The inaugural Crossing The Pond Martial Expo was held last weekend in West Seattle. This seminar brought together six well-known and highly skilled instructors of martial arts and self-defense from across the United States and United Kingdom.
Over the weekend, two one-hour workshops were held by instructors Al Peasland, Nicholas Yang, Kris Wilder, Rory Miller, Marc “Animal” MacYoung, and Iain “Tuna Fish Pizza” Abernethy.
Approximately thirty-five people were in attendance. Among the students, at least one third appeared to be black belts and/or instructors themselves.
Participants were open-minded, polite, and patient–especially with this author, who hadn’t done any Karate training since elementary school. Egoism, inappropriate competition, and input from self-declared “assistant instructors” was minimal. This is a credit to the affable seminar host, Kris Wilder, and the other teachers as well, who together set the right tone for the event.
My first experience with board breaking was a total humiliation. I was a ten-year-old Karate student, with six months of practice under my orange belt, when my sensei decided we should all break some wood. He asked each of us to acquire a stack of boards, one square foot by one inch in size, and bring them to our next class.
As a bright but naive child, I had no idea that the practice of tameshiwari, or breaking, was an instrument of martial arts fraud. I only knew that it looked cool, and that it required focus–or so my teacher said.
Qigong (chi gong) is most often understood as a set of active exercises, guiding qi (chi) energy around the body through intention, movement, and sound. It is less well known that Qigong incorporates rigorous courses of standing and seated meditation. These active and passive, external and internal modalities are mutually supportive.
One of the first goals of Qigong meditation is to reach a deep level of quietude within the mind and body. Sustained quiet allows a student to perceive increasingly subtle objects and movements inside their body.
In a quiet meditative state, relationships and correspondences that were previously hidden or overlooked, become clear and credible. In other words, meditation allows for biofeedback training without the need for electronic biofeedback instrumentation.
Once upon a time, this was the standard response to meeting someone with a martial arts interest: yelp a few times, wave your arms around, do a judo/ninja/karate chop, then hold for applause. But times have changed. People no longer believe televised ninja movies are real. Now they believe televised MMA competitions are real, and nobody uses a karate chop in the UFC. (It’s illegal to strike the trachea, in case you were wondering.)
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not complaining. The classic ninja pantomime has given way to more intelligent comments and questions, such as, “Have you won any tournaments?”
Common sense dictates that the best martial artists are those who win tournaments, while the middling ones participate and lose, and the worst avoid competition altogether. This is only half-true, but the issues are too complex to address during small talk. So, until now, I have answered the question with a simple No, and endured a stigma otherwise reserved for the tea-sipping pajama dancer with delusions of lethality.
Let this be my catharsis. There are perfectly good reasons to abstain from tournament competition, and they deserve an airing. So here we go…
I have always been a fan of cotton-sole kung fu slippers. They are very cheap, and very comfortable. With their soft and smooth bottoms, they don’t scuff hardwood floors, and they don’t tear vinyl or canvas mats.
Cotton shoes do have some weaknesses, though. They absorb water and dirt, so you can’t really wear them outside. And unfortunately, they tend to slip a bit during kicking, jumping, and tumbling exercises. It was for these reasons that I recently decided to upgrade my footwear.
In his new book, The Intuitive Warrior: Lessons from a Navy Seal on Unleashing Your Hidden Potential, author and retired Navy SEAL Michael Jaco describes how he channeled the challenges he faced in military training and combat toward aligning his body and mind. With the two working in unison, Jaco remained calm and positive in extremely stressful situations. When he retired, Jaco then used these techniques as a civilian to enrich his everyday life.
Through personal accounts of real experiences, Jaco explains how the challenging situations he endured as a member of one of the most elite Special Forces units in the United States taught him to control his emotions and tap into his intuition. Using these capabilities, he enhanced both his mental and physical strength. In The Intuitive Warrior, Jaco says that anybody can develop the perception and awareness skills that he learned and employ them to achieve a more fulfilling life, whether seeking to improve job performance, personal relationships or physical shape.
Michael Jaco answers a few questions for Martial Development readers in this exclusive interview…
Advocates of compulsory health insurance plans will often ask rhetorically, “What if you got hit by a bus?” Yet we all know that the relatively poor health of America today isn’t the result of some freak accident. It wasn’t the shark attack, the falling piano, or the runaway Prius that has led so many of us to physical (and financial) ruin.
The real cause is inappropriate conduct. It is, primarily, neglect and disregard for the effects of diet, exercise, environmental conditions, and other factors under our imperfect but substantial control.
As a holistic form of exercise, martial arts can arguably be classified as health care. Experienced practitioners also recognize it as a form of health insurance. Daily practice provides a richly detailed baseline against which latent health issues can easily be observed, and hopefully corrected in their earliest stages.
Those are the straightforward facts; now here is the tricky part: we can use martial arts to insure and ensure our health, but how do we insure the practice itself?