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.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Well, this is different...

Suddenly I'm a stay at home dad.

As I've mentioned, I sold a portion of my school to another local dojo. Moved my operation to part time and put out applications with local law enforcement. Well, my move-out date was 9/1. My applications are still in process (this takes months).

So here I sit with a 10 hour work week after a whole summer pushing 80. This is what it feels like not to be exhausted.

I have to say, I could get used to this. I have time to see to those little nagging house projects. I get to cook more often. I play with my son daily, for hours. I have a chance to write more.

In a few weeks, I'll be out there serving and protecting. In a little less than a month, I'll be busting a gut in Seattle.

But for right now, halftime sure is nice.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Did McCain Read Our Website?

There's been a lot of bad drama surrounding the Republican National Convention this year. Come to think, there's been a lot of bad drama surrounding Republicans in general lately. But, I have to hand it to John McCain on this point.

When Gustav hit, he turned the whole Convention for a day into a PBLT event. He did like coach Tom is telling us to do:

  • Find a need in your community.
  • Create a way to help fill that need.
  • Cash in shamelessly on the resulting publicity.

It doesn't change my opinion on the behavior of our current administration. It won't even get me to seriously reconsider who I'll vote for come November.

But for this one thing, good on you Mr. McCain. Way to lead by example.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Goin' Camping

Just finished what's probably my favorite week of the whole year.

Every summer, I take as many of my students as want to go out camping at the Oregon Coast. We've had as few as 7 and as many a 60 takers over the years, with this year coming in at about 25.

I always love watching the kids spend endless hours just digging in the sand, jumping waves, exploring the dunes, finding sand fleas and jellyfish and starfish. This year, through the lense of having recently read Last Child in the Woods it was particularly interesting and powerful.

We really don't let kids spent enough time out doors.

Come evening, it was campfire time. Most of the kids took turns to tell campfire stories. Ghosts and farts, mostly, while we ate our s'mores. Then came my turn to tell one, which I'll share here. This is the true tale of Sifu Jason and the Japanese Gangsters.

While living in Japan, I would often stop at an all-night noodle place on the way home from whatever adventures I had that day. This particular night (my birthday), at 1 or so I stopped in. Waiting on a bench were three men in nice suits, clearly liquored up and having a great time. I smiled and placed my order.

In walks a very attractive (and distinctly mammalian) young woman. The three men glom onto her, surround her. They're talking to her suggestively, touching her. She walks away from them. When they follow, I step in between. Not looking at the men, but looking at the menu on the wall.

One guy puts his finger on my shoulder, sort of pushing me. I don't move. He starts talking to me. "Yakuza des!" He hollers, basically telling me he's Yakuza, or a member of the Japanese mafia. I have no idea to this day if he was telling the truth.

Me, I grab his hand and shake it. With a big smile, I say "Hajimemashte, Yakuza san. Jason des!" ("Good to meet you, Mr. Yakuza. I'm Jason".)

What followed was five or ten minutes (give or take an eon) where this guy threatened and insulted me. Every time he said anything to me, I answered in Japanese as though he had asked me some inncuous tourist question:

"Oh, I've been here a little more than a year."

"Yes, I love Japan. It's a little hot in the summer, though."

"I'm staying over by the Suwa Temple."

"I work at the English School."

Stuff like this, with a big dumb tourist smile on my face. Finally, this gangbanger grabbed my finger (my ring finger, not my pinky) and threatened to have some people cut it off. To which I responed "O-keikon genai" (No, I'm not married.

At this, he threw his hands in the air, shouted "Bakagaijin" (Dumbass foreigner) and stormed out of the restaraunt, his friends in tow.

I tell that story when it seems appropriate. I'm pretty proud of how I handled that. Nobody got hurt. I protected the lass. I didn't get killed by Japanese gangsters. And all it cost was a little verbal abuse.

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hood to Coast

It's the largest relay in the world: 36 legs totalling 197 miles, running from Mount Hood to the Oregon coast in Seaside. Upwards of 12,000 runners and thousands of support personell.

This was the first time I ran, though I've been as aware as any other fitness professional in this neck of the woods. I did a total of 17 miles in three legs. This is harder than it may sounds, as I spent the hours between legs sitting in a van.

First leg was a quick 6 miles through Southeast Portland. Hot, direct afternoon sunlight, but nothing special. I did get to run past my favorite museum and through some interesting neighborhoods.

Second leg was 5 miles at 4 in the morning, run in the night through dense fog. Ten, maybe 15 feet of visibility. Runners appearing out of nowhere. Eerie.

Third leg was about as much fun as humping a cheese grater. Legs cramped from inactvity, a brutal hill followed by a hard downward slope right to the beach. It felt great to be done and to have done it.

Really, it was fun in its own weird way. Especially the team: Steve, Dave, Troy, Darcie & Patty. Much like our UBBT experience, the closeness of shared goals and common duress creates something spectacular. I think it's one of the reasons training buddies can be so close despite frequently differing opinions and experiences.

