Reflections, 2017

David M. Valadez

January, 2017

Upaya is matter of seeing instantly where the deshi is and what there is to work with inside of them to get them to the next level of skill. Master teachers do not have a schtick or a catch-phrase, no spiel, that they repeat over and over and say to everyone. Everything is coordinated and aimed accordingly, and every lesson has an underlying layer of spontaneity.


Love is like a bonsai in many ways. In one way, like the bonsai, it dies from neglect. Meaning, work is required. Work as love is the practice of sacrifice. Sacrifice is the practice of reconciling self-attachment. The absence of work in the end is nothing more than an attachment to self - a selfishness. Attachment to self is the absence of God. The absence of God is the absence of Love. All of these truths must be tended to - love is like a bonsai in many ways.


The most difficult craft, the most demanding artwork, the most meticulous and most painstaking artifact to produce, what should capture your heart most, what should motivate you most, what should interest you most, is the craft of self. Everything, no matter how wonderful, holds less wonder, no matter how beautiful, holds less beauty, no matter how important or meaningful, holds less importance and is by comparison meaningless.


Sorry - playing a sport or an instrument doesn't even come close. --Someone who has done all three.


Everyone needs a sacred space - a place where the world is kept afar by that place’s proximity to the divine, a sanctuary for our hearts, minds, and our bodies - for our spirit - a place to breathe freely and to wrestle with God, to die at God’s hands, and to be born anew daily.


February, 2017

To you, you're a special snowflake. To the Fire, you're all just water.


When Uke, have nothing to achieve. Do not move to set up Nage.

When Nage, you have what you need. Allow Uke to fall into the lock.

Both, move where you need to move - nothing more, nothing less.


I have found it very useful to separate myself from the institutional inertia that prioritizes a dueling training paradigm over an assault training paradigm. Dueling, generally speaking, has the offense duelist still preoccupied with a concern for his/her own self-defense - something an assaulter does not have. An assaulter, unlike the duelist, has his or her mind preoccupied with the assault, the demise of his or her prey (the victim). This is a key difference in mindset between a duelist, who is either trying to win or trying not to lose, and an assaulter, who is only trying to kill you or have you no longer able to continue a defense. This difference in mindset also manifests itself in corresponding movements.

Biomechanically, I have found that this difference in mindset tends to express itself (when standing) in a spine-to-spine displacement. Meaning, a duelist's mindset tends to have him or her self-imposing a set distance from their opponent, whereas an assaulter’s mindset tends to have him or her entering a minimum distance of where their spine has displaced the victim's spine (i.e. They are now standing where the victim was once standing in space.)

Therefore, if "realism" is a concern in one's training, and we can accept that reality is marked more by infinite possibility and less so by finite cultural-based exclusion, then we should include assaultive mindsets and behaviors in our training at least as much as we do the mindsets and behaviors of duelists. That said, and when you acknowledge that most duelist self-defense concerns are overwhelmingly addressed by improvements in lifestyle and in character-development, then you know for sure that most of your tactical architectures should be addressing assaultive mindsets and biomechanics and not those of the duelist.


Reality is more made of infinite possibilities than it is of finite exclusions. Inversely then, when you sense finite exclusions, a loss of infinite possibilities, then you know you are likely abiding in delusion.


In training, prioritize concept over skill-development, and skill-development over tactical architecture (techniques). This is part of addressing the infinite possibilities that make up "reality." For you are never going to make up enough techniques to address all of reality and you are never going to reduce reality so that it becomes addressable by a handful of techniques.


When weapon training, yes, include weapon-to-weapon training, such as knife-to-knife, but be sure to include in trainings where you must draw the weapon in order to bring it into the fight - not already having it in hand. Deployment and retention are where empty-hand and armed architectures weave into each other. It is in that weaving that both empty-hand and armed architecture find their highest martial viability.


Practice with deploying folder knives as well as with fixed blades. Many states, like California, have stiff penalties for carrying fixed blades concealed on one's person. Such laws do not generally apply to folders. When working with folders, know and train in techniques that utilize the weapon in its closed state as well as in its opened state.


