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March Newsletter

 A.S.K.A. Dojo--March Newsletter .  


Welcome to the 2nd installment for 2003!

     I have no clue who the above chap is or what the pic is all about, so don't ask! But, I stumbled across this image while tip-toeing through the files in our computer's `my pictures' archive, and thought is was both colorful and appropriate, so tossed him up there for you all to enjoy. Perhaps sensei Jeff can enlighten us. It must be one that he found and saved, because had I done it, I think I would've remembered it!

And now for some announcements:

1). Congratulations!
 A big “omedetto gozaimasu” to those students who tested (and survived) on 2/15!  Although the usual array of errors and technique “gone astray” were a part of the action, progress and improvement were both witnessed and noted as well! Those testing for the first time showed well for their rank. Those going for higher intermediate ranks displayed “grace under fire". Those going for advanced rank likewise showed fortitude and stamina given the volume and complexity of the material they now possess and the advanced nature of the questions lobbed at them this round. Nice work, everyone, but keep attending and practicing, and review your comment sheets regularly to remind yourself of what you need to work on as there's more to learn and more to be accomplished!

2). Test-Cutting and Samurai Movie Night:
Due to the recent changes that have been in process due to sensei Gene's retirement there are no sessions scheduled at this time while we (the instructors) get things sorted out and settled. But, don't let this discourage you as we hope to have a session schedule before too long, so stay tuned!!

Feature Article #1:

Process vs. Paradigm in Training: Part 1
The Journey vs. The Box
by: Marlene Harris

     Author's Note: This installment of the “Feature Article” covers a bit more of an advanced, therefore potentially more difficult to grasp philosophical topic, but from both a student and an instructor perspective, it's an important one. The reason it's important is that for students, it can mean the difference between finding training a meaningful and beneficial long-term pursuit, or quitting in frustration and anger due to the futility of pursuing some impossible standard. For instructors, it can mean the difference between in earnest transmission of knowledge cued for the benefit and continued growth of each student, or mindlessly prompting students to pursue a “one size fits all” ideal that, in reality, simply does not exist therefore is not worth pursuing.  M.H.

     In the course of working in psychology research, I've attended many meetings. Typically, these meetings have about 30 seconds worth of material that pertain to my job directly. As such, my attendance during these proceedings is marked by a state of suspended animation; I devote a microcosm of my brain to the task of monitoring the dialogue, while the rest of my gray matter is off on a romp of creative cavorts, martial arts musings, and other, far less anesthetizing fare.
     One meeting, however, was a gem in that it evoked an epiphany regarding a central difference between an engaging, meaningful activity, and activity of the by rote, automaton-type that gets to frustrating and/or boring people to death (like these meetings, for example…).
     Two of the professors were discussing a seminar on “mindfulness” training that they had attended; a hot topic in psychology these days. A point discussed that jolted me to full consciousness was how the type of training being presented was totally “process driven”, i.e., driven by the individual and their pace, perspective, progress, and individual insights even in group settings, as opposed to the professors' cozy, familiar world of the paradigm driven where you are handed a label, get stuffed into a box, and told that you have to become “Product X-in-the-Box” in order to satisfy the paradigm.
     What first jarred and amused me was their very obvious and complete discomfort with the idea of a process driven system-they reacted as though they were being asked to fly without a net. The second thing that jolted me was how every description I've read, heard, and experienced of more advanced forms of martial training seemed to parallel the process driven system, and how various paradigms of martial training created by the media and those more concerned with “control issues” seem to be a major cause of the loss of many an individual to training. Confused? Read on…
     A more detailed definition of the terms “process” vs. “paradigm” in general may be a beneficial starting point. According to my Webster's, a “paradigm” is “an example or model”, and a “process” is defined as “the course of being done, a continuing development involving many changes”. Is the fog lifting yet? Let's continue…
     The paradigm, or the model/ideal can be looked at as a mold; something of a suit or container that you will need to fit into or occupy in order to live up to the image or traits that the paradigm dictates. It is a closed orientation limited by the dimensions of the mold. Stated another way, the paradigm can be likened to constantly setting one's sights on the horizon; it will continue to elude you as you approach it, as it's like a mirage. The process, on the other hand, can be equated more with a journey and is largely directed by the traits, states, and perceptions of the individual as they progress. It's an open orientation that is essentially limitless in its possibilities for expansion as it is measured from an internal and evolving base.
     Paradigm driven training implies that there is some absolute state of perfection, or “level of corrrectness” for everyone that is obtainable as they struggle to fit in the mold. On the other hand, the process version of training implies that improvement is the goal, which invariably occurs as long as the journey is undertaken. The person will change, adapt, and evolve in due course and in their unique ways in response to the journey itself.
      What this means in terms of the preferable training philosophy is, being that humans are first, imperfect creatures, and second, widely variant in strengths, weaknesses, perceptions, tastes, and approaches to life, the idea of “the perfect state” and the value of it's pursuit is inherently flawed. In simple terms, it becomes “mission impossible”, as you can't find or develop what does not in fact exist. The training process, however, does exist, and because we're all unique to begin with, it mirrors the way life itself is experienced: as a process in which our views, knowledge, and abilities change over time and exposure to various situations.
     This makes it prudent for us to be very careful in how we portray training to others-it is essential that individual “human factors” be assessed and respected. We are all unique, therefore we will not all neatly fit into one specific mold in terms of range of skills and abilities acquired and rate and quality of overall development. Both student and instructor should constantly bear in mind that “a bit of something” is ALWAYS preferable to “a whole bunch of nothing” in terms of development. This makes it preferable to view and present training as a process-driven system. A process always leaves the door open for improvement, whereas the paradigm closes this door by devaluing the myriad points of improvement along the way in favor of that unattainable phantom menace, the “perfect” performance or state. Additionally, this quest for a “whole bunch of nothing” sadly masks the true value and purpose in martial training, which is the gradual gaining of “numerous bits of something”.
     I will return to this topic with more specific training-related issues in the next newsletter, so stay tuned. I anyone has any questions on anything contained in this dialogue of rather difficult concepts, please feel free to come and discuss them with us after class!

