Saturday, March 21, 2009

Family Reunion Time

One thing I love about being a martial artist and member of the UBBT is the sense of family. I just spent a week driving through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Washington. Rather than sleep at hotels, I made arrangements to sleep at the homes of martial artists I know in the area. Some were good friends, others UBBT family. In each case, we sat at their table and talked story over beer and good fellowship.

The seminars I attend and especially the UBBT events feel like family reunions. Everybody hugs hello. Everybody's immediately talking like old friends. Coming from a big, loving and raucous family myownself, I find this wonderful.

I wonder if people from other hobbies/communities/lifestyles have this same experience. I hope so, for their sake. It would be a sad thing to miss out on.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mastery, Part Three

Many of my teammates know I do the ballroom dance thing. Well, to be honest, my wife does the ballroom dance thing. With grace, skill and style. I struggle with footwork that should come easy, considering. But I struggle often and with enthusiasm.

The other night, my wife and I went to a grange hall dance outside of our town. They'd had a dance there every Saturday night since 1956: waltz, foxtrot, drag and polka. Bev and I were the youngest folks in the room by fifteen years, and that couple was easily another fifteen younger than everybody else.

This was not only fun, but turned into a lesson in mastery. I danced with several women in their 90s...women who had been doing the foxtrot for over sixty years.

Effortless grace, kindness and patience. An understanding of give an take, of rhythm, or connection with a partner. These women taught me martial arts with every turn of the hall.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Intermission Over

I took six months off after the October graduation for Team 5, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy

For my own part, these past 6 months have been interesting. I am without the huge load of UBBT requirements to keep me busy, but the paradigm shift from having done the UBBT has forever altered what I consider a 'reasonable' amount of effort and accomplishment. I think I'm driving my wife a little crazy.

I'll talk a little more about such things as time goes by.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Thank you, all, for being part of last weekend. As a cap-off of the UBBT it was just what I had hoped it would be. Celebratory. A sense of family. The easy companionship of shared sacrifice and accomplishment.

Each and every one of us had important things to say...

  • Hal told us the most important aspect of UBBT is the people who walk the journey with us.
  • Susan said eery time we look outward it gives us a chance to look inward.
  • Dan's energy and enthusiasm showed through when, after rolling and sparring until he was winded (and injured) he said "All right, now I'm warmed up".
  • Carol told us that before, courage was just a word to her.
  • Lucinda reminded us how we never stop testing.
  • Jeremy's story of a crisis of faith touched us all, especially his realization that this was about far more than just him.
  • Todd shared his eye-opening realization that even outsiders were members of our family.
  • And Terri reminded us that every day, we're writing our life stories.

This was an inspiring, challenging, difficult year for all of us. Thank you all for the support, the push, the friendship. I look forward to keeping in touch, my friends.

I won't be enrolled in UBBT this coming year, although in many ways it will be a part of me forever. I have another aggressive set of goals to accomplish. But I plan to come to Alabama, and with luck I'll bring some backup.

Also, I'm going to continue blogging on my backup blog site. . Stop by sometimes. And be sure to email.

Keep in touch, my friends. My family. This was a long, tough road to wind up back home.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Holy Crap! Goats!

My parents live on the border of a protected wetland. They love it. Ducks, nutria, beavers, hawks and herons are what we watch from their porch. Bats and bullfrogs keep the mosquitos in line. The green and the water keep temperatures down in the summer. It's pretty wonderful.

But it's not without cost. There are many restrictions on what they can grow on their land and how they maintain it. One particularly thorny (no pun intended) aspect is what to do with their blackberry bushes. About a third of the land is covered with blackberries, a delicous but notoriously aggressive and sharp-edged plant. Every year they threaten to overrun the property and every year my parents have to find a solution that doesn't involve chemicals, power tools or other pollutants.

This year's answer? Goats!

Apparently, you can rent goats to graze your land for a day or a week. So Nelson and Desmond, two south african goats, are spending the week at my parents' place. They don't need much to eat, just some water, and they came with a little pre-fab barn to sleep in.

