Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Karate is supposed to make one more confrontational.  Not with others, though.  To others, karate is supposed to make us more tender, more generous, more curious, more compassionate.  Karate is supposed to provide the physical and spiritual strength to allow people to act without fear, to see things and beings as they are and not as our first inclination might lead us to believe.  We are more patient with others because we have the strength and luxury of being patient.  We can give others the benefit of the doubt because we are strong enough to survive a mistake, strong enough to learn from our mistakes, should our faith be misplaced and our good will be mistaken. 

No, karate is supposed to make us more confrontational with ourselves – more willing to take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves the questions we don’t want to face. Karate is supposed to make one less patient for self-deceit: the lies that people tell themselves and above all, the lies that we tell ourselves.  This is equivalent to a dodge or evasion in jutsu and karate teaches us quickly that an evasion alone is not true defense.  Evasion alone is only delaying; true defense is to confront the attack, to interact with the attack and to respond to the attack, not merely react to it.  There is an intimate directness that is explicit in the tenets of ikken hissatsu, of kobo ittai that leads to the severity of shugyou and shinken and vice versa and it would be a curious thing for a karateka to train hard to down an attacker at a stroke, or train with seriousness of life and death but then live a life of indecision and timidity.  No, a commitment to karate must also necessarily be a commitment to confronting the self: to scrutinizing the self, its habits and customs, its comforts and escapist tendencies. 

By making an accurate accounting of the self and in scrutinizing and reserving judgment for what happens inward rather than what happens outward there begins the establishment of the spirit that does not immediately think to run, to escape, to be comfortable, to be unperturbed.  The body that does not betray is forged with the mind that does not run, and ideally develops technique to penetrate obstacles – enemies, challenges – and emerge stronger on the other side.

Dirty hands

Is there any simpler mark of having accomplished something of worth today than to reflect upon the soot on your hands?  At a minimum, dirty hands tried.  At a minimum, they gave the effort.

Beyond the effort, though, dirty hands probably fixed something.  They probably cleaned something.  They probably built something.  They probably made someone's life easier or better tomorrow, perhaps their own, perhaps someone else's.

Dirty hands grasped the world.  Dirty hands engaged with the world.  Dirty hands pushed forward, made a difference.

Clean hands can make a difference, too.  But clean hands don't have to take things on personally.  Clean hands are washed clear of things and beings.  They eschew unpleasantness, and the things and beings that need the most attention are usually the most unpleasant.

Dirty hands are invested in outcomes.  Dirty hands understand that unpleasant things and beings today will become disasterous things and beings tomorrow.  Dirty hands make bad things better and are there to see it through.

Kiken, kitsui, kitanai...the other three K's of true karate.  Karate is meant to be dangerous, demanding and dirty.  But there are two meanings here.  Violence without rules has no reason to be 'clean' - subject to agreed upon behaviour.  Karate-jutsu teaches us to expect violence to be dirty and to be able to resort to 'dirty' tactics if it serves the cause of justice, protection and peace.  But there is that second meaning of dirty Karate: Karate-dou is the discipline that is invested in getting one's hands dirty.  Dirty hands that are clensed through hard work, washed by dedication, determination and sweat.  A karateka should wake with clean hands and go to sleep with clean hands.  But between those moments, a karateka's hands are meant to be dirty - to do the work that others won't or can't do, to face obstacles that cause others to squirm, to engage with the world head on, hands on, unafraid of the challenge and ever ready to pull your sleeves up and get things done.

Monday, January 27, 2020


I didn't know the man.  But I could recognize the fire.  In a professional setting, with all eyes on you, it is easier to manifest the fire of life - what in karate we call kiai.  Still, many don't.  He played games, yes, but the stakes were high enough for them to stop seeming like games anymore.  The man was not perfect but when the gauntlet was thrown, he did not shy away - he was not bashful.

He did not settle.

For better or worse.  People speak of Kobe Bryant and they speak first of the fire - of kiai.  There is a lesson here - not because he could put a ball through a hoop, not because he was one of the best in the world to do it.  The lesson is that he fought his way there.  He fought his way there, and other people, many people, who saw his fight, felt humbled by it.

