Friday, April 20, 2007

Kali and Tuhan

I've been taking Kali for over three years now. When I first started this blog, it was typically my favorite subject to write about. During that time I started Brazilian jiujitsu and capoeira classes. Each of these styles have led me through humbling experiences. Repeated arm-lock submissions in jiujitsu and headkicks and handstands in Capoeira have taught me over and over again to respect other styles.

What makes the form of Kali that I study different than the other two arts is it's creator. My teacher's teacher, Tuhan Joseph Arriola. The first thing that caught my attention in the first seminar I attended with him was the amount of power he could summon in his strikes. Since then, I've realized that the power was only a subset of the relentless tinkering he does, and the amount of attention he gives to every nuance of every movement.

I remember going to classes with my teacher, Gura Michelle, as well as with Tuhan where the exercise we started the class with made absolutely no sense. Then, by the end of the class, every time, I'd see. In most arts a strike is a strike. With Tuhan, every aspect of any movement can be used to advantage. But, like with the classes I described, the explanation would be as esoteric as some of the beginning drills seemed to me. It really has to be seen and felt to be understood. Even, then it might be hard to understand, but you can tell what the end goal is when you get hit, faked, or pushed to the ground with what appears to be little effort.

Although the stick demo below is my favorite one, it still isn't the same as being there. Or even better, playing against Tuhan. If you're ever in the San Francisco Bay Area during seminar time, and you value martial arts, make sure you take some time out to attend. One of these days when I get some extra cash (monthly Kali and Capoeira class payments start to add up), I'll get out there again and mix it up.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Peter Egan's Side Glances

My earliest car memory was when I was maybe 5 years old and we were visiting my Grandfather in Chicago. We went for a ferry ride in Lake Michigan and on the pier was a store with a bunch of wind up toy cars. I wanted one so bad, but we had spent enough money just getting to Chicago. To this day I still collect Hot Wheels to make up for that disappointment.

My next pivotal car memory occurred in sixth grade. My teacher raced cars and always had a stack of car magazines in the back. I didn't even know magazines like that existed. He had a Road and Track with Lamborghini Countach and a Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer on the cover and that was all I needed to see.

From then on I collected magazines like Road and Track, Car and Driver, Motor Trend, Car, and eventually Automobile just so that I could see the latest cars and debate with my brothers and friends over which car was the best ... fastest ... coolest ... etc. For the first 10 years of collecting, I rarely read the editorial articles. Then one day, I figured I'd get my money's worth and read an entire magazine from cover to cover. That's when I found Peter Egan's column Side Glances.

Reading his page-and-a-half column would always transform me into another world. He'd rarely write about what was going on in the rest of the magazine. I don't think he even spends more than a day a year at the magazine's head office, but he could tell a car story like no one else. Whether it was about roadkill, junkyard thievery, summer motoring in a convertible, or just dealing with endless garage projects he always made it interesting.

By the time I made this discovery I had already thrown away 10 years worth of Road and Track magazines, and I was kicking myself for not reading any of his columns when I had the chance. Now, more than 25 years have passed since I picked up that first magazine, 15 years since I "discovered" Mr. Egan. There are other good automotive columnists like Automobile's Jean Jennings and Car and Driver's Patrick Bedard, but Peter Egan stands heads above. If anyone could ever convince me that Wisconsin was actually a worthwhile place to live, he'd be the guy.

Monday, April 09, 2007

One of the best Google mashup concepts yet. Imagine a local phone book that points you to a business then shows you a video of that business. It's like a high end Craig's List. Turn Here's San Francisco Bay Area Map is a good place to start to see what I'm talking about. The Emeryville-based company is located only about a mile or two east of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, so there's a lot of content in that locale as you might imagine.

What really sets them apart is their video production team and pricing. Over the years they've developed a list of digitally-based producers/directors/editors that can produce broadcast quality videos for businesses or organizations looking to get onto the Turn Here site, or onto Youtube, Google Video, Yahoo Video, MSN, etc., etc. No matter where you are, they can identify someone that can help you produce a relatively low cost video.

The one big down side is that they could really use a calendering function that allows for flyers or videos for shows and events. If the a venue needs a video for an upcoming event in the current site's structure, the video will become obsolete once the event ends, and who's to say when the video for the next events (or bigger ones) should show up.

That having been said, the concept is solid. I hope they stay around for a little while. At least until they have a lot more videos in my neighborhood.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Balancing Balance

In "The Book of Five Rings" the author, Miyamoto Musashi, an undefeated swordsman, talks about something he refers to as "sickness". It basically means focusing too much on something ... anything. For example, paying attention to every distraction when you're on a date, or conversely paying so much attention to your companion that you don't see the cars passing when you cross the street. In either case, you'd be concentrating too hard on either the surroundings or the individual.

Musashi's definition of sickness could be applied to anything, including trying to achieve a balance in your life. Someone that focuses too much on balance, may not be willing to commit to becoming "The Best" at anything. To be at that level requires a lot of sacrifice ... and, from my experience, an apparent selfishness. Because of this massively inward point-of-view, someone who is at the top of their game must have the unconditional support of the people around them in order to succeed. That's why rock stars can get away with trashing a hotel room and pro ball players don't have to spend time in jail during the regular season. As a whole, we support them and their frailties almost without question.

All of this is to say that if you focus too much on balance, it too would fall under Musashi's definition of a sickness. Although, now that I think about it, Musashi's definition of sickness describes what it takes to be the best. Giving an inordinate amount of attention to one specific area.

Musashi provides an example of being too absorbed with a mistake (or even a great strike) while fighting, which prevents the next move from being made quickly. To me, not being able to recognize an error or a success when it happens might be more problematic than dwelling on it for too long.

What has puzzled me, though, is what happens when you focus too much on trying to have a balanced life? From the above examples I suppose you become the best on the subject of how to achieve balance, but you'll fail to become world-class in anything else that might destroy the balance that's been created.

So, for someone with a heavy inclination towards balance to achieve anything spectacular, it seems that the act or intent to balance must itself be balanced with the desire to achieve. Sometimes the family has to come second for an extended period of time in order to get that advanced degree. Maybe your performance on your full-time job has to suffer in order to start your own business and make your first million. What about losing some sleep or sacrificing hygiene for a few weeks or months to finish that design/calculation/program? Knowingly being a jerk or a sell-out for a couple of years might also be what gets you to the top. Or, for you, maybe the ticket to greatness could be rejecting materialism to a degree that might make people think you're crazy for a little while.

Whatever your selfish, self-centered, dreams of success might call for, it seems that maintaining a balanced life requires a degree of self-awareness. Then again, that self-awareness might be what stops you from doing anything in the first place. I think that's enough. I'm going become the best at writing inconclusive blog posts.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Capoeira Angola Videos

I've written a little about capoeira angola in the past, but if any art isn't properly represented with the written word, it's capoeira. So, here are a few of my favorite capoeira YouTube videos. Next, I'll have to throw in some Kali stuff.

CRAZY flexibility

Mestre Cobra Mansa throwing some wickedness

Mestre Moraes schooling on rasteiras

Old school style

These are my all-time favorites, but for more check out my delicious links or my YouTube specific picks.