The Roots of Quantum – Part III

There are other aspects related to the search for technique; the second part lies in the application of movement. There is a purpose for the technique to exist, and that is found in its function. Traditionally, many empty handed Martial Arts (those that do not primarily use weapons) have matured as a system of self defense. In other words, the underlying purpose of the technique developed by these styles is to ward off a potential attack. There are many reasons to study Martial Arts; some seek exercise; others desire a more spiritual path; others want to compete, while still others wish to develop self defense. But no matter the reason that an individual chooses, if the impetus of that style is based in self defense, then the movements are going to reflect that idea in their structure. Certainly the philosophy that guides the progression of any basic strategy employed would also be affected, as would the general direction of the style itself. The thing that troubles me and seems to put these martial arts at odds with themselves is this: Self defense implies victimization.

SF Dojo

I would most certainly classify victimization as a fear. I was constantly put in a place of victimization as a child, hence I lived in fear – it was one of the things that drew me to the Martial Arts to begin with. After years of studying, I would still think strategically like a victim; afraid of going to strange new places; always on the look out for my potential attacker. I never left the country because I was afraid. I wouldn’t try new restaurants, or go places that didn’t seem safe to me (which was pretty much everywhere). It took years of unraveling to see that I was creating all of that myself, and it had been reinforced in my movements; stored in my muscle memory; locked in to the very structure of how I thought. As a Martial Artist, I study my movement to perfect my technique. In order to use your mind to break down and refine your movements, you must think in terms of how and where you get your power, consider distance, leverage, trajectory, physiology, targets, and of course application. This means that if you continue to refine a technique that is rooted in fear, then with each refinement and iteration of that technique you bury your fear even deeper in your consciousness; in essence, giving it a nice comfortable home complete with whirlpool bath, gourmet kitchen and 400 thread count sheets to lay its head on.

Of course, the deeper the root of your fear is buried, the harder it is to find, realize and begin the long unraveling of its insidious hold on your life. Over the first ten years of my martial arts career I continued to hone my thinking around these fear-based movements, and eventually my power was so tied into my fear that the two were inseparable. Making the choice to leave behind my fears at that point required a complete revamping of how I saw myself and my source of power. The outcome of that transformation was the birth of Quantum Martial Arts.

The Roots of Quantum – Part II

Although I had pursued martial arts for many years, it took over fifteen years for me to see myself as a competent martial artist. This sense of falling short of my expectations was nothing new to me; I had played the trumpet since 4th grade, and picked up the guitar in my sophomore year, but even after 25 years of doing that, I never saw myself as an artist. Even though it was me playing that trumpet, I believed that I was cheating in some way; at the very least, I was falling far short of my potential.Trumpet

It is my contention that we are all moved by forces unseen. Some of us state that we are only a particular way because of some circumstance from childhood, or that we come up with logical reasons for doing what it was that we do. But my reasons for continuing in the Martial Arts were all based upon my experience of the world at that time. I didn’t want some individual to “pass me up”, or I was afraid for my safety, or my self image was so fragile that it needed the propping up that Martial Arts seemingly provides. Then there were times that I continued and had no idea why I was still doing it – I just was. It is only with the grace that hindsight gives, or that time affords us, that I can see so much more clearly now. The truth of my life is that I have a gift, and that gift has brought me to an understanding of movement and timing. As these concepts gradually increased in depth and scale, they also brought me to pursue the gifts of truth and leadership. But mostly, I have developed the gift of sight. At the time, it seemed that the motivations I conjured up were the truth, but only because I was covered in fear. Fear stops you from seeing who you are. Fear disconnects you from your body and your mind. The very life of fear depends on you not knowing the truth –

Nothing can touch you.

Nothing can own you.

Everything is going to be all right.

Master Evans gives a 'grasshopper talk'
Master Evans gives a ‘grasshopper talk’

None of those ideas can exist while fear stands in the way. But oddly enough, fear plays a central role in the development of those ideas. While fear can stand in the way and block your view, it takes an act of faith and courage to move past your fear – hence a chance to see that while fear can present itself in a visceral way, it also allows the opportunity for exercising faith and courage. Fear can cause us to hide away from ourselves and try to stay the same, or fear can give the impetus to grow and expand beyond all previous limitations. While it can be the one thing that stops you from living a courageous life, it is also the one thing that allows it to exist.

