Archive for Robert Lara

Roundtable Discussion 006: Life

Posted in Martial Arts, Roundtable Discussion with tags , , , , , , on November 22, 2010 by Combative Corner

Six martial artists, from six different disciplines were asked,

“How did the study of the martial arts impact your Life?”

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Robert Lara ::.. The study of Martial Arts positively impacts my life more and more each day. I started my studies in the arts to learn to be able to control attackers. But as the years have went by I now train to learn to control myself. To master the self is the true battle.

I do my best each day of my life to better myself through the study Martial Arts. I deal with Fibromyalgia and other health issues. Without the Martial Arts I would not have the tools to deal with my health issues. I wish you all the best on your paths in the study of Martial Arts.

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Brandon Vaughn ::.. That’s easy.  My martial arts training greatly increased my confidence and improved my self discipline.

I first started training for the same reason a lot of kids did because I wanted to be able to beat up all the bullies that were tormenting me at the time. As so often happens in martial arts, by the time you learn how to “fight” you realize that you no longer need to. Through Martial Arts I gained the confidence to stand up for myself but also the discipline to not let people provoke me into fighting over nothing. I went from walking looking down at my shoes to walking with my chin held high.

Martial Arts also helped me deal with some anger issues when I was younger and still helps me manage my temper to this day. Martial Arts gave me a healthy outlet for expressing my anger and according to my wife has calmed me down a lot since high school. One of the main reasons I enjoy teaching so much is because I get to help kids dealing with the same issues that I dealt with as a child. Nothing compares to watching a student’s confidence grow before your eyes.

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Freddie Lee ::.. Martial Arts holds great significance in my life. Before practicing Martial Art, all I knew of was sport, nothing about art. When I started training, it was a physical discipline, something that was nothing new to me. It was not until 2 years later did I begin to look deeper into it. It first started with being inspired by Bruce Lee. Practicing Martial Arts for the first time made me proud of my own culture and race. I was no longer ashamed. For the first time I went to seek out information about my original Chinese culture.

I first started reading “The Artist of Life.” That lead me to many other books related to Eastern Philosophy. Martial Arts sparked my thirst for knowledge and wisdom. Ever since then, my life was never the same. Ultimately it lead me towards enlightenment. Now I see the world from a whole different level. It has awakened me. I see very clearly now. And it began with Martial Arts; I have much appreciation towards Bruce Lee who had shared his wisdom with the world through his writings.

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Johnny Kuo ::.. The martial arts have impacted my life in several ways, but the primary effect has been on personal development. To understand an art, you need to focus your mental energies to perceive its essence. That sort of mental focus is not easy, especially in our modern day barrage of constant and varied distractions. The mental training has paid dividends in different aspects of my life. It helps me stay focused and calm when life’s pressures start mounting.

The other major effect of studying martial arts I’ve noticed has been more social. Training martial arts has given me the opportunity to interact with people who I would probably not run into otherwise. In my experience, the martial arts have been both a vehicle of physical struggle as well as a common bond which forms friendships and community.

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Coach Michael Joyce ::.. All people are different (especially children) and as I began to sprout upwards in this world, I played a variety of sports.  My father had always encouraged me to play football and I ended up becoming a fairly decent wide receiver.  In middle school, I could literally feel a strange “shifting” at work.  Running patterns on the football field and catching an oval shaped ball just didn’t cut it for me anymore.  Besides, I wanted something that could help to develop the image of what I had always hoped to become.  The martial arts, whether it was my earlier kungfu training, my college days spent studying fencing (mainly) or, later, my focus on self-defense and taiji… gave me an inner sense of fulfillment that I couldn’t get by being a team player.

In this world, it is important to do things on your own… or at least, have the capacity and confidence to do things on your own.  Although we all need people to guide us, nothing improves one’s confidence and sense of achievement when you know it was your strength, your courage, and your determination that produced the result.  Moreso, the result becomes even greater to see as one continues down the martial art path, whereby the result isn’t a championship ring, but something deep and profound that you wake up to every morning and something absolutely no one can take away.

