More and More About Less and Less

As a writer and a former student of acting, I people watch. Sometimes I’m judgmental when I don’t mean to be. A lot of times I form stories in my head. And most of the time the stories happen on their own. Not sure what it is that makes me do this, but here I am. If you’ve read my bio, then you know how I feel about the martial arts school I’d come from. But in their defense they have worked very hard to become nationally recognized, especially under the Ed Parker name, and have good relations with certain officials in the Chinese community.

Uhhhhh...

Uhhhhh...

And in the great comedic words of Brian Regan: I don’t want to step on anyone’s beliefs…well…here we go.

I had received an invitation celebrating the head black belt’s 25th anniversary in martial arts, honoring him as teacher and master. The man has done a lot for the school and the discipline. And here’s where I have an issue: the discipline.

Da Man

Da Man

I had majored in kinesiology, study of human movement, at university. One of the fundamental principles in learning movement is repetition.

Ah...uh...it's an A!

Ah...uh...it's an A!

Take writing for example. When we first learned how to write the letter ‘A’, we probably traced dashed lines that formed that letter. The teacher then removed the training wheels and asked us to write the letter ‘A’ on a blank sheet of recycled paper. We learned how to sound out simple words like ‘see’, ‘dog’, ‘run’. Learned the basic structure of a sentence. Then we were taught what a basic paragraph looked like.

Whoppah!

Whoppah!

Learning martial arts isn’t too far from that. You learn what a fighting stance is, where to put your hands, learn defensive moves like blocking and attacks like punching and kicking. The teacher demonstrates. The student follows.

Once a student learns the alphabet (punching, kicking, blocking), simple self-defense techniques are taught. Someone grabs your shirt, you trap his wrists by grabbing them so he can’t hit you and knee him in the nuts, the balls, the family jewels. More properly known as the groin. (Why are all attackers male?) As the color of your belt changes, so does the complexity of the techniques, like learning how to write a paragraph.

There’s only one problem with this.

When a high school student is given an assignment to write an essay, she must come up with the words on her own. She’ll be given a subject, but she has to do the work.

Fighting is no different. When a person gets attacked, she must fend for herself. Her teacher won’t be there to help. And because people are different, so are their attacks. An attack on a woman will be different than on a man. A man attacking will be different than a woman attacking.

Now, if you’ve watched a boxing match, you’d know that a fight is very dynamic.

Fundamental principle in human reaction: When learning how to cope with two or more different kinds of stimuli, one must train in that similar environment. So if you want to play classical music, then you'll train to play classical music. Make sense?

The Greatest Ever

The Greatest Ever

Boxers work on technique all the time. Thing is, he can have the best punch in the world, but it’s useless if he can’t hit his opponent. So he focuses on accuracy through different drills like mitt and bag work, and, more importantly, he spars. Not only does he have to contend with his own footwork and where he is in relation to his opponent, he must deal with his opponent’s aggression, physical strength, etc. However, having one sparring partner can become stagnant. Often boxers will have several to mix things up. One person’s tells in poker will differ from another, as an example.

My former school did almost no partner drills or pad/bag work with their general student population. No physical drills in an art that is physical. So what did they do? Practice self-defense techniques in the air. Something Bruce Lee argued against vehemently. Below is a video of how most of the training is done but wasn't from the school I'm referring to. It's just a random video that showcases my point.

It was at this point where I’d realized their method of teaching was highly limited. Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back.

We had often made fun of other disciplines like Tae Kwan Do, Karate and such. That once someone gets a black belt, they learn more of the same stuff. They have a saying: You learn more and more about less and less. Clever, yes. Astute? Not so much.

In the school, once a black belt is earned, “new” techniques are learned. All of which are practiced without a partner, in the air, like a student learning to trace more and more complex essays. The value wasn't there. It's like a wrestler practicing alone on the mat. If he only does that, he's not going to fare well against a live person.

They teach: Think outside of the box but bring it to us first and we’ll let you know if we approve of it. My best friend brought them ideas, which they shot down, only to integrate them and call it their own. They gave no credit to my friend. Why? I'm not sure. I don’t think they know. Many of their teachers left, teachers whom I like to term thinkers.

So when I got the invitation, all I could think of was how little has changed there. Certainly, the head black belt has learned a lot. Knowing what I know about human movement, I am certain he’s learned more and more about less and less.

How Much Risk Should People Take?

Do you take risks?

I’m a huge fan of the UFC.  If you don’t know what it is, look it up.  It’s as close to a real fight as you can get legally.  Right now their greatest and most revered champion, Anderson Silva, is getting a lot of crap from UFC fans.

There are two basic fighters that step into the cage, an eight-sided fenced in platform where the fights are held.  One type of fighter comes in to win.  Another type comes in not to lose.

Silva was on a huge winning streak, winning eight straight fights.  Less than a handful of people have ever accomplished that in the UFC.  His last fight that was held a couple of weeks ago would have marked his ninth, breaking the record.

He stepped into the cage to defend his title.  Without going into details, both he and the challenger fought not to lose, which made for a boring fight.  The president of the UFC even apologized.

When going for your dreams, taking risks is necessary.  That’s the hard part.

I spent more than three years writing my book.  I went in to win.  I didn’t think about winning when writing the book.  But my intention was to get published.

Is there a limit to the risk?

Justin Lin is known for directing movies such as THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT, ANNAPOLIS, and FAST AND FURIOUS to name a few.  I first knew of him when he directed BETTER LUCK TOMORROW.  He’d spent about $100,000 on the movie by maxing out eight to ten credit cards.

That's going in to win.

MTV ended up buying the movie, recouping Lin’s cost.  But the win came when we got to direct James Franco, Donnie Wahlberg, Jordana Brewster, Roger Foo and Tyrese Gibson in ANNAPOLIS.  His risk brought him his dream of filmmaking.

