Day 39… It has been an honor…

Honor.  A word very often misunderstood. Let’s explore the concept of honor a bit and see if we can clear up some of the common misconceptions.

Can we find a good definition? Time to crack open that dictionary and blow the dust off of the pages!

As defined by Merriam-Webster:

1hon·or

noun \ˈä-nər\

: respect that is given to someone who is admired

: good reputation : good quality or character as judged by other people

: high moral standards of behavior

Hmmm…. I am not so sure I like that definition, what about you?

I see too much faith being placed in the judgement of others.  That to me is respect.  The word respect even shows up in the Merriam Webster definition.  Let’s try another respected, yes I used the “R-word”, dictionary source…

Definition of honor in the Oxford English Dictionary:

noun

1.1 [in singular] A person or thing that brings credit: you are an honor to our profession

1.2Adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct: I must as a matter of honor avoid any taint of dishonesty
Still not sure I like this one.  I still read a lot of outside influence and judgement.  It still feels and behaves as I would expect the concept of Respect to behave.  It shows that to have honor one must gain the respect or admiration of others.  Is thise really what Honor is?  If so, why do we have two different words?
What happens if we leave the “academic world” and dig further back in history.  As a martial artist I live a life that carries meanings and concepts that were in existence well before the Merriam-Webster or Oxford English Dictionary. What about the Samurai, the source of much that is the quintessential working definition of what it means to be a warrior and martial artist today?  In their code, the Bushido, they wrote of the virtue of Meiyo.  Now, the definition of Meiyo is somewhat long-winded and is, of course, subject to the vagaries of multiple translations but, I believe the easiest way to describe honor as it is to be lived in the Bushido Virtue of Meiyo is:
a vivid consciousness of personal dignity and worth.
Yes, I do believe we have something here!  Honor, as I have learned it over the years in the martial arts is not about the judgement of others.  Honor is about that feeling that you have of yourself, your actions, your words.  It is, or should be your INTERNAL compass.  Those who truly have honor are able to look themselves in the mirror of self-reflection and say with honesty and sincerity that they are happy with their choices.  These individuals have found that the only person who can judge them, give them true worth and help them to preserve their dignity is the person who stares back them from the mirror every morning.
The last few days I have had this concept brought to my attention by various sources for any number of interesting reasons.  At times I have felt challenged in my understanding of honor and how it differed from respect.  As I thought more about those conversations and situations I came to the conclusion that, as a martial artist and modern day warrior, I needed to go back to my “roots” for guidance.  I needed to look at what ancient warriors thought of the life skills that I both attempt to live and to teach.
(Ironically, the next Bushido Challenge article I needed to write was on Meiyo – Honor!  It will be published November 16th)
I much prefer the distinction that the Samurai made between Respect – Rei – and Honor – Meiyo.  I believe this is a much healthier and more humble way to live, seeking to do what is right by looking inward instead of outward.
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Day 33 – Sparring with Frustration

One of the major components of most martial arts training is sparring. When I explain what sparring is to a new student I usually describe it as

the dynamic use of our fighting techniques, the closest we can safely get to real self-defense situations.

I go on to explain that while we have rules that keep sparring safe, we still get to experience what is like to get hit, to be put into positions of disadvantage and to have to “think on our feet while under stress and pressure.”

Today I got a glimpse of another kind of sparring that EVERYONE does, probably daily, even if they have never donned a uniform or stepped onto the mats…

We all spar with FRUSTRATION!

The real question is… How do you handle it?

Do you handle frustration like a fighter who is “gassed out”?

A fighter who has “gassed out” has the will and deep desire to get out of harm’s way, but simply has nothing left in the tank to make that happen. They absorb every blow until the grand finale, when they finally take one too many and hit the mat. People often do the same with the daily frustrations. They “internalize” everything, letting the negative energy of the frustration build, like the damage from an opponent’s strikes and kicks. Eventually they either explode or implode, either way the results are extremely unhealthy. Are you the type of person that absorbs every “strike and kick” that life dishes out?

…OR…

Are you a seasoned fighter? Do you “deflect and redirect” the incoming attempts to disrupt your life?

A seasoned fighter knows that the best way to win the fight is by taking as little damage as possible along the way. They deflect incoming strikes and kicks, rendering them less effective by giving them a the “nudge” they need to miss their target. They do their best to avoid “blocking with their face”, instead giving the strike or kick a “shoulder to land on”. When dealing with life’s frustrations we can do the same. Don’t let the situation “get in your face”, keep moving, keep trying and let the problem land on your shoulders – they were built for the load! Learn to redirect the negative energy of your frustration into positive direction. A good self-defense fighter will use the principles of Aikido and redirect the attacker’s incoming energy, using it against them. When you become frustrated, take that energy and turn it towards finding and executing a “fighting solution”, don’t absorb it and let it do its damage!

