Martial Musings- To Be The Bomb, Own Your VOM!

Martial Musings- To Be The Bomb, Own Your VOM!

"Even after these years of training, I am afraid of the Knife, Sensei!" exclaimed a senior student.

"And you should be. It is your survival instinct kicking in. The real question should be how to channel this fear into a whole new kind of training."

He looked at me a little confused. He wanted easy answers - something I refuse to give. The task at hand now was to open his mind and see how he swims.

So I provoked him: "Attack me with what you fear."

He took the tanto and leaped forward with Angle/Strike 1.

I did a traditional Aikijujutsu parry (Taisabaki 5&6), control (Kansentsuwaza) and disarm.

Wham. Bam. Thank you for the Tanto Sam!

I had him attack again. Angle/Strike 5. This time I met it with a cross block, reversed the knife ('Snaking' for the FMA aficionados), and sent it flying with ease. Then I unleashed a barrage of close range strikes with my 8 limbs.

Knife hand tie. Tanto go fly. Now you Die!

I had him strike again. He made it a thrust. Angle/Strike 4. My body responded. Fingers met the flat edge of the knife and in an instant launched it back into his body. His eyes widened in disbelief.

Meet it. Greet it. Return it!

He stood still. Somewhat in awe, he protested he wouldn't ever be able to do it.

I added emphatically "YET. You cannot do it YET. Yet you will soon."

"How will I remember all the combinations, and know what to do in real time, Sensei? There is no way for me to master all combinations so I can just respond. This is why I am afraid of the blade."

I was reminded of a story from the "Secret Teachings of Self Defense Yamato Ryu Jujutsu" by Jushinsai Sato.

Tetsushu Yamaoka, a famous swordsman, was once asked by one of his friends,"What is the ultimate meaning of your swordsmanship?" Yamaoka-San responded with "I am letting Kwannon-san keep that answer for me." The following day the friend went to the famous Asakusa Temple to see the answer for himself. There he found three ideograms in front of the temple, above his head, which read: Se-Mu-I.
Semui means, "Donate fearlessness to all the sentient beings of the world."

An old teaching story had become real for me. It bought home the role of Bushido, and perhaps the role of a teacher in that moment. The student had opened the door for the teacher to learn as well.

"Fear is natural. It is a friend if you use it, and your worst enemy if it uses you. How we move in the presence of fear makes all the difference. Let us demonstrate something here."

I started to draw a matrix on the mud. On the horizontal axis I laid out 4 Ranges - Weapons, Long, Medium and Short.

I took our basic Tai Sabaki as a way to show how our parries deal with this problem. In the long range we did Ko-ran or cat stepping. In the long to medium range, our basic Ju-Ai or square-cross parries. Now as moved real close we adapted the same concept into JuJi or crossing parries. The students nodded. They had done this many times, and quickly understood it..

Next, I drew the vertical axis with three sections. Standing, Kneeling and Lying. I continued, "Now the TaiSabaki needs to be executed/adapted at these vertical depths as well. You could be attacked at anytime - while standing, sitting or sleeping. This gives you a map of 12 possibilities even within our basic TaiSabaki concept.

I added the 3rd dimension of timing next - the 5 possible timings within our system ( Block, Block and Strike, Stop hit, Feign retreat and counter strike AND pure strike)."

I could see the students shake their heads, that it would be impossible to work all the techniques, let alone gain mastery over it all. I continued to explain that because the whole map of movement is so large some teachers tend to work on a few stylistic preferences. Over time this gets hardened into THE ONLY way of doing things within the school. And if a range/timing of our liking/training does not show up, we are perplexed with what to do next.

The students were getting uncomfortable.

GOOD, perhaps we will all learn something here.

The same disheartened student exclaimed with nervous laughter "Am I just screwed if am not gifted?"

"Or you learn to work towards mastery of your personal movement matrix. Meaning instead of learning different styles for each range or working each technique through the 60 possible combinations (3x4x5), work on the things that that transcend style and schools. Work on the things that can unfold naturally in a given context, rather than working only in the confines of certain stylistic handicaps. This is your personal Vocabulary Of Movement (VOM). And it is a very conscious choice and study."

