Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Natural Selection


A classical story about the birth of a Traditional Martial Art goes this way :

A young lad's father or family are killed by people from another clan. The young lad wants revenge, but he is not strong enough. So he gets into a sort of mystical training quest - in Japanese "Shugyo". Gets alone in the mountains, trains hard during the day. Prays or meditates at night. Finally one day, a supernatural creature (God, Demon, Tesshu...) appears to him and grants him his wish : he teaches him a wonderful technique, or a set of them, that will allow him to overcome all his opponents.

We have multiple examples of these  : Hayashizuki Jinsuke, Founder of Hayashizaki Ryu and Eishin Ryu Iaijutsu, secluded himself in a Shito shrine to train and pray.


Ittosai Kagehisa. Founder of Ono Ha Itto Ryu. secluded himself in a temple to train.
Closer to us, Katsuoh Yamamoto, Founder of Yoshukai Karate, travelled to some mountains and woods to practice by himself...




We could go on for a long time. It is a common story , many people founded their own victorious way by secluding themselves, getting a fantastic idea, coming back to the world and winning everything.

But... We do not hear about the other ones, those who also secluded themselves, had (what they thought was) a fantastic idea, came back to the world, and died when they tried their (not so fantastic) idea. 

This is Natural Selection. Bad techniques, and those who invented them, do not survive the battlefields.

It does not matter what kind of great idea you have. You need to test it, against an opponent. If you win, good, find a mightier opponent to test it further. If you lose, well, it was not such a good idea. 

You can also train with a master, someone much more advanced than you, who will tell you how he feels about your ideas, in a non-lethal way. This is why we get teachers and masters. To help us on the road. I recommend this way...

And THIS is true for everything. It is true for Martial Arts, for Cuisine, for Ballroom Dancing and for Zen. The other day, this brilliant guy was explaining on Facebook how just Buddha had found enlightenment by himself so would he do the same and not rely on any master. Just that ! Arrogant prick ! Even Buddha trained under several Yogis before he went on his own.

Today, there is no shortage of Self appointed Martial Arts Masters, 9th degree black belt in numerous styles - some of these styles do not even grant Dan levels... There are also quite a few Roshi's - Zen Masters, with very questionable lineage... And this is regrettable.

Whatever you want to learn, find a good master, someone with credentials from an established, reputable lineage. Short of this, you might get hurt... 



Sunday, June 7, 2015

Buddhist Humour


A monk once gained a vision of devas while meditating. The monk asked them, “Do you know where the end of the physical universe is?”
 
And the devas said, “No, we don’t know, but there is a higher level of devas. Maybe they know.” 


So the monk continued meditating and he got to the next level of devas. He asked them the same question, and he got the same answer: “There’s a higher level. Maybe they know.” This goes on for ten levels or so.
 
Finally, the last level of devas said, “No, we don’t know the end of the physical universe, but there is the Great Brahma. He must know. If you meditate hard enough, you may get to see him.”
 
The monk kept on meditating until the Great Brahma appeared in a flash of light.





He asked his question of the Great Brahma, and the Great Brahma answered: “I, monk, am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be.”  

And the monk said, “That’s not what I asked you. I asked you where the end of the physical universe is.”
 
Again, the Great Brahma said, “I, monk, am Brahma, the Great Brahma,” etc. Three times. The monk was not amused and kept asking...

Finally, the Great Brahma pulled the monk aside by the arm and says, “Look, I don’t know, but I have all these devas in my entourage who believe that I know everything. They would be very disappointed if they'd learned that I can’t answer your question.”

And Brahma sent the monk back to the Buddha, who answered the question after rephrasing it, pointing to where the physical universe has no footing in the mind. 



Friday, April 24, 2015

Tai Chi better than stretching.


Some self appointed specialists tend to believe - and are vocal about it - that all forms are exercises are beneficial. 
 


THEY ARE...


Some exercises can be detrimental to people; some exercises are more beneficial than others.

Since 2004 The Oregon Research Institute has been running an evidence-based fall prevention program for community-dwelling older adults. 