Is there a limit to risk?

I think the risk should be somewhat related to the goal.  If I’m writing my fantasy, risking my life shouldn’t be part of it.  What I'm risking is my ego, three years of my life and my dream.  The win in my mind is awesome.  If I’m a fighter, then my life is at risk.  The aims are different, which brings in different sets of risks.

Ultimately, the limits are personal.

I’ve been watching UFC since it first came out in the early 90’s.  And I was disappointed with Silva’s performance, even though he won.  He definitely came in to the fight not to lose.  And the fans are speaking out.

Throw Your Goals Out Again!

I got a lot of comments from different sources regarding my post Throw Out Your Goals.  There were a few misconceptions that I want to cover.  First let me list some of them:

  • Goals are important to accomplish what we want
  • Brad Pitt has good genes and is lucky
  • Success is defined differently for different people
  • Just because you love something doesn't mean you'll be good at it
  • Not every one can do what they love and get paid for it

 

There were plenty more.

Let's start with defining success.  My first post never defined success.  It defined certain people's level of success but never went as far as gave it a definition.  In this post, I will remain ambiguous on the definition of success.  Because who ever commented and said success is different for different people is correct.  I know a man who thinks he's successful because he's raised healthy, intelligent children.  I know fighters who've beaten great opponents who believe their own performances were below par.  Hell...Donald Trump hates being a multi-millionaire, and only considers himself a success when he has multi-billions.

Success is much like a goal.  Once you reach it, your work, the process to attain it, doesn't stop.  If a fighter won her first fight, she doesn't stop training.  She continues to train for the next fight.  If she's won the world belt in her weight class, then she still has to continue to sharpen her skills for her first title defense.  What happens when she defends it successfully?  Celebrates?  For sure!  Beware.  There are others who are hungry for her belt.  Back to the process.  What if she loses?  Back to the process.

I love this one.  Brad Pitt has good genes and is lucky.  I'm not denying his good genes and looks.  What I do deny is his luck.  To say he was lucky is to deny the hard work he'd committed, wearing a chicken suit, working odd jobs, before he got his first major role.  Look at Steve Carrell.  He was an unknown comic for twenty years until luck struck him.  Luck?  No.  Hard work and perseverance?  Most definitely.  

And good looks was never a prerequisite for success in Hollywood.  With over a million good looking people in Los Angeles, it doesn't explain Jack Black.  Now, some find him hot.  But he's doesn't fit the traditional leading man look.

This next one is good.  You can't make a living doing what you love is a lot of people's excuse to settle for mundane jobs.  I'm not saying quit your day job, lose your house, die of starvation.  Keep your day job, but work on what you love during your free time.  John Grisham is a great example.  He was a lawyer for ten years before he wrote his first novel.  He got to the office two hours before he started his real job, wrote, then started on his case list.  The awesome thing is he published his first book.

If you don't think you can make a living doing what you love, then you won't.  Simple as that.

Think you'd suck being a parent?   You will.

Believe you can run a marathon?  Follow up with action, and you will.

Whether you think you can or can't, you're right.  Henry Ford said that.  He wanted to create a V-8 engine.  He surrounded himself with brilliant engineers. You know what they said?  Can't be done.  Ford pushed them forward, told them it was possible.  Through several failures, it was done.  Look it up.  True story.

The last one I want to tackle is:  just because you love it doesn't mean you can be good at it.  Crap.  In Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers:  The Story of Success, he talks about mastery of skill.  He'd found one commonality among all world class musicians, artists, athletes, etc.  What is it?  Ten thousand hours of practice.  You want to be a world class anything?  Here it is, ten thousand hours of work.  That's why you gotta love the process, not the goal.  Love the process, the goal will come many times over.

Slap Me Please

In most martial arts schools, the punch is the staple of the strikes.  Whether you're in MMA, karate, kung fu, and even tai kwan do, punches seem to lead the strikes as the favored weapon. But there's a problem.

If you've ever looked at an x-ray of a hand balled into a fist, it looks like a bag of bones.  Literally.  What happens when you throw that bag of bones into something hard like a skull?  Bones break, splinter, shatter.  Professional fighters like those seen in the UFC have hands broken all the time.  And they're skilled fighters who not only practice the correct way to punch from different angles and situations, but they do this an average of six hours a day, five days a week.

Now, the traditional martial arts instructor is asking a person off the street, who practices maybe an hour a day, to strike with a bag of bones.  Common!

I'd talked to a true kung fu master, who practiced iron body training, used to specialize in breaking skulls with a single punch.  He said something really interesting.  He was instructing a student who was about five feet tall.  He told her that her striking range was inside her attacker's striking range.  No four foot person is going to attack her.  The master taught to use slaps to work your way inside, then use elbows, knees, gouges, etc.

Slaps.

There was a scene in Tombstone where Kurt Russel's character, Wyatt Earp, confronted a card dealer who made trouble for the saloon.  As the card dealer was threatening to do something, Kurt--we're on a first name basis--slapped him.  It was one of the coolest scenes in a western.  Kurt slapped him again and again.

Slaps align the bones in your hand.  Because of this, breakage is unlikely.  And if you think a slap doesn't hurt or is sissy, ask anyone to slap you hard and tell me if it just tickles.  Accuracy is still required, but not as much as a punch.  You want to be effective with a punch, you gotta be totally accurate.

Slaps also take little skill.  You can slap someone with bad form, and it'd still hurt.  Punch someone with bad form, and all you've done is push them.  Another strike that takes little skill.

In my book, my character have claws.  So I had to find creative and interesting ways of striking and fighting because the punch was taken out of the equation.  Ask any woman who has long nails make a fist and punch.