If you work on unfolding yourself naturally in real time, no matter what the environment, then you stand a chance. Your personal VOM needs to excel at 4 things:

1. Controlling range/distance (How I enter/appear)

2. Seeing the lines/angles and timing (How I respond to transform)

3. Dealing with the 'Oh Shit, I miscalculated' (How I recover and recalibrate)

4. Finishing moves (How I leave/disappear)

There was silence for a bit, and then the question "So why do we learn all these techniques and methods? I mean we have 60 possible ways of moving around the 6 Locks, 9 throws and 2 waza, each with 4 major henka/variations?"

"So you learn all to see possible combinations and respond to any permutations. And as you get better and better, you begin to drop the way of styles and move towards the way of systems. And from here you begin to drop the systems to go towards to the way of martial motion. Smaller. Cleaner. More effective VOM. However you do need the ability to create new movements at will."

This is the journey of transitioning from a Student -> to Practitioner -> to Master. The students follows the rules -> the practitioner plays within the rules -> the master plays with the rules themselves. The student drills down to specifics -> the practitioner chunks up -> the master generalizes.

The authority figures for the student is completely outside onself -> The practitioner's authority is a select peer group -> while the master has bought authority back to oneself.

The mind that began by looking at differences -> then evolves to studying the differences and similarities -> then it finally embraces the similarities while appreciating the stylistic differences

In other words, the journey is towards generalized movements that transcend styles/systems to work exceedingly well for each individual's gifts and handicaps. The journey is not about adding more and more, but about removing all but the essential. This to me the genius, way more fascinating than the entire smorgasbord of any system/system. For the system/style is but the encapsulation of someone else's moment of truth, rather than the one you live by.

So here is my short encapsulation

  1. Study lines of possible movement (Our system has 10).
  2. Examine how to appears and disappears from that line fluidly (Taisabaki).
  3. Transform what has been fed (technique or intent) into a still object that won't be a threat anymore.

To me this is all the movement one needs to make your own. The smorgasbord of our systems movements is huge. You don't have to eat everything. You pick what your body calls out and make it yours. This will leave you healthy and wise. Pick from it what calls you forth each time. Eating everything everytime is perhaps possible, but will definitely leave you feeling like crap and immobile so to speak. The choice is yours - healthy and mobile or crappy and immobile.

The student exclaimed "Then why spend all this time studying the map of 60 possible movements for each waza ? Why not just study the handful of movements that work?"

I recognized the logic from another time in my life, and with laughter, reminded him that there is a reason we study the classics of war: to glean the encapsulated wisdom from them. I reminded him the passage from the "The Prince:"

"A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from snares, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize snares, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this."

The students nodded.

Freezing due to fear means death. Learning to move is your best chance of survival. We tend to move in ways we train and study. So spend time in studying how you emerge from the smorgasbord of all possible movements.

"You have fear because you are frozen by all the possible options. This comes from learning material only skin deep. Go deeper, practice it diligently , some of it will sink into your muscles. These methods will be at your command, giving you the ability to relax into them at will. Now study the material that is muscle deep , bringing it into your bones where you own it and can unleash this as though by magic.

This is the age-old metaphor: Go skin-deep with all things, muscle-deep with the patterns that connect, and bone-deep with your pure expressions. As you do this, your fears will let go and you will emerge.

And before we close, fear will tighten your body, freezing you. This means you will be hit and cut more easily. The answer is this dilemma is as best captured by the Bene Gesserit in Dune.

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain."

And for you to remain, you got to move like only you can. Go learn and master your VOM.

Until next time remember,

To be the Bomb, own your VOM!

Mahipal Lunia, Sensei

Geometry of Motion

Geometry of Motion


Martial Musings: Geometry of Motion (The Great Secret)


If you had to describe the "shape" or "geometry" of your fighting...

....what shape would you think it is?

Last week I was working with two MA practitioners: a Tai Chi adept of 25+ years and a Muay Thai practitioner of 10+ years. Both have very different styles and different approaches to combat, which makes a for the perfect laboratory to sharpen skills.

While teaching them a combat framework, I introduced the concept of "FIghting Shapes" or "Geometry of Motion."

Body motions break down into a handful of shapes, a specific geometry. One may think about them in broad terms:

1. Squares (which hold within them perfect triangles and the letter H)

2. Circles

3. Ovals (the circle elongates, and an isosceles triangle lies within it, giving birth to perfect

4. Spirals

Each one of these shapes comes with a specific series of motions and possibilities.

Bu t they also shut down others.

With me so far? OK.

Over time, martial art styles naturally specialize in a specific geometry. This geometry eventually fathers a whole set of movements within the style/system.