Aikido training is deeply personal. It is geared toward self-improvement and not the defeat of others. This is one reason why the Founder proscribed against having competitions in the art. Self-improvement, in many ways, comes by defeating the self. Defeating others only works to hide the self-work we have yet to do.


In case your friends ask you, "What is Aikido?" - a good place to start:

Being part of Budo, Aikido looks to simultaneously address and improve upon a practitioner’s total person. Training involves cultivating practices in strength conditioning, aerobic capacity, mobility and flexibility, eye-hand coordination, balance and posture, body-mind coordination, nutrition, lifestyle and world view, character development, emotional grit, and spiritual maturity. Aikido’s training paradigm primarily consists of paired martial arts exercises, solo martial exercises, resistance training using both body weight and weighted materials, running, meditation, and work/service. Progression in the art is noted by program advancement, rank advancement, title attribution, and uniform allotment. In accordance with Budo and the proscription of the art’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba (1983-1969), there are no competitions in Aikido. Training is deeply personal and is geared toward self-improvement and not the defeat of others.


March, 2017

There are five powers to every waza that must be balanced and interrelated for Aikido to occur. There is the stabilizing power, the moving power, the inward-oriented power, the outward-oriented power, and the fifth power about which if we say anything we are wrong in our description of it. These powers are more known and made useable by seeing them through their degenerated states - those states that they should not be in but often are. Meaning, a given waza will first become strained and unnatural when for example the stabilizing power degenerates into a lack of accommodation or flexibility; when the moving power degenerates into a loss of true integrity or actual effect; when the inward-oriented power degenerates into isolationism or introversion; when the outward-oriented power lacks depth and remains satisfied with and attached to superficiality; and when the fifth power materially manifests itself in any shape or form. At such times, the five powers become obvious and knowable by what they are not and should not be. Then, for the adept, their true understanding becomes easily grasped. At this point, if we can adopt the fifth power we can through it adapt and correct the remaining four powers into their right and natural states. Balance and naturalness then returns to our waza.


If a deshi stops his or her training early, Aikido, my Aikido in particular, will be no big deal - perhaps even less. Such a deshi will not know what he or she has left and will be missing because such a deshi has experienced very little of the art, particularly my art. In the beginning, the deshi comes into the dojo very fragile, either physically, emotionally, or spiritually, or in total or in any combination of these three aspects. That is to be expected. After all, they are at the dojo to transform themselves and to do so in positive ways, gaining antifragility being one of those ways. My early goals for the deshi as sensei then are to create a vessel capable of receiving and holding the art, particularly my art. This is what must be done first and foremost. This process takes time, and in my experience has proven to be consistent with the traditionally-given duration of ten years. Before that, my deshi can only experience what is not my Aikido - to be fully accurate. Moreover, at the very beginning, my deshi will seldom experience even this. Today, this may be seen as "elitism," but such a view ignores how much work and dedication actually goes into taking a deshi from a fragile state to an anti-fragile state. You will never see this much labor being practiced by a so-called teacher in more "egalitarian" dojo. Historically, this perspective was just seen as obvious. For how cultivated could a teacher be and how viable is his or her cultivating practice if he or she can fully maintain a shared context with a person who has done no such cultivation?


You cannot green-juice away a toxic world view. You cannot low-carb away an immature spirit. You cannot back-squat up poor sleep discipline. You cannot out-sleep weakness.



Deshi: Sensei, can someone become virtuous through zazen.

Sensei: Let us say that no one can become virtuous without having some aspect of their overall practice dedicated to silence and to stillness.


