What is a Langkah?

Langkah (Indonesian) - noun: literally step, move, pace, action, measure, stride, leap, foot, footstep, gesture, tread, footpace

In Indonesian martial arts, Pencak Silat, it commonly refers to geometric patterns on the floor used to train footwork and develop an understanding of the role of the lower body in maintaining balance and a base from which to generate power.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Painful day, awesome day

So, yesterday was both painful and awesome.

Picnic With The Dead

Last year, my friend and brother, Rick Rumler, died. Yesterday, the anniversary, a group of us gathered at his grave. Many of his Indy Silat brothers were there, his widow, June, and his mother and sister, Jean and Julie were all there. There was an awesome homemade German chocolate cake which we all shared. A few people brought beers or other drinks. We talked about Rick and shared our respective memories about him. It's hard to believe he's been gone a year but his death strengthened the bonds among those who loved him. We came together, each extending part of ourselves into the void he left to ease the pain for the others.

A New-ish Old Friend

After the picnic I visited Ashley. Ashley was also a friend of Rick's. She and I met for the first time at his funeral but have become very good friends since. I feel like I've known her much longer than a year and I'm looking forward to hanging out with her again tonight when we have more time. I got to meet quite a few of her other friends too which was nice and, of course, I got to see the Z kids, Zoe and Zander, who are her twin children and who are amazing in their own rights. As amazing as they are now, at about 3 years old, I predict big things for them as they grow and develop and mature. Especially with the guidance of their amazing mom.

A Friend In Need

I just finished chatting on Facebook with another friend of mine. She's going through a very rough patch. She was unable to sleep and feels trapped by her situation. She's surrounded by people she doesn't really know and, because of her recent trauma, she's unable to trust any of them. She's stuck in a bad situation and feels very isolated and alone. We chatted for a bit and while it's painful as hell to know she's suffering like that, I'm glad I was online and able to provide her with some friendly, trustworthy communication even if it was from a thousand miles away.

The Lesson of the Day

People come and go in our lives. In a way we're very fragile creatures. The relationships and bonds we develop can be frightening because, on some level, we know they'll eventually cause us pain. Maybe a lot of pain. The pain is ... painful. But the relationships and bonds we build with people - the very things which cause the pain - are also the things which bring us happiness and healing. I've said it before and I'll say it again. "Pain shared is pain divided. Joy shared is joy multiplied." Relationships bring both joy and pain but they also give us people to share joy and pain with. Relationships - whether romantic or platonic - are vital.

People often lament the technology of today. They claim it disconnects us. Everyone's always sitting around looking at or talking on their electronic devices and not engaging with the people around them. It certainly happens. But I think back to when I was a kid. No electronic devices like that. Instead, people buried their head in books or newspapers or magazines. I don't know that they engaged any more than they do now.

What I see is that the information age has given us new ways to connect. New ways to reach out. I am able to keep in regular touch with friends literally all over the world. I know as much about the lives of my friends in Japan and the Philippines as I do about my friends in Florida and New Mexico.

I just spent an hour or so chatting with a friend in need on Facebook. Without FB I doubt she would have thought to call me. Even if she did think of me, she probably would have thought I was asleep and wouldn't have wanted to bother me.

Pictures from the picnic have already been posted on the internet. People from all over the place who knew Rick directly or are friends of friends have commented and commiserated with the group of us who were at the grave in person. When Rick died last year I was in the Philippines. Because of technology, I was able to find out nearly as quickly as anyone else did. My wife called me on Skype and we talked and cried and made plans. Because of technology, I was able to book a flight and get back to the States and be with friends and family. We shared the pain and buried Rick together.

The next time you hear someone disparage the technology of today - or the next time you're tempted to do so - think about this and realize how amazing it really is. How useful and beneficial it can be. I'm not saying it's all sunshine and roses. There are certainly pitfalls with the technology but in the end it's just a tool. It's a tool like a hammer. A hammer can be used to kill someone or it can be used to build a shelter for someone in need.

The Wandering Guru

"Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have - life itself." - Walter Anderson


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Frustrated rant

Gah! I'm aware of a situation a friend of mine is going through and she's in a hell of a lot of pain. We've had several lengthy discussions about her situation and I am as supportive as possible, offering what help I can which is virtually nothing. I know our talks are helpful for her. I know having a friend in your corner offering moral support can be an awesome help but it's frustrating as hell for me because I want to do more. I want to hold her but due to distance that's not possible. I want to track down the asshat who hurt her and mete out some punishment to fit his crime. I can't, though. There are legal actions being taken against him and, hopefully, he'll spend time in prison and suffer some measure of that punishment.

Nasty Stuff

One of the worst parts of this is that this friend is the latest in a long line of women I've known who have been raped. I have had, and still have, quite a few close female friends over the years. I don't know how many but I'd guess the number is well over 20, maybe more than 30. Of those, I can only think of two who have never told me about being raped or molested at least once in their lives. And, for those two, I don't know it never happened to them. They may just not have told me about it.

It's horrible. It's sickening. I am fairly familiar with the psychology behind rape but it's inconceivable to me. I just can't imagine it. When I hear about it happening to people I know, I have a very visceral reaction. I get revved up and angry. Hell, let's call a spade a spade, I get pissed off. And that's when it's old news. When it's just happened ... yeah, I start researching methods of torture for the rapist.

I know only a small percentage of the population has the psyche for rape and even fewer actually follow through on it. That small percentage, though, are like the rotten, nasty apples at the bottom of a bushel. Other men, good men, catch some flak from the backlash simply because they're men. I don't fault the women who have such a reaction at all. It just makes me want to track down the rapists that much more and it brings a more personal dimension to the torture I'd like to inflict on them.


While I hate hearing about such things, I'm also honored that so many women have been comfortable enough with me to discuss it. It's a sign of how much they trust me. Especially when it's fresh, as it is for the friend whose situation inspired this rant. Her injuries, physical and psychological, are still fresh and raw and sore beyond belief. There are very, very few men she talks to. Very, very few men she feels comfortable talking to. Very, very few men she feels she can trust. I am deeply honored, far beyond what I can express in words, to be one of those men.

If you're a female who knows me and has been through something like this, know that I feel privileged to have your trust. Know that I have the utmost respect for you and the strength it takes to pull through such an ordeal. Know that you are loved, honored, and respected. If I can help in any way, let me know. While I can't directly imagine what it's like, I am a good listener and, while you might startle me, you're not going to shock me or offend me.

