April 29, 2010

A Counterinsurgency in Chicago

Mr. Bay,

Why is it among all of the stark ideological disagreements between conservatives and liberals, many conservatives are in near lockstep with liberals on this issue? For a movement that considers itself the ‘party of life,’ I find that troubling. Here’s why.

None of the reasons you listed in, “The War in Chicago?” (many stipulated by Mayor Daley himself) even rank a distant second to the main reason everyone should support deployment of the National Guard into the troubled areas of Chicago – saving lives. At my last count in November of 2009, 36 schoolchildren had been killed by random violence here in Chicago. That number is higher today. Families and Police are unable to provide protection; in fact, CPD is 2100 officers short of full strength. A contract renegotiation this year means even more officers will retire and not enough are in the academy pipeline.

You said it “exceeds political hyperbole and enters the realm of blockheaded ignorance,” to compare Chicago to an Afghan war zone. I agree the two are mutually exclusive, but there are many factors in those foreign theaters that also exist in some form in these troubled local ones: low resources, low opportunity, low finances, high-income drug sales, prolific illegal weapons, warlordism (gangs), intense violence, frightened families caught in the middle, tribalism (you’re from that neighborhood, I’m from this one), generations of heartache, and meager hope. It is not normal for any community to lose this many children to this much violence – this is America. How bad does it have to get before everyone decides it is an unequivocal ‘war zone?’

We are disrespecting the people living in these communities because we are not advocating for them the very same security the rest of us can afford for ourselves, but which they cannot provide for – they have simply not been given the necessary protection that governments are obligated to provide to their governed. At this point, only the intervention of overwhelming sustained security appropriate to this level of violence can do that. And only then, when these traumatized people feel safe enough, when they trust the authorities more than they fear the thugs, will they give up the bad guys and reclaim their communities - just like in the Iraq and Afghan theaters.

The people of Iraq and Afghanistan have security today because soldiers and Marines with loaded weapons and the training to use them stand between the villagers and the thugs who mean them harm. Period. We would not expect cooperation from them in any way, to locate terrorists, inform on their plots, and turn against them, were it not for that continued security. In fact, the decided lack of security is the chief reason these people supported the terrorists in the first place. Just like here in Chicago, these folks have families to protect and no way to protect them, of course they’re going to side with the gangs and thugs with a, “code of silence.”

If schoolchildren and young people in your own neighborhood were being shot down and murdered at the horrific rate they are here in Chicago with authorities powerless to stop it, and leaders were talking of ‘taxpayers footing the bill’ and the procedural complications of Guard deployment instead of emphasizing the protection of the lives of yours/mine/their children … we could begin to understand why this is so insultingly disrespectful. These folks cannot stop their children from being killed and Mayor Daley spends $42 million on a failed Olympic bid. It should make us all sick.

The simple truth is this: we may make more money, be more affluent, and live in nicer violence-free communities, but in one way, a way that eclipses all others in controlling importance, these people living embattled lives in these besieged communities are our equal – their lives and the lives of their loved ones are as important to them as ours are to us. This is the very sentiment of the Declaration of Independence when it speaks of the unalienable right of life – our singular shared universal human value, superseding all other relative values, and the basis for every life-affirming moral value: freedom, democracy, liberty, and goodness.

In 1954, President Eisenhower deployed the 101st Airborne and the National Guard of Arkansas to protect 9 black schoolchildren from the mobs controlling the streets of Little Rock after school integration. They stayed for months until it was safe. The National Guard needs to be deployed now to rescue these people – protecting them and granting them the very same security we enjoy is the first step for them to reclaim their communities.

When we can put our own safety at risk to protect and stand between them and the evil that threatens their lives and their children’s lives, it will be the strongest message and acknowledgement yet to that beleaguered community of our respect for them as equals as well as noble affirmation of the Declaration’s intention of inalienable human equality. If we do not understand this, we don’t deserve to call ourselves Americans.

This is the right and moral side of this issue. Please reconsider this.

Warm regards,

James Morganelli

April 25, 2010

Cause and 'Affect'

“Never lose. Be effective. And don’t try to win – let the opponent make himself lose.”
So says Nagato sensei through a friend who has just returned from Japan. It feels good to hear him put very plainly what many of us probably take for granted, like it’s his own definition of Shin Gi Tai (I-chi). By that I mean, the spirit or will not to let ourselves give up, lose, or stop persevering. Knowing enough to know, how to make what we’re doing work, for what we’re doing it for. And not allowing ourselves to get ahead of ourselves by wanting to win, by showing our intention to an opponent, who could then use it against us. This is the kind of understanding we have to continually incorporate into our own training.

