Inside a personal room and the internet it’s easy to create an imaginary world that has never been tested against both colleagues and opponents. But, what determines the next era is the ability to communicate online. This is not ideal, this is already the case and it will only get worse.
The Takeaway: Do learn to communicate online but do not be a amateur.
Some martial arts will lose students
Martial arts that emphasis close body contact will lose students. In the post-Corona world, despite the desire for human touch and physical embrace, the risk of close breathing and bodily fluids will be reserved for those who ignore risks.
The Takeaway: If you are centred in a Grappling, diversify.
Other martial arts will gain students
Martial arts that can build or have a syllabus of contactless training will be more popular – see section 2. In times of uncertainty many want and need to learn martial arts, the question is which ones. Defensive abilities give us a better quality of life because the fear of the other becomes an emotion in control. I expect a rise in historical weapons, karate, kung fu, and some forms of ninjutsu.
The Takeaway: Change syllabus to adapt to post pandemic world. Use the Methodical Pyramid.
The intimate session is back
AKBAN’s teachers, and myself, usually teach a few dozen students. It’s intimate and allows a reasonable number of students to Zoom learn. Seminars abroad with the physical presence of tens and hundreds of attendees will have to wait a long time to resume.
The Takeaway: Intimacy and closeness can be discovered in a large group and an online class. It takes sensitivity and work.
Streaming is not just for the experts
Any teacher who wants to teach now must learn how to overcome the technological hurdles and learn well how to stream. This is the situation.
The Takeaway: Control the technology or be its pawn.
Streaming will build a deep student audience
The human ability to communicate will bypass the limit of presence in the same room. Students who study in streaming can go deeper in some places than students who attend.
The Takeaway: The urban, easy access dojo is relatively new, many more models of learning used to exist. Embrace change with an easy heart, this is a challenge.
Streaming needs to evolve
Streaming needs to go beyond the basic video – we’ll find ways to teach better with streaming, methods we don’t know at the moment, from cellular reminders to specific merchandise for training – I’m waiting for our human creativity here.
The Takeaway: Do not wait on the sidelines for the technology to evolve. Play with it, learn and maybe, contribute.
Not everyone will survive professionally
Not all teachers, not all organizations will survive the crisis – a strong community is just as important as a fighting spirit. There will still be times when one of us will feel down. A strong and close community is key. A spiritually and physically strong community is the most important help now. Writing this Again: Community (Friendship, Humanity, Participation, Patience, Tolerance, Openness).
The Takeaway: Give more than you receive.
Those who survive the crisis will flourish
Martial arts, no matter which ones, show ability. Those who will show ability in crisis (clarity, speed, generosity, fighting spirit, emotional balance) will reap the reward afterwards.
The Takeaway: Frown strong. Breath deep.
More students, more things, more money – that belongs to previous era. This is changing to better students and less things (but good and useful).
The Takeaway: An axe never runs out of batteries. Five good students are better than fifty mediocre ones.
The local will replace the international. Online will replace the physical. Good or not good, it’s no longer to us to decide. It is what it is.
Some will naturally freeze and hesitate, others will deny and go to escapism and nostalgia.That is not the best reaction. We need to put our natural emotions in check.
The Takeaway: Stop, asses the situation and then start doing.
The Individual and telling a story
An academy, like AKBAN, is more than the sum of its parts, it exists in each individual. Each of the teachers and practitioners should be strong to hold both the practice and the knowledge. In this multiple task scenario on multiple platforms it is easy to loose yourself.
The Takeaway: Learn how not to dilute the personal story when telling it to others.
Corona is a social crisis, and I am not talking about COVID-19 as a disease, but about it’s social consequences. The crisis is not the Corona virus, the crisis is the automatic visceral reaction of communicated amplified individuals.
