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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Thursday, October 30, 2014

See you in December ...


November is National Novel Writing Month. Each November there's a contest of sorts called NaNoWriMo. The objective is to write 50,000 words from November 1 - November 30.

50,000 words, for those who don't think in terms of word count, equals approximately 200 pages. If you "win" the contest, you get some graphical badges you can use on websites or whatever and you get a couple of free copies, published through CreateSpace, of the novel you wrote. Basically, a pat on the back.

Really, as I see it, it's a sort of inspirational tool to put words on paper. Get some momentum going and run with it.

I'm Doing It

I've decided to enter it and work on my Demons & Ninjas: Revelation novel. I've written a prologue & first chapter already. Of course, that work doesn't count toward the 50k target word count. Only what I write from November 1 - November 30 will count toward that.

Averaging seven pages per day is going to be rough but not excessively so. I've consistently averaged about five pages per day for more than six months now. The trick next month will be maintaining my focus on one project and cranking out seven pages per day for it.


In case you haven't done the math yet, this means I won't be writing blog entries or working on my Stealing Bases manual for AGPS or working on short stories until after November. For November, I'll be focused on cranking out the first draft of Demons & Ninjas: Revelation. After that, I'll focus on editing it while I resume writing other things.

The Wandering Guru

"Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on." — Louis L'Amour

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shuttle Bus Philosophy

I discussed this in a previous post back in April. Earlier today, I came across a quote in a book I'm reading that reminded me of this, so I decided to address the subject again. You can read the actual quote that sparked this post at the end.

The Shuttle Ride Discussion

Several years ago, I took a two hour shuttle ride from Camp Verde to the Phoenix airport. I shared the ride with several women and, as the shuttle headed south on I-17, conversation somehow turned to religion and spirituality. I listened with interest but didn't say anything until one of the women specifically asked me.

"Are you religious?"

I said, "Not really. Very spiritual, but not religious. I've found a lot of personal truth in Buddhist philosophy so, if I have to claim a religion, it's Buddhism, but I don't practice it as a religion."

"Buddhism has always seemed rather nihilistic to me."

"It seems that way to most people at first because of unfortunate translations."

"What do you mean?"

"The term 'attachment' is often used and avoidance of attachment is recommended. More specifically, 'non-attachment' is a primary goal."

"Right. If you're not attached to things, though, then how can you, for instance, love."

"That's the unfortunate translation issue. In English, people often interpret 'non-attachment' as 'detachment.'"

She nodded.

"Detachment is nihilistic. It means non-engagement. It means being disconnected. Non-attachment is the opposite. Non-attachment means experiencing things fully, engaging fully with the current moment, then letting go completely. Instead of 'attachment' try the word 'clinging.'"

She thought about it for a moment and slowly nodded. "I guess I see."

I continued. "As humans, we tend to label things. By labeling them, we take a snapshot of them and we assume they aren't going to change. We cling to the idea of what it was instead of experiencing it as it is."

"Are you married?"

"Yes. Very happily for fifteen years."

"Are you attached to your wife?"

"From moment to moment."

She shook her head, confused. "What?"

"Each day I fall in love with my wife again. Attachment, in Buddhist philosophy, would mean that I take her, and our love, for granted. It was there when we got married, it'll always be there. But that's not necessarily true. Each day, I change. Each day, my wife changes. Each day, the world around us changes. Honestly, who I am now would have little interest in the woman I married fifteen years ago. And, I assume, she would say the same about me.

"Each day, I look at my wife and I realize I love her. Not who she was fifteen years ago, not who she was yesterday. I love who she is. More specifically, this current version of me loves who she is. I experience that emotion completely and let it go completely so I can fall in love with her again the next day. This doesn't literally happen each day. Ideally, it happens continuously. Each moment is a renewal, an experience, and a release. Ideally, it's a constant process. The human mind really loves labels and conceptualizations and dealing with those instead of dealing with the present reality, but as frequently as I can, I pull myself back into the present and fall in love with her again."

By this point, all the women on the shuttle, and the guy driving the shuttle, had fallen silent and sat listening to me. Into the quiet, one of the women whispered, "My God. That's one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard."