This weekend, we tried to do just that with our monthly workshop - the topic was bojutsu. Lately, I’ve taken a more refined approach to training, starting it off last month with hanbojutsu (the basis for all weapons) and looking specifically at Rokushakubo this past Saturday. 

Now, I could have just shown everyone grips, kamae, strikes, and kata, after kata, after kata, and let them figure it out – in like, 10 years. But I want people to be effective – today. And the only way I know how to do that is training by context – show them the map of where we are and where we need to go, and let them discover how to get there. The great thing about it is, it works. For instance, by repeatedly switching back and forth from hanbo to bo, I tried to demonstrate how a hanbo is not like a bo, and a bo is not like a hanbo, and yet they are more similar than they are different because of the way we must manage the Kukan – the underlying principle in all of Taijutsu. In other words, be able to strike (or whatever) without being struck. Once folks could perceive how the space of the Kukan expanded and collapsed around them – giving them more or less time to maneuver - they could figure out how to move in ways that gave them more time and not allow space to collapse completely. Now, I’m not easily impressed, but yesterday, I was impressed – everybody did it and did it well.

This is the very reason why hanbo is the basic and most important weapon in Taijutsu - it’s so easy to cheat with it. It’s small and maneuverable enough to ‘get away’ with faster movements that slip inside an opponent’s defenses and utilize our own power to perform the outcome we desire. But when you translate that understanding to other weapons - bo, sword, whatever - they fail, and we often don’t even know why, giving rise to thoughts of the superiority of the techniques, instead of their unifying principles of application.
I keep reminding myself it’s Shin Gi Tai I-chi – a unification ‘affect,’ caused by the effect of mindful training.

April 16, 2010

Do. Or do not. There is no ... uh ... no ... ugh, so old am I ...

So I watched 'STAR WARS' for like the 400th time the other night; one of the few movies I can actually say that about. I enjoyed it. Still. I've been watching and re-watching the trilogy for more than 30 years now, since I was a kid, as I'm sure many of us have. I can't remember the first time I saw it, I was too young, but I do remember the first time seeing EMPIRE. And it's at that part, the part, ya know, where your world changes, the bliss of childhood ignorance is torn off like a scab, and nothing is ever, ever the same because Vader says to Luke ...
"I ... am your father."
I'm nine - "HOLY. SHIT. His father? That sunnavabitch is his father?!" Instantly I'm yelling lightspeed at mom, like she knows: "Is he really Luke's father?! Come on, Ma, this is damn serious!" Folks in the lobby could hear me - probably ruined the movie for half of them. I think I went home and recreated that scene with my figures. Those movies made such an impact. One we can still feel today. But why?

Simple. Jedi and the Force. Period. Everything else is cool, don't get me wrong - Vader, Boba, they're great characters - but nobody wanted to grow up and become Darth Vader - 'kay, maybe the sociopaths - but the rest of us normies wanted, needed, to become Jedi Knights. And if you were one of the few that didn't, if your childhood consisted of football games and track meets, ballet lessons, girl or boy scouts, you know "normal" stuff, and you just never really took any interest in the Star Wars universe or had daydreams of swashbuckling it out, saber in hand, against a maniacal horde of Sith jedi, well, then, you should really seek professional help. You're sick. Go see somebody.

You see, these three films shed a little light on the complex reasons behind our own training. I mean, are we really training to become Jedi? (Yes!!) Of course not, but heroic movies inspire, especially these. And once you've watched them (for say, some 17 years or so) there's a sense of ownership one comes away with. Which in turn explains the backlash to Lucas' prequels - he didn't just play around with the look and feel of the world fans had inherited, Lucas consciously screwed with its founding principles, its fundamentalness as one rooted in the enigmatic faith in the Force - midi-chorlians be damned. I mean just listen to Obi-Wan explain it and you almost feel bad for Lucas for messing with his own work:
"The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us and binds the galaxy together."
Simple. Graceful. Could just anyone automatically use the Force? No. You had to train. Hard. Train hard to feel the Force.