Today, in a world of borrowed and/or usurped discourses, terminology is often used by one discourse as a means of benefitting from the cultural capital of another discourse. Because these borrowed words or phrases are primarily used by dabblers, said words are more often than not used incorrectly and as a result their meaning becomes warped over time to such a degree that they may even outright contradict a given author's or scientist's original intent or meaning for the term. Some examples of this are "the 21 foot rule," and "fine motor." If one were to go back to Tueller's research, or even listen to the countless clarifications he made over the following decades to counter the common misunderstanding that comes from such borrowing, there was nothing "rule" about it. Equally, if you go back to the original research wherein the phrase "fine motor" was used, it was not a reference, as it is thought today, to relatively smaller muscle groups and/or smaller body parts, such as in comparing fingers to legs. Rather it was referencing movements such as pinching fingers together vs moving a limb through space. Without going back to the source, or without understanding the economy of cultural capital, one is likely to believe that sound martial tactics require you to shoot someone 21 feet away from you or that one should blanket forfeit using smaller body parts for using larger body parts when fighting. This kind of pseudoscience is seen everywhere in the martial arts today. One could go on and on. Take the flinch response: In the past, warriors trained to lose the flinch response. This is because the flinch response was rightly recognized of consisting of uncontrolled muscle flexion that constricted the breathing cycle, that locked the arms at or near their point of origin, and that locked the legs so as to negatively affect both balance and mobility. The idea of tactical decisions being based upon such an uncontrollable reaction to fear and not upon sound strategic thinking was ludicrous to the warriors of the past. Today, for many, it's the exact opposite, it the mark of sound tactics! However, if you look closely, you are seeing a misuse of the phrase "flinch response," a misuse being made to capitalize upon the cultural capital afforded to another discourse that is centered around another misused term, "natural." On and on, ignorance is passed from one person to another person like this.


In an art that still uses suwari waza training, it is idiotic for practitioners to entertain the self-defense commercial industry's cue-response paradigm of understanding for Aikido. The presence of suwari waza makes it obvious that Aikido's training paradigm is something different. Aikidoka would be much better off spending their time figuring out why the ancients themselves rejected the cue-response paradigm and adopted the one they did - the as-if paradigm.


There is a whole generation of us raised with a fetish for the new, an almost religious need to be distracted by novel things, people, and places, a devout adherence to the belief that satisfaction and meaning can only be found there. This is quite different from Budo, where we seek satisfaction in nothingness itself, devoting ourselves to the truth that can only be found there - an ancient truth.


The subtle more difficult skills to acquire, those attributes that sit at the center of being consistently victorious in real-life conflicts, whether those encounters are violent or non-violent in their contestation, cannot be thought of as purely physical. They are equally of the mind. "Equal" here means that while not purely physical, they are not imaginary either. We can initially simplify our description of the locale for such training as being of the "body-mind." As we progress under a master, however, we will come to better understand and expand our definition of "spirit," and then we will become fine using this one-word description too.


If your traditional martial art is not practical, it is not because it has not been modernized. It is because you are not traditional enough in your training and in your quest for understanding.


Do not wear heels or flip-flops, no tight pants, always be armed - start with that.


Find a master, a person capable of cultivating within you the secrets of power, a person able to lead you from form to beyond form, to pure being where form and self cease to exist, to where spontaneity exists and to only where true application is possible.


April, 2017

A projectable Uke is a necessary part of learning the art. Such an Uke is intimately related to cultivating Kokyu-Ryoku and to gaining a deeper understandings of Aiki. However, a projectable Uke is not a choreographed Uke. A projectable Uke is not a dressage pony, a person that follows hyper-subtle or pre-arranged formats that mark when he or she is supposed to throw themselves. There are no training benefits from an Uke such as this, whereas a projectable Uke is the best of training tools! So what is a projectable Uke? It is an Uke that has learned how to organize his or her body-mind so their center remains present throughout the given technique, drill, or exercise. They do no more and no less that this.


Classes aren't going to get easier. They always get harder. The better you get, the more dangerous the classes will become. Expect to get less comfortable, not more.


Grabbing is low percentage. Trapping is what should be done instead. Grabbing is reaching for things. Trapping is letting the attacker or part of the attacker land inside of your control. This is true even when your grip is being used. Do not try to grab them with your grip. Instead, let them land inside of your palm, and then close your fingers around them.


Some will come to Fear and they will run away. Some will come to Fear, and they will pretend it does not exist. Some will come to Fear, and they will wait it out, just wait for it to pass, doing nothing but waiting, knowing nothing, including nothing of the events that bring Fear. You will think these are three different people, but really there is only one here - the quitter.


