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Philosophy of Mt View Aiki Kai

Martial Musings: Living The Samurai Ideal

Martial Musings: Living The Samurai Ideal

The word Samurai is thrown around far too freely. It evokes the esoteric imagery of the fearless warrior, principled life and honorable death. To the Japanophile or Martial Arts nerd, the word Samurai invokes a bunch of texts such as

  • The book of Five Rings
  • The  Hagakure
  • The Unfettered Mind
  • The Lifegiving Sword

I want to take a step back - and set a few things right.

Environment Shapes Your Response-Ability - Martial Musings with Mahipal Lunia

Environment Shapes Your Response-Ability - Martial Musings with Mahipal Lunia

Some of my students and instructors were excited about the possibility of having access to an indoor dojo. I stood somewhat aside, and one of my students observed my disapproval. He sheepishly asked me, "Is there a problem Sensei? It might be nice to train indoors."

"This park is sacred ground to me. And there is a reason I train outdoors. Do you know what it is?"

"We don't want to be tied down paying for the training hall or compromise how we teach?" he answered, almost as though it were a question back to me.

Martial Musings with Mahipal Lunia: Defining oneself and one's practice AKA This is not your friendly neighborhood McDojo

Martial Musings with Mahipal Lunia: Defining oneself and one's practice AKA This is not your friendly neighborhood McDojo

Martial Musings: Defining oneself and one's practice AKA This is not your friendly neighborhood McDojo I had a strange conversation this week. A millionaire father contacted me to "do my aikido and fix his 3 children" who were aged between 18 and 23. He also expected prompt responses in writing about when he wanted me to show up, then spend 2 hours each day with his kids. He then wanted to know if I had the facilities to accept his AmEx card, as he would not use any other card. Finally he emphasized his "kids" would be driven by a private chauffer.

5 Star Book Review: Hagakure - Code of the Samurai

5 Star Book Review: Hagakure - Code of the Samurai

If you have seen the movie Ghost Dog you have been introduced to the Hagakure. If you have studied the Bushido in any form, then no doubt you have come across this work. Profound and misunderstood at the same time. A lifetime treat to unravel slowly and delibrately. READ THIS BOOK if the old ways of the blade call you The warrior rule in Japan lasted from 1160 to 1868. In 1710 Tsunetomo Yamamoto began dictating perhaps one of the best known and least understood books on the Way of the Warrior- The Hagakure. This is the Code of the Samurai. The book is a collection of parables that point towards the Samurai life.

Martial Musing: Aiki Eyes -Key To Decreasing Reaction Times

Martial Musing: Aiki Eyes -Key To Decreasing Reaction Times


"Soften, soften more" is a mantra I keep repeating in the dojo, and yet almost always the beginner "tries even harder" to soften. The effort to soften is almost always focused on the big muscles and yet the face hardens. The first marker for it is in the narrowing of the eyes. 

Some interesting things happen when the eyes narrow and your vision gets "locked in." In many ways you are now unable to really see. Everything tends to move a lot faster around you, and our responses tend to seem a lot slower. I have always equated this with the mind getting locked in or frozen - which is quite the opposite state of flowing. This is referred to as Foveal Vision.

The foveal vision locks us into a task, concentration and thinking mode. It closes of everything else other than what its locked onto. it has its uses, and Martial Arts is not one of them. For example if you are locked into the opponents hand with a knife, you almost certainly will go blind to everything else his limbs will do. This can be a death spell in a fighting situation.

To unfreeze and flow with what is coming, one must learn to really see. In the dojo at Mountain View Aiki Kai, I call this "aiki eyes" or "samurai eyes". To do this one has to learn to move from foveal/narrow vision to peripheral vision. This shift allows you to take more of the world in, and has a dramatic effect. Things begin to slow down in your experience, and you catch a lot more of what is going on.

The process of opening the perception/vision is the fastest way to move from a frozen to flow state. The the key marker here is No-Mind - in other words no locking into a method of thinking/concentration but rather openness to respond.