So, let's play a small mental game.

Take 10 seconds to look all around you to note everything that is green. You want to count as many green objects as possible.

Ready? Go.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0.

Don't cheat! Make sure you do this little thought experiment before you proceed.


Now, close your eyes, and try to remember the things you saw around you that were red.

Yes. Red.

The results tend to shock people. Most cannot recall even a handful of red items. This is because over time (even in those 10 seconds), you've trained your consciousness to "look for green." The mind is cybernetic (goal seeking) and predictive (not reactive as many think it is).

So what does this color test have to do with the geometry of fighting?

MA practitioners become familiar within the lines of geometry hard-coded within their system of training and become blind to the others.

This could spell D-E-A-T-H.

In order to move from possible DEATH to possible LIFE, master the lines. Learn to mix them up, to create options for yourself and to mess up your opponent.

I've often demonstrated to my students how changing the lines, messes up the opponent. With the muay thai fighter recently, I went circular - only to see his linear self... stop moving for a bit. With the Tai Chi practitioner, I went oval, and his circular eyes started twitching and he began to hesitate. Those vital seconds that can decide life and death. In such demonstrations, I have had students unconsciously walk straight into a waiting punch. They just don't see it, even when I have explained it to them. They don't see the red. Yes, it is that powerful.

Try. It. Play. With. It.

Mak e your body remember and learn the rules.

Beat the squares and triangles with your circles.

Cut through the circles with sharp ovals.

Overcome the penetration of ovals with spirals.

Cut the spirals with the squares/triangles.

This rabbit hole continues. The preferred geometry then starts even dictating weapon choice. Think of all the discussions on knife design and choice - they all cut differently. This has to do with geometry the practitioner likes. Conversely learning a new weapon teaches new motion, new geometry.

Want to make it even more powerful, go deeper down the rabbit hole? The shapes/movements have/emit specific sounds. See how the sounds you create assist and hinder specific geometry - not only in yourself, but in your opponent. Note the triggers and watch your world expand...(if this interests you, look up Cymatics to begin)

...but more on that later.

But in the meantime, my question for you is this : what's your "fighting shape?" Is your training skewed towards one or two geometries? How do you plan to strengthen your fluency in the geometry of motion?

Train to bring in all the geometry in. Remember the way you train is the way you will react.

Best Regards

Mahipal Lunia, Sensei


Martial Musings- Syntax of Effortless Throws

Martial Musings- Syntax of Effortless Throws



Martial Musings: Syntax of Effortless Throwing


I have long searched for the Universality that makes for good martial motion. Insights on effortless throwing, though mine, became possible due to a combination of traditions -Aikijujutsu (SS, HRV & DA), Panantukan & Dumog (RS) , Silat (JK) and Baguazhang (BKF). Having spent a better part of 2014 & 2015 testing this insight, I now would like share it.

It was 7 AM, 37F degrees on a cold frosty Saturday morning at our Rengstorff Park Dojo. A handful of students were present, bundled up ready to train. I decided to unravel what I now call the "Syntax of Effortless Throwing".

I started the dialogue to get their juices flowing. Preferably, students arrive at the conclusion/discovery themselves where by "my" insight becomes, forever, theirs. My question to them on that chilly morning was, "what makes all our 9 throws and 4 major henka/variations effortless ?"

Responses ranged from "10k hours of practice" to "flow" to "luck."

I gave them a hint: "What is common across them all, what is the platform? If we view each throw as a specific application, then what makes the operating system (OS)?"

Silence. Thinking is hard work.

The OS is "universal laws of martial motion," regardless of style, system, race etc. We all have but two arm and two legs, and they can move in a finite number of natural patterns. Learning to tweak and recombine them is what separates mastery and pure expression from monkey see, monkey do.

I went through a bunch of our system's throws...and slowed the mechanics down. I then started to speak out loud as I executed the throws. As the pattern started to unravel in front of their eyes, I gave them the syntax, the algorithm.

"Perform Tai Sabaki, connect to the body, move into continuous locking until you get the spine, shift the opponent's c enter/weight and execute the throw."

Let's break it down.