Also, if you want more direct help, I know a lot of people. I know other women who have been through similar situations. I know professional therapists and counselors.

I know it's painful and embarrassing but I got a great bit of wisdom from a man named David Grossman. He wrote several books which deal with the physical, psychological, and emotional realities of dealing with violent conflict. The one I would recommend to *everyone* is "On Combat." While it may not seem directly relevant, it really is. At least parts of it. It discusses a lot of things related to PTSD and while rape is a different cause than combat it's still PTSD and the info is still valid and useful. One of the things Grossman says, "Pain shared is pain divided. Joy shared is joy multiplied."

Talking, sharing the pain, is helpful in and of itself. Talk to people you trust. Talk to professionals.

Also, research PTSD and read firsthand accounts of other people who have gone through their own hells - whether it's the same hell or not. For instance, panic attacks are not uncommon, even months or years after the incident. So if you suffer from panic attacks, just realizing it's a relatively normal reaction can be helpful. Whatever you're going through, others have gone through it too. You're not odd or a freak or strange. You're a normal person having normal reactions to a screwed up situation.

While this post was specifically about rape ... boy, that's a sentence I never expected to type ... a lot of it is also applicable to domestic violence and abuse. And while I talked about women being the victims, I also know there are men who have been victims of such crimes but of the dozens of men I know, I only know one who has been abused by a woman and three who have been sexually assaulted in some way. The unfortunate reality is that women have to deal with this a lot more commonly than men. Abused children is a whole other can of frustrating worms for me.

The Wandering Guru

"The best thing you can do is realize that there's nothing wrong with you, and that it isn't your fault. Everything around you was the crazy part." - Unknown


Monday, March 24, 2014

Van Progress Update

I'm gradually getting more organized in the van. I'm still quite a way from where I want it to be and I'm progressing in a piecemeal fashion. Partly for financial reasons and partly to work around the schedule I've already got.

I've spent most of my time since I got the van either in hotel rooms with Margaret or at a student's house but I have slept in the van several times and have worked out some aspects which make it reasonable comfortable in a rough sort of way right now.

The Seats

The van has three rows of seats. The second row is removable but I currently don't have any place to remove them to. I'm going to be in Indiana for a while so I'm hoping to sell the seats on craigslist while I'm there. Failing that, I'll donate them to Goodwill just to get them out of the van and free up quite a bit of space.

Right now, though, if I slide the second row, driver side seat all the way forward and then collapse it and tip it forward - as if to remove it - I can stretch out completely with my pillow by the back gate and my feet under the second row seat. The passenger side second row seat is also folded over. It has a hard back on it and can be used as a makeshift table so I've got the third row passenger side seat set up for sitting and I can put my computer on the back of the second row seat. It's not ideal but it works for now. I've decided to get rid of the second row seat when possible and get a folding tv tray to set my computer on. It will work better and the tv tray can be folded and stored and will take up a lot less space than the second row seat does.

Once I get the second row seats out of the van I'll have a lot more free space to work with in general. Right now I have to move a bunch of stuff around when I need to sleep or work on my computer because there's not enough storage space to put stuff where it's not in my bed or seat.

Odds and Ends

I picked up a collapsible trash can today which has velcro on the bottom. It's decent sized and I put it into the passenger side floor board. Nice to have a handy trash can which doesn't slide around. I also got a little pouch with a couple of pockets which hangs from a vent on the dashboard. I've got a pen in it and I clip the holster for my cell phone there when I'm driving so it's out of my way but readily accessible when I get out of the car. I have a dash mount for my phone so I can use it for navigation but when I don't need navigation I slide the phone into the pocket of the little organizer bag.

I have a nice little bluetooth speaker which works well but even at its loudest setting I sometimes can't hear my audiobooks very well when driving. The van has a tape cassette player - it's a 2004 van - so I got an adapter which plugs into the tape cassette with a cord I can plug into the earphone jack on my iphone. This enables me to listen to my audiobooks through the car's audio which is much better. It also gives me volume control on the steering wheel. Unfortunately, I can't change the track or talk on the phone very easily. Fortunately, audiobooks don't require much track change. Basically, only when I reach the end of a book so when that happens I pull into a gas station or something and change the book.

I really like the van as a vehicle. It has a lot of little nooks and crannies and hooks all over it - seems like I find a new one each day. These have been very useful for organization and they will continue to be. I already have plans for some of them.

I picked up a funnel today. I've got a liter bottle for use when I drive - it fits into the cup holder quite well. Now I can buy water a gallon at a time which is much cheaper - I can even refill the gallon at grocery stores and such and make it even cheaper. Then I can use the funnel to fill my single serving bottle for driving.

So I plan to tie a bit of paracord to the funnel and hang it from a hook, then lash the gallon jug to something to prevent it from sliding/tipping/etc. when I'm driving.

In short, there's still quite a bit of work required to make the van really comfortable but it's getting there. Slowly but surely.

The Wandering Guru

"For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned." - Anonymous

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Motion Is Motion

One of the most important lessons I have ever learned was how to see the commonalities and connect the dots. To see applications for basketball within the practice of Tai Chi ... and vice versa. All of my instructors tried to teach me this but Guru Ken was the one who really helped me understand it. Once I understood it, then I really understood the saying I'd learned in Karate, "Every strike is a block. Every block is a strike." Before training with Guru Ken, I took that statement completely literally. When I understood that motion is motion, I realized it was way more than a strike and block. It was literally everything. A motion taught as a strike might be a block, a joint lock, a takedown, a choke, a disarm, etc. Motion is motion.

When you run a form or kata or juru or whatever each motion can literally be *anything*. Further, all the motions *between* motions can be anything. So the retraction of a "punch" might be a grab/pull or a choke, disarm, whatever. When done in the air they are just motions and can literally be anything. When you work them with a partner and provide a scenario then the options get restricted but they the motion can still be an application from any category.

If I throw a hook punch, for instance, then, depending on the range, this motion might be used as a punch or elbow. It might also wrap around the opponent's head and hit them in the back of the head as a rabbit punch or it might encircle their head and become a choke. If I've disrupted their balance previously then it might be a takedown such as a reverse putar kepala or the upper body portion of a biset luar sweep. If they have a weapon and I get control of it, then the hook punch might actually be aimed at their hand to effect a disarm. If I've caught the person's shirt or jacket then the hook punch might be a pull which unbalances the opponent and sets him up for a sweep. When training, don't get locked into thinking any motion is any specific technique or type of technique.