Peripheral vision is is what a lot of animals do naturally to survive. If you spend any time in nature, you will quickly come to the conclusion, that the only way to relax is to have your eyes everywhere. Tom Brown Jr, the world famous survivalist and author talks about his training in "splatter vision." The term his mentor - Stalking Wolf used in describing the all seeing/peripheral vision. This is one of the key skills taught to survive in the wilderness.

Going a little more left field into the works of Carlos Castaneda he speaks of his training with the Shaman Don Juan "Instead of teaching me to focus my view, as gazers did, he taught me to open it, to flood my awareness by not focusing my sight on anything. I had to sort of feel with my eyes everything in the 180-degree range in front of me, while I kept my eyes unfocused just above the line of the horizon." This process his vision, and was critical to stop the world, a term he used to be in a state of No-Mind or Mushin. This brings me back to Martial Arts

My first experience with this came when I started to train without my glasses. My vision went broad and it was as though I saw better when not looking directly. The next piece came together when studying NLP and learning to adumbrate the client by watching the whole form. Finally while studying Baguazhangs Wind Palm with Bruce Frantzis ( he is nothing short of an enigma in CIMA) he kept telling us to "relax the back of the eyeballs." This started to gel things together.

Things then began to just click and other pieces such as survival training and meditation fell into place. The once unconsious process started to become conscious, and I will share some of the methods of moving towards peripheral vision:-

1) SOFTEN: Soften the eyes consciously, and move your focus to the back of the eyeball where the optic nerve sits. Feel that space and relax

2) TRAIN EYE CONVERGENCE :Do pencil push ups and move our eyes from side to side. (

3) LOOK WIDE: Learn to see from the side of the eyes instead of from the middle. Sounds strange to do so in the beginning but try it and once you get a hang of it, its easy. I use this while driving and constantly work on developing the 180 degree view of the road, esp. while riding my motorcycle.

4) FOCUS ON SPACE: Instead of looking at your opponent in the dojo, focus on the space around them, this will rapidly shift your perception

5) CASTANEDA'S METHOD: Whilst walking rest your gaze gently on the horizon point and curl your fingertips, as if you were holding cylinders in each of your hands. Without moving the eyes and gently resting your gaze become aware of what is present in your peripheral vision, above you, beneath you, to your right and to your left. Continue this until such a time as the State deepens and settles."

The key benefits of moving from a foveal vision to peripheral vision are a) is that your opponents movements appears to slow down, allowing for more time to respond. b) is a critical step in the process to "stop the world", enter into what the Samurai arts have refereed to as Mushin or No-Mind c) absolutely invaluable for survival in new areas or environments d) You will quickly move into a state of extreme relaxation

Playing with the perception of time, and speed are critical attributes to train for a martial artist. Play with the methods described above - share your results, and if you are aware of methods please do share.

As always I remain open to your thoughts, comments and constructive criticism.

Mahipal Lunia Sensei (4 photos)

Martial Musing: The Wisdom Not To FIght

Martial Musing: The Wisdom Not To FIght

Martial Musing : The Courage & Wisdom Not To Fight

For years have taught my students at the public park in a predominantly blue collar town with its fair share of trouble seekers. That evening as I was working with a group of my brown belts, a drunk man walked through the class. He then went on the be less than respectful, and challenging my right to be in the park. Two of my senior students got ready to jump in, I noticed deep anger on their faces as their neck muscles tightening. I signalled them to stay put. The drunk then wanted me to apologize for being in his way, and I took a deep breath. At first felt a little anger creep in, then I took a step towards him. Held my hand out and said "am sorry for having caused you trouble, be well my friend. I am now going to go continue my training."

I stepped right past him firmly and respectfully, showing him am not afraid as I started teaching again. He looked at me in sheer silence for what seemed a minute and then walked away. I could still sense the anger on my most senior students face, who is respectful and feels very protective of me. "Sensei, we could have taught him a lesson. Why did you let him walk away disrespecting you like this?"

