Posts from the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

Love Fiercely. Love Fearlessly …

A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

 

‘’Anything we love can be saved.’’ (Alice Walker)

‘’Witches have a saying – where there’s fear, there’s power.’’ (Starhawk)


Globally, things are serious right now. Problematic life and times, with more complexities in the post, in the years ahead. Many karmic chickens coming home on a micro and macrocosmic level – as personal, planetary and galactic evolution enters a crucial phase – it’s as though we’ve left the womb and are in the birth canal and it’s fairly uncomfortable. We are challenged to remember that our psycho-spiritual faculties are wondrously powerful. Apparently we only use about 6% of our capability. Whether or not we engage in protest or demonstration we can also do a lot in the subtle, energetic dimensions to augment/compliment all of the necessary 3D actions that we make.

This is about 2 things: (a) the urgent necessity of having a concrete spiritual/energetic framework or practice in your life and (b) long-term thoughts I have had about different layers of oppression in society and ways to effect change in the power balance. Reinforced by lucid dreams and visions that I have had that show the energetic equivalent of everything that happens here and the power of fear to control people. What do we do about those who choose to take up arms and oppress fellow citizens on behalf of the state? I’m taking mainly about racist police, private security firms, detention centre guards, companies that manufacture weapons and torture devices – and those who then use them.

The latest wave of racist police brutality in the US has shocked and sickened me. Since about 2014 there seems to be something akin to demonic possession going on in US law enforcement. It’s not a new thing, but the immediacy of cell phone reportage by civilians, is bringing the information home on a daily basis. I am saddened and disgusted by it and disturbed by the lack of political outrage from the international community. At the same time – inspired, because random and organised acts of bravery, leadership and community are now everywhere.

What used to be the official political ‘alternative’, is now an international groundswell of anti-authoritarian, anti-elite grassroots majority, who want social justice, equality, welfare, education, civil rights, clean energy, healthcare and respect for the environment. Also an end to bogus ‘austerity’ measures, an end to sexism, racism, homophobia and fascism of all kinds. This drive for a fairer world now seems global. Our governmental, economic and military/industrial complexes are hanging on by a thread of ideological credibility – which is manifesting in panic and brute force. No-one wants war anymore, except a tiny handful of profiteers. Information on how to create a new society is here and we can do it. It’s possible that the new self-governing structures of the future are being born in the protest movements of today.

Authors Octavia Butler, (dystopian but visionary science fiction) Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games) and Starhawk (author, witch and activist), have written fiction that foresees a dystopian future that necessitates super-human levels of courage from a defiant population. Such books are arguably, a blueprint for a revolution, though they may not have been intended as such. Anyone following the news in America, will have seen acts of protest that are shamanic in scope – the lone woman in a dress (pictured above, later identified as Leshia Evans from Brooklyn) confronting heavily armoured riot police, the man with the sign that says, ‘’We may have to die for this’’ (he knows and is ready) or Diamond Reynolds as she live-streamed the murder of Philando Castile as both her battery and he were dying. Deeds of self-possession, dignity and strength that shame both the police and those whose complicity allows the system to exist.

Here’s something that I urge people to do. You might not be able to participate physically in all the amazing intersectional challenges to authority that are happening. (Here are some them. Please visit their websites and social media streams for links to further resources and info. Black Lives Matter, OccupyStand Up To RacismMovement for Justice, Revolutionary Communist Group, Black Dissidents, Million Women Rise.)

But EVERYONE in these times can and should have a spiritual strategy. An ability to call on transpersonal, higher power. Call it what you will, but it needs to be on speed dial and well practised. Now is the time to have some sort of energetic discipline – not just a vague inclination, but a regime. This can include meditation, prayer, shamanic journeying, martial arts, kickboxing, Tai Chi or, whatever. There’s loads to choose from and something for everyone. Have something that trains your mind, body and spirit to endure, transcend and transform.