Instructors ProfilesLARAVAUGHNLEEKUOJOYCE

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Roundtable Discussion 004: Next Best Style

Posted in Roundtable Discussion, Styles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2010 by Combative Corner

Six martial art instructors were asked,

“If you were given only one style/system of martial art to study (besides your primary discipline), what would it be and why?”

Sensei Robert Lara – For me it would be Wing Chun Kung Fu.  I already train Wing Chun and that is why I picked it. Because it works! No messing around. A very solid and sound fighting art.  It is very much like the Japanese Aiki arts. To control your attackers mind and take away there intent to do harm to you or others.  To stick to an attack once launched is a very sound way to apply control. Be it deflecting blocks, Punches, Elbows, Chops, Low kicks. Sweeps, Throws.  I Love Wing Chun!  I have great love for all the arts but there are those systems that you know are for you.

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Sensei Brad Vaughn – If I could study one martial arts style it would be Kung Fu. It really doesn’t matter what style(though I think Southern Shaolin would fit me nicely) because I find any and all forms of Kung Fu both beautiful and dangerously effective at the same time. I’ve had the opportunity to study a couple of different styles, first in college and now recently and I never cease to be amazed by it. It is my “holy grail” of martial arts. I train hard in the martial arts hoping that one day I will be worthy to become a black belt in Kung Fu as well. I would love to just take off to China for a couple of years and just immerse myself in the culture and study Kung Fu up close and personal and then return to the states a true Kung Fu Masters but I don’t think my wife would go along with that.

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Sifu Freddie Lee – Jeet Kune Do. Because there are no limitations. It is not a style or a system, it gives you the realization to go beyond.

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Coach Johnny Kuo There are so many choices of martial arts that it’s difficult to answer this question. Almost any art would be a viable choice given access to a talented instructor. If I had to choose an art besides I-Liq Chuan, I would pick Arnis. Arnis has several characteristics I find appealing: it emphasizes partner practice, blends offense and defense, doesn’t require a lot of equipment, has a no-nonsense approach, and most importantly, it just looks fun.

I also like the fact the Arnis is not dependent on physical prowess; skill is a much more important factor for proficiency than size and strength. Swinging two sticks to beat the daylights out of your opponent seems so primal and basic, yet there is subtlety and beauty in the art. To me, it seems like Arnis would develop practical martial skills, enhance the mental ability to read the conditions of offense and defense, and have good skill carry over to other arts.

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Coach Michael Joyce – Silat.  But I’m actually going to be very specific with this one.  Over the last few months, I’ve glimpsed numerous martial art video posts (as I enjoy seeing forms progress, applications worked, and maybe pick up on some new training exercises/methods).  One channel really impressed me, as my main draw to the martial arts is the science behind efficient and effective self-defense.  The channel that I came across was Maul565 and the style is Silat Suffian Bela Diri.  Maul Mornie is the instructor and came from Seria, a small town in Brunei Darussalam.  He is currently based in the United Kingdom and does workshops across the country, stressing “Minimum Effort, Maximum Effect.”  My kinda guy!  Can’t wait to learn more about this style through his videos, and perhaps, one day, by him personally.  Check his website out HERE.

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Roundtable Discussion 002: Meditation

Posted in Roundtable Discussion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2010 by Combative Corner

“How important is meditation in your discipline & personal practice?”

Lee:  Living a life of meditation is the highest state in the Martial Arts.  In “The Book of Secrets.” By Osho, there is 112 techniques of meditation.  Sitting meditation is just one of them.  When I first started practicing Martial Arts, I thought sitting meditation was the only meditation.  As I continued my study, I came to the understanding and realization that meditation can take place during ANY activity.  Meditation is a state of mind, of complete awareness, completely in the present moment.  Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” really helped me understand what meditation really is.  Once you disccover what meditation really is, your life will dynamically change, you will realize true happiness and bliss, there is no future, no past, no ego.  You are connected with everything around you, you are whole.  Meditation takes place throughout the entire day, sitting, standing, walking, cleaning the home, exercising, playing with kids, making love, reading, writing, speaking, etc.  Meditation is living life totally and completely aware.


Robert Lara: For me Aikido and Meditation go hand-and-hand.

