about that bunch. In temperament and philosophy i am much more Jeet Kune Do than i am a Christian as conceived by most of the Christians i know. It concerns me when people let things like "positive energy" bother them and feel that it is against their religion. Does God not have energy? Or is positive the word that is problematic?

Jeet Kune Do was Bruce Lee's philosophy of the martial art but works really well for life as well. Study your experience, analyze it, take what works, discard what doesn't and then add what is essentially your own. I can already hear the arguments, "But TJ, you can not just pick and choose what you think is right." Absolutely. Examining your experience for a warrior, which is what i think Jesus was, is no easy task. Evaluation must be honest. For example, from my experience the idea of shoving your beliefs down people's throat not only is slightly offensive and far from humility, it does not work. Look, if you honestly believe that you have the hotline to God's desk and that if people do not believe like you do that they will burn in eternal hellfire, then i understand why you want to help people to that knowledge. But here is a news flash: trying to force that on people does not work. It makes people uncomfortable and much more likely to disregard what you have to say. If you want to have people listen you have to be a little more patient and you also have to listen to what they have to say. If your religion or philosophy is indeed the one and only truth, then it is on pretty firm footing right? I have found people are far more apt to listen to me and maybe even be moved by what i have to say if i live my life as an example, not as a chance to get into a huff whenever someone says a word that i don't like or has a belief system that may seem hokey to me.

It reminds me a little bit of the people who talk about the ticking time bomb theory of torture. In the case where a terrorist knows about an imminent threat it is OK to torture them goes the argument. The problem with the argument is that torture is actually less effective as far as getting good Intel. Sorry, what you are probably looking for is revenge. Revenge is not about truth.

When i hear people get upset because you are a Buddhist or have a spiritual concept that they do no like or something, what i really hear is a lot of insecurity. It seems to me that there is a lack of faith in your own belief system. I am secure in what i believe, actually in the ideas that i have and if you present me with a valid discussion and good ideas i will listen and incorporate them. This does not mean an argument from the holy book that you espouse. I am all about these holy books, but Bible verses are not a good way to sway someone that does not believe in the Bible just as the Torah, Koran or the Upanishads are not going to change the mind of a Christian.

I have learned a lot from Jesus, also from the Buddha, Bruce Lee, Lao Tzu, HD Thoreau, my parents, my martial arts teachers, Calvin Martin, Bruce Wilshire, etc. and i have found that behind what seems to be contradictions there is a common thread of Truth. Jesus said, "verily i say unto you, you shall not resist evil." Did not make a lot of sense to me until i saw a hexagram in the I-ching that is the image of Heaven above the mountains. The mountains rise up as high as they can to the heavens and then goad the heavens down to their level. The mountains in this analogy were the wicked of the earth, the heavens the righteous person. If the righteous person goes down to do battle, that person has gone down to the dens of the wicked.

Jesus also said when asked what one has to do responded, "Love your God above all else and love your brother as your self." Did not mention saying his name. Just saying. He also said, and i love this one, "Verily i say unto you, unless you convert and become like a little child, you shall by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven." Again no mention of saying his name.

Anyway, this was a fun rant. Please do not take offense anyone and i do welcome conversation about all of this. I truly, truly love philosophical debate. Hope everyone is well, i love you all as my self because you are my self. We are all part of the same thing and we shape our realities with what we bring to the table.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I was thinking recently about the men that i know that really try and be good people. These gentleman have being a good person and doing the right thing as a priority in their lives. It is certainly my top priority. I do not always get it right, but i try to do the best that i can by the people who i come across and sometimes i falter, but i try. I feel like i do a good job for the most part. Others who i can think of off the top of my head are John Williams, Bryan Beard, Tom Laitinen. With these guys, i am confident that they wrestle with and struggle with their decisions to try and make them the most positive that they can be for the world around them and the people that they encounter and deal with on a daily basis. Conversations with Bryan Beard actually inspired this blog. He was talking about various things that he believes in, giving a living wage to the people who work for him and especially presenting a positive role model for the kids that look up to him and those in his show. These things do not have to do with money or fame, but with trying to create a better world by giving a good role model to young people who look up to knights and chivalry. The bad guys do not win in his shows, and they especially do not win by cheating.

