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.

Search This Blog

Monday, November 24, 2014

Don’t let people control you

Emotional Marionettes

I have met many people who are what I call emotional marionettes.

When an emotion arises, they react. Bam!

Instead of realizing that their emotions are a part of them and created internally, they allow their emotions to control them. What they fail to recognize is that this also hands a bunch of control to the people around them.

Everyone has triggers, of course. These triggers will generate a strong and abrupt rise of a particular emotion. If we react immediately to those triggers then we allow the emotions and the people who triggered them to control us.

One of my triggers is bullying. When I see someone acting like a bully, I immediately feel anger rise within me. If I reacted immediately to this then I guarantee I would overreact 99% of the time. The anger would drive me and instead of saying something, I would do something. In most instances, given what I'm capable of, that would be an overreaction. If I let my anger drive then I wouldn't be in control and the consequences, for everyone involved, could be pretty horrible. Someone might end up in the hospital and I might end up in jail.

A great quote from Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate, that's relevant here: "When anger rises, lower your fists. When you raise your fists, lower your anger."

Ideally, we should never let our emotions control us. When an emotion arises, we should acknowledge it, experience it fully, and then let it go fully. Only after doing this should we respond. Reaction is never controlled. Reaction is a club used by immature people. It's a temper tantrum. It's overreaction.

Response, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal. Response is controlled.

I have used my opponent's emotional reactions to control an him or her in sparring and in fights.

Make an effort to find your triggers. Deal with them. When you feel the emotions arise, don't react immediately. Breathe. Count to ten. There's a reason this method is recommended by so many people. That ten count, even if it only takes a second for you to fly through the numbers, gives you a chance to process the emotion so you can respond to the situation instead of reacting to your emotions.

And that last sentence is the key. When you react to your emotions, you're not dealing with the situation at hand. You're focusing on the footprint left by the problem instead of the problem itself.

A story from my personal life. My mom tried not to be manipulative, but it was her default setting because of her own upbringing. When I met my wife, I was 23 years old. I had only been living on my own, away from my mom's daily influence, for a few years. Mom still knew where all of my buttons were.

One day, Margaret (my wife-to-be) heard me talking to my mom on the phone. I blew up. I yelled and ranted and I wouldn't be at all surprised if spittle flew with the vehemence of my words. An old adage advises women, "Watch how a man treats his mother, because that's how he'll treat you." Margaret thought of this adage and wondered if she really wanted to be with me after hearing me yell at my mom.

Thing was, though, my mom knew all my buttons and intentionally—if not consciously—pushed them. She wanted to get a reaction. She knew if I was yelling at her that she was in control. Her ability to rile me gave her a sense of power.

By the time I was 30, though, my mom couldn't rile me. Most of the buttons she tried to use had nothing to do with who I was at 30. They no longer triggered any sort of emotional response. There were still a handful that caused emotions to arise, but I'd learned to deal with those. I'd learned to breathe and count to ten (sometimes literally). I'd learned to experience the emotion without reacting to it. I didn't yell anymore. I responded to her statement. My responses depended on the exact situation. Sometimes it was a humorous response intended to disarm and defuse. Sometimes it was a pointed remark intended to let her know that she'd crossed a line into territory she didn't want to know too much about. Usually, though, I responded with a level-headed and logical point that deflated whatever argument she was trying to initiate.

The more often you're able to respond instead of react, the easier it gets and the more control you have over yourself. The less control you give to other people.

I think most people are familiar with the emotional marionette. Some of you may even be thinking, "This sounds like me." If so, pay attention even more closely to what I'm about to say.


It's bad enough to think, "Oh my god. I'm giving control of myself over to people."

What's worse, though, is when you are dealing with people who do not want to control you.

People who don't want to control you end up walking on eggshells around you. They don't want to kick off your emotional reactions so they tiptoe around you. Often, you notice this, and it makes you question why they're doing it.

It's a really bad situation. It's a breeding ground for stress and mistrust all the way around.

Life Happens

Sometimes, life happens. Of course it does. Sometimes, you've suffered a recent trauma and it has amped everything up. You become hypersensitive and all your guards are down. That's okay. It's natural. It's normal. The people around, if they're aware of the situation, will likely cut you some slack.

If they don't cut you slack then maybe it's because they're suffering, too.

In On Combat David Grossman discusses something related to this. I'll paraphrase him.