I'm probably going to do it next year. For that matter, I'm probably going to hassle some of my UBBT bretheren and sisteren to get out here and do it with me. Only takes 12 of us.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why the Olympics Are Extra Cool This Time

I love the Olympics. I haven't owned a television since 1991, but I always find a way to watch. One year, I even rented a TV from one of those cheezy appliance rental places.

This year the Olympics are extra special. I'm not just talking about Michael Phelps surpassing what I consider the greatest athletic achievement in history. Or about how Jamaica appears to have brought the whoopass to the track this year. Or even about how nifty it must be for China, a perennial gymnastics powerhouse, to be performing well in their own house.

For me, what I'm enjoying is the level of civility, sportsmanship and kindness the athletes are showing this year. These aren't your Nike-sponsored felons like we see in our headlines and (sadly) in the ad campaigns. These are folks who speak intelligently, treat one another with respect. They accept responsibility when they fail on the mat/track/pool/road. They show immense courage by trying again when they fall on their face on the highest pressure stage in the world.

These are role models. They've got me thinking about how we could turn the Olympics into a character education curriculum the likes of which the world has never seen. I'm impressed.

On the other hand, the color commentator for women's gymnastics is an ***hole. He snorted and mocked the chinese competitor when she faltered on the horse. Didn't have a nice word for any of them. Him, I'd like to punch in the neck. But everybody else, even the other reporters, is showing a touch of class this year. Good on 'em.

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


This is a roller coaster set of weeks. Some highlights:

  • Family reunion in Lake Tahoe.
  • Friend, fellow martial artist and brother from another Kelly Dodge's wedding.
  • My brother from the same mother coming home from Iraq on leave.
  • Detailing the final aspects of transitioning my after school program.
  • Finding a new home for my evening martial arts classes.
  • Figuring out what I'm gonna do next.
  • Upcoming black belt test.
  • Visit to Master McNeill's studio in Minden, NV.

I may have a chance to blog about these things in coming days.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Big Smile

This was a good weekend.

Four of my students tested for black belt over Thurs, Fri & Sat. They did us proud. I mean, really proud. Sharp motion, deep understanding. Put on a good show. Simply put a smile on my face and a mist in my eyes.

Cheyenne Alexander, age 11, never let another candidate present a thing without being sure to congratulate them and give a high five the second they left the deck.

Dawna Graham (a grownup) broke a finger during the grappling and finished the test. This wasn't a macho thing...she'd broken fingers before, intelligently assessed the situation, and decided she could continue.

Paul Catanzaro (another grownup) has struggled all year with memorizing the >150 techniques in our system. When time came, though....flawless victory.

Jamie Rivers (grownup) moved with power and grace rare in a 1st degree black belt. She even kicked a 200 pound athletic man several feet backwards (and, incidentally, into her mother in law).

I'm proud to have had the privilege of working with these fine athletes, warriors and human beings. Thank you Chey, Dawna, Jamie & Mr. Catanzaro.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Grind

So here's where the UBBT is greatly pushing my personal growth.

I'm athletic, smart, reasonably good looking, well educated and pretty good socially. Most things in life have come to me pretty easily. Even my black belt, of which I am very proud, was more a matter of doing the time and checking things off a list than of pushing myself hard.

One thing that's stood in the way of my success is a phenomenon I've noticed in lots of people with pretty solid raw talent. When it gets hard, we move on. Most things come so easily, when a challenge rears its ugly head we're just not used to it. This is especially true when the challenge is long-term and unglamorous. Not only is it hard, but it's uninteresting.

I often fail in The Grind.

So here I am, in the middle of a hard summer. Most of my staff has other jobs (see previous entry about closing up shop), so I'm here 7am to close most days. I'm playing catch-up on some of my accumulation goals. I've got a dozen events planned for the weekends off through September.

I'm in the middle of The Grind. Five weeks in of 1800 pushups a week, dawn to dusk work hours, and family when I get home. Historically, right about now is when I'd find a video game to beat or a stack of novels to re-read. But life, and the UBBT are keeping me on task.

Now if I can just find somebody to help staff my school so I can do a weekday blind....

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ego Has its Good Moments, Too

Some day I'll be risen enough that this won't mean much to me.

The UBBT physical requirements are bordering on insane. But we keep plugging, partially because it's the sort of thing we're used to after years of training. Partially because it's some of the easiest stuff to mark progress on -- can't argue with 500 pushups in a day, or a marathon worth of running in a week.

So anyway, this morning I'm jogging to work. It's a little under 4 miles and if I do it to and from 3 times a week I'm in good shape for the requirements.

You know that guy? The one you always hate when you drive by him while he's jogging? The one with the solid muscle tone, the good arms, the one cruising along like running's no big deal at all? That smug SOB?

This morning, running by the tinted windows of Intel, I realized...holy crap! I'm that guy!

Some day I'll be risen enough that this won't mean much to me.

But today is not that day.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What Exactly Are We Doing Wrong?

Wednesday I received a near-fatal overdose of rock & roll. The Mayhem Festival in Seattle Washington was a 12-hour onslaught of metal. Featured bands like Disturbed, Airborne, Dragonforce. Great show. Good pit. I went with my brother, an added bonus.

Much as I love my heavy metal, I have to say it got me thinking.

