Sunday, October 5, 2008

Seamless: The Universal Importance of Mind-Body Connectedness

I say it all the time, but I'm blessed. Don't get me wrong... Anyone who really knows me knows full well that there are certain parts of my life that are absolutely wretched. But on the whole, my life is wonderful beyond all imagining.

WHY?

Because with very few exceptions, the threads of my life are very interwoven. It's hard for me to tell where my work begins and my play ends. Everything that I do for work is something that I'm into, something that I'm curious about, and something that I have a hunger to learn. Notice that I didn't say "something I have an aptitude for". Plenty of people do stuff they're good at but don't love. I love what I do, and even if I suck, I'll still do it because I love it.

Let me give you an example by way of these vignettes...

On Thursday afternoon, I was having lunch with Guro Jeff Imada, one of the seniormost senior instructors of the Inosanto clan and a true expert in Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali. We met up at a Japanese supermarket that had a food court, were talking about martial arts, life, work, and all that sort of stuff, and I look up to see Haruo Matsuoka standing in line. Both of us got up, greeted Matsuoka Sensei, brought him over to where we were sitting, and enjoyed each other's company for what turned out to be a VERY enjoyable lunch. Both Imada and Matsuoka had worked with each other on some of Steven Seagal's earlier movies, and both are seriously accomplished martial artists.

Our conversation ranged from just catching up on each other's personal and professional lives to talking about our latest discoveries in training and teaching. Matsuoka spoke about his "A-HA" moments with his aikido and kenjutsu training, and he spoke about the feeling of moving with the whole of one's being... not just one muscle or series of muscles, not just one thought about one movement, but executing an action with the whole of one's being.

I couldn't help but think, "Boy, this sounds oddly familiar..."

Matsuoka continued by saying that he's been discovering that real efficiency isn't about trying to minimize the number of muscles being used, since that actually maximizes the load on each muscle. Instead, he explained that having the energy of every cell in your body working to create an outcome is where real softness comes from. I couldn't help but think of Hard Style and the concepts of commitment and irradiation.

He then continued by talking about how thought gets in the way of effective, natural movement. I can't recall his exact words, but the essence was that if you have to think about moving, then your movement is going to be both contrived and late. You'll be too slow to block, or move, or blend with the opponent's motion, he explained. I was amazed. Immediately, I thought of how Gray Cook would say time & time again not to overcue someone while they're doing the Functional Movement Screen.

I used to think that for good movement, you have to give good directions. And while that's true in terms of instruction and learning, it's NOT true when it comes to tested movement. The Functional Movement Screen is a sort of test - a test to see what your body's going to do REFLEXIVELY when faced with a particular task.

It's like seeing how someone's going to react in a fight, in a sense. In other words, when someone throws a punch at you unannounced, are you going to... stiffen up and scream, stiffen up and gasp, duck and cower, lean back, duck to the side, headbutt the incoming fist? There are so many possible outcomes, but the FMS is trying to discover what your natural movement is like before you have time to prepare or psyche yourself up to do something. It's a test to see what your maximum efficiency level is like.

So you see... all good things, all good bodies of knowledge converge on certain ideas. It's like different threads that come together in a seamless bond. And back to what I opened with... I'm not the top dog in most of the fields I pursue.

I'm not the baddest dude on the mat when it comes to Combat Shuai-Chiao or BJJ, I'm not the closest disciple of my Fut Ga master, I'm not even an apprentice instructor in the Inosanto method of JKD, and I hold no rank in any Japanese martial art. I'm not the dude at the top of the Hard Style Russian Kettlebell food chain, and I'm the newest addition to the faculty of the FMS.

But I'm BLESSED to be a part of what I'm a part of. To have the quality and caliber of people who teach me, invite me to train and study with them, and to simply pass time with them is the greatest gift and my greatest joy. When I was a kid growing up in Delaware, if you told me that I'd be hanging out & having lunch with guys like Jeff Imada & Haruo Matsuoka and on a first name basis with them, I'd have told you that you should've laid off the funny tasting brownies. If you'd told me that two days later, I'd be accompanying Pavel Tsatsouline to teach a kettlebell workshop to some 70 people at the National Strength & Conditioning Association, I'd be checking your arms for needle tracks and looking to see if you had a runny nose.

To be living the life I'm living now, to have the knowledge of what inspires me, to have the opportunity and access to gaining more knowledge from the top instructors in the fields that inspire me, to see those fields converge fluidly, and to get paid for pursuing my dreams is a thing of unbelieveable beauty. To all of you who are part of this dream I'm living, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Addendum: If you haven't seen it already, watch Chris Rock's Kill the Messenger on HBO. Aside from him being ridiculously funny in a way that's somehow both gutter in its profanity and godly in its insights, Rock talks about the difference between a job & a career. With a job, he says, the time just doesn't pass fast enough. With a career, you can't find enough minutes in the day to do what you want to do for your work.

Addendum #2: I just wanted to thank all the people that have come up to me and privately given me such incredibly warm feedback on this blog over the past 4 days. While it never ceases to amaze me how many folks from how many different places leave comments, it floors me even more to know how many people actually read my blog regularly and gain some benefit from it. Your blog comments, your private e-mails, your Facebook posts, and certainly your face-to-face feedback, handshakes, and hugs means the world to me. Thank you for always lifting me up, pushing me to do more, and inspiring me constantly!

5 comments:

Spencer said...

No Doc, THANK YOU! It's a pleasure being part of your work, play, career, etc.

*Incidentally, when can the KBLA crew get a look at their FMS results?

Taikei Matsushita said...

Jeff Imada, I've seen his name in Bourne series. That's one big name.

As of becoming an RKC and living in Japan:
I some times think "did I hit a gold mine?"
Some people study NSCA, do martial arts for lots of years and still don't get what we do today.

Dr. Mark Cheng said...

Spencer, guys like you make teaching a joy. One of these days, when the insanity slow down a bit, probably when I get back from New Zealand, we'll all re-test and start working on corrections. The FMS corrections are very individualized. It's far more time consuming than teaching a group of people how to Swing. We'll get it done, though. Please stay on top of me with that in the coming weeks!

Matsushita-san, prior to the Bourne movies, Jeff Imada was still a big name. You can see him prominently in no shortage of blockbuster movies, and his choreographic talents shaped the fight scenes of some of cinema's most exciting combat sequences. I'm blessed to call him a friend and a big brother.

It's funny... For an only child who started life in a relatively rural place, I'm constantly amazed at the breadth and depth of my "family" these days - not just acquaintances, but people whom I'd do for an who'd do for me. It's so humbling and so inspiring at the same time.

I've come to realize that I'm not in the gold mine. The gold mine owners and I are on each other's speed dial! This is as close to Heaven as I dare to be.

Franz Snideman said...

"To be living the life I'm living now, to have the knowledge of what inspires me, to have the opportunity and access to gaining more knowledge from the top instructors in the fields that inspire me, to see those fields converge fluidly, and to get paid for pursuing my dreams is a thing of unbelieveable beauty. To all of you who are part of this dream I'm living, thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Mark, this is awesome! I am glad I know you!!!! Rock on brother!

Dr. Mark Cheng said...

Brother Franz, the constant support and praise from you & Yoana has meant more to me than you realize. You play a noteworthy role in what I am grateful for, my friend.