We know that first, we need to send love to the victims and survivors of the brutality …

Next, try this: I’ve long had a theory that the power dynamic would be utterly transformed if the people who joined the armed forces, police, prison guards, detention centre guards etc – could be encouraged to choose other routes. The elite needs automatons to do the dirty work and without them, would fail. Imagine a world where there were no more workers left to build tasers, electric batons, handcuffs, shackles, guns or bullets. No police left to wear helmets, boots and shields and no-one bothering to manufacture such things. No armies and no-one interested in joining them. I believe that focused intention can target this group of people. The power of prayer, magical intent and visualisation, IS REAL. Anyone who uses these techniques on a regular basis can attest that results can be profound in ways that transcend both place and time. Fear can be melted. Ignorance can be infiltrated with light. People (everything in fact) are nothing but fast vibrating energy and reality can be altered. Dare to reach in and alter it. 

As you go about your daily regime of whatever it is – take time to light a candle, run to your favourite spot on a high hill, gaze into the fire, or a bowl of water, or go deep into prayer, or trance. Spend a good, long intentional moment – anything from 10 mins to an hour – sending a fierce wave of loving containment towards lost and ignorant souls within the police and army. Start somewhere – anywhere – and know that it’s time well spent. (I’m feeling particularly motivated about the Black Lives Matter movement and US police brutality but there are other situations that need attention, too.) There are instances of police breaking down in tears when confronted with protestors holding up mirrors or offering flowers. If it can happen just once, to one individual – it’s possible. Make your visualisation real, with full production, sound, colour, light, the works. I find holding a crystal that has profound colour energy – especially rose or deep pink, helps. Once you’ve got the picture up and running, use your mind to melt it and kelp melting until the whole frame is suffused and the structure starts to transform. Be uncompromising. Be unrelenting. Go deeper and deeper in and MELT the picture …

If people were to do this in large numbers and then synchronised with others, the results might be surprising. 

Am I saying we have to love everyone and just offer virtual hugs to racists until they are healed? No. I am under no illusions. With regard to America specifically, it’s a systemically violent gun culture based on conquest and slavery. Police officers are trained like robots assassins, with racially biased arrest quotas that make sure the prisons are filled and plenty of money is being made through fines and spurious traffic violations and unbelievably, even ‘walking whilst black’  – baggy, low slung trousers – offences. (Yes, that is a real thing by the way – check out Reggie Yates recent Ferguson documentary.)

Thoughts about the ultimate nature of evil are possibly beyond the scope of this particular piece of writing. Where violence occurs, certain non-human energies feed and they can’t just be hippie-hugged and healed with rainbows, especially if there is no thread or connection to any kind of emotional spectrum. And terms of protest, we still have to put our bodies on the streets and fight for justice.

But there is hope. Love can win. ‘Light’ – as brilliantly defined by Pleiadean channeller and writer Barbara Marciniak, as INFORMATION, can win. Some police officers and soldiers (not all) started off believing that they were actually serving and protecting. That too, is love and if there is even a spark left of that, it can be used in this type of visualisation.

So … give it a try. Human minds and hearts are powerful. Let’s use them.


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Core Strength for Singers and Musicians.


 

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Abdominal strength. Why is it so important for singers and instrumentalists?

I use a selection of ‘for the core’ exercises when I teach singing, and am always amazed at how many people aren’t used to connecting here – and the revelations that come when they do. Vocalists, if you want to make that long note something extra special, it’s the corsetry of your abdomen that’s going to make the difference. Your vital capacity, (the extent that you can hold your breath) will fuel it – but the layers of the abdomen (including but not restricted to the diaphragm) will support the breath and will also keep you standing rooted but tall, anchoring your whole body as you sing. I think of the voice as a divine instrument – it’s like lightning coursing down to earth – energetically, metaphorically and physically. You need to be as stable as possible when this power pays you a visit and to be the best lightning rod you can be.

I don’t necessarily advocate stomach workouts for the sake of vanity, bombarded as we are with unrealistic fashion images that can be very harmful to self-worth, (especially for women) if taken too seriously. Very few people have the kind of washboard torso glamourised by popular magazine culture. But if you do take some time to get to know your abs, you will certainly have a stronger back – great if you have to wear a guitar or bass, or sit upright at a piano, or carry heavy gear.

The internet is full of information, so this post is not supposed to be a comprehensive index or a definitive ‘how-to’ manual, just some pointers that I find useful as a musician (and martial artist) who likes to function at my optimum strength and fitness.

