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Monday, July 4, 2011

Just not feeling motivated

     Are you not as motivated as you used to be? I have a simple and fool-proof solution. DECIDE to do something. Test for a belt on a specific date, compete in a tournament, perform a demo at the next tournament, do a kip-up, attain a certain level of fitness. You can attain any of these goals, or be hopelessly removed from them. The difference is a simple word; DECIDE. To truly decide is to remove all other options but a single course of action.

One of my favorite quotes, by W.H. Murray (often misquoted to Goethe)
the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

In other words, once you decide (commit) previously unseen and unavailable resources align and mobilize in your favor. Trying to reach a goal without commitment has never really been accomplished.  Outside that door you feel ineffectual, hopeless and un-motivated. You take control, make a plan, set the goal, tell your network of friends and family...AND PROVIDENCE MOVES TOO. The impossible becomes possible.

A person could never achieve success without commitment. Only by removing the option to quit could we weather the midnight hours of the soul that WILL stand in your way and cause you to question the path forward. Isn't it wonderful. We all love to watch those movies like Lord Of The Rings. We love to see those characters tested and revel in their triumph, and right here in front of us all is our chance to experience no less a trial of fire.

Set the goal
Make the promise
Throw your hat over the wall
Tell a friend
Remove the options to quit

Here is the real deal. Nobody makes it to the promised land without getting knocked down and beaten up (not a little, but a lot). Taking the raod less traveled and stepping back to the plate after a defeat doesn't guarantee you success. However, I can guarantee that if you let the failures and difficulties keep you on the sofa, you certainly will not realize your dreams. I like this speech by Rocky from his last movie. In fact, it rates way up there in my pantheon of inspirational sound bytes. It is 3 minutes long and worth every second to watch.


It doesn't have to be about Martial arts. Go buy a book and learn something new today.Make a decision, it's fun and powerful. My 8 year old makes a decision about once an hour. It seems to keep him energized. maybe we should try it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lessons from 10,000 feet

Just back from a week's vacation in a cabin at 10,000 feet. The lesson from 10,000 feet is simple. it is much harder to climb steps at that altitude. Let's talk about something a little more abstract.

Another step on our journey to now.

Let me ask you this question. WHEN is Chi? Is chi in the past, in the present or the future. Of course Chi is and has always been NOW. Therefore since “mind leads chi”, if you’re mind isn’t Now, you cannot cultivate chi. Now let’s find out how much time you spend on the present moment. A few weeks ago I asked my tai chi class to do the first posture of the form (rising position). I asked them to pay attention to when their mind wandered and they no longer just experienced the movement. They needed to pay attention to point when their mind wandered. In case you haven’t thought about that, if you’re mind wanders you are NOT attending to the experiences of the present moment. The class reported that in general they only stayed in the present moment for the first 6-12 inches of the first posture of the tai chi form.
            …and there is the problem. You cannot work on a subtle life force that only can be experienced in the present moment if you are distracted by a wandering mind processing thoughts about the past or future. You cannot cultivate mindful movement, balance, breathing and awareness of your own body and those around you if you are ‘thinking about stuff”. So knowing this, is there anything more important in your practice or indeed your life development than learning to recognize when your attention is distracted by internal mental stimuli (thought states).
            The more practical of you all might say, well this sounds like new age stuff and doesn’t apply to me, I want to deal with reality. I say “good” that’s what I want too. If you are standing in a room doing tai chi, the positions of your body, the air, your breath, balance and posture and chi flow in that moment IS reality. The stuff stirring around in your brain is NOT. What is happening NOW is reality, not the strangely filtered reality that your thoughts represent. How can any of you argue with that? What is happening around you is always more real, however elusive, than what you are muttering to yourself about in your brain. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A 1st degree black belt in recess.