The Wandering Guru

"I used to think that when people fell in love, they just landed where they landed. And they had no choice in the matter afterward. And maybe that's true of beginnings, but it's not true of this. Now. I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me." — Tris Pryor, Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Monday, October 27, 2014

The House of Delusion

Fight Video

In this video, the narrator would have us believe this is a good representation of self-defense. Of using ranged tools to overcome a bladed weapon.

Responses to this video included people saying, “Perfect.” and “Respect.”

My Response

Uh. No. Horrible.

First, did the guy have a knife? Don't know. Video is too bad. I certainly never saw a knife.

Second, and more importantly, the shirtless guy wasn't protecting himself. Throughout the video, shirtless appears to be the instigator.

He approaches the guy in black first. Then the guy starts coming after him, slowly. The guy in black isn't running. Shirtless is moving away, but only far enough to maintain distance. He's not running away. If he were running away, he would just be gone. The guy in black isn't trying to catch up to him, he's just stalking after. Looks to me more like the guy in black is just trying to get the shirtless guy to leave the area.

Shirtless guy keeps turning back and reengaging. He wants to fight, but he's scared. Finally, he gets a tool that's big enough to make him feel comfortable and he beats the guy down.

There is zero ground for any sort of "self-defense" claim for the shirtless guy. He assaulted the guy in black, time and again. Now, the guy in black doesn't have much ground for "self-defense" claims either.

But, in my estimation, I see nothing in this video to respect and there's nothing I see to label "Knife Wielding Assailant Stopped By Creative Defender.”

The Wandering Guru

“The house of delusions is cheap to build but drafty to live in.” — A. E. Housman

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Bad Day

Video Discussion

Nexus BJJ Instructional #289

I think this video is probably staged. However, I'm going to proceed as if it's not.

First, the apparent instructor says, "Okay, guys. I'm gonna run you through a beautiful Judo throw today. Got anyone I can try it out with?"

This, to me, implies that the guy isn't a usual instructor in the school. Maybe he's visiting or something. He seems to be wearing a blue belt and the guys he's addressing are wearing purple belts. Assuming they're all BJJ, as their gis and the title of the video imply, then purple outranks blue. Maybe the blue belt is a black belt in Judo and is showing throws? I don't know.

One of the purple belts then points off camera. "Try it on Keith, so we can see it."

Instructor: "Hey, mate, come here."

Purple belt: "His name's Keith."

Instructor: "Yeah. Whatever."

This already shows a lack of respect toward Keith and, to a lesser degree, toward the purple belts. And, personally, I infer some pre-existing tension in this interaction. Maybe something happened before the video started that already had everyone on edge.

Now Keith comes over wearing either a brown belt or black belt. I can't see it clearly enough to tell. Either way, he'd be senior to everyone else in the video.

Keith proceeds to be non-compliant as the instructor attempts to show the throw.

The instructor gets more and more upset and sort of push-slaps Keith. The purple belts jump in. The instructor apologizes, accepts the blame for overreacting, and explains he's having a bad day. Something of an understatement, really.

From there, things rapidly devolve into the apparent start of a fight before the video ends.

My Thoughts


Keith wears either a brown or black belt in, I assume, BJJ. That means he's likely trained for at least 8 - 10 years, assuming his BJJ progression resembled that of most people I know in BJJ. No way could he have trained that long and achieved that level without learning to be a decent uke. That means Keith was being an intentional jackass.

When an instructor is teaching, they're not using real force, and they're not softening up with strikes or other tenderizers. They're illustrating a technique and explaining the methodology and mechanics. At this stage of training, an uke offering resistance or trying to counter is ridiculous. No one will learn anything.

Did The Instructor Handle It Well?

No. He could have handled it better. But he's not the only one to blame.

How Could The Instructor Have Handled It Better?

Ian Fleming wrote in Goldfinger, "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action."

The first time Keith fought the grip, it could have been a misunderstanding, an accident. By the third time, though, it's "enemy action" and that guy is not going to allow the technique. The simplest answer is to switch to a new uke.

An Exception

Having said that, I have been in similar situations a few times and I have chosen a road similar to the instructor in this video on at least one occasion. The difference between what I did and the instructor in this video lay in the emotion.

This instructor reacted emotionally. He got frustrated, his ego kicked in, and he lashed out.

