Friday, April 20, 2012

With All This Talking, What Has Been Said?

You may or may not have noticed that I haven't posted a blog lately.

Over the past five years (since January of 2007) — with the notable exception of the last three months — I've been faithfully posting a new journal entry just about every week, either on my UBBT blog, or on my "Martial Musings" blog. But to what end?

I look back over my stack of writings with some degree of satisfaction. There's actually a little bit of gold in them thar hills. I've been demonstrating, teaching, and leading by example. I've documented my struggles, my accomplishments, and my failures. Perhaps some of what I've posted may have helped or inspired someone, somewhere along the way.

But mostly, upon reflection — when I'm really honest with myself — I just see "me writing about me:" Me trying to prove something, me striving to get somewhere, me wanting recognition, me desiring someone's approval, me attempting to appear important, smart, savvy, masterful, disciplined…

And when my blogging started to become stale and routine, I started putting even more "stuff" out there in video format. Hey everyone! Look at me!

Who the hell am I fooling? It's all so much bullshit!

So over the last three months, I've been on a bit of a media break. I needed some time to reflect and refocus on important things like my family, my alignment with the rhythms and cycles of the natural world, and my connection to Spirit — for all of these have suffered tremendously in the towering shadow of my ego.

Of course, I've kept up with my teaching and training, I'm still watching my diet, and I'm still leading and participating in community service projects. All of those things have become part of me, thanks to Coach Tom and my UBBT teammates. But I've stopped writing and creating videos, and I've cut my time on social media way back. I've stopped trying to "be someone." Call it burnout. Call it a dark night of the soul. Maybe it's laziness, or exhaustion, or apathy. I suspect that there's some sorely needed personal growth going on beneath the surface of my life, but only time will tell.

Whatever it is I've been "doing," my time away from the keyboard and the webcam has allowed me to do some reflecting on my UBBT journey, on my role as a "master teacher," my true life aspirations and priorities, and on the place the martial arts has held in my heart and in my life.

You may be disappointed to read that after my three-month "media blackout," I still don't have anything important to say. But I have realized that the most important thing for me to do — for myself and for everyone in my life — is to just shut the hell up and become a student again. So I'll be leaving the blogging trail for a while to explore and to savor the chaotic wilderness that is my daily life, with humility, awareness, and curiosity. I'm dropping my tangible goals to focus on process. I'm slowing down to experience and to feel. I'm not seeking the next shiny thing. And I'm no longer going to play for an audience.

I'm sure I'll fire up another blog somewhere down the road, but I'm considering this my final "UBBT" entry.

With much love and gratitude to all!


Friday, January 20, 2012

"Simple" Isn't Always "Easy."

My martial arts training is back in full swing this week. On Monday, I led a tough physical workout and combined it with a kata seminar, and on Wednesday I completed three hours of pretty intense training in the dojo. (There was a wee bit of snow shovelling in there somewhere this week, too.) I took Tuesday and Thursday off from training for physical recovery. As it turns out, I did catch a little bit of the "Gould family bug" at the tail end of last week, so I've been very dehydrated and more than a little groggy.

I have no idea how many pushups, box jumps, crunches, and form repetitions I've done this week, but I know it's been an awful lot. I'm sore. Not too much so, but enough to know I that while I'm making progress, I have some work ahead if I'm to get in the kind of shape I want to be in.

I love digging an old kata "out of the vault of my mind," dusting it off, and working on it. To me, practicing a kata that I haven't done in years is like catching up with an old friend. "Well hey there! How have you been? My, you haven't changed a bit! I really miss you, old friend — You know, we really ought to hang out more often..."

My new "old friend" is Itosu Lohai Shodan — It's the first kata in a series of three versions of the kata Rohai (a.k.a. "vision of a crane") created by Itosu Anko (1831 - 1915) from the form that he learned from Matsumura Sokon, It's a very short and relatively simple form, but it's fun and full of fighting spirit. (I'll try to get it on film in the next week or so.)

Reconnecting with my long-ignored kata, I think, is a parallel for the other important connections in my life that I should re-establish and strengthen. I'm beginning to see that maintaining an important relationship is like keeping a kata sharp: If you don't put some work into it, it will deteriorate. But the more you practice your kata — or your relationships — with sincere effort, attention, and mindfulness, the more beautiful they can become.