Day 29… A fine line between Brilliance and Insanity?

Life, like the practice of martial arts, requires focus to be successful.  Today I heard a speaker say that it takes more than that… that to be wildly successful, to be considered “one of the best” in any of life’s endeavors we need to take things to a whole new level.  We need to be “slightly insane”!

The speaker, Thomas Myers (no relation!), was talking about learning from the best and what it takes to become the best in your field of study.  I knew when I heard his words that I had heard them before, applied to being a martial arts instructor.  It did not take me long to recall where… Kyoshi Kovar’s thoughts on how to inspire students.  I have had the honor of learning the art of instruction from Kyoshi Kovar and one thing has always struck me about him, his complete and consuming passion for what he does!  He embodies the idea of being “slightly insane” in his pursuit of creating better martial artists and instructors.

Kyoshi Kovar speaks of being “magnificently obsessed” with your students and their practice.  This level of care and focus can often lead an instructor to say and do things that seem “slightly crazy” and abnormal to the casual observer.  That is the difference between a good martial artist and a great one, an adequate instructor and a truly brilliant instructor… the ability to see past the “normal” and focus their mind and spirit in such a way that while seemingly “odd” the outcome is always “wildly effective”.

This is true in both martial arts an life.  Those who are willing to focus, to be considered a bit “outside the normal”, are the people who will see the greatest success!  Go be brilliant!! Don’t worry if others tell you you are crazy… they are only pointing out you are the path to success!

Mr. Myers

26 Days and Learning…

A quick entry to let you inside my head…

I started this challenge a personal effort to improve and expand the scope of my studies in the martial arts.

It has turned into something more… as I go through each day I find myself not only reviewing my actions, but actually planning them to make more of an impact then I did the day before.  I have begun to REALLY Live, that is to take each action on purpose and make each word count.

I also realized that I needed to open this process up to my students.  I started writing a running weekly challenge patterned off of the writings of the Samurai.

I challenge my readers here to join me in making the world a better place by living ON PURPOSE –

The 7 Week Bushido Challenge

The Seven Days of Gi Challenge

The Seven Days of Yuuki Challenge

Day 25 of my 100 Day Journaling Challenge… Life needs the same 3 things a great form needs!

Over the past 25 days I have had the opportunity to spend time considering what the practice of martial arts has taught me about life.  It has been an interesting exploration and path of discovery, I look forward to the next 75 days!

Today I came across an article written for Black Belt Magazine, a publication I read on a regular basis.  This particular article was published online and can be seen here:

Inside Japanese Martial Arts: The True Role of Kata in Karate

Written by Dave Lowery, a gentleman of the highest caliber who practices martial arts for self-defense purposes and speaks the truth about all things violent.  I have found his thoughts on self-defense, violence and modern martial arts training very valuable in my journey through the arts.  In his latest article he talks about Japanese Kata, forms, as practiced in Traditional Karate.  His thoughts are completely applicable to any martial art that employs kata or forms as a training tool.  He also makes some great points that I feel apply to life and how we live it successfully.

  • Structural Integrity

I am not going to rehash Mr. Lowery’s thougths on the martial arts application of structural integrity.  Instead, I want to look at the concept in terms of how we live.

He notes that from the outside most kata look like an “arbitrary arrangement of techniques”, but that it is so much more than arbitrary.  If someone were to take a close look at your life and write down every action you take and every word you speak for a week would those notes appear to be “an arbitrary arrangement of thoughts and actions”?

To be successful we need to arrange our lives like a well designed kata.  Does it have structure?  Are we making choices in actions and words that fit a particular purpose, our “success structure”?  When we apply ourselves to an activity are we doing so with integrity?  Are we giving each action or word proper thought and effort?  If you look at the “notes of your life” you should be able to see the “success structure” and that your path towards that goal was paved with the integrity to always do the right thing at the right time with full attention and effort.

  • Coherence

So, you have structure to your life.  Excellent!  Now, lets look at the Shin, or “mind,” that your life is guided by.  To reach any goal you must coordinate your effort.  Each choice and action needs to have a coherence, they must work in harmony to take you step by step towards your goal.

When our lives show this coherence, or flow, we see greater success.

  • Intent

In poorly constructed kata, the performer looks like a little kid in a big toy store, his attention in a dervish-like spin. In a good kata, there’s the sense that the practitioner is controlling time and space, setting the pace. This is an expression of the focus, the intent of the kata.

Which are you?  Are you running endlessly from one activity to another or do others look to you for stability and structure?  Are you focused or frantic?  By creating intent, using it as your focus and adhering to the structure it provides give you control of your life and its path.

Structural integrity. Coherence. Intent. These three pillars support a kata.  They also serve as the pillars of a successful life!