When it happened to me, there were extenuating circumstances and a history. I decided the guy needed to be taught a specific lesson. Was my ego involved? Yes. But I wasn't reacting emotionally. My response was planned and precise.

I was teaching some Silat. The uke, who I'll call Randy, kept trying to counter me as I taught. The first time, I responded, "I'm trying to illustrate and explain. Your response is counterproductive. Are you here to learn or to prove something?"

The second time, I explained, "It's easy to counter when you know what's coming and haven't been softened up."

The third time, I flowed countered his counter by flowing to something else and sent him stumbling across the room. I then repeated, "It's easy to counter when you know what's coming. Since you weren't expecting my response to your counter, you didn't have a ready answer." I turned it into a new kind of lesson.

The fourth time, as he began his counter, I patted his cheek. Not hard enough to call it a "slap" but hard enough to get his attention, and to bring his attention up to his face. Then I did the technique I was teaching. I said, "It's easy to counter when you haven't been softened up. Now imagine if I'd landed several hard shots instead of patting your cheek?" Another lesson built around his attempts to counter.

The Difference

The instructor in the video reacted emotionally and started a fight. I turned the problem into a springboard to teach Randy and everyone else in class some useful lessons.

How I Ended Up Handling Randy

Randy continued his jackass ways toward me and the other students. Eventually, I told him, "Leave. You've got some sort of chip on your shoulder and you're disrupting my class. You're not welcome here anymore. If you step through my door again, I'll knock you flat out. I won’t talk, I won’t explain, I’ll just lay you out. Period. Then I'll call the police and have you arrested for trespassing."

Sometimes, as instructors, we have to do what's right for the class overall. A student who is frequently and continually disruptive is a detriment to the rest of the class. Keeping in mind that the third time indicates enemy action, I give two warnings. I may give more than that, as I did with Randy, if I'm able to use the situation as a teaching tool but, once I've given two warnings, I'm ready to cut my losses, get rid of the problem, and move on.

Teaching Adults

Bear in mind, I only teach adults. Working with children is a whole different beast. The same principles apply, but there are a lot of mitigating factors to be considered with children.

With adults, I only have to deal with the person in front of me. He or she is making all their own choices about how they behave and they should be mature enough to correct their behavior or deal with the consequences.

The Wandering Guru

"As if on a conveyer belt, there will be a never ending supply of idiots and jerks that come and go in your life. Whether you stop the belt to dance with any one of them is up to you." — Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Buggy Breakfast

Cottonwood, Arizona currently has a grasshopper problem. Many businesses have multitudes of grasshoppers clustered on every exterior wall. And these grasshoppers ain't of the small and cute variety. They run about four inches long with gray-green bodies. Of course, sometimes they decide to enter the buildings, too.

This morning, as I regularly do here in Cottonwood, I had breakfast at Carl's, Jr. I really like their breakfasts. Their biscuits are excellent and their hash rounds are mighty, mighty tasty. And, as I usually do, after breakfast, I pulled out my laptop and began writing.

While I wrote, a couple took a seat across from me and ate their own breakfast. A few minutes later, a grasshopper landed on my right collarbone. Startled, before my conscious mind could even perceive what had actually happened, my left hand shot up quickly, snatched the insect, and flung it across the room.

I looked over at the woman sitting across from me. Her husband, with his back to me, had missed the whole thing. Her eyes, though, shot wide and she jumped in her own seat. She and I looked at each other a moment and then burst into laughter.

Her husband looked back and forth between us curiously until she'd regained her composure enough to explain.

She hadn't actually seen the grasshopper land on me. She only saw my startled reaction, the abrupt motion, and the grasshopper flying across the room. The sudden activity had, in turn, startled her.

The Wandering Guru

"The secret to humor is surprise." — Aristotle

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Customer Service Soapbox

I pulled into a parking space at Sonic and pressed the red button. I ordered a bacon CroisSonic and a medium Coke, with the bacon crispy..

This Sonic had a screen that displayed the order information. The screen displayed, "Bacon Breakfast Toaster."

I said, "No, I want the CroisSonic."

"Right. You want the breakfast toaster."

"No. CroisSonic. Number seventeen, but I only want the sandwich and the drink."