Put effort into your forms, and your forms will improve. Put effort into your relationships, and they'll improve too. Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? In the martial arts and in life, "simple" isn't always "easy," but this is where my work lies: Just do the simple, hard things.

So my life is my new kata practice. I'm sure I won't always be perfect, but I'm working at it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Me, Me, Me

I just missed an entire week of physical training. Not because I was lazy or undisciplined. I missed out on training because my entire family — my wife, my son, and my daughter — came down with a pernicious stomach flu, and I needed to provide some direct support on the homefront.

While I somehow miraculously avoided infection and illness, I've spent the last few days cooking, sanitizing, running errands, and doing laundry. And I've had way more than my fair share of cleaning up icky messes morning, noon, and night for four straight days. And I've gotten very little sleep.

I've been feeling frustrated and beside myself because I couldn't focus on my training, because I couldn't keep up with the wonderful and intoxicating momentum that comes when one's New Year's fitness resolutions really get off on the right foot. (I was really kicking butt!) I tend to turn into a very cranky monster when I don't work out consistently… or maybe it's when I just don't get to have my way.

Me, me, me.

I'm just being selfish. Dreadfully so. I know that life is just like this sometimes, and I know that being there for my family when I'm needed should — no, MUST — trump EVERYTHING else. And spending time with family during the icky times — getting to provide comfort, compassion, and snuggling when it's needed — is far, far better than not spending time with them at all.

It's all about perspective. My situation reminds me of the story of the kid who was excited about having to shovel a giant pile of manure, because it meant that there just had to be a pony in there somewhere. So even though I've been covered with vomit on more than one occasion this week, I'm counting my blessings.

Training can wait.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ultimate Black Belt Test Journal, Jason Gould: Nature, Morning Training, and Family Time

Got in some early morning training on Saturday, January 7. Beautiful sunrise of pink, orange, and light blue. Tested out my new gloves and sported a funky hat while swinging my clubs on the back porch at 7:30 am. It was 32 degrees out that morning: chilly, but the gloves and hat were more than enough to keep me warm. The family slept while I trained. No disturbing sounds outside -- just some chirping birds, and the occasional whistle from a distant train. It was a really nice way to start the day...

On Sunday morning, Joy and I bundled up the family for a little fresh air at Callahan State Park. We enjoyed the cool air, bright sun, broad sky, open fields, and tons of friendly dogs. Temperatures were in the high 30's, but we still stopped to plop ourselves down in the brown grass for an impromptu picnic of sandwiches!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ultimate Black Belt Test Journal, Jason Gould: Beginning Anew

Friday, January 6. My first blog of the new year. I'm not "formally" participating in the Ultimate Black Belt Test this year. That is, I'm not a member of the team who is actively training and seeking a new dan ranking as part of the testing process. However, because this test, this process, this way of life is so valuable to me (and because I've formed so many friendships here in the crucible of like-minded instructors), I feel that to stop testing, to stop exploring, to stop blogging — well, that would be a monumental personal failure.

I don't have any "2012 resolutions" per se, although I do have some areas that I intend to focus heavily on — this year, and every year moving forward.

The first area for me to focus on is FAMILY. I have come to realize that FAMILY should always have been my primary focus area, but I admit here that it has not always been the case. I'm going to fix that, immediately. To me, this means more than just more "quality time" with the wife and kids. It means more genuine attention and focus, more compassionate listening, more loving speech, more hugs and smiles, more sharing of thoughts, dreams, and ideas. If I only do one thing this year, I believe that focusing more strongly on my family is the best thing I can possibly do.

I also want to focus on getting back to NATURE. I want to reconnect with the outdoors, the seasons, and the rhythms of life. This means spending more time outside — in all kinds of weather. I'll need to learn to love the cold, of course. But this year I fully intend to do more stargazing, to watch more sunrises and sunsets, to hug more trees, and to dance in the rain. As a martial artist, I've been practicing "environmental self-defense" without actually really taking sufficient time to deeply and fully appreciate nature itself. It's high time I started to stop to smell the roses every once in a while.