The festival drew at least 10,000 people. My tickets (in the cheap seats) were $40. Expensive floor admission was much higher. That right there is half a million dollars. Ad concessions (including $8 beers), tshirts, etc and that's gotta be a million dollars in one day. And the tour has 30 dates. Even assuming the Seattle gig was average (and it's probably low), you're looking at 30 million dollars and 300,000 people.

That's for a freakin' rock & roll concert. A good time (a great time -- good concerts were my first and still my favorite experience with satori). But still, 30 million bucks and 300,000 people to watch some guys in leather play their guitars and sing about angst for a few hours?

Meanwhile, karate schools are experiencing a brutal year and poor coach Tom is having kittens over how hard it is to get martial artists motivated.

Our message is more affirming. Our product is better for you. And yet nobody's gonna drop $50 and wait in line for an hour to come play with us. What exactly are we doing wrong?

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Scholar Warrior Citizen Day 4

Today we learned about poverty. About the three rules for avoiding poverty. About the difference between involuntary poverty and poverty that results from poor choices. About organizations and safety nets that exist to help people get up out of poverty.

In particular, we learned about Goodwill Industries. Over the course of the week, we gathered literally 200 cubic feet of donations. Today we piled them into the van and drove out to regional headquarters for a tour.

Goodwill is a great operation. They buy things cheap (free) and sell them at a good value, then use the profit to employ people who have trouble getting employment elsewhere. What I hadn't realized was how extensive their job training program was, or how quickly they work to transition the unemployable (whether due to disability, language barriers or lack of skills) into the work force.

I have to say I was impressed. This is how capitalism is supposed to work.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scholar Warrior Citizen Day 3

Today we learned about the energy crisis....high oil costs, pollution, alternative energy. Many of our students were already pretty well informed. Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we already use a lot of hydro, wind & geothermal.

Still, we did our 'warrior' class on possible solutions to the energy problem. We learned how a turbine works, how different sorts of generation turn turbines (windmills can turn one, as do the chutes in a hydro dam; geothermal, nuclear and coal boil water for steam...). Then we broke into groups to think about possible new ways to turn a turbine. Some solutions:

  • Put turbines inside of old tires and roll them down a mountain.
  • Make inmates walk on treadmills (I rather liked this one).
  • Burn trash to boil water for steam (remarkably close to something we're already doing).
  • Well, first you get a million gerbils and a million gerbil wheels....
In the afternoon, we toured a local plant (thanks Solaicx) that manufactures the silicon wafers that go into solar panels. They have a new technology that looks like they can drastically reduce the cost of solar energy (high cost being the major barrier to widely adopted solar right now). We learned how they are made, how they work, and how hard it is to properly mix silicone (melting point 2000 degrees) in a vat made of stainless steel (melting point 1800 degrees).

The kids did us proud and asked a lot of questions. Who knows? Maybe one will grow up thinking about it and be the one who cracks the code...

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Scholar Warrior Citizen Day 2

Tuesday was in many ways the hardest of our Scholar Warrior Citizen days. Tuesday was the day we looked at medical care. Our students learned how many people, whether due to poverty, isolation or disaster (including war) have no access to medical care.

What makes this hard is...they get it. These kiddoes, most in 2nd-4th grade, understand how awful that must be. A few of them have experienced it first hand, but all of them have the empathy to feel it for a moment or two.

We wrapped it up with a tour of the Medical Teams International world headquarters. MTI is a group that sends teams of doctors, nurses and paramedics to disaster areas, war zones and refugee camps. If Master McNeil hadn't already used the 'organization as hero' idea, I'd put these folks on my list of heroes in a heartbeat. They give up a lot to make a real difference in the world.

Define victory. They have a display in their museum that used to say 'a child dies of a preventable illness every 3 seconds'. Sometime recently, somebody crossed out the 3 with a sharpie pen and wrote in 3.6.

It's a start, I guess.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Scholar Warrior Citizen Day 1

We started our Scholar Warrior Citizen camp yesterday.

We do this each year...a week-long service learning camp where we volunteer in the community. At our school we define 'warrior' as 'somebody who steps up to solve a problem'. Each day we learn about a different problem, learn about people and organizations working to solve that problem, then go volunteer or tour at a place that's working toward a solution.

Yesterday we did pollution. We talked about global warming. We learned about industrial waste. We came up with solutions kids could work for. My favorite was 'Pennies for Pollution', where students collect pennies from everybody they know to fund awareness drives and advertising. Kids also came up with letter writing campaigns, karate demos for publicity, all manner of stuff.

We finished with a trash pickup at a local park. We rambled for two hours, alternately enjoying the greenspace and picking up litter. We got probably 100 pounds or so by the end.

A good day.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Celebrating Victory

It's been a rough couple of weeks. A lot of things are coming to a head, but I still dont have a couple vital pieces of info. It's like walking into a situation needing backup you don't know is going to be there.

So I figured I'd post this week and remind myself of some UBBT successes. I don't post often with my figures, so this will be news to many.

