April 30, 2012

The Tactic of the Technique is the Ethic

"All actions derive from philosophy."
                       ~ Ancient Greek saying

"Even if unsure what that philosophy is."
                                             ~ Jack Hoban
Well, it's been a week since I dropped Jack Hoban off at the airport - everything before that is a blur. The annual ILEETA (International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association) conference, annual Chicagoland Buyu Workshop, the new RGI Tactical Maneuver video shoot, candid talk and training (and steaks!) with Jack - the Ethical Warrior himself - not to mention my first ever experience of the man behind the man, the late Dr. Robert Humphrey, Jack's mentor. Arguably, the most profound moment of our time together.

With the great Tom Cline,
Chicago Police Academy
It is no coincidence that members of ILEETA, as well as some of the most prestigious tactical trainers and experts in the field today, showed up to hear and promote Jack on his Ethical Warrior(EW) presentation and mindset. LE officers from across the US showed their great support for Jack and his mission - to better protect those who protect - for one simple reason: It works. Not only has the training been tried, tested, and approved by the US Marine Corps no less, it is now being discovered by many others including the likes of the NYPD and the Park Ranger Service. Even leaders of the Chicago Police Academy offered their tremendous approval. And with violence out of control here in Chicago, they know we could sure use it.

What is harder to describe is why the EW method feels so right. See, the psychology of our inherent "life value" is rather inscrutable. When we hear the "Hunting Story" is it empathy we feel? Humility? Compassion? What is it that drives us to its inevitable conclusion, that our lives really are equal, in that we value them in the very same ways?

Now, the Hunting Story may be unconvincing and simply too abstract for the materialist, Randian, or relativist who may wish to say, 'We are obviously not all equal human beings, and as such do not deserve respect simply because we exist.' Which, you know, is fine to believe I guess, so long as they can answer this simple question: Then why not take the knife offered in the Hunting Story, jump down off the back of the truck and kill the villager? If life truly is relative, and not an objective, universal value as we suggest, then this action should bear one no concern.              

Jack and the team at Resolution Group International(RGI), offer ongoing certifications in the methodology. In fact, our next cert is this July. Join us! For more information goto: Resolution Group International
Also, check out Jack's interview by PoliceOne.

Chicagoland Buyu Seminar 04/21/2012
The annual Chicagoland Buyu seminar always brings together new and old friends alike and has over the years become the conduit for many in the Bujinkan to capture once again the feel for the positive warrior ethic. And we covered so much in just one afternoon: Integration from within the body of Taijutsu's physically sustainable protections, ethical transmission of tactical maneuvering, submission, and weapons, not to mention tried and true aspects of the Kihon Happo delivered with Jack's signature perceptions.

Not me smiling.
Jack's frank and sincere perspectives on training and warriorship are as valuable as they are prescient. For the more we "get tactical" without getting ethical first, the more apt we are to incur the very kind of physical, mental, and emotional trauma and scars we are out to avoid through the single-minded pursuit of tactics and techniques. In other words, trying to "out thug the thug" just doesn't work.  

I was happy to see my RGI colleague Craig Gray, who came in from Michigan to train with us. Craig has become an integral part of RGI and assisted with the filming of the new tactical maneuver video we shot last Sunday. And a big thanks goes out to good friend and fellow Buyu Jon Phillips who was gracious enough to lend not only his production expertise, but also his studio for the shoot. Looking forward to the results!

But by far the most poignant moment came Sunday night. We had just returned from an incredible dinner at Morton's - the original, no less - were drunk on steak and had just sat down for a drink (okay, another drink) when Jack reminded me about Dr. Humphrey's video: nearly two hours of interview in the year before his untimely death in 1997.

Hearing him, seeing him was dramatic. I have studied his work and writings for almost 10 years now, but within minutes, he shattered whatever soundtrack and image I had. I pictured him with a baritone voice and broad shoulders, but that was not this man. The image that looked back was soft spoken, gentle even, with a wise and even handed gaze - Yoda-like. But his hands looked like baseball mitts - large and broken in - from all his years boxing, I suppose.

He spoke methodically, yet casually about the very same things we speak of today, using the very same words we continue to use - his approach to cross-cultural conflict, his thoughts on the value and meaning of life. He told not the Hunting Story, but talked about the hunting trip itself, a rare glance into his mindset at the time. There was no rush, no hurry to his thoughts, they came easy as he explained himself, his history, and his work. There was confidence there, assuredness in where he had been, what he had done, and how he had done it. It was not bragging - someone had simply asked and he answered, as he might answer a curious student, an interested service member.

Jack mentions the filming was actually done one night at training when Dr. Humphrey had visited the dojo. Which made perfect sense, for at the end of the interview, he kindly excuses himself and says he has to get back to the other room ... get back to training. Then the image went black.

I just stared at the screen like I'm staring at this one.