Physical and training goals? I have them, of course. This morning I weighed in at 181 pounds (23.9 BMI). That's actually 6 pounds lighter than I was at this point last year, and a full point lower on the Body Mass Index. So my weight is good, and I have less body fat than I did a year ago. That's a good start. This year, I want to add 10 pounds of lean, functional muscle through tactical exercises and heavy use of my clubbells while improving my flexibility and mobility through yoga and compensatory movement training. I plan to eat more mindfully and more compassionately by appreciating and savoring my meals and reducing my intake of animal-based food products.

January is a time for beginning anew. But isn't ANY time a time for such endeavors? I'm reading through Touching The Earth by Thich Nhat Hanh. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for practices that will help them to develop a deep and transforming determination to make significant and positive life changes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Your Life is Happening Now. (So Taste Your Tea, Dammit!)

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I'm a big fan of tea. Any kind of tea, really, but mostly green teas with subtle natural flavors like jasmine or mint. I find a cup of tea to be a relaxing way of curbing my cream-and-sugar-laden coffee habit.

I have a small iron teapot in my office that I use nearly every day to brew a pot of something. White ayurvedic chai is my favorite, but then there's samuarai chai mate, and snow leopard, and lung ching dragonwell... Let's just say that the folks at Peet's Tea and Teavana have my photo on their respective walls of fame.

Yesterday, while looking for a healthy snack at the local Target, I found myself stopping to pick up a box of Green Ginger tea (yes, I do realize I have a problem, thank you...). As soon as I got back to the office, I grabbed my mug, popped in a new bag of tea, and added the hot water. Seated back at my desk, I took the first sip of the brew while I jumped right back into the endless stream of emails on my screen.

And some time a few minutes later, it hit me: That sip of new and inspiring tea I took a few minutes back? I didn't event taste it.

Yikes! I was so busy doing my work, running on auto pilot, that I didn't even notice the flavor of the new fancy tea I'd just bought. I was totally distracted and unconscious!

Embarrassed, I sat back from my monitor and picked my mug back up. I took a moment to appreciate the mug, and the heat and aroma from the tea it contained. Then I took three long breaths, focused my attention, and slowly sipped my tea, savoring it first in my mouth and then feeling the warmth as it went down my throat.

Geeen tea, yes, But also strong ginger spice, lemongrass, and maybe a bit of pear.

How the hell did I miss all of that?

Pay attention. Your life is happening now.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Join Emerald Necklace Martial Arts for A Night of Healthy Living and Healthy Eating


BOSTON (Allston), Mass., November 14, 2011

On Tuesday, November 22, Emerald Necklace Martial Arts will be sponsoring "A Night of Healthy Living and Healthy Eating" to celebrate the benefits of maintaining a regular fitness regimen while also raising awareness of the benefits of a plant based-diet.

The event will feature a yoga class at 6:30 PM, followed by a vegan potluck meal. At 8:00 PM, the dojo will be screening the movie, "Forks Over Knives,"  a documentary film that highlights the links between the foods we eat and the degenerative diseases that threaten us the most. The evening will conclude with an open discussion about the impact of our food choices and tips for establishing and maintaining healthy eating habits.

"November is a very timely month to be talking about food," says Linda Gregorio, a vegan and a black belt member of dojo who is helping to organize the event. "We're finishing off our Halloween candy. Thanksgiving is approaching. And next will come all those holiday parties at which many of us tend to mindlessly overeat. This is the perfect time to focus on how our eating habits and food choices can play a role in 'self-defense.'"

The event is free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to bring a canned food donation to be delivered to the Greater Boston Food Bank, and healthy vegetarian or vegan dish to share. Any cash donations the dojo receives will go toward offsetting the cost of the screening and any remaining funds will be donated. Please RSVP by contacting the dojo by phone (617-202-3856) or by email.

"This is an important event," says Sensei Jason Gould, Dojo Director and Chief Instructor. "We're trying to spread the word about how what we eat may contribute to diseases such as type II diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease -- real killers that we need to protect ourselves from. And at the same time, we can use the event as an opportunity to help those in immediate need by collecting food donations for the hungry. I'm proud of my students for being so creative and ambitious with the projects we engage in to serve the community."

Gould has been conducting traditional karate classes and self-defense programs for adults since October of 2003. The students at Emerald Necklace Martial Arts regularly participate in community service activities as part of their Black Belt training. For more information about Emerald Necklace Martial Arts, please visit their website call 617-202-3856.