1. My wife finished her second Master's Degree this week. It was an accellerated program -- two years of work on 10 months. We made it through. To help, I cooked bout 150 dinners, read many of her assignments (either to type up summaries, or aloud to her while she did something else), took on most of the housework. I think it's appropriate that the #1 victory this year was a team effort between me and my honeybun.

2. Our karate school collected 10,000 cans worth of food in three months. (Thanks to Dan Sikkens whose studio provided a valuable assist).

3. I completed the Keep On Pushin' Challenge, doing 2008 pushups in a weekend and collecting $750 for the Alabama project.

4. I ran a karate lesson fundraiser in four local schools, raising more money in each school than the McDonald's Night fundraiser. (Take that, Mickey).

5. I got article accepted by a major national magazine (details still forthcoming on publication date).

6. I've planted a garden and work in it often with my family. (The wording of my goal was 'To eat corn on the cob from my own damn garden"...the corn's not doing so hot, so I may need to make due with the snap peas, red peppers and tomatoes).

Last but not least, though this doesn't count towards our tally...I've met, emailed, talked to and shared time with some of the best people there are.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Gardening, Again

Of all my personal victories, I find I'm liking the gardening the best.

I set as one of my goals to plant a garden and eat from it this summer. My house has a fantastic side yard that seems made for a little vegetable plot. I've lived there five years now, and every winter I promised myself a garden. And every summer I let myself get too busy.

But this peppers, yellow peppers, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, green beans, corn, cantaloupes, watermelon. Some will grow. Some won't. Add in my cherry, plum and apple trees and I'll have some great salads with my summer barbeque. Only that's not the best part.

The second best part is I've found a level of meditation in the gardening. It's different from the peacefulness of still meditation or the centeredness of kata, walking or other moving meditation. This feels (although I've not studied the subject at all) more .... um...transcendental? I feel connected to the earth, the plants that grow to sustain my family. I feel the boundaries between self and other sort of fade. I know that makes me sound like some sort of druid, but there it is.

The best part is my grannie and grandad. I've mentioned it before in these blogs, but they had a great big garden when I was growing up. They know how to do this, and they come to help me at least once a week. And you know what? I love hoeing and planting and weeding with my grandparents, talking with them, learning from them, just being with them. It's a real gift to have that time.

Come August, it's gonna be me, my wife, my son, my grannie and grandad, my folks and grampa. It's gonna be barbeque burgers and brats, with a big green salad and watermelon. And homemade cherry ice cream (with cherries from my tree) for desert. And the dinner conversation will be all the better for the time I was able to spend with my family elders.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Just One of those Things

I often ride my bike to and/or from my house to my karate school. It's just under 4 miles, with some good hills to keep me honest. Takes me about half an hour and is a pleasant ride overall.

Yesterday, I just happened to be riding that route on a hot day during the lunch rush hour. The trip is along a main road. At one point (Cornell Rd & Brookwood), it changes from trees on both sides to fields on both sides. Just like that. One side of Brookwood equals trees. The other side equals no trees.

For the first time, I noticed how far, far worse the air quality was on the no tree side of the road. Like walking into a smoky bar. Yeeeech.

This is something I knew intellectually, but hadn't ever groked in its fullest until just yesterday.

I love what than happens. Even when the discovery isn't the world's most pleasant.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Well, That Went Well

Today is parent-teacher conferences in our school district, which means kids get two days off from school. We'll scoot right on by how in my day, we got one afternoon off, tops, and now these younglings are getting entire days.


We do camps on no-school days. Often, it's a very structured thing. Half-hour increments. Lots of guided activities. Goal setting. They're good camps, if I do say so myself.

Today, though, I'd been thinking about Last Child in the Woods. So what did we do? We played outside. We...

  • Dug in a mud puddle.
  • Dug a trench to turn that puddle into a stream.
  • Built a dam for the stream.
  • Explored a riverbed.
  • Did a scavenger hunt for things like the smoothest rock or the twistiest branch.
  • Learned a little about stinging nettles.
  • Lay on the grass and looked at clouds.
  • etc., etc.

I could see in the students how important (and probably rare) that time was. We had fewer arguments, more enthusiasm, better teamwork. And we had FUN. I'd forgotten how great it is to play in the mud.

I wouldn't do this sort of thing every day. The structure is important (not to mention a prime selling point). But once in a while, we will be doing this again.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Change is the Only Constant

I've spoken to many about this already, but it's time to go public.

I'm winding down my studio, moving into a space where it's no longer my source of income. There are many reasons for this. I never did get the money good and strong, which makes the coming recession a little scarier than I wish to deal with. I don't like how many hours it takes in the evening, when my son is out of school and not in bed. I've had a good run and feel fine about how it's gone, overall, but it's time to move on.

How does this affect UBBT? Ironically, the only concern I've had about the program is how somebody who's not a full time martial artist could ever find the hours in the day. I guess I'm about to find out.

Right now I'm adjusting some of my goals. The accumulations are fine: I can make time for 150 pushups and 3 reps per day no trouble. Reading? Check. My acts of kindness and catalyzed acts already runneth over. No worries there. Living heroes/train with a master/meditate? Also fine.

The big changes will mostly be in my personal victories. I've already accomplished a few, and some I'm keeping, but I'll need to shift some. Two, especially, were about business goals.