I always told the kids class that “they don’t award black belts for recess. Cause anybody can do that.” The biggest awards are reserved the stuff that’s the hardest to do. Marathons, The IronMan, Ultramarathons, Nobel prizes for science or medicine, the list goes on. Each of these endeavors had many moments of doubt, moments when the way forward seemed wrong or without merit. The people on these adventures all had a “midnight hour of the soul” when they were utterly alone with their pain, fear and uncertainty.
            Wow, so it seems that if you want to do something special on this Earth with the little time you have, that you will absolutely meet up with pain and anguish. In fact, unless you running headlong into fear and discomfort on a regular basis, you’d better check your pulse, you just might be the sleep-walking dead.
            The time is ripe at this very moment to make a decision. Do you know what a decision is? It is the removal of all other paths but one. Decide to face a fear today. Decide to take a step you have avoided. Decide to learn something to remove some specific ignorance. Decide to explore your own weakness. Decide to see your life experience and position as a result of your own behaviors and past choices.
            Remember, black belt (or higher degrees of black belt) is worth getting BECAUSE it is hard. It is worth having BECAUSE not everyone had what it takes to get one. By definition it means that there will be difficult parts on that journey. Difficult doesn’t mean “not as much fun”, it means difficult. So suck it up, it’s what you came for and what makes it worth staying for.

If you want to face one of the greatest challenges of your life, come to a seminar that will challenge everything you believe about your world.
Byron Katie ( will be at Unity Church on Monday at 7PM. Check out the event calendar on her site. In her site, go over to the “turn around house” page and click her picture to see the video I filmed during her last visit.  I can tell you that apart from Grandmaster Sin, she was one of the most genuine, PRESENT people I have ever met. I got spend 4 hours with her and she was 100% the person I met in the pages of her books and on her CDs. It is rare that a person can live up to your expectations. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Limiting beliefs

Here is a great quote
If you don't change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good?
W. Sommerset Maugham

Everybody usually gives some lip service to change. In fact, the holiday of New Years is dedicated to that empty practice. However, we are the sum and result of our beliefs. Our lives are the consequences of those beliefs carried out over time. When was the last time you changed your beliefs? Some would say that changing your belief is akin to a lack of integrity or character. There is nothing further from the truth. Your beliefs should be based upon perception of reality and discovery of fact. It is impossible to live your life, day to day, and not be exposed to NEW facts and NEW realities. Strict adherence to the opinions of the past, or to attitudes you developed in your teen years, puts you at odds with reality and at war with the changing world. The only way you can avoid altering your beliefs over time is to ignore everything that doesn't agree with your current belief. That is embracing ignorance and THAT is poor character.

"A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest." The Sounds Of Silence
Paul Simon

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The 80/20 rule

IN the first few years of Kung Fu, a person must jump many hurdles to stay the course. In Kung Fu class, those hurdles are 80% physical and 20% mental. As time goes on this shifts towards more and more mental challenge. However, Tai Chi is the opposite. The majority of the challenge is and always remains weighted to the mental side. Every Tai Chi student will acknowledge this fact, but when they practice they are very often consumed with the details and demands of the physical. When are they going to tackle the mental hurdles? Unless a person works directly on a challenge they will not see long term success.
     When I direct the class to focus on being aware of their surroundings, their own body, their breathing, theiir posture or even something more abstract; the present moment, I can sometimes feel resistance from some of the students. I know that striving to get every detail of the physical movement down would be easier in many ways, but it would not be an internal art. If you are not comfortable pursuing these kinds of concepts, then you will certainly be miserable in my Tai Chi class.
     If you are resistant to doing every form with a focus on the mental state during practice, then you will NEVER achieve anything more than the mastering of the physical moves. If you agreed that 80% of the hurdles are mental, then when are you going to start jumping those hurdles? You can wait until you are an advanced rank and then feel guilty and scared due to your lack of inner mastery, or you can start the very next time you bow and start a tai chi form. Remember this can also apply to external martial art or even Karate forms.
Your choice, your future.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Our athletic birthright