About Pilates. Joseph Pilates was a German bodywork pioneer who, according to accounts, discovered that his could rebuild his body, after prolonged illness, by using his core to lift his own body weight. He came from parents who were involved in alternative and progressive healing modalities, at a time when many holistic explorations of mind and body were becoming more popular. ‘Controlology’ is a term associated with his work. As a German stranded in the UK during the war, he used the time to hone his methods. ‘Pilates’ as a method works the deep core layers of muscle – rather than the surface six-pack (rectus abdominus) that most of us find so impressive, but are unlikely to have.

Some of what I’ve found useful is based on Pilates, but I don’t think anyone needs to pay loads of money for classes. At the risk of upsetting Pilates teachers, I would say that a decent book or video will do, then explore it for yourself at home. (Also have a look at those who have reframed the principles to create their own workouts, such as tennis player Martina Navratilova and ballerina Darcey Bussell.)

The most important thing to get right, is that before you attempt any of the exercises, your entire abdomen must be fully engaged. This is a workout in itself and will yield results. Then that state of tension must be maintained throughout all the lifting exercises. This creates the necessary resistance that works the muscles. This is the key. The more slowly and consciously you can work, the better. I don’t recommend any special breathing counts, just breath deeply and evenly. Some people will disagree with me on this and other content.

(*Always work within your limits and fee free to explore other opinions and methods.)

Here Goes: 

1. Lie on your back comfortably with feet on ground and legs at a 90 degree angle. Engage abdomen. Place cushion between knees and squeeze to keep it there. Lift pelvis completely off the ground in one movement. Raise arms above head. Slowly lower pelvis. Slowly lower arms. Feel the sensation as the torso lengthens. Works the upper abs. Do 10 very slow reps if you can. Breathe evenly. Simple but deceptively effective. You’ll feel it the next day.

2.  Lie on back as above with feet on ground and legs bent at 90 degree. Engage abdomen. Then lift legs into air so they are parallel with ground. Lift up shoulders and back and crunch. In this position lift your arms, palms down a few inches from the floor and ‘beat’ them gently up and down. Breathe evenly. Feel the resistance in the upper abdomen.

3. ‘The Roll.’ Lie flat on the ground. Engage abdomen. Visualise your navel touching your spine and try to flatten yourself against the floor. Maintain this throughout. Point toes. Extend arms above head. Breathe in and raise arms, fingertips to sky at 90 degree angle. Breath out and slowly roll up all the way, flex toes and touch them. Roll back in same way very slowly. 10 slow reps if you can.

4. The ‘Sally Gunnell’. I can’t remember where I read this but this is a great one from an athlete who knows what she’s talking about. Lie flat on ground. Legs bent at 90 degree angle. Engage abdomen. Arms supporting head. Roll up in classic crunch movement, in 3 distinct stages – the upper abs, then mid, then a full crunch. Reverse steps very slowly and consciously. 20 slow reps if you can.

5. Lie on ground with legs at 90 angle. Engage abdomen. Then lay both legs to the side but still be facing up. Feeling the stretch this creates on the upper abs. Arms behind head. Lift upper body up the sky. Not rolling or crunching, but UP. Works upper and transverse muscles. 20-50 reps each side. 100 once you get strong enough.

6. Lie on back with legs straight as you can pointing to the ceiling. Engage abdomen and flatten your spine against the floor. Arms behind head. Lift upper body off the ground, not rolling but UP. 20-50 reps. 100 once you get strong enough.

7. Lie flat on ground. Legs at 90 degree angle. Engage abdomen. Hook one leg over the other. Arms behind head. Lift and twist whole upper body aiming to touch opposite knee. Works transverse and upper abs.

8. Lie flat on ground. Engage abdomen. Place hands under buttocks, palms down. Curl upper body and remain crunched while looking at feet. Lift legs, keep them straight and pointed. Lift up and down in smooth, controlled movements. Do between 10-100 reps, as you get stronger. Works lower abs. Very intense. Not great for beginners – but one to work up to gradually. The upper abs first need to be strong enough to curl properly, otherwise the neck starts to strain.

9. Begin this as above. When engaged and curled up with upper abdomen, lift legs as a unit about 12 inches off the ground. Cross and uncross legs at the ankles. Between 10-100 reps. variation: lift legs as a unit and rotate clockwise, counterclockwise, then in opposing circles. Smooth, controlled movements. Advanced.