A study was carried out on a sample of 256 physically inactive, community-dwelling adults aged 70 to 92 recruited through a patient database in Portland, Oregon. The participants practiced either Tai Chi or a routine of Stretching exercises three-times-per-week for a period of 6 months.


At the end of the six-month program the risk for multiple falls in the Tai Chi group was 55% lower than that of the stretching control group. Compared with the stretching control participants, the Tai Chi participants showed significant improvements.

Read the Full article here.


My name is Frederic Lecut and I have been teaching Tai Chi and Iaido in Dothan, AL. since 2000.




If you would like to learn more about Tai Chi or come try it for free for one week, please contact me by email at frederic.lecut@gmail.com or by phone at (334) 798 1639.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Try tai chi to improve balance, avoid fall


Compared to the pumping intensity of Zumba, Tai Chi looks like it’s performed in slow motion. Watching the gentle, graceful movements of this ancient Chinese practice, it’s hard to imagine that it can burn off a single calorie or strengthen muscles. But Tai Chi is actually far more dynamic than it looks.



"The slowness that you see from the outside is deceptive. As an aerobic workout, Tai Chi is roughly the equivalent of a brisk walk (depending on the intensity at which you perform it). And as a resistance training routine, some studies have found it similar to more vigorous forms of weight training," says Dr. Wayne, co-author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi.

Tai Chi and Balance

With its integrative approach that strengthens the body while focusing the mind, Tai Chi addresses a range of physical and mental health issues—including bone strength, joint stability, cardiovascular health, immunity, and emotional well-being. Tai Chi is especially useful for improving balance and preventing falls—a major concern for older adults.

Studies have shown Tai Chi to reduce falls in seniors by up to 45%. It can also improve balance in people with neurological problems. A recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine found the program particularly effective for balance in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Tai Chi helps improve balance because it targets all the physical components needed to stay upright—leg strength, flexibility, range of motion, and reflexes — all of which tend to decline with age.

Interestingly, one of Tai Chi’s biggest benefits to stability isn’t physical—but emotional.

Anyone who’s had a fall or who has instability has what we call a ‘fear of falling. Ironically, a fear of falling is one of the biggest predictors of a fall. By making you firmer on your feet, Tai Chi takes away that fear. Tai Chi also makes you more aware of both your internal body and the external world, giving you a better sense of your position in space, so you won’t be as likely to trip and fall if you try to simultaneously talk to a friend and navigate a busy sidewalk.

Getting started with Tai Chi

One of the best things about Tai Chi is its adaptability to every age and fitness level. I have students in their late 80s. Because Tai Chi has “zero impact,” it doesn’t put too much strain on aging bones and joints. But it’s not by any means something that’s only for the elderly, and it can be quite demanding for the young.



You can start Tai Chi at most levels of health, and you can ramp up your activities to be appropriate to your level of fitness and function. 



Tai Chi is also incredibly safe—even for people who are older and have chronic diseases. 

I have been teaching Tai Chi in the Wiregrass since 2000. Interested, Curious ? Please come watch or participate in a FREE class. Call me at (334) 798 1639 or email me at frederic.lecut@gmail.com.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Habit : the Genesis of Identity





My 2 puppies Itto & Tomoe are charming, smart and very destructive. It is important to keep them busy unless they do stupid things. People are also like this. I try to keep them busy by teaching them different things : walk beside me, stop, sit... etc... I have trained dogs before. Border Collies are smart and easy to train, they want to learn and they want to please.





However, I quickly realized that you cannot train 2 puppies at the same time. It just does not work, and I believe I know why.

Actually, dogs do not really know their names. Nothing happens in Itto's head that tells him he “IS” Itto. Itto does not think “I am Itto”; he has no concept of Identity. 


However, a particular dog will understand a command preceded by his name. But, if other dogs are around and if you do not call the dog's name before giving the command, the dog won't understand.

