Thursday, October 25, 2012

2nd Amdendment - A Rambling Parable

©Karry Dayton

Once upon a time, a species of being was created or arose from the mud, which of those was true was a question that was far to complex for the creature to fathom. It, instead, spent much of its time in search of food where it would find questions like where it came from a complete waste of precious berry gathering time.

This creature was bald over most of its body, had limited nails, tiny weak fingers, strange angular round jaws, and other assortment of features that made it nearly a terrible predator and an inefficient gatherer.  This creature - we'll call him homo neanderthalensis from our distant point much in the future - had to think of a few unique ways to survive.  He did things like hunt in packs and sleep places that were hard for the four legged predators to get at.  For a being that didn't have much of a language, he was pretty smart.

Let us examine one tribe.

Here we have the Tughs, a small tribe of about eighteen Homo Neanderthalensis, amongst them was the great Tugh himself.  He was a pretty wise Tugh and treated his tribe members as equals.  When he invented the stone weapon, he made sure that all the people of his tribe knew how to use this new tool to crush enemies, kill prey, and fend off the big cats.  He, if he had known the word, would have called this an Arm, that is: armament.  He thought of this word in concept only, but it was good and it was clear that for the survival of everyone around him, including his own self, having this rock weapon was good.

Later, Letus Tugh the Minor broke his stone and part of it was sharp, he saw that he could use this new sharp stone as a kind of axe to cut and slash things.  With a little work he managed to affix it a pole and he had a longer stone axe (of course Ramnnn Dul from a competing tribe had actually already done something similar by attaching a stone to a stick to beat people about the head with, but this was an advancement).  With this new spear a call went out about the Tugh that such a weapon was useless and dangerous to society.  It was to much, said many.  We already have stones, said the rest. But the Wise Tugh himself embraced the spear arm.  He told them, "that it now exists, soon all people everywhere will have it.  Some will use it for good, some for bad. If we wish to survive we must embrace the future".  With that he showed the tribe how to use it and they saw how it was good for crushing the enemy, killing prey, and fending off the great cats.

Later still, the female Clwreal Tugh (yes we know, female names were crude, we aren't judging here) dried out the intestines of a killed deer and found that they retained a strong resilience that allowed them to be stretched.  Her second man, Yur Tugh took these springy insides and attached them to stick and created the sling-shot.  The people were terrified, for a brand new kind of arm was now available.  It was an assault weapon, in that it could be rapid fired, from a distance, where are all arms to that point required that they be used close up or retrieved if thrown.  Now Yur Tugh, if he wished, could have ruled over them all, by simply keeping his distance.  The people saw this possibility and worried.  But the wise Tugh himself saw that it was good, for as long as this new technology was passed down to his people, the equality of his tribe would remain.  Yur Tugh agreed and they crushed many enemy, killed much prey, and pestered the great cats from the branches of trees.

To this day, we descendants of the Tugh continue to advance the idea of being armed.  It is through our ability to obtain the same or similar equipment that keeps us with the ability to maintain our equality.   Equality is freedom, for slavery and servitude begin when we give others the power to be above us and sacrifice the right to maintain our vigilant eye on the advancement of technology when it comes to armament. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I received a phone call from a student that was apologetic about not being at class lately.   This student had been hurt a few months back and the nature of the injury had left the student in a situation that any workout at all would aggravate the situation.   They explained that the last time they were in that the student they were training with further caused injury and found it either funny or did it intentionally.  I was taken aback.  Wounded in fact.  I had never once thought that someone in our ranks, our brothers, our comrades, would take pleasure or find it a point of comedy to cause harm to one of his own, especially for no real reason other than some abhorrent and sociopathic reason. 
This has got me thinking about ground rules and responsibilities.
I passed this information onto Sensei and we discussed some of the matter to see what the best possible solution would be.  We both agreed, simply, that anyone caught hurting another would be dismissed from our dojo, with as much humility and dishonor as possible.  Such behavior wouldn’t be tolerated.
What is the purpose of training?  Is it simply to become a fireplug to put out danger as it arises?  Is it selfish and ego driven so that in the end we become, not better members of society but monsters?  Is it militaristic by nature and thus, anti-social, a boys club for arrogant, tough men?  I’ve seen a few dojo’s like this, but not many.  I’ve seen a few service professionals like this, but as a friend from Corp said, “You learn real quick to be upstanding amongst the other men, after all, that guy is going to be standing right behind you when the firing starts.”
The reality is the opposite.  The longer amongst people with the skill and the talent to kill others the more respectful and human people become.  Perhaps it’s the slow dawning of enlightenment which awakens in a person the realization of how precious each moment.  Most likely though it’s the realization that this shit hurts when it is done to you and nothing is more motivating than pain as a reminder of what we are really doing.  But this concept of pain is not a punishment, or a vindication.  We learn to let up early and often to avoid hurting each other.
Also the sharing of such secrets in the company of danger tends to give us a sense of comradeship.    We begin to view those that we see three or four times a week as brothers and sisters. As you age and gain rank, these comrades become your children.  So it is difficult when you hear that one of your children is being bullied.
I have expectations.  I admit it.  I expect our black belts to have certain qualities.  

