April 30, 2015

A Book Worth Reading Redux

This is based on an actual event. 


Some years ago,
I read a book on a bus,
headed to a job I hated.
I have since quit the job and finished the book.
I still ride the bus from time to time.

It was a good book,
as I remember.
Its cover was fine,
its print sharp and clear,
and sized to be carried without hassle.

It was sunny that day.
Perhaps it was summer.
I rode at rush hour,
reading my book,
which page I do not remember.

It occurred to me then,
this rush hour bus,
loud with conversation,
had quieted sharply and strangely so,
with nary an explanation.

This kind of quiet one does not welcome,
even while reading a book worth reading.
So, I put down my book and I looked and I listened,
to the bus that was no longer speaking.  

Two men,
sitting opposite each other,
were engaged in “conversation.”
One yelled terribly,
the other made faces.
It was an unusual situation.

Now had they been four, or six, or ten,
no one would have noticed.
No ear would they offend.
But they were old enough to know better.
Old enough to know they should act old enough.

The faces of the “Facer” were varietal and spontaneous –
kissy, scrunchy, a tongue sticking out.
Made to a baby they were cute and endearing,
drawing squeals of laughter or excited cheering.

But the “Yeller” receiving them was no baby.
He did not squeal and laugh.
He was not excited and did not cheer.
Facer’s “cute” faces poked and prodded him.
And he spit back profanity;
spit back anger and fear.

I didn't know who started it.
And didn't care to investigate.
I couldn't read my book.
And no one else could much concentrate.

Yeller’s yells were yelling louder.
Facer’s faces were face-ing faster.

I looked to the driver to intervene,
but he held himself quiet –
not a word, not a glance.
He drove his bus in determined ignorance.

So I folded the corner of the page I was reading
and made my way forward,
weaving and squeezing,
past the stolid riders of the tomb-like bus,
to step into the yelling and face-ing of the two-man gust.

Once positioned directly between them,
forcing their looks ‘round me to see ‘em,
I reopened my book and pretended to read.
Never once did I glare.
Never once did they stare.

Now, Yeller did not stop,
and Facer did not either.
There was more yelling and face-ing.
More spitting and egging.

But not for long.

Soon the yelling grew less and quieted.
Soon the faces grew less, exhausted.

And the bus’ quiet became loud again.
And the conversations banal again.
I found my rightful place upon the page,
and could even read my book again,
undistracted and engaged.

It was a good book,
as I remember.

One worth reading.

April 23, 2015

Taijutsu Truth: Drop Out the Power

From a work in progress, Taijutsu Truths.

At class many years ago, Nagato sensei said:
Power to the martial artist is like alcohol to the alcoholic…We must strive to have the same will as the alcoholic who says, “I will never drink again,” and never does. This is the same with relying on power in training.
This was tough for me. As a senior in high school, I weighed a whopping 135lbs with my shoes on. I was seventeen years old and the giant of my family at five-foot-six inches. I was ultra lean and had been lifting weights since I was 13, so I was deceptively strong.

Before graduating, I bench pressed almost 290lbs – more than twice my own body weight. A few years later, in college, I did it again at 150lbs, pressing up 320lbs – 20 lbs more than twice my body weight. So it seemed only natural, during martial arts training, to compensate for larger or stronger opponents by meeting their power with my own. But I came to realize that for training in Taijutsu, relying on my physical might not only promoted a false sense of confidence, it was a tremendous weakness.

Just like "shit happens," we should say, "strength happens." For too many, it’s a foregone conclusion – when stuck in the mud, gun the engine. But in habituating that response, we’ll only ever be as strong as our next opponent. We can defeat power with power only so often, and those times don't include the countless situations where even our strongest would not be enough.

There's always going to be someone bigger, stronger, and faster than us. I'd also include someone with more weapons than us, better odds than us, more opponents than us, meaner than us, even less to live for than us. See, relying on our power alone is a weakness, for there are just too many variables that can work against us in which our might is the inappropriate response. We should always strive to be smarter, cleverer, and ultimately more skilled than our opponents. In that way, power becomes just another option among many.

Mark Hodel, a high-ranking Bujinkan instructor and close friend, once told me there are three kinds of Budo: good Budo, bad Budo, and bad Budo done well. “Bad Budo done well” relies on power. But when one is used to forcing techniques like this, it becomes very easy to lose the edge in a fight and get taken. Power requires so much energy that we can't help but act in obvious ways that are easily detected. We wind up giving up information, like our very intention, that if discovered under conditions of conflict could cost life itself.