Shit. I gotta get to training.

April 25, 2012

‘When the Temporary Touches the Eternal’

“Budo only lives when you treat it as something that can die.”
That’s a pretty good line, if I do say so myself. I wrote it some years ago and happened on it recently looking over old writings. However, when I wrote it I'm not certain I fully understood it. Reading it again now, I’m struck by the fact it points toward a direction; indicates higher purpose. This is what art is supposed to do. Wait, let me rephrase that – this is what great art is supposed to do. And as such, Budo is not meant to be practiced for itself.

"Whenever he hears a man say that life is not worth living,
he takes out [his] gun and offers to shoot him.
"Always with the most satisfactory results," he laughs."
GK Chesterton, the sage of common sense, was a well-known art critic, among his many other expertises – the man could spontaneously give speeches on just about any topic – and wrote this about art, “You never work so well for art’s sake as when you are working for something else.” He’s right. Great art, he would say, is paradoxical: “The thing that survives is that which has a certain combination of normality with distinction. It has simplicity with a slight touch of strangeness … It is a tale just sufficiently unusual to be worth telling, and yet immediately intelligible when told.”

In other words, it is to say this is a thing I have seen a thousand times, and yet I never saw it before, for “All art is born when the temporary touches the eternal.”

Chesterton disparaged the movement in art known as “Realism” as a decidedly detached endeavor from the eternal. Dale Ahlquist, a Chesterton biographer, puts it best: “Realism claims to be: Life, warts and all. But what Realism really is, is: Warts, as Life. The Realists claim to be holding up the mirror to nature, but then they start believing only the mirror, even after they have broken it.”

Chesterton himself was a “Romantic,” where, “Philosophy is always present in a work of art.” He wrote this wonderful summation:
“All romances consist of three characters … For the sake of argument they may be called St. George and the Dragon and the Princess. In every romance there must be the twin elements of loving and fighting. In every romance there must be the three characters: there must be the Princess, who is a thing to be loved; there must be the Dragon, who is a thing to be fought; and there must be St. George, who is a thing that both loves and fights. There have been many symptoms of cynicism and decay in our modern civilization. But … none [have been] quite so silly or so dangerous as this: that the philosophers of today have started to divide loving from fighting and to put them into opposite camps. [But] the two things imply each other; they implied each other in the old romance and in the old religion, which were the two permanent things of humanity. You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it. You cannot fight without something to fight for. To love a thing without wishing to fight for it is not love at all; it is lust. It may be an airy, philosophical, and disinterested lust … but it is lust, because it is wholly self indulgent … On the other hand, fighting for a thing without loving it is not even fighting; it can only be called a kind of horse-play that is occasionally fatal. Wherever human nature is human … there exists this natural kinship between war and wooing, and that natural kinship is called romance … and every man who has ever been young at all has felt, if only for a moment, this ultimate and poetic paradox. He knows that loving the world is the same thing as fighting the world.”
Now, try rereading it replacing “philosophers” with “martial artists.” When we supplant the goal, the point, the truth of martial arts with the mere pursuit of martial arts and the robotic accumulation of its cold, methodical procedures, we cease to be “Romantics” and become “Realists” - rather than training techniques to protect and defend life, we start training a life to protect and defend techniques.

"St. George and the Dragon"
Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1868 
Disconnecting training from its original intent anticipates Chesterton’s conclusion, “Artists who refuse to be anything but artists will go down in history as the embodiment of all the vulgarities and banalities of their time.” Just like the great works of art are repository and haven for humankind's eternal truths, so too is Budo an embodiment, a repository, a haven for our life-protecting-preserving-sustaining moral values such as courage, honor, and sacrifice; methods to protect ourselves and others (including our enemies, if possible) and to a greater extent protect the very love we have for those others and even perhaps for humanity itself.

And so, our good friend GK, has a final thought on great art and unwittingly draws a timeless distinction about the efficacy of the Romantic heart of Budo:
“This is perhaps the test of a very great work of classic creation, that it can be attacked on inconsistent grounds, and that it attacks its enemies on inconsistent grounds. Here is a broad and simple test. If you hear a thing being accused of being too tall and too short, too red and too green, too bad in one way and too bad also in the opposite way, then you may be sure that it is very good.”

April 12, 2012

Reminder - Jack Hoban Workshop

Just a reminder about next week. Should be some great training.


On Saturday, April 21st, 2012, the Bujinkan Shingitai-Ichi Dojo is proud to once again host Shihan Jack Hoban in Chicagoland!

Jack will be in town to give his 'Ethical Warrior' presentation at the ILEETA (International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association) conference, and we've secured the following Saturday for training.

Join us!

Saturday, April 21, 2012
Darien Park District Community Center
7301 Fairview Avenue
Darien, Illinois 60561
Cost: $75

Check out Winjutsu for more information: