Archive for LEARNING


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2013 by thebrutalityofreality




Regarding the infinite battles in life there is the never-ending quest for happiness and contentment. Everything we do is centered around our innate need to feel fulfilled and grounded. People who do not have a direction in life often find themselves on the wrong path continually seeking a placebo to fill the void. Many times you can find people that seem extremely happy and content but if you dig deep you will readily say that it is a life you would not want. Let’s explore for a moment the general groups of people that we deem to be truly happy. Not all of you will agree with every assumption ,however I think there will be something here for everyone.

The iconic rich guy with all his big boy toys living the business life would seem to be very happy. After all he drives the best, where’s the best, usually has a good looking woman, and  wants  for virtually nothing. Now some would argue that money does not buy happiness, some would say that you have to be happy with yourself before you can be really happy about anything. However most of the people that say this don’t have very much. Just hold on to that point for a few minutes. Then you could say happiness is about the little things in life. Watching a perfect sunset or enjoying an ice cream on a hot day could be the epitome of happiness to some. We could go on and on about what happiness is to each person. Let’s focus on the common thread. Happiness is something that makes us feel content and worth something. When we are happy we feel as though we have something special. Whether it be an object that makes us happy, a person, an award, achievement, or just a complement, the thing that makes us happy is not always relevant to what we really want. There is the ongoing argument for the value of a positive attitude. It seems everyone thinks that a positive attitude and being content with what you have is the ultimate accomplishment in life. However, I would disagree strongly.

On one side, you could unhappy,  not being satisfied with being a brat. No matter how much you get, no matter how much you have, you are just never happy because you are a brat. Let’s think about that angle for a second. Someone who has things and keeps accumulating things, or keeps getting promoted and yet is still never happy is not what I’m speaking about. That person simply does not have value nor do they value what they have. On the flip side some people have nothing and appear to be very happy. So let’s discredit them also. They are happy with nothing because they have no ambition, they have no drive to do anything, and our general losers. So far we have explored  both extremes. The person who has everything and appears to be happy and the person who has nothing and still appears to be happy. Somewhere in the middle there is the person who has everything and is unhappy and the person who has nothing and is very unhappy about having nothing. A little off the center between unhappy and happy is a grounded person who does not reside in one place too long. I would say that an intelligent person bounces from a little off the left to a little off the right going from happy and content to unhappy and discontent flowing with life’s ups and downs.

I would say someone who is always happy is just as sick if not more mentally unstable than the person who exhibits severe depression. Life is not a constant anything, though it seems to be a constant pain in the ass when you have to deal with other people. I would say that a healthy person who is in touch with reality will be able to bounce from happy to unhappy daily perhaps, even hourly and still lead a very productive life. It is my position that someone who focuses on the good and positive too much has a weak mind. I’m sure that has sparked outrage among many weak minded people. Let me explain a little deeper. There are things that we should be happy or unhappy about and things that should make us feel content or lacking. A balanced mind can see the difference in these things and will not get too wrapped up in the positive or negative attributes of such emotions.

Let’s say that you grew up with everything that you ever wanted. A real spoiled brat. Chances are that in your adult life you will want the same thing. You want everything that you want and want  it when you want it. Now is that a bad thing? Most would say that is however, there is an upside to this. It could be used as a very positive thing if it is used to drive that person to find success. Most likely someone who was always given everything did little to receive it and in their adult life will be slackers and constantly complaining about what they do not have and never appreciating what they do have. On the reverse side there is a person who grew up with very little and in their adult life probably still has very little. This also could be a positive or negative thing. If the person who had nothing uses that poverty in a positive way, that person will strive for success and work very hard to have things that were not attainable in their youth. However, if these values were not taught to the child the adult will be quite the loser never expecting much and never accomplishing much either.

As is my style I like to jump around a lot to get the reader to explore their own thoughts. I have taken examples that seem self evident and turn them around in an attempt to make the reader open their mind and not be stuck on one analysis of a certain situation. The point that I think is relevant to happiness and contentment is this. Any feeling, any emotion, is always relevant to comparisons within our experience. A child who is hungry every day, who has no clothes, who lives in fear, would be very happy and content just to have a weeks worth of food, good shelter, and not to live in fear for that week. The happiness and contentment are directly related to the experience. However, someone who always has food, good shelter, and has never lived in fear would cringe at the thought of having only one week of comfort. When someone has pain and they say it is unbearable, it is only unbearable based on their experience of pain that they have endured previously. To some a hangnail is the end of the world and death would be a better alternative. To some who have suffered extreme endeavor’s that same hangnail would go unnoticed and not be counted as pain at all. The same with success. Someone who has little drive will count a menial thing as success whereas someone who is constantly striving for excellence would be very discontent with the same “success”.

When someone lacks drive and discipline they can find success in anything easily. More often than not they find contentment and happiness excusing their failure by convincing themselves and others that it was not important to succeed in that particular area. A good example is the gym. Right now my shoulders are severely injured and I can only work out with 275 on the bench. A year and a half ago, maybe two years I was benching in the 350s and using the 130s on incline dumbbell. I feel like a loser — I am ashamed that I can only bench 275. Two weeks ago I tried to get a spot on the incline bench with the 105 dumbbells and the spotter ended up hurting me. My left shoulder is severely ripped causing  constant pain. If I get a good spot I can put the 105 up for four or five reps and do five or six sets, but I am dependent upon a skilled spotter. On the flat bench I do not need a spotter nor anyone to tell me I can do it with all the yelling and screaming that goes along with muscle heads, I can put up 275 quite easily for two or three reps but my shoulder does hurt quite a bit. I am able to endure the pain and get to my usual 25 to 30 sets of flat bench. I sometimes move up to 295 for about 10 sets but very rarely try 315 anymore. I sure hope my shoulder heals quickly because I am ashamed that I am limited to this weight.

Let’s analyze my feeling for a moment. I am lisfing more than most in the gym yet I am ashamed that I cannot lift more than what I do. A neutral third party would say that I should be very happy with my benching as I am in the upper echelon of the gym. But because I have done so much more and now I am so far below what I used to do, I feel like a loser. I think this is a healthy thing and a Mark of a winner. If I was content and happy with this performance — if I excuse myself and use the injury as my ongoing shield, I would undoubtedly bench less and less,  always finding some excuse to say it was okay. It is only because I seek perfection and always want to do the best that I can that I feel this way. It is matter of pride and a source of strength. I know I am injured, my shoulder hurts to make the motion without any weight in my hand. But I still try to push the heavyweight because I feel the power in my chest and arms. 275 still feels very light to me, I feel the power but my shoulder shuts me down.

Now let’s look at what seems to be the other 99%. They work out with a mere 135 and feel that they are on top of the world. They exclaim with pride that it’s not about weight it’s about form. They tell me that I do not work out correctly because I lift so much. They tell me that I should hire a personal trainer to set me straight. I don’t understand how they could feel good about themselves when they look so horrible. Some are very obese, some are stringy and sickly looking with a big gut, some appear to be somewhat manly but they are just so weak. I do not understand how they cannot be ashamed of themselves. I would say that in their loser world they have little success and are happy with nothing. Even though some are business people, they are puppets within their company. And so the saga continues in their daily life and at the gym. They show up and go through a routine never trying to surpass their performance of the previous day or the previous year.

So how does this apply to martial arts? It seems the modern schools are full of these examples. The students feel that they are excelling and find happiness and contentment because they have nothing to compare themselves to that is greater than loser Ville. A few months ago I was talking to a black belt, a black belt that outranks me. I saw him doing his kata in the aerobics room and it looked horrible. I know if I offer advice no one will take it especially someone who outranks me but my curiosity drove me into a conversation. I asked what the meaning of the movements were or the “bunkai”. The black belt stated  that it was part of the form. It went back and forth for a while as he could not really give me an answer. My point here is that if you are doing a form you should know why you’re doing it, where it was developed, the purpose of it, and all the intricate details associated with it especially if you are teaching it within your school. As I repeatedly asked for knowledge the black belt repeatedly showed his ignorance. I make it a point to study  many systems, even though I am not a practitioner of them, I want to be intimately familiar with them in case they ever have to fight someone from that system. …  but I also want the knowledge and feel it is important that a teacher know more than just his own art. This black belt was of the tae kwon do system. Sadly this system has become one of the most bastardized and useless systems taught these days. I’m sure this will infuriate  some people who are of that system but I say this with facts on my side. In 1976 when I started my training – I  was a student of that system but it was much different back then. We did not have pads nor did we get coddled in a babysitter atmosphere. Training was hard and promotions were earned not given because mommy cut a check. I can’t remember ever seeing a black belt that wasn’t at least a teen. Nowadays there are five-year-old black belts that outrank many… But I’m pretty sure it I can still kick their  ass on a good day. :} As a conversation  with his high-ranking black belt started to get a bit testy,  I offered to help him with his forms. I stated to him with great confidence {because we had become personal at the gym } I would give him a gift that would ensure his kata would be better than anyone else’s. I told him that I would use the okinawan method and teach him power. He didn’t want to hear it and quickly interrupted me stating that judges and his teacher have always told him that he showed great power. I would say that based on his experience and the experience of these others who complement him, perhaps he does show great power but compared to the way I train he has no power. Without getting into a martial arts lesson the point of developing power is that each move is a simulated attack or defense. When you block, anyone looking at your block should know that it was a block and that you were strong enough to stop the attack. With these modern want to be warriors, their blocks or so weak because they never actually block a hard attack. I told him to do his opening movement which was an overhead block. I just barely put pressure on his arms and he caved knocking his glasses to the floor and bending them. He was quite upset with me questioning why I would “hit him” while he was doing his kata. The truth is I just about touched him but because he was not used for training with realism it felt like I had struck him. I fail to see the power of his technique as so many of his seniors have complimented him on. The point once again is happiness and contentment are subjective to your experience.

He is very happy with his rank and feels a great success. He does not strive to be better, many times he tells me that he takes six or seven weeks off from training but it’s okay because he can get right back into it. People at the gym take weeks and sometimes months off and don’t feel bad about it. They proudly state that they came back and could still do what they did when they left. What losers. If I took a month off I doubt I would be moving the heavy weight that I do right now. If I miss a day of training I feel like a catastrophe has befallen me. I feel weak that I was not able to complete my training. I know that I will suffer for taking the time off. In the world of martial arts everything has become so civilized and proper that everyone must succeed.