If you're a police officer or in the military and you have a bad day at work, when you get home you probably don't want to be harassed by questions. You probably don't want to be fawned over or pestered. But there's your significant other and maybe your kids and they're demanding your attention. It's easy to blow up.

The thing you, as the warrior, must remember is that your family had a bad day, too. Maybe your spouse saw the news about the shootout or the car chase and has spent the rest of the day worried about you. As the trained professional, it's actually your job to recognize this and make sure your loved ones are taken care of first. Then you can take care of yourself. It's part of your job. Unfortunately, this aspect of warriorship is rarely, if ever, discussed, much less taught.

The most important thing, though, when you're going through hell, is to cut yourself some slack. When you react emotionally, recognize the reaction and the loss of control then move on. Over time, you should regain that control and reach a point where you respond instead of react.

The Wandering Guru

"How you react emotionally is a choice in any situation." — Judith Orloff

And I think a second quote is merited for this one.

"t's so important to realize that every time you get upset, it drains your emotional energy. Losing your cool makes you tired. Getting angry a lot messes with your health." — Joyce Meyer

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NaNoWriMo No More

I made a valiant effort at NaNo. Then life happened. Unexpected side trips that cost me more time than I estimated. Various emergencies that took priority over the writing. And focusing on one project sort of dragged me down.

However, I did get some good work. I kept on track the first week and a half. The last week, though, has put a major crimp into my progress. We're 60% of the way through the month and I'm only 30% of the way toward the goal.

Even with the major hurdles, I managed 3+ pages per day of writing. Not enough to meet the NaNo goal, but nothing to sneeze at either.

Most importantly, though, I need a break from Demons & Ninjas. For me, and I assume other authors, spending time with characters is like spending time with people in general. While I like the characters in Demons & Ninjas, I've spent every day of the past 2.5 weeks with them. I need a break. I want to meet some new people, explore other adventures.

I'm going to take a break from D&N and write a short story. Start kicking chapters of D&N into the editing process and polish things up a bit. After taking a short break, I'll go back to writing the rough draft.

For Patty, Masato, Hesther, Dylan, Lee, Jack, Scott, and Yoshifumi, the primary cast of D&N, I say, "It's not you. It's me. I just need a little time. A little space. I'll be back."

The Wandering Guru

"I'm an elephant today. I will need to have lots of room and also a bowl of water on the floor." — Jesse Ball, The Curfew

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Another Customer Service Gripe

I didn't expect to write any blog entries this month, but I need to get this off my chest.


If you work in customer service, learn to listen. An example of not listening.

Me: "I'll have a number two—“
Cashier: "Is this for here or to go?”
Me: "Uhh ... for here.”
Cashier: "Okay. What did you want?”
Me: "A number two with—“
Cashier: "Do you want that as a meal or just the sandwich?"

This went on for a bit. The cashier kept interrupting me to stick to his script and, apparently, his memory was so poor he couldn't remember anything unless he'd punched into the register.

Here's how the conversation should have gone in my opinion:

Me: "I'll have a number two meal with a plain sandwich and the bacon extra crispy.”
Cashier: "For here or to go?”
Me: "Here.”
Cashier: "Okay. Number two meal, plain, bacon extra crispy. What would you like to drink?"

Much more efficient and less frustrating.

Even worse, though, is the cashier who tries to predict what I want.

Me: "I'll have a—“
Cashier: "Would you like to try our new super-duper-special-thing?”
Me: "No."

I can read the menu. I can see what's on special. If I've stepped up to order then I already know exactly what I want. I'm not interested in suggestions or what you think I might want.

Now, I understand that some people don't know what they want when they step up. Fine. Let them ask. Don't interrupt.

Don't interrupt. Period. Use the squishy gray stuff between your ears to remember things that are told to you, in case they don't order exactly according to your script. Interpret what they tell you so it matches your script. Then repeat it back to make sure you got it.

Listen to what they say. Don't try to predict it. Don't try to answer questions they haven't asked.

It's really pretty simple. But, time and time and time again, I encounter customer service people who don't do this.

I understand it probably has more to do with how their trained than with them personally.

If you're reading this and you're a cashier, try to implement it. If you catch flak from a manager for not sticking directly to your script, then let them read this. I'm not the only one harboring this pet peeve. I've heard plenty of other people mention it, too.

The Wandering Guru

"When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen." — Ernest Hemingway