DISCLAIMER: If you find typos or a need for proofing, keep it to yourself. I only have time to write, not proof.
As a biology student and then grad student, I was accustomed to the concept that humans had no distinct advantage on any other animal in terms of specialized abilities. That is, except for our capacity to learn and associate events and concepts, and communicate with abstract symbols and language. Physically, we are not remarkable. This viewpoint changed for me when I read the books of Bernd Heinrich, professor emeritus, physiologist and naturalist (film recently made about him ). 
He looked closely at physiological adaptations from varying specifies of animals that allowed them physical feats and abilities that we would envy. His conclusion was that Humans actually are perfectly adapted for one unique physical skill and that is endurance running.
            Most predators are short burst animals that chase and then give up and lie down to rest. Humans (especially prehistoric) often needed to pursue their prey for days. This shows up in many interesting physiological and morphological adaptations. For example, Humans are profuse sweaters. You are not shocked by our ability to produce so much sweat, but do you know of any other animal that sweats in the volumes we do? Certainly not any other predators. For something near and dear, look at your dog. It does not have the efficiency of cooling that we do. No doubt about it, humans were built to hunt even in the heat of the day. The hair that is on our heads (shoulders and backs in some of us unlucky enough to have that trait) protects those areas because we run and stand upright in the full sunlight.
            If you combine this information with other research on exercise physiology you will see that our long Shaolin workouts (up to an exceeding one hour) are right up our evolutionary alley so to speak. There are lots of physiological changes that take place in our metabolism. More importantly the level of internal breakdown starts the process of re-building that turns on growth hormone and other re-building processes. Evolution gave us a big bonus here as well. If you were on the long hunt, you couldn’t see it through if you were depressed. Successful hunters have to be optimists, of this there is no doubt. So when you work out for a long enough period of time, you feel better mentally.
            This leads to my favorite idea from Bernd is that one of our psychological adaptations is even more unique. Our ability to sustain effort over time to reach a goal. He argues that as an endurance predators we needed to ability to visualize the end of the hunt and focus on reaching the goal in order to stay with the plan. In modern times this ability has turned in to entrepreneurship and ambition to achieve in any are of life. It is our birth-right and it is the most marvelous of all our qualities. To tirelessly chase a dream. My next blog will tie this trait into our martial art journey. Whether we study karate, kung fu or tai chi, we are embarking on the long hunt and bringing out the best in our human heritage. (this was the shameless link to our website section, forgive me).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A beginning

      I have a desire for myself and my students, that when we leave the school, we're not just great black belts, but we're great humans. That we are masters of ourselves, face the world with little baggage and see things for what they are instead of reflections of our own inner struggles. To that end I have searched and tried many techniques, trainings and methodologies of personal transformation. There is nothing new under the sun, and so all of these things are themselves re-cycled systems from some distant past. In the process of ingesting, trying, explaining and testing I have fused many of them into my own version; something that makes sense to me.
    I have always been the kind of person that thinks best while speaking aloud. I bounce ideas and concepts off the people around me. I respect their opinions and come to understand the concepts better when I see how it bounces off each person. There is also something weird about my brain in that it seems to make the most sense of things when it hears it's own ideas spoken by it's own mouth, or in the case of this blog, written on a screen in front of its eyes.
     So here I am using anybody who will listen, as a vehicle to continue my own journey toward understanding, peace and serenity. I sincerely think you will benefit almost as much as I, to read my brief musings. If it turns you toward a book, a CD, a website, a way of thinking or back into your thoughts, then GREAT.
     I postponed starting something like this for quite a while becuase I couldn't think of a theme or entry grand enough to kick it off, so instead I am kicking it off with "kicking it off". There, now it's done and I can feel free to post more mundane thoughts. There will be the random and shameless link back to the best martial art school site becuase hey, it's a big competitive world out there and our little website needs all the help it can get.

Don't forget to help by posting a review on our google map places sites. Just google for Austin Kung Fu, pick the closest location, set up a quick google account and post a review. Thanks, you can't imagine how much it helps.