Or, at least I thought that I had fabricated it.

We are moved by forces that we will never understand, but the more fear that you have to block your way, indeed the more investment in fear that you have, the less you will understand those forces and how they exert themselves on you. I did not make up the idea that I train to heal; I actually do train to heal. While it was true that I was already experiencing those aspects of my training, I was incapable of seeing or realizing their existence. By coming up with something that sounded reasonable to me at the time, I started down a path that I can never turn around on, and have since found all of these amazing resources tucked up inside a good reverse punch.

But it is quite another concept to seek out technique. The search for technique can be thought of in two parts.

One is the search for unhindered energy running cleanly through your body that is articulated as a dynamic expression of accurately focused power. This is the very real, physical attribute of technique; one that can be tested on boards, concrete, target pads, heavy bags. But there is also a look to good technique. When energy runs unhindered through a physical body, the path that it travels is beautiful. A true expression of power without need, want, or fear has the grace of dancing along with a full exposure of self; indeed there is a nakedness to it, for those who have eyes that can see. For me, the look of a fully supported leveraged movement virtually invokes a portrait by Davinci, with angles and vectors written out on aging parchment, showing ratios scribbled in the margins. But even for those who are not adept at seeing such things, there is a profound difference between a raw beginner attempting to contort their body in what would seem a very unnatural way to force energy out and a seasoned practitioner who has learned to release the things that stand in the way of that flow of energy and allow themselves to be naked. A question that I have asked myself over and over again is this: Is it the practice of the technique itself that refines that movement? Or is it the releasing of that which stands in the way of the natural flow of energy in the human body? In my estimation, it is both; and it is neither.

More about technique next!

Happy New Year

A new year is upon us once again; this will make the seventh year I’ve been in San Francisco trying to make a dojo happen from essentially nothing. Back in 1995 when I started the Seattle dojo, I did it by myself, with no other teachers to help me, and a mere eight students to begin teaching. It took over ten years to create a viable dojo that could take care of itself, enough to free me to move to California. The big difference here is that I’m not thirty years old any more; even if I were, I would not choose to start a dojo with such a bare bones team to help.

2013 was the year that San Francisco produced our first Red Belt, and created a few more teachers – necessary components for the creation of a permanent full-time dojo. Necessary because, once again, I’m not thirty years old any more. Back in 1995 I worked 12 hour days for years, six to seven days a week. I had no balance outside of the dojo, and it was literally a crazy time to be a part of that era of Quantum. There were many equally positive things that came out of that era, and I while I wouldn’t want to repeat that kind of craziness, I also wouldn’t trade that experience for anything; kind of like Marine Corps Boot Camp.

This is more because martial arts without balance is not really practicing in the true spirit of your training. Your training is there to assist you in becoming a whole person; a whole person is one that engages with life on all levels and lives fully in the moment. We don’t train hard so that we can just do more karate; we train hard to earn our freedom.

As we embark on this new path of creating our permanent home in San Francisco, I am reminded of the adage that “many hands make light work”. Without the support of all of the members of the our dojo community, our endeavor is doomed to fail. But if any number of us loses sight of the importance of balance, we are also doomed to fail; as we have learned from the relentless pursuit of our art, power without balance is a useless thing.

As more opportunities arise to allow every one of you to step up to the collective plate of this endeavor, I urge you all to reflect on how a balanced approach will create a dojo community that will endure and hence challenge each of us for years to come. In any not-for-profit venture, there arises the thought that if you don’t step up to do any given task along the way, that it will not get done. In truth, you must make space for all to have a place to step up and contribute in a way that is commensurate with each person’s gifts and abilities.

As each of you looks for a way to volunteer, remember to balance your approach with all that is needed in your life; this is truly reflective of the martial way.

I am looking forward to a great 2014!