Understanding this principle helped me understand something I picked up from Guru Stevan Plinck. Guru Plinck talks about being the matador, not the bull. I see a lot of layers in this idea - and I'm guessing there are other layers I haven't seen yet.

On one level, this idea is about acting, not reacting. Move with intention. Don't let the opponent dictate what you do.

Another level, though, ties into the "motion is motion" idea. Since motion is motion and any motion can be a block, evasion, strike, choke, lock, sweep/takedown, disarm, etc. then my motion *never* has to be dictated by my opponent. Ideally, I move. While moving I maintain good balance, structure, relaxation, and breathing. By extension, this means I have good body mechanics and am able to generate power in my motion. I seek empties within the environment.

An empty might be a location in space to which I can evade. It might be a hole in the opponent's structure where he is vulnerable to attack. It might be a space in my own structure which allows me to escape a lock. It might be a vulnerability in my structure which, being aware of it, I can use as a "bait." Empties are all over the place. Sometimes I intentionally create them but generally I just seek the ones which are already there.

So I move with balance, structure, relaxation, breathing and I seek empties. When I find an empty I fill it in some way - how I fill it depends on my intention.

Sifu Stephen Watson, a Gung Fu practitioner (primarily Tai Chi Chuan), gives a great illustration of this when he does a demo where he has several guys attack him while he runs his Tai Chi form. He just runs his form. The attackers can attack any way they want and from any angle. Stephe just runs his form. Usually his attackers are his own students so they know the form and they try to take advantage of it, attacking when he's turning away or where they think he should be vulnerable. Their attacks are relatively light but they're landing their strikes and catching limbs to lock and getting into position for sweeps. And Stephe does get hit some. The beauty of the demo, though, is by maintaining his structure, breath, balance, relaxation, and moving he rarely takes a solid shot. The shots he takes are usually glancing blows. Further, his next motion usually attacks the attacker with a strike, lock, sweep, etc.

All Stephe does, though, is his form. He doesn't try to deal directly with their attacks. He doesn't react to them. He doesn't let them dictate his motion. He does his form and things happen to his attackers.

It's a hard concept to grasp and takes a long time and a lot of training to even begin to internalize but it's powerful beyond description.

The Wandering Guru

"Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate." - Zhuangzi


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Clack, clack, clack

In the Filipino martial arts there are exercises called, in my personal experience, siniwali or penki-penki. These exercises are generally done with two sticks but can be done with any two weapons or empty handed. The weapons are generally the same length. Using weapons of different length is usually referred to by different names like espada y daga or long and short. These exercises move the weapons around the body, usually in a predetermined pattern, though they can be done freeform too.

At a basic level, these exercises are used to teach coordination. They teach both hands to move the weapons without hitting yourself, tangling yourself up, or disarming yourself. As you continue working them, they are used to teach basic body mechanics and footwork. At a higher level they also just teach movement. They teach you to be more familiar with your body in general. The motions can be applied to any weapon and to empty hands because motion is motion.

There are some methods which fight with, for instance, two sticks. More commonly, at least in my experience, fighting methods use a single weapon or long and short, such as stick and knife or sword and knife.

I taught a private lesson earlier on this topic and decided to share here some of the reasons these drills are taught, discuss what they teach, and some of the things I like about working them. When I think about all my training in Filipino martial arts, the first thing I think of isn’t how practical the training is or how many times it has proven useful to me in one way or another - though those are certainly very important things. The first thing which comes to mind, though, when I think about my FMA training is siniwali and all the time and fun I’ve had running various siniwali or penki-penki drills with teachers and peers and friends.

The Sound

Siniwali drills can be worked solo or with a partner. With a partner, though, the sound of the sticks striking each other is like a song of action. It's a repetitive sound with a specific tempo and rhythm. Once you get past the basics and get comfortable with a particular pattern, there's a certain peace which can be found in the song of the sticks and the dance of the body which accompanies it.

The Smell

Traditionally we use rattan sticks for training. Rattan is a fibrous wood and as the sticks strike each other the fibers compress and it causes friction among the fibers. When you're realling working - especially in a drill like siniwali where you're constantly hitting the sticks against somethine - the air fills with an odor like something burning. It's caused by the friction of the fibers in the stick and they are, in fact, burning to some degree. I haven't seen it myself but I've been told if you use freshly cut rattan sometimes smoke will actually come from the cut end.

All the Filipino martial artists I know love the smell. The smell becomes synonymous with work and fun and camaraderie. When we smell it we know we're among friends doing something we love. It's a great thing.

The Lessons

I had a student ask me once, "What does hubud lubud teach?" Hubud lubud is another drill from Filipino martial arts and it is directly related to siniwali - though the relation isn't obvious to most people for a while. My answer - and it's the same answer for "what does siniwali teach?" - is: it's everything or nothing.

If you work it properly and keep and eye on maintaining proper energy and body mechanics throughout then it teaches everything. Everything can be tied back to it. It's a foundational tool and the lessons learned in it can be applied to everything else you do. If you don't work it properly - like with any drill or exercise - then it quickly devolves into patty cake and you're just going through the motions. In this case, it's nothing. You might as well throw it out because you're not getting anything from it.

One of my sayings is "motion is motion." There are only so many ways to move the body. Methods which develop balance will develop balance. A basketball player needs good balance to run, move, throw. Tai Chi is a great tool for developing balance. Consequently, training Tai Chi can help you become a better basketball player. If you train it properly and connect the dots. If you don't then you just play basketball and do Tai Chi.

Have Fun

A friend of mine once said in a workshop, “I think most of us would agree that, ideally, we’d prefer not to fight if we can avoid it. So if my only reason for training is to be able to fight then, if I’m lucky, I’ll never have to use it and I’ll waste a bunch of time. If, however, my reason for training is to meet great people, learn a few things, share a few things, and have fun then none of it’s wasted even if I never get into a fight or use my training in any way outside of the training itself.”

Along with all the valuable things siniwali teaches, I think it’s just plain fun and the fun aspect of it, laughing at mistakes and fumbling along until you get it, and laughing with your friends as they go through the same process. All of that is at least as important as anything else gained from the training.

