Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I need to go back to school.  Not school in the physical sense.  School in the physical sense is about paying a tuition, sitting down, listening.  But, having been to university, I can surely attest to the fact that going to school physically doesn't count for much.  As Coolio said, "If knowledge is power and power is knowledge, how come so many idiots keep graduating from colleges?"  The answer is that putting your ass in the seat is key, but it isn't anything if your heart and mind are elsewhere.

I haven't been a student in the general sense in a long time.  Of course, I am a lifelong student of karate.  But you get the piece of paper: black belt certificate, high school diploma, college degree...and it is very easy to put the spirit of study; the spirit of being hungry, growing, learning and preparing for the next test that awaits, in your rearview.  You hold that paper and all of a sudden - the lessons are over, you know what you need to, you don't have to stay hungry or grow or prepare for the next test.  Except, of course...nothing could be farther from the truth.  A life without hunger, testing oneself, growth - such a life isn't even worth living.  You get tested in video games, you get tested in sports, you get tested by friends at school, and you get tested by life without realizing it.  Your heart pumps and you either rise to the occasion or you falter.  But either way, its much more interesting than the 9 to 5 that is everyday the same.  We ask ourselves what we're missing - why life seemed so much more satisfying when we were younger.  Was it freedom, time, lack of responsibility?  I don't think it was any of those things.  I think it was the knowledge that we hadn't peaked - that we were still on an upward trajectory, that we were still defying gravity and mortality - that tomorrow we'd be even smarter and taller and faster and stronger than we were yesterday.

This process is called living.  Being tested and believing that tomorrow you'll be a little higher up the mountain than you are today - even if you mess up or fail or embarrass yourself - is what made it so much fun.  That is the essence of joie vivre and we forget this when we satisfy ourselves that our formal learning is at an end.  We forget because we convince ourselves, no matter how little, that it is all downhill from here.

So it occurs to me that I haven't graduated the way that my black belt diploma or the University of Toronto would indicate.  I have graduated at all.  I have still higher yet to climb and my best days are not behind me.  I want to be a student of human nature.  I want to be a student of strength training.  I want to be a student of flexibility training.  I want to be a student of massage.  I want to be a student of basketball.  I want to be a student of the Japanese language and shodo.  I want to be a student of Iaido and Kendo.  I want to be a student of Brazillian Jiujitsu.  I want to be a student of swimming and running.  I want to be a student of my love, Sheba.

I'm going back to school in the most important place of all: my heart.  That will make sure that I sit my ass down in the seats that I need to.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I've thought of the 'why' for sometime and dismissed the question consciously because I'd made peace with it. But only after reading this post from Mr. Miller, did I feel a need to articulate it.  People ruminate about the physical and temporal costs of training - I see a post like this on blogs about once a month. I have always framed it in another light: As low as the possibility of violence is for all of us in the developed world, and as high as the rigors of training might be, the physical and emotional costs of peril and violence can be enormous even if it happens once. Training - both physical and technical - is just like buying insurance for your business or saving for the future: just because you might never need that money doesn't mean you shouldn't have it. Having that extra money gives you peace of mind that is disproportionate to the amount of money that you saved. That peace of mind informs dozens of decisions that have nothing to do with the actual investment. There is a tangible value in that. In the same way, training and thinking about minimizing physical risk and danger synergizes with other aspects of your life to make that physical and temporal investment pay dividends in visible and invisible ways.

In short, how much time and money would you invest in becoming a better person, a tougher person?  A person less likely to be confronted, a person less likely to be attacked or victimized?  To do things out of love is a great motivation.  But love can't be the only basis upon which you do things.  There are plenty of things that we don't particularly love or enjoy - like saving money - that we should do and plenty of things that certain people love that they shouldn't do.  Smokers love to smoke - just because they love it doesn't mean they should do it.  I feel as though martiality and thinking about violence, confrontation, conflict are one of those things that we should do and learn regardless of our attitude towards it.  By framing it merely in subjective terms of love, fun and enjoyment, I feel it kind of reduces the endevour to something that is arbitrary and banal - like any other hobby that people delight in.  We should reach for a deeper motivation - a more profound calling to this pursuit. Protecting yourself - being a strong creature worthy of respect from others, a natural deterrent to violence - this isn't something to pursue just because its fun or because you enjoy it.  This is a quality that all humans should build within.  We should teach it to little boys and little girls - little boys should grow up knowing that if they try to hurt a girl, the average girl knows how to hurt boys.  We shouldn't live in a world where everyone can be made a victim.  We should live in a world where people operate with open eyes, know how to protect themselves physically, mentally, spiritually, and prepare for the future.