Here’s a photo of Dave Jones (in the blue gi) and the rest of our motley Pacific Martial Arts dojo gang. Dave was awarded a well-deserved black belt by Sensei Warren Allen (in the middle) last Saturday. He’s expert at a variety of weapons and a highly skilled ground/jujitsu fighter. Plus, a great guy with a laid back personality and some cool tattoos.
My description of ourselves as “motley” is a compliment. When I got home and looked at the photo of (from left to right) Bob, Dennis, Warren, Dave, me, and Mike (kneeling), I realized each of us is attired quite differently. Black gis are the most common fashion statement, but even the three of us inclined to a Gothic look are disparate in our accessories.
After almost nine years of traditional Shotokan karate training where everyone had to wear a plain white gi (and only females wore a t-shirt under it, which helps explain my habitual t-shirtless look), I much appreciate Warren’s hang-loose Taoist attitude toward the dojo dress code. Discipline is needed in the martial arts, but dressing exactly alike doesn’t teach anything except rigidity.
It’s interesting that my changeover from the linear, dogmatic, structured Shotokan training to the Pacific Martial Arts circular, eclectic, flowing style has pretty much paralleled a similar change in how I approach meditation and spirituality. I’ve become much less rigid in my philosophical/metaphysical beliefs during the years I’ve been trying to achieve a similar openness in my martial arts training.
My new Church of the Churchless site reflects this creedless creed mentality. I wish that I could recall everything Warren said as he was awarding Dave his black belt, as it echoed the message I’ve been preaching at the Church of the Churchless. Except, Warren said his piece more briefly and with more punch than I usually do.
Sensei Allen spoke of how the goal is to be unpredictable in the practice of “formless form,” which was Bruce Lee’s basic approach to the martial arts. Do what works. Don’t get stuck in patterns. Respond fluidly to the situation. Let intuition guide your moves, not pre-programmed conscious thought.
I’ll probably never use my martial arts training in “real life.” Laurel and I don’t frequent bars, and most altercations seem to happen where people are drinking. But then again, I will use it. For real life is what I live every day, as does everyone. Being as philosophical as I am, my deepest motivation in practicing martial arts is to learn how to apply my experience in the dojo to my everyday existence.
Last night Laurel was flipping through a catalog, saw a t-shirt advertised, and said “Now, that message fits me: I’ve got a black belt in shopping.” Absolutely true.
We’re all black belts in something. The trick is to make that something the right thing.