The Wandering Guru

"In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” - Gordon B. Hinckley


Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Secret of Excellence

Doing the Thing

I'm specifically going to talk about martial arts here but the concept is true throughout life. It's true of athletes, teachers, truck drivers, everyone. Whatever you do, this concept holds true.

When we start our training we mimic our instructor. Everyone does. Just like little children mimic their parents and other people in their environment to learn how to talk and walk and open doors. We mimic our instructor's motions. For most people, this mimickry has far more impact than what the instructor says in class. We may hear him say, "Keep your elbow in." We may intellectually realize the importance of doing so or, sometimes, have it graphically and painfully illustrated to us. Generally, though, the reason we learn to keep our elbows in is because we're mimicking the instructor and he keeps his elbows in. Tangentially, there's a valuable lesson right there for instructors reading this. Make sure your own ducks are in a row, practice what you preach because your students, more often than not, will follow your lead, not your words.

This mimickry is part of the development. However, at some point, we cease to mimic. We start ingraining the motion and, ideally, we begin to really understand why we do it in a particular way. Over time, through training and sparring and, especially, if we get into some fights we start ingraining the understanding at a level way deeper than simple mimickry can explain or approach. Guru Ken explained it to me like this, "At a certain point we cease to 'do' the thing and, instead, we 'become' the thing. We go from 'doing' martial arts to 'being' martial artists."

When we start out, we have to "do." Over time, though, we start to "be."

How Long Does This Take

People ask how long this process takes. Impossible to say. It's different for everyone. There is a commonly accepted number of approximately 10,000 hours to "master" something but I think the "becoming" may begin long before that. It's impossible to predict when it will start happening for an individual. Further, it's difficult to notice when it does start happening.

Going back to the analogy of children. If you see a child every day it's difficult to notice the child's growth. People who only see the child from time to time, though, will remark on how much the child has grown. The child - aside from marks on the doorjamb - won't notice the growth, neither will parents or siblings or others who see the child frequently. It happens slowly, gradually.

The progression from "doing" to "being" happens the same way. One day you're "doing" your martial arts. You're training and you're working but it's something you do. Then, one day, you look around and realize it has influenced, even permeated, other aspects of your life. You realize you make plans around your training instead of the other way around. You realize you are planning a trip to attend a seminar or a tournament instead of planning a vacation. Someone knocks a cup off a table and you catch it before anyone else even realizes it's falling. There are a myriad of ways this development might be noticed and, suddenly, you realize you "are" a martial artist.

Of course, it's a sliding scale and while I have *been* a martial artist for at least 15 years, I am much more of a martial artist now than I was a decade ago.

The Secret

The secret to excellence is, really, no secret. You do the thing until you become the thing. When you become the thing you have taken the first steps on the path toward excellence. It's not a destination. It's a journey. The longer you walk the path the better you'll get. It requires dedication and it's not easy. If you don't enjoy it, if you aren't passionate about it, then you'll never find the path. You'll always just do the thing until you stop doing the thing. If you're passionate about it, though, then you'll become the thing. You'll find the path and you'll begin moving toward excellence.

Because it's a passion, it's easy to get immersed in it. This immersion is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is like the drive train on the excellence vehicle. On the other, though, you get immersed in driving the vehicle and lose all sight of how far you've come. For me and most people I've talked to it took someone else to point it out. Someone tells you how good you are or how much you've improved and, suddenly, you look around and realize you really have come a long way.

Some people, at that point, lose their drive. They figure they've arrived. They see it as a goal instead of a path. This moment, this fork in the road, really separates the wheat from the chaff. Some people stop right there and set up a house and never wonder what's farther down the road. Some may even take the fork which leads into another endeavor or which, through atrophe, circles back to lesser levels of excellence. Some, though, the ones who *really* feel the passion, look around, take note of how far they've come, then they put their head back down and continue along their path.

My advice, no matter where you are on the path, don't judge other people's progress or journey. Don't compare theirs to yours. Stick to your path. Follow your passion. Find your own excellence. Let others find theirs.

The Wandering Guru

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Life is movement but *living* requires action.

Life Is Motion

Life, all life, involves movement. Sometimes the movement is internal, sometimes external but movement is involved. This movement, though, is just survival. Movement and life are the bare minimum. There's a difference between life and living, between existing and thriving. Living and thriving requires more than just movement.

Living Requires Action

To really live requires action. The difference between movement and action is intention. Going to training and going through the motions is movement. Action means setting an intention to improve then allowing the intention to drive the movement. When a car spins its tires in mud there is plenty of movement. Tires spinning, mud flying, probably some cussing from the driver but the car isn't making any progress. When the driver sets the intention to make progress his movements become actions. He might start rocking the car back and forth. He might find some boards to put under the tires or call a tow truck or any number of other things. Now he's acting. He's moving with focus toward a specifically intended goal.

Set A Goal

Each day set a goal. It might be something simple like learning a new word. It might be something more complicated like learning a new kata. It might be related to martial arts or something else. Whatever it is, set the intention and begin acting. It may be something which requires more than one day or one session of action. If so, then try to break it down into smaller steps. If it can't be broken down then it's more difficult but still doable. Set the intention and act. Make progress. Move toward the intended goal. Remember, setting an intention is a *choice.* Making an intentional choice is part of acting.

Walking Away

Generally, I advocate finishing what you start. Sometimes, though, for any number of reasons, it's not feasible. Sometimes you hit a dead end and can't find a way out. Usually this is just a plateau. Sometimes something more important to you takes precedence. Whatever. If you decide, for any reason, to abandond a goal you've set, stop and analyze the reason. If the reason is that it's too hard or you're frustrated then you should probably stick to it. Maybe take a break, work on other goals, and come back to it later but keep working on it. If, however, there is a reason which is valid for you for abandoning it then *choose* to walk away.

This one is difficult. All our lives we've been told not to quit. Don't give up. Generally, this is good advice. But if you find you're just spinning your wheels then you either need to find alternatives or, failing that, you need to walk away from the car. There's a difference between walking away and quitting.

Quitting - at least to me - means abandoning it out of fear. Maybe a fear of failure. Maybe a fear of success. Maybe a fear of what others will say. Whatever. If your motivation is fear-based then you're quitting. Taking a break isn't quitting. Finding something more important to you to act on isn't quitting.