Step 1: Tai Sabaki - Within our system, your body moves in 10 specific angles. These angles nuetralize the attack and minimize opponents options, while maximizing your own options. This is the foundation, now, you begin the task of

Step 2: Adhesion (Connecting & Sticking) - Begin to bridge of the gap (entering safely) and moving into the trapping zone (dreaded by many, but this is the stuff that seperates masters from the amateurs). You have now checked the opponents limbs and are connected as one system: adhesion at its best. From here one moves to

Step 3: Lock(ing) the Skeletal Structure - Progressively apply pressure on the opponents joints. The goal here is to create a wave of locking until the opponent finds their spine/skeletal structure locked/frozen - unable to move. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the neck and lower spine. The opponent's c hoice is to either collapse on himself (congratulations, you have an otoshi) or

Step 4: Move weight onto one leg - to release the pressure from the spine. With this you will notice the body move, the center is dislodged and shifts, creating that perfect opportunity to

Step 5: Executive the throw - BAM!

Do not forget to follow up, and finish the fight.

Don't take my word for it though. Try it, tweak it and make it yours. Each component on the algorithm has a purpose, leaving any out may come with a heavy price tag:

No TaiSababaki - you will be hit or not be in range, and the resulting struggle ensures

No Connecting - you will lose the sense of how you function as a system. Instead of skill you will try to muscle your way through.

No Skeletal Freezing - the opponent has plenty of opportunities to free himself/herself and in the worst case, counter attack.

No Weight Shift - yo u don't own your opponent's center and you will need to use tremendous effort to live.

See how you can adapt and bring true awareness into your movements. Without understanding the pieces of the whole, you leave a lot to chance.

And the biggest takeaway from this is - you now use all the throws you already know as suggestions only. You are able to mix/match them into entirely new possibilities - your own throws. Think about that. That is the true freedom of understanding and making this insight function.

Let me know if you have any questions or insights. I look forward to learning together.

Best regards,

Mahipal Lunia, Sensei









Martial Musings- Slowing Down For Exquisite SKill

Martial Musings- Slowing Down For Exquisite SKill

Martial Musings: Slowing Down For Exquisite Skill

"Slow Down!!" I screamed.

The students were working on Tenshin Nage (Heaven & Earth throw), an advanced technique in our Ryu. The Ukes' were eager to throw the Tori into the earth, head first.

It is important to understand the two terms - Uke and Tori. Uke is the one who defends or one who receives. Tori, on the other hand, does not mean attacker but s/he who completes the technique. This is an important distinction as the goal in dojo is to "learn the way towards self mastery". That self mastery can take many forms, however, for now we will stick to elegant skill.

I return now to the throw. I demonstrated how the throw could be done in two ways:

1. Hard powered: sheer muscle strength that uproots and slams the Tori into the ground. This can get rather choppy as the Uke/Tori begin to muscle up, leading to stiff jerky movements.


2. High Skill: This time with Aiki: a complete unbalancing of the opponent coupled with skeletal freezing, before the tori goes into the ground head first. The Tori actually helps complete the technique, as the only way s/he can move is along the path of the technique.

High skill in any martial endeavor requires technique done slowly, with effectiveness. When students first begin to move slowly they begin to notice:

  • Their technique is rather choppy with one, two or more distinct stops and restarts. This slows and breaks the rhythm of the technique
  • Their balance and central axis (the spine) is off. They are in conflict with the Earth's gravity
  • They are not using the needed muscles and fascia they need and over compensation sets in. The right chaining of muscles and fascia is non existent, resulting in over-exertion.
  • Their technique does not have that smooth, clean aesthetic appeal. With this comes a loss in the art of self mastery.

As the Ukes struggled to get the Tori off the ground, they became aware of what needed fixing.

I emphasized, "if you cannot do it slowly, you really won't be able to do it real time. What matters is that the techniques are done with finesse, with economy of motion while conserving energy. This is what seperates the pros from the 'also-rans'."

One of the students asked if this meant training "like Taiji." Noticing a small smirk on his face, I responded with a resounding YES. Then I demonstrated, moving in near slow motion (10% of speed) through every stage of the throw.

He now paid attention.

I then explained what slowing down means.

1. It maintains the integrity of the technique/s. Do not change it's rhythm

2. It works the technique with as much smoothness and finesse as possible

3. It uses only the minimum required muscles, thereby building a complete awareness of how the body moves. This involves only contracting the required muscles while completely relaxing the antogonistic muscle groups. This is a hard skill to master and will keep you on your toes for years.

4. Finally, it works at various speeds. When I am learning something new, I typically move at at least 4 speeds. 10%, 25%, 50%, and then topping out at 70% of my potential. When I am intimately familiar with it, and my form has smoothened out, then and only then, do I proceed to train at near 100% for very short bursts.

