Balance

30 01 2010

In Taoist (pronounced Daoist) philosophy the yinyang symbol, represented by a backwards “S”, is centered on the theory that all opposing things are interconnected and interdependent of one another and through this, all things exist in the natural world. Without going into too much detail and to allow for you to do your own research, yinyang represents balance.

Everyday offers up an opportunity to practice this concept. Recently I’ve been on a grueling and most turbulent adventure in my life where I’ve needed to apply balance to damn near every hour of my day. When you lose your balance, you lose yourself. You become forceful and delusional.

Within the theory of yinyang, there is a term used by Taoists, “wu wei”. This is translated as, action through inaction. I find myself saying this in my head to remind me to calm myself and to not be so forceful. By forceful I mean deliberately trying to make change of something that is out of my control. This also is a reminder that we can only control things that we have power over, such as self.

The universe and other people and all things will fall into their rightful place without interference from me, you, or them. This leads to finding faith in balance. Faith that whatever hardship or joyous experience that one encounters will be evenly balanced in its end result. As vague and unexplainable as this concept may¬† be, the path still exists whether we want to accept it or not. So however you find balance in your daily lives, through God, the sun, a tree, or an animal, or whatever…understand that balance will keep all things moving and changing. If you have a hard day, balance it out with something soft. If your day is full of sadness balance it out by doing something that makes you happy.

-MR





O.G. – Original Goleador

9 12 2009

When we think of sports heroes from the Philippines, the first to come to mind is of course Manny Pacquiao. A couple other notable sports figures to also come from the PI were Efren Reyes, a nasty pool player (ESPN used to show this dude get busy on the table). And a famous little toy turned competitive sport, The Pedro Yo-Yo. Named after the ingenious inventor, Pedro Flores.

photo from wikipedia.com

But long before these Filipino icons jumped onto the world stage, there was a deceptive little footballer (soccer player) that made a huge mark on the Spanish Primera Futbol League (La Liga). His name was Paulino Alcantara. Hailing from Iloilo City, Philippines, Alcantara was the first ever Filipino and Asian to play for a European club.

Alcantara played for the world famous Spanish powerhouse, FC Barcelona. He quickly made a name for himself by kicking the ball so hard during a shot on goal, that the ball ripped through the net. Barca fans, especially the kids, wanted nothing more to kick and play like the Filipino. Dubbing him “El Rompe Redes”, the net breaker.

Great Skill

Usually we don’t correlate football with the Philippines or vice versa, but considering the achievements of Alcantara one could begin to make that connection. While at FC Barcelona, Alcantara became the club’s All-Time leading scorer with 357 goals in 357 games. He played for both the Philippines and Spain during his international career. And made his debut in the Spanish Primera at the age of 15.

Alcantara retired from the beautiful game at 31 to become a doctor, go figure…

Bad Ass!

Filipinos may recognize the name, but I’m willing to gauge that less than 50% of the Barca faithful know that he is a legend, let alone know that he’s Filipino.

Manny Pacquiao is definitely stamping his fist on the face of world sports, but without legends like Alcantara who paved the way, many athletes from smaller nations may not have ever been given the opportunity to display their athleticism. Now scouts from all sports from all over the world are seeking talent in hard to reach places.

O.G. - Original Goaleador

I don’t consider myself a rabid fan of FC Barcelona, but I am a fan for sure. Here in the states, the coverage of Spanish and other European football is limited to a few networks so its tough to follow results and everyday happenings. Hopefully coverage will increase, I would hate to miss the emergence of another great footballer from an unsuspecting region of the world. Go Barca!

-MR

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulino_Alc%C3%A1ntara

http://www.fcbarcelona.cat/web/english/club/historia/jugadors_de_llegenda/alcantara.html

http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/federation/president/news/newsid=654697.html





Straight from the slums of Shaolin

1 12 2009

Back in the summer of 2007, I made a trek deep into China… met with a 33rd Generation Shaolin Warrior Monk who spoke zero English, and my two years of studying Mandarin was survival level at best. Language barrier aside, he proceeded to teach me two forms within the Shaolin Kung Fu catalog. A fist form and a staff form, usually taught to more advanced students. His name is Lu Hai Long. He is my teacher’s teacher.

Monk's Quarters - Inside the Shaolin Temple

The path to my eventual discipleship began back in January of 2006. I had already been practicing a southern style of kung fu known as Choy Li Fut 4 years prior. Until one day, a Shaolin school opened up in Reno, of all places. This is where I met my teacher, Tian Xin – a 34th Generation Shaolin Secular Disciple.

He accepted me as a student and I began my training. Shaolin Kung fu is not like any martial art I have ever encountered. It’s very demanding on the body. Its unforgiving and short cuts lead to injury. This would explain why its the “mother of all martial arts”.

The turn over rate for the school I was at was about a month. Meaning that an average student would come in, try it out for a month and we’d never see them again. There were only a handful of students that came in regularly. This was nice because the classes weren’t full and the training was more like individual lessons. Lots of one-to-one learning opportunities.

I had advanced through the first level curriculum within a 10 month period. It took me 10 months to reach the second level curriculum in what usually takes 2 years generally.

In Shaolin there is no belt system, but first level usually equates to a beginner’s black belt in Tae Kwon Do or Karate. I mean we were doing everything. Punching wood posts, slapping hands over bean bags, pop-ups, falling on our backs, falling on our sides, falling on our arms, the shit was crazy what I was putting my body through. Things you could only imagine or seen in those old kung fu flicks, we were doing.