The important thing is to take the hits and keep moving forward. My program will continue to exist. Instead of being The Man, I'll be on a board of directors. Instead of counting on it for my daily bread, I'll work a job and do my karate for the love of the art. I have to say I'm looking forward to it.

Now, after 5 years of business ownership, we'll see how well I do with having a boss....

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What It's Really All About

I'm feeling good about UBBT right now for lots of reasons, but here's the reason I want to write about today.

One of my Personal Victories is to "Eat corn on the cob grown from my own garden this summer". You see, I have a house with a fantastic back yard, including a wide side yard that served the last owners as a dog run. That space spent 11 years getting fertilized with dog poop. And we've been composting there for 4 years. Since we moved in, I've been saying "I should grow a garden".

Four years later, no garden. For me, the Personal Victories are about doing those things we keep saying we want to do, but find the excuses. So corn on the cob for me this summer. And bell peppers. And real tomatoes. Cucumbers. Fresh garlic & basil. And cherries from the tree.

But what's more, my grandmother (who recently moved into town) is a great gardener. She and gradad had, literally, a full acre of garden when they lived in Glide. So Grannie, she's helping me out. We're having an acre of fun measuring, planning, getting our little hands dirty. Anticipating home-grown veggies and remembering feasts from my childhood.

Getting something done I've been promising myself I'd do for years? Check.

Doing something important for my health and my diet? Check.

Taking time to do something meditative, simple, conducive to the thinking of long thoughts? Check.

Getting to spend real time with people I love? Check.

If this isn't what it's really all about, I'm not sure I want to know.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ya Know What Hacks Me Off?

So the other night I'm driving home from my parents' house. Just me in my van. It's 11 at night, drizzling and cold. I see a teenage girl, early high school or late junior high, walking along the road.

My impulse was to offer her a ride....but if you were a teenage girl walking home and some stranger asked you to get in his van in the middle of the night....I wound up just driving on.

Almost ten years ago, I offered a little old lady help carrying her groceries. As I approached, she literally recoiled in fear. I was unable to calm her down and left so she'd stop being afraid. (Well, at least not afraid of me).

The worst damage all the bad guys do is they teach the good guys to be afraid. My stories can't be unique.

I haven't figured out how we're gonna fix that one.


Thanks for listening.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Short History Lesson

Let’s talk about this weekend

Once upon a time, my Grandfather Eugene Brick joined the Navy and fought in the Pacific during World War II. His destroyer, the USS Drexler (DD-741) was sunk by two kamikaze planes in the Battle for Okinawa. Though it was under water less than 45 seconds after impact, Grampa survived along with about half his shipmates.

Fast forward 40 years…

During the 80s, Grampa started seeking out survivors from the Drexler. Soon, he found enough to hold a reunion. The reunion has met annually since then, each year finding more survivors, family of survivors, family of those who didn’t survive. The Drexler Reunion has been a source of knowledge, solace, healing and closure for decades.

Fast forward 20 years…

One person drawn to the reunion was Risa Morimoto, a documentary producer. She came to interview survivors for her film, Wings of Defeat, about kamikaze. As things worked out, Wings of Defeat became a big deal in Japan. Grandpa and another shipmate were flown out to Tokyo for the premier. They toured Honshu and Kyushu, answered press questions and met with survivors from the Kamikaze.

This past weekend was the US premier of Wings. For the event, Grampa met two kamikaze survivors in San Francisco. I was privileged to go with him and got to see these three men spend time together. Amazing as it may sound, within minutes they were just three old fellas telling stories.

It’s humbling and inspiring. If these men can forgive one another and share a drink, work together….who can’t?

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

If life gives you lemons, buy stock in Minute Maid.

It's been an interesting fortnight. Rough waters. Master McNeil told me to expect 'gut checks' and wow was he right. But we keep on keeping on.

For example.

I caught the plague that's been going around up here. Nasty little two week bug that includes (among other symptoms) a vicious frog in the throat and lost voice.

Perfect time to do my mute day, to the vast entertainment of most of my students. In truth, it was pretty fun. My child students got a big kick out of classes taught entirely through gesture and example. My friends got a laugh out of my killing two birds with one stone. My adult students learned to listen with their eyes on bodies.

I had to cheat twice. I got a phone call that might have been an emergency while nobody else was around to answer. Also, one of my students got very discouraged and I couldn't think of a way to fix him without a brief, kind sentence. Still, I call it a success...those small failures just point out how difficult it must be to truly lack speech. The point was to build empathy, walk a mile in another's moccasins, after all.

As for the rest of, the sun is shining. I'm looking forward to a couple of good weeks.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, February 29, 2008

One Great Week. One Rotten Week.

Such is life.

Week before last was a great week. I finished the Keep on Pushin' Challenge and raised over $1000 for a local homeless shelter, with generous donations from friends and family. I also got to deliver $1500 worth of checks to two local PTAs as part of another project I'm involved in.

Another victory was convincing a local principal to allow a karate program in her school. She was anti, until we talked about how, instead of contributing to behavior problems, a good karate class will actually reduce those problems.