Remember, no one but you can honestly decide whether you're quitting or walking away. This requires being brutally honest with yourself and not worrying about how other people perceive the decision.

This concept also applies to physical fighting. A lot of fights happen simply because no one's willing to walk away. Their ego gets involved and fear-based ideas come into play. They're afraid they'll look like a coward, for instance. When you understand there's a difference between walking away and running away it becomes much, much easier to deal with. Remove the ego based insecurities from the decision and things become much clearer. You may still choose to fight because you're not willing to deal with the consequences (e.g.: a loved one will be hurt or something similar) but it will be a *choice* not a reaction.

Action Beats Reaction

No matter what the situation, choose to act. Determine your course of action, set your intention, and move toward your goal. Act. Don't react. Reaction almost always leads to motion without action. You react and you feel like you have to do *something*. So you move. But you move with no intention so you're not acting. You're just moving. If your motions get you out of the situation then it'll be due to luck, not anything you did. If you look back on a situation and, being brutally honest with yourself, recognize you were reacting then you might blame yourself for reacting but you can't take any credit for a success. When you *act* luck may still be involved but you can take credit for the success.

The Wandering Guru

"Never mistake motion for action." - Ernest Hemingway

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Old Skool Basics

Otis Funkmeyer

So, back when we lived in Village of Oak Creek - just south of Sedona - we were renting a large house and we hosted a lot of couchsurfers. We don't remember the exact number but it was over 80 surfers in a span of six months at our peak and probably arond 100 surfers during our time at that house. Most of them came and went. A lot of them just stayed one night. Some of them we barely saw at all. Some of them stayed longer - even overstayed their welcome - and we remember them better. A few, though, made a specific impression and became friends. Otis was one of these.

He and I had some things in common but mostly our personalities just clicked. His passion is dance and mine is martial arts but our passions are equivalent and we have both done a lot of crazy things in pursuit of our passions. He's a cool and "funktastic" guy. He also has a blog and regularly posts videos, including some instructional videos for various types of dance. Good stuff.

Recently he posted this video titled Old Skool Popping with Mr. FOX. He met one of his dance idols in Paris, France and they did this short video together.

Work the Basics

While Otis is talking about dancing, what he says is conceptually true in martial arts too. Of the various lessons I learned from Shihan Larry Davenport, Sr., the most important and helpful for me was, "You can't overwork the basics." He exemplified this idea and, through his actions, really made me understand it and appreciate it.

I've run into a lot of martial artists over the years who moved well but didn’t seem to have the basics down. One specific example which comes to mind was an Eskrimador who I'll call Flynn (not his real name, of course). Flynn was a nice guy and had been training for a while. He moved very well. Made his stick sing. He had good footwork and the crowd around me was wowed by the demo he gave. I wasn't. He moved well but I didn't see any "glue" (for lack of a better term). It looked like a choreographed dance routine with no understanding of application. Now, don't get me wrong, a good dancer is respectable too but without the understanding of the martial applications it's not, in my estimation, martial arts. It's not without value but it's not what I call martial arts. For me, a "martial artist" must have both sides of the equation. Both the "art" of self-expression through the medium and the "martial" understanding of how to apply the motion. Of course, I also consider people who are on the path to these aspects to be martial artists too. They may still be struggling with self-expression or figuring out how to make the material work for them but they’re still martial artists. Got to have both sides of the coin, though, even if they’re still under construction.

When I was judging forms at the Arnold Battle of Columbus back in the early 2000s, I saw *a lot* of people who fell into this category. They moved well. They were full of flash and had some great acrobatic moves. They were incredible gymnasts and dancers but not martial artists by my standards. There were exceptions, of course, but they *really* stood out because of it.

Most people consider the basics to be boring. Taking AGPS and its parent systems, for example, who wants to spend hour after hour running jurus and langkah? It's tedious, right? Everyone wants to get to the hands-on stuff and start slamming people to the ground. I *love* hands-on and slamming people to the ground. I even enjoy getting slammed - though each year, that gets a little rougher, I still enjoy it.

I've had two fellow practitioners - both with Silat in their background - ask me, "I can do the techniques but I always feel like I'm working to pull them off. You guys [the Sikal group from which most of my Silat understanding comes] do the same techniques but you aren't working for it. You make it look effortless. What am I missing?"

The key is the jurus and langkah. Working those things until the motions and, more specifically, the structure and lines they teach are ingrained is the "secret." The structure and lines are what make the techniques really hum. My policy is, "If I'm grunting, I'm doing something wrong." I work hard at being lazy. I put a lot of time into the basics so I don't have to put a lot of work into the specific techniques to make them effective. I just let my body do what I've trained it to do and, most of the time, everything falls into place. It takes hours and hours of the “boring” basics to get to that place though.

Extension of the Principle

I watched a video of some folks teaching restraint techniques for use by corrections officers. The techniques were valid and useful. Nothing wrong with them. Many of them were techniques I would and have taught to corrections officers I've worked with. However, it was obvious to me the trainers in the video had *only* ever learned those techniques. After doing some research, I found my assessment was accurate. The trainers had gotten certified to teach a specific curriculum which was very tightly focused. Nothing wrong with that and there's nothing wrong with how they taught it. There was, however, a distinct difference - night and day - between watching them teach the techniques and watching someone who has spent years honing their craft teach the same techniques.

The analogy I like to give for this is in math. It's possible to teach someone calculus without first teaching them algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. And they'd be able to run the calculations and come up with the proper answers for the questions in the class. But most of them wouldn't actually *understand* the calculus. They wouldn't understand *why* it works. This means they would usually flounder if they had to use their calculus “in the wild."

Whether we're talking about math or dance or martial arts or any other endeavor, starting at the top of the pyramid is often possible but it leads to what Guru Ken calls "technique collectors." They don't have a solid foundation and they don't have a good understanding of *why* the techniques work. They just have some techniques. This means they're very limited when push comes to shove. They're not able to easily connect dots between - apparently - disparate techniques. They're not able to see beyond those techniques. With a solid foundation, the dots all connect themselves over time.