So here we are back to the original point of happiness and contentment. The black belt who can only compare himself to other losers is indeed a winner but if he were to step into a real class and fight a true martial artist or even trained with the true teacher, not merely an instructor who sees dollars to pay the rent, he would fail and fail hard. I would encourage you to look up a master by the name of Gushi. If you go to YouTube and just hit in uechi gushi you will find many videos of this great man. The first word is the style of karate and the second word is the master’s name. He just died in November of 2012 from lung cancer. Now there was a guy who lived the life and trained hard. You can see in his videos about conditioning he was the real deal. When you watch him do his forms you can see  every strand of the muscle tense. You know that’s a guy that can kill you. If any of these black belts were to train with him they would be destroyed. But they feel content and happy because in their world of loserville they feel content.

I feel very depressed and sad about my martial arts and where the journey has led me to but I also feel pride in what I have accomplished. I believe I have truly led a martial life and continue to do so. But I am not content with my life. I want so badly to have students like I did 10 years ago. They made me very happy because they succeeded and we all cared for each other deeply. Somehow, perhaps times have just changed, perhaps it is bad luck — whatever it is I no longer have those great students. Now I have  very tough students but they do not lead Martial lives as I do. Being stuck here in Florida I cannot get used to the southern lifestyle. When I meet someone from the Northeast they are quick to make a point and they keep their word. Sometimes I bump into someone and tell them “hey shoot me an e-mail so I can stay in touch with you”. They immediately pulled her phone out and asked for my address and send it. Dealing with these Floridians is not the same. Even within my own class I am constantly told to remind someone of something and they still forget. They tell me to call them on a certain day to remind them and when I keep my end of the bargain I cannot get a hold of them because they lost their phone, the battery is dead, their phone is broken, or any host of excuses that are just plain bull shit. But they are very happy, they are very happy the way they live. Back to my original point, they never seem to go anywhere. They do not progress within their martial arts, they always seem to have the same problems, and always  working on something and never completing it.

My loneliness is also a sign of my success. I am isolated because I strive to be better. I keep my word at all cost even when it would be better for me to break it. I do not have to be called and reminded of my obligations. As for martial arts I am very discontent with my technique and my skill level. Not because I have not progressed, quite the opposite. I feel that in the last few years I have made the jump to beginning their journey of a master. In my youth I would get excited about conquering the technique or so I thought. Now I see that I have so much more to learn. It saddens me to a knowledge I will never go as far as I could because I do not have the right people to train with. I offered training to several people tonight but they are busy with their wives and one is going bar hopping with his wife. I would have given anything to get a one-on-one class. When I trained under people that I really wanted to learn from I gave up everything. If I had a date and many times I was in a relationship I would put everything aside for training. So of course I feel they are not being good students but that is just subjective to my experience. In coming so far I have taken a burden upon myself which causes me to feel very discontent and very lonely. If I looked at my training in my life with complacent delusions like everyone else I would feel very good about all the things that I have. I would feel very happy about my big house and my beautiful vehicles. Instead I feel that I am wasting this night — I could’ve been training. I could’ve learned something but instead I am putting down my thoughts for my someday book which will probably never be. Today I pressure washed my house. It took over six hours and I still have my driveway to do and some areas outback. I used to have a pressure washing business — I know what I’m doing but there’s a lot of property to wash. My health is not good,  I’m always tired,  hard to breathe and other pains,  but I press on.  I’m not as productive as I was,  but I don’t stop.   While everyone else was watching sports or just sitting somewhere drinking I was taking care of my property. I wish I could’ve gotten more done. Everyone else is happier than I am because they don’t care what their house looks like. Happiness and contentment are subjective to discipline in your life.    My nights are going to the gym for the second time that day and hopefully a bit of martial training outside of class.   Tonight,  I lit a bag of charcoal and grilled my chicken for the week.   Just watching the fire with a glass of wine,   the quiet night with a full moon,   nothing like chicken right off the grill.   Sure I was lonely,   and sad thoughts of people I have lost come up.   But even that sadness is something to reflect upon.  Did I do the right thing?   Did I keep my word?   Too much tv and computers these days.   More people should take time to sit by a fire and just think about things.   Again,  it goes back to subjective experience.  I feel little contentment sitting by a fire by myself.   I feel lonely because I remember how good I felt when I had others to share that time.   If I were a drinker,  I could go to a bar,   but I hate that.   In my time alone with the fire,  I reflected on my day,  and thought,  I would be a real loser if I gave up and had to order a pizza..   I am cooking for the week,   good food, and trying to preserve my health,   even though I am sick,   I never feel good,  but I push to do things I must.   That gives me a content feeling.   I would be happy if I could have a gallon of ice cream,   but my bad health denies it.  :}          the bottom line with being alone for me is honorable.  I am not hiding in a bar,  I am not wasting time.   A while ago,   I was faced with a choice of staying on the honorable path and sealing a lonely future,  or breaking my word,  my loneliness is honorable for me.   I hope someone special reads this and understands the personal message.

There is a fine line between being over compulsive and being disciplined. There is another line between accepting failure and being a loser. There are many fine lines. Once you are happy with something you will stop trying. Once you get that promotion or achieve that goal, human nature will make you complacent. They key is not to be too happy or to content so that you will continue on your journey to perfection. I know that my techniques can be better and I know that as I get older I will have to rely on technique more than physical power. It is this realization that I can be better that makes me feel so discontent and unhappy. It is my commitment to a disciplined life that makes me so unhappy to be around others who have no discipline. But I do not let the unhappiness and discontentment rule me, I use it as a source of power to drive me further along my path. On a personal note,  the once in a lifetime love I once had is gone,   but I don’t go out looking for another, I know nothing can replace it,  I know I will never have it again.   I just focus on the good I believe I did for that person.   I hope they see some honor in that.

In closing I will just add this. With age comes wisdom and that wisdom is solely based upon the experiences we have as we age. I have led a full life and done more by the age of 30 than most will do in their lifetime. Now in my 40s I long for the days when I had better health and was able to do more things. I wish I felt better so that I could accomplish many things I don’t think I can now.  I have a life that was blessed with privilege. Not privilege as far as being spoiled with material things, privilege as far as professional things I was involved in. I miss being privy to information that only a select few would be trusted with. I miss the chaos and uncertainty of having a dangerous job. So many things that made me so happy and now I feel like an old horse that has been put out to pasture. In comparison to the life I once led I am not content. It would make me happy and content if I had the proper students who would take my teachings and create another generation and carry my school name on. But I don’t. So when I look around at all the happy people, I see that they are only happy because they are so neutral in life. The black belt who never attained a great deal of skill cannot be too unhappy with his pathetic performance with me at the gym. Anyone who does not push themselves physically cannot be too unhappy if they cannot perform some physical task or lift a major amount of weight. Anyone who lives a neutral mediocre life cannot be too unhappy about failure as indeed do lead a life of failure. People who won’t take the truth {an insult that is true} are not in touch with reality.  A fat ass who says they look good is a loser,  but they are happy because they don’t have standards.  They should atleast acknowledge they are fat.  Maybe they are very smart,  maybe there are other things for them to be proud of,  but that body just ain;t one of them.

But for those of us who have walked the path and endured the journey, happiness and contentment vanish from our lives as we get better for we become more isolated from society.

Even in my personal life I do not have the happiness and contentment that I use still. 10 years ago I had the greatest girlfriend who was full of energy and would do anything for me. The love of my life in the center of my universe. She was my first student and my top student. She came with me on bodyguard jobs, she was there many times when I almost died and saved my life on more than one occasion. But age change her also. Where I once spent every night with students training in some capacity and my days completing tasks, now as my health has been an issue I am falling behind in my chores and sit alone at night. I still train 2 to 3 hours a day in the gym though sometimes my health won’t allow it. I move slower and have to fight keep moving.  I still try to keep up my property and my vehicles but it is getting harder. The fiery relationship that I once had is now just a friendship. The very chaos that threatened us was the fire that kept us together. When my professional life started to come to an end and she was no longer constantly worried where I was and if she would see me again things started to change. Complacency set in. But even in that I have pride. There was a decision to be made and I chose the honorable way. I could have taken a path that would’ve been more valuable for me but I gave someone my word and I kept it even though keeping my word has produced this isolation. I hope somewhere out there this certain person reads this and understands what I tried to tell long ago. You only get what you want one time and you have to make the most of it. You can only ride the wave so long and when it crashes it crashes hard. We all have demons in our life and the best thing that we can do is try to deal with them and relieve those demons before it is too late. In dealing with the demons of your past or present you can find happiness and contentment. Sometimes the right choice leaves you alone and isolated, but if honor is enough, then you can find your contentment. Such is the case with my martial arts. I absolutely refuse to give into commercialism or to hand out belts for money. I take pride in how few students I have for that speaks volumes of my standards. Even though we do not have the students that I once did I still continue on my personal journey. But as I get older I find myself looking back to my 30s and 20s longing for those days. Life is boring now. So based upon my experiences the happiness I once had and contentment I once felt are gone. Then happiness and contentment came from an extreme lifestyle few will ever know. If I had led a mediocre dull life lacking excitement I would not feel this way now.

On a side note my body conditioning has never been better. Sure when I was younger I had more stamina and could endure a beating without too much discomfort the next day. I think used to fight a lot harder and probably hit with a lot more PSI. But my technique has come so far that I no longer have to fight that hard or hit with so much PSI. My bone density even impresses me. My wrist, fore arms, my shins- the bones are so thick now and dense that even a 30% strike delivers massive damage. When I teach a seminar or just fool around with someone they often complain that I’m hitting them too hard- really don’t believe that I am not hitting at all. It is just my perfection of movement and my bone density that makes it feel like I’m hitting so hard. My throws are clean and precise, my  chi or 6th sense have developed far beyond what I would have thought possible. I have a good understanding of a great many arts and can use a wide array of ancient weapons as well as modern. In spite of  all this talent I am isolated in the world of martial arts. Schools have become contaminated, made into politically correct producers of “black belts”.  Long ago they would have been cast aside as dishonorable losers but now they are the majority and cast me aside as being too fanatical. The irony of success is that too much of it can actually make you a loser in the eyes of society.

In closing I would offer this, screw what society says — you have to have some type of agenda in life, you have to have some type of driving force that gets you through the days and keeps your mind occupied so that you don’t see too many of the bad things. To those people that are full of positive attitudes and never see anything bad I would say you’re missing quite a bit. Be wary of anyone boasting too much happiness- saying they don’t let things bother them. For that is the sign of a true loser. They close their eyes to many things. Someone with honor would let a lot of things bother them — they don’t let it dominate their life but they don’t discard it or discount it either. A person with honor will be sure to punish themselves for a mistake so that they don’t make it again. Only a loser doesn’t pay attention to a mistake – destined to make that same mistake over and over — but it won’t bother them because they are losers……   with a positive attitude.