I am unsettled by the thought of perishing without making my fire real.  I am more unsettled by the thought of my daughter going before her time or of me not being able to kindle her fire within.

I like this feeling, this mortal weariness.  I will not mourn the passing of this man.  He lived more in his 41 years than I might live in 80.

I will mourn his daughter and the others aboard and I will take this lesson to heart.  A small spark...

A vivid reminder that we are running out of time.  Time is of the essence - it is here to be used.

Use time.  Don't just exist in it.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Hansei / Kime

The trick is - and it has always been - review.

Karate is about winning the moment.  But the moment was already won.  You won it that last time that you fought for the last rep.  The last time that you pushed yourself past the edge of the blade.

You just have to review the moment.  In your mind, in your heart and in your body.  You have to remember it so keenly that this moment and the next moment and the one after that feel so much like the moment that was already won that they become the same.  The moment stays with you until you wake up one day and realize - it's the only moment. 

We tell ourselves that the problem is deciding.  That we have to choose to decide over and over again.  But this is bonnō - delusion.  We made the choice.  All that's left is reviewing the choice again and again and seeing past the delusions.  The delusion that surrender is weakness.  The delusion that there is strength in inertia.

Accelerate.  That too, is karate.

Surrendering to the choice and reminding ourselves that this surrender isn't a shackle.  This is the only type of surrender that isn't slavery... 

This is the surrender that sets us free.

But you must mind your surrender and remind yourself.  Each time you remind and review you sand the imperfections and doubts away from what you know to be true.  You smooth and polish the rationale until it is without flaw. 

You must review the choice until it is the only thing that you can see.  That's where you'll finally find the most direct path.  That's where you'll find the tranquility we're all looking for.  The tranquility and unity.  The eye of the storm.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Doing, being and becoming

Karate lies in the doing

Ever since my daughter was born, I've been waiting for when I'll have more energy.

More verve, more time, more MORE...

So many illusions, bubbling up into my head.

I've forgotten about Shinken - the seriousness that is part of Karate...

Part of life.

If I don't take myself seriously, no one is going to do it for me.

Time to start seriously squeezing myself dry.

Time to start seriously finishing things I start (todome).

Time to start embracing how tired I am...

...and how much finding joy... going to suck...