The Wandering Guru

"If you care about the little things. You'll do the big things well. Do the basics well." - Unknown


Slowly but surely


We are taking our time on our eastward trek. We drove 4 hours (Prescott Valley, AZ to Gallup, NM) on Wednesday - though, after adding in all of our various last minute errands, it was a solid 8 hour day. Thursday we drove 2 hours (Gallup to Albuquerque). Friday we drove 2.5 hours (Albuquerque to Tucumcari). Today we're only doing an hour and forty-five minutes to Amarillo, TX. We'll hit Big Texan for some good steak tonight.

My Cousin

On Monday we'll get to Springfield, MO and visit my cousin, Chris Spinelli, and his family. Always good to see them.

Chris is the son of my mom's sister, Becky. When we were children, Becky and Chris lived near us and we were raised more like siblings than cousins until they moved to Jefferson City, MO. Growing up, Chris and I had a lot of problems with each other and we fought quite a bit. As adults, though, we have connected on many levels and are now, again, more like brothers than cousins. He's a veteran of both the Air Force and the Army National Guard. He's an Osteopath (D.O.) and Pediatrician with a great wife, Cris, and three awesome children, Connor and Claire (twins) and Collin. It's amazing how quickly the kids are growing up.

Coming Up

I'm going to have a busy weekend. On Friday, I'm attending a kerambit seminar in Nashville, TN. Then, on Saturday and Sunday, I'll be hooking up with Chris again in Farmington, MO for some firearms training at the Asymmetric Solutions (AS) facility. Doing a Basic Pistol course on Saturday and a Tactical Pistol course on Sunday. I'm not sure specifically who will be running the training but I know it'll be quality instruction.

From there, I plan to spend some time in Louisville, KY working with Guru Eddie Wells and doing some teaching. Working on setting up a couple of events in the Louisville area. Then I'm going to spend some time in Indiana. My previous visits to Indiana over the past few years have been very busy. This trip will be much more laid back. I do plan to set up some events to teach but mostly I'm going to be spending quality time with friends and family.

Then I'm going to Tennessee. I'm bartering some teaching there for some work on my van and I've arranged to co-teach an event in Nashville.

Everything after that is tentative but I've got a lot of things in the works. Very exciting.

The Wandering Guru

"Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." - Dwight D. Eisenhower


Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Down to the Wire

Busy day. We're right down to the wire with packing. Today I donated all the last minute big stuff like our bed frames and various appliances and tables and chairs. Goodwill is coming in the morning to pick up our fridge. We tried to sell it on craigslist and got some queries but no one committed enough to buy and pick it up before tomorrow when we leave at about noon.

We've still got a bit of last minute work to do and I expect it's going to be a long night for both of us but it's coming together pretty well. Really, better than we expected given some of the hiccups we've had in the process.

Excitement and Frustration

We're both excited about this new phase of our lives but therein lies some frustration. We're so close to it now that small little things which were previously minorly annoying are now downright upsetting. Things like the fact that the bathroom door won't stay open by itself. We've made due with a door stop for months but the door is hung so high the door stop just barely has a grip and the slightest nudge upsets the door stop and the door starts to close. This door, specifically, is my biggest pet peeve. Probably because I'm somewhat wide of girth so if the door isn't completely open when I go in, I end up bumping it and bouncing it off the wall. This, in turn, annoys Margaret since she's usually just on the other side of that wall. There are many other things about the apartment which fall into this category. Neither of us is going to miss anything about the apartment.

Then there's the stress of the packing and moving which puts both of us on a shorter fuse. Fortunately we both have pretty long fuses but it's still a pretty huge relief to know we'll be done with it all tomorrow.

Coming Attractions

In fact, at this point, we're really down to hours. Twelve hours from now we'll be completely out of the apartment. We'll probably still be packing the truck and running last minute errands but we'll be completely out of the apartment.

Within fifteen hours we'll be back in Sedona closing our post office box there and drinking in the sights because it'll be several months before we see it again. By this time tomorrow night we'll be settled in our hotel room in Gallup, NM. In a week and a half Margaret will be running a race in Missouri and I'll be training at a kerambit seminar in Nashville, TN.

Within two weeks, hopefully, we'll have bought my minivan and we'll each finally get some real "me" time - which neither of us has had enough of in the past year. Every time we thought we were going to get some, someone died and we had to scrap whatever plans we had and attend a funeral. And, of course, it's a vicious cycle. The stress of grief and dealing with all the details made us need the "me" time even more.

What’s Left

Right now, I'm taking a break from last minute sorting and packing. I'm going to end up with basically *everything* I own stuffed into a small backpack and a fifteen gallon plastic tub. It's pretty amazing. I've been living minimalistically - by most people's standards - for a while now but this takes it to a whole new level and I love it.

I'm leaving some stuff - like training gear and certificates - with my friend/student Tony. When I come back in May, in my van, I'll pick that stuff up and figure out its final disposition.

Near Future

Between plans to visit and teach and train, not to mention various necessary side trips like going to South Dakota to get my driver's license there, my schedule is starting to fill up pretty rapidly. Some of you who are reading this can expect to hear from me some time within the next month about scheduling a visit for one reason or another. I've got a list of people who are either current students who I plan to visit and teach, people who have expressed interest in hosting me for seminars, and people who have expressed interest in starting their own AGPS training groups. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a strong feeling that I'm approaching a tipping point. At this point I've really narrowed my focus down to developing a strong AGPS community and writing. I've set some goals for AGPS and am going to start breaking those goals down into specific steps and I believe AGPS is going to have a *very* good year.

For all of you who are already part of the AGPS community, I look forward to sharing this ride with you. For all of you who want to hop aboard, welcome. I look forward to meeting you and working with you. For all who are interested spectators cheering us on, thank you. It's deeply appreciated.

The Wandering Guru

"The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire." - Malcom Gladwell

Monday, March 3, 2014

Our BS Stories


We all have priorities in our lives. Each person's priorities are unique and should never be judged by other people. We each design the life we live based on the priorities we set. If we're unhappy with life then we should change something. Change is always possible but there will always be consequences and, often, they will be uncomfortable. Really, no one should ever complain about their life because they chose it, and they continue to live it without making changes. We might complain about short-term circumstances, sure, but being unsatisfied with something significant and ongoing in our life is entirely done by our own choice.

For me, this topic most commonly comes up regarding training. People say, "I'd love to train but ..." Sometimes it's simply a statement of their priorities. Sometimes, though, they're complaining. They lament their lack of training and claim they can't find time to train or, another very common one, they claim they need to get in better shape before training.