This whole thing got off my usual analytical point about martial arts and the world in general and took a very personal turn. My ultimate goal for this entire blog is a reference if I should ever find that one student to take over my system and continue my teachings. I feel that as much as the technical data is important to my successor my personal journey through life and my feelings as I grow older is important also for he will surely grow older and experienced much of the same that I am going through. As for you readers I hope you enjoyed it- I hope it gave you a great deal to think about. If after all this you feel that your life is happy and content then I have failed in my writing. If you feel that they’re a great many things missing in your life and you are suddenly infected with an overwhelming desire to accomplish things than I have succeeded in putting a good point across.

In closing I will leave you with this, getting old sucks — gray hairs pop out where you least expect them — I am turning into what I used to make fun of and I hate it. I;m getting veins where I had smooth skin, some are squiggly, some are bumpy.  For the first time I had to shave a couple hairs off my ear last week. I now have three gray hairs in my mustache and my beard is quickly getting taken over by those white bastards. The problem with trying to figure out life, women, or even just trying to perfect some talent is that by the time you figure it out you probably be ready to die — doesn’t that suck!!!!

Better get off your ass and start doing something or before you know it life will be over and you will have done nothing.    And take some time to think about the big screw ups in your life.  Maybe that time you did something and pushed the person who cared most away.   Maybe you think someone tried to hurt you,   but now you can see they did it for you and sacrificed themselves.    Think about some of your choices that made you great and others that made you a loser.    Can’t go back,  but maybe you can find contentment in knowing the truth.         Don’t be too happy,   life ain’t that smooth.   If it is,   you just aren’t trying.



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2012 by thebrutalityofreality


I will start off with the closing statement. In the end I think it will make sense to you but I feel that it is necessary to begin with the end so that your mind can be prepared for the rest of the article.

So the reference to the pictures in the header is this… The friendships born in battle are the ones filled with honor and respect. As it relates to martial arts the class of black belts seem to rally together for selfish reasons — I would not call such people who black belts were true friends. But the black belt who walks alone, who does not need an association to dignify his actions or validate his skill — he is the one that I suggest you search out as a friend. For a person that has the need to be part of a group will often do the wrong thing for the wrong reason because their need for acceptance is so strong. But the loner who is not part of a group nor does he need a group — that is the one who will do the right thing for the right reason and not care what anyone else thinks.

what a profound statement. If you stop and think about it, no matter how you define a friendship, the one thing that you will always find pertinent to the relationship is a simple “need”. It is the need that creates the bond and the so-called friendship. This article was inspired by a recent experience I have gone through. There have been many times in my life when I thought someone was a true friend — I know word warning signs and believe with all my heart that this person would never let me down — through our relationship I was the best friend that I could be but in the end when I was no longer useful, my friend disappeared. I will expound upon my recent experience later on. For now, let’s just talk about friendship.

There are many ways in which people will do find a friendship.I would suspect that the most common answer for friendship is someone who was always there for you to lend a helping hand, to listen to your problems, and someone you have a really good time with. Wikipedia the fines it as:

Friendship is a relationship between two people who hold mutual affection for each other.[1] Friendships and acquaintanceship are thought of as spanning across the same continuum. The study of friendship is included in the fields of sociology, social psychology, anthropology, and philosophy. Various academic theories of friendship have been proposed, including social exchange theory, equity theory, relational dialectics, and attachment styles.

Throughout the course of time bonds have been formed which have been called friendship. In every nation there has been a moral compass of what a friendship is and the duties of a good friend. In ancient times a friend was more valuable than gold, grain, or anything of the tangible nature. A friend was someone who would defend your life and those of your family and you would do the same for that friend. If you’ve ever seen the old movie flicks of the Roman Empire or even some of the old cowboy movies, there is a strong emphasis on friendship in keeping your word. This idea of “friendship” is a label to disguise the greed of man.

My upbringing was very traditional and placed great importance upon personal honor and friendship. I witnessed in my own family that for the sake of friendship they would sacrifice their own happiness and many times that meant that happiness of those around them to be a good “friend”. Many times at gatherings for food would run short and I would be told not to take a second helping as the guest may want more and we wouldn’t be good “friends” if we ran out of food because we were taking seconds. Such values are very important when both parties participate. However, in modern times it seems one always gives a hell of a lot more than the other.

if we take the emotion out of this whole equation of friendship we can see that the emotion exists because of the innate human need to be needed, to be part of something, and to be helped. In every case, whether it be the old Roman movies or the cowboy flicks, you can see an interdependency of the characters which is based on their own advantage. For instance the slave in the Roman movies they do is job very well in order to gain favors from the slave master. In the cowboy flicks you often see the good guy being tempted by the bad gang. They form a so-called friendship based on a mutual advantage. Now let’s look at modern times. Take a few moments to think about your personal friendships and others around you — whether at work or in a social setting — that have friendships. Before we go on any further get it set in your mind what you believe a true friendship to be. Think about what you expect from a friend and what you’re willing to give to a friend. Think about friends that have screwed you over and ones that you have screwed over. I just sit for a moment and gather your thoughts before we go on.

I bet you have discovered that many of your so-called friendships were not friendships at all rather a codependency. And possibly your reevaluating the friendships that you are currently in. Why would you be friends with someone who offers no advantage to you? Why would you go out of your way for someone when they cannot do you a favor in return? Why would you do anything if there were not a reward for doing it? This sounds pretty cynical doesn’t it?

Let’s start off with one of my favorite quotes — I don’t remember who said it — but it is something like this, “a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”. I read that at a very early age probably in my teens and it stuck with me into what is now my 40s. I have found it to be 100% true and sadly it seems to have become a rule of humanity. You’re probably thinking to yourself “this guy just doesn’t get it — he doesn’t know what he’s talking about — I am certainly a better friend than what he is describing”. But are you really? Let’s get back to the main point. Somehow there has to be an advantage for people to be around you whether it be financial, power, or maybe you’re just very handy and continually fixing things for them. Think about who you are friends with. I bet you are not friends with anyone who does not provide some sort of advantage to you.

Now let’s talk about the advantages of friendship can provide. Though I have focused on the very negative there are very positive attributes of a friendship that we all strive for. A friend makes us feel good about ourselves and allows us to grow. A friend is someone you can bounce ideas off of and will enlighten you as to your folly and help you figure it out. A friend is someone who was there to help you with a problem when no one else is. A friend is someone who thinks the world of you despite your bad traits. While this could just go on and on, but why focus on the good when there is so much bad that follows it? Remember Newton’s laws of motion? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction? Let’s apply that to friendship you do a favor for a friend and a good friend has an equal and opposite reaction which is returning the favor. Let’s say your friend is drunk and has no way to get home because the bartender took his keys. This friend calls you at 4 AM for a ride and you graciously get out of bed knowing that you have to be at work in just a couple of hours but you go pick that friend up anyway and deliver them home safely. You endure a grueling day and try to ignore your fatigue and keep from falling asleep at your job. But was it truly a selfless act? You may say that it was but if you look at it from a very logical viewpoint you would expect that friend to do the same thing for you. Now how would you feel if the exact same thing happened to you and your friends scolded you for waking them up at 4 AM and hung up on him? Let’s look at another example. Your friend loses someone very close to them. They are distraught to the point of a nonfunctioning blob. You can install them in every way you can try and take their mind off of their problem but there is nothing you can do. So as a friend you just keep calling them and try to interact with them as much as you can to keep their mind occupied. Being the good friend that you are you now how they react in times of sorrow and you do not force your own views upon them. For myself when I feel sorrow I do not want anyone telling me to look on the bright side for a see that as a weak mind that cannot deal with reality. I need a friend who’ll just let me talk and a friend who will show me that I am not alone in the world because they are my friend. This will be different for each one of you and many of you will want to be told to look on the bright side. But that is not the issue how one would react to losing someone close to them. So let’s get back on track. A good friend is the one who is there for you when no one else is. A good friend is the one you look to to share your happiness and to lean on when you have trouble. But all of these things are indeed a selfish reason for their friendship. If that friend was not there for you, would you still call them a friend?

Friendship is not a concrete formula. It is not something that is definable and a broad basis. Friendship is only definable from person to person. What I call a friend you may not and vice versa. So far we have discussed the need of friendship and that the basis of friendship must include an advantage or you would not be in that relationship. I’m sure this point many of you have strong disagreements towards my viewpoint but keep an open mind and I assure you the intelligent reader will agree with me and hopefully go on to ponder friendship when this article ends.

One of the hardest things that I find in friendship is the constant letdown. Now many of you are probably thinking “poor guy doesn’t have any real friends”. And you may be right. Throughout my life I believe that I have always been a good friend. I have always been in a position to afford others many advantages because they were my friend but when it was time for me to call and then, rarely were any of them they are. A few examples would include calling a friend just to talk out of problem but they were too busy to pick up the phone. Another reoccurring theme is that I get close to someone, usually a student or someone at the gym, and I cultivate a friendship for a couple years or more. I get very close to them and for some reason they move out of state or just to another town. My friendship continues and I call them often to reassure them that just because they are not physically here daily I have not forgotten them but the favor does not come back. After a few weeks I rarely ever hear from them again or if I do it is in the space of six or seven months between calls with the excuse that they have been busy. Wow! They must be really busy not to have 45 seconds to leave a message. Now if any of you are calling me selfish and say I am too demanding, then I would not consider you a friend, but that is just my personal view. It seems I am always in the position to extend favors but others are rarely in a position to return them. A good example is that I am very handy. I can fix most anything. I can do drywall, framing, light construction, tile, molding, and many other things. When I had my pressure washing and carpet cleaning business I was always doing favors for my so-called friends. Many times if I did a little extra work for free at a restaurant they would give me a gift card for a free meal. Rather than use it myself I would give it to a friend. It seems my truck was used for their needs more than my own. Conveniently when I needed something they always had the great excuse of not having a vehicle or a talent. If I asked for help laying sod when I was building my house they would say they didn’t know how to do that. When I asked one friend to give me a pressure cleaning and painting job that paid very well, he passed it on to a stranger but offered me the job of pulling weeds and using my truck to haul stones for the planters around his development. The pressure washing and painting could have been done in a weekend — it was a $3000 job — but he offered me a seven dollar an hour we’d am hauling. This friend had an agenda to look good in front of the home committee and that agenda superseded our friendship. As for students, when I call someone my student I am pledging my complete commitment and loyalty to them. I make this known to them. Interviews to be taken on as a student last a year or longer. During this time I was taught John the value of friendship and the importance of loyalty over and over. At the moment that I accept them as a student I tell them that this is not like going to a commercial class where you pay your money and get in. They interview was to see if we could get along and to feel each other out to see if the bond could be formed. I tell them that at the moment that I call them my student they have all of my loyalty — it is not something that will build over time — they have it right and they are at that moment, all I have to give. All they can do is lose it from there. But over time the value of friendship fades and my humbleness becomes my failing as one guy who is training keeps telling me.