"You remember the parking lot incident? The 5'4 guy who was rude and came in to fight over a little parking spot. And he ignored the fact that his 6 year old daughter was watching , and she was terrified out of her wits? Well I walked away from that fight too. Even though I had already run more than a few scenarios in my head of how the fight would end - quickly." They all nodded remembering another incident not to long ago. So I continued " whats common between those two scenarios?"

"You did not fight Sensei, and let those disrespectful guys get away without teaching them a lesson." said F.

"Well, the purpose of a fight is to win. And in both cases I won, because I kept my freedom of choice and right to be a freeman. Besides what would the two fights have achieved? What would anyone have gained? A parking spot? Respect from a drunk guy? What after that.... how would I justify the use of "trained force" .. and what would the impact of that action be on my loved ones, and their loved ones.. esp the 6 year old."

The students now looked relaxed and surprised. And deep inside I was happy that in someways was able to demonstrate a key lesson on the warrior path. Sometimes walking away in peace, is perhaps the greatest victory. It may seem cowardly, but IMO it takes great presence of mind and courage to walk away from a meaningless confrontation.

Another student who does like to fight a bit asked "so when is it ok to fight?" And without missing a beat I answered "if I had my way Never. The only time I would be compelled to fight would be to protect a life or to stop an assualt. Thats my take, and you need to find yours. Though I want you to remember that there are serious consequences of actions. Not thinking of consequences leads to disaster all around. So the highest form of fighting is fighting your own inner urges to prove a point. That is the ultimate goal - to be in peace no matter what is happening around. And should it come down to drawing the sword, then make it quick and effective."

As conclusion I will summarize with

1. Walk away from every fight as much as you can, this requires a lot more courage than you think.  2. Apology does not make you smaller or wrong. You dont need to prove anything. Sometimes giving the other person a way to save face is all thats needed. 3. If it does come down to an alteration then apply only "justifiable force" and think "systemic consequences." War tactics are not needed for a simple argument and a simple hold will not suffice in a urban war scenario. Work those option out in your mind over and over again (more on this process in another post). This is the beginning of wisdom on the martial path. 4. All the years of training in the end is for learning to be at peace with violence and move towards harmony

This to me the courage and wisdom to NOT FIGHT.

As always I remain open to your thoughts and constructive criticism. Until next time Train Hard!

Mahipal Lunia

Martial Musing with Mahipal Lunia Sensei: Brevity in Motion

Martial Musing with Mahipal Lunia Sensei: Brevity in Motion

Martial Musing of the Day: Brevity In Motion

I always enjoy a great demo, with its high flying kicks, loud kiais and superhuman feats of power. It makes for great Martial Theatre. And back in the day I was as guilty of this as anyone else.

Now as I think about Martial Arts prowess, its not the high theatre that leaves me in awe, but how little the movements seem from the outside. And yet the opponents seem to disintegrate as though on their own accord.

What do I mean by this? I suggest you watch 1) A truly good Aikijujutsu person break structure and gain control with little movement 2) A skilled Filipino Martial Artist who in a fraction of a second has completed the kill 3) A true Internal Arts exponent, who is able to absorb energy like a willow tree and hit with FaJing (explosive energy) at will

The skilled practitioner wastes no time or energy to get the job done. There is effectiveness, elegance and directness while being completely aware of consequences. So as I train myself or teach others the emphasis is on

1. Making sure the techniques are executed with presence, awareness, focus and concentration 2. Focus on effectiveness, elegance & simplicity over theater by learning to remove as much as possible, and no more. The goal is to capture the essence of the technique

What I am getting at is that as Martial Artist evolves , the flash and doing a lot (which can be impressive to an untrained eye) goes away. In its place comes a mature sense of "just enough" movement with full awareness of consequences. An unskilled eye will not even catch the movement leave alone be in awe. I call this "Brevity of Motion" which IMHO is the soul of Martial Mastery!