Without a calm, centered mind we can never apply Aikido Waza in the proper way.

Only when we Meditate first can we hope to be able to fully have a relaxed mind, body & spirit. Meditation plays a very high role in my own training. I would never have made it to where I am today without it.

Joyce:  I’ve always considered myself an introspective person.  Even when I didn’t know specific forms or methods of meditation, I would find ways to bring myself to a place; a place as calming as a trickling brook.  As I became engulfed into the martial arts, and what I thought it meant to be a martial artist, my view of meditation became skewed.  I thought that, to be great, I had to sit or stand for long periods of time and somehow a great gift would be bestowed upon me.  There are sometimes, when I still think that.

My personal belief in meditation is that it’s the medicine to our soul.  Our form; what we practice with careful intention is our art.  The higher our souls happiness, the higher our form of art.  Meditation, the ability to find a tranquil spot within you, whatever the method is essential to health.

Vaughn:  I remember when I was taking Taekwondo back in middle and high school we used to meditate at the beginning and end of each class. We would kneel towards the front of the class and mediate, usually just for a minute or two. To to clear our minds of the chaos of the day so we could better focus on our training before class started and to relax after the workout and reflect on the techniques and drills that we had just gone over at the end. While the style I train in now doesn’t make mediation a regular part of the class routine I still do it in my personal life from time to time. Mainly as a way to help slow my mind down so that I can focus better on the things I have to accomplish or to to help calm myself when I get frustrated or agitated. Every now and then when I have a student that has trouble controlling their anger at school or at home I will show them how to use meditation and breathing, among other things, to help better keep their anger in check. I think meditation is a useful tool that people can gain a lot of value from, they just have to open their minds to it.

Davis:  The course structure for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is sparring intensive (what we like to call “rolling”) and, as a result, every class one attends ought to be adrenaline/sweat packed or your not doing it right. It may appear to the outsider to be much more like a wrestling practice than a traditional martial arts class and the crazy, hyper-aggressive wrestler-types we all know and love are not, generally, associated with the Zen mentality. However, the assumption that meditation must be performed while sitting cross-legged and eyes closed attempting to tap into the flow of “the Ohm” is not only selling meditation short but misplacing the profits you made from the sale too. Meditation is the pursuit of a state of mind which allows the pursuant to not only understand but also become a unique part of the natural flow of the world around them. Us BJJ guys and gals may not know much about Zen meditation but if there are two things we know better than anyone its the importance of proper breathing (we are always trying to choke each other aren’t we?) and of the flow from one technique to another. It is often emphasized that you hit a move inside the transition period, an odd but important concept I cannot do justice to in writing here. In the novella Siddhartha, the main character the book is named after becomes the Buddha (or one with the Buddha depending on how you interpret it) only when he comes to understand the transient but inevitable nature of the universe. If you are to understand the meditation which comes with the practice of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu you must understand the martial art is just that: transient and inevitable.

Kuo:  I-Liq Chuan is a concept-based art which centers on the principles of Taiji (Tai Chi) and Zen. Mindfulness forms the basis of martial skill. As such, meditation is an important part of I-Liq Chuan training. Meditation is both a practice in itself, like sitting meditation or standing meditation; it is also inherent in regular solo and partner practice. The practitioner’s attention should always be present (mindful) in whatever is being practiced. Meditative practices expand the mind’s ability to perceive. At first, the perception of the self is emphasized to facilitate unification of the body with the mind. At this stage, the practitioner is developing kinesthetic sense, body awareness, and body control. Then, the attentions are expanded outward to the opponent and environment. When the mind can see the conditions of the moment as they are, it becomes possible to harmonize with the opponent and flow with the opponent’s force. True skill manifests when movements are based on perception of the true conditions rather than anticipations (or guesses) of what will happen.

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Roundtable Discussion 001: Knowledge

Posted in Roundtable Discussion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2010 by Combative Corner

In regards to the martial arts –

“What do you know NOW that you wish you knew THEN?”

