Thursday, September 30, 2010


Two instructors in my school were talking about a guy they train with at the school's headquarters. If this guy doesn't respect your jab, he head-butts it.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Taking Blows

Martial arts helped me get through a difficult day.

Without going into detail, I was getting beat up at work. Decisions made several levels above me were putting me in a difficult, unhappy, frustrating position. It all weighed heavily on my mind. I do tend to brood on things.

I left work, came to my martial arts school a bit early, and went to a standup/kickboxing class, not my normal one. Even at the stage of drills, the exertion, the effort to react quickly, the effort to keep good form took my mind off my frustrating day. Then came actual sparring--and there certainly was no time to brood.

I did say to the Joshu instructing the class at one point, while we were putting on our gear, "I don't care what happens here, I can't get beat up as bad as I was at work!" And yeah, at one point a speedy 20-year-old sempai did clock me a bit with a good hook. But in the grand scheme of things it only hurt briefly, and I fought well overall.

At the end of class, the Joshu was reviewing front kicks we had worked on, and he talked about how well I throw the front-leg push kick, how I use it like a jab. I don't get that kind of praise every day; and coming at the end of day like this one, I felt really grateful to hear a good word about myself.

Here's hoping everybody has smooth and un-frustrating days; but when you don't, it's good to have an art to fall back on that can take your mind off your troubles, and give you rewards in terms of health, camaraderie and the satisfaction of occasionally mastering difficult skills.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Philosophy and (A) Martial Art

People sometimes say that I seem like the last person they would expect to be interested in boxing or contact martial arts. The implication is that I'm a thoughtful person, why would I be interested in such violent, thoughtless pursuits?

Here's an interesting answer from an instructor of philosophy and boxing, in an opinion piece he wrote in the NY Times. He says in part:

In much of Eastern philosophy, in contrast, the search for wisdom is more holistic [than in the West]. The body is considered inseparable from the mind, and is regarded as a vehicle, rather than an impediment, to enlightenment. The unmindful attitude towards the body so prevalent in the West blinkers us to profound truths that the skin, muscles and breath can deliver like a punch.
While different physical practices may open us to different truths, there is a lot of wisdom to be gained in the ring. Socrates, of course, maintained that the unexamined life was not worth living, that self-knowledge is of supreme importance. One thing is certain: boxing can compel a person to take a quick self-inventory and gut check about what he or she is willing to endure and risk. As Joyce Carol Oates observes in her minor classic, “On Boxing”:
Boxers are there to establish an absolute experience, a public accounting of the outermost limits of their beings; they will know, as few of us can know of ourselves, what physical and psychic power they possess — of how much, or how little, they are capable.
In a different essay, this author, Gordon Marino, writes:
The capacity to tolerate fear is essential to leading a moral life, but it is hard to learn how to keep your moral compass under pressure when you are cosseted from every fear. Boxing gives people practice in being afraid.
I think part of the appeal of a contact martial art is facing up to your fear; learning, as Oates says, something about your limits. I'll likely never know the kind of outermost limit that competitive boxers and martial artists know--but I sure felt a lot of fear before my one tournament; there I learned that I can take a really powerful kick to the gut and keep fighting. And in its own way, I felt fear testing for my black belt--that's where I got my ACL torn, after all.

Even sparring against a young, wicked-fast black belt in class can present fear that needs to be conquered, even if that person has good control and you know it.

I'm happy that a philosopher is backing an interest in contact martial arts.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Maybe it was the big cookie I ate at lunch;

maybe it was the class I missed last week; maybe it's sunspots; but whatever the reason, I just had the worst night I've had in grappling in months. Ugh.