I don't think that people who are not in this category are "bad" per se, but i do feel that for the most part in our culture people do the right thing because they do not want to get in trouble and out of fear. I feel that most of the people that i encounter seek their own benefit first and that is what they care about. In crisis situations we can see the hero come out in everyone, but i am talking about during the day to day walking about in life, having your desire to be the best for the world around you that you can possibly be. These are the people that i am talking about now.

Anyway, i was wondering what it is about this group of people who seek out a higher purpose and moral life that they have in common. First, we are all geeks. I think one of the big things that we have in common, bear with me, is comic books. We all have in our head the image of the hero that we want to be. "With great power comes great responsibility." Somewhere in all of our lives we have dreamed of being that hero, being that white knight that saves the day. I see this also, sometimes, in the martial arts world. People who took martial arts classes had this person in the front of the class that they could look up to. Someone with great power and the ability to hurt people who Chose to be a person of peace and a person of knowledge and to help the student grow on their path. This image gives kids something to look up to and that can translate into a life of service. The goal, the black belt, looms large as does the teacher who wears it. Martial arts give you a journey and purpose to achieve.

The hero image. Not a bad thing. These geeks are some of the best people that i know. I trust them. When they say that they are going to do something their honor dictates that they try their best to get it done. When they speak, i believe that the words they speak are true as they understand them. Many people i have dealt with in life and in the business world have an agenda and i learned that most people that i have encountered, will lie to you if it is convenient. They will do what they have to do to get ahead. We are encouraged to do this in our system. The hero image helps to counterbalance this and turn people away from just wanting to make money, to wanting to make the world a better place, to be the best man or woman that one can be.

I am a fan of the samurai concept of telling the truth. The samurai spoke true to you, not because it was dictated by some divine being or book, but because to not speak the truth means that you are a coward. This is morality out of courage, not morality out of fear. John Stuart Mill said he would sooner burn in Hell than convert to an evil God. Do we have that courage?

While i was working in a business someone once told me, "you don't have to be nice to them, they would not be nice to you." A lot of people follow this idea. It is all right to bad to those who would not be good to you. I think this is a weak excuse for a positive life. I am good to people not because they are good to me, but because i believe that it is the right thing to do regardless of who i am dealing with. I do not try and be the best person that i can be because i expect a reward, but because it is important to me to follow the highest standard that i can and do what i believe in. I think that is what is behind Jesus saying, "Even Caesar loves his friends, love your enemies as well." We should be our best regardless of consequences and regardless of what we think we are going to get in return. I feel that way about the people i listed above. I try to be that way myself. Of course the side effect of this is that when you live your life and do the best that you can, people tend to treat you well because you are a decent human. It is a nice side effect, but not the reason to do your best.

I ama also a fan of the Greek concept of arete or excellence. Do everything you do with verve and gusto. Live your life fully. John Williams and i in beginning to write our Men of Action show coined it like this, "Don't stop living til you die and don't be dead while you are alive."

If you get a chance, try it out, be a good person just for the sake of it. There are philosophical arguments to be made about what it means to be a good person, but i have decided to be a Man of Action and go out and do what i can come up with as the best that i can be. Sitting in a room philosophizing never got anyone very far.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Lost Art of Strategy

When i owned the martial arts school we would have a lot of birthday parties. In these parties, kids from our school would invite lots of friends and many of these friends trained in other places. During the party amongst the games and fun birthday activities we would also do a little bit of martial arts training. I would usually hold the focus pads for the kids and they would do kicks and punches and things while trying to avoid getting tagged by me. The kids from other schools would almost always come in and start flailing away and were very easy targets. The kids who trained with us were hard to hit, elusive, capable of defending themselves to some degree. I think that what happens at a lot of places is that people are taught some kicks and some punches and techniques and then they are sent out to spar. There is no strategy, no game plan.