Were we to face off with someone in a potentially life and death encounter, undue power could create a terrible opening. Physical might here is like the quintessential wind up before the haymaker, or the leg that cocks back before a spin kick – a telegraphed opening. If the opponent senses it, they can use that opening against us. With any reliance on power it's assured one will eventually face defeat. Typically, those who continue this kind of training become disillusioned, because their progress slows or in some cases stops all together. It also becomes increasingly more difficult to lose this kind of movement and mentality the longer the training is sustained.

Taijutsu is not supposed to rely on power, strength, or speed to overcome opponents. Instead it has three basic principles of advantage: position, leverage, and initiative. These concepts are more elusive to understand than strength, so training toward mastery is difficult, but the rewards are that much sweeter.

As a Budoka, one has to not only understand the "when," "where," and "what" of a technique or maneuver, but also the "why" of it, our context for usage and justification. This "why" is a tactical as well as a strategic issue (try not to confuse these two – strategy is your overall goal, the tactics you employ get you there) and can be betrayed by reliance on power.

Now, I'm not saying we should never use power – sometimes we’ll have to as we'll need it in a fight. But we should never rely on it in our training. In this way, when we put power into our "powerless" movements to save, protect, and defend self or others, we can have greater assurance in the outcome we need. Continue this way of training and after a while, one's confidence grows and gets stronger. And strength of confidence is a far better attribute for our overall life and ability than how much ya bench.

April 16, 2015

The Martial and the Moral

From the Introduction to my new book, "The Protector Ethic."

Normality with Distinction

Imagine training the compression and assisted-breathing techniques of CPR merely as a set of compartmentalized physical skills, but divorced from their design to be used to save lives. Without attunement for CPR’s usage, why exactly has one learned it? What is the point of learning to do something, if one is incapable of recognizing when such learning may be applied? It’s like having solution to a problem one doesn’t even know exists - when encountered, we remain ignorant to any contribution to resolve it.

Martial training requires this reflection, just like in learning any ability that has the potential to do oneself or others great good or great harm. Spiderman’s Uncle Ben was right, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” and I would argue it is the acceptance of this responsibility and its leadership that one should ultimately recognize and consent to in any martial journey.

The English writer GK Chesterton was a well-known art critic. Great art, he said, 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.  
Such is martial art. They are imminently reasonable in their mandate, intrinsic to humanity's instinctual nature, altogether inspiring and terrible, and yet steeped in an inscrutable mystery of mind-body potential.

More so than many recognize, they are precious to humankind and the reason is simple: martial arts are moral. And when we use them, train them, speak upon them, we deal with the ethical - moral values in action.

Common Discovery

Martial arts are moral for a simple reason: they were not invented, like the latest Apple product, they were discovered, at different times, in different places, by different people, in different ways around the world because of our shared common sense and the universal values that are essential and worthwhile to humans: the protection, defense, and sustainment of life.

Does anyone believe the discovery of fire and its control was inconsequential to human existence? On the contrary, humankind as we know it would simply not exist, would not have survived, if not for the ability to control fire. In this sense, it wasn’t just good information to know, it was crucial. The control of fire was also discovered at different times, in different places, by different people, in different ways around the world because of our common sense: the protection, defense, and sustainment of life.

Being able to conjure and control fire was considered sacred. But why? Because humans like to stay warm, eat cooked food, and have their journey lit? In other words, because it improved their quality of life? Certainly. But these specifics ultimately allowed fire to protect, defend, and sustain humanity’s existence itself. It is this that made it sacred and makes the tradition of “firemaking” sacred still today. Just ask any outdoorsman, camper, hunter, tracker, military or outdoor rescue personnel - fire is life. No fire, no life.

For a large measure of their refined existence, the martial arts and their ways were also considered sacred. Was this because they simply improved quality of life? Ultimately, humankind as we know it could not have survived, if not for the ability to develop and refine the martial arts. There is no moment in history that does not involve their usage, in fact, they permeate it. Imbued with the instinct of self and others preservation from the American Plains Indians to the samurai warrior, martial techniques are as varied as the DNA of the people that developed them. Just as the thousands of variations to create fire under the conditions, environments, and cultures it needs to be created.

Is this want and need to protect somehow amoral, as in, “lying outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply?” as in, “without moral principles?” Not at all. For without the protection of life, there could never have been any tribe, community, town, or society.