10. Whole core exercise. Sit cross-legged. Engage abdomen. Then stretch out legs in front of you. Reach with arms towards toes in an almost balletic gesture. Then lower yourself  slowly backwards and to the side, all the way down to the ground. Roll shoulders across ground and rise up in smooth controlled movement on other side back up to sitting position. Then reverse or as a variation can go in circles one direction. Must be very smooth, slow and controlled. Very intense and almost meditational. Takes 100 % abdominal engagement, deep breathing and mental focus.

As you go through your daily life, notice how your abdomen is one of those key areas, (unlike the bicep or tricep) which doesn’t need an opposing lever system to work. You can simply command it. Even just tensing and engaging your core muscles will strengthen them. Even more so, if simultaneously engaged in other exercise such as running, weightlifting, push-ups and/or intimate activities with significant others that I’ll leave to the imagination! Always remember, especially in the initial stages, to support and rest your neck and head as these will try to do the work for you until your abs develop enough strength to lift your weight. Practice eventually makes this easier. Also it’s as well remember the saying, ”abs are made in the kitchen.” Diet is the crucial other part of any exercise regime – but not part of this blog post – that’s for another day!

Have fun!

 


You think this was tough? Check this out!  http://youtu.be/axeHMu3rk80

You might also be interested in my blog post about running:  https://fayepatton.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/the-benefits-of-running/

 


 

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The Art Of Nunchaku

 

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This unique weapon, popularised by Bruce lee and Dan Inosanto, amongst others, originates in Okinawa, Japan, but variations on the flail-like implement are common throughout South East Asia. Some theories situate it as an adapted farm tool, but opinions differ, since historically, martial arts were often the preserve of the ruling classes. Spinning my ‘chucks everyday, in hot sun, freezing rain, mud, ice or high winds –  is keeping me sane. For obvious reasons, I don’t want to glamourise weapons, aggression or violence and the nunchuks have a bit of a bad rep. However, like all weapons and fighting arts, if you train with the correct attitude, the idea of using it to cause grief, starts to really fade into the distance. Instead, it becomes the most supreme meditational tool, teacher and ally. As in life, I lose the rhythm and have to stop and unwind my self-entanglements. As in life, I drop them, I pick them up. The key is not how many times you fail, but the manner in which you recover. I am used to wielding quite heavy white oak Japanese bokken and Jo. Also I practice Kung Fu and lift weights – so I have quite a lot of strength. But the real beauty is that for this, physical muscle isn’t necessary – only the weight of the wood itself and the exact momentum needed to deliver it to the hand. It’s about pure feeling and flow. Having faith in movement. Free fall and flight. Mental dialogue chatters away, but the only constant is the clanking and rattling of the chain, and the powerful ‘phoommm’ sound of displaced air. There is the lovely, fleeting sense of mastery. (I’m doing something REALLY clever!) Interspersed with moments of indignity, ecstasy and the humble nobility of being covered in mud from all the wipeouts and flowerbed retrievals. A bit like life. At every new level and new move, the Nunchuks teach me, painfully if necessary, what I need to know. For instance, you really don’t want to hit your funny bone at high speed, or at any speed – the hard whack I gave myself disabled me for 10 minutes, and my fingers were numb and buzzing a fortnight later. Not so funny. (My flatmate looking out of the window, spotted me, prostrate, clutching my arm, face screwed up and breathing raggedly, unable to move. She thought it was part of my ‘spiritual practice’…a prayer perhaps?)

I have also learned that hitting myself in the face, hard, is something I only want to experience the one time. Accidents with this light, but deadly force, really, really, really hurt. Therefore, best to approach the practice, being as present as possible, with respect and curiosity. I feel like I used the nunchaku in a previous life. Like music, and certain languages, it feels like something remembered, not learnt for the first time. Like music, it plays itself with only a little coaxing. I am loving it, the simplicity, the dexterity, the mental peace. It’s wonderful to discover (rediscover?) a new (old?) friend.

