Happy New Year

I’m not much on resolutions. I figure I can break promises to myself without resorting to once-a-year resolvathons where everyone decides they’re going to make magic until it gets too difficult or time-consuming. You’ll see this at the gym where it’ll be packed with people until the end January, you’ll see people trying to start businesses and people deciding to write books only to decide it’s easier to kick back and watch TV.

Let me just say, if it’s worth doing, it doesn’t matter a whit how hard it is. A buddy of mine likes to say success at cycling is a matter of how much pain you can take before you quit. Writing a book means you’ll be eventually hit a point where your eyes are closed and you’re still writing. Being successful at martial arts mean sweating and bleeding on mat so you don’t have to on the street. Starting a business means endless stress and long hours.

All of these things are worth it. None of them are easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. And, let’s face it, it feels so fucking good to succeed when the odds are against you and you have to bust your ass to get it done.

I hope your next year is great. I hope all the ass-busting and endless hours and sleepless nights pay off. But most of all, I hope you don’t quit. Keep cycling. Keep writing. Keep fighting. Keep going, even when it seems like the world is against you because the difference between success and failure is the amount of times you can get knocked down and get back up.

Happy New Year, everyone.

And now, your moment of Zen.

Changes Changes Changes

My Kenpo school in Albuquerque is closing down. Our head instructor wants to be able to spend more time with his family and, after decades of running a school six days a week, probably wants to be able to sleep from time to time, too. So, my seventeen years at AKKA on Montgomery came to an end today.

It’s a melancholy time, but I wish Mr. Gilbert the best. He’s certainly earned it. On the plus side, my son got a personal lesson from a man with something like forty plus years of experience today. I’ve had plenty of one-on-one time with Mr. Gilbert over the years, but this was my son’s first chance to get some insight directly from a Grand Master of Kenpo and that’s a pretty special thing.

I’ve seen Mr. Gilbert, who is in his sixties now, punch so quickly I could barely see his hands move. That’s what a lifetime of practice looks like. But, for all his training and stories about people walking into his school trying to cause problems, it’s his reactions that will always stick with me. Bear in mind, this is the same man that once taught me “luck is the intersection of skill and opportunity”. If you’ve ever wondered where I got that phrase from, it would be from Mr. Gilbert.

People sometimes wonder what the Martial Arts is. What does it entail? What do you have to do? What does it all mean? Pure and simple, no bullshit here; the Martial Arts (all of them) are about learning to inflict the maximum amount of damage on opponent in the smallest amount of time without getting hurt yourself. In other words, once you boil away all uniforms and mottos and rigamorale, learning the martial arts is about learning to beat the snot out of someone.

Of course, the best martial artists don’t have to rely on their fists to win the fight. One of Mr. Gilbert’s many stories that stuck with me was one I heard for the first time this morning. It’s an apt story, especially given the caustic environment in this country right now.

It would appear, back when Mr. Gilbert was running a school on Central in Albuquerque, that a guy came in looking for trouble. “I’m gonna kick your ass!” he screamed.

This wasn’t an entirely uncommon event. We even had a loon wander in off the street during a pretest and try to cause some problems. A couple guys and I escorted him out and convinced him this wasn’t the best place to cause problems. No one got hurt, so it was all good.

Anyway, the guy on Central was probably one of the run-of-the-mill nutters down there that lives to look for trouble. Mr. Gilbert looked up from whatever paperwork he was working on and calmly asked, “What’s your name?”

This threw the bad guy for a loop. Here he was trying to look tough and this Karate dude just asked for his name. “Why do you need my name?” he asked.

“Well, I need to make sure you’re on the schedule. If you’re not on the list you’re going to have to come back later.”

Talk about defusing the situation. The underlying statement was there were so many guys looking to kick Mr. Gilbert’s ass that he needed a list and a schedule to keep up with them. In the end, the angry guy wound up walking out of the school with a brochure about learning Kenpo and all of Mr. Gilbert’s contact information.

I gather he never took a class, but no fight broke out and no one got hurt, so it was all good.

Those are the kinds of stories that will stick with me. Punching is punching and kicking is kicking, but learning how to avoid the fight entirely is priceless.

Now, since the school is going away, I finally got around to taking some pictures. These are paintings of the animals (Tiger, Crane, Leopard, Dragon, Snake, and Monkey) of the style. Each of the animals represents are certain movement forward in Kenpo understanding. The paintings were made directly on the walls of the school sometime in the 80s by a former student.

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Tiger and Leopard. Tiger is the first animal and represents beginner understanding. Push a button and three attacks come out. Tigers are linear and power-oriented. The Leopard combines the power of the tiger and the ability to move of the Crane.

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Crane. The second level. Cranes start to change from linear movement to what we call point and circle defense. Moving around the opponent and firing quick, precise strikes. The Crane actually comes between Tiger and Leopard.

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Dragon introduces twisted stances and more movement. This falls at the Green belt level, the last belt before someone hit expert level at Brown.

