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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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

National Lampoon's Greyhound Trip

The Greyhound bus had driven north from Houston into Lufkin. The driver called to the passengers, "Can someone tell me where I'm supposed to go?"

We, the passengers, had mixed emotions. For my part, I sat speechless. Thoughts rattled in my head in search of dance partners, or at least sanity. I hoped, as I think did others, the woman was joking.

Another passenger voiced one of my stray thoughts. "Ain't it *your* job to know?"

The driver said, "I'm lost."

I guess the idea of putting a GPS, or at least a smart phone, within reach of the driver never crossed Greyhound's corporate mind. The bus pulled into a motel parking lot where a police cruiser was parked, dome light on.

The driver got out and talked to the policeman. He gave her directions to the bus terminal. Our driver had, in fact, been lost.

Five minutes later, one of the passengers said, "Hey! You just drove past the bus station."

After a few more wrong turns, the driver asked another policeman and got more directions. At this point, I started wondering when Chevy Chase would make a cameo appearance.

We finally arrived at the Lufkin terminal. Some people got off, some new ones boarded. The bus resumed its northward trek.

About five minutes south of Nacogdoches, the driver pulled off onto the shoulder and stopped. The dome light at the front of the bus lit. I assume she consulted a map or directions or something. Light off, and rolling again.

As the bus cruised past the first entrance to the Nacogdoches stop, I felt my stomach twist. Second entrance rolled by. I could see my friend Coy waiting to pick me up. As I started to call out, "Turn into the next entrance!" the driver read my mind and hit the brakes, slewing into the lefthand turn lane.

Two minutes later, as I stepped off the bus, I told the passengers, "Good luck, y'all."

My statement met a mixture of nods, anxious faces, and, from the few who had boarded in Lufkin, confusion.

Thus begins my Camp Lansdale 2015 adventure.

The Wandering Guru

Greyhound: Imagine a bus ride, but painted by Dali.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Why, Not How

In training, a student should look beneath the surface of what is being taught. When a student watches an instructor teach a technique, he or she is seeing how the instructor does the technique. Sometimes, an instructor can do a particular technique in a certain way because he or she possesses attributes which enable it. If a given student does not have the same attributes, he or she may not be able to use the how presented by the instructor. If the student digs deeper and learns why the technique works and why the instructor favors a particular expression, the student can develop his or her own how.

Everyone begins training through mimicry. This is part of the learning process but, if one remains at this level, they focus on the finger and miss all the heavenly glory--to paraphrase Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. The easiest way to fall into this trap is to focus on how the instructor does the technique. A how-based mindset leads to mimicry without depth. A student should, instead, adopt a why mindset in training.

Techniques should, like the finger pointing to the moon, act as signposts to guide one to the why. Why does it work. With a why-mindset, the student digs toward the underlying principle which makes the technique work. A secondary why surfaces when one sees different expressions of the same principle and asks why a given instructor favors a particular method.

Looking at the why level and understanding the principle helps the student develop his or her own expression, influenced by the expressions of various instructors, and own the material. Training should lead students toward internalization of the material. Ownership shows itself when the student can not only perform the technique, but explain why it works and develop other techniques built on the same principle.

When training, students should seek a why-based mindset. This mindset leads them away from the mimicry of how a technique is done and toward an understanding of the principle driving the technique. Understanding the why allows the student to develop his or own how and, when the student becomes a teacher, he or she will be better prepared to guide new students toward the why.

The Wandering Guru

"It's like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory." -- Bruce Lee, Enter the Dragon

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Here's to the strong ones

September 3, 2015 -- 11:30 AM
A goofy guy named Dave lays in a hospital bed, fighting for his life. He's in his late seventies and has lived a hell of a life. Maybe it's his time. I don't know. What I do know is, he'll fight like hell because he wants one more talk with his son, one more visit with his brother, one more day with family, one more walk with his dog.
Dave is the father of one of my oldest and best friends, Adam. Adam and I met when I was in second grade, and he was in first. We shared an important moment together, then had no real contact until middle school when we rode the same bus. At that point, I was caught up in being a "cool" eighth grader and didn't want anything to do with a little seventh grader.
We became friends in high school, and we have shared a lot of experiences since then. Some good, some bad, some worse. Most were great. And Dave, or as most of us call him, Pops was always somewhere in the background doing his thing.
Pops was odd and eccentric most of the time and terrifying some of the time. Like all good fathers, I suppose. He had a lot on his plate, but we kids have only recently gained an appreciation for how much he juggled when we were growing up.
Looking back on it with the understanding I now have, his strength amazes me. He ran a small company. In fact, I think he ran a few of them over the years, but during and after my high school years, Pops ran a sign company. Running a company is a hell of a lot of work. On top of that, he kept his wife, who could be a handful (to put it politely), from going too far into the stratosphere, and he did a hell of a job raising a damn fine son.
He was never a saint, and never pretended to be one. He was a good man who did the best he could. He failed far more times than he succeeded, but he kept at it until he got it right.
His memory started failing him years ago. Everyone, including Pops, thought it was the early stages of Alzheimer's. After his wife died, Pops visited a doctor. The doctor did some tests and concluded it was not Alzheimer's. All the chemicals he had worked with in various jobs over the years had damaged the blood vessels in his brain. Pops moved in with Adam, and Adam stepped up to become the amazingly strong one in the relationship.
For years, Adam has excelled at his job while maintaining a marriage, going through a divorce, gaining a new love, being laid off, finding a new job, and through it all, he has taken care of Pops. He had help, of course. His ex-wife, Mary, and his current girlfriend, Jess, adore Pops and have done a lot to help him, but Adam carries as much of the load as he can. It's easy to see, from where I sit, the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

September 3, 2015 -- 1 PM
Pops is dead, but a long way from forgotten.

The Wandering Guru
Pops and Adam: Generations of Strength