Posts from March 2018

Weekend quote – Philip Glass


March 30, 2018
Yossi Sheriff

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.

From The Guardian

Philip Glass by Letter Chen
Image CC by Letter Chen

The unnecessary


March 18, 2018
Yossi Sheriff

A student asked me: “Why can’t I do the warm up with a T-shirt and then put on the Gi? It’s too hot in this heavy apparel. ”

“What a weak question” I thought.

With this thought I could have ended this dialoge, but I wear a heavy black canvas Gi and a combat skirt, the Hakama. That’s what I wear for work.

“…” say the horrified looks of students who, on weekends, pedal on bicycles wrapped in colored tights. “I’ll wear tights, I’ll put on branded sunglasses, a yellow Lycra hat, but a black skirt and a heavy jacket? It is unnecessary”, say the disdaining looks on the face, I’ll be a loughing stock.

It is unnecessary, but there is a reason why we are a loughing stock, a reason that relates to the concept of Respect. Practicing respect is always unnecessary, always superfluos.

When I related this exchange in the dojo, one veteran later told me: “In the trenches, at the Yom Kippur War, it was obvious that this was the end of us: we would soon die or be prisoners of war. It felt like the end of the world. I did not know if we’d see the sun the morning after”

I looked at him, I did not know what to say, I’m old, but on Yom Kippur I was in elementary school, so I listened.

“We cleaned our weapons and machine guns, then we polished our shoes.” I gave him a deep look, he never misses a training session, and on Yom Kippur war, under a smoky black sky, with artillery fire landing next to him, he polished his shoes. It seemed appropriate to me.

If one asks “what’s in it for me?” I will not supply an answer. In the old school the question is, “How do I do it?” When I try to answer the first question, I turn silent. What comes out of it? Nothing comes of it, nothing, it’s unnecessary.

It is possible that the late Professor Amotz Zehavi would have thought that this was an extension of the Handicap principle, maybe. I think it’s powerful.

Doing essential things is good, but it’s not like doing unnecessary things: treating elders and children with respect, not stealing even when no one is looking, putting on a Hakama and Gi on a hot day, being a mensch. Unnecessary.

Grit in Martial Arts


March 13, 2018
Yossi Sheriff

During the thirty plus years I have been teaching, so many students have gone through groups, so many students, that I feel that the data I present is not anecdotal, it has a statistical significance.

Grit predicts success.

Success is also personal. Each practitioner starts from a different point, equipped with different initial quantities of courage, intellect and money. A different starting point affects the end point. Those who come to groups from a low starting poing will find themselves after thirty years in a better place, compared to their own starting point.

What is the unit of measure of grit? Years.

Grit is founded on decades of persistance, grit manifests in resistance to external difficulties. Grit maintains focus in front of disruptions. We sum up grit toward the end of life. Period.

A practitioner who trains for ten years is at the beginning of the road. Ten years is about tenth grade. A practitioner who has been training for thirty years is getting nearer.

Should the training be in Akban? Of course not, but there must be a comprehensive practicum, not just practicing but an initiation practicum that the apprentice is a part of.

When I look at the student’s cards, I do not see a statistically significant deviation. Long-term training predicts a student’s personal success – success relative to his starting point.

And those students who have a good starting point? Money, high IQ, crazy courage, the same students create success that can be measured in absolute terms, not only relative. Academic achievements, excellent family life, money or if the apprentice wishes to – an enterprise that improves the quality of life of many other people.

Grit means a simple but very difficult thing – training is not an option.