At this point on I hope that your mind is somewhat scattered. As is my style I like to lead the reader down a path that is straight and to the point and suddenly turn it and make a case that contradicts the former. First I started with a cynical approach to friendship then pointed out the positive attributes of a good friendship, and then got off track to let your mind wander and sort of cleanse you of any concrete thoughts. There is an argument both ways for friendship. It can be the best thing or it could be simply an act of greed to get what you want. There is one point that I have been withholding which is the cornerstone that will determine the success or failure of the friendship. Early on I asked you to take a few moments to think about what a friend is and what you think friendship is. The issue to discuss now is not your view on friendship but what you are willing to do to be a friend. So let’s explore this. As stated before noon’s law expresses the equal and opposite reaction for every action. As applied to friendship this can be very detrimental. Some people call everyone they’re friends. Personally I think these people fail to understand the fundamentals of what a friend is. I don’t trust anyone who knows someone for just a few minutes and introduces them as “my friend”. These people do not take the word friend seriously or they would not use it so carelessly. Some people will say that a true friend does something for you without expectations of her ward. This is also a person, in my opinion, who does not understand the honor involved in a friendship. A quick example would be this, friend A task’s friend B to come to his birthday party.friend B. agrees and goes to the party. He has a great time, eats all the food, drinks all he can, and bring is a cheap shitty a gift. Friend A, being the humanitarian that he is, takes the position that he did not care about the gift and was happy that his friend could partake until he could take no more. I’m sure at this point many of you agree that friend A is the bigger person — bigger than I according to the examples of what I believe friendship is. However, the attribute of honor and loyalty has not been discussed yet.

I would say that each person dictates the parameters of a friendship according to what they are willing to do to be a friend. If friend A and the former example did not care about the shitty gift or gluttony then it is likely he would do the same thing and not think anything of it. If that is the case then the two can be the best of friends. However, if one has more honor and integrity than the other the friendship will surely suffer. Let’s turn our thoughts to honor and friendship rather than what we think of friendship is.

If we are to truly honor our friends then we ourselves must have honor. That honor must be self-evident and be given the utmost attention at all times. We must scrutinize our actions to ensure that we don’t fall short of our own expectations. As I see it today’s society releases itself from every responsibility and condemns anyone of honor when they complain about the lack of said honor and others. Personally I have never missed a student’s birthday or any special event. I have always sacrificed my personal time and made sure that I gave them a gift that showed my loyalty to them as a friend. For instance, for Christmas and sometimes her birthday I will work for weeks making them a stick. It may be out of bamboo or just hardwood like oak or cedar, but in order to give them this gift I put many hours of work into it and suffer many blisters — truly bleeding for their gift. Anyone can whip out a credit card and buy something but to give up many hours of your time I think shows an exceptional dedication to a friend. Outside of martial arts I have always been there to help them as I have many handy talents. For me friendship means being there for your friend no matter what. Now let’s turn our attention to what forms the bonds of friendship.

As always I turn the focus to martial arts. I have always said that bonds or friendships born in battle are among the strongest that will ever be. My classes are based upon the old codes which continually pushed a student to the edge. There are no free belts or money belts — there are no promotions for the sake of politics — I do not have try before you buy classes or walk-ins. Bonds that are formed within the class are usually very tight and for a time we are very good friends. However, when the younger ones go off to college or enter the workforce they become complacent and forget the old ways and start to live like the rest of society. If we look at military personnel, we can see that there is a drastic difference in the so-called friendship between the soldiers who have never been to war, the soldiers who have seen some battle but were never in anything life-threatening, and the bonds formed among the elite few who are called to task to perform specific missions knowing that they may not come back. Indeed those relationships that are formed on the battlefield are the strongest. If you look at a college fraternity and a special ops team that has gone to battle and relied on each other for their very lives, I think the point is clear. So what does all this mean? It means that the standard that you place on calling someone your friend and the criteria in which that friendship is formed is what the relationship will be. If one calls few a friend and the other calls everyone a friend — one is doomed to disappointment and hurt.

Friendships are formed to easily these days and when a real one comes along it is just tossed in the basket of bullshit with the others. The society we live in is all about complacency and never being held to a standard therefore modern friendships are only there for a fleeting moment. One of my students is in his 60s, and airborne sergeant from the Vietnam error and a retired firefighter with the rank of lieutenant. When this guy talks about friendship and his friends you just know there is something special about it. He speaks of his friends with admiration and loyalty — they are friends from the fire service or the military — and also martial arts. I don’t find these qualities in people anymore and now in my 40s I am becoming “that old guy” with the crazy ideas. A friendship that is born in some type of tragedy or necessity is not always a good one but the same that was born with honor is what we should all look for.

People forget too soon the favors that were done for them in the name of friendship. People often look at the deeds of friendship as “no big deal for him”. For instance I have always been in the position to do physical favors while someone else may have just signed a letter for me. I wish they would have value my friendship more and been there for me in my times of sorrow. Now onto my personal experiences which inspired this article which I hope will be read by my future students and they will pass it on to their students or family.

This last year I have been sick. For the past six years I have been battling a high sugar problem with the ferocious and tactical plan. Every three months I get my blood checked and every three months I change one thing in my diet or in my activity. If I am eating chicken with peppers and onions, that’s all Eat for three months and then I compare my numbers. Then I would change one thing such as taking the peppers out of the equation and just eat chicken and onions every day. This one on for six years. I don’t think anyone can quite understand the discipline that it takes to live it every day closed to exactly the same with food and activity and change just one thing for 90 days. About a year ago my sugar seemed to be under control and I wanted to get off my cholesterol pills. I did some research and talked to a few people that seem to be knowledgeable and started to cut down on meat. I must admit that the biggest reason for going total vegetarian was looking at the slaughterhouse videos on YouTube. After seeing how those animals are tortured and how slowly they die I could no longer stomach meat. In any case I was determined to beat my sugar problem and not become a diabetic. My blood pressure had improved over the last few years and I got my medication down significantly. I felt good being off of the cholesterol pills as they have many side effects. Then about nine months ago I was talking to a doctor and a firefighter who seem to be very healthy and knowledgeable. There was a big fad of eating brown rice going on at the time and they convinced me that adding brown rice to my diet would give me more energy in actually lower my cholesterol. So for the first three months I ate brown rice with vegetables. My blood work improves. It’s a crappy diet and am always hungry but I found through my own experimenting that my blood sugar is best when I only eat once or twice daily. Early on I had tried the 6 to 8 small meals and my sugar went crazy. So the next three months I would have 2 cups of rice before the gym with a couple eggs and night around 11:30 PM after my second workout I would have rice with a can of black beans and perhaps a fried onion in it in again my blood sugar seemed to be okay. I thought I was onto something good but then I started to become very lethargic and fatigued. My blood work seemed to be okay so I just thought that I had been working out too hard and doing too many projects around the house. Well over the next three months I started to develop chest breathing problems. I had noticed that during the prior six months when I got totally exhausted after weeks of pushing myself I would start to develop an asthmatic type breathing and have just pains. It would get very bad to the point where I thought I may be having heart problems but then after resting for a couple of weeks — I don’t mean just lying in bed, I would just take a little easier — it would go away. The doctor assured me it was a breathing problem and not a heart problem — most likely my asthma. While the next three months I thought I was having heart attacks daily. I never felt so bad in my life. I had such bad chest pains that many nights and was ready to go to the emergency room. I’m sure many of you are thinking that I should have just gone but it’s hard with no insurance — wish I could just walk in stating I don’t have any money and camp out for a couple of weeks — but stupid me I paid for everything I own. When I scheduled some heart scans and thankfully they came back okay. So I went back over my blood work for the last year and what I found was that my iron was below the limits — practically not even there. The big thing was that my thyroid, which I am on medication for, had basically shut down. I was very short of breath, couldn’t concentrate, very forgetful, and just wanted to go to bed. I pushed myself daily to get out of bed and to take care of my doggies. I never stopped going to the gym though I didn’t work out very hard while I was there. Most of the time I was just sit around gasping for air but I couldn’t stop going. After bringing this to my doctor’s attention he doubled my thyroid medication. Well it’s about six weeks later and though I still have some slight breathing problems I do feel much much better. I never want to feel like that again in my life. There was so much that had to be done around the house, so many projects I was looking forward to completing when the weather got caller and now I am very behind. More than anything I hate being an active, I felt like such a loser but I could not complete tasks and many times had to roll on my girlfriend to do things I just simply did not have the strength or will to do. My manhood was suffering. My martial arts training was practically nonexistent as I felt frail and did not have the will to do very much. I still did my time as two or three times a week but not with very much intensity, I still taught class but actually fell asleep standing up several times. For all that I’ve been through with physical pain this was the worst thing I have been through in my life, but constant unending feeling of fatigue, just so tired I didn’t want to move. I actually spent an entire day on the couch with the goal of emptying my garbage can. I would tell myself that it was no big deal and on the way to the bathroom I would just take a bag out and tie it up and then go back and lay down for a while and eventually get up again to pee and I would put the new bag in. While it never happened. Could you imagine feeling that tired and that’s sick that you couldn’t even change your own garbage bag? I am ashamed that I was so weak but I just couldn’t move. I started researching low thyroid symptoms and found that my blood work showed signs of my low thyroid and that everything I was experiencing could be attributed to it. My doctor denied my thyroid as being the problem but now six weeks after the medication increases and a change in diet I feel so much better that I have to point to the thyroid. During this episode the doctor did an ultrasound scan and found a nodule that may be cancerous and my thyroid. I have to get a biopsy. I am afraid of needles, I’m sure laughing, and they will have to stick what I imagine looks like a soda straw in my neck. I’m sure it will hurt and I have confirmed this with several medical professionals that I trust. In the meantime I looked back at what could have caused the sickness and it all makes sense now. My thyroid, which needs iodine to be healthy and perform, was depleted of its nutrients. Eating nothing but rice and beans depleted my body. It makes sense now and I look back feeling very stupid but my focus was on my sugar in it never occurred to me that the rest of my body was severely out of balance and lacking nutrition. I wasn’t getting any protein except from the beans. I stopped my protein drinks so that I could have an accurate reading and judge my new diet. I wasn’t getting any vitamins or minerals that my body desperately needed. Due to my lack of strands I started to get injured because I couldn’t do what I normally could. Though Rice is a carbohydrate and muscles felt that pleaded and drain. If I took a strike had actually started to hurt — I just couldn’t go on like that.