Feature Article #2


About this article: I found this little gem in an on-line self-improvement newsletter that I get and thought it worthy of inclusion here. Enjoy!
About the Author: Jim Rohn is a highly respected American Businessman, Author, Speaker, and Philosopher

   We are not born with courage, but neither are we born with fear. Maybe some of our fears are brought on by your own experiences, by what someone has told you, by what you've read in the papers.
   Some fears are valid, like walking alone in a bad part of town at two o'clock in the morning. But once you learn to avoid that situation, you won't need to live in fear of it. Fears, even the most basic ones, can
totally destroy our ambitions. Fear can destroy fortunes. Fear can destroy relationships. Fear, if left unchecked, can destroy our lives. Fear is one of the many enemies lurking inside us. Let me tell you about five of the other enemies we face from within.
   The first enemy that you've got to destroy before it destroys you is indifference. What a tragic disease this is. "Ho-hum, let it slide. I'll just drift along." Here's one problem with drifting: you can't drift your way to the top of the mountain.
   The second enemy we face is indecision. Indecision is the thief of opportunity and enterprise. It will steal your chances for a better future. Take a sword to this enemy.
   The third enemy inside is doubt. Sure, there's room for healthy skepticism. You can't believe everything. But you also can't let doubt take over. Many people doubt the past, doubt the future, doubt each other,
doubt the government, doubt the possibilities and doubt the opportunities. Worst of all, they doubt themselves. I'm telling you, doubt will destroy your life and your chances of success. It will empty both your bank account and your heart. Doubt is an enemy. Go after it. Get rid of it.
   The fourth enemy within is worry. We've all got to worry some. Just don't let it conquer you. Instead, let it alarm you. Worry can be useful. If you step off the curb in New York City and a taxi is coming, you've got to
worry. But you can't let worry loose like a mad dog that drives you into a small corner. Here's what you've got to do with your worries: drive them into a small corner. Whatever is out to get you, you've got to get it.
Whatever is pushing on you, you've got to push back.
   The fifth interior enemy is recklessness. It is an arrogant and self-defeating approach to life. Recklessness is not a virtue (unlike adventurousness--they are different); in fact, it can be an illness. If you let it go, it'll conquer you. Reckless people don't get promoted because they are continually over-stepping their boundaries and lose ground as a result. They don't advance and grow and become powerful in the marketplace. You've got to avoid being reckless.

   Do battle with the enemy. Do battle with your fears. Build your courage to fight what's holding you back, what's keeping you from your goals and dreams. Be courageous, but not reckless in your life and in your pursuit of the things you want and the person you want to become.

About Those Submissions….
     Where are they? Yet again, and this is the third request/plea, by the way…hint, hint!, we encourage those of you with an idea, regardless of your intrinsic writing ability or lack thereof, to please, please, please get it out of your atama (head) and onto some cyber-paper for our newsletter!
     We've heard you all talking before and after training, and we know full well that you all have stuff  to say (and LOTS of it!), so put it the form of pixels in a Word file, send it our way, and we'll do the rest! Catharsis is good for the soul, so express yourself!

That's it for this installment! Look for the next newsletter in the May time frame!

Practice & train mindfully and safely,
Marlene & Jeff