These are excuses. They're really saying training isn't a high enough priority for them to find a way to do it. Often, they're making excuses because they're trying to convince me they're sincere about wanting to train. They believe I'll think less of them since they don't train, so they try to justify it. I can't speak for others but, honestly, I don't judge someone who doesn't train but I would prefer honesty to justification.

"I choose not to train [as much as I might like] because these other things [family, job, whatever] have a higher priority for me." In my estimation, that's a perfectly acceptable explanation, in the rare instance when an explanation is necessary at all.

"I wish I could train more but I just can't do it because I don't have time because [family, job, whatever]." This statement is a justification. Like H. Jackson Brown said, "Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein." It's never about how much time you have. It's about how much time you're willing to spend. It's about priorities, plain and simple.

If you're happy with your life then be proud of your priorities. Really, the reason you're not training shouldn't even have to be discussed. You don't train because you don't want to. Or you train just as much as you want to. It's really that simple.

Statements about why you don't train more are irrelevant. At best, they're statements of fact. At worst, they're whining justifications and rationalizations meant to impress someone with your alleged willingness but proclaimed inability to follow through. It's not an inability. It's a choice.


Having said all that, though, I also understand how difficult it can be to identify options. Sometimes we paint ourselves into a corner and feel trapped. We get so caught up in things we literally can't see a way out. I understand. I've been there and, as far as I know, everyone else has been there at some point too.

The trick, then, is to find options. It doesn't have to be a big change. It can be small. Just a small step toward your goal. If you really want it, you'll find a way. You don't have to do it all at once. Every journey, no matter how long, is just a collection of steps. Attempting too large a step and overextending is a common reason we fall down. It happens. Pick yourself up and take a smaller step.

While all of this is applicable to every facet of life, I'm primarily talking about training so I'll discuss some options related to training. You've got kids and want to spend time with them. It's a priority. If you're a good parent then it's your highest priority. Maybe your kids would be interested in training and you could share it with them. Depending on their age, this might mean playing games which entertain the children while also working attributes for you. Maybe they even develop useful attributes for the children. The specifics of this will vary based on what you're trying to train. Be creative. The same goes for spouses.

If your job is a higher priority than your training that's fine. No matter what your job is, though, you have some breaks. Even if they're only a few minutes here or there. Use those breaks to work material. Even if it's just visualization. Run a form, or part of a form. Grab a friend and work with them. You don't have to actually do the techniques if the person is unwilling. If, for instance, you're working on a lock, you can just set up the lock without applying any pressure. You can have them attack you slowly and you can work on getting to the lock without any risk to your partner. If you're working on footwork and evasion, have them throw some paper clips or shoot rubber bands at you. Be creative.

Something I have found very useful over the years is explaining things to others. Or to myself. Sometimes I imagine I'm teaching a technique to someone and I explain it fully and imagine questions they might ask - or questions I have heard or asked myself. For me personally, I find it very useful to write this imagined dialog down.

Some things which have come from this type of internal exploration can be found in the monographs on my website.

The Wandering Guru

"The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can't achieve it." - Jordan Belfort


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Crunch Time

Things are really starting to move now. It's the morning of March 2 and we leave on March 5. We've made good progress on getting everything out of the apartment but we still have a bit to go and we're definitely down to crunch time. In fact, we plan to have everything done by 5 PM on Tuesday, March 4 so we can leave the morning of the 5th.

Trimming the Excess

We are winnowing our possessions down to a point where, when we leave on Wednesday, literally everything we own in Arizona will fit into our pickup truck. We still have a couple of storage units in Kentucky full of crap but we plan to sort those out within a few months and get down to a point where everything we own will fit into about 80 sq. ft. - total, including our actual living space. It's somewhat daunting but in a good way.

Deja Vu

I'm seeing a repeat, albeit on a larger scale, of a phenomenon I've seen before. When I started minimizing my travel gear I did some research and bought a backpack which met the minimum requirement for carry-on with all the airlines in the world, except a few very small airlines I doubt I'll ever fly. This meant my backpack was pretty small. Once I had determined exactly how much space I had, then I started figuring out how to fit everything I need into that space.

The first thing I realized was, I didn't *need* everything I had previously carried. So I really thought about my essentials. Because of my lifestyle, I'm able to get by with less than a lot of people could. I travel with 4 t-shirts, 4 pair of underwear, a 2nd pair of pants/shorts depending on weather, and an iPad mini.

My toiletries consist of a razor, hair brush, tooth brush, and deodorant. If I'm staying in a hotel, most of them have shampoo and soap and many stock small tubes of toothpaste. If the place I’m staying doesn’t supply these things then I go buy travel size versions at a pharmacy. If I need to shave then I go buy some cheap shaving cream (I avoid Barbasol because I seem to be allergic to it). This set of toiletries also means I'm not carrying any liquids or gels when I fly which have to be removed from the bag when I go through security. If I'm driving then I have a little more space and don't have to worry about clearing TSA so I also pack my shampoo, conditioner, soap, and shaving cream. My baseline, though, leaves them out of the bag.

I have a case for my iPad mini which has an integrated bluetooth keyboard. I can't do video editing on it and some other tasks I do on my computer are tricky but the iPad setup suits most of my needs when I'm traveling. I can write. If necessary, I can do some web development. I can check email, facebook, do research, and even watch Netflix. And, again, TSA doesn’t require me to remove my iPad from my case when clearing security.

This minimal amount of packing means I still actually have a little room in my small backpack. Especially if it's well organized and organization is a vital component of good minimization. So if I need dress clothes on my trip, I can actually fit them into the backpack too. It's tight but they fit. I bought a rather expensive pair of dress shoes which are made of very supple leather and a flexible rubber sole. I can literally fold the shoes in half and stuff them into my bag if I need to. If I need a jacket on a trip then I fold it over the top of the bag and secure it with the compression straps so I end up with a self-contained unit which fits comfortably into overhead compartments. Though, admittedly, on some small planes it is a very snug fit, it does fit.

Conforming to the Space

What I found through the experience of minimizing my travel gear was, once I had determined exactly how much space I had, I was able to fit into that space. Making this move into an RV is turning into the same sort of experience. I live pretty minimally by nature these days but, even still, I've been able to get rid of a lot of stuff I realized I didn't actually need. And I'm not depriving myself either. I'm going to be comfortable once everything is set up though, admittedly, the transitional phase is going to be a bit uncomfortably spartan. In the long run, I won't really be sacrificing creature comforts, per se. There will be some adjustment required to figure how to be comfortable in what I'll have but it won't be so difficult.

