Listen to the most recent episode of my podcast: AM #3 – Right now! https://anchor.fm/joshuathejedi/episodes/AM-3—Right-now-e36b6f
In Guardian Kempo, we teach a bow common to many Chinese arts. Our right hand is in a fist, and our left hand closes over the fist as we bow forward. Specific to our art, the open hand symbolizes humility, and the fist symbolizes power. Our definition of humility is “know your proper place”. The power symbolized by our fist during our bow is the “power to control ourself”. The bow reminds us to keep “humility over power”. There are more expanded definitions of both humility and power. I’ll expand a bit on humility.
Knowing our proper place means knowing the truth about ourselves. It means not believing we are greater or better than we actually are. Most people would understand this as arrogance. What is often surprising to people is the idea that arrogance can also mean thinking of ourselves as less than, or more lowly, than we actually are. Put another way, both of the following statements would be examples of arrogance. “I am the best in the entire world. Nobody will ever be as great as I am.” “I’m scum. I’ve always been scum. I’ll always be scum.”
The importance of “knowing our proper place” has applications in multiple contexts. Certainly, in a fight, we need to be conscious of our own ability, so we know what techniques are likely to work in a given situation. We also need to quickly decide how much force we are willing to use. We will obviously not use the same level of force when someone is trying to kill us as we would if we need to restrain a friend or family member who has had too much to drink. Beyond combat and self-defense, we need to know the truth about ourselves. The more we understand about ourselves, the more effectively we can love ourselves and others.
Guardians sstrive to create or restore peace. We make the world better because we are in it. I don’t always nail this, despite training in the Guardian Martial Arts for over 13 years. That being said, each time I bow into class, I have a reminder to move closer to that ideal. Yes, I exercise and increase in my power. I also learn more about the truth of who I am and who I want to be. My power grows, but only in subjection to my humility. I am aiming for more than just power alone. I am aiming for powerful selflessness. The way I know I have more room for improvement is that I can always become stronger. I can grow in my capacity for selflessness.
Wow! Last weekend, I took 1st in the 2018 US Open Adaptive Surfing Championships. Hard to believe I’ve only been surfing consistently for a little over a year. Thanks to Coach Pat Weber of the San Diego Surfing Academy for being an awesome coach, mentor, and friend. Pictures from the event are to come shortly.
Currently dealing with a couple minor injuries and health concerns, but I’ll be getting back to more intense training and adventuring soon!
I found surfing by accident. Five years ago I started adding to my existing martial arts training by training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Studio 540, when it was still Gracie Academy Solana Beach. In 2014, the Surfight crew joined the existingschool, and we became one big jiu jitsu family. In 2016, I quit my job as an access technology specialist to pursue martial arts and adventure living full-time. Within my first week of quitting my job, I went to a Swami’s blind surfing event. In June of 2017, I tried it again, but I almost missed it. I would have, if Joel Tudor, my jiu jitsu coach, wouldn’t have tagged me in a Facebook comment. That second Swami’s blind surfing event is where I caught the attention of Coach Pat Weber of the San Diego Surfing Academy. I had met him at my first event, but I really took his encouragement to pursue competitive surfing to heart after meeting him again.
In August of 2017, two months after the second Swami’s event, Coach Pat got in touch with me and told me he could get me ready for the US Open of Adaptive Surfing. More precisely, “The US Open of Adaptive Surfing is in two months. Register, and I’ll get you ready.” True to his word, Coach Pat got me ready, and I took bronze in my division.
I am now scheduled for five different contests in 2018. The next one is the US Nationals, in just a few short weeks. I also have a contest in August, put on by Access Surf Hawaii as part of Duke’s Oceanfest, the US Open of Adaptive Surfing in early October, an Adaptive Surf League contest in late October, and the ISA World Adaptives in November.
I’m excited for the possibilities. I know I’ll need help. If you want to come along side, you can do one or all of the following.