The matador moves at the right time, in the right way, and at the right distance, and in doing so the strength of the bull becomes irrelevant. When the matador does not do this, both the strength of the bull and of the matador become part of the force equation that makes up the impact and struggle that we see as the observer. The manifestation of the impact and the now-observable struggle we the observer witness are not the product of reality, just as the making irrelevant of the bull's strength via the above-described means is not a product of delusion. This observable difference in force and energy does not rest in the opposition between falsehood and truth. Rather, the contrast lays in skill and in the lack thereof. It is the same with human-vs-human violence. Struggle and great effort, the reliance upon strength and exertion, these are not the signs of reality. These are the signs of skill being absent.


A huge part of training is to stop wasting time doing everything else.


The self technology of serving others does not mature the spirit in the service itself. Rather, the spirit is matured when after practicing a life of service no such aid is returned to you, not even, or especially not even, from those you had served. Only then does God make his presence known.


Training: To observe and assess, stress, adapt, and then repeat.


May, 2017

Your exertion has nothing to do with the application of power. Exertion may be a sign of strength, but as far as power goes it only marks its absence.


When I was mentored, I listened for and heard every correction my teachers gave, even the ones directed at other deshi. Today, more and more, there is some kind of dark force on the mat, an accepted working in selfishness, pride, and in an absence of awareness whereby "deshi" cannot hear these corrections or or whereby they feel them only applicable to others.


You will have to be in the world. However, though in the world you must not be of the world.


Most beginner mistakes can be corrected by fixing timing and paths of travel and direction. However, if this is all you correct in your art, you will forever remain at a beginner level.


The journey from weakness to strength is in many aspects The Way itself. The challenge is a great one, and by that greatness we make ourselves more than we were and even more than we once thought possible.


"Why should you not be stronger?" Most hear this question in a way that it carries for them a kind of accusatory tone. They do not see or hear the infinite potential and possibility in the question. They cannot sense its freedom. They cannot listen to it and hear it saying, "Just as others are stronger, there is nothing that can exclude you from becoming the same. Like them, you have every right to that same strength!" It is like this for all the virtues, "Why should you not be compassionate?" "Why should you not be humble?" "Why should you not be wise?" "Why should you not be brave?" For most, these questions trigger an automatic defense mechanism, one wherein all the time and energy that could have gone toward self-transformation is used instead to either relabel a given lack of virtue as "virtuous enough" or to argue that one is already at a maximum level of effort in their cultivation of self and that thus they are therefore exempt from the criticism they feel is being waged against them. Only a very few will see the self-work that should be done through the lights of "it can be done" and "I can do it," and only these very few will then do the work. Only these very few will become virtuous.


You do not choose your career in the hopes that it will fulfill or aid you in following the Way. To do so is to cling to the cultural fictions of our time and to attach ourselves to the material world. This moves us off of the path. Instead, follow the Path on the inside and outside of yourself, be a walker on the Path through and through. When you are like this, whatever you say, think, and do becomes a part of the Path, including your career.


In Ne-Waza, you must thoroughly let go of the concept of "upright."


Warriors are raised through unfair standards. They are reared not to be concerned by what is fair but rather by what is made right through their sacrifice.


Give me a Krav Maga crowd any day of the week over your average Aikido crowd. At least the former knows evil exists and trains accordingly. The latter always seems so adrift in delusion and within a fantasy meant only to cater the ego.


Regarding the problem of one's own learning curve, the issue is not feeling like an idiot. The issue is not feeling like an idiot enough.


Self-pity is the warrior's greatest toxin.


Brush and sword. Theory and practice. Heart/mind and body.


When you employ right lifestyle choices and worldview, when you can continually practice reconciling fear, pride, and ignorance, and when you are skilled at martial strategy, and you are skilled at and armed with knife and handgun, etc., the duelist will be as rare as he or she will be mismatched. For the duelist will either control you too little, because he will not seek to occupy your space, allowing you to draw and wield your own weapons, etc., or the duelist will seek to press upon you as fully and quickly as he can so as not to allow you to bring your weapons to bear - which opens the door up for Aikido pins, throws, and strikes, etc. This is what it means when we say, "Aikido is a weapon art."


