Leggo My Ego

I’ve been waiting for this night for seven years! I write about ego in NIGHTFALL, talk about it, how it can affect choices. I don’t actually lecture about it, making the narrative a freaking lecture, which was how I felt Dan Brown was doing in THE SYMBOL. I just weaved the affects of ego through the narrative, hoping that I’ve communicated my views through subtext.

Broke Back

Broke Back

Tonight was a historic night.

One of the most talked about UFC fights was UFC 162, Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman (pictured left). Silva (pictured right) has been the reigning middle weight (185 lb) champion for the past seven years. In mixed martial arts (MMA), that is unheard of because no one has accomplished that, save Silva.

I’ve always felt that Silva had an ego, though you'd never know with the words he uses. Like a shark that can sense blood from a thousand miles away, I can sense a person's ego. We see evidence of Silva's arrogance in his previous fights when he taunts his opponents, giving little respect, despite the fact that he says he respects every single opponent.

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Actions speaks louder than words. Women know this. I know this. Does this make me a woman?

Silva’s fights always starts with some form of reading his opponent, where they’ll attempt some form of attack, but Silva always evades, doing calculations like a supercomputer, reading their reach, timing, rhythm, skill, mind set, etc. And once he’s done with his calculations, he pounces and often finishes his opponents in the second round.

When the main event of UFC 162 started, I saw Silva come out, completely relaxed. Weidman charges to the middle of the octagon, also relaxed. In spite of Weidman, who is a very accomplished wrestler, taking Silva to the mat, the champion easily evaded all submissions attempts and got back to his feet. A few moments later, Silva’s supercomputer was on its way to finishing the calculations. I know this because when the champion starts taunting the challenger, he'd figured out Weidman. My body reacted from watching all of Silva's other fights, expecting a huge knock out finish of the challenger. From my point of view, Weidman seemed lost, but he also looked relaxed, a good thing. End first round.

Here’s the important part. When the second round began, Silva came out and taunted Weidman again. When Weidman tried to strike, Silva would dodge and move as if the challenger had nothing on him. The champion even pretended he was hurt when a punch grazed by his cheeks, an expert at going with the flow of punches, making him very difficult to knock out. More taunting, show boating ensued, something the fans of the UFC, and me, were used to.

Then it came. Weidman threw a combination, which was a little messy but worked because a half-hearted back fist had forced Silva’s head to flow left, and he blinked. Weidman quickly followed it with a punch to the chin, knocking down (out even as Silva’s eyes rolled up) the former champion. Weidman then followed Silva with punches to the ground to make sure he was done.

Knocked Tha Ef Out

Knocked Tha Ef Out

So this is a long diatribe about how ego can be anyone’s downfall. I’m not saying I don’t have one, but I’m aware of it enough to not let it step in front of me and control my actions. Most of the time.

Ego has brought down civilizations, religions war over which god is better killing millions upon millions, corporations have withered away when the focus is on material wealth rather than serving the people. Sometimes it takes time. I mean, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it took a damn long time before it fell. Israel is still a subject of huge contention. Blackberry and Microsoft were caught with their pants down when Apple released the iPhone.

I’ve written how I’ve left my martial arts school because I didn’t believe in them anymore, their form of teaching, and the egos displayed in every inch of that school. They commented on my website, trying to dissuade me from my opinion, and as I’ve written here, I don’t read reviews unless I’ve solicited for it. My former school, on the other hand, have changed part of their system to accommodate for my criticism, and failed because they simply didn’t understand my article and the simple truth about how humans learn physical movement. The crazy part is that article listed simple things they could do to improve their student’s abilities. Dorks.

Yes, I do have a spy there. And they will never figure out whom. If they did, oops. Sorry, dude. Or dudet.

The Earth is Flat

A flat Earf

A flat Earf

How crazy is it? There is an actual society, a group, that believes the Earth is flat like a plate sitting on a flat table in the middle of a flat field on a flat Earth. Um...what? Despite the plethora, myriad, the millions of freakin' pictures, and apparently no evidence of an edge, these peeps perpetuate the idea that the Earth ain't a sphere. Get out much?

Don't touch me there!

Don't touch me there!

Last Halloween, I went to a party with a whole bunch of adults trying to reclaim their childhood glory days. I was dressed as an Asian man in American clothes. A friend of mine saw a sculpture, a bust, and asked me if that was Yip Man, Bruce Lee’s famed teacher. I’ve never met the Man (get it?) and shrugged. The party was held at a Wing Chun / Yoga studio in San Francisco. A cowboy said that was his Wing Chun teacher. I’ve met a Wing Chun master before and asked him a question about the system. If you’ve read my bio, then you know my absolute love and devotion and complete disregard for the classical martial arts. Though, I will admit, Wing Chun does something that most classical martial arts don’t do.

Uh...what?

