Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Warm San Franciscian Nights

And slightly cooler mornings....

I have recently returned from a two week stay in San Francisco, one of my all-time favorite cities.

I was invited there to teach a series of workshops on a few different subjects. I did three clinics on barefoot running as a method of transitioning to a forefoot strike, a day long seminar on Miyamoto Musashi's "Book of Five Rings", and a rather experimental workshop called "Think, Sweat, Feel".

The events were organized by two of San Francisco's best trainers and coaches Cody Fielding and Carey Rockland.

The first two running classes were put on for Workout On The Hill, This is an organization that offers outdoor training in the Bernal Heights district of SF. (My kind of people. "Gym? We don't gotta show you no stinkin' gym!")

So on Tuesday I found myself standing on the top of Bernal hill at sunrise with a group of really dedicated people.

We started with posture exercises to introduce the idea of "runner's stance" and teach people how to find it and keep it active.

We also went through some of my favorite core strengthening exercises.

As well as the drills I use to help people find the right lean for efficient running.

And of course we did a lot of running practice with our toes exposed to nature in all her early morning glory. There is something quite peaceful about running at dawn, even more so with friends.

After two mornings of training the group was doing quite well, so I left them in Carey's competent hands and went on to a more challenging group.

Carey had set up a running tutorial with a group which was comprised mostly of personal trainers, coaches and teachers.

So on one those perfect San Francisco afternoons, I find myself in a park full of people lounging about on grass.

I am surrounded by some extremely fit people half my age or less, it's my job to suggest that there might be some virtue in returning to a style of running that had fallen from favor before they were born, and to demonstrate that I know what I'm talking about.

It took very little time to get them out of there shoes and going through my basic set of drills. While doing this I also taught some of my methods for working on a more subtle level. One skill I think they will find useful is how to teach a person's "non-dominant" side a skill that they have learned on their "dominant" side.

In very little time I had the group running about the park, bare feet flashing, to the puzzled looks of the other park goers.

At the end of the class I took the group through a short meditative process to help them connect to their "ancestral runner", then we went off for a last run. The group was having so much fun I had to sort of coax them back in for the wrap up.

Of special note for the afternoon, I got a chance to meet a couple of people with whom I have had an Internet acquaintance for a while. First is Heron Saline, a fine hypnotherapist who I have had some pleasant conversation with from time to time. I was particularly geeked to have him attend because he could become a resource for the trainers there who developed an interest in the sort of mental processes I was using to enhance learning. I'm happy to say that he was as kewl as I expected.

The other person I had been looking forward to meeting was T. Thorn Coyle. I have corresponded with Thorn a few times and have several friends who know her and think very well of her. We actually got a chance to spend a little time together before the class, but it is going to take a full blog entry to tell you about that.

There is one thing of note that I will mention here. As I watched her take her last run across the park I remarked to myself how good her form was. She had that long straight runner's stance as she moved, and the gazelle like grace you see in the best "primal" runners. I sort of assumed that she must have some sort of running background. As it turns out I was misapprehended. Check out Thorn's Blog entry for a more accurate account of what was going on.

The Book of Five Rings

The first weekend I was in SF I did a day long seminar on  Miyamoto Musashi's "Book of Five Rings".

The philosophical part of the day was fairly easy to address, but as I don't have much of a background in Japanese fencing I knew we were not going to be waving katanas around, and needed to find some way to address the more physical aspects of Musashi's work.

My solution was to have everyone bring rattans and address what Musashi called "sword fencing" through the lens of Filipino martial art.

We spent considerable time on the nine principals outlined at the end of the "Earth Book"
  1. Do not think dishonestly.
  2. The Way is in training.
  3. Become acquainted with every art.
  4. Know the Ways of all professions.
  5. Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
  6. Develop intuitive judgment and understanding for everything.
  7. Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
  8. Pay attention even to trifles.
  9. Do nothing which is of no use.
as I consider them to be a really useful condensation of the entire text. The nine principals act as mnemonics for the entirety of Musashi's method of strategic thinking.

The best way to understand Musashi though, is in contesting with with an opponent. The free flow of  combat allows one to experience Musashi's strategy in real time and to get it into the body.

Interestingly, most of the participants were not martial artists, though all were athletes from various disciplines. Those who did have a martial background were mostly not weapon based.

So I was fortunate indeed to have, as one of the attendees Sharon Sanghera,  Editor in Chief of Vincit Magazine and JKD/Kali black belt. Sharon is a proven fighter of no little skill who has fought in some interesting venues.

I had wanted to ask her before the seminar if she would be wiling to help out with the weapons work, but I was not able to, so I just sort of drafted her.

I'm happy to say she was quite game for some impromptu sparring. To tell the truth, I could have stopped the seminar right there and spent the rest of the day fencing her. She had great flow and a strong spirit.

With her able assistance I was able to get the room moving with sticks and having some direct experience of Musashi's strategy in action.

The day was both quite fun and a success in laying a foundation for further study of Musashi's philosophy.

There is one other event of note for the seminar. I finally got a chance to meet Vince Brown, which I had been looking forward to for quite a while. I am going to have to dedicate a full entry to this meeting as it was quite information rich, and I think it may be of interest to a wide audience.

The last event I led before returning home was an experimental work-group called "Think-Sweat-Feel".

It is my attempt to counteract, in some small way, the epidemic of spiritual neotony that has infected humanity like some vile mind parasite.

One thing I have learned over many years of teaching is that if the whole person is not engaged in the development process bad thing may happen.

In designing this seminar I pulled a lot of information from Dr. John Medina's "Brain Rules" to help create the matrix that contained the information.

I will no doubt write more about this later, but I think the seminar was a very good start and came away feeling quite happy about the day and the people.

Here is a bit of theme music for the post. a song that came out in 1967, the first year I ever visited San Francisco.


Steven Barnes said...

Great work, Mushtaq! Really wish I could have been there. Sounds like you had just a phenomenal time--those students were lucky to have a teacher like you.

Now next time, record it so that we can buy the download!

T. Thorn Coyle said...

Mushtaq, it was a pleasure, and I am still running! It amazes me how much my animal soul loves it ( tho I never would have thought of myself as a gazelle)

Blessings and thanks- T>

Steve Perry said...

As a certain wizened and wise teacher I know is wont to say, "Way kewl ..."

Janet said...

next time, I'm coming too :)

Cody said...

A great time, new ways of thinking and being.

More to come!