"Safe" spaces

The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise. 
- Tacitus

  • is the question of 'is' the fundamental misunderstanding between humans?
    • question of being vs questions of things that beings do?
    • is homosexuality something that someone is or something that someone does?
    • many people see it as a "doing" - a choice made
      • for them homosexuality isn't a question of identity but rather preference
  • ideologically safe spaces are everywhere - and are not good
    • echo chambers - positive reinforcement - people become more and more certain with less and less actual knowledge
  • identity safe spaces are important especially against the danger of the tyranny of the majority
  • problem comes from the blurred lines
    • blurred lines from when an ideological challenge challenges the value or very validity of an identity
    • blurred line between when words make that challenge and when the challenge is won and the words incite action
      • it was once just words for the Nazi party to challenge the patriotism and integrity of German Jews (Nazi ideology)
      • Then those words invalidated their identity and redefined their identity as other (Jews that claim to be German instead of German Jews) and made it okay to kill them like livestock (ideology redefines an identity)
  • who is the arbiter of identity?
    • who is the arbiter of which identities are significant?
      • of great importance because identity determines the agency of voice
        • why people place great importance on the identity shared by judges and less on the identity shared by children
    • who determines which individuals meet the criteria for an identity?
      • this is of great importance because authenticity of identity determines legitimacy of opinion
        • is a person a judge if fellow judges don't recognize them as a judge?
        • is a person black if they don't look black?
          • how much black must a person have in them before they are worthy of being listened to regarding the black experience?
  • how much do black people collectively have in common?
    • how much do africans, caribbeans, afro-americans, and afro-europeans actually have in the way of shared experience?
    • raises the question of the ideological value of identity classification known as 'black'
      • seems to mean everything and nothing at all - based solely on an ambiguous and highly variable amount of melanin in the skin
        • yet at the same time an albino can be black - so it is based on skin tone yet not based on skin tone - is it based on anything?
        • and if it is based on anything...again, what is the value of the identity classification?  what does 'being black' tell you definitively about a person the way that being 'tall' tells you that it is easier for a person to reach for tall things?
  • So it is not unreasonable to say that 'black'ness - the quality of being black and the identity known as black, really doesn't amount to anything
    • the majority of people can agree upon this and every affirmative action program meant to factor in the historical legacy of discriminating against people because they were 'black' can be wiped away in an instance
    • the ideological challenge to identity becomes more than just words - it becomes action that obliterates their existence in terms of thought, alienates them from their own ideas of themselves and affects their bodies in a material way due to social convention
    • a type of conceptual homocide for no one to believe you are who you say are
      • a type of conceptual genocide for no one to acknowledge that what you are is reality rather than a choice or a mere claim to truth rather than a truth
  • given the gravity of the language we use:
    • it is easy to see that a liberally inclined mind might come to the conclusion that anything approaching a challenge to one's identity should be off limits
      • people are who they say they are, what they say they are, their lived experience of being what they say they are is more important than any outside quantification, and their identity should be respected as definitive, inviolate and worthy of voice irrespective of anything else
        • a person that says they are black is black, you can't know what their experience is
      • questioning of a person's identity, assigning value to it starts the process of outside forces determining whether that identity will be incorporated into the majority or marginalized as 'other' and pushed to annihilation
    • it is easy to see that a conservatively inclined mind might come to the conclusion that anything approaching a protection of the identity of others represents a challenge to freedom of speech and the process of evaluating statements, claims and ideas
      • people make claims of identity that need to be evaluated, truth isn't served by having topics that are off-limits, the burden of proof for recognizing an identity as significant should be high, anyone can make a claim of lived experience that amounts to basically hearsay, what matters are facts that confirm and support these claims or else any meaning classification of things and beings becomes moot, subject only to opinions
        • a person can be homosexual not because they are interested in members of the same sex but rather because they say they are - homosexuality begins to mean nothing
      • questioning of a person's identity, assigning value to it starts the process of outside forces determining whether that identity will be incorporated into the majority or marginalized as 'other' and pushed to annihilation
        • and this is good: certain claims need to be struck down as untrue, certain voices should be extinguished at the expense of other more credible voices
        • people who actually are who they say they are can prove it, people who can't are not an identity - they are merely claiming an identity by choice
          • choices can be changed, modulated by conditioning of right and wrong
  • the idea of a safe space is seductive
    • safety is an aspiration not a destination
      • it is a process not a place
    • to fashion an absolutely safe place would be to create a world without risk, without offense, without dialogue
      • all great things require risk - at a minimum the risk of failure
      • most truths come from dialogue, all dialogue has the potential for offense 
    • without the explicit acknowledgement of the paradox between an ideological challenge and an identity challenge - people are arguing at cross purposes
      • the liberal mind sees one slippery slope - towards marginalization/annihilation of the minority (tyranny of the majority); the conservative mind sees another slippery slope - towards silencing dissenting voices (tyranny of the minority)
At the bottom of the page, the conclusion is what you didn't want to hear: no one is the good guy.  No one is right on 100% of things, 100% of the time; no particular way of thinking, save perhaps good old skepticism, will make you right more often than you are wrong.  Everyone is selling something - the people who yell the loudest can be the most right or the most wrong.  Or as the great Greg House puts it - "There are only two things you can depend on: Everybody dies.  And everybody - everybody - lies."

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Bigger not better

Re: 2019 WCF Semi Game 5:  **Start of Rant - feel free to move on**

Steph said something in the post-game interview that I know he's said a million times but it bothered me nonetheless.  He said that it was a game of runs...