Can the martial arts be misused? Assuredly, and they have been, just as the control of fire has. But arguing martial arts are divorced from the moral and ethical is to misinterpret the motive of their origins and the principles of their study. This degradation calls into question their sacredness, their very dignity, the “why” they exist, for it is the same as calling into question the “why it matters” for them to exist in the first place - the sacredness, dignity, morality of the protection of the value of life itself.

The Martial is Ethical

The destructive and unworthy use of the martial way is a renunciation of their gift as a life-protecting source, confirmation of our own prideful use, and a reproach to the gratitude and humility we take for granted for receiving and using their traditions. In fact, it is their misuse and disorientation that continually helps us to re-orient ourselves, reminding us of their calibrating and original right-ness. The evidence for this is the ethical implications of martial training itself. For anytime someone decides to begin training the decision is an embodiment, a physical articulation of “why” one wishes to train, akin to answering “why it matters” to train in the first place. Upon this, there are three questions inherent to training that anyone who trains must answer:
What am I going to learn?
How am I going to learn it?
Who am I going to learn from?
These ethical considerations only gain in importance. For once one becomes an instructor they do not just inhabit our teaching lives, they haunt them:
What am I going to teach? 
How am I going to teach it? 
Who am I going to teach to?
These are the interrogatives of martial principles and are answered regardless of our awareness or ignorance to them, for it is our very participation - the doing of martial arts and their training - that is our vote for the “what, how, and who.” Thus, no one can involve the martial way without being questioned first by the ethical.

Further, these questions call for direction not just for informative martial techniques, but our manners in thinking and action for using them. Manners relate to the qualities of the person and qualities relate to character. “Manners are of more importance than laws,” Edmund Burke wrote. “Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in.” It seems no one trains martial arts without subjecting themselves to the possibilities of moral character calibration.

Just like morals, martial arts do not change us for the better, only grant us opportunity to change ourselves, provided we moor training habits to their ethical design. Unless students are compelled to reflect on their inherent moral responsibility, then the training’s potency is diluted from beneficial - virtuous - calibration to mere selfish endeavor. And when training gets selfish, it can grow dark and become twisted, where everyone is a potential enemy, everyone is suspect. Instead of becoming a happier, healthier, more attractive person – a brighter light to the world – we dim, obscured by shadows of our own making.

This is the biggest concern I have with most training - reliance on techniques is symptomatic of the excessive focus upon the self and the continual satisfaction of the needs of the ego. Perhaps you’ve heard martial arts destroys the ego, but this is silly, people need a healthy ego to thrive in this world. Training is meant to temper the ego, doing so by balancing our desires with humility from our responsibilities for others. Let’s face it, without the obligation to intervene as a protector for self and for others, even if only to call “911” to report someone in need of help, any training we might have cancels itself out.

Killing Arts?

It’s only through the rose-colored lens of modernity can society by its bounty and ample security could mock and take for granted these once sacred arts, reducing firemaking to a quaint little skill ideal for campers, and the martial arts to the savagery of “ultimate fighting.” Our own self-satisfaction issues the license to degrade martial arts here as amoral - neither ethical or unethical - but simply the cold, hard, inert tool to make easy the utility to win, to harm, to kill. But just what is so exemplary about killing? The fate of the feudal and ancient world was indiscriminate death. People died young, sick, and infirm as they were plagued by plagues, starved, hunted, and massacred between tribes and clans. History’s brutality is legendary. However it is the trained martial ways that could tip that balance, for they could protect and sustain life for those who would otherwise have surely perished in conflict. Is there any question as to why the warrior class would ascend to the preeminent cultural position in every valid society? It is because the warrior was not renowned for their death-dealing, but their life-giving. Death was commonplace. Life was special.

There are some that wish to deny this intrinsic ethical relationship and would rather rely upon whatever one deems prescriptive for its usage. It is here the pedigree of the martial way is misinterpreted to be mere “killing arts,” which, in effect, unceremoniously diminishes and degrades them by severing the link between martial strategies and their original life-giving principles. The account departs from any sense of responsibility for shared duties to fellow persons and appeals, perhaps unwittingly, to our base appetite for “might makes right,” leaving both practitioner and opponent dehumanized.

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? 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 are 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 the lives of any innocents affected or taken, and 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.

We ourselves by our own assent to depict and participate with a so-called “killing art” will have revoked and falsified the actual moral reasons for necessity and worth of the martial way. Even if we believe in the moral reasons, if we don’t train them, articulate them, and rely upon them, we will have left it to the misinformed uninitiated to use them against us in a court of public opinion, or perhaps an actual court, and even shape any future arguments for the abolition of martial arts altogether.