Which bring us to the similarities between Star Wars and training (come on, we all knew this was coming). To become a Jedi meant becoming aware of the Force and increasing one's awareness of its power and potential. Students first had to recognize that the Force was in motion, in flux, all around them, all the time. Tapping into the Force was accomplished through hard physical training.

How is it any different with Taijutsu? (All right, except for the moving stuff with your mind, living for 900 years until you look like a green booger with ears, and lightsabers. We don't have any lightsabers ... *sigh*). Becoming aware of the kukan, which is in constant motion, constant flux, and increasing our awareness of it can only be accomplished through physical training.

But what is implicit in Jedi training is something we tend to take for granted in our own - faith. Jedi students (and yes, I know they're called 'Padawans,' I'm trying to limit my exposure to 'nerd'ioactivity here) have to believe control of the Force can be done and they can do it, even if they can't right away.

How is that any different for us? We must train with those select few individuals that actually can do it, so we can be inspired by their ability and confidence. This is why we train with people we trust and go to Japan - our own Dagobah - because if we dedicate ourselves to training we can eventually make it our own. I can picture Soke saying these very words ...

"Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmph! And well you should not ... for  my ally is the Kukan. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it ... makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us ... and binds us. Luminous beings are we ... not this crude matter. You must feel the Kukan around you - here, between you, me ... the tree ... the rock ... everywhere!
Without faith in training, we'll never make it. And then, how the hell are we ever going to lift our X-Wing out of the swamp? Hmm? Hmph!
I don't ... I don't believe it ...

That ... is why you fail. 

April 13, 2010

Taijutsu Workshop with Jack Hoban

I first met Jack Hoban in the summer of 1999, at a seminar in Kenosha, Wisconsin; about 10 of us showed up back then. When I introduced myself and he learned I had just returned home after living in Japan, boy, did he let me have it - he beat me for the rest of the day. "Just like Japan, right?" he said afterward. I had to laugh. I went home with a series of bruises and a tremendous respect for the man.

The training I've received from him since has challenged and changed me in many ways. Jack is highly proficient in Taijutsu - trusted by no less than the US Marine Corps to teach them to fight - able to seamlessly blend with an opponent's aggression to find just the right "space" to stay in a position of advantage. Jack's message is no less profound, for he was mentored for 17 years by the late Dr. Robert Humphrey. Among Humphrey's many accomplishments and storybook life, he worked with the State Department solving ideological conflicts around the globe for the US military. Based on his work, Humphrey would formulate a theory which he called the "Dual-life value," an instinct universally shared among people, and powerful enough to stop violence, promote respect, and activate moral ethics; a "Rosetta Stone" if you will for deciphering conflict resolution through a recognition of human equality and the 'shared duties' we have toward our fellow man.

As a retired Marine himself, Jack wanted to help protect those who currently serve from the psychological damage we can do to ourselves for having to sometimes kill the enemy - we know it as PTSD. Incorporating the value into the Corps training, Jack has given rise to tougher and smarter Marines, able to make clearer ethical decisions on asymmetrical battlefields.

This May, we're lucky enough to host Jack for a workshop focusing on Taijutsu, weapons, defending others, and warriorship - it doesn't get any better! Come join us as Jack coaches our training, provides insight into ethical leadership, and tells some stories you'll surely want to remember.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Alfred Campanelli YMCA
300 West Wise Road
Schaumburg, Illinois 60193

The cost will be $75.00.

This seminar is designed as an ongoing instructor workshop. However, classes are held in a non-competitive atmosphere. You do not have to be an instructor to attend; beginners and students are welcome.

For more information contact James Morganelli at

Jack Hoban Bio
Jack Hoban is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for the U.S. Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) and assisted in its creation and continues to teach the program at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia and elsewhere. In addition to his military experience, Jack is a 25-year business veteran in the areas of information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing (BPO) in healthcare and other industries. For 17 years Hoban was an associate of the late Robert L. Humphrey, noted conflict resolution specialist, and author of Values for a New Millennium.

Hoban has led over 500 workshops and seminars around the world. He has addressed the FBI, universities, and other government and private organizations on ethics and martial arts over the last two decades. He is Shidoshi Senior Instructor in the Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu and Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu systems under Grand Master Masaaki Hatsumi in Japan and has authored three books on warriorship.