Friday, 26 March 2010

Are we at our limits?

Scientists are constantly looking for new ways to measure things... The Hubble telescope, radio telescopes, electron microscopes, gas spectrometers etc, etc, etc. Why do you think that is?

Since Hans Lipperhey - a spectacle maker - first put lenses together to make a telescope, we have realised that our five senses are just not up to the job. They are good for interpreting our immediate surroundings for survival, but do we experience things as they really are? As we look for increasingly more accurate ways to measure our world, physicists are making even bigger leaps in how me must change the way we think

If we consider our evolved origins, our brains are fundamentally built to keep us alive. But as a result of that, we are not thinking about how things truly are... we are thinking.... fundamentally.... about consumption, reproduction and survival.

Our whole way of perceiving and understanding is based on evolved existence under a tiny strip of gas that surrounds a small rock spinning around a small star in the vastness of space.

Our challenge is to break away from our primitive origins of conflict and survival; and redefine ourselves, each other and evolve to greater more unified consciousness.

Saturday, 20 March 2010


Rooting is a term used in Tai Chi to describe the quality of the contact of the feet with the ground and the sinking down of the weight through the floor. For Tai Chi practitioners, rooting is everything. The video below is Master Liu Yong demonstrating his rooting (I trained with him for 6 months):

This is not parlour trickery. It is simple and effective body mechanics arising from correct posture and sinking the weight below the direction of force from the people pushing. All Tai Chi footwork is geared towards keeping the body rooted to the floor at all times. This is because Tai Chi is mainly concerned with getting into contact with your opponent and using your body as a fulcrum between your opponent's weight and momentum and the floor. Tai Chi also relies heavily on rooting to strike the opponent.

Other martial arts use rooting differently. Orthodox western Boxing relies on rooting to ensure a powerful strike against the opponent, just like Tai Chi. If you are not fully rooted when you punch, the effectiveness of the punch will be greatly diminished. However, the boxer must be more mobile to pursue and evade his/her opponent.

Mohammad Ali was a great innovator in Boxing. His "shuffle" was designed to hide the nature of his rooting, and thus mislead his opponent as to what kind of punch was coming next. It was very effective. Watching Ali, the most impressive aspect of his work (for me) was his ability to instantly switch between being on the toes and planting his feet for striking. This meant he was able to change from defensive to offensive techniques - and back - in the blink of an eye.

Other martial arts use rooting differently again:

It can be argued that styles like Tae Kwondo concentrate more heavily on kicking and mobility and less on rooting. Although they require rooting for basic blocking and punching, many of their kicking strategies rely on generating rotating power. When spinning the body around, the rooting becomes a hinderance, and many techniques can be effectively done with both feet off the ground. But the jump and spin have to be instigated by a push against the ground. At that point the feet must be effectively planted or else the necessary spin and height cannot be achieved.

So one of the ways we can measure gongfu (or skill) is the quality of rooting and the way it changes in accordance with posture, movement and practical applications. The quicker and smoother you can make your rooting changes while remaining mobile and balanced, the less likely it is that you will be caught off balance. This is the fundamental basis upon which to build any comprehensive system of self defence - regardless of style.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Martial ARTist

I recently discovered that a colleague I work with has a very successful brother. His brother is a turner prize winning artist. Reading about his creative and challenging work made me think deeply about the concept of a martial artist.

The oxford english dictionary gives the following definitions:
  • A learned person or Master of Arts.
  • One who pursues a practical science, traditionally medicine, astrology, alchemy, chemistry (obsolete)
  • A follower of a pursuit in which skill comes by study or practice - the opposite of a theorist.
  • A follower of a manual art, such as a mechanic - partly obsolete
  • One who makes their craft a fine art.
Along with the artist comes the concept of aesthetics - or the rules that measure how good things look (beauty). From a martial perspective, we must consider a different set of aesthetics for each martial art separately. Our aesthetics must concern the quality of posture and movement within our individual frameworks. Movements should display balance, power, skill and also reflect the nature of our consciousness.

We must consider movement - not only as a way of defending ourselves - but also - being artists - as a form of entertainment, a display of skill and a deterrent to attackers.

A lot of art also carries important political and social messages. So consider what your martial art is saying about you socially and politically. Ask yourself if your art is still socially and politically relevant? Consider more importantly what you want it to say. It may a have considerable effect on your performance.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Motivation and Goals

Motivation can be an elusive quality. You can be steaming along feeling great about things, practicing hard or getting on with your purpose in life. Then something happens and suddenly every action is too much effort and it's like wading though treacle.

So what is motivation? Basically, it is the activation of goal-oriented behaviour. It is the impetus that we feel to ensure our goals are reached. Without motivation, the drive goes from our lives and we lose the will to apply effort. Understanding why we lose motivation is a good way of finding out how to get it back.

Where motivation is concerned, discoveries change everything.

You can discover that your goals are not what they used to be. People's priorities change, and what you may have gladly spent plenty of your time on last year becomes a waste of time now. It is normal for this to happen, particularly when relationships change (Love, Marriage, Children, Divorce, Bereavement etc.). The people we spend our time with affect our goals far more than most of us admit to.

You can discover that your goal is unattainable, or that despite very hard work, you have actually moved away from your goal.

The worst goal to have is one that relies upon how other people think about you. "I want to be respected" or "I want everyone to look up to me". These kind of goals are the hardest to attain, because they are the most fragile. One wrong word from someone and your world comes crashing down. You may discover that people don't think as highly of you as you thought.

It is at times like these that you need to reassess your personal and professional goals. If you don't have your goals, how can you progress?

1. Write your goals down. Whether it is on a spreadsheet or a piece of paper, make sure you have a clear reference of them so you can keep reminding yourself.
2. Make sure they are specific and measurable. In other words, make sure they can be done and measured. "Get more money" or "Get fitter" are not specific goals. Try something like "Increase my net income by 20%" or "Increase my exercise recovery rate by 10%". These are all specific goals that can be measured.
3. Vary your timescales. You should have long-term, overarching goals that define your actions. You can then break them down into smaller, achievable , more short-term goals.
4. Make sure they are realistic.
5. Stay focused. Don't set too many goals. 5 - 10 non-conflicting goals are ok.
6. Always have at least one simple goal and one difficult goal at any given time.
7. Prioritise and be flexible. Decide which goals are the most important and set your deadlines accordingly. However, you should always be aware that some of your goals may move quicker than others and allow some flexibility in your schedule.
8. Balance: Don't have all your goals in one area of your life. Try to spread them about.