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Snake and me taking a picture. The snake has two components: constrictor and viper. Constrictor elements of Kenpo include methods of coiling around arms and bodies. Vipers introduce very precise shots to small targets like eyes. The three Brown belts compose snake techniques.

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Monkey is the Black Belt element. Monkey can use any and all of the other animals and the Black Belt is, at least partially, about learning to combine the elements together.

Mr. Gilbert will still be around, so it’s not like AKKA is losing him forever. And also, as he pointed out, Bill Packer died and the system kept going. Thomas Connor died and the system kept going. Ed Parker died and Kenpo lived on. It’s not an easy change to swallow since I left the system once before and came back primarily for Mr. Gilbert.

Happy New Year, everyone. It’s a time for change and renewal. You can either approach the problem head-on and beat your fists against the wall or you can use a bit of trickery to turn the problem to an advantage.

I Come To Bury 2015, Not To Praise It

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Happy Year of the Monkey!

The title of this post, of course, is from Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. I like to throw Shakespeare quotes around from time to time to make myself look smarter, even though I don’t regularly read the Immortal Bard’s many fine works.

2015 was not the best of years, nor was it the worst of years (there I go again, dropping literary references like Burr dropped Hamilton). The important thing is there’s a whole new year ahead of us and – even though the change in year is completely arbitrary – it’s a chance to look at things anew. I’m not much on resolutions; if I feel like breaking a promise to myself I just do it, whether or it was a resolution or not. That said, I do have a few goals I’d like to take a shot at.

  • Finally (after 10 years) finish my 3rd Black material in Kenpo. I won’t test until my son tests for his 1st, but I need to get it all done. Ten years is plenty of time for 30 techniques and 5 kata.
  • I’ve got two or three books I’d like to get out. Two are already well underway: dysRupt and H3nchm3n. I’d also like to at least get a solid start on Greetings From Sunny Aluna. If you’ve read Henchmen or Arise, the new book just continues the adventure. The series will likely end with the 4th book. dysRupt is a kind of dystopian story about an overly safe society. Greetings From Sunny Aluna picks up with Chan, Felix Crow, and Kevin and his menagerie from The Protectors and The Clock Man.
  • I’ve said this before and I probably won’t make it, but I’d like to see if I can get my bench press up to 300. I’m at 225 now, so 75 pounds isn’t all that much more.

I’d also like to take this year to try new things, do some new stuff. I’m building a cyclocross bike so that should be fun. I miss riding in the morning but it’s been in the teens here at 5am and that’s just too damned cold. In the final analysis of 2015 I had a good time, I finished another book, worked on a couple anthologies, and generally had a good time.

Before I go, allow me to offer you one of my favorite stories from The Clock Man. It was a kick to write and it’s all about that moment where you can choose to stay were you are or decide to throw caution to the wind and go forward. Or, as Jack would put it, “You can go back and clean up brains or you can have a little adventure. Go back and you might live longer; go forward and you might live better.” Read and enjoy Zona Peligrosa. NOTE: If you’ve got The Clock Man, you’ve already got Zona Peligrosa.

Zona Peligrosa by Eric Lahti

Instead of cleaning up brains, I’m gonna go for the gusto. I’m gonna stand on the roof and shout

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Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a bottle of good Scotch singing my name. Have a safe and happy New Year!

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Happy New Year!

Okay, so the Year of the Wood Sheep doesn’t officially begin until February, but I’m kind of winging things here because – well – absinthe.  I guess that’s a good enough reason in a “sure, why not?” kind of way.

2014 wasn’t exactly what I’d call the greatest year I’ve ever had and I’m certainly happy to kick it to the curb and look forward to new and exciting things.  Still, it wasn’t the worst year I’ve ever had and, as the saying goes:

(I think they meant mettle, but it's all good anyway.  Maybe it's a pun)

(I think they meant mettle, but it’s all good anyway. Maybe it’s a pun)

I’ve published a second book, met some exciting new people from around the world, and generally expanded my horizons.  Couldn’t have been all bad for a year.  At any rate, I’m looking forward to 2015.  I’m still disappointed I don’t have a flying car or a jet pack, but you can’t have everything even if those things would be totally amazing.  Like, this amazing:

Cyber ninja and RPG wielding raptor riding a fire-breathing great white shark!  AWESOME OVERLOAD!

Cyber ninja and RPG wielding raptor riding a fire-breathing great white shark! AWESOME OVERLOAD!

I don’t know about you, or how you celebrate, but I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who’s read this little blog o’ mine, read a story I wrote, talked with me, laughed with me, or retweeted the odd rambling I’ve dropped this year.  Thank you all very much.  It’s people that make life worth living.

Happy 2015, everyone.  May it be a great year for you and yours.

greensheepyear

No, not Dodge.

Goals for 2015
Write more
Kick faster
Take over the world

I think all these are attainable if I put my mind to it.

See you in 2015!