Do a few thousand repetitions this way and you will transform your martial arts:

1. You clean out kinks in your techniques

2. You will come into a deep awareness of your body proper. Awareness first develops at the level of individual muscle, then at the fascia and finally at the mystical union called Ken Tai Ichi (sword and body being one)

3. You will move with high awareness, with a new enriched proprioceptive sense. This new deepened proprioception will make you acutely aware of how you are organized in relationship to time/space around you.

So where should you start?

Start with your systems basics. Play with it. Here are some ideas:

1. Pick a particular series of techniques to work on each day

2. Organize your training in ’10%, 25%, 50% and 70% weeks’, where all techniques are trained at a specific speed. Or, pick one technique and work varied speeds on day 1, move to the next technique day 2 and so forth. This will keep your muscles in a state of confusion and minimize boredom

3. Play some music and move to the beat staying with the randomness of the playlist.

Remember, if you cannot do it slowly, you wont be able to do it in real time. And to do with exquisite precision, slow and smooth is required in every aspect of the technique.

Good luck with your training, and let me know if you have any question.

Mahipal Lunia, Sensei

Martial Musings- Blades as Windows to Life, Revelations of Soul!

Martial Musings- Blades as Windows to Life, Revelations of Soul!

Martial Musings: Blades - Windows to Life, Revelations of Soul!

My earliest martial memories are of wanting to swing the Katana (Samurai Sword), much like the character of Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman. Those old Japanese movies never tired me out (much to my parents' disdain).

It was not until many years later, in my teens, that I held a real tanto: Sastri Sensei's tanto. It was sleek, sharp and deadly and to my eyes, it was the most beautiful piece of art ever.

He handed it to me and asked me to attack.

My hands gripped the Tsuka (handle), and felt the silk Iro (binding). The steel blade reflected my face like a mirror and evoked within me a deep sense of awe. Drawing upon some unseen strength and composure, my spine straightened into my Kamae (ready stance). Attack, reversal and I saw my face reflected in the blade again.

I WAS IN LOVE! With cold, sharp and deadly steel.

Two decades later, the affair continues with Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and American blades.

This week was one of cold nights in California and most students stayed away. A few of the dedicated showed up and I decided to work with a combination of Tanto and Yawara holds.

We worked with at least half a dozen yaware holds with the knife. Then we did some quarter speed random flow/free flow knife sparring. The objective was to "not get cut, correctly angle out and deliver your own kill."

Our sessions always end with a summary what we did and a dialogue. "The Knife evokes many different moods. Fear. A feeling of Awe. Sometimes sacred. A sense of something Magickal. If you approach your relationship with the Tanto (blade) with honesty, it is a perfect mirror. The way one holds and relates with a knife reveals a lot. Pay attention, it could save your life and reveal your soul."

One of my students asked what specifically he should pay attention to. I confessed, I do not know of a map or algorithm for all possible combinations. Yet, there are a few things everyone can notice:

  1. How do you/your opponent like to brandish the blade? Is it straight grip, reverse grip or ice pick? Clue in on his/her prefrential Ma-ai (distance) and cutting style.
  2. Is the blade in your face, moving side to side or coiled in like a snake ready to strike? S/He is giving you pointers on their preferred strategy.
  3. Does s/he get hyper or relax into the blade? You now know their comfort with the steel.
  4. Is the blade fresh out of a store or does it have the scars of time? This helps you get a clue if w/he is a recreational user, a collector or one who actually uses this as a tool.
  5. Traditional Kamae or a dancer/fencer? Marking this will give you clues on their mobility, speed and lines of attack.
  6. How tense/relaxed is the body, especially the eyes and shoulders? Those with tensed body/eyes skew as one trick ponies or are prone to nervousness and sudden movement

These are but some pointers and, much like life, the study of the knife is filled with surprises. After most students had left a senior student asked me how the knife is a revelation of the soul.

"Well, let's look at how you move with the knife. You exclusively use the hammerhead grip, try to keep the opponent at bay and bet your life on one strategy. When you spar, you only see the knife and nothing else."

He nodded and I continued, "Where else do you do that in your life...? Everywhere where you have a challenge - you only see that one challenge and nothing else that might be coming your way. It is currently your only strategy, betting the whole house on that one move." He laughed nervously.