1. Visit, share, and donate to my cause financially at:
2. Share, like, subscribe, and otherwise give love to any of my social media posts.
3. Hire me to come speak at your event.
4. Have me as a guest on your podcast, TV show, radio show, etc.
5. Pay it forward. If someone has done good for you, do good for someone else.
Where is the line between advocating and complaining? This is a question that people in many marginalized groups ask. If they don’t ask, perhaps they should. Unfortunately, the answer is sometimes a difficult one.
The question that is probably better asked is the following. Where is my win? Often times we examine a situation, and we don’t like it. Perhaps we don’t like it because we perceive an imbalance of opportunity. Maybe we perceive unfair preferential treatment toward members of a group to which we do not belong. Where is our win?
In martial arts, especially in Guardian Kempo, the art with which I have the most familiarity, there exists a principle of effective movement. I can more reliably and effectively move myself, more than I can reliably and effectively move someone else. I can influence someone to move the way I want them to. (Wristlocks and pressure points can be used to this effect.) Ultimately, I cannot make choices for my attacker. I can only limit their options. Where is my win?
My goal, with regard to self-defense, is to go home and have dinner with my family. If someone intends me harm, and I can defuse the situation by talking them down, I can still go home and have dinner with my family. If someone is persistent, and I need to respond with physical, even lethal, force, I can still go home and have dinner with my family. Where is my win?
Sometimes our options are limited. If we are attacked, and we improperly throw a punch, we could injure our hand. We then have one less tool available to us as we respond to our assailant. We could spend our mental energy and time bemoaning the fact that we cannot as effectively use our hand, or we could use all of the other tools available to us. Where is our win?
Problems have solutions. Circumstances with no solutions are facts of life. My blindness is not a problem because I cannot wish myself able to see. My response to my visual impairment is my problem because that is where the solution is found. Where is my win?
My problem is not that people are mean. My problem is not that people have prejudices. My problem is not that people are unfair. My problem isn’t even that I can’t do many of the things my sighted colleagues take for granted. My problem is “What do I need to do in order to better my life and increase my opportunity for success?” Where is my win?
It is possible litigation may be necessary to gain equal opportunity as people with disabilities. It is possible that laws we have relied on for decades may be eroded because some misused them. It is possible that our lives, liberties, and pursuits of happiness will be pushed back by others. Where is our win?
Regardless of what others do, even those who misuse the trust or power we give them, we can still win. There is one thing that can never be taken from us, no matter what level of adversity or injustice we face. Nobody can take away our ability to choose. Even with limited options, there is still a way to win. There is still victory.
Knock me down 7 times; I’ll get back up 8. Kill me, and my spirit will live on forever. You can control my body, manipulate my mind, or prey upon my emotions, and yet there is something that you can never control. My will is mine. Nobody can make me surrender my spirit. I will always find a way. I will always find my win.
I’ve been doing some thinking. This is a dangerous thing. Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated and inspired by stories of knights battling dragons. The Jedi, He-Man, Bruce Lee, and mutated turtles trained in the ways of the ninja fueled my imagination, providing me hope for what kind of life I could have, given the right circumstances.
For much of my life, the idea of walking a warrior’s path was largely hypothetical. Due to my particular eye condition, I was not allowed to study any kind of martial art. Kung fu, karate, judo, wrestling, boxing, fencing, Muay Thai, kendo, ninjutsu, jujutsu, and aikido were all unavailable to me. I satisfied myself with reading as much as I could about each of the aforementioned arts. Sadly, the information available to me was severely limited.
My earnest research began when I was in my middle school years. At the time, I was living in a small rural town in northeast Ohio called Garrettsville. This was in the early 1990s, and the internet wasn’t really a thing yet. I had to survive with Grolier’s Encyclopedia on CD ROM and the handful of books on martial arts our very small library had. (I’m not using hyperbole. I found no more than 5 books on martial arts in the entire library.)
I was a nerdy non-athletic kid. I was socially awkward, and, by all perception, I had an extremely unrealistic view of the world. By a very well-meaning family member, I was told the following. “Josh, you’ll never get your black belt. The guys who get that good put years of daily training in to reach that level. You’re living in a fantasy, if you think someone like you could get there.”
