Friday, 30 April 2010

Knowledge or skill?

In our modern technological age, it can be argued that information is the new currency. Never has it been more important to be able to exchange information. It is something that as a society we have become addicted to. 24 hour media, internet, mobile phones, laptops, ipods - the world hammers us with information.

This is fantastic. I look at how quickly my daughter has picked up the internet and I predict that she will not know the meaning of "I don't know". Almost all the information in the world can now be obtained with a few mouse clicks. Everything is always on and always available. I remember when my parents had to use the local public telephone if they wanted to call someone.

There are some people who are wary of this technological revolution and fear information overload and social stagnation. I disagree. I really do believe that our increasing need for information will eventually drive the evolution of consciousness, which in turn will have a positive effect on our physiology.

But... (and there is a big but.) Knowledge is nothing without skill. Tell someone once, and as long as they are able to retain the fact in their head, they have acquired knowledge. Knowledge is easy to obtain.

But skill takes time. Unless you are a genius (and most people aren't), you have to do the same things over and over and over again. You have to make lots of mistakes - and every time you make a mistake, you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and either fix your error or learn how not to do it again. Is this tough? Yes. Can it be frustrating? Undoubtedly. But the rewards that skill brings to the practitioner are beyond description.

Gongfu (or kung fu) is literally translated as skill. So when you go to a martial arts class, be prepared - first and foremost - to acquire a skill. So have courage. Be prepared to make repetition your friend, boredom your enemy and skill your ultimate goal. Everything else will fall into place.

Friday, 23 April 2010


One of the most important and most overlooked aspects of modern health is the quality and quantity of sleep. In our always-on and plugged in society, poor quality sleep can make us angry, irritable, fatigued, sick and unable to concentrate or memorise anything.

I also believe that a lot of obesity is started by people not getting enough sleep. They eat because they feel fatigued and they think they need something to give them more energy - but what they really need is more sleep. If you feel you aren't getting enough sleep, check out the advice here:

You can't get off to sleep:
  1. Kit your bedroom for sleep only - remove any computers, televisions, stereos, telephones, books or distractions.
  2. Keep it dark. No lights on. Fit black-out blinds to your curtains if they let the light in.
  3. No caffeine, drugs or alcohol. (Alcohol can help you to sleep, but your sleep will not be restorative).
  4. No big meals late in the evening - the food will sit heavily on your stomach.
  5. Practice meditation to calm you down before bed.
  6. Avoid sugary snacks in the evening.
  7. Check that your bed is comfortable. If it is not, fix it. There are some great products, like memory foam that are really comfortable. They are worth the investment.
You get to sleep OK, but you keep waking up in the middle of the night:
  1. Don't switch the lights on - light resets you body clock, so try keep a tiny torch if you need to navigate to the bathroom.
  2. Don't eat, unless hunger is keeping you awake.
  3. If you are woken by ideas, keep a pen & paper to write them down. You should be able to sleep after that. Only make sure you don't switch on the lights - use your small torch.
  4. Don't you dare touch a computer, book, phone, tv, radio, playstation, xbox or ANYTHING that will distract you.
Your circadian rhythm is your body's internal clock for sleeping and waking patterns. This clock can get knocked out by things like jet lag, changing work shift patterns, stress or lack of sleep. To get your body clock working again, get yourself a timetable for sleep and stick to it. Go to bed at the same time every night - even on nights when you are not working, like weekends and holidays. Also, get plenty of sunlight during the day. This will let your body clock know the difference between waking and sleeping times. Do some exercise during the day (like a martial art, swimming, jogging, walking etc.). Exercise will also tell your body clock that this is the time for waking, so the night is for sleep.

Finally, learn a guided method for progressive relaxation - in other words, think about each part of the body and imagine it relaxing. Go through all parts of the body until you are feeling totally relaxed. When you can do this on a comfortable bed in a dark, quiet room without any distractions, you will soon find yourself slipping gently off to sleep.

Friday, 16 April 2010

The dangers of LSD

A friend of mine used to manage "up and coming" bands while he was in university. We were having a chat, when he pointed out a new band he was working with.

"See the guy in the denims?" he asked, "I'm looking for another singer. The rest of the band hate him. He's got a serious case of LSD."

I thought the guy looked stone cold sober and said so. I then discovered that in this case the acronym "LSD" stands for Lead Singer's Disease.

Lead Singer's Disease is the fevered ego of the frontman that gets inflated by the never-ending adulation of fans. People with LSD are a constant annoyance and embarrassment to the rest of the band, with their pompous diva antics. LSD (often fuelled by real drugs) is the main cause of perfectly decent bands splitting up at the height of their careers.

So what has this got to do with martial arts? I hear you cry. As teachers we are performing to groups of students very day. Not only that, we are constantly demonstrating how tough and clever we are with all these self defence techniques we have learned. It is easy for untrained students to become impressed, and we can find ourselves being raised onto a small, dojo-sized pedestal. That's the beginning of LSD. We may not be lead singers, but as soon as we start to believe the hype, the disease will strike.

When planning your class, if you are thinking "how can I impress them today?", then you are coming down with LSD, and you are on a slippery slope that may end up with you injuring yourself, one of your students or driving away your class. People aren't stupid. They can spot a teacher who is on an ego trip a mile off.

The best masters I have known all have one vital ingredient.... humility. Couple humility with tolerance and respect for others, and you will not get LSD. If you value an honest and mutually rewarding relationship with your students and peers, practice humility. You will be rewarded with genuine trust, respect and honour.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Thomas Campbell - Consciousness Explorer

Thomas Campbell recently joined the Monroe Institute to deliver a lecture on the origins of scientific consciousness exploration with Bob Monroe:

Special thanks go to Martin Peniak for putting this video together.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Many a truth is said in jest

I love jokes. They clear the air, they relieve tension and they reveal the truth in a more profound way than any earnest pleading can do.

But sometimes, jokes transcend comedy and elevate us beyond our limits. I would like to share with you one of the greatest comedy speeches I have ever heard. Parental guidance is required...