So now I have a clean bill with my heart and my thyroid is back doing what it should. I am scared of this biopsy and can’t wait for it to be over with. But I figure that many times they have to redo them as they don’t get a good reading — just my luck I’ll have to go back. I am taking two multivitamins daily and a host of other singular minerals and nutrients such as vitamin E., C., flaxseed oil, fish oil, magnesium, and a few others that I was taking before but systematically cut out to see if I could do okay without them. So for now I’m back on track and actually looking forward to going to the gym instead of dreading it as the last nine months have been. So how does this tie into friendship?

Well, my so-called friends all disappeared when I was no longer useful. I sent out an e-mail to all my contacts and made a few phone calls to tell my “friends” how bad I was feeling and that I was getting worse. I would call them frequently just to talk because I felt so bad and was gasping for air with horrible chest pains and just needed someone to talk to to get my mind off of my pain and stop the panic. But my phone calls weren’t returned were picked up. E-mails would come back with short choppy replies such as “praying for you” or “hanging in the air — you’re the toughest guy I know”. One person in particular who I had gotten very close to while he was here only called me two times. This kid went off to college and stood in touch with me for a couple years. He owed his proclaimed his admiration of Me and thanked me for many things that I had taught him. But when I really needed a friend to talk to he was just too busy with his college fraternity and parties. The one night that he called and I picked up, I said meekly that I could not talk as I was too sick. He asked what was wrong. Again I said I was too weak to talk and needed air. He just kept asking what was wrong. This really puts me on because he never took the time to be a friend when I needed a friend. Just to talk on the phone would have been great medicine. But he never took the time to call me to see how I was doing and the one night when he had time to talk he was inconsiderate of my condition. It was weeks before I heard from him again. Again the only two that checked up on me that I didn’t have regular contact with were the two old guys — the old guys who understand the honor and friendship. Everyone who knows me knows how particular I am about my vehicles in my house. None of my so-called friends offered to cut the grass or do any chores that I was incapable of. However, when these so-called friends needed my help I was there.

Several years ago I went through a very hard time as I lost someone very close to me — someone that was my whole world and my life changed that day. Since then I have tried to see the good and keep a positive attitude which I despise so much. Every day before I get out of bed, I lay there for a few minutes plotting my day and thinking about all the good things that I have. I think about my beautiful house and my great vehicles, how lucky I’ve been to have stopped working at the age of 30 and dedicated myself totally to martial arts, how fortunate I am to own what I have and not worry about payments, I think about my great girlfriend that puts up with all my faults, I think how lucky I am to have the soft bed that I am laying in and know that there is food in the fridge for that day. And yes, I think about my great friends. But a few years ago my friends abandon me in the saddest time of my life. I tried not to carry that with me and to move past it but this experience has proven once again that when you can no longer afford your friends you won’t have them. My so-called friends, some of the old ones and some in new crop, couldn’t even pick up the phone to see if I was still breathing. Sadly this is not taught me a lesson — I’m sure I will extend myself again and again to no avail — but it is a harsh truth that I think I must finally accept.

I have been told by my friend who teaches me Uechi over and over for many years that there really are no friends and that we’re left here to fend for ourselves. I never want to turn into an as I always saw him as a very angry person and also a very skilled martial artist. But I guess as they age, I have to agree with his point. I find myself discussing it with him and telling him more and more that he was right. What a sad realization, I had hoped to prove them wrong.

Disturbs me the most is that friendship is out of our hands. It is not something that we can control. As good of a friend as I am willing to be, it does not benefit me unless there is another who would value the things that I do. There was a time when I had great influence and anyone who stood with me and enjoyed many perks. When I stopped working and could no longer provide these networking favors it seems 90% of my so-called friends disappeared. Some use me for handyman work while others stood behind my tough reputation to keep others at bay stating that they were my friend. So whatever reason when I was making a lot of money and able to do a lot of favors I had many friends. When I dedicated myself to training I wasn’t very interesting to anyone anymore.

So how does this apply to martial arts? Well let’s take an honest look at organizations and teachers. Let me correct myself and say instructors as I believe teachers have gone the way of the dinosaurs. People join organizations for status and a hanging around certain schools for their own personal gains. They profess their unending loyalty to their instructor in their system but only for selfish reasons. Recently Uechi friend told me this. There are only a handful of top practitioners in that system and one of them is named gushi.   I would encourage you to watch his videos on YouTube, just type in Uechi Gushi. He’s a thin man in excellent shape. The epitome of the art. As far as I’m concerned if you are interested in the art there are only two that can show you what it truly is, he is one of them and the other is Shinjo.  Well my friend informs me that Gushi Sensei has some kidney problems or something like that. It looks like he will die soon. Well get this, his long-time loyal, faithful, give their life for him, can never pay back his teachings and kindness, best friends in the whole world are leaving his school, word is that with his failing health they will have no one left to promote them so they are jumping ship and moving on to whoever else can benefit them the most. Now I don’t know if this is true but I suspect that it is because it came through some pretty reliable sources. There must be some truth to it as rumors and stereotypes are never totally faults. So here the poor guy is dying and everyone is leaving him because it no longer benefits them to be around him. Such is the modern way and gone are the days when students would sit by the master trying to learn everything they could and pledging to carry on his teachings.

So in the end, as far as martial arts is concerned, I personally don’t see where they are are any last who wish to train by the old codes. I base my feelings on the factual content of my life. Now maybe some other people have the greatest students in the world that I am searching for, but it is my experience that the way I train is just too hard and takes too long to get anywhere. I am not part of another organization so there is little bragging rights if you don’t cut the mustard. When someone is part of a national organization, no matter how much they suck they can only stand on national organization to brag about their rank. With me they can only stand on their skill and knowledge. Sadly I must admit that I think I have finally succumb to the realization that I shall never have another true friend. It is Christmas day and as I am writing this my phone just now rang at almost 12 AM from a couple of my so-called students and friends. They all now how sad I get around the holidays as I am alone in my mind is haunted of happier times and people that I have lost. The ones that I’ve lost were my reason for living, my reason for trying, the light in my life — without that Christmas is not much of the day may and I just want to get through it. I didn’t want to believe that I wouldn’t get any phone calls on Christmas Eve but I have to believe what is the truth. Everyone has e-mail and everyone has a phone with them at all times. So I guess I have to look at the true that there was no advantage in giving me a call to wish me a Merry Christmas. I bet if anyone needed anything they would’ve found time to call. I’m sure they were all busy with their families opening presents and hiding from their wives. I long for the old days when I had a class full of true students. Every Christmas was a great Christmas with them, I always threw a big party and everyone always brought gifts for each other. I had to stop the ritual of celebrating holidays and birthdays as the ones I have now were very disrespectful and forgetting birthdays and even at Christmas a couple years ago two of them failed to bring gifts even though they received them. So I stopped the practice and stopped them from following “the Path”. My biggest criteria for following the true path and getting my secret teachings is to be a friend. They all used to get that and cherish that but it seems this older crop just doesn’t understand it. I guess most of it is a demographic problem as I used to have students that were not from Florida. It seems down here your friend is willing to throw out a rusty nail unless you need it, then he wants to sell it to you.

So as life goes on I have found that the good times don’t last too long and friends are something of a fairytale in this modern age. I truly hope that my experience is not yours but I suspect that if you think about it and take your emotion out of the equation you will find that you have many of these “friends” and possibly you are one of these “friends”.

So the reference to the pictures in the header is this… The friendships born in battle are the ones filled with honor and respect. As it relates to martial arts the class of black belts seem to rally together for selfish reasons — I would not call such people who black belts were true friends. But the black belt who walks alone, who does not need an association to dignify his actions or validate his skill — he is the one that I suggest you search out as a friend. For a person that has the need to be part of a group will often do the wrong thing for the wrong reason because their need for acceptance is so strong. But the loner who is not part of a group nor does he need a group — that is the one who will do the right thing for the right reason and not care what anyone else thinks.


Posted in special forces training, body guard, judo, tai chi, punching, kicking, blocking, stick fighting, knife fighting, kung fu, ninjutsu,, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2012 by thebrutalityofreality


THE flaw of positive reinforcement and classical conditioning…….. It can be seen in any modern arts dojo. I say modern arts because whatever style they may be teaching,  teaching it in the old ways were disciplined and consequences were the heart of training — now they are teaching it with a paycheck as the main focus. If the student does not progress mommy will not cut a check. If the adult does not succeed they will quit and so will their payment.

So first let’s define a few things. Let’s talk about a method of training that everyone is very familiar with. Class starts in a usual way and the classes run in a usual manner. There are no surprises, no real threat of dying, and always the psychological comfort of knowing that at any moment you can quit, take a break, get a drink, or really do whatever you want. You can even leave and never come back. Yet all these schools boast discipline. I fail to see it.

First we must always take into consideration when judging a type of training or school what the goal of training is. If the goal is a spiritual enlightenment then you had better seek out a school with a master who is everything that you want to be and has at least most of the answers you are searching for. If the goal is something to do for Junior after school and the kid just has to have fun, then you have many options. If the goal is purely fighting, there are plenty of schools that will accommodate what you are looking for. However, if the goal is a true martial path in a school that truly thrives on discipline and hard training ,then you have quite a challenge in front of you to find one that will fulfill your needs.

I will limit this conversation to the old training (koryo) and speak about the flaws of the modern schools and society as a whole. Everywhere we look today we can find examples of people who state that they are very disciplined yet are very weak. Anything that is to be compared is only a subjective view. If you could only lift 50 pounds someone who could lift 100 pounds is much stronger than you. However, we are conditioned to look at very narrow views and would generally say that the person is strong — not stronger. The willingness to accept the fact that a person that could lift twice as much as you can is strong is a failed view. Though the person is indeed stronger they may not be strong. Strong is a subjective term that can only be proven or unproven by comparison. The key is what you will compare it to. By comparison to someone who could lift 1000 pounds this strong champion is just a whimp, but in contrast to the even bigger puss that could only lift 50 pounds on his best day the whimp is quite a role model. It is this subjective view that has been so detrimental to martial arts and society in general.  What is a black belt worth any more?  Is the black belt the master or just a long time novice?   Without getting into martial philosophy of what a black belt means, one thing is certain….  There seems to be an over whelming amount of blackbelts out there.  Can they all be this good?  Even at the ages of children starting school?    They are blackbelts by comparison.  The standards have dropped so much,  that in my experience, today’s black belt is no more than a beginner in if we compare them with a black belt of 30 years ago.