As always I remain open to your thoughts and constructive criticism

Mahipal Lunia Sensei

Rules For Giving Great Martial Arts Demos & Blast from the Past

Rules For Giving Great Martial Arts Demos & Blast from the Past

I found this old video (early 90s) and saved a few minutes of it. The quality is a little grainy - however you can hear the sound of the swords clashing, the hard falls etc - as we PLAYED HARD! Back in the early 1990s when I was still a "young punk"in my teens, and had been training under Sastri Sensei for about 2 years. Its so interesting to watch this as it was many demos like this that got the art established in South Asia even attracting many 4th dans and above to join the dojo. To this day many of these high ranking masters refer to their time with Sastri Sensei with humility and awe!  The "Original Group of 6" Oku Iris under Sastri Sensei followed his example as much as possible. Of the original group of six - two made Menkyo and actively teach. 3 made Moku Roku and one remained at Oku Iri.

Sasti Sensei rules for Demos as I remember them -

1. Never rehearse for your demos, just do your thing - show what comes naturally from what you have learnt. 2. Always use live weapons be it Tanto (dagger), Ken (Sword) or sticks. 3. Seek what works, and make it yours 4. "Play with what you know" and never be afraid of who comes to play. You will always learn something. We always invited people from the audience to come and play with us - and as its a tradition in Asia, they usually did  5. Showcase your art in the best way you can, and dont stop even if you have made mistakes. Keep moving, until completion 

On this video you can see Mahipal Lunia Sensei and Melvin Francis Sensei "playing and demonstrating" in one of our many demos across South Asia. Jeevan Gowda Sensei provides the narration the expert announcer. And througout you can catch a glimpse of Ramesh Jodige Sensei across the screen.

 — with Jeevan C. Gowda and 4 others.

When Shit Hits The Fan - Training To Perform Under Duress with Mahipal Lunia

When Shit Hits The Fan - Training To Perform Under Duress with Mahipal Lunia

When Shit Hits The Fan!

What happens when all negotiations have failed and emotions start flaring? What happens when you end up in a real fight? In other words - what happens "when shit hits the fan?"

Over and over again I have seen even black belt ranks forget techniques and concepts when shit hits the fan. The reason is you react the way you train. Explaining this to some of my students has been hard. So decided to write about this a bit. Beautiful techniques are great fun to work on. Elegant concepts are fascinating and intellectually fulfilling. Embodying principles enable you to leverage nature itself. All this is awesome, and yet there is one all determining factor - how you react under duress! 

When under duress, the ability to remain aware, unleash the beast within and returning to a restful state is the difference that makes the difference. Most martial artists do not train for or under duress. I will share my thoughts and training methods of Mountain View Aiki Kai to develop this skill.

Situitional Awareness, evaluation of options and consequences will define your ability as a warrior. Key attributes to develop are 
1. Controlling of your mental and emotional states . Our brain is the biggest weapon and yet does not come with an owners manual. Learning how it works and the ability to take it into peak performance states at will are must have skills. Study neurpsychology and peak performance technologies, they will pay you dividends many times over
2. Manipulating the opponent's states mental and emotional states by
- Verbal Martial Arts to control the frame of the conversation (look up Milton model, Meta Model and Sleight of Mouth patterns from NLP)
- controlling his/her perceptions of threat
- controlling the choices s/he has

The next attribute (a quality or feature regarded as a characteristic or inherent part of you) is learning to unleash the beast within. This killer instinct is not a chip on your shoulder, but rather a state you can access. I always point my students towards studying big predators like pumas. You will notice they go from extreme relaxation into the kill frezy and back to poised relaxation in a matter of seconds. This flow between states has to become second nature. 

This calls for starting in calm composed fighting in the atemi/striking range. And as you breach the tegumi or trapping/locking range going into an animalistic frenzy ready to finish, much like the puma. And then allowing well honed training to bring the precision of a quick tactical kill (if needed) or finishing move. And from here returning into the calm composed person - all in a matter of seconds. If you do not train for this killer instinct, your techniques most likely wont work. Reason for this is two fold 

1. Brain research has shown over and over again that all learning is state dependent. If you are learning techniques only in the safe environment of a friendly studio, guess what? They will work great in the friendly environments and will be unaccessable in the heat of a battle. Dont take my word for it - try it. If you dont want to try it research state based learning/response.
2. The absence of the killer instinct will most likely move you from being the predator into the prey. The person with the greater access to this instinct will most likely win.