Mr. Myers

5 Days of Rectitude…

Readiness through Right Actions

RECTITUDE – GI         Readiness through Right Actions

The last five days of my writing challenge have been all about the concept of “Being Prepared”.

Starting last Sunday a consistent message of the importance of being ready for Death has been running through both my life and my practice.  The message in services was all about growing and making an effort to improve physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally.  The concept was that we were meant to use this life in a constant effort to make ourselves better and prepare for the day we pass away and must give a proper accounting of our lives before God.  Jesus had led the way, showing us how it should be done and now it is up to us to follow His lead.

This message was followed by an evening spent watching the movie “47 Ronin”.  While the popular theme of the movie is revenge and honor, the more powerful theme for me is the Samurai-turned-Ronin’s constant focus on being prepared for Death.  Each of the main characters must fight through temptation, pressure to give up and even various forms of torture and persecution to ensure they are ready to do their duty, even to the death.  After watching the movie I pulled a copy of the Bushido out of my library and began reading it again.  It was then that I finally understood the very first tenant of Bushido – “GI” or Rectitude.

The next 4 days provided more examples of how to apply Gi, being ready for Death through right actions, in my life.  And this is the key that I finally understood as I read the Bushido again…

Being “Prepared for Death” is NOT about being focused on Death!

Being “Prepared for Death” IS about how one lives!

The Samurai, or “Servant”, understood that their actions in life made all the difference in how they would die.  When they meditated on Gi, it was not a focus on Death itself but on how they lived each day.  They understood that each action, word and even thought had a powerful effect on their lives and eventually on how they were to die.  Even more importantly they looked upon each day as an opportunity to make a mark, to “live their dash”, in such a way as to have had meaning and be remembered for being a valuable member of their community.

The last few days have shown me opportunities to live as the Samurai, to behave at all times in a manner that demonstrates all the virtues we should be cultivating in ourselves:

Behave with Honor – even in the face of opportunities to treat others as poorly as they are treating me.

Act with Integrity – even as those I encountered attempted to lie and deceive me.

Speak with Respect and Courtesy – even as those speaking to me are falsely accusing me and speaking with great disrespect.

Exercise Self-Control (Anger Management) – while confronted by someone who really needed to be “put in their place”.

Value Others above Self – gently and graciously lead and help others, even to my own loss of opportunity.

And, I have a feeling that this line of learning and personal development is not over… nor will it ever be truly complete.

The Impact of Life on My Practice

The first 6 days of writing I have focused on the impact my practice has had on my life…

Time to “Flip the Script”!

Are you making the most of yours?

The image above has a meaning far greater than it may appear.  For my Black Belts who have attended Black Belt Camp it is one of those “BIG HAIRY CHALLENGES” that their Instructors like to toss their direction.  It is a GIANT PERSONAL CHALLENGE communicated without a single word.

Let’s see if you can decipher the message without being “told” what it means…

Today’s lesson is one of making life and the practice of the martial arts congruent.  Too often activities like martial arts can become ego-driven, with the student becoming so enamored with themselves and their accomplishments that they stop paying attention to the world around them.

I work every day to make sure this is not the case for myself, and as many of my students as will follow my lead.  My focus is on my community.  I want my first thought of each day to be “How can I, and my school, positively impact our community?”  This focus on others and the desire to help others has always been a part of me and has now become a major focus of our school.

As the day moved along it became obvious that Pilsung ATA Martial Arts is a school with a community-focused mission.  I was having discussions with various people in and out of the school that kept revolving around the concept of helping others first.  Everything from how classes are run to the way in which a student works towards and earns a Black Belt Rank is “colored” by our mission to help our community.  The way we greet students and families and the way we work to make the school a fun and safe place to come and simply “be yourself” is guided by the desire to help others grow stronger and more ready to face the challenges of the world.

It is funny.  I have heard it said more than once, by more than one “expert”, that martial arts schools are businesses and can only be successful if they are run STRICTLY as a BUSINESS.  I guess I am a rebel, but I just don’t buy that line of thinking.  I believe there has to be more to it, that we need to be sure we are making a difference in the lives of those around us in every endeavor – especially our “business”.  For me the martial arts, and teaching them to others, is a way of life.  It is a way for me to make a positive impact in my world.  Sure, I could get caught up in the “busy-ness” of running the business and become like so many others – “dashing about and accomplishing nothing of lasting value”.  I choose a different path, one defined by the values I have held as important in my life even before the arts.

Have you figured it out yet?

What does

Are you making the most of yours?

stand for?

The next time you pass by a grave yard take a second to go in and look at a few grave markers.  They all have this symbol on them… can you find it?  What does it mean on that marker?  What does it represent?  What will it mean when it is put above your final resting place?

Is the meaning starting to become clear?  Is the challenge of that simple “dash” coming into focus?