Today, there's a daisy chain of intellectual masturbation going on where folks just repeat by default the same ideas over and over again, talking to the same group of people over and over again, never applying a process of verification and criticism, but just repeating things over and over again. “Truth” today simply means “what is most repeated.” To the future generation, you will have much to sift through before you discover what is useful and what is useless.


June, 2017

Drilling offers the most repetitions within a given amount of time. Therefore, drilling is the most efficient way of developing a skill. However, the problem with drilling is that the dabbler practitioner will "milk" the drill, subverting it, and therefore having said drill be a waste of time. The solution to such a problem can only be solved so much, actually only very little, by moving the drill closer to a live training environment. This is because live training environments only produce a survival mode in the dabbler practitioner. In which case, skill development, which was the goal of the drill, will likely not occur still. The true solution is to attack the dabbling itself.


There is no "Aikido" viable outside of the greenhouse of Kihon Waza without a fully integrated Ne-Waza, true, but this is also true of a fully integrated Atemi-Waza, an integrated knife skill, and an integrated firearms skill. The art cannot really shine with the light of life and of truth without these tactical components all being present. However, when such an Aikido is manifested, everything else not of this Aikido, is dull and little more than delusion - very impractical.


A Comparison of Historical and Contemporary Understandings of Martial Arts and Aikido Training:

Historical Understanding: Martial viability and spiritual maturity are not contrasting in nature but are co-dependent.

Contemporary Understanding: Spiritual maturity stands in contrast to martial viability and/or is independent to martial viability.

Historical Understanding: The term "combat effectiveness" is always related to non-rule-governed weapon/armed multiple-attacker combat.

Contemporary Understanding: The term "combat effectiveness" is related to rule-governed weaponless duels.

Historical Understanding: "Training" means daily training, 4-6 hours a day.

Contemporary Understanding: "Training" means practicing two to five hours per week.

Historical Understanding: Physical strength supplements technique.

Contemporary Understanding: Physical strength stands in contrast or in opposition to technique.

Historical Understanding: Training is concept-oriented.

Contemporary Understanding: Training is technique-oriented.

Historical Understanding: Live application of technique is a problem of mind cultivation. Training then orients itself toward mind cultivation and the spontaneity of one's art.

Contemporary Understanding: Live application is a problem of architectural complexity. Training is oriented toward a discourse on reducing and simplifying technique.

Historical Understanding: The tactical elements of the art are understood to work interdependently, and such interdependency is understood to provide the martial viability of each tactical component. For example, ne-waza and the threat of ne-waza set up nage waza; nage waza and the threat of nage waza set up katame waza and atemi waza; empty-handed elements support and are supported by weapons; etc.

Contemporary Understanding: The art is contained entirely within Kihon Waza (empty hand). No tactical co-dependence exists.

Conclusion: We are not traditional enough in the practice of our traditional art.


Your main assumption is that everyone is armed. If you don't know, treat the person as armed. If they could be armed, treat them as if they armed. If they say they are not armed, treat them as armed. Everyone is armed.


Less-lethal weapons do not make a person less violent. Non-violence is a skill of spiritual maturity. It is not a technological issue. Anyone can sow and reap hatred, cruelty, and violence through his or her words, through resources, through distance, coldness, neglect, and through ideas. The absence of lethal weapons will not have him or her reconcile his or her ego-attachment more. Equally, Non-Violence, Peace, Compassion, these virtues are not reached by a person through a default that is his or hers via a weakness or a cowardice. Peace must always stand in contrast to a capacity to carry out extreme violence or it does not stand at all. A person is only as non-violent as his or her capacity for violence holds true and relevant. Aikido cannot be a peaceful art. Only an Aikidoka can be a peaceful person, and this he or she can only do as much as his or her Aikido is violent.


Under certain conditions, scars and grime on a weapon can be acceptable. They can be signs of a well known weapon, a real weapon. The two things that must never be on your weapon, however, are a pristine shine or dust.


Pain and fear cannot immobilize you - this is the warrior's mantra.


If you cannot even move aside for just me when I walk by, then you certainly will not move out of your own way either. If you cannot move out of y