Uh...what?

“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line,” he said, supporting one of the main tenets of Wing Chun. This ain’t no math class. I would know. I came to the party as an Asian. Circular strikes aren’t really taught in Wing Chun. All their strikes come from the center of the body with little to no movement in the hips or shoulders for speed.

Time for bed

Time for bed

Now, it’s true, the shortest distance is a straight line. So why do boxers have hooks, uppercuts, overhands along with their jabs and straights? Simple. Limiting your strikes limits the amount of tools and avenues of attacks. And if the boxer is good, they can set up strikes and hide circular ones like an uppercut. Sneaky. Add kicks to it, and not only do you have to worry about punches but kicks. Take a fight to the ground, and all of the sudden the fight changes completely, needing a completely different skill set.

That’s what we have today. Mixed martial arts are a combination of different martial arts. Duh. As Bruce Lee always taught when he came to America, take what’s useful and throw out the rest. For those classical martial artists, like my former school, they hold on to their tenets, doctrines, dogmas created thousands of years ago. They’re like Catholic priests who don’t believe in evolution. Nothing is more evident of the evolution of martial arts than the Ultimate Fighting Championship, better known as the UFC.

Deodorant much?
Deodorant much?

The initial idea was to see which martial arts was the best. They had boxers, Karate masters, wrestlers, etc. But most infamous was Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). When the UFC first started, there were no weight classes. So you could have a 300-pound man fight a 178-pound dude. And that’s basically what happened. The tournament winner, Royce Gracie, a 178-pound man, was a BJJ whiz, submitting all his opponents to win.

All of a sudden, everyone started to study BJJ. BJJ schools touting the Gracie name popped all over the place. Karate? Kung Fu? Boxing? Kick boxing? Pff. Waste O'time.

Then evolution kicked in. Since the UFC was basically a no-holds-bar kinda fight, with some rules, people started to put things together. Wrestlers were great at getting the fight to the ground and keeping an opponent down, but had to learn how to strike and submissions; strikers began to learn how to avoid getting put on the ground and learned BJJ and wrestling (grappling); BJJ practitioners needed to learn how to strike and incorporate wrestling; and round and round we go. Nowadays, it’s very difficult to be successful in the UFC if you aren’t what they call a complete fighter, having a complete grasp of submission, striking, and grappling skills.

Gimme yo lunch money!

Gimme yo lunch money!

The need for evolving one’s skills became evident in UFC 60, when then current welterweight champion, Matt Hughes fought Royce Gracie. Remember, Gracie is a master submission artist (BJJ Blackbelt), but he lacked striking and wrestling, something Hughes had in his arsenal. Ultimately, Hughes used strikes and wrestling to get Gracie down to the ground, almost submitted the submission master, but ended the fight in the first round with strikes.

I’m not saying that for someone to be able to defend themselves on the street, they have to be a MMA fighter. But training only in straight lines can be limiting. Stranger even, my former martial arts school practiced hundreds of highly complicated techniques in the air that would not work on a real person (I’ve tried with friends), having little idea of what’s it like to deal with the physical weight of a real person like grapplers do. At least Wing Chun has a lot of partner drills, something that seems to escape my former teachers.

So why am I writing about this on a site that mainly talks about storytelling, trying to promote my book NIGHTFALL? The time to submit (get it?) query letters is fast approaching. And I love talking shit about my former school. How crazy is it? They had a whole meeting about little ol'me when I wrote this article. Get out much?

Trash Talk

Number one, suckas!

Number one, suckas!

Trash talk.  When it comes to sports, trash talk can spell death for the one talking. We saw this with the men's French swim team in the last Summer Olympics held in China. “The Americans? We’re going to smash them. That’s what we came here for," Alain Bernard said, referring to the freestyle relay event.

Despite being heavily favored to win, the French lost.  Not sure if you can tell by Phelp's reaction:

My pants...!

My pants...!

Even when you win, trash talk is something fans don't appreciate but pay attention to cause it creates drama. Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a great example, considered as one of the best boxers in the world. His trash talk had earned him searing spite among fans. So fans pay to watch the fight to see him lose or get knocked out. As of today, no one has been able to do either.  Still, fans of the sport give little respect to the man holding a 41-0 pro record.  An oddity when legendary greats like Tyson or Ali have losses.

I had attended this past weekend's UFC 117:  Silva vs. Sonnen.

Get away from my behind

Get away from my behind

Anderson Silva is considered the best pound for pound mix martial arts fighter in the world.  All of the top fighters in his division (185 lbs) have tried to beat him.  None ever came close. Silva has won 11 straight wins coming into this fight. In the world of MMA where there are innumerable ways to lose, this is amazing.

But I was never a fan when Silva came to the UFC, and I doubt I'll ever be.  Why?  I want someone who's open and real, and somehow he's not genuine. I'm not the type to like someone just because he's a winner.