It would be the equivalent of being a carpenter and learning how to use a hammer and nails, screw driver and other tools, but never making blueprints or a plan for putting up a house and then trying to do it. I am so happy that i met my teacher, Craig Stanton in the 90's. He was a full-instructor under Paul Vunak with Progressive Fighting Systems and introduced me to that system of Jeet Kune Do Concepts. The most valuable thing of this whole experience was that it gave me an actual game plan and strategy for fighting. A lot of what was taught was developed by Paul Vunak to teach the navy SEALs how to fight in a short period of time and it is reality based, practical with few bells and whistles. This is what those students that are so easy to hit in the head are missing. They have no idea what they are going to do and just flail around. I find that fighting and sparring with those who are traditionally trained follows this same pattern as well. They have no game plan and sparring with them is typically easy. I do not mean to make a blanket statement here, i have met many fine fighters from all sorts of different styles but the ones that are good have a concept of strategy. Most of those who are good fighters and a challenge come from styles that emphasize practicality as well.

Boxers, wrestlers, judo players, fencers, kendo practioners, etc. who train and actually compete in the class room and can weed out what works from what does not. Your body needs to learn to respond in the high pressure situation of someone trying to actually hit you and defeat you.

Some of the things that i feel are the most neglected areas of training are footwork and defense. Footwork is fundamental and should be trained until it is instinct. You do not have to think about which foot to place next when you walk across the room and you should not have to think about how to move about the ring or the street when you are trying to execute in a fight. It should be natural. You should not have to stop your movement and get flat-footed when you kick or punch or try and do a takedown.

Defense should be trained as well until you are comfortable that you will not be hit. The elusiveness of boxing is a great skill to develop. You have to have someone actually trying to tag you however. Shots that stop short of your face do not teach you how to get out of the way of an actual punch. This does not mean that your training partners should constantly try to beat on you for damage, but if they are not trying to at least tag you and touch you they are doing you a disservice. That touch is the only thing that is going to let you know if you are executing correctly.

We need to train for fighting the way it really is and not the way we hope it would be. Ask yourself the honest question about whether what you are doing would work or not. If your training partners are not making it difficult on you, they are doing you a disservice. A non-compliant attacker who does not have your best interest in mind will be a rude awakening if your training is not a good simulation of an actual fight.

For me, the spiritual quest of the martial journey is not separate from the practical. It is spiritual growth for me to find the truth in simplicity that actually works. It should be an honest quest. We would like to think sometimes that the fancy move will work when in actuality, sometimes the fancy move will only get you knocked out when a non-impressed assailant gives you a large dose of reality.

Happy training everyone and good luck on your own journeys.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hope and Despair

I just came through a patch of time where it seemed like everything was unraveling. My computer (that i use to make most of my money at this time) got a nasty virus and died. Business opportunities and jobs that seemed like they were set and my main source of income for the year seemed like they were going to fall apart. It was scary couple of weeks. Anyway, all of those things have been resolved but it makes me wonder.

Ultimately i understand on a philosophical level that everything will be OK whether it will or not. It is hard when you are living it though to remember that. I look at how things are now after all the crises have passed and notice that really it is the same as it was last week. All of these things that are back to being secure are really not so certain. They could be taken away at a heart beat. And, when they were taken away, i was still taken care of. Everything will be alright if we sit back and have faith that it will. There is always the air that we breath and a host of elder beings we are always in the company of. Sister Moon and Brother Orion shine in the night sky. The wind, ancient godfather continues to blow and remind us, if we remember to listen, that we are not alone. Even though we do not see the purpose while we are riding through the storms, usually these crisis situations lead to a better place that we are supposed to be in. I feel that way now.

It is easy to look at it that way when things are going well, just have to remember these things during the next period of uncertainty.