Teacher / Mentor
As a teacher the black belt’s responsibility is pass on the things they have learned.  This means more than the simple techniques.  Any robot, television station, or high school textbook can give you rudimentary understanding of rote ideals.  What a teacher is really suppose to do is help guide the individual toward some goal.  And, from what I can tell, I feel our goal is humanity.   That our goal is not simply passing on ancient fighting techniques, but the act of helping create thinking, living, human beings.  A teacher therefore oversees as well as instructs.  A teacher reminds as well as guides.  

We are social creatures that in the end enjoy the company of others.  As part of our own growth into becoming true human beings we need to remove the obstacles that keep us from interacting well with others.  It is because of this there is an expectation from our black belts to be more than instructors, but to be there on some level for those moments, such as this one, where one of your fellow buyu is not sure how to proceed.

You are not the boss of it all, sorry. But you’re just like the rest of us, black belt and all.  The world isn’t going to bow to you.  It isn’t going to explode if you die.  It most likely doesn’t even really notice you.  It shouldn’t.  You’re responsibility is to you.  To your own growth and ability to become something of yourself.  This is why you should never lose that spirit of being a student.  It will keep you young at heart as you are constantly testing the waters.

That’s right, you know what I mean.  That we have a responsibility to look after those around us, especially those that come to use for support.  This doesn’t mean you go looking for arguments and fights and looking to defend ‘honor’ or your ‘rep’ or this weird social perception called ‘respect’.  Those are all fallacies and frankly, unrelated to being a grown up.  Protection is about truly looking out for the safety and sanity of others (even yourself yes, but not for these narcissistic reasons above). 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Acts of War

Contract Negotiations is a misnomer

Don't be fooled with the word negotiate. In our modern times, we have come to believe the word means: meeting in equality to arrive at a beneficial agreement. In fact, look at what your contemporaries define it as at Wikipedia:

Negotiation is a dialogue intended to resolve disputes, to produce an agreement upon courses of action, to bargain for individual or collective advantage, or to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests. It is the primary method of alternative dispute resolution.1

Notice that most of this definition is about resolution and solving issues. While let's take a look at the physical definition of the word, that is the definition that originally was created around the action, not over some vague intellectual concept, but the actual movement that was required onto which the word is applied:

To succeed in passing through, around, or over.2

Of course, this definition has lost its position and become a secondary meaning. But the underlying truth still remains. A negotiation is an act of overcoming, it is not, as it has recently been defined, an end point, on which the battle is resolved, but is instead a different arm of the war in which the last shots are fired. Where Clausewitz said, "war is politics by another means", negotiations, is the final act of war into which all of the politics comes to a head and, hopefully, solved for in the victory.

In business this should be no different. In a sense, the teams that do the negotiations should look at this as a battle to achieve their goal first and foremost.

I have been to many of these and find that at times neither sides seems to fully understand the fact that this is a war between two organizations, pitting themselves against each other to basically screw the other side out of something valuable. If they weren't there to ensure a better position for themselves, there would be no reason for the process.