By this time at the Shaolin Temple in China, they were no longer teaching kung fu by the masses on the monastery grounds. Only to the small group of monks currently living there.

Another quiet day at the temple.

So I trained at a school just down the road from the temple at the Shaolin Shui Ku Xue Xiao – The School at the Shaolin Dam. This was something similar to a military academy for teens, but practicing kung fu all day long. See in China, most adults view kung fu like adults view soccer here in the United States. Something your kids do until they’re about 12 years old and that’s it. You can’t really make a profession out of it and it’s not as popular as ping-pong or basketball.

For them to see me there, an adult foreigner who can speak very little Chinese practicing kung fu was very weird, but they had all the admiration for me because of the love I had for the art form. I think its universal that if you show love and respect for something, especially not of your particular culture and make it your own, you get nothing but love and respect back.

The Chinese are very friendly people and they love the opportunity to practice their English with you or sell you something.

Quick training session.

I was prepared for the training regiment in China because of the way we trained back in the U.S. Everything from holding and throwing around training locks, core and leg training, hours of practice, to cardio exercises and running. Although, I wasn’t prepared for climbing up a rock dam backwards!!! I will never forget the grueling pain I endured for this. When I say I was tested, I really was at a breaking point. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider giving up that morning.

Shaolin River Dam

So I kept on pushing. I definitely didn’t want the word to get out that I was some lazy American just picking and choosing when I felt like training.

I think we all have that moment where we feel it’s just easier to give up on something so we don’t have to feel pain or hurt anymore. I know that there are a lot of things not worth holding on to, which is no big deal. When it comes to dreams and aspirations, things that are attainable over time, we should NEVER give up on.

Since I can remember, I always wanted to learn kung fu. I grew up watching old kung fu movies on the USA Network back in the day. Grew up, lost and found that desire to learn it again and again. If you know anything about old school kung fu movies, the Shaolin Temple was the Mecca and to train there allowed you to say, “I’m official”.

My crew. Don't let their size fool you. They get down!

Today I hold the official title of 35th Generation Shaolin Secular Disciple. My weapon is the staff and my fist form is Da Hong Quan (Big Flooding Fist). My temple name is Shi Heng Lu under the tutelage of Shi Yan Xin and Shi Yong Kan. I still train and I have been granted permission to teach what I have learned.

Shi Yan Xin

Shi Yong Kan

Shaolin Lineage Chart

Map of Shaolin area. Red star denotes the school. Just left up the river is the Shaolin Temple.

Shaolin martial arts is only one aspect of the entire Shaolin culture. A culture that encapsulates philosophy, religion, fashion, martial arts, and overall well-being. It has been popularized by Hollywood and Hong Kong cinema. It should be understood that Shaolin Kung Fu is not for those seeking to attain any kind of material wealth, belts, or prize. The reward for training in Shaolin is self-respect, defense, spirituality, and health. And that’s just scratching the surface. If you are interested in learning traditional martial arts, I suggest doing tons of research to see what it is that you desire. There is something for everyone.

-MR





Meditation

29 11 2009

We’ve all seen it…the image of Buddha sitting legs crossed meditating. We even jokingly emulate this posture in conversation to suggest peace of mind or the notion of Zen. But what are we really witnessing when we see someone in a crossed legged sitting posture? That sitting position is one of the most traditional meditating poses in all of Buddhism and Taoism as passed down by generations of practitioners starting in India way back when.

The day of enlightenment. December 8, 596 BC Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. Image shows enlightened Gautama Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree.

The deeper one gets into practicing meditation, more positions are revealed and the practitioner  begins to build a repertoire for meditating. Something to think about while building this list is that, people already have a short list to choose from to meditate. These are things that we do everyday. It could be something as simple as making coffee, mowing the lawn, jogging, listening to music, or riding a bike. There are a number of activities that can put our mind into the initiation process towards meditating. The point of meditating is to think about nothing, clear the mind of all thoughts.

In the world we live in, especially in the Western side of things, its very difficult to eliminate thoughts. So to begin the delete these thoughts, what better way to begin by doing something that requires you to focus on one thing…eventually that one thing becomes so second nature you don’t need to think about doing it.

Through muscle memory we are now just doing. Then the mind is free to erase. 3 thoughts become 2, 2 becomes 1, 1 becomes no thought at all. In time of course.

Here’s a little something from the Buddha himself to help redirect our pre-conceived ideas about meditating…or whatever you can apply it to:

“Do not accept anything on (mere) hearsay — (i.e., thinking that thus have we heard it for a long time). Do not accept anything by mere tradition — (i.e., thinking that it has thus been handed down through many generations). Do not accept anything on account of mere rumors — (i.e., by believing what others say without any investigation). Do not accept anything just because it accords with your scriptures. Do not accept anything by mere suppositions. Do not accept anything by mere inference. Do not accept anything by merely considering the reasons. Do not accept anything merely because it agrees with your pre-conceived notions. Do not accept anything merely because it seems acceptable — (i.e., thinking that as the speaker seems to be a good person his words should be accepted). Do not accept anything thinking that the ascetic is respected by us (therefore it is right to accept his word).

Big Buddha in Hong Kong

For anyone interested in starting a meditation regiment or just the occasional break from our noisy world, I would definitely suggest learning the basics first. Then apply those basics to your world. For the traditional martial artist, I think its important to understand that traditions are good but not absolute, especially in the world we live in today. Rethink old ways, new ideas.

-MR