Victories all around. And I got to finish the week by spending two days training with Phil Porter, a former US Olympic Judo coach.

This week, I've been on my damn back with the Martian Death Flu. Can't talk. Get dizzy if I stand up. Plus I think I lost a student over having to cancel some private lessons.

Such is life.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Big Finish

Pushup number 2008 got banged out just a little before 1:00 this afternoon. I had an event to attend, one where stopping in the middle to do pushups would have been....inappropriate. So I had to accelerate my timetable by three hours.

Not to brag, but I made the last 8 one-armers just to be a wiseass.

Thanks, all. Together we raised 1071.29 in pledges to help Family Bridge. Kelly Dodge is also on the case this weekend...I'll get his totals early next week.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Callin' It a Night

Goin to bed now. Count for today 1095. Total count so far 1710.

Thanks to Brahm, Kathleen, Elizabeth and Lee (Grampa & Grannie) for coming out today and adding to our list of donors. We're at over 50 cents per pushup now, well over 1000 dollars for Family Bridge.

I'm in deep seratonin high territory, have been for the past several hours. Workout crack. I'm loopy, my chest hurts and I'm smiling.

Night y'all. We'll finish this off tomorrow in style.

Noon on Saturday

Eighteen hours in, we're at 1010 pushups and over $500 raised.

Surprisingly, my arms don't hurt yet. I notice deep fatigue (not just in the arms, but my neck, back and shoulders). Most surprisingly, I'm losing coordination. I missed the fridge door handle an hour ago and my typing is atrocious as we speak.

More later. Thanks for listening.

Keep On Pushin'

So my teammate and hero Dave McNeil started an organization called Keep On Pushin, which encourages people to do pushups for charity. It's a fantastic idea, supported by an incredible person. I could gush further, but the short version is I have 48 hours to do 2008 pushups.

A bunch of folks (thanks Ma, Pa, Uncle Mike, Amy M, Steve, Zach, Ian, Keith, Mark, Jen, Shawn, Julie, Ana, Mark V, the Worralls, Gary, Roger, the Kellners, Erik, Scott, Shiloh, Tamara, Dawn, Shari, and the Zangers) have donated from 1 cent to 5 cents per pushup. One even promised me 6 cents for every pushup I do on Friday.

The current count: 615. Watch for further developments.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Day in the LIfe

"I will always be easy to find. I will be at the center of the battle."

That's from Richard Marchinko's management book. Not that I recommend his style or agree with many of his ideas -- but that sentiment is dead on.

I've been feeling that way lately. UBBT requirements. Wife kicking butt at grad school. Son to play with and hopefully teach a thing or two. Pets to care for. Dojo to run. Books to read. Friends and family to enjoy. New programs going gangbusters and taking three times the effort I thought they would.

Some days it's overwhelming. Some days it's exhilirating. Some days terrifying. Some days empowering. Some days I feel terrible about how many balls I've dropped. Some days I feel great about how many I caught, or at least picked up with a degree of style.

Today's agenda: Wake up. Cook breakfast. Take son to school. Go to yoga. Bike 16 miles. Run errands. Open school. Office duties. Train budding manager. Practice goju-shorei material (thanks Sokei). Stand at front counter during the evening rush and talk with everybody. Go home. Cook dinner. Head to PTA meeting where my son is presenting a check for $800 (the result of his helping with a fundraiser). Go home again. Tuck son in. Clean kitchen and dining room. Help wife with homework. Take half an hour to read and relax. Go to sleep.

Today's one of the good days.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Meditation Redux

So meditation is about mindlessness, about true relaxation, about rediscovering joy. It's not just sitting in a corner saying 'Om'. You've got walking meditation, breathing meditation, forms meditation. Heck, Kyudo is meditation if you do it right.

Since that's the way of it, here's a list of activities which ought to count as meditation practice:

  • Jamming on a musical instrument (right now for me it's the berimbau).
  • Playing with my dog.
  • Eating really, really good food.
  • Listening to music under the right circumstances.
  • Having some lap time with my cat.
  • Teaching my son to ________ a ________.
  • Talking to my wife with my head in her lap.

All these are exercises in presentness. Not the sort of meditation a lot of people have in mind, but they're all so freeing, so uplifting and joyful. Past and future fade away into a crystalline and wonderful now.

Isn't that meditation?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Two Diet & Nutrition Books You Need in Your Library

The UBBT lists as one requirement living by the Body For Life diet. I've tried that diet and didn't like what it did to my energy levels. To be clear now, there's nothing wrong with that diet. It's well reasoned, well constructed and has a sizable body of success behind it.

Trouble for me was it's a weight-loss diet. Weight has never been my problem. So I set about doing the research to put together a diet just as structured, but focused more on energy, immunity and longevity.

I won't bore you with the details of my particular diet, but - seriously - if you're at all interested in diet and nutrition, you need to pick up and read at least one of these two books.

The must-read is Superfood Rx by Steven Pratt and Kathy Matthews. It focuses on 14 foods with clinically proven health benefits ranging from immunity boost to significant reduction in cancer. Using those foods, it puts together a recommended weekly quota of each. From there, it's not hard at all to cobble together a weekly diet plan.