Then comes in Chael Sonnen. He was an NCAA Division I All-American wrestler at the University of Oregon, two-time University National Champion in Greco Roman wrestling, and a US Olympic team alternate. But forget about that.

Not only did he sell tickets and create interest in his fight with heavily favored Silva (7 to 1 odds) with his trash talk, he had earned a fan with me. Here's why:

"I think I can win this fight, I don't know I'm gonna win," said Sonnen on Jim Rome's radio show.

This has been my life's philospy. If you wanna be a New York Times best selling author, an Academy award winning actor, a great pro athlete, then you have to start with "I can" and not worry about "But will I?".

You gotta be in it to win it.

And for four and half rounds, each one being five minutes long, Sonnen had dominated Silva.  As far as I know, Silva had only lost one round in his UFC career. Silva vs. Sonnen was one of the most exciting fights I had seen. I was one of very few who leaped out of the seat, Jersey Shore fist pumpin, screaming as Sonnen pounded away at the champ.

Oh, crap!  I caught his chin!

Oh, crap!  I caught his chin!

Get your hands off my face!

Get your hands off my face!

But like all greats, Silva had pulled a triangle hold and won the bout.

Sonnen had backed up every single word, save winning the championship belt. But in the world of MMA, he has made himself a huge factor and revealed a gaping blackhole in a once invincible champion.

Karate Heah

Mr. Miyagi points to his head. "Karate heah." He taps his heart. "Karate heah." He grabs his belt. "Karate nevah heah." photo

I was reading an article in one of those karate or kung fu magazines. It was written by a practitioner. He was discussing how spirituality was missing from MMA, specifically targetting UFC fighters. That all fighters wanted was to be champions, to have fame, fortune, and busty ladies swarming around them.

Hell...what man wouldn't want that?

It's obvious there's a huge misunderstanding of how spirituality should be practiced, or that MMA fighters don't practice it. And it was also obvious this practitioner didn't watch MMA, read the forums, interviews, and watch post fight conferences like I do.

It's one of my many vices.

The wise practitioner, the writer of this wise article, full of wisdom, full of research, and full of shit harped on the lack of inner peace. Through his wise words I knew this person never fought, or if he did, then he approached it without inner peace. As wise and full of wisdom as he ascertained.

I'm a huge MMA fan. Watched hundreds of hours of interviews. And one thing that all fighters strain to get is inner peace. One of the most popular UFC fighters is former light heavy weight champion Chuck "The Iceman" Lidell. His monicker indicates that his nerves are as cold as ice before, during and after a fight. Every fighter praises him for that. Because if a fighter gets too excited, they'll waste energy, suffer from an adrenalin dump, or are prone to mistakes. And mistakes in a game where there are literally dozens upon dozens of ways to lose isn't a good thing. Keeping your cool is essential. And the current dominant fighters of the UFC and Strikeforce exhibit this without a doubt.

I get more nervous watching them fight.

Back to this all wise practitioner. His practice of inner peace is through meditation. I'm surmising here. But it's pretty common. And there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's pretty easy to reach inner peace when you're peaceful.  It's kinda like going into a room full of yellow balloons to look for a yellow balloon.

Now, if we place a fighter punching this all wise practitioner in the face, how well would he be able to keep inner peace? Not well. But MMA fighters do this every day. And their ability to keep this inner peace allows them to adapt to the fight. It's very common to see one fighter losing the fight badly, and with a slight change of strategy he comes up with the win.

This can't be done if the fighter panics because he isn't present enough to analyze what's going on.

MMA fighters also practice 6-8 hours a day. They have to love the process and love the journey to continue to learn and challenge themselves. Another principle of spiritualitism.

All fighters want to be champions. But as they climb the ladder to contention, they remain present and focus on their current opponent. They study tapes, go over strategy, hire fighters who can mimic their opponents, and rarely think pass them. The principle of being present is at work here.

MMA fighters practice inner peace, but they do it in an environment that doesn't elicit it.  So who's more skilled at inner peace?  Someone who practices in a peaceful environment?  Or someone who practices in a violent one?

I wrote this because it struck me as a huge misunderstanding of MMA fighters.  To be misunderstood is a sore subject for my main character in my book.  He's continually misunderstood by the people he's sworn to protect, but he pushes on because it is what he does.  What hero gives up?

Brain Washed?

There's one in every organization. A devoted minion waiting to please their master. How do people gain these devotees is something I write about in my book. This past Saturday I went to a friend's black belt presentation.  Then attended an after party at an instructor's house.

If you've read mybio, you know my opinion of that.

I hadn't been back to the school for many years.  By choice mind you.  Most of the students have changed.  But nothing outside of that has.  They still teach the rigid style of martial arts, the same kind that Bruce Lee rebelled against.  But there was something more sinister going on that I'd forgotten over the years.