Those words stuck with me, and I believed them to be true. I couldn’t see well enough to play basketball, unless it was half court one on one. I had been in several schoolyard fights, but I got beat most of the time, and the only times I came out ok were because I got lucky. To put it bluntly, I was awful at fighting, and I expected to stay that way.
When I was 14, I moved from Ohio back to California. A little less than 2 years later, I was completely blind. At first, I was upset and scared, like most would expect I would be. Then, I realized I didn’t have to worry about losing my eyesight, and the idea of legitimately training in martial arts seemed much more possible.
When I was 16, I spent a little less than a year studying kung fu. I mostly learned some basics, some self-defense, and a handful of Chinese forms. The only kung fu I remember from this dabbling is how to bow (left hand over right fist) and how to do a “crane beak” strike.
I later dabbled a bit in ninjutsu and some more kung fu, but I never took my training very seriously. It wouldn’t be until August of 2005 that I would do so.
After over a decade of training, 11 years and 2 days to be exact, I would take the radical step of pursuing martial arts full-time. At first, I did this for myself. I did it because I wanted to pursue adventure, and I wanted to get good enough to compete. I still do, but pursuing martial arts for me isn’t enough.
Martial arts saved my life. It has given me a purpose and a reason to get up in the morning. My fitness is continuing to improve. My sensory awareness is much more developed. Jiu jitsu and judo have especially helped me improve my kinesthetic sense and ability to think under pressure. I am fascinated and continue to derive tremendous benefit from multiple styles and areas of martial arts. I love both the practical and the esoteric. Self-defense, martial arts philosophy, and the competitive aspects of training all have value to me. There is one facet of martial arts that still is even dearer to my heart, and it is this facet which guides my path now.
Martial arts training has the power to heal broken hearts. The empowerment which comes from consistent investment by a teacher who cares for their students is a treasure indeed. I have taught martial arts before, but I don’t think I did so with the proper mindset.
I will train just as consistently… Just as hard. My focus in competition will still be just as fierce. That being said, my drive doesn’t come from what I can accomplish, but what kind of life I can provide for others because I am on this path. My goal is to learn to be a sensei, a title that I was given almost 8 years ago, when I received my very first black belt.
Sensei means “One who has walked the path and can show others the way”. I must walk the path, but I do not do so for myself. I do so, so I can bring hope and help to those in need. I do so for my blind brothers and sisters, and for anyone who needs light in this too often dark world. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I am still glad to share what wisdom I find during my journey.
Nothing gives me a better sense of purpose than training, teaching, and discovering life’s truths through martial arts. I am not the most accomplished martial artist I have ever known. That’s pretty easily stated, as I have had the honor of meeting countless masters over my short career. I’m not even the most decorated with regard to competition. I have won a handful of kata and self-defense trophies and medals, but I have yet to win a single jiu jitsu or judo competition. The medals I have earned in grappling competitions are because there were 3 or less in my division. That said, I don’t care about that, not in the larger scope anyway.
Martial arts mastery is a marathon, not a sprint. Sure, I have goals, and I would like to accomplish them, especially some significant success in jiu jitsu and judo competition. That being said, I am grateful for the experiences I have had, and I hope to help others through martial arts for many years to come.
The preceding chain of thoughts started this morning. I’m currently on antibiotics, and my energy level is low. When I get this way, I think and day dream even more than normal. The chain of thoughts continued further:
Some people dream of a big house with lots of cars and a home theater system. I dream of a modest home and private dojo, near trees and nature, in short walking distance to the ocean and/or surfing. Fitness equipment like kettle bells, battle ropes, a salmon ladder, a rowing machine, treadmil, and eliptical machine. Heavy bags and a speed bag. Makiwara boards and wooden dummies. High ceilings, to allow for use of long staves and naginatas. A small room set aside for meditation and prayer. An outdoor garden that is set aside for reflection, near where people can practice tai chi and other internal arts close to nature.