SARS-CoV-2 is an anomaly. It’s been many years since humanity had to process such a communal surprise and right now, middle of March 2020, processing is going on, consciously and automatically, at full speed. This processing is amplified by our interconnectedness and the visibility of things happening far and near. News that would be local and could be digested in months and years in the early civilisations are now processed in a matter of days. The speed at which humanity and society are meeting this anomaly, is a huge factor in what is going to happen now.
Anything more complicated than a fruit fly deals with anomalies in the same way, it freezes.
In a sudden and big enough anomaly the reaction is almost always freezing to digest the information and to avoid possible harm. This happens not only in fruit flies, it happened to our society. Freezing should not always be taken literally, sometimes it is the vacant stupor of complex automatic daily activities.
Not every sudden phenomena is an anomaly. When someone attacks a soldier it is sudden, but it is a category of surprises he grew accustomed to. For these kind of surprises, we have a set of reactions that have been wired into the system.
This COVID-19 is a surprise on another level. Few countries have been preparing for this pandemic, and even if those that did, are not prepared for the scale of this one.
‘Fight, flight, freeze’ reactions are not limited to individual organisms on the micro level, these reactions appear on the macro level of societies too.
On the Corona crisis, the first thing many societies and individuals did is freezing, some for weeks, some for months. So many advanced countries chose not to prepare that it is astonishing. The Fight, Flight, Freeze reaction only played its first part – freeze.
As we all know, it take two to tango, but one is enough to start a fight. This street wisdom works on the personal, regional and global scale.
When the surprise is bad, but it has been dealt with before, we can sometimes use pre-learned reactions to deal with it. When a ‘once in a century’ anomaly like Covid-19 hits, and is combined with hyper connectivity, the reaction it will elicit is lunacy.
I expect social deterioration in many fields. No doubt that the fear potentiated startle reflex we are having as a society will reverberate for years. The Fight part of the unholy trinity ‘fight, flight, freeze’ will take precedence to higher, rational, thinking.
If a good and cheap cure, and later on a flexible vaccine, will not be found then the visceral reactions of individuals and societies will cause greater suffering than the virus will.
I have been teaching since 1985. AKBAN dojo didn’t stop for nothing, no war, no man, no rain, we just kept coming and training. All this has changed today, I just sent a message in our private groups that there will be no training. It was tough on me, a lonely decision.
We shouldn’t stop for fear for ourselves, we are strong and healthy and we have herbs and practice on our side. We should now stop for a different reason, we should stop to protect our weak, for our high risk friends or family.
That should be our highest motive, to protect the old the weak or maybe, the unfortunate.
This virus is dangerous and limiting physical contact is our, my, responsibility. This will delay, give time and maybe even lower the possibility of getting sick.
I am sorry about the session loss, I already miss the dojo, miss you, my friends, but, I haven’t stopped training. I will upload it, I have already started uploading part of my morning routine and we will use technology to meet in spirit but maintain this discipline of protection.
Doron, my teacher told me, “When a martial arts practitioner enters the room, everyone is a little bit safer” now is the time of the paradox. The weak will be safer if we DO NOT enter the room.
I have been telling the veterans since January, this will be a hard fight, but we must win it.
Take care and carry your independent training kernel with you, daily.
I make sure a student pays tuition on time. A student should not owe money to his teacher. Paying tuition makes the student-teacher system simpler, I fulfil my obligations to the student and the student fulfils his/her duties: attendance and payment.
About two months ago, a student I did not see in many years came to the Dojo and said he wanted to pay me an old debt. He is now an adult, and it has been many years since he trained, but while recently talking to his mother, he realised that when he was a child they only paid me a very small fee because his family had no money. A nominal fee for a student who has no money is also a fee! And so, during the years I teach, I got paid in children’s paintings and in flowers from those who did not have any money. That’s fine, symbolic payment is a valid payment and a student who paid doesn’t owe me anything later.
The reason for this economy in Akban is related to the inner freedom I want. If, after a student left the dojo, the teacher thinks that the student owes him, that causes big trouble for the teacher, suffering.