We continued going through fighting strategies of some other students. How one student would use "deception as the only strategy" while another relied on "traditional forms" and yet another "did not care a damn." In short, under duress, people tend to revert to their comfort zone using only one key strategy.

Nature aims for efficiency and successful strategy is rewarded when it is hard coded. Does this mean we are doomed to one strategy?

Not necessarily. It takes work.

It takes conscious training to build in new responses. These new strategies then become hard coded in the body-mind, building a flexible fighter. Flexibility brings more choices in how we "choose to respond to life."

This is the meaning of "as in dojo, so in life". If you rely only on one thing in the dojo, you probably do the same in life. Build choices in the dojo, and you train yourself for more choices in life.

And most importantly, building a flexible, pliable ego in the pursuit of understanding those choices is crucial to building a flexible, adaptable fighter.

Oh, before I forget. The knife has traditionally been used in various magical and religious orders, as a way to “cut the veil" and "protect oneself from forces seen or unseen." Think about that.

Over the last few years, I have moved to learning Espada y Daga and Western Rapier. This means new kinds of blades, renewed fascination, and the unlocking of my own inner spaces. It has started to change how I move and respond. It is changing how I dance with and for life.

On my drive home that cold California evening, I found myself smiling ear to ear. I had seen that fire, that awe of knife again - in my students' eyes.

Live your knife. Train. Learn from it. Reveal it and reveal your soul.

Mahipal Lunia, Sensei

Martial Musings: A Warrior Cruise is Not A Martial Expedition

Martial Musings: A Warrior Cruise is Not A Martial Expedition

 I stood in disbelief as he continued his infomercial: 

   “I have accomplished everything in the Martial Arts. I’m a lineage holder with  X, have taught the elite forces of Y, and now I want to hand over the Secret  of Secrets to some     worthy masters such as yourself.” 


    By now I could hardly stand to hear a word from this 40-ish , self-proclaimed master of many a discipline, but he undauntedly continued with, “the structure of light, the geometry of the martial arts and other big concepts,” all while dropping names that would have made the “Black Belt Hall of Fame” blush. 


    I was getting angry.  


    Wanting a way out of his sales pitch badly disguised as an intelligent conversation, I unapologetically started challenging his understanding of the subjects he claimed mastery over.  He got the message, grudgingly thanked me for my time, and walked away. After that encounter, he chose to avoid me both in person and online, knowing I would not serve his purpose. This is a good thing. For if he had pushed any further I would have had to invite him to “prove what you say you can do, in real time.” 


    It all happened at a popular Martial Arts event and the whole episode bothered me for days. But why did it (has it) weighed on me so much? 


    It comes down to two fundamentally different set of values and interpretations regarding :

  1. The purpose of Martial Arts
  2. The role of its Teachers

It was a clash of Old School and New School perspectives. 


He represented the New School, and I… the dying Old School.


In the Old School, the paramount purpose of Martial Arts is effective self preservation. It is not about the theory of everything nor is it about esoteric concepts. Don’t get me wrong, I love late night intelligent dialogue into esoterica. However, those are only meaningful when one has earned the right to do so by the humble  single-minded pursuit in the dark corners of ones existence. 


Teaching is serious stuff. And Old School teachers do three things exquisitely well.  


First, they pass down the personally verified patterns that work.  Second, they embody the student with a code of generative learning and humility. Third, they serve as an enzyme to the student’s growth . Old School is all about extreme functionality, engineering ones attention, respect and unending mutual growth.


The New School is an alien creature to me. Marketing, bravado and social association have replaced demonstrable skill as proof of martial prowess. The role of martial arts has moved into the realm of building and protecting a differentiated business proposition. The teachers role has shifted from trusted mentor and lifelong friend to a service provider you can hire. With this shift, one now teaches flash, builds a cult of personality and entertains the student. The New School is a lot about entertainment, capturing attention, self -glory and business growth.


    I explained these distinctions to my students on a later date. One of them asked if they made the difference in the Art itself or something else.


    I told him, “I don’t think it has much to do with the Art. It has more to do with the instructor’s approach and  their perceived sense of control.” 


    When the instructor thinks s/he can control the environment of his Art, it can lead to proficiency over a limited set of controlled situations. Therefore the New School model works for those who seek the security of established maps to mitigate all risks. However, it closes open learning and can lead to great arrogance if the known maps are not constantly supplemented with new maps.