All in all, it's really rather liberating. It's pretty cool to look at a stack of boxes full of stuff and say, "Yeah. I don't need *any* of that." It's also pretty cool donating that stack of boxes to people who do need it. Here in Prescott Valley there's a thrift shop called Stepping Stones. Their proceeds help fund a shelter for abused women. It's nice to be able to help others.


My advice, when you start to run out of space - whether it's in your car or your home or your luggage - don't look for more space. Look for what you don't need. Don't start with "stuff" and figure out how to make it fit. Look at the space you have/want/need and figure out what you need to make that space work.

It's not easy but it's doable. It's challenging but, as I said, liberating. In the process, you have to be realistic too. I met a retired German guy in the Philippines who takes my minimal packing to an even more impressive level. He travels the world with one change of clothes and minimal toiletries. Period. Each day he takes a shower. In the shower he washes the clothes he wore the day before and he washes himself. Then he gets out of the shower, puts on his other set of clothes and hangs up the newly washed set to dry.

I love the idea. It's awesome. However, it's not realistic for me. This guy has a build which allows him to walk into a store and buy something off the rack pretty much anywhere in the world. So if one of his two shirts get torn or stained he can replace it pretty readily. I can't. When I'm outside the U.S. it's almost impossible to find clothes to fit me. For that matter, I have trouble finding pants in the U.S. which fit me well. Consequently, I can't really minimize that much unless I want to risk wearing a shirt or pants with a rip or a major stain or something.

My wife, with her long distance trail running, needs to travel with running shoes plus whatever shoes she's wearing daily. Sometimes her work requires her to also pack dress shoes. Consequently, she requires more space for packing than I do. There is no "one size fits all" solution but if you're really honest with yourself, I guarantee you're traveling - whether on a trip or in life - with a lot more stuff than you really need. And I'm not talking about living uncomfortably. It's simply the case that most people accumulate stuff. We tend to fill up whatever space we have simply because it's there.

The Wandering Guru

"Storage requirements will increase to meet storage capacity." - corollary of Parkinson's Law


Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Martial Arts Doctorate

Education Analogy

Recently, a friend of mine posted a comment on Facebook comparing high-level martial arts training to the training a neurosurgeon goes through with regards to the number of years it takes. Another person, a doctor, questioned the accuracy of the comparison because to become a neurosurgeon takes ~15 years of school (after graduating from high school) and, when working in the field, a neurosurgeon's margin for error is so much tighter than most other fields.

My Personal Experience

I trained for nearly 20 years before earning my instructorship in anything. Granted, it took so long, in part, because I moved around a bit but, still, it was ~20 years of training and experience. As my friend said, though, he wasn't talking about a martial arts hobbyist. He was comparing high-level martial arts to neurosurgeons and said he finds people with 10-15 years of training think they've arrived at this point but they really haven't yet. I agree completely.

At 15 years, I didn't yet have any significant formal ranking but I had been around. I had trained a lot and had been in some fights. I knew some stuff, understood some stuff, and had proven myself competent in bad situations. I didn't yet think I was "advanced" though. I think the lags in my formal training at that point kept me from being overly confident then. So it took me ~20 years to reach a point where I really considered myself an advanced practitioner. And, technically, I was, compared to the vast majority of people in martial arts. 20 years is certainly nothing to sneeze at, and I'm not belittling it. I knew there was a lot more out there and a lot of room for improvement, but I thought I had an idea of how much there was.

Over the next 10 years, though, I really began to understand the size of my pond. I was a good-sized fish in my pond. Not the biggest fish but a long way from the smallest. And it wasn't the smallest of ponds, but it was a far cry from the ocean. When I'd been training about 30 years, I really started to grasp the size of the ocean and the relative size of my pond.

Margin For Error

When I've had to use my training in real time, like the neurosurgeon, my margin for error was incredibly thin. If I'd have screwed up, I or someone else would have been badly injured or killed.

As Guru Ken always taught, in training we train toward perfection. The closer we get in training the closer we're likely to get in reality. The example he always used was, when things go sideways you lose some of your functional ability. Your senses get skewed and motor skills degrade to one degree or another depending on the level of stress involved. Let's say, under stress, you lose 10% of your functional ability. Take a technique which requires 80% of perfection to be functional. If you only train it to the point where you can pull it off 80% - 85% of the time in training then, in real time, you'll be relying on luck to actually pull the technique off. If, however, you've trained it to where you pull it off 95% or more of the time, and this includes sparring and pressure testing situations, then you have at least some chance of pulling that technique off in real time.


So, I consider the comparison to a neurosurgeon, at my level, to be appropriate. And, like more common educations, it's a progression. 10 years ago, I was more equivalent to a General Practitioner. 20 years ago I was graduating high school and starting college.

Another aspect of the comparison I find interesting is, both doctors and martial artists use the terms "practice" and "practitioner." A doctor is a medical practitioner. A martial artist is a practitioner of a specific system. I believe this is an acknowledgment of the fact, in both fields, that there's always more to learn. A teacher is always a student. The moment a teacher stops being a student, s/he stops growing and developing and starts stagnating. At that moment, they are no longer really a practitioner. They begin a downhill slide toward mediocrity as both a practitioner and teacher and, eventually, they fade away.

SGM Cacoy Canete told me once, "I earned my master rank in my 20s. I didn't feel I had mastered any single aspect of the arts until I had been training for 40 years, though. And, still, every day I learn something new." When he told me this, he had over 80 years of training and experience behind him.

As you train and develop, keep these words in mind. They will help keep you humble. When you think, "I've been training for 20 years! I'm really good." Remember SGM Cacoy's words, "I didn't feel I had mastered anything until I'd been training 40 years and [after 80+ years] I still learn something new every day." If you're not learning something new every day then you're stagnating. You might learn more today about a particular technique. You might learn a variation. You might learn more about teaching or about anatomy. There's always room for growth if you keep your eyes and mind open to see the path.

After I had explained all this and a few of my peers had chimed in with their own experiences, the doctor agreed it was a valid analogy.

The Wandering Guru

"Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in." - Isaac Asimov