We must first discuss the parameters of subjective views if we are to truly understand the value of the old ways. For this conversation I will limit the problem to this. The standards are so low today that everywhere you look in every field, and every dojo, and every job — everywhere… The standards of comparison have dropped dramatically over time. It is a simple fact that every generation is softer than the preceding generation. My generation grew up with more advantages in a softer lifestyle then my parents, my parents had it better than my grandparents, and when I look at the youth of today I am quickly turning into the generation before me saying the same things about how soft they are. Yes I even have used the phrase “when I was your age…” I find that I am using it more often. So speaking of training will naturally include a subjective view of what is good and bad, what is hard and soft, what is discipline and lacking thereof.

Today’s society is so empowered with the rights of the individual that the rights of the whole, such as the whole class or the whole of society are ignored. The needs of one seem to outweigh the needs of many. A few examples of this would be a whiny person who is always getting hurt and never succeeds in class. Though that person should really be told they don’t have what it takes to succeed and be booted from class they just keep on going and they seem to get their belts and at times even win trophies for some stupidity. The need of one outweigh the needs of many. At this point you’re probably thinking that it is the need of that one disaster of a student — that one talentless pain in the ass that keep showing up, however, I’m not referring to the student. I am referring to the owner of the dojo. The owner of the class is the one need that outweighs the many. That need is money and ego. Throwing a student out would decrease his money. If he threw out enough  he would destroy his ego. Simply he would not be able to boast of a large class. Society seems to teach to let things go rather than uphold standards and have to sacrifice. Though this talentless student may show great dedication he is still holding back the others due to lack of progress and talent. On this note I would like to emphasize in the strongest way possible that I do not believe anyone who tries should be denied training or the chance to prove themselves simply because they do not have the talent to succeed — no, my point is that the owner of the dojo does not even see this, he only sees a paycheck.

To stress this point for a moment, I would like to briefly speak of my own school. At many times I have taken on students that just do not have the physical or mental capacity to train at a high level. However, they are genuinely interested in training and have a great deal of heart. I would never turn anyone genuine away because they do not have talent or skill. But I would not put them in an advanced class and hold the others back. I have always separated my classes and taken people out of one training and put them into another which is usually a downgraded and softer path. I know as a few of you are reading this, those who are involved in martial arts, you are judging me and thinking that every school does this – but again it is a subjective view. My advanced class uses real weapons and we really strike each other quite hard. I teach in great detail and keep the students on the phone for many hours discussing the philosophy of many things. So it’s back to the conversation earlier of the subjective view on the guy who can lift 50 pounds {which I would equate as the standard dojo} thinking the guy who can lift 100 pounds is strong. The guy who can lift 100 pounds I would equate to the Premier dojo’s to be found anymore and people classifying them as the best. They are not the best  just as the second guy is not strong. They are better in the same manner that the second guy is stronger but neither is the best or the strongest. They only shined in contrast to shit. However, they become shit in contrast to the real way whether it be working out or training in the dojo.

So how does this tie into the title? Very simple. Everything these days that is to be taught ,whether in school or in the dojo, seems to revolve around one theory that I believe was instituted for the week mind. It was construed out of necessity to deal with the weak mind and derived from a choice between quality and quantity. It has been taken to extremes and I believe turned into the biggest scam and amoral way of teaching. It is positive reinforcement. Let me explain why. At this point I’m sure most readers have closed their mind saying this is ridiculous and have formulated their own opinion. Such is the goal with my writing , always to let the reader form their own opinion and then throw a curveball to open their mind. Positive reinforcement has been drilled into us as being correct — there have been many studies in psychology suggesting its validity. However, we must again look at the subjective side of positive reinforcement. So open your mind and try to understand rather than debate the negative side of positive reinforcement.

Let’s examine the qualities and advantages of positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is giving someone credit for doing something good. In the case of the dojo a kick A. be lacking in many ways yet the instructor would give positive reinforcement stating that perhaps this stance is very good and the kick will come. The student being of a weak mind would not feel too hurt by this and would focus on his good stands rather than his poor kick. Being in business is a classic scam. It’s the sandwich of a compliment to ridicule and another compliment. Telework or something good then bring up the problem, Ben and off with the criticism and followed up quickly with a positive reinforcement of sorts. I will bluntly state that I believe people are of the weakest nature if they need positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement stroke your ego and gives a week mine that little something it needs to continue one. Positive reinforcement says “it’s okay to fail”. Positive reinforcement can be the most attractive team thing to anyone especially a young mind. Put this aside for a second and don’t judge it, just take it in and sat in the back of your mind like a piece of the puzzle as we discuss the next one.

Everyone is familiar with the experiments of Pavlov and that poor dog. On a side note what few people don’t know is that the dog was not given to meat but a meat powder and I have also read text stating that the poor animals had tubes inserted into their organs to test for the reaction of digestion. Though we have learned so much I think it is a horrific price to torture animals in this way. But back to the nature of positive reinforcement. In Pavlov’s experiment the poor dog was conditioned to think that every time he heard a bell he would get a pleasing treat. I won’t go into the rest of the experiment as an intelligent mind is already familiar with it and if you are not, you should research it on your own time. He showed that planning on something is a very powerful emotion. One that will not let us easily change our course once we have adopted the belief that a certain stimuli causes or gets us a certain thing. This is done in school, jobs, and especially in the modern high money dojo. Let’s examine the cause and effect of conditioning responses. You can make the argument that a worker shows up for his job, completes the task, and is paid money. That is a condition response much like Pavlov’s dog. Perhaps when the alarm sounds in the morning knowing that there is a shady day of work ahead we all have that gut wrenching feeling and don’t want to get out of bed, yet on a day off no alarm is needed to rise and a better feeling is accompanied with a morning ritual. The differences is the conditioned response. It is that on certain day we have to get up early and go to a task we do not enjoy versus days off being easier to rise since the threat of the job is not there.   If you enjoy your job then  you have the complete opposite effect — you can’t wait to get to work. In the dojo the conditioned response is that class starts in the usual manner and is taught in the usual way with the usual people going over the usual mistakes with the usual amount of safety and the usual class duration ending in the usual manner on the usual nights. Nothing really ever changes. The conditioned response is that if you go through this, you will get out and have positive reinforcement that you have succeeded. Let’s look at a more specific example of how a particular class would deal with strikes and blocks. The student pairs up with a partner. Let‘s just use Bill and John. Bill is paired up with student  John. Bill is a bumbling fool and not very coordinated whereas John is succeeding quite rapidly and has a natural ability. Bill and John are always partners. Always doing the usual stuff and nothing really changes or surprises them. Over the next year or so Bill, being a bad uke and not much of a martial artist imparts  a great deal of knowledge on John with his mistakes. However, in this scenario we will say that Bill and John both get constant positive reinforcement for their efforts. They are conditioned to believe that what they are doing is really training for real combat.  Here’s the problem. The lack of discipline and the role of positive reinforcement has made John come down to Bill’s level rather than making bill go up to John’s level. In my personal experience I have seen this so many times and been the victim of it a few times. John becomes complacent because Bill’s attacks are not very powerful or real. Bill is telegraphing and John has a little bit of sense to be preemptive  making John look like a superstar. John and Bill are always selected for demonstrations as John is easily able to manipulate Bill and Bill is happy to take it. Imagine this super duo in class. They would always appear to be the best students and probably get promoted the quickest. Bill standing on John’s ability and John succeeding through Bill’s inability.

Just take this all in for a second and look around your life. I’m sure you will see many examples of this. Somewhere in your daily life whether it be at work or possibly even at home by comparison you are much better or much worse than someone at something. Therefore, you probably avoid the things that you’re bad at and lean towards the things that you’re good at. You probably get positive reinforcement for shining on some tasks while you’re failed attempts are never discussed. Therefore, you have been conditioned to go after what you succeed at and avoid what you fail at because you are seeking positive reinforcement. The positive reinforcement in your life is what holds you back. What you feel you are succeeding at is always subjective. You are only more successful than the next loser in line but you are the loser when there is someone more successful ahead of you. So in the dojo that boasts practical and real training positive reinforcement is detrimental.

The positive reinforcement overlooks mistakes and produces a weak mind. You’re probably wondering how I can come up with a skewed view of positive reinforcement. There is another essential element to this conversation that I will leave till the end but for now let’s add a few more concepts to positive reinforcement.

The worst of the losers is the neutral person who never takes a side and just respects everyone’s ability and opinion.  At some point you have to take a stand.   Neutrality if for the lazy and cowardly.

Positive reinforcement goes hand-in-hand with classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is the example of Pavlov’s dog. Do something and get something. It happens over and over and over until you expect it and then you are conditioned. You put money in a machine and expect to get something of value out of it whether it be chips or coffee or whatever. You take a certain pill and expect a certain feeling. You stab yourself with a knife and expect a certain outcome. You get the idea. Classical conditioning done in the correct manner can be very good and produce a winner and a strong mind, however, society has a large role to play on what the conditioning consists of. In order to make a fair argument we must look at the current times. You can no longer tell people outwardly and publicly about their flaws. If you tell a minority something that is associated with the stereotype you may even get charged with a hate crime if a fight ensues. Gone are the days when you could freely make jokes and have the butt of the joke laughing with you. There is a smaller and smaller group that is willing to make fun of themselves. Yet making fun of yourself is the greatest thing that you can do for it says that you are aware of your failure and shortcomings. The key is to do something about those failures and shortcomings. Hell I used to have a little bit of a gut and people would make fat jokes about it. I am just the type of person that no matter how lean  the rest of me gets, I still have a little belly. This would always give me two choices. I could either be very bothered by someone else’s opinion and do nothing about my belly which would keep the hurtful remarks coming or I could lose my belly and eliminate the cause of the remarks that hurt me so much. I bet that sounded really good and everybody agreed with that. However, that was just a bait for my next point. I would count myself as a very big loser, a non-warrior, a disgrace in general if I let a comment about my belly bring me down. Follow this. Someone says my belly is fat and it hurts me. Why would that hurt me? Generally when you make fun of someone’s flaws, especially someone who is fat it hurts them deeply. Meaning=  it would hurt me only if I had nothing else going for me. But in my case I was always very powerful and that power only came from a lot of hard work and discipline at the gym. I also had a lot of hard work and discipline in my daily life and still do. So my fat belly was something I could not do anything about even though I tried but it was a minor infraction of my overall being as I was still much more powerful than those who called me fat. I had greater muscle mass and power. I could beat the shit out of them right there on the spot if I chose to. So this comment did not bother me much at all, in fact ,I would make jokes about it myself. Many times in class we would do an arm bar and I would be able to trap an arm under my belly across my legs and do an arm bar without using my hands. Since then I have leaned down due to health issues and no longer have my belly. It’s just a small little flabby pouch and now hardly worth mentioning. But I would make jokes about it myself and I was never embarrassed of it. He the source of my confidence came from the discipline of my life and succeeding at other things. I did not need anyone to positively reinforce those other things.