At 3:00 left in the 2nd the Dubs were up 57 to 37.  You'd think any team in the convo for 'Best Ever', any team that can play the kind of defense that they could, would just control tempo and make the other team work.  From that point, one of the most talented teams in history scored not a single point missing on 8 straight attempts, all by their best three players - 2 by Steph, 3 by KD and 3 by Klay.  Only one was a drive to the basket: a blown layup by KD.

I remember the days when any team, let alone a championship team, would have a couple of empty trips down the floor and you just knew that the best player on the team would put their head down and go to the hole and get to the line.  The other team was putting together a run, so you came down and put yourself in a position to get a basket or a whistle.  There was an art to stifling a run - killing a run.  KD, Klay and Steph all remember those days, they grew up watching it on TV.  But they have so much talent that they don't have to do things like that, think the game. 

Talented scorers in the past the calibur of Klay, Steph and KD were always leveraging the threat of shooting at range to get easier shots and to get to the line, the way Harden does now.  But Klay shoots the ball 20 times and doesn't get to the line once in FORTY-FIVE minutes of play (doesn't even try to) and everyone is like that's normal.  Steph is the most dangerous shooter of all times and can break down guys on the perimeter seemingly at will, but going to the hole is like a complete afterthought.  He played absolute dogshit the first half, had no feel at all at range and you couldn't point to the moment when he said to himself he should try going to the hole and get to the line to get himself going.  Steph has gotten better but you can't tell me he's clearly getting smarter.

They really haven't had to get smarter because they have all these safety nets to fall back on.  I'm not talking about gaming the refs for a call.  I'm talking about putting pressure on the defense in a way that they don't expect when your shot isn't falling.  I'm talking about consciously feeding a hot Klay instead of watching him light it up for the first 12 minutes and then mindlessly going away from him.  For all the nonsense that Harden engages in, he has a much better sense of taking advantage of all of his talents, maximizing what's around him, mainly because he has to.  He scored only once in the last 8 minutes but he made the right play every time: Rox scored on 8 of 12 possessions.  It was only when KD went down did you see Steph actually consciously decide to go to the hole and mix it up.  Suddenly he's scoring again and if you asked him after the game, he probably wouldn't be able to see the relationship between going to the hole and finally putting some shots down.

People will say it's just because he has the ball in his hand more when KD's out.  It's not that.  It's what Steph does with it when it's in his hand.  If the defense is sure that you're going to shoot, then that's a problem.  The defense should never be sure what you're going to do when you're at Steph's level.  His live dribble gives him too many options to play like garbage.  No one who can handle the ball AND move off-ball like Steph has an excuse.

For all the bellyaching for how good the Warriors are, they should be way better than this.  Draymond is still reckless.  Klay is as dependable as he is predictable.  Livingston looks as bad as CP3.  Steph disappears in proportion to KD rising and STILL hasn't put together that avoiding a touch foul is more important than staying on the floor.  KD hasn't been incorporated into the Warriors system, leveraging him to make everyone else even more deadly. He just does his own thing and scores 35 because any double team he sees is by someone terrified to leave their man - because of the chaos of a simple off-ball screen for Steph or Klay.  If anything he's stifled their system in two ways: 1) off-ball stuff takes effort, KD iso doesn't and 2) KD's excellence lets Steph off the hook for stretches of the game.  Steph plays like shit and doesn't feel any urgency, doesn't do anything different, because KD's really good and when he's really good all they need from Steph is passable.  If they finished the half yesterday the way they should have, they way you expect of a championship team, they could have easily been up 20+.  Maybe KD doesn't have to log as many minutes, maybe he doesn't get injured. 

It's like - if the Dubs are so good, why is playing Harden, the corpse of 34 year old CP3, a Capela that is a shell of himself and "Here comes Austin Rivers" such a toss up? If the Rox need to lose the smugness if they go on to lose, I think the Dubs have to as well, too.  They could have legitimately been beaten by Harden and Eric Gordon.  The Dubs haven't decisively been the better team for two consecutive quarters in the whole series.  They haven't been dominant at all.  They could reasonably have lost every game.

TL;DR: People dislike the Dubs because they're so good.  If they were as good as they think they are, they sure as shit don't play like it.

***Rant over***