February 27, 2014

To Look Straight Forward, pt1

Tomoko on her recent seminar tour of Japan, 2013. 
A conversation about Makko Ho with Tomoko Horikawa Morganelli, one of only two people in the United States who is a trained and licensed instructor of Makko Ho, a Japanese stretching art.

Note: There is some misunderstanding on the Web regarding Makko Ho and its true origins. It has been attributed to Shizuto Masunaga, of Zen Shiatsu fame. This is incorrect. Authorship has also been claimed to be, "Mr. Makko," which is just plain silly. It has also been explained as six exercises instead of four.

The original art comes from a man named Wataru Nagai, whose development of the system in 1933 predates any other. This is evidenced by the simple fact his son, Haruka Nagai, wrote the book, "Makko-ho: Five Minutes' Physical Fitness," in 1972 and partially chronicles his father's tale. This version is currently out of print, but copies can be located. Outside of a licensed instructor, it remains the most accurate, descriptive, and helpful English guide on Makko ho available.

All other iterations of "Makko ho" are simply misunderstood and mis-attributed. Please make a note of it.

Makko ho Japan: makkoho.or.jp    

What is Makko ho?

Makko Ho is a stretching art and means, “look straight forward.” This means, not just physically, but also mentally and spiritually – be sincere and honest in what you’re doing, as well as having courage to face life. Not looking back or to the side.

And Makko ho has a “Hombu dojo” (main school) in Shibuya?

Yes, and there are many branch schools everywhere (in Japan).

And how many people are training in Makko ho in Japan?

A lot. Tens of thousands.

"Ninjutsu: History and Tradition"
I became a student of yours in 2005? And the reason I came in the first place was that Hatsumi sensei studied Makko ho. Nagato sensei had told me that he had studied Makko ho and that’s where he got the idea to incorporate the movements, or use them perhaps as inspiration for what we we call, “Ryutai Undo” and "Junan Taiso." How did Makko ho originate?

The founder, Mr. Nagai. He owned a big company and was very successful. He grew up in a Buddhist temple – his father was a monk. He didn’t wish to follow his father’s path, he wanted to be in business, so he became a businessman and he was very successful. But he unexpectedly had a stroke (at 42 years old) and one side of his body became paralyzed.

He could never imagine this happening to him. He had always just focused on making money and he realized he had never taken good care of his body or health. His doctor told him he could never return to work and would have to stay in a bed the whole of his life.

His doctors gave up on him?

Yes. They had no hope he would return to what he was. He lost what he loved to do – make money. And he felt like he was nothing. He was very lost. He wanted to give up on life.

Wataru Nagai
He was traumatized.

Right, he couldn’t go back to work. Then he had all this time; time alone on his bed. So, he asked God, he prayed to God, and asked for help, "I don’t know what to do." And then he remembered his father had given him Buddhist sutras a long time ago. He thought it was the last hope. He opened the book and read the sutras. In the sutras – it’s like a bible – he read the words, ‘bowing deeply and showing your respect.’

Then he started thinking – I’m still alive. Maybe I never felt the gratitude for my life. I survived. Maybe I go back to bowing and showing my gratitude. He tried to bow on the bed and move his body and he was so stiff. He couldn’t even bow to express his gratitude and he was so shocked. He made a decision – he would do bowing movement and say “thank you” over and over. He moved himself on the bed as best he could and kept it up. And two or three years later he was cured.

So, he was mimicking on the bed – he was imitating – the positions the monks knew to read the sutras or recite the sutras? There are certain positions the monks had because they sit for so long during meditations.

Yes, they bow in seated positions and also bow from standing positions. It's like if you go to shrine, people bow. So it’s kind of showing respect. Coming from long time ago. If you bow deeply, then you showing more respect. So, people wanted to be flexible because they wanted to show more respect to the god.

So, the deeper the bow, the more respect you’d be showing.

Yes. So, maybe starting from not exercise or being flexible. People just wanted to bow to be close to the god or something higher.

