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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Monday, December 29, 2014

A New Ride

My van, which does triple duty as my transportation, bedroom, and office, has issues. The biggest issue is its lack of air conditioning.

I bought the van, a 2004 Toyota Sienna, in April and it runs fine. With nearly 200,000 miles on it, it no serious mechanical issues. Of course, it's a Toyota so that's not particularly surprising.

At the end of May, though, the temperatures rose, and I realized the air conditioning didn't work. I had a couple of people work on it. The prognosis was bad. They checked all the most common problems to no avail. In the end, they called it a no-go. It wouldn't be worth the time and money to find the problem, much less fix it.

Summer dragged by in a sweaty haze for me. The only time I could manage to sleep in the van was when I'd pushed myself so hard that fatigue dragged me down. Even then, I could only manage short naps. That circumstance led to me splurging on hotel rooms far more frequently than my budget could handle.

I have decided I need to replace my van. I want to upgrade to something newer. I'll stick with a used Toyota Sienna, but I'll shoot for an '06 or '08 and make sure the air conditioner works before I ever buy it.

The end result of all this build up is a fundraiser. My target is $10,000 but every penny will help. I've set it up on GoFundMe and, if you're able to chip in, you'll have my undying gratitude. And maybe something more tangible if you donate $50+.

The Wandering Guru

"No one has ever become poor by giving." —Anne Frank

Friday, December 19, 2014


"Absorb what is useful. Reject what is useless. Add what is essentially your own." — Bruce Lee

This quote is often bandied about as a reason for people to disregard certain aspects of their training or to skip from system to system, never attaining more than a mid-level rank, and then try to develop their own system.

I believe this quote is one of the most misunderstood quotes in martial arts. I believe part of the reason it's misunderstood is that people forget the first part of it. The actual quote didn't start with "absorb what is useful." The actual quote, in its entirety, reads, "Because of styles people are separated. Research your own experience; absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own."

Some people focus on the last part of it because it seems to agree with what they already want to do. It seems to justify a shortcut they think is there.

"Research your own experience" is a vital prefix, though, and changes everything. You have to have experience to begin that process.

Without your own experience to research, you have no foundation for knowing what is useful or useless, and you haven't reached a point where you can define something essentially your own to add to the mix.

Start with experience.

Now look at the first sentence, "because of styles people are separated." Don't let styles define you or your boundaries. Find a core and stick with it until you develop a solid foundation—at least instructor level—but don't judge other people by what style they train. If you're exposed to something you like, and it suits you, don't worry about what style it comes from. Adopt it. Or, to stick with the original wording, absorb it.

Don't reject anything until you have developed a solid foundational understanding that transcends systems and stylistic differences.

Motion is motion. Principles are universal. Develop your foundation to the point you can see the principles and how they connect, in spite of stylistic differences in expression.

Then you can see what is "useless." But remember, what's useless for you may be very useful for someone else because of differences in physical attributes.

In the end, it's about reduction. It's about whittling away to the essentials. I like the analogy of a sculptor working with clay.

The sculptor sees something in the clay. That something is uniquely his own. Someone else, looking at the same clay, may see something entirely different or see nothing at all.

The sculptor then begins carving chunks of clay away and forming the remainder into the shape he sees.

But, it must be remembered, that the process must start with the collection of the raw clay.

And if you only collect a little bit of clay, then your options for shaping it are severely limited.

Further, it is only by exposing yourself to a wide variety of things that you can determine what is essentially your own and not a mimicry of someone else. The survey of other things must be done from a solid foundation, though, or you won't really understand what you're looking at.

Another Bruce Lee quote that addresses all of this and, in my opinion, should be taken in tandem with the more famous quote I started this with. This quote is, "Do not deny the classical approach, simply as a reaction, or you will have created another pattern and trapped yourself there."

If you deny something without understanding it and analyzing it, then all you really do is create another pattern to trap yourself in. People are so afraid of getting caught in "the classical mess" that they follow their uninformed reaction and simply create their own classical mess. And, very often, the people who do this are the most vocal about other people's choices. They're quick to look at someone training in a more traditional approach and scream, "You're a classical mess." Never realizing that they, too, are in a mess.

The Wandering Guru

"Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them." — Bruce Lee