One of the common beliefs that the students and teachers hold is once someone gets a black belt that person is never wrong, or never questioned.  Now, they don't necessarily teach this, but that notion is enforced.

One indication is this.

One of the things students do is bow to all of the instructors when they enter and exit the school.  It's a form of respect.  It's fairly normal in all martial arts schools.  But when people started bowing to black belts at the after party, I shook my head.  It's unnecessary.  They were in someone's home, outside of the formal school setting. And no one stopped it.  Brain washed?

Many of the students also take whatever the black belts say as gospel.  They don't realize that black belts are just people with a freakin' belt colored in black.  And this is where the danger comes from.

A good student is one who follows but also thinks for himself.  And as a result, they should ask the teacher questions.  Why is this important?

A student must follow in order to learn.  This is how wisdom and knowledge is passed down.  Fair enough.  The student should then think, "Does this apply to me?"  Not all the time.

Here's an example:  If I were teaching a woman about self defense, she may not have the kind of strength and power that a man has.  So accuracy and reaction training is VERY important.  She has to be able to make every single strike count because her targets will be much more specific-eyes, nose, throat, solar plexus, groin.  Her reaction has to be instant, like avoiding a punch, because a single punch can end her day. And women have to take into account long hair if they have it.

That doesn't mean I don't focus on power or speed, which are directly related.  But I'd point out what she needs immediately in order to make her dangerous as soon as possible.  I'd teach her how men commonly attack women.  That way she knows what to look for, and what to attack if she is to be accosted.

If I were to teach a man, I'd still teach him the importance of striking the eyes, nose, throat, solar plexus and groin.  But his strength may be enough to offset the attacker without using lethal strikes.  So I would point out his physical strengths, his awareness of reach, and the common ways men are attacked.

I'd also get rid of the notion of self defense to both men and women.

As you can see, there are major differences in teaching males and females.  And the differences extend to teaching children.  They are further distilled down to individuals, depending on who they are.

A lot of these martial arts schools will teach a one-size-fits-all routine that don't take into account how a person learns, how a human body works, or even the self-worth of the student, the mental side.  Add the egos that are displayed in a lot of these schools, the bowing, the not able to question teachers, and the rigid routines, are the reasons why I left.

Bruce Lee rebelled against the gospel type of martial arts.  He was one of the first to emphasize mixing of martial arts.  There is truth in that, which is why MMA is so prevalent today.

Honestly Express Yourself

One of the things you don’t do is drink Diet Coke at night. Because it may keep you up. Feeling a bit alone, I surfed the late night cable channels. I’ve come across one of my rising favorites, the History Channel.  They showed a documentary called How Bruce Lee Changed the World. It shows how Bruce Lee changed the world.

See myadventurewhen I visited his grave site

Obviously, he changed the film industry greatly with his action films. He introduced martial arts to America. He helped changed philosophy. He broke the rules of classical martial arts, taught that the study of multiple martial arts was important, giving rise to the now popular MMA (mixed martial arts). The biggest promoter, UFC, gives him credit as the first MMA. He’s definitely influenced my book in more ways than I realize.

The cool thing about this Bruce Lee documentary, there have been many, is they’ve taken a look at popular culture and credit the Little Dragon for his influence.

Bret Ratner, director of Rush Hour, used the music composer from Enter the Dragon to compose the music for his first movie. The hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan was deeply influenced by Bruce Lee and Hong Kong action films. Their first album sampled music from those movies, and aptly named their album Enter the Wu-Tang. Marketing companies still use Bruce Lee today to increase their brand. If you search youtube.com for “Bruce Lee” and “ping-pong”, you’ll see the most current example. Bodybuilders today marvel at his muscular definition. Most action films can find their heritage to any of his films. And many more.

Bruce Lee was important to me because he was Chinese. I’m not being ethnocentric. What most people don’t realize is Bruce Lee had a difficult time becoming a leading man in Hollywood back in the day for one reason only.

He was Chinese.

He could’ve been Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, or any Asian descent. His slanty eyes presented a problem. Bruce Lee encountered a lot of resistance, despite his deep connections in Hollywood’s elite.

So what kept him going?

He knew this was his path. He knew where his passions lie. In his words, “...honestly express yourself...” Follow your heart and treasures beyond your dreams will come.

If he were to teach one thing, it’s this.

The greatest mystery in life is finding what it is you’re passionate about. So many have settled down for the mundane job because it pays the bills.  It's one thing to have a day job.  It's important to have a 'night' job. For those who’ve found it, and know it is their truth, then you have succeeded where most have not. And I’ll paraphrase from the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: It’s never too late to start, it’s ok to start over, but the most important thing is to do. Break the rules if you have to, as Bruce Lee has, as long as it furthers your art, your passion. Just do it. Do it. Do.