Archive for the Martial Arts Category

Personal Blind Spots and some Sci-fi Wisdom

Posted in arete, Martial Arts, Philosophy, Uncategorized with tags , , on September 15, 2014 by Joe Callahan


Any enclosed discipline sets its stamp, its pattern, upon its students. That pattern is susceptible to analysis and prediction.
– Frank Herbert, Dune.

I first read the novel Dune when I was 15 years old over Christmas vacation in 1978. In those young pre-internet days I hadn’t ever encountered anything quite like its curious mix of science, spirituality and politics. Whatever your preferences regarding sci-fi it is worth checking out (a brief synopsis and discussion of the novel’s enduring relevance and appeal here). Since that first reading I’ve come back to it a number of times. My appreciation of the novel has changed with time and my own shifts in perspective.

Recently I picked up Dune again and was struck by the quotation above. In the novel this passage refers to different schools of intelligence and counter intelligence operations. In a larger context I think it is an axiom that can be applied to most activities and many parts of our lives. Thinking on this started an evaluation (still in progress) of my own background, education and life experiences. I wanted to consider where this might apply to me. This seems a worthwhile exercise since predictability and being easily read are disadvantages in most of life’s more competitive situations.

The first thing that came to mind was the martial arts. Whatever arts you’ve trained in will identify what tactics and techniques you are likely to apply. Some idea of an opponent’s orientation can be guessed from different backgrounds like MMA, “traditional” arts or military combatives. If an opponent has practiced Muay Thai there is a strong likelihood that some kicks and knees will be coming your way. Deep training in an art gives strong skills such as very effective grappling for a Judoka. It also suggests potential vulnerabilities and reveals a likely mindset. The only real solutions to this problem of predictability are to train a wide range of techniques and train across different disciplines. If you are like me, there simply may not be enough available hours in a week to really do that.

I also considered how this can apply to the business world. Viewpoints and approaches can differ between someone from a big company career ladder background and someone with a more entrepreneurial, small team history. What sorts of industries have people worked in? Are they the product of a business school?

You get the idea. This axiom can be applied to all sorts of information about any individual. This certainly can give you some valuable insights if you take the time for a bit of intelligence gathering. On the other hand, the same can be done to you. A personal inventory of the “enclosed disciplines” in one’s life can show where to find new ways to expand a repertoire and act as a reminder to sometimes confound expectations.

Heavy Rain and Hagakure

Posted in Agathos, Martial Arts, Philosophy, Stoicism with tags , , , on June 10, 2014 by Joe Callahan
A little rain didn't deter the Seven Samurai....though musket fire was problematic.

A little rain didn’t deter the Seven Samurai….though musket fire was problematic.

Today we had a sudden heavy downpour in the Boston area.  I was already in my car when it began so I escaped the worst of it.  I did have to make a stop at a local establishment.  One of the shop owners offered to escort me back to my car with an umbrella.  Great customer service!  Still, I declined.  It was a short dash and, really, it’s rain not lava falling from the skies.  When I was back behind the wheel I was suddenly reminded of a passage from Hagakure (Hidden Leaves) written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, a Samurai of the early 18th century.

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and
run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you
are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding
extends to everything.

It is true that the author tends to think the universal solution to all of life’s problems is drawing one’s sword and rushing forward to die well.  I prefer a more tactical approach myself.  I think here he is suggesting more that when faced with the inevitable, things beyond one’s control, that it is best to recognize them and accept that the soaking may be unavoidable but likely not fatal.  Discomfort does not equal death.  Better to simply get where you are going and let the rest take care of itself.  A drenched Samurai is still a Samurai.