I don’t care if I am the most famous. I don’t care if I am the best. I just want to be better, and to keep going. Whether this dream of a place to train and teach those who want to learn from me is metaphorical or literal, the dojo, and the place where I study the way of life set out before me, will forever be in my heart. I am forever imperfect, striving for constant improvement, grateful for the grace God and humanity has shown me, despite my failings and rough edges.
Today I am thankful for The Trailer Park Boys. What? You were expecting something more profound? They make me laugh. Isn’t that enough?
Today I am thankful for metal. Whether it’s thrash metal, death metal, metalcore, power metal, world metal, or any other genre of metal you can think of, I love it! I like other styles of music, but no other musical expression scratches the same itch that metal does.
I’ve been a metal fan ever since I discovered Van Halen and Motley Crue when I was 6. I overheard construction workers building a house right next to the apartment building my mom and I lived in at the time. They were listening to KMBY, a rock station that played lots of hair metal. This was 1986 after all. I later discovered Metallica, Megadeth, and Pantera.. I really got into metal in high school. Sepultura and Death, along with Fear Factory, Korn, Corrosion of Conformity, White Zombie, and a whole slew of others. I was pressured to keep metal at bay, first by overzealous Roman Catholics at the church where my mom and I attended. Then, when I understood Christianity on a deeper level, my faith became more personal. Within six months of my conversion experience, for lack of a better term, I left the Catholic Church. I still have a lot of appreciation and reverence for the Roman Catholic expression of Christianity, but I digress…
One of my closer friends at the time was a very well meaning person, or so I thought. (He later turned out to be a child molestor…) He prevailed upon me to get rid of all my secular music… Secular music, for you people who dont’ speak Christianese means non-Christian music… Fortunately, I found some really solid Christian metal that didn’t suck. Tourniquet and Mortification (especially early Tourniquet and Mortification), Ethereal Scourge, Paramecium, Virgin Black, Narnia, and of course… Saviour Machine.
After going through a sort of crisis of identity around the time I moved to San Diego in 2003, I was easing up on my tightly held to beliefs and standards that had less to do with the essence of Christianity, and more to do with the seemingly arbitrary conservatism and traditionalism in American Church culture. It was during this time that I got really into System Of A Down. (Got to see them in 2011. That! Was! An! Amazing! Show!) (Also, don’t tell me System isn’t metal. The heaviness and the musicianship, as well as the complexity of composition, are all consistent with the markers of metal music.)
In later years, especially after my last band, Arimathea, broke up, I started struggling a lot with depression, anxiety, and some post traumatic stress rooted in some really nasty crap in my childhood. One of the things that has proven to be a huge source of relief is metal music. Often times, the angrier, the heavier, the more intense the better. It’s as if metal is a furnace, and my depression and internal sludge is being burned to mere ashes in the flames. If you’re a Dio fan, you may substitute dragon for furnace.
I may not be as knowledgable of a fan as others, but I am grateful for metal on a very deep level. I can feel like absolute garbage, and listening to “Angel of Death” or “Psychosocial” will make me feel like I can stand firm in the sheer assault of emotional daggers, no matter how sharp they are. There are moments in which I feel very far from God, and bands like Sleeping Giant (Yeah, I know they’re more hard-core) and For Today will draw me back in, inspire me to prayer, and remind me of the beauty of the Gospel.
Despite the fact that I am writing this a day later than I had wanted, it seems fitting. Today is the day that Christians all around the world remember Christ’s Sacrifice. There is no more metal person whoever lived than Jesus. Even if you don’t believe like I do, you can still appreciate the story. God born a man, grows up in the same way every human does, and then this same man, who has lived a sinless life, takes all the sins of every person who has lived, is living, and who will live… He takes all that sin on to pay the price for that sin. Willingness to face pain and heartache, instead of trying to deny the reality of the situation is the most metal thing ever. The only thing that is more metal than that is rising from the dead three days later to demonstrate your power over sin and death.