A relationship should allow for exhaling and inhaling. If it is not possible to release then it is impossible to put in new air. I try to let go, and succeed. That’s because I like to breathe, one of the survival secrets I teach. This is how I come to Dojo with a happy heart.
Debt to the community
Akban is not me, Yossi the teacher, Akban is a precious and rare community of human beings, in the best sense of the word, veterans who have been training together for three decades. The debt to me, to the teacher, amounts to tuition and attendance, the debt to the community is not that simple and is indeed very large.
Community debt is not a financial debt, the community has not lent us money, the community has inspired us, helped us persevere in difficult moments, imbued the techniques we practice with meaning. Repayment must be accordingly. Paying off debt to the community is a complex work reserved for the emotionally stable, for very powerful people.
For example, the Ninjutsu database, the documentation project, is repaying a debt to the community in which I grew up, Bujinkan. It’s not about money – the cost to maintain the Bujinkan pool of techniques is not excessive – it’s about work, many hours invested in documenting our syllabus.
In order to repay an inspirational debt to the community, attendance is needed, it’s like gardening, like teaching, like raising children, repaying debt is a practice that requires attendance, presence.
Paying back such debt is an extra bonus, it allows us to grow as strong human beings and change roles – from children to guardians.
A veteran who teaches repays huge debt to the community. He continues the line of knowledge and contributes his unique perspective and interpretation.
A veteran who keeps coming and practicing even though he is old and injured – repays debt because he gives us all a better frame of reference and inspiration to keep on practicing.
A veteran who uses the knowledge he learned in AKBAN to build a business and explains how – returns debt of knowledge. Specifically, how to use martial knowledge in completely different areas and settings.
A veteran who understands how to be a seaman, knows how to surf, sail, understands the winds, the clouds and the sea and knows how to bring his expertise to us, repays debt to the community, he increases our knowledge and enriches us all.
Every contribution makes us all in this person’s debt – we owe him. And since in our community we’ve been together for decades, we all owe a lot to such people, me too.
Not everyone has the luck and the power to be able repay debt to the community, I think it’s fine, as wrote at the first paragraph, at this point nobody owes me anything, but when a veteran repays a debt to the community it’s a great thing, it’s wonderful. I have accrued great debt to Akban and I love this very much.
Today, August the 1st, we start the AKBAN Blitz in the dojo.
The Group will train in two parallel paths: all session randori and aerobic Daken Taijutsu.
The choice of path is an AND Gate of the practitioner and me. Within the confines of the Gate one can move from one path to the other.
Those that have been at it for more than 30 years, do the same, Himum, Kamae and randori the whole session. For those that joined us this year, we video the randori for debriefing, slow motion it and send it individually to the practitioners.
Things to bring: No Hakama, just long pants and black teeshirt. Please bring full boxing gloves and water.
1. Video is a way to teach, even if only few people watch. True, this is not the ideal way, but I did learn things from videos and I think that others can too. We must Capture and distribute video to give away the knowledge we have acquired.
2. Video distribution requires courage. That’s the difference between writing a poem and putting it in the drawer and showing it to someone. In the case we show, we will have to live with the new reality and with the possibility that what we have created is:
a. Not good,
b. Too complex and not understandable
c. Clear and excellent, but not suitable for the reader.
The medication for fear, as we all know, is action!
3. Video photography, and critical observation, is a painful but excellent way to improve technique – both a technique of execution and a technique of verbal explanation. The engine behind my technical improvement are the movies I uploaded. You need to video and distribute to get internal and external feedbacks and improve.
I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time magazine, staring at me in disbelief. ‘But you’re Philip Glass! What are you doing here?’ It was obvious that I was installing his dishwasher and I told him that I would soon be finished. ‘But you are an artist,’ he protested. I explained that I was an artist but that I was sometimes a plumber as well and that he should go away and let me finish.