The order on the screen changed to "Bacon CroisSonic" with tater tots and a drink. A number seventeen. Complete.

I said, "I don't want the tots."

"You said number seventeen."

At this point, I began entertaining thoughts of walking into the restaurant and making my own freakin' sandwich and charging them for my trouble.

"I. Want. A bacon CroisSonic. And a medium coke. That's it."

The screen blanked and flickered several times and, finally, the proper order came on the screen. And the young woman hung up on me.

Thankfully, when my order arrived, it actually was a CroisSonic with crispy bacon."


As I sat thinking about the hurdle I'd just overcome, my default blame fell on the young woman taking the order. Makes sense, right? And, yeah, I think she should own some of the responsibility. But not all of it.

I thought back to my first job as a cashier at Jimmy's Dairy Bar in Pendleton, Indiana. At that time, the register had no special buttons. It was nothing more than a large calculator with some extra features to control the door and the receipt tape.

I was seventeen years old. After my interview, the manager handed me a folder. He said, "I want to hire you, but you've got one last hoop to jump through. Take this home, memorize it. Come back Monday night after school and we'll see how it goes."

I took the folder home. It contained the entire menu, with all options, and the prices for everything. I spent the weekend studying it and memorizing everything. My mom quizzed me on it.

Monday night, after school, I returned to the restaurant. The manager quizzed me on the menu and prices. He didn't test me on everything, but it was a pretty rigorous process.

I passed. Then the manager, who may also have been an owner, I don't remember, trained me. The training was pretty extensive, too.

The first time I stood behind the register and talked to an employee, I felt like a veteran. Since I knew the whole menu, I didn't get confused about the order. I never had to check the menu for prices or to see if we actually carried what the customer had ordered.

I made mistakes, sure. And, at that point, those mistakes were purely my own.

The last time I worked in the food business, though, about ten years ago, the register had all the snazzy buttons with all the menu items and options labeled on it. When a new employee came in, management threw them behind the register with no training on the menu or prices.

When customers called or came in, the cashier routinely had to check the menu to verify the options and the prices. Never mind the fact that the cashier didn't seem capable of adding $3.82 and $2.46 in his head, that's a problem with the larger system, not the management.

The management, though, should spend more time training employees, especially front line employees, about the menu. Maybe memorizing the whole menu is overkill these days, but there should be more than, "Here's the register, just read the buttons and punch them."

Granted, I'm exaggerating the lack of training a bit. But the point is valid.

Yes, some of the responsibility should fall on the shoulders of the employee. But the training methods should also be improved.

And I think this problem goes beyond the world of food service. I think so many people have become overly reliant on push-button technology that they've forgotten all about the human factor in customer service.

And, for crying out loud, when you make a mistake, own up to it and make it right. Even if you're sure you didn't make a mistake, just fix it to the customer's satisfaction. Don't accuse the customer. Don't argue with them. Just fix it. And, after fixing it, don't hang up on them, or get snarky in other ways or whatever.

The Wandering Guru

"Make a customer, not a sale." — Katherine Barchetti

Saturday, October 11, 2014

AGPS Curriculum Update

A few months ago I spent some time in Wichita, KS, working with my guys there. Most of them tested into Level 2 of the AGPS curriculum and they tested well. They did a good job.

There were issues, though. The issues weren't the responsibility of the students. I realized the flaw lay in the Level 1 curriculum and, more specifically, in the way I presented it.

Previously, I viewed each level of the curriculum as a bucket. The buckets had an progressive order, building on each other, as they should. The testing served as a sort of stress test for the curriculum. I realized the curriculum needed more structure in each level to emphasize both the progression of development and the elements I consider key components.

I've just updated the Level 1 curriculum.

Check out the new layout at http://trainagps.com/curriculum/level%201

The level is now laid out with its own progression. Entry elements in Section A lay the foundation for striking elements in Section B. Section C focuses on attributes that don't actively come into play until later in the curriculum, but I want to start developing them early so the foundation is already laid when the student reaches that part of the curriculum.

The Wandering Guru

"What is the difference between a living thing and a dead thing? In the medical world, a clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. Change is life. Stagnation is death. If you don't change, you die. It's that simple. It's that scary." — Leonard Sweet