Confidence and self-esteem only come from the hard path. You don’t build confidence by not pushing yourself and you don’t build self-esteem by taking the easy way out. Positive reinforcement and classical conditioning often promote the easy way out and condition the weak mind to be even weaker. So getting back to John and Bill, let’s say some years have passed and the two have just been superstars. John and Bill are in a dojo that boast very hard disciplined training for real life. John and Bill both know through positive reinforcement and classical conditioning that their techniques are bulletproof. Somewhere in John and Bill’s future a giant ass kicking is waiting for them. At some point if they engage a real fighter Bill will quickly find that in a real fight no one will have the courtesy of pulling their punches and working in the form that he is classically conditioned to respond to and John will quickly find that not everyone is as soft as Bill and his strikes that he has been classically conditioned to believe will disable someone will most likely go unnoticed.  For reasons of his conditioning thru positive reinforcement, he will suffer great bodily damage in the fight.

Positive reinforcement and classical conditioning is totally dependent on the view of what a positive and negative reinforcement is from both the student and teacher. Again it is all subjective. I think positive reinforcement — focusing on the good =is a total waste of time. It’s like a fortuneteller saying something good will happen to you. Who really gives a shit if something good is going to happen? Let it! I want to know about the bad that will happen so I can do something about it. I call positive reinforcement focusing on the failure but everyone else calls it negative. The difference is subjective — it is the difference between a warrior mind and a loser. The loser wants to hear only good things , maybe a sprinkle of criticism here and there, but generally good things. Whereas the warrior is more interested in the negative because it is a negative that gets you killed. The negative of not blocking correctly will get you killed. The negative of not striking correctly will make your strikes ineffective and possibly get you killed. It is the negative that we should all be concerned with when we  think about our daily lives, not a positive. Only through focusing on the negative can you correct those things. Focusing on the positive makes you ignore the negative and therefore conditioned you to be a loser.

I think now something has sparked in her mind. It you are starting to get the idea that I am trying to put across. The key is that Paul the parties are winners and mentally tough. The key is that both parties are going in the same direction looking for the ultimate same goal. If the student is looking for belts they cannot train under me for it that is not my goal to promote students. If there is a conflict of goals what is seen as negative and positive will also conflict.

The missing concept that makes positive enforcement and classical conditioning a success or failure is the goal. It is essential that both parties have the same goal and look at training in the same manner. I would much rather be told all the things that I am doing wrong so that I can correct them. Being told that I am doing something right is of little use to me. I don’t need a compliment to  make me feel good, and I don’t need it to give me the strength to go on. My goal is to master something so ,therefore, I need the information of what I am not mastering. It is just a waste of time to know what is good. I tell students over and over how bad they are doing. Rarely do I ever give them any positive reinforcement but when it does come it means a lot because it is so rarely given. However, the positive reinforcement is only the perception of the person getting it or giving it. So in the classical manner I give very little, almost no positive reinforcement. The classical conditioning in my way is that if you’re not doing it correctly, there is a consequence. I want my guys to be able to defend themselves not be bullies. It is the responsibility of all of us in class to develop a strong warrior mind that does not fight with ego and does not seek to hurt someone unjustly. It is my responsibility to carefully hand out knowledge and make sure that I do not arm someone who cannot handle the responsibility. This method of guarding knowledge  in itself is a positive reinforcement. When someone in my class is shown a better way to do something they instantly know that they have succeeded in proving themselves and that is why they are getting this extra bit of knowledge. That is the classical conditioning. However, I see these examples as being far different from the commercial dojo that classically conditions the student to get belts and trophies.

In classical conditioning we must have other support systems behind it. Classical conditioning requires other elements for the conditioning to take place. It would not be conditioning if there were not a negative and positive associated with the action or a fear of consequence or an extinction of the habit or consequence. Let’s examine these other attributes. Not only does classical conditioning involved positive reinforcement but also negative reinforcement. Let’s look at negative reinforcement for a moment. This is probably the most common practice in all of our lives. Usually brought about through loss of control and resorting to last resorts. Someone can nag too much about a certain topic. Let’s say,  taking the garbage out. You don’t want to perform the task .  By not fulfilling the wish of the nagger,  you keep hearing the same nagging.   You finally get so disgusted with the nagging that you take the garbage out. This was negative reinforcement. You were taught that if you have a certain action or lack of a certain action that the consequence will be negative in nature. I’m sure all of you can think of it least 1000 things in your life that are examples of negative reinforcement. Those of you with children most likely use negative reinforcement all the time without knowing it. Now that the word “negative” associated with something you do it probably gives you an uncertainty about your actions. Many parents will take a privilege or a toy away from a child when they are bad. This is negative reinforcement. Using negative reinforcement is indeed a powerful tool and I believe if used in the right manner can be much more advantageous than positive reinforcement. Many will disagree simply because it’s negative in nature, however, the undisputable proof is there that when someone won’t do some thing for the right reasons,  negative reinforcement is the only solution.  It is the foundation of our legal system.  Break the law and go to jail.    Negative reinforcement  keeps many  from getting in trouble.   

The next element that we should look at them is a side effect of the reinforcement. It is a punishment or reward. The punishment is of course naturally associated with negative reinforcement, however, if you open your mind you’ll see that positive reinforcement can create a much greater punishment than negative reinforcement for it never addresses what has to be fixed.  Example: The child does not complete a task and negative reinforcement is enacted by taking away the child’s phone. This act in itself is to be called a punishment. Through classical conditioning the child will soon learn that when an act or lack of act is committed it will result in the loss of privileges to use that phone. Now the only choice is — is the loss of the phone a harsh enough punishment to make the child act in a certain manner or is the task too great and makes the loss of the phone the easier way out?.  Again the character of the participant must be studied in great detail.   A child who never wants to disappoint the parents will comply for a greater reason than just the loss of the phone.  The phone is simply a symbol of failure and the disappointment of the parents.  However, the child who lacks character and does not care about the parents’ disappointment will only see the loss of the phone,  and only if the loss is too great,  will the child comply.  So it is with a student.  A good student will see correction as gift and duty to make it better while the loser sees it as negative and doesn’t care about the failure.  Any type of reinforcement and conditioning methods should be dictated by the character of the student.

Another important example is an extinction or removal of a certain stimuli. The phone is the stimuli that is removed in the former case. In any conditioning there is always the response to a stimuli while the removal of the problematic stimuli is usually involved. Let’s look at this in martial arts. If Bill throws a punch at John and John does not correctly block allowing Bill’s fist to make contact with his face,  then John’s goal is to block correctly in order to facilitate the extinction of the fist in his face. If we look at things in this manner I think you will gain a better understanding of the whole picture and the problem with positive reinforcement . Positive reinforcement usually does not deal with what the extinction of the problem rather with the avoidance. A positive reinforcement in this manner would be that John did not block correctly but he sure can take a punch ,what the guy. Bill’s positive reinforcement would be that he is a very good striker. My method would be to use negative reinforcement and make fun of Bill for his poor strike. The goal would still be the extinction of the fist in the fist in the face but I would use what is deemed negative reinforcement.

There are a few more things associated with classical conditioning whether negative or positive. This will be best understood if we use a dog being housebroken as the example. The doggy pees , two hours later you see the puddle and proceed to beat the poor thing for peeing in the house. The dog has no idea what he is being beaten about since the incident has happened long ago. In housebreaking a puppy you must discipline the animal at that very moment that the infraction occurs or the poor dog does not know what is being disciplined for. This brings us to correction. It is very important in any type of conditioning correction that it take place at intervals. No one ever really stopped to think about this part therefore conditioning is a failure. Let’s look at a few types of conditioning. There is fixed and ratio meaning that one conditioning is every time something happens. You can expect a consequence. The other gives you a ratio of infractions before the consequence is realized. A couple of examples of ratio reinforcement is that of your work policy. There are most likely some parameters laid out that you get written up a certain amount of times and then a certain consequence is invoked. Of course this only works when the threat is always delivered. If you work in a place where some get written up 50 times with no consequence and others get fired for getting written up three times as stated the conditioning now comes beating the system not the write ups. Ratio reinforcement is simply that there is a known amount of infraction or stimuli between cause and effect. In the case of Bill and John, the ratio stimuli would be that John, being a sound fighter, would always put his hands up signaling  he is ready to fight or as Bill being a bumbling idiot would shake his hands like he’s making martinis because he is nervous in class and his palms are always sweaty. When John sees Bill shaking his hands he would know that Bill is defenseless and therefore always get a strike in whereas when Bill saw John’s hands in a certain position he would know that John was at his peak of readiness and would be able to block easily so Bill would not try to strike at that moment. That’s a bit of a stretch but it applies in the same manner. A more accurate dojo concept of a  ratio reinforcement would be on your test. If you fail a certain amount of techniques then you would fail the test. This would be a fixed rule that would not change and you could count on. After failing a certain amount of techniques you would not have to be told that you would fail the test , you would know. Anything that has a specific schedule of warnings or some type of stimuli before a consequence whether good or bad is enacted could be a ratio reinforcement.

A fixed reinforcement would be anything that is set in stone and does not change such as time in grade. Many schools have this concept that no matter how talented you are you have to spend a certain amount of time as a certain belt before you can be promoted. So you know that if you spend this time and do certain tasks within that belt you will get promoted on a schedule. Another example of a fixed reinforcement would be an interest rate. You know that over a certain amount of time you will collect a certain amount of interest on a certain amount of money yielding a certain return.

Whether a ratio or fixed reinforcement, the key is that the reinforcement always be delivered in the terms in which it was laid out. You cannot tell a child that the third time you tell them to complete a task and they don’t will result in a punishment, then sometimes tell them five times and sometimes only once. This is confusing. Any reinforcement must be delivered at a constant interval and in a constant manner otherwise the conditioning will not be learned. The use of making the extinction of a certain stimuli the goal is perhaps the underlying reason conditioning works. In the case of the child they are seeking the extinction of the punishment and in the dojo we are seeking the extinction of pain from being hit or fear from being an inept fighter. Without these elements conditioning will usually be confusing and fail.