Here in lie some of my observations:

Take the higher ground

This is the most common mistake that people in all walks of life take. They simply don't understand that you want to be king of the hill. You gain advantage by being at the top of the hill, from vantage point, to defending it, to advancing in multiple directions. The higher ground is a pinnacle in battle in to which fortune gives the advantage. This physical higher ground is obvious in armies advancing across battlefields, but it might not be as obvious to individuals in other arenas. For example, when playing chess the center of the board is 'the higher ground'. When playing basketball the Key is the higher ground, etc. Even in personal combat, in a one one match, there is a higher ground to strive for. Why then wouldn't there be a higher ground here too?

In business, the higher ground is where the negotiations will take place. If the manufacturer insists on having the negotiations on sight then they are digging in, setting up fortifications on a hill, pointing everything down into the valley where the supplier has to climb up, through the guns to get into the fort. They may not do this physically, but they set up so many emotional, social, mental obstacles that only a utter buffoon wouldn't be directly affected by the attack. I've been in on negotiations where they didn't allow us to use the bathroom, to have cell phones, to leave the room. They tell us it is about security, but that's poppycock, they are using every device they can to intimidate and belittle our position. In one case they made us wait two hours between sessions and then kept us so late that we are all annoyed and starving, meanwhile they had had dinner. They try and isolate you from your supply line, this is a very common thing to do in war. To isolate the forward troops from the supplies behind lines and thus, cut them off from help and starve them out.

It's very simple: If in the process of setting up the negotiations the opponent does not want to come to you, then it should be so desired that you meet on neutral ground. Do not go to them. Instead meet at a hotel or pre-arranged off site location. In this way you will be allowed to have all of your tools and necessary freedoms so that you can focus on your strategy. And that they too have this will ensure that both sides find some unsaid mutual neutrality and indirectly equal respect.

Evaluate your Strategy

Before you even agree to the meeting, you need to evaluate your Grand Strategy. That is; what is the purpose of your company and how are you going to enact this Strategy through well designed stratagems and tactics. The biggest failure I've seen is this vague notion that these negotiations must happen. That one company assumes that they must have this contract. This might be a weak strategy to rest your head on. Perhaps better competitive pricing would be more useful? Perhaps limited partnerships with particular manufacturers that work in conjunction with your design desires to ensure both parties manifest similar strategies. Most of these negotiations do not even need to occur, especially since the two parties are at arms and have only their own intentions to achieve. That should be remembered when you set out to create a strategy involving contracts: if the supplier is at terms with your organization then perhaps they are not allied with your position, and those not in allegiance are the enemy and should be reflected as such.

Have a Battle Plan

Imagine you and your army arrive on an unfamiliar battlefield, you troops are mulling around, no one seems to have any idea what to do, where to go. No one has scouted out the terrain. No one has counted the enemy, looked at their armament, evaluated their strength. Would anyone reading this expect that such an army would stand a chance in battle? Hardly. In fact, it is exactly this that we have seen decides decisive victories over and over again. Where one army is just better trained, better equipped, better prepared than the other. If anything has been more important in battle, it is this: Have a plan. Write those plans at home. Train them into your troops. So that when the enemy does arrive it won't matter how much surprise or how out numbered you are.

The same can be said for business. Know your enemy, obviously, but don't take much credit in the fact that you know him. Instead, know yourself. Know your team. Plan for potty-breaks, for lunch, for when you arrive, for when you plan to leave. Make it clear to the enemy that you set the rules, the standards for your team and that you aren't just there to satiate their desires. Doing so will come back to haunt you when you make concessions to their team that might or might not show up in the signed contract (yes this has happened to me where we made huge price cuts to win other business and they ended up giving it to someone else)

Use Spies

Anyone familiar with the art of war, should realize that I'm not saying anything that isn't in there. Sun Tzu makes it very clear that Spies are of the up most importance and could help to bring the end of conflict before conflict even begins (which Sun considered the best of victory). This same principle can be assigned to business. This doesn't mean illegal espionage. Don't forget you live in a society that frowns on many things. Instead it could simply mean, use your time through out the whole negotiations to see how the enemy is formed. Review the trades before you go, watch their actions while there (why do they keep going back to a ten cent widget? What is their purpose?) Watch what they work on in the pre-negotiation, and what they send back as the final award.