The second book, Eat Drink & Be Healthy by Walter Willett & PJ Skerritt, fills in the only hole I found in Superfoods. Superfoods does a great job of telling you what foods to eat, and what benefits you can expect to derive from those foods. Eat, Drink looks harder at the science behind why.

Seriously, these books have changed how I look at what I eat. I went through several books on diet and nutrition, some good, many bad. These two are consistent with one another, with what I understand of modern nutrition science and with what experts I've spoken with have to say.

And best of all...the last half of both books is full of recipes. Good recipes, even. My son's eyes light up at the mere mention of Mexican Lasagne from Eat, Drink.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, January 14, 2008

What Happens When The Shine Wears Off?

The trouble with journaling every week is sometimes I can't think of anything to say. I'm excited about next week's training opportunity. I'm pleased to have the chance to meet in person the members of my team. I'm looking forward to a weekend of rolling, getting hit with sticks and rock climbing on the beach.

But since when is "I'm looking forward to something fun" anything new or exciting? As stunning insights go, that one is pretty weak.

At times, this whole test is like that. Actually, many of the important things in life are like that. You get started on something: a project, a task, a job, a relationship, whatever. It's new. It's exciting. It's shiny and grand and a big ol' adventure. But sometimes the sexy wears off.

You're left with work, sometimes toil, and nothing much to say. What separates success from failure sometimes (at least for me) seems to be our ability to but head down and move forward during those times. This takes grit, determination, discipline -- something we have as martial artists. Again, this is not a new insight.

But it also takes faith. Faith is a loaded word in our culture. Makes the atheists twitch and the religious talk too much. But what about simple faith that the path, no matter how hard, is taking someplace worth going? What about faith in your own ability to make it over the next hill. What about faith in the wisdom of the folks who have walked ahead of you and are just waiting for you to come 'round the bend?

Tonight, I have faith that somebody, somewhere might find this inspiring, or at least interesting. Thanks for listening.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Today Was a Good Day

Got up this morning, meditated. Made breakfast for the family while I had a cup of tea. Did my first set of pushups and reps. Walked my boy DJ to school with our dog, stopping to pick up trash in the schoolyard (DJ helped without being asked). Came home and bagged lunch for me and my wife -- leftover tofu peanut stir fry from last night, a box of yogurt, an orange, fresh brewed green iced tea.

Went to work where (with thanks to a lot of our efforts last month) I had three folks come in to sign up for lessons. Got my workout in. Enjoyed my time with friends, students, teachers. Heard from the local paper that there will be a largish article about our food drive tomorrow. Full color photos and the whole shebang. Made good progress on my tasks and goals at work.

Came home and made stuffed green peppers for dinner. Helped the lad with his homework, played some before bed. Got my last set of pushups and reps after blogging and bed.

Thanks, UBBT.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Originally Written 12/28/07

It ain't fair.

Jenessa "Boey" Byers died just before 1 this morning. She had just 8 years here with us and that ain't fair. I'm angry. I'm sad. I'm relieved that she's no longer suffering and at the same time I feel guilty to feel anything that even resembles being glad a little girl is dead.

But in my saner moments, I think about it this way....

Boey got 8 years. In those years, she illuminated a community. She inspired literally millions through appearances on youtube, blogging and finally national television. She showed compassion and turned that compassion into real help for people who needed it. She pushed power brokers to draft a law that could make a difference all over this country and eventually the world.

When her time came, Boey met death with courage and honor. And she did it in a way that spared her family further suffering.

So really, people. How many of us can say we've done that with 8 years, regardless of what fraction of our span that happens to be? How many of us are going to fight for -- and win -- a beautiful death?

I suppose we'd best get crackin', hadn't we?

Originally Posted 12/24/07

Jenessa Nicole Byers was born on May 20th, 1999 to Rob and Rachel Byers. She has two wild but wonderful older brothers Chris(13) and Joe(12). Jenessa is not only beautiful on the inside and out, but she is smart, funny, creative, spunky, fashion conscious, and has a zest for life that is contagious when you are with her.

That's from her website

At age 6, Jenessa was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. For the past 2 years, she's been in almost constant treatment with radiation and chemotherapy. In that time, she's beaten it back twice at heavy cost.

While literally fighting for her life, Jenessa has found the strength to think of others. She has raised money to buy stuffed animals for other child cancer patients. She has contacted celebrities and worked to raise awareness nationwide. She's contacted senators to push legislation toward curing childhood cancer. She's even worked to support her parents while they were looking for the strength to keep supporting her.

Tonight, we're again at Doernbecher Children's Hospital and getting some bad news. I'm in the hall journalling because I want to make sure I don't miss the chance to list Jenessa among my ten living heroes.

Jenessa, your courage through this can teach a lesson or two to warriors with many times your years. I love you and I'm proud of you. We all are.

Originally Posted 12/12/07

This tournament rocked!

I've been bothered by the tournament scene in the Pacific Northwest for a while. It seems that we've lost our way. Competition (for children absolutely and I'd like to think for grownups too) is about certain things. It's about finding out exactly how well you're training. It's about having the courage to step up in public. It's about demonstrating self-control under charged circumstances. It's about winning with kindness and losing with grace.