Another element which is usually part of the conditioning experiment is the variable of success. A variable ratio is basically your odds. If you play the lottery and lose three out of four times but consistently win on the fourth ticket you will be conditioned to always lose three times and most likely place a small little wager but on the fourth time, expecting to win, you will spend a lot of money to increase your return. In the dojo we can see examples of this in sparring. Let’s go back to John and Bill. Bill has been conditioned that the ratio of John’s steps dictate when he is going to move in and try to grab Bill whereas John has been conditioned that the ratio of Bill’s jabs tells him when Bill is about to fire the haymaker and John easily blocks it. So every time Bill does three little jabs he is going to fire a wild haymaker — John knowing this always blocks it and looks like a hero but is only a hero because he has figured out the variable ratio of bills jabs.

As usual I save the keys for last. Variable interval is perhaps the best way to keep the performance. Again let’s look at your job. If you have a job that requires inspections — perhaps a restaurant, then you may or may not know when the inspections will take place. If the inspections are fixed you will quickly get ready for them and once they are gone you will feel that you don’t have to be as aggressive in your duties since another inspection will not come for a while and you will know before it happens. With variable interval concepts the inspection can happen at any time. You would have to keep the restaurant clean and perfect every day as you don’t know when inspection may take place. In the dojo the same concept is valuable when the students are constantly thrown into chaos. A class that is very familiar and never changes is not a class that teaches very much but a class that keeps the student in constant chaos with techniques constantly changing dictates that the student must be very aware and at peak performance all times or there will be consequences that are not wanted such as injury or dismissal.  In the case of Bill and John,  if  Bill and John are to be graded every three months they may slack off around the fifth or sixth week taking a break and start to become complacent but when the three-month check is near they will quickly regroup and move back to a higher level of training to get through the past or review.

The problem with anything fixed is that we quickly learn that it is fixed and are able to compensate it. An inspection that is to be done on a known date will allow employees to slack between those dates and quickly get ready for the inspection of the job review. But once they’re past that, they can quickly move to a complacent state again with little consequence. Whereas anything that is unknown, interval, dictates that you can get in trouble any day. The only consideration here is how valuable is the job or in the case of the dojo ,training? Only if a student is truly worried about getting thrown out will they always do their best. If surprise tests are given then the student must always know the material or fail. If there is a fixed schedule on which the students test or a certain material that is to be known in a certain time, the student can slack and become very complacent as long as they can manipulate the system and be sharp for that moment.

So far we can see that the simple concept of positive reinforcement is indeed a very complicated one and to be done correctly it must interact with classical conditioning. There are many elements that must be adhered to and the teacher must be diligent even more so than the student. If there are no consequences the reinforcement will not be taken seriously. In the case of positive reinforcement the consequences of good feelings and a conditioning is always taken to heart because it produces those good feelings. In the case of negative reinforcement the feelings produced are usually sullen and depressing and the weak mind will quickly lose motivation. The problems with anything fixed is that you can manipulate the system. If a child knows that a certain amount of warnings will be given before a punishment is enacted the child will push those warnings right to the edge and just before the punishment is about to be stated the child will complete the task or stop the behavior. Anything that is interval requires the student to always be at peak performance but there must be a clear and present threat of failure or dismissal or the will to succeed will be diminished.

Classical conditioning interacts with all of these concepts according to the skill and dedication of the teacher. However there is one last point that is always overlooked. Whatever you are training for, whatever you hope to succeed at in life requires that you train for it. In the work force world we see that a welder is actually trained in an environment that he will be working in with the equipment that he will work with. A mechanic is also trained in the environment that he will work in with the equipment that he will work on and with. A surgeon is trained in the environment that he will be in the equipment and problems that he will work with. Yet in the dojo they train for real combat, or so they claim, but they do not train in the environment that such combat will take place in.

How is it possible to train for something if you do not train in the environment that will take place in and with the tools that you will have to work with? Herein lies the problem with positive reinforcement and classical conditioning. Today’s commercial dojo is a plethora of safety. They are nice soft cushy mats and soft cushy pads for the students to wear. There are no sharp weapons that could hurt you and sticks are usually padded. It is air-conditioned in the summer and he did in the winter. There are plenty of lights and a good atmosphere. At this point I think some people who train may be confusing the point of this last paragraph. I am not speaking of discipline and safety I am merely pointing out that in all aspects of life we are trained in the environment in which we will be working in with the tools we will work with , and the problems that we will face when at work,  yet in the commercial dojo  the students are trained in the opposite faction. They are positively reinforced and classically conditioned that they are combat ready when they are only blocking a rubber knife or disarming the rubber gun. How can a gun defense be taught if the student does not have a real gun to work with and lacks knowledge of how a real gun works and what the bullet will do.? How can a student be prepared for a knife fight by practicing with a dull knife? How can anyone be taught to fight if there is never any fear of getting hurt.? After all if you are seeking a combat  art that will help you in a real fight in the real world, how can you learn this if you train anywhere but the real world? Discipline and ritual are the heart and core of any classical fighting system. You cannot be a great warrior without those elements. There is just some esoteric goodness that comes from a strict discipline and ritualized class that cannot be explained only experienced. However, I do not see how a rubber knife, a  rubber gun, or padded stick can prepare you for the real world. This brings us to the last part ….
operant  conditioning.

Operant  conditioning is the most useful and the most overlooked part of any type of training.   There is no need for safety pads.   Your partner should have enough control not to break your ribs but you should also have enough toughness to take the hits. A pad only teaches you to let your guard down and takes the fear away from the strike but in the real world, the first time that a real strike is really felt you won’t know how to deal with the consequences of your failure.  You have been classically conditioned to think that the strike will not hurt you. In the real world you’re killing blow that you have been classically conditioned to think will disable your partner , the magic strike that you have been positively reinforced in the notion that you are a powerful killer because your partner is compliant and your instructor tells you it will work will be greatly challenged in the real world. Operant conditioning is simply putting someone in a situation over and over and allowing them to know what to expect and to learn from that situation. A classic dojo example would be that a grappler who is inexperienced & keeps getting choked. This will work for a while until novice figures out that every time he leaves his neck exposed the opponent will quickly seize the opportunity to get his arm around it and quickly choke him. Again the key factor here is fear and pain — reality. If they are simulating chokes the novice will have a hard time learning because the consequence is not distasteful. However, if the novice is quickly choked to the point of passing out the fear of this will quickly teach him to guard his neck. If someone is continually punched in the face because they steal drinks at a bar they will quickly learn not to steal drinks. This type of conditioning is based upon consequences and cause and effect. There cannot be a true learning in a combative nature if the environment is left out. In the real world there are no mats and I’ve never been attacked by a mugger with a rubber knife or gun.

 Classical conditioning can be a great tool or the greatest detriment to learning depending on the goal in view of the student and teacher. It has to take into account the character of each. If the student is sensitive and is seeking confirmation of greatness and the teacher is seeking to teach a very real and effective course of combat there is a conflict. The student will want to hear good things — complements- yet the teacher who feels an obligation and duty of honor to point out the flaws that could get the student killed in real life will constantly tell the student about his failure. Whereas the student with a weak mind takes criticisms as negative the warrior mind takes them as positive reinforcement. Someone who really wants to learn will be grateful for all the criticisms and critiques. If you do not train in a real environment with all the climatic variables and terrain differentials you will not really be training for combat. In my class I am not concerned with competitions or titles. I do not base my teachings on anything other than reality and the old ways. The old ways were much better and produced much stronger students with much more knowledge. Today everyone wants to sue somebody for something and has this self deserving attitude about everything. Parents feel their kids should succeed just because they showed up and adults feel they should succeed for  the same and other stupid reasons. Again we must look at the military and their special forces. Not just anyone becomes a SEAL or Marine Recon or Airborne Ranger because they had a good attitude and tried hard. There are strict criteria that must be met in the selection process that must be gone through. The ones who do succeed are filled with pride that cannot be described only experienced. They emerge with a strong constitution that cannot be knocked down. They have been negatively reinforced with many variables. Always on the brink of being thrown out for failure which causes them to always try their hardest and be at peak performance and awareness.

If you’re looking for spiritual ride or a hobby than this entire article will be useless as it goes against the fundamental tenants of such things. If you’re looking for a dojo that will get you promoted quickly and a wall full of trophies, then this article will not make much sense. But if you’re looking for training that will produce a warrior who can indeed hold himself up to the world and claim himself as a true martial artist or even if you are not in martial arts and just seek to live as a citizen above the rest , I think you will ponder this and make sense of it. As is my style I want the reader to always walk away slightly confused with new thoughts and questioning their old beliefs. I do not want to state my views strongly nor do I seek to use cunning words to sway the readers opinion and judgment. It is my intention to just offer facts and make clear that we all are involved with classical conditioning and reinforcement of some type in our daily lives. If you take the time to understand it I think you may do things a little differently. If you are a parent, possibly parent a little differently. It is very easy to get wrapped up in the complacent way of society.

In the end you can’t grow a dead seed. Conversely , the most fertile seed will not grow without the right nutrients. A teacher must have the welfare of the student in mind always. A teacher must not look at financial gain or trophies. A teacher must not let ego get in the way and seek to always be right. A student must not want these things either. A student must look at the negative as the most useful for it tells the student where he is failing. A student should not seek complements or any type of positive reinforcement for those are the signature of a weak mind if that is what is needed to go on. In our daily lives if we get offended about comments that concern our physical appearance, perhaps there is not much else in life to be proud of. Thru discipline and hard training you should have much more in your life to compensate comments about your physical appearance. When your feelings get hurt too easily that is the sign of the week life filled with failure. Every day we are victims of conditioning. We must keep vigilant not to be conditioned in the wrong ways. After all that big Mac on TV does look a lot better than a plain piece of chicken that we should be eating and it would be easier to skip the gym and just watch TV all day. I hope that the reader won’t walk away from this article lightly and will ponder it often throughout their lives. Philosophy is integral to our lives and those around us. Often mistakes are made and we don’t even know it. Knowledge is key to everything.

 So give yourself some negative reinforcement today and think about all the things that you do wrong. Don’t get down about it — do something about it. If you are fat and lazy , change your diet and be more physical. If you are emotionally weak , get strong. It’s just that simple. If things don’t matter to you enough to change, soon nothing in your life will matter to you at all.