VAUGHN :  This question had me scratching my head for a couple of hours but I finally came up with an answer. It’s not so much what I wish I knew, but what I wish I had and that’s confidence. I wish I had the confidence in my martial arts abilities. That is the one thing that has grown by leaps and bounds since I was younger. No matter how well I did in class or how often my instructor told me how much I was improving I always had that little seed of doubt in the back of my head. I couldn’t help wondering, “Will this stuff really work?” “What if the bully tries to hit me, could I really defend myself?” I was even hesitant to compete in tournaments when I was younger because I was afraid that I wouldn’t do well. Now after years of participating in what I’m sure have been hundreds of classes, test, sparring matches, and self defense drills I now have a good idea of how I will react in a real confrontation. Like my current instructor says I’ve finally developed that switch that I can turn on when I need to. I’m not saying that I can easily dispatch an army of crazed ninja without a scratch, but I’m pretty sure that I can hold my own.”

KUO :  “Every technique works, and every technique doesn’t work.” One of my buddies and I had this discussion one day when we were reminiscing on our training journeys and discussing the martial arts flame wars we see arise in discussions. We came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as an ultimate move or unbeatable technique. Sometimes person A can use a technique on person B, but fails to use it on person C. Yet, person B can’t do the technique on person A, but has no trouble using it on person C. If the movement were the only factor, then the the technique should work universally.

There are several factors determining whether a technique will actually work: the physical ability to execute the movements, understanding of the interplay of forces, timing, distance, and most importantly, the ability to recognize the conditions (in real-time) that allow the technique to work. The success of the technique depends on conditions and understanding.”

DAVIS :  “I began Brazilian (Gracie) Jiu-Jitsu without much prior knowledge of the style and therefore without my previous Hapkido based goals in mind. I was hooked; Jiu-Jitsu just spoke to me, as they say. Its training required me to be an athlete, a scientist, and an inventor all at the same time. I realized, then, that there are innumerable styles of martial arts and any one of them with proper instruction and dedication will lead the practitioner to be an effective fighter. This left the only variable in the martial arts to be me and my only criteria for choosing a style to be how much I enjoyed the training. In my mind I still wanted to be that same style of fighter I was working towards in Hapkido but with Jiu-Jitsu I saw that I could be just as effective a fighter while enjoying my training more than previously. This newfound attitude positively expressed itself not only in my demeanor while training but also in the rate of my learning because I simply wanted to train more. I found myself going to class four or five days a week in Jiu-Jitsu rather than the two classes a week schedule I previously maintained in Hapkido. Today I consider myself in love with Jiu-Jitsu and, as is the true nature of love, it is something I must work at relentlessly to maintain but do not feel overly burdened by my efforts. This love, based purely on the fun and enjoyment of training, is that which I wish I had known of when I first began the martial arts. Now that all the emotional stuff has been said; drop the ego, the preconceived ideas, and the expectations; find the style that fits you, not that you want to fit you; and go have some fun.”

JOYCE :  “Like many of us, ‘What I knew then’ wasn’t very much.  All I knew was that I was in love with the combative sciences – from shaolin monks breaking walnuts on a student’s head, watching a boxer find the reserves to stagger back to his feet, dig in deep and come up with the victory, to the old shadow boxer performing ‘step back & repulse monkey.’  Therapists sometimes talk of a stifling love – of loving something so intensely that it’s unhealthy, harmful, or deadly.  When I came into the martial arts, I wanted to ‘climb the ladder’ and succeed beyond my instructor’s belief.  The problem came when I’d be standing knee-deep in a waterfall doing one-inch punches against the granite, or purposely falling onto my upper back only to try my hardest to spring back like a ninja.  I had an unbelievable amount of get-up-and-go attitude, but was too ambitious for my own good.  Once I went to college, got my degree in sport science, later became a licensed massage therapists, read stacks of books on proper exercise training, (not-to-mention gotten older & wiser) did I understand where I went wrong and why my body continued to hurt more year-after-year.  Nowadays, I listen closely to professionals and I am in no rush to out-perform anyone.  My happiness comes from my personal expression of what I’ve learned and as a coach, the thought of my students learning to joyfully express themselves.”

Nothing.  Growth in knowledge and wisdom is possible from not knowing.  The beauty of life is in not knowing.

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