Far as I can tell, in most of the tournaments 'round these parts it's about two things. The promoter's profit margin and the length of the coaches' The very last tourney I took my students to featured a black belt school owner heckling a judge and threatening a child competitor.

I've spoken to a lot of other small school owners in the past year and ya know what? I'm not the only guy who feels this way. So I tried a little experimental invite-only tournament right at my little school. We had a couple dozen kids show up from three different schools and we had a really, really good time. Everybody got a lot of chances to go up and strut their stuff. Everybody showed fantastic sportsmanship. Even the coaches and parents.

Man, that was fun.

Originally Posted 12/4/07

This weekend was spent in the hospitality of UBBT brother Shawn Knight at his training camp in Tucson, Arizona. I have to say it was a fantastic experience. Top shelf presenters (including Ed Parker, Jr., Larry Tatum, Lee Epperson, Lee Sprague and Rick Fowler). Great training partners. Mr. Knight and I have some shared lineage, so on top of it all I got to visit with a handful of old friends.

I especially want to thank Mr. Knight and his splendiferous wife for making me feel right at home. When I arrived Thursday night, they welcomed me like family. By that I mean they said hello and put me right to work. Guys, how did you know that sort of greeting means more to me than any sort of red carpet treatment ever could? Mr. and Mrs. Knight, thank you. Your mats are soft and your dojo warm.

I was also pleased and challenged by simply getting out of my local dojo rut. Nothing against the local scene (we have two UBBTers within a few blocks), but the familiar quickly becomes…familiar. Seeing new ideas and new ways of running things set my mind running in some new directions. I can’t wait for the official UBBT events to start up so I can get more of that.

Thank you again, Mr. Knight, for the invite and the fantastic shindig. We'll meet again soon.

The Results Are In

Alert readers may recall that our school took on a food drive for the fall, to end with the end of the year. We set the goal of collection 10,000 pounds of food in three months. This week we took in the last barrel, the last can, the last penny of collected donations and got the final count in.

Did we meet our goal? I hate to leave you in suspense (lying -- I'm doing it on purpose because I love leaving you in suspense. It's good dramatic technique), but I want to take a moment and recount our efforts and plans, celebrate a battle well fought.

The first thing I did was go to my students. We got ramped up, excited, ready to roll. I tasked students to set a goal of cans or dollars collected, got one of the instructors to coordinate, put up a barrel in the lobby. The cans trickled in from that, sometimes pouring in fast. One of our students was single-handedly responsible for bringing in more than 1500 pounds of food.

The second thing I did was go to other local businesses. UBBT brother Dan Sikkens and his school got their own collection groove on. Ernie Reyes Martial Arts, Family Kicks Tae Kwon Do and Dragon Tiger Tae Kwon Do soon agreed to host barrels in their lobbies. Stellar Performance Dance Academy and the Gym Nest, local schools in similar industries, also got in on the act.

The third thing I did was go to the schools. I talked to teachers of my leadership team about letting my student lead a food drive in their classroom, leading their classmates to meet a goal of 100 or even 500 cans. I was a bit disappointed in the response. It seems our school district does a food drive of their own each December and the schools are graded on the amount they collect. Many principals were afraid to jeopardize their own numbers and put the kibosh on the plan. Some were willing to participate anyway, and a number of teachers went to bat for the experience. At the end, we had several classrooms participate.

Next year, I'll dovetail the project in as part of the district's own food drive so as to avoid the conflict, or maybe just do our drive in the spring.

The fourth thing I did I've journaled before. Armed with our cardboard sign "Will teach karate for food", we stationed ourselves outside three different grocery stores and offered two weeks free karate to anybody who donated. I have to tell you I was touched and overwhelmed by the immense response to those events. If you live in the Portland, Oregon area you should ought to shop at Albertsons. Seriously, those guys rock.

The fifth thing I did was put out an ad campaign offering free lessons to anybody who came in with a food donation.

The sixth thing I did was to put collection baskets for change in a few local shops. The local Shell Station and Jan's Paperbacks both collected a shocking amount of change and small bills in just a couple of days. Who would have thought a used book store could collect enough money in a week to buy 350 pounds of food?

It was a fun ride, three months of watching my students become prouder and prouder as the stack of cans grew and grew. I had to empty my lobby and drop off donations four times.

The final tally? Let me break it down for you...

  • Our first dropoff (late October) was 3339 pounds.
  • Our second dropoff (just before Thanksgiving) was 1213 pounds.
  • Our third dropoff (mid December) was 1466 pounds.
  • Aim High Martial Arts (our UBBT brothers) collected 1600 pounds.
  • Our fourth dropoff (this week) was just 230 pounds of food, but included enough cash to buy 2287 pounds.

Final total: 10,135 pounds. That's just over 5 TONS of food. By way of comparison, that school district food drive I mentioned? They collected 73,601 pounds. That's the whole district in a town pushing 100,000 people.

I can't tell you how proud and pleased I am at what my students and colleagues were able to accomplish. Thank you all.