Nothing is set in stone until the ink dries

How sad it is that we have become such a complacent people in that we accept every detail of a contract as if it's the last good thing that will come our way. The truth is, we still have final say on the exact language, the line items, the terms, etc. No is often more powerful than yes.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pilot of the breaking momentum

We have all been there. Already on the freeway. In the slow lane. We are coming up on an on ramp and someone else is getting on. They are doing thirty miles an hour and working their brakes. They will do this until that moment they make the transition from the input lane to an actual traffic lane. Once they are in the traffic lane they stomp the gas and as soon as their vehicle is up to eighty miles an hour they stay there until they get off the freeway. Further, once that shift from entry lane to actual lane occurs, they will not use their brakes again unless forced too. All lane changes will be done with the accelerator.

Man has a mental inertia. Once this momentum is set it is hard to shift. It is difficult to change. What’s worse is that this software can be so well written into us that we don’t even realize that we are doing it. It takes an outside act in a lot of cases for the programming to break. You’ve probably been there too and seen it in action. When the same person is getting on the freeway and they are just about to make that transition from entry to lane, but another car is in the blind spot of their own vehicle they might hesitate between the brakes and the gas pedal as the program has been interrupted and has to be turned off to allow for direct input and access to the situation. There in lies the limitation of most minds, because they soon return back to the programming. The situation of having to interact directly has made them nervous or angry and confused them, the data that would have been useful to save, to incorporate into their previously established conditional responses is lost. Forgotten to the negative impact it had on them. That is to say, the event was not traumatic enough to alter the personality and the programming (as an accident would be), but was ‘embarrassing’ enough for the mind to dismiss it as irrelevant.

This sort of living is fine for the average person. But you are not an average person. You are an artist. Martial, sure, but artist none the less, and your responsibility as a unique individual, with limited time, and limited resources, it go in the only direction you can truly afford to go: inward. You have a dictated quest to question your own personality, your own reasons, your own actions. You have a requirement to become a thinking person, not an acting person, but a conscious, rational, individual in a sea of lemmings.

Programming, conditional response, limited capacity for introduction to new values/ideas, makes one predictable. And being predictable makes you a slave or even possible fodder / food for others.

Let me give you a ‘martial’ example.

We do ukemi (flowing / receiving) and kaiten (rolling) in our art. Observing the class doing backward rolls I noticed that every time students would sit down with their left leg out they would roll over the left shoulder. There is nothing inherently wrong with this as it is completely feasible that rolling on the outside is the best roll. But they do it subconsciously. If they were to put out the right leg, they would roll over the right shoulder. Again, nothing wrong. But a thinking opponent familiar with the roll would only have to witness this behavior once and realize exactly where his enemy was going to arrive. He would know how, for example, the hips of his enemy had to turn, which direction their torso was facing as the roll began. The direction of the head. The location of the arms. Etc. When doing the roll, then, one should learn to do the roll from both hips to both shoulders. Also, looking at the angle going out as the roll is processed: is it straight back, 60°, 45°? What is the intended consequence of the roll.

This is just one example of taking control of the situation, instead of just letting the software practice badly. I should study on this diligently. You see much like the guy who only knows how to use the gas pedal on the freeway, my art should not be a matter of building inertia. I am the master of this ship. I pilot it not simply by the course of the winds (the fluctuations of the mind), but by the direct interaction with the vessel.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You or the fluid and energy of creation

Do the foothills rise in a single day to be mountains?
Do clouds appear from nowhere and bring the storms?
Do new planets blossom into existence in a breath?
Then how does it seem that a man
Can be so
That he believes himself complete
When he is yet unripe?

The seed comes to the earth in humility
Only in patience
Does the fruit sweeten.

As usual, the lesson is all on me. I don’t feel that most of what I say is really anything but the rambling idiocy of reflection that I need to say, that is, be heard by others. I say most of this because it becomes a singularity to my mind if I can bridge the distance of beleaguered thoughts and entwine what appeared to be broken synapse. Here I am again.