There is no point trying to teach Itto or Tomoe to answer the command « Sit ». It can be done, but there is no point doing it. You can individually teach each dog to sit. But when both dogs are together and you ask Itto to sit and Tomoe does not sit, she will realize that she does not have to follow the command « sit ». She will get confused, and later will not follow your commands. You will get frustrated, think she is stupid, but really and truly, it is not the dog's fault, it's yours !





So it is necessary to teach each dog separately "Tomoe, sit" and "Itto, sit", This applies to any command: "Itto, come"; "Tomoe, Stay"... Once the dog understands which command applies to him or her, it become possible to have them work together. You can ask one dog to come while the other stays put. That is how shepherd use several dogs to handle their flocks. They always give personalized commands to their dogs.

Itto does not know his name. However, he knows he should sit when he hears "Itto, sit" . This is true of many commands : "Itto, Come" ; "Itto, Walk", etc...

Little by little, Itto realizes that when he hears the sound "Itto" he will  be asked to do something specific. So every time he hears this "Itto", he lifts his ears and focus.

THIS is why we can say the dog knows his name.

Knowing his name is nothing but the ability to react to a sound; the result of a conditioning. This ability is voluntary at the beginning (The trainer triggers it in various ways, this is what dog training is about) and little by little it becomes involuntary: the dog reacts without having to pay attention. We say that the dog knows his name, and who he is, but it is just a pattern of acquired behavior, an habit.

Likewise our personality – our Ego - is the result of such an habitual and cultural conditioning: an acquired behaviour. And this conditioning is so powerful that from an early age we come to believe that this personality is an actual entity, a "Real Thing", and we totally identify to it.

Human mind has a hard time perceiving and conceiving of an ever-changing reality. It loves to imagine immutable things and sort them in categories. 


We call this construct Ego, Soul or Atman.



And we imagine it has a transcendental and eternal nature because we cannot conceive it is just a convention of language for an acquired behaviour.




And this is one of the roots of suffering...






Monday, March 16, 2015


So we had better think again and use our common sense. 

If we let our mind mistreat us so that we spend our lives suffering and making others suffer around us, that’s a sign of a lack of common sense. The thoughts and words that come from a disturbed state of mind can be considered “negative.” 

Instead of complaining about our fate, if we cultivate altruism and compassion, so that those “positive” states of mind improve our well-being and that of others, that shows that we do have common sense.

JIGME KHYENTSE RINPOCHE (born 1964) 

Oral Advice translated by Matthieu Ricard


Sand Mandala by Tibetan Monks in Dothan, AL. March 2015


Please note that Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche does not say that thoughts and words coming from a disturbed state of mind are negative, but that they can be considered "negative." This is important !

 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Anatma



The following is clearer than anything I have ever heard.


The term anatman is usually translated as "non-soul", but in reality atman is here synonymous with a personality, an ego, a self, an individual, a living being, a conscious agent, etc.

The underlying idea is that, whatsoever be designated by all these names, it is not a real and ultimate fact, it is a mere name for a multitude of interconnected facts, which Buddhist philosophy is attempting to analyse by reducing them to real elements (dharma). Thus "soullessness" (nairatmya) is but the negative expression, indeed a synonym, for the existence of ultimate realities (dharmata).

Buddhism never denied the existence of a personality, or a soul, in the empirical sense, it only maintained that it was no ultimate reality (not a dharma). The Buddhist term for an individual, a term which is intended to suggest the difference between the Buddhist view and other theories, is santana, i.e. a "stream ", viz. of interconnected facts.


It includes the mental elements and the physical ones as well, the elements of one's own body and the external objects, as far as they constitute the experience of a given personality. The representatives of eighteen classes (dhatu) of elements combine together to produce this interconnected stream.

There is a special force, called prapti, which holds these elements combined. It operates only within the limits of a single stream and not beyond. This stream of elements kept together, and not limited to present life, but having its roots in past existences and its continuation in future ones - is the Buddhist counterpart of the Soul or the Self of other systems.


From Theodore Stcherbatsky in 'The Central Conception of Buddhism and the Meaning of the Word "Dharma".'