Morning Makko ho. Bujinkan Shingitai-Ichi Dojo Gasshuku 2011.
And this was a show of respect and gratitude that they were trying to express in their physicality. And Nagai sensei took that and … maybe he didn’t look at it as exercise-

No, he wanted to save himself.

He wanted to express this new found sense of gratitude that he had for his own life.

Yes. So, that’s why Makko ho a little different from maybe other exercises of stretching. It starts from his experience.

Seems like a similar situation with Yoga. You are also a certified Yoga instructor. And some people think Yoga is just stretching. But there’s this whole other side to it that most people will never see because they only know it occurring in fitness clubs as stretching routines. But you realize that there’s this whole other mental and spiritual side to it and Makko ho has this same ideal.

Yes – a positive attitude.

Makko ho at Buyu Camp East, New Jersey, 2013.
And eventually Nagai sensei cured himself.

It was like a miracle! The doctor tried to figure out why he was cured. Could be from bowing movement stimulate the “tanden” – your core. We call it the center of the pelvis.

Is “hara” the same as “tanden?”

Hara is a more, bigger area. Tanden is a little below - a couple inches - the belly button.

So, the movement is geared toward flexing this tanden.

Yes, and moving back and forth, kind of, rejuvenates the circulation for your spine too. Because moving you sacrum back and forth helps for the nervous system, so maybe that affects for ... the paralyzed.

Position 1

So, moving the body helped to move the blood and invigorate these deadened nerves?

If you do bowing movement, you need to breathe, otherwise you cannot bow forward. You have to exhale, bow forward - otherwise it’s difficult. So, the bowing movement maybe create more ... breathe deeper. And we call “harakokyu.” That maybe help to get back more vital energy. But I think most thing we think help to cure was he changed his attitude. His spirit changed and everything was affected. Or could be the same time – the body, mind, and spirit got together and brought him toward a cure.

Position 2

What are the basic movements of Makko ho?

There are four seated positions. And you can stretch all sides of your legs with only these four positions. Outer, back, inner, and front. Outer hip, IT Band on the side, the hamstrings and calves, inner thigh adductor muscles, and the front quadriceps. Doing the bowing movement also readjusts the pelvis naturally. Most of us, our pelvis is not even. Could be one side is tighter than the other, then your pelvis always shifting one side or the other or little bit tilt. Makko ho movement is all symmetrical and ‘evens up’ any imbalances because the movement exposes misalignment.

Position 3
If you write the kanji for “kosshi,” the lower back and sacrum, it is (composed of) “kaname,” the vital point. The jackknife has a little ‘kaname’ here-

The hinge.

Right. Or the “ogi,” Japanese fan, has a ‘kaname’ here.

That’s interesting. This past year, Soke was talking a lot about ‘kaname,’ the vital, or core points of Taijutsu.

Position 4
That’s the kanji – “nikuzuki” and “kaname.” Two kanji together make “kosshi.” Nikuzuki means, “the physical body.” And kaname. Two kanji together make kosshi.

In terms of Makko ho, the kaname is the kosshi.

Yes – the center. And it is connected with the tanden, otherwise you cannot bend forward. So, when you bow, you are not rounding your back and bowing – this is not bending from kaname. When you bow, you are bowing from kaname, from your hip, so you have to learn how to move your pelvis. You are not bowing from your middle back.

What are the four positions?

Position One is … If you are in Asia, people are used to sitting on the floor, and it is a very natural position for the seated position. Feet together and open your knees. If you see the baby sit on the floor, baby always sitting like that - knees out and feet closer. This is natural for them because their pelvis is so open. But when you get older the hip joint gets tighter and you cannot sit easy anymore. So, it is a more primitive seated position. Maybe our ancestors always sitting like that.

Position Two looks like an imitation of a standing bowing position (but seated). If you go to see the temples or shrines, people praying and bowing first - they are standing and bowing. The legs are together straight out in front of you.

The third position is for the weakest part of your legs. You open the legs out to the sides and bow forward. A side split position and stretches the inseam of your legs.

The last position is a backbend that stretches the front of the legs and body. You are seated in what is called, “wariza,” sitting between your feet.

I read somewhere wariza was a way to show an authority figure greater respect because it was to position yourself lower than them. Although, I am not certain that's true.

This is my guess: As a warrior, like samurai, you defend for the (master). And if you do "seiza" (a kneeling position) – in seiza you are ready to go fight. But in wariza, you can’t. Means maybe I am not fighting you. Or I have respect to be here. That’s my guess.

That would be an interesting history of that way of sitting. When samurai would go to see the emperor or be at a castle, they might have to wear very long hakama, because they knew it would make it harder to fight.

Right. They could not move.

The breathing – harakokyu – is the thing that connects all four. I think this is the most difficult thing people have with it. When I inhale that draws me down and when I exhale it presses me back up. Like how the lungs expand and collapse. An expansion and contraction with the movement. Also extension of the spine – I always tell people to rub their head on the ceiling. That expansion of the spine in order to get the extension right. There seems to be these other elements that activate the position.  
Could be that breathing is more important than being flexible. How you breathe. Best breathing is longer and deeper and smoother. Slower. Feels like the diaphragm moving down, so more diaphragmatic breathing.

And that means making your belly big?

Yes, kind of expanding your stomach and then compress your internal organs.

See Part2

February 20, 2014

Just Being There

The Yamanote train line encircles Tokyo. It hits all the major stops from Shibuya and Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Ueno.

I was riding the Yamanote at rush hour and anyone who rides at rush hour knows that you should never, ever ride the Yamanote at rush hour. It ought to be avoided like splinters, land wars in Asia, and stepping in dog poo.

The train was packed. When I say packed I don't mean a lot of people were on board, I mean everyone was on board. Like all of Japan was seated, standing, squashed-against-your-neighbor-as-they-are-squashed-against-you packed.You've seen the photos of those guys at Tokyo station; the guys with the white gloves pushing and shoving people onto the train at rush hour. I was one of the pushed and shoved.

I was to exit at Ebisu station. Ebisu is a nice station. It is clean and modern looking. I can't remember why I was to exit there, but I was. This station and I had history. Several months earlier I had been running to catch a train. The nice station lady on the loudspeaker always tells you not to run for the train because in Japan another train is just around the bend. But I ran for the train anyway - to hell with the nice station lady.

The train was leaving, the tones were toning, I ran, and I missed the train. Not literally, mind you. I didn't literally miss the train. I literally hit the train. See, the doors closed on me just as my left foot left the platform. My left foot hit the train. Literally. And because my weight was on it, I fell. I fell into the space between the train and the platform. My entire left leg - up to the groin - was dangling into this space and my back was splayed against the train. Uncomfortable.

There were gasps - not my own. People on the train freaked. And the train was leaving - they had a schedule to keep. So, I moved quickly and tumbled my way out - I shifted my weight and threw my leg over my head and front rolled or something. It worked. I wasn't cuisinarted between the train and platform and shredded to death as I would later hear someone actually had been. As I came out of the roll I tried to act natural. I mean, as natural as one can in avoiding spinning, shredded, cuisinarted death. So, this station and I had history.

We pull into Ebisu and it just so happens I am the first one off the train. This is quite liberating, knowing that, in a sense, you control the destinies of everyone in tow, since you lead the charge out the doors. I was ready to charge after the packed, sweaty, ride. The trains in summer can sometimes be as fresh as gym shorts.

The train stops, the doors open. I take a single step out, ready to sidestep the deluge of people about to flood the platform - there's a certain undulating inertia needed for that many people to exit cohesively. But there was a problem. The guy off the train right after me trips. He didn't even step upon the platform, he trips out of the train and spills onto me, like the creepiest human blanket ever.

Now, had I taken just one more step it would have spelled curtains for him: This fellow would have hit the deck and everyone in Japan would have avalanched in the most epic Mt. Fuji dog pile ever. Mel Brooks once said, "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die." My one more step begged comedy gold.

Bear in mind, "Comedy Gold" does not meet a high bar in Japan. I remember watching TV upon my arrival and being utterly dumbfounded as to what the hell was so funny about skinny men failing miserably at head stands while wearing black unitards.

And then I lived there for three years. And I gotta say, the sight of a grown man standing atop a table wearing nothing but a Kewpie doll hair cap imitating the naked Kewpie doll he has just posed into Yoga's "sun salutation" in a bid to crack his stony-faced cohorts deserved a goddamned Emmy.

So, I braced. I braced until "Trippy" found his footing and his balance and didn't face suffocation under the rest of Japan. I waited, along with everyone else, until he got up and off me. It was only then that I took my second step and continued on my way. Just being there is sometimes enough to help someone else find their footing.

I had only made it about five more steps when a young, suited fellow walked quickly in front of me, spun on his heels, bowed, and said in perfect English, "Thank you!" He then spun just as quick and disappeared into the crowd.

February 13, 2014

On the Use of Spies

What exactly makes a Ninja, a Ninja?

The reason I ask is I'm currently writing a book - novelizing a multiple award-winning screenplay of mine with another script I wrote that New Line Cinema was interested in some years ago.

I'll be making the fictional case for the existence of modern-day Ninja with 800-years of unbroken activity - big action, a love affair, broken trust testing the bonds of brotherly warriorship. All that good stuff. 

Naturally, when you start laying foundations for these kinds of things it brings up questions - how would these folks think, sound, and act? 

Questions relating to their existence fostered questions relating to my own. Personally, I've always been satisfied with the answers I've received over the years from teachers and my own sense of discovery. In fact, I've never questioned it.

I've also never promoted myself as a "Ninja" or made claims about teaching "Ninjutsu" to any great extent. The Bujinkan arts include, among others, the Togakure ryu -  the best known of the remaining Ninjutsu lineages - as an aspect of its history. However, I am most comfortable saying when asked that I'm a Budoka, a martial artist. Ninjas notwithstanding.

I don't claim to fully understand the differences between Taijutsu and Ninjutsu, or more specifically, Ninpo Taijutsu. But if I had to state a broad analogy to draw the distinction I'd probably look to the story of the Marine in my last post. His actions to position, leverage, and initiate options in his area of operation are indicative of the raw fundamentals of "Taijutsu." But when he comes face-to-face with his enemy, a veil is pulled over those options that confuses an otherwise relentless adversary into voluntarily accepting a bomb with his own hands. Thus, "Taijutsu" becomes, in essence, "Ninpo Taijutsu."

Taijutsu is like the "natural law" tradition of martial arts - the repository of universal principles of the martial ways, be they strategic, tactical, or technical. And as these aspects are universal and natural to human use they are guided and shaped by human nature's ethical, moral, and motivational instincts.

These are the anthropologic inclinations that would have provided the energy to originally discover these martial conceptions as well as provide a framework to train them tactically so they could effectively and efficiently defend and protect the value of human life. If they could not accomplish even this viability, then what good would they have been?

[An aside. Those who take issue with the above statement must answer to this contradiction: If the guiding value of martial arts were only the "killing of the enemy," then how does one explain the fact these arts contain, were refined, and were meant to be understood and trained protectively? In other words, the arts themselves retain the tactical calculations in order to live, even though killing the enemy may be necessary.

Were the guiding value to cultivate only a "killing art" they would have been refined far differently, for it is always easier to kill the enemy - and train to kill them - when one's own life and the lives of others is forfeit and sacrificial to that goal. Suicide bombing is first and foremost a "killing art" - if "art" at all - for its guiding values and principles place "killing the enemy" above even the life of the bomber. Thus, the martial arts must cohere with human nature's life-preserving instincts - even a "killing art of survival" is qualified by the value-of-life notion, "survival."]

Taijutsu is also a generalization, not a specialization, thus the absence of distinct form becomes a hallmark of its infinite functionality and a key to understanding its power and use. Most martial arts today - the "shinbudo" - are modern representations of Japanese, Korean, or Chinese traditions. They are specialized ways of perceiving the world as they peer through their own particular physical prism of strategic and tactical awareness. They are also inevitably influenced by cultural sensitivities and identity. I would argue, these facets can actually restrict applicable options when regarding the challenging nature of change itself. 

When Soke speaks of being a "UFO," regardless of what exactly he means, he draws distinction to the unidentifiable nature of universal movement and the transcendence of eternal message, one that introduces Taijutsu as unbound to any single culture or creed, except that of humankind. Thus, Taijutsu in its generalness does not look like anything specific because it only moves in the moment as it is supposed to in order to remain viable. In essence, Taijutsu is not set by its technique. It cannot be. If it were, it would mean it is not what it is. 

This leads me to suspect a natural connection - trajectory even - between Taijutsu and Ninpo Taijutsu - maturity. Taijutsu inevitably becomes Ninpo Taijutsu when its universalized, general habits become so intrinsic that one can hardly establish they are being used, let alone, even there.

And here's a photo of Paris reading Sun Tzu.
You're welcome.
This story from the introduction of Thomas Cleary's The Art of War, captures this rather telling aspect. Interesting to note, Cleary claims that a Ming dynasty critic wrote of this little tale of the physician, "What is essential for leaders, generals, and ministers in running countries and governing armies is no more than this."
According to an old story, a lord of ancient China once asked his physician, a member of a family of healers, which of them was the most skilled in the art.
The physician, whose reputation was such that his name became synonymous with medical science in China, replied, "My eldest brother sees the spirit of sickness and removes it before it takes shape, so his name does not get out of the house.
My elder brother cures sickness when it is still extremely minute, so his name does not get out of the neighborhood.
As for me, I puncture veins, prescribe potions, and massage skin, so from time to time my name gets out and is heard among the lords."
This story highlights the nature of the study of universal principles. The eldest brother's ability has become so intrinsic, it allows him to act at a stage that gives sickness no chance to generate. In doing so, his "quiet" approach would seem as if he had done little or nothing at all, thus "his name does not get out of the house." Conversely, the youngest and seemingly "inexperienced" is also the "loudest" and most well-known.

I can't help but think this story is illustrative of the plight that Budo and Ninjutsu researchers are faced with. I understand the curiosity in digging into history, and appreciate it, but it seems to me they often beg the question of the concept of "Ninja" itself - they're taking for granted they can define something that in reality was probably never meant to be defined. How does one identify something that by its very nature seeks to change as it needs to change to remain undetected?

One of the reasons so little historical evidence remains of their existence may not just be the fact much of it was destroyed, but also perhaps because it was never meant to be recorded in the first place. And if it was, maybe it was recorded in a way that we have yet to detect. After all, if you are trying to shroud existence, why would you generate evidence of that existence that would certainly be used against you? So, when some archetype is labeled "Ninja," is it just me, or did it just fail the Ninja test?

It is this indiscernible nature that provides fitting example of the sincere reverence that is held for the core values of martial training. What better way to protect the viability that gives rise to the warrior ethos (and everything else), than to be able to be "invisible" in the prudential use of that protection? 

This spirit extends far beyond its application by Ninja and can be found in traditions around the world from the Biblical stories of Moses sending forth the "Twelve spies" into the land of Canaan, to the ghostly Native American Scout - eyes and ears of the tribe - to the technical ingenuity of today's clandestine operatives at war with fanatical religious and secular ideologies.  

The control of this veil of ambiguity is an embodiment of the hard/soft, bright/dark, heavy/light ever-morphing duality in the nature of change itself. This physical philosophy is at once overt and covert, indicative of the kyojitsu, the interchange of genuine and possible, the paradox that reveals the truth at the heart of the very precepts of perseverance and endurance we have come to know as "忍." 

February 5, 2014

Truth and Disillusionment

Upon my return from Japan I reconnected with an old and dear Buyu. A brawler and natural athlete, he was a semi-professional climber, who had literally won awards for his ability. He owned and operated his own school of martial arts - an amalgam of styles - about an hour from Chicago. Intrigued by my years in Japan, he wanted to train together again, but with one caveat: I'd have to, "prove it worked." I laughed. I had no intention of proving anything, I just wanted to train. So, we trained. And it was just like old times.

About six months later he wanted me to take over his school. Just like that. He was convinced by the training and felt he was at cross purposes - he couldn't keep teaching his people his way and then train with me - it was too confusing. Reluctantly, I accepted.

Over time, my friend improved. He started relying less on power and speed and seemed content. But over the next year, I saw less of him. He went back to teaching his way - he owned the place, after all - and then told me he was going to, "take a break." Pretty soon, he stopped training altogether. 

He would eventually close his school, move out West, and settle down. We talk from time to time and wish each other well, smiling about the old days. But of all the guys I knew, I never thought it would be him who ended his training. Why do these fellow “lifers” quit? These folks who've been training for years, invested enormous energy and finances - how can they just walk away?

Martial Arts are rather new to the West – introduced in only the last 100 years or so. They’ve mostly been treated as a cultural affectation and with that came confusion – pop culture got a stranglehold and squeezed until they turned blue. This benefited in their proliferation, but it came with a price – an inauthentic and completely unrealistic set of viewpoints that grew around the training like thorny weeds in a vegetable garden. Getting to the fruit is to risk getting stuck or worse, becoming so lost as to misinterpret the weeds as the fruit and the fruit as the weeds. 

Martial training - regardless of how any of us believe it's defined – is a process, an "agent of change." It has to be. Otherwise, why would people bother with it? If it was not a process that provided, for example, confidence, tactical awareness, physical defensive skills, or the power to shoot lightning bolts and fly (see what I did there?), then folks simply wouldn't volunteer themselves to its ways. People engage in it because they are convinced it will cause them to change in ways they are eager to change into.

Yeah, but Peggy was always a bitch.
Suck it, Peggy.
I realize there is great debate about what that change entails and even greater debate about how exactly to achieve it, but we can't deny the change itself. Just like education or religious faith, when we participate voluntarily, martial training can be a process of habituation that grants us opportunity to transform our perception and understanding of the world around us. However, if someone believes this process is stalled, stopped, or worse, does not exist, there's a good chance they may become "disillusioned." 

Interesting word, look it up. I have yet to find an actual definition, only like-minded words: Disaffected. Disappointed. Dissatisfied. But what does it actually mean to be "disillusioned" with martial arts? 

When someone is, say, disillusioned with politics, chances are they believe a politician will make changes they value and/or prevent changes they value. When the politician doesn't, and instead reneges on their values and violates them, or makes deals for self-profit, we are left feeling deceived and betrayed. We lose trust in them and that’s one step from losing trust in the system itself, the idea of civil governance by republic. With religion, if someone of faith begins to doubt, and over time comes to believe there is not an active God in our lives, there’s a good chance they could come to believe there’s no God at all.

Here’s what they all share in common: The uncertainty in the discernment of metaphysical truth is a precursor to acceptance of the relativity of truth and the idea that truth itself does not actually exist. In other words, if there’s no way to be certain about our ability to discern what is true, that must be because truth is relative - what is “true” for one person, may not be “true” for another. If this is, in fact, the case, then maybe there’s no such thing as truth at all and it’s simply about what we wish to believe. 

This gets applied to training: Once one starts believing that “truth is relative,” everything becomes suspect - style, authorities and teachers, and eventually even yourself. Even you can’t trust you. We can wind up losing confidence in our own ability to discern the 
necessary and worthwhile aspects of training.