I have discussed what I feel about the idea of teaching. That is, any alteration, and submission by the teacher for the student is a kind of disservice to both parties. Recently another aspect of this came to my attention. Normally, as well, I’m talking about new students. As new students, by their very nature, tend to have a lot of preconceived notions and no-none-sense mentality. After all, this isn’t a religion, and those willing to participate come with a pragmatic, eyes open feeling. They tend to, therefore, look at it from a very corporeal manner. And they should. There is in martial arts a loss of the genuine over time, but, this is the case of all things involving man. That is, the loss of the pragmatic and the creation of dogma.

Today, though I’m talking about senior students. It is hard sometimes to not talk over Sensei. Not that I know more than him, not by a long shot. But sometimes, I remember some antidote that he used once before that would fit the situation and I feel that it would benefit the class. I mostly bite my tongue and stand there waiting to be thrown by him again. Apparently, I have not landed on my head enough to have killed that insatiable side of me that demands the attention. And that little gremlin is a greedy bastard. But, as I said. I mostly do not.

One thing I never do, is to assume that I know what the real lesson of the class is. That is to say, that if we are doing a particular technique, training situation, etc. I do not try and expand or expound on where I believe that it is going. I will absolutely not start teaching something beyond what we are already doing. It is not my class. It is Sensei’s class. I may have some trouble staying my tongue, but I would never presume to believe that I have the right to take over his class and start teaching his students the way I feel is best for them.

This, by the way, is not to say, do not teach. On the contrary, do, teach often. Teaching is one of the best ways to really learn something, because it forces you to actually examine the process by how it came to work for you. Also, teach in your own way. I’m simply saying, that if it’s not your class then don’t step on the teacher.

As a teacher in such a situation I actually find myself getting upset. Especially when I see fancy, fast, over the top, painful, exuberant, complex ideas being used against a white belt that’s into his first month of class, who probably isn’t getting a single important thing from any of that. Now, I know, plenty of people come from the ‘throw the boy in the ring’ mentality. I know I did. When I was younger getting knocked down, getting the wind knocked out of me, getting hurt, seemed like the ‘manly’ way of learning to fight. Of course it did, for after all, everything we do from riding bicycles to playing video games to making love comes not from outside instruction but from direct contact with what ever the object is. We are good at learning this way. As I got older I realized that there were giant gaps that entire fleets of enemies could storm through, not only in my physical form, but MOSTLY in my mental form. I had never once looked at fight the strategically. I’d got into them, then ended, and then the bragging or the feeling sorry for one’s self started. The process of learning had been reduced to a few minutes of pain, and that fed on itself, until eventually, all of the learning was just about issuing pain. Boy, that’s useful. Not a single important thing stuck.

Hopefully I’ve made this point clear before, but I feel that tactics and a simple strategy far outweigh any ‘ground’ fighting (See Art of War). Because of this, I feel that technique is not an end all be all. That learning to punch hard is not the great equalizer. That being able to get into or out of a side mount is not always the best place to be for a conflict. They are all useful, like any tool is, but they are just that. What is important is the tools. Learning them.

It’s hard to explain, because we are a creature of definitions and tangibility. When I say tool, you think hammer, wrench, or maybe the guy who is dating your ex. What I mean is so much more than that. A tool like a hammer is already created. It was designed, mastered, set in ‘stone’ as it were a long time ago. The definition is set. And you know that if a nail needs to be pounded down or extracted, a hammer is the right place to start. But what if you had an object that didn’t have the right tool? You, and I would go into our tool box (already designed and created tools) and try every single one. Yet, none of them work. Most of us would be stuck, because of our need for the physical identity of the object to fit into a preconceived concept already established by normalized rules. Sorry, it’s the way we are designed. It is a hard pressed road to break yourself of this. But, martial arts (art in general actually) does just this. It breaks conventions, if, and this is important, you study hard on the most important aspects of the whole thing: e.g. You. The whole of you, right down to how your blood flows when you punch or kick.

If you are training with some one that’s not interested in themselves, but simply beating up on others, then you should think about training with someone else.