Knowing the Ought

Ethics relate to action, but no action can be had if we lack, not simply the will, but an understanding of what makes ethics relevant in the first place. Martial techniques are often thought of as the lifeblood of training, but if we lose the sense of what makes them matter to begin with, then why are we training at all?

In Gichin Funakoshi’s seminal work, “The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate,” the founder of modern Karate tells a story regarding Tsukahara Bokuden, a famous feudal-age, Japanese swordmaster. As the story goes, a high level student of his with “extraordinary technical skill” passed by a skittish horse that kicked at him. He “deftly turned his body to avoid the kick and escaped injury.” Bystanders were so impressed they related the story to Bokuden himself, who reportedly said, “I’ve misjudged him,” and promptly expelled the student.

Unable to understand his reasoning the folks set to force Bokuden to react to the same circumstances by placing “an exceedingly ill-tempered horse” on a road they knew he used. Secretly watching, they were surprised to see Bokuden give the horse a wide berth and pass it without incident. Confessing their ruse, the swordmaster said:
A person with a mental attitude that allows him to walk carelessly by a horse without considering that it may rear up is a lost cause no matter how much he may study technique. I thought he was a person of better judgment, but I was mistaken.
Funakoshi uses this story as a way to explain “mentality over technique,” but never defines what he means by “mentality” or why it should be “over technique.” I suppose he could mean anything – a certain wherewithal for applying one’s ability or perhaps one’s manner, character, for doing so. What is clear to me from the story is that losing one’s sense of “mentality,” or worse, being willfully ignorant of it, can be life-threatening.

I submit that “mentality” here actually represents one’s common sense. Bokuden dismissed his student for a simple reason: he was careless with his life. He had lost touch with his own common sense.

From survivalists, like Tom Brown and Larry Dean Olsen, to Jon “Lofty” Wiseman of British SAS fame, shelter is the priority for survival situations in harsh climates. In essence, this is to position or re-position oneself to endure the situation.

In terms of training, conflict and violence represent “harsh climate,” thus, positioning is the priority. Sort of. There is something even more important than positioning: knowing you ought to position. "Knowing the ought" means you are not in denial of a situation that can kill you. It means you are “mindful” about what’s at stake and can thus make the decision to act. Any technique of sheltering or martial arts is useless if we are oblivious to, deny, or willfully ignore when it should be used, when it ought to be used. In fact, once we have a clear understanding of ought, we also gain a clear context to apply any technique. This is true of training at all levels and all methods. Reactivating the common sense is how we teach ourselves what we are supposed to do and how we are supposed to do it because we are trying to protect and defend a very clear comprehension of why - why we ought - to be doing it in the first place.

Reconnection to the common sense provides the context that allows us to intuit the shape of movement and its proportionality. Expanding the palette of training’s options, like different contexts, is to challenge the very perceptions of what we believe martial training is capable of. Expansive training places the burden of use upon us as we try to recognize the requirements that habituate us toward viability, or life-sustaining action.

These requirements are all meant to calibrate us to that which makes training matter to begin with - the "why" and "why it matters" - our common sense, Natural Law inclinations of survival and self-worth: the Protector Ethic.

April 9, 2015

No Shock, No Shame, No Circus

This Indiana thing has gotten way out of hand. It's pitting neighbors against one another, being driven by a false narrative of bigotry, and in one case - Memories Pizza - ruined an entire family's business, one that didn't actually do anything, but give their opinion on the matter to an overeager local reporter. In this 2015 dystopia, some labeled that a "thought crime" and threatened to burn them down and murder them all. They were forced to close.

Universal values are being actively stomped in favor of pure relativism - always a sign of immoral and unethical behavior. Opponents of Indiana's religious freedom law have characterized this as a streetfight between the bigoted and non-bigoted, although which is which is a matter of debate.

So, let's argue.

Think this unreasonable?
It's discrimination.
See this sign to the right? This sign that we have all seen in every business we have ever gone into ever, ever? This sign represents everything opponents apparently do not want businesses to be able to do. This sign is a discrimi-mongering, value-judgilicious, judgy judgment. A discriminating judgment. This sign represents pure discrimination: if customer expects service from owner, but does so from outside their values, they can refuse. Their values in this case are that shirts and shoes are required for their service to be delivered. But if one has no shirt, and no shoes, the owner may discriminate, and one should not expect their service. 

A totally reasonable sign because of its principle: it is universally accepted that business owners can and do make decisions about their business, including whether or not it will be delivered. But apparently, if you do that in Indiana (or 19 others states that have the very same religious freedom law, or any other state under the federal version of the same law) everyone loses their minds.   