    The more maps one traverses, the more one learns there is very little one can control. The only thing you can control is your own response…and then you embark into the realm of spontaneity. This path is fraught with great risks and discovery. Success does not come easy. One has to embody humility, great awareness and an ever-curious mind.  That…is Old School. 


    If you are seeking to be educated in the martial ways, entrained to growth and embark on an undefined journey then look for what I call Old School. This path will be marked with the insignia of humility, working for years in solitude, and a small strong community


    The reward is in the pursuit.


    If you are seeking to be entertained and have a clear path to stardom then follow what I call the New School. This path is marked by great publicity, loads of acquaintances/networks, years of trading public acknowledgements and the reward of a “following“. 


    A student wanted me to clarify the distinction between the Network/Following of the New School and the Community of the Old School.  I responded, “Post on your Facebook that you are moving away and that you have a tons of unfinished work.  Your Network will like your status and comment, where are you moving to? But your Community will ask, when can we show up to help?


    It is a profound difference. 


    The student asked me for  a simpler distinction between the New and Old Schools. I needed an easy analogy. After thinking a bit I responded,


    “Imagine a trip to Antartica. You can either take a cruise ship or set out on an expedition. Cruises are sold to many people on different levels with promises of safety, fun and the envy of your friends. On the cruise all your needs, wants and whims are catered by a willing staff. You just need to show up looking good for the photo ops.  Then show those pictures to all your envious acquaintances and you can even fancy yourself as an Antarctic traveler. 


The expedition is a self-selected group that embarks on a journey most will call madness. This is the man who goes solo or in a small group to the continent and gets on a small boat to set out exploring. He has no guarantees of his needs being met on an untravelled path let alone returning safely. This is a different creature all together.”


My student blurted out, “the expedition is not for everyone.” 


I agreed. “That is why the cruise ship captain should not try to sell to explorers. And why explorers should not try to convince cruise ship captains to change course.  Two different sets of values and ends. There is room in the world for both kinds of journeys. Like Old School and New School…it’s best to keep separate things separate.”


Let me be very clear, this does not mean there shouldn’t be a New School, that there should not be any cruisers. This is not about Old School vs. New School. In fact, New School is necessary because without it…no one would be intrigued enough to peer into the depths of the Old School ways. Without the cruiser getting bitten by the travel bug, there would be no explorer wanting to go at it alone. We need both. 


All I’m saying is…be cautious in promoting the New School to those of the Old School. While we understand the language…we remain uninterested. 

To each their own journey, and the fruits that come with it. For me, that means back to my dojo and the happiness of the struggle. And above all PEACE having learned not to confuse the cruise ship journey with the expedition or advertisements that invariably come my way. 


Does this make sense? 


Mahipal Lunia, Sensei

Martial Musings: A bonfire for those Titles, Belts and Scrolls

Martial Musings: A bonfire for those Titles, Belts and Scrolls

Martial Musings: A bonfire for those Titles, Belts and Scrolls

If you are easily offended, don't read this.

This is a personal meditation on a few things I see rampant in Martial Arts...a few things I disagree with. This is not aimed at any one person or system, but rather a self reflection on the artistic expression I hold dear.

This week, a young 30-something man introduced himself to me as as a Grandmaster of not one but two different systems. I was left speechless by this marketing of his martial accomplishments. Undeterred, he insisted on being called Grandmaster and to be respected for his self-given rank in the Martial Arts. I obliged with polite smile, bowed and then walked out. 

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.

Feeling Fully - 9 Ideas you Can Implement  Starting Today

Feeling Fully - 9 Ideas you Can Implement Starting Today

I heard police sirens blasting behind me. It was around 3 am and three of my buddies were really drunk and very loud. I tried to calm them down as the cop walked over, to my window, as we idled on California’s famed Pacific Coast Highway. The cold wind gusted and there was a weird fusion of sounds: waves crashing, trance music, sirens... and some very loud, happy guys.

Martial Review: Kosta Danaos' Books on Neikung methods of Mopai

Martial Review: Kosta Danaos' Books on Neikung methods of Mopai

In the 1990’s I saw a documentary by two brothers Lawrence and Lorne Blair’s who were exploring Indonesia. The documentary left me in an odd mixture of disbelief and awe. It was my first introduction to the esoteric world of Chi or Ki. They managed to get a very private and mysterious man who they called “Dynamo Jack” on tape showing some rather strange abilities.