I think this might be the coolest thing I've heard of in ages.

What's more, it ties in to today's empathy project.

I opted out of doing the wheelchair thing. I'd done that once in high school and have a good friend who is wheelchair bound. There's not much new there for me. So I looked for something else and settled on a day without electricity. Today was going to be that day.

As the kids say, EPIC FAIL.

Let's ride on past the morning where my alarm clock woke me up and I ate breakfast with food from the refrigerator. Or how today was my day to volunteer at my son's school and I spent an hour with a copy machine. Or how, even after walking to the grocery store (the car has a battery after all) I got around in there because of electric lights and used an electric cash register/scanner doohickey to process everything.

Man, even using the toilet required electricity (not here, but that water doesn't get pumped by goats on a treadmill).

By noon I gave in. I think I got the point. We are so blessed by the technologies surrounding us. Sometimes they are an addiction, and I often fear they make us weak (or at least lazy). But wow, we have access to some amazing stuff and it's part of our lives every moment.

My electric bill is probably the best money I spend.

I thought it was going to be easy. Heck, I like camping. I sort of like black-outs, at least for a little while. I go on 'phone and email strike' a couple days every month.

But what I learned was that electricity is such a part of our lives, I totally failed to anticipate how much I'd have to prepare to do it right.

Wow. Seriously.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mastery, Part Two

I wrote earlier about one aspect of my exposure to masters over this past year. Another way I've studied Mastery has been by taking in the works of masters.

My other hobby is writing. I write fiction, tech writing, ad copy and nonfiction. I've been published a few times. Even paid now and again. As I transition my life, I'm finding more time to write and to take this hobby more seriously.

So recently I've been reading fiction the way all of us watch a boxing match. Sure, it's entertaining. But it's also educational. We learn from our analysis of the match, we enjoy it on another level because of a professional understanding.

I won't bore you with the insights on how to write a detective novel or a young adult fantasy. Suffice to say, looking at the work of masters through the lens of mastery has aided my writing.

And, since I've got you, some fiction to check out when you have some time:

  • Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  • Hatchet (Gary Paulsen)
  • Love That Dog (Sharon Creech)
  • Looking for Rachel Wallace (Robert B. Parker)
Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mastery, Part One

I'll take full responsibility for never really connecting with a master. Sure, there were a dozen unanswered letters and a couple missed connections. Seems the folks I wanted to chat with didn't want to chat back. Still and all, maybe one more phone call or letter or candygram might have gotten some attention.

Instead, I've spent some time thinking about the masters I've had the privilege of working with. Some are master martial artists and master teachers, like Sokei McNeil, O Sensei Phil Porter, Professor Cacoy Canete and Master Lee Sprague. Others are masters of their own profession or avocation, like my grandmother the gardener or Tom's coaching skills.

Through watching and listening, and then thinking about what I heard and saw, here is what I've learned about mastery from my time with these folks.

Unconscious Competence. Masters own what they know. They own it so well that they do amazing things without apparent effort. What's more, they own it so well that when some dumb rookie challenges their opinions, they aren't threatened. They simply answer the question as if it actually made sense to ask.

Humility. Masters spend time in the presence of other masters. They spend time contemplating their subject, which is always bigger, older and more significant than they are. This breeds humility. And humility breeds kindness and patience.

Love and Enthusiasm. Simply put, a Master loves what they study. They would have to in order to stick with it long enough to become a master. This love and enthusiasm are infectious, energizing those around them and inspiring us to learn more.

Comfort with Self. Truly owning a skill breeds confidence. This confidence becomes a part of somebody until that somebody is truly comfortable with who he/she is. This comfort is visible in how a Master treats others, accepts challenges and views the world.

I'm certain there are more, and I hope to become a Master in my own right so as to experience them all some day. But meanwhile, that's what I've perceived from the outside looking in.

Thanks for listening.