So after executing the finishing move return to your calm composed self in a jiffy. Discharge all emotional content and return to the ability to use your prefrontal cortex or thinking brain. And with it returns the ability to plan and take meaningful next steps 

This is skill - meaning an ability gained through practice. IMHO the true purpose of all martial arts training is to move from extreme duress to relative calm by using your skills. Learning to perform under this duress is the difference between life and death.

To develop this skill we use the following methods in my dojo ( 

1. Shugyos where we head into wilderness for days and train at the end of long days of hikes. Why we do this? Look at any special ops teams - be it the US Marines, the Russian Spetznag or the Philipine ParaMilitary. their training begins at the end of big runs or massive tasks. The goal is to exhaust mind and body before seeing what you do when push comes to shove.

2. All sparring is one against many attackers. there are no rules other than fighting within redefined confined space. The fighting stops with tap outs or chokeouts. We sometimes up the stakes by using blindfolds, tieing up hands/legs or use other handicaps.

3. Training with live weapons - you response will change in the face of steel as compared to wooden replicas

4. The practice of Kokyu Ho/Neija. The essense of both these age old practices is to bring the body back into harmony and into deep relaxation. This beings about the right functioning of the 14 meridians, balancing the 5 elements and building up your chi/ki. 

5. All the advanced students work on understanding their prime weapons - mind and body. Models such as Neuro Linguistic Programming, Spiral Dynamics and Peak performance are deeply studied. As they grow in rank, they spend time studing the energy anatomy. This is essential to build "your own manual of the mind-body to tune optimal states of being."

Remember when shit hits the fan you will not rise to the level of your martial arts aspirations. You will drop to the level of your best trained techniques and attributes. Build the skills of working under duress - this will make your art functional. It could be the factor that enables you to make those martial aspirations a reality in the future. 

Your thoughts? Mahipal Lunia 

Brain Up Shifting and Pure Reaction in the Martial Arts - Mahipal Lunia

Brain Up Shifting and Pure Reaction in the Martial Arts - Mahipal Lunia

A lot of martial artist spend a major part of their training time working on skills. Kata, Kumite, 2 man forms, weapons, and self defense sceanarios. And yet I keep hearing of black belts getting their butts kicked in fights. I believe there the two main reasons for this are rarely discussed, let alone trained. These two attributes are what I call "brain up shifting" and "pure reaction." 

When in a fight- flight situation , the first thing that happens is your amygdyla hijacks the thinking brain. The neocortex process are sidestepped. Your emotional brain now steps in to deal with the threat. The ability to think is down shifted, and your survival mechanism kicks in. Whats needed is ability to gain control of your thinking brain and response potential. This is what I call "brain up shifting" - the ability to gain control/reverse the brain amygdyla hijack. 

Ways to gain control/reverse this hijack include 

1. Slowing down your breathing 2. Shifting from focal to peripheral vision 3. Moving into formless relaxation and 4. Controlling distance between you and your threat 

If the matter escalates into a fight, you need "pure reaction." Intuitive, formless, and in harmony with what is coming towards you. The attack determines an equal and opposite response so there is zero pressure on you. This is beyond a system or a prescribed method of fighting, and into the realm of pure expression. And the best ways I have found to train for this include

1. Training to deal with attacks from a variety of systems. We live in a multi cultural world, and no one attacks only in one way. Learn the biases of different arts/cultures. 2. Spending time working on energy/flow drills to learn to read and feel how energy flows 3. Making distinctions between principles, concepts, attributes and techniques. And then training to have harmony in all the 4 aspects of training. 4. Putting personal expression above system. Mans survival is more important than stylistic loyalty. Focus on what is natural to you. Hone that! 5. Killer Instint and knowing your limits

A skill is something you can acquire or lose. Both 'brain up shifting" and "pure reaction" are conscious process' and skills. This means they have to trained for in a conscious way. The way you train is the way you are going to respond. 

So how are you training to deal with amygdyla hijack and pure reaction?