Let's say a woman walks into a bakery and asks the baker - a devout Christian - to bake a cake. He says, great - I bake cakes every day! Ah, but this cake should say, "Happy Abortion" on it. See this lady is planning to celebrate her abortion la vida loca with friends right after the procedure. So the baker refuses, citing his religious beliefs as to why he must decline service.

Is his refusal unreasonable?

Is his refusal immoral or unethical?

Is he dehumanizing this woman in refusing?

Should declining material support toward an event celebrating such a legal, albeit controversial institution, itself be illegal, involving steep fines and/or possible incarceration by force should those fines not be paid, as potential consequences?

Should there be financial, social, and emotional bullying of such religious folks, who have never refused service because of who they were dealing with, but exactly what they were being asked to provide support for?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, here's my next one: why? Why is it wrong to refuse service of your business to endeavors antithetical to your value system? I'm not speaking about the law here - state law across the country varies on this issue. I'm talking ethics.

If you do not believe it unreasonable, immoral or unethical, should be illegal, or subject the baker to copious amounts of bullying for declining to make a "Happy Abortion" cake, then how is refusing to make a gay wedding cake any different? The scenarios are equivalent - both institutions are legal, both are controversial, and many religious folks find them to be antithetical to their value system.

This "Happy Abortion" scenario is analogical for actual situations occurring around the country involving bakers, florists, and photographers, who have been targeted by activists over their refusal to provide material support for gay marriages. It has resulted in the financial and social bullying of folks by those activists who have sued them as well as state entities that have targeted them for "damages," although the only folks actually being harmed in all this are those being targeted.

How does being offended and outraged by folks standing for values you hate compare to the actual harm caused to those who are standing for their (unpopular) religious values? Across the country, targeted Christians have been run out of business, fined exorbitant amounts of money, many are facing legal entanglements brought on by well-funded, "witch-hunting" organizations designed for just this purpose. Some have even received death threats - threats of being murdered - no doubt from those that wave the flag of "tolerance," but always seem willing to spear you with the sharp end if you're not quite as "tolerant" as they.

As Americans, we are free to disagree with folks refusing material support for stuff we think is cool. And in those cases we can vote with our feet and our money. We can also writhe in agony and wretch at the mere thought that some folks might have different values than our own perfect "all inclusive" ones. But you are a dirty, filthy pirate liar if you say you would not invoke (or do not have) the very same right of free association (or dis-association) the First Amendment grants toward anyone asking you to participate in events you personally find to be immoral or unethical.

Would the outrage and call for consequences be the same if a gay baker refused to service a pro traditional marriage event? Or a Muslim baker refused to service a gay wedding? And if not, why not? Just like the "No shoes," sign, these are discriminatory value judgments. They aren't treating everyone the same, they're being selective based upon their values. Businesses do it all the time, usually to favor events and/or clients that pay more, not less - another form of discrimination. When opponents want these people to be summarily prosecuted and burdened just as targeted Christians, maybe then I'll take their outrage seriously.

Fair-minded people would give passes to the gay and Muslim bakers, citing their personal values as valid reasons for their recusal. We might not all agree with their decisions or their values, but we don't have to. But Christians are not given the very same pass. These targeted folks never refused service because a client was gay - in all of these cases, service was never denied because of a client's identity, they would (and did) happily take their money for services rendered. But because they personally hold religious values that do not support gay marriage. And yes, there's a difference.

The Cato Institute's Roger Pilon nails it in his piece, "Tim Cook's Moral Confusion - and Intolerance" - a short read and well worth it. Pilon challenges Cook, Apple's CEO, who argued against Indiana's law in a Washington Post Op-ed when he invoked the founding values of the Declaration of Independence - freedom and equality. Pilon responds:
Rightly understood, (freedom and equality) hold that we’re all born free, with equal rights to remain free. That means—to cut to the chase—that we may associate with anyone who wishes to associate with us; but we are equally free to decline to associate with others, for any reason, good or bad, or no reason at all. That right to discriminate is the very essence of freedom. That’s why people came to this country, to escape forced associations—religious, economic, political, or otherwise. Cook turns those principles on their head. He says religious freedom bills “rationalize injustice” by, for example, allowing a baker to decline to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. He would compel the baker to accept that request, by force of law. That’s the very opposite of the freedom of association—the right to be left alone—that the nation was founded on.
Freedom and equality are mutually exclusive concepts, but protect each other, as our founders discovered. We are all born equal as innocent human beings, and should be treated respectfully. As a universal value that means no one has the right to take advantage, harm, or kill us for their own relative concerns. Freedom is the liberty to pursue whichever relative concerns one finds valuable, provided they do not violate our universal equality respecting our value of life.

I personally believe all people should be treated equally. I'm certain opponents believe the same. I believe in freedom. I'm certain opponents believe the same. So why is anyone arguing? Simple: opponents have re-defined equality from "equality of life," to "equality of outcome," meaning everyone must receive the very same results no matter what they want, who they want it from, or what values they conflict with. To decline is labeled bigotry.

Clearly this is true to some who have threatened death (violation of equality of life) in favor of their relative concern (equality of outcome). But when equality is re-defined from a universal to a relative value, it becomes just another arbitrary concern competing with other people's concerns. It inevitably causes conflict by violating people's liberty if they cannot side with their own values when they conflict with other's values. Without equality defined universally, we cannot enjoy our relative freedom. If someone compels us to something we would not voluntarily do, and coerces and forces us to action against our values - values that are not in violation of equality of life - then we are being taken advantage of. And if we are being taken advantage of, we are certainly not being treated as equal human beings.

Would opponents rather have an oppressive version of equality? One that labels outrage a criminal offense, than both equality and freedom, that protects life and engenders liberty, that has always pissed off somebody, but makes America, well, America. In this country, no one has a right not to be offended - criminalizing offense would contradict a free people's liberty, destroying the right to hold any personal values valuable, crushing freedom altogether. There are countries where folks do have rights not to be offended: Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, any number of Middle Eastern countries, or despotic African ones. You could be arrested and imprisoned or executed simply for holding views or values that offend the state.

Then again, opponents may get exactly that. In 2013, Justice Richard C. Bosson, of the New Mexico Supreme Court, upheld a decision against Christian photographers who refused to shoot a same-sex wedding, writing that forcing them to give up their religious convictions was acceptable as "the price of citizenship." This judge required private citizens to give up their beliefs and values for the state - exactly what Tim Cook apparently wants. Cook is the same guy that has blocked certain Christian apps in his iTunes store he finds offensive, and still does business with countries that execute folks for being gay. Cook himself is gay. And now I will invent a word that combines "irony" with "hypocrisy," that I shall call, "ironcrisy."

"I prefer the tumult of liberty,
to the quiet of servitude."
Targeting Christians simply because their personal values differ from yours is unethical when it results in their direct, actual harm. The moment we believe our own offense and outrage gives us the moral license to treat others like shit, let alone actually cause harm to them, we lose the argument.

This is not at all about treating everyone equally, it's about treating Christians differently. People causing harm to these folks are doing to them exactly what they are professing Christians are doing to gays - bigotedly discriminating against them for who they are.

Funny. That's the very thing many were so upset about in the first place.

April 2, 2015


I practice bujinkan and will be in Chicago next week for a few days and would love to come by and train while in town. I wanted to get permission before showing up.
Thank you.
All the best

Hi "John,"

Thanks for the email. It's probably okay if you stop by - I appreciate you asking permission - but a couple things first.

Normally, if someone wrote me an email like yours, but was not already apart of the Bujinkan like you say you are, I'd simply delete it - with no full name, no bio, and no introduction, it'd be gone.

If I were trying to visit another dojo and a new teacher, one I had had no contact with before, I'd first introduce myself. I'd give my name, where I'm from, and who I train with. I'd link to my teacher's email, just in case my potential new friends wanted to contact my teacher to see if I'm in good standing. I'd also give a short biography of myself, or link the email to a website that contains my bio. In other words, I'd be fully transparent.

The fact you have not done this may not say anything bad about you - perhaps you are just used to casual messaging. I assume you are. But you ought to be aware that not everyone is used to that kind of familiarity, especially when it comes to new folks seeking training. Teachers tend to be guarded about who comes by and why.

You may think this all silly, or an imposition on you, and that's fine. I'm not trying to be rude or embarrass you, maybe no one ever instructed you on this protocol. I'm simply out to protect my students and myself (and even you) from situations that might not have our best interests at heart. I like to vet people before they visit - it's like this thing that I and just about everyone else I know does.

So, if you're still interested, you are more than welcome to send an introduction. In fact, I encourage you to. Let's chalk this one up as a first try, and then let's try again.

I and my folks are always interested in meeting new people and sharing training with them. And if this doesn't interest you, no hard feelings.

May the best of luck be with you,

James Morganelli