Slipping into disillusionment is not about being unable to find what one is looking for. It's that one doesn't know what they're looking for - they're clueless as to what they "ought" to find in the first place. It's like being lost in the woods using a compass with no needle: If we have no sense of direction, how can we possibly know which way we should go - every direction looks the same. Without a standard, like magnetic North, how could we know truth? 

And now I'm disillusioned. Somehow, things will never
be quite the same again.  
Bear in mind, confusion is a normal part of the martial process – not everything makes sense right away. And that’s okay, provided one has faith that confusion will eventually give way to clarity as one matures in their training. But even this becomes doubtful if one doesn't believe it. Without trust in our teachers, our training, our history, and ourselves there’s no room for anything else.

I can understand why some folks might have trouble here. Admittedly, discernment of truth begs the question of truth itself – it takes for granted truth exists and can be discerned. "But," they will say, "Just because we discern, does that mean we can identify truth? If the saying, “truth is stranger than fiction,” is actually true, then truth can be as unreal as bad fiction and be just as unreliable to discern." Sure, but that depends how one discerns.

There are three parts to any argument: Claim, reason, and warrant. For martial arts, the "claim" is what we train. The "reason" is why we train it that way - the evidence to support our claim. But it's the "warrant" that keeps that reason relevant to the claim - makes it matter. The problem for both arguments and martial arts is when one's reasons (evidence) bear no relevance to one's claim. YouTube frauds and "Ninjers" commit this sin at an appalling rate - what they're doing ultimately bears no relevance to the claim they are masters of certain teachings, let alone can protect themselves or others. Thus, when "evidence" (sometimes mistaken for "the technique") alone is the paramount value for one's training, it can lead to all kinds of confusion. 

Nagato sensei once told me that Budo was "illogical," but that we needed to train it in a logical way. I agree. But answering the illogical with logic is not enough. We have to know that that logic is also "reasonable." In other words, "what" we are doing is not as important as "how" we do what we're doing.

US Marines are going house-to-house in Iraq looking for insurgents. They're tossing flash-bang grenades into suspect houses before they storm in. On this particular occasion, one Marine approaches a front door, grenade in hand, and reaches for the handle. Before he opens the door, it swings open and standing there, AK in hand, is an insurgent, with a bunch more milling in the room. The Marine looks at the insurgent, the insurgent at the Marine, and matter-of-factly, the Marine offers the grenade to him. He takes it. The Marine then closes the door. I don't really have to write BOOM here, do I?

So far as I know this is a true story - I trust the source on it. But is that enough to include it as tactical training at Camp Quantico? It happened and it worked, so, does that mean it's a viable technique? People confused about the relativity of truth and instead relying on evidence-based occurrence are going to have trouble here. 

I can just picture Marines drilling this "technique" and yelling because I always picture Marines yelling: WHEN YOU APPROACH THE DOOR HAVE YOUR GRENADE IN HAND! WHEN THE INSURGENT OPENS THE DOOR YOU WILL HAND HIM THE GRENADE! Silly, but the moral in this example lies not in exactly "what" the Marine did, but "how" the Marine did what he did. Any other Marine in that scenario might have gotten themselves shot or killed, or started a firefight that endangered others. The lesson is: Don't lose your head under stress. That's the truth. If it's a technique you're looking for, there it is. Not only is it logical, it's reasonable. Everything else is gravy.

This is martial "art" after all, not martial "science." We can all debate (and some do - endlessly) on just what is and is not "art" in martial art. But it will always come down to this: One person's ability is not another's for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is what they personally can and cannot perceive based on their own capacity and understanding.  

So, here's my advice: To stave off or escape disillusionment one must keep their training viable, "capable of life." This is about going back to the roots - calibrating ourselves to the “warrant” that makes training matter to begin with. In essence, rediscovering what must be, has to be, the truth about martial arts for martial arts to exist at all.