(Note: Best to study this with a proper teacher and within the context of a dedicated personal martial arts training framework. It’s not illegal to carry them if  they are concealed in a bag and are for obvious study purposes but questions may be asked if you brandish them in public. If you want to buy them, you may be asked for ID that proves you are over 18. )

Resources:

Agogi Wing Chung  (Streetwise Wing Chun Kung Fu for the 21st century. Developed by Founder, Sifu Eric Nicos. )

Tao Sport (London based boxing and martial arts equipment supplier to the combative sports and fight community in the UK since 1988.)

 


 

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The Motorcycle Diaries #1

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Now that I live with bikers, it seemed only a matter of time before this kind of thing would happen. First basic bike lesson, leather clad in boiling sunshine, courtesy of my extremely patient and expert housemate. I look cheerful in this shot, but inside, am a mass of jangled nerves, shaky legs and alien emotions having just got back from 3 hours of my first tentative inroads into riding this beast –  a reasonably lightweight 500 cc Kawasaki, belonging to our other co-resident – who is going to laugh upon seeing this blog post.

First impressions? Extreme appreciation for the surprising turns of life. Gratitude and celebration and sincere respect for the responsibility, power and precision involved not just in riding the bike, but watching my friend teaching a beginner (me) how to do it. I was in safe hands. I found it quite stressful but also amazing. I could get used to the heat and constant smell of petrol. Yes it is a bit like a pushbike, albeit with the instant death/collateral damage factor looming larger. Yes it is really heavy, but because of martial arts training I am really strong – used to lifting people and objects larger than myself. I only fell off once, (whilst stationary – classic huh?) so all in all, not bad. Note to self, next time, got to be less tense. (Breathing helps. I actually teach people how to breathe so…need to apply that!) More practice needed and more relaxation, feeling not thinking, and getting used to ye olde clutche controle.

Seriously…if there is something you’d like to do, do it today – just for no reason other than to expand yourself. Even if you are nervous, especially if you are nervous, or even mortally terrified. Fear is just energy waiting to be transformed into something useful and hopefully, fun. There’s nothing you can’t do. And if you know others with skills, don’t be too proud to let them show you stuff. Let yourself have some spills, cock-ups and silly questions. I remembered some priceless insights today about teaching music, which I intend to apply immediately. I had forgotten what it feels like to be a beginner diving in at the deep end, whilst the person showing you how is swimming in their element of 20 years. I’m even more aware of the fears, blockages and previous traumas students are dealing with as they walk through my door to sing and play for pretty much the first time. I need to allow more time for breaks, whilst each chunk of learning beds down. I can remember to allow students time to get used to new sensations, time to breathe and shake out, relax, laugh. Make it ok for them to ask questions and to make them feel that what they are attempting is normal and doable. And with each small step, to encourage periods of well deserved reflection, celebration and acknowledgement. It’s ok to feel proud and dazed and humble and a bit overwhelmed at various stages of the leaning curve. It’s really worth it. The great thing is that, in the end, we are all, more or less capable, more or less ok, more or less good enough to have a go.

Mastery starts with the attempt, no?

Till next time,

Bye for now…

Faye.

(P.S. For those that don’t know me, I am  a London-based Nu Jazz singer/songwriter, pianist and guitarist. You can can check out my tunes and videos here, and/or come and like my Facebook Music page. Come and say hi!)

 


 

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Thoughts on music and martial arts.

 

I practice Aikido, Wing Chun kung fu and Tai Chi. On two occasions, I have found myself in A + E with an injured hand. The first time was an avulsion fracture on my right thumb incurred during Aikido. I literally chopped downwards onto someone’s head. (they were supposed to duck, but didn’t. Bone on bone – ouch.) The second was a less serious but at first equally inconveniencing and very stiff torn muscle in my palm. (Caused by an intense boxing session without warming up the hands first.)

 

Both times, casualty staff looked at me as though I was mad when I explained that yes I did rough ‘contact sports’…and was also  a professional pianist and guitarist. Their faces actually showed  far more pain than I was in. I wanted to say, ”no really, it’s all alright – and here’s why!” For me there’s a natural, mutually enhancing relationship whereby martial arts feeds directly into music and back again. I’d recommend every aspiring martial artist study some sort of musical discipline and vice versa. A martial art, like dancing, requires a strong sense of left/right brain and body co-ordination. You combine an alphabet of set moves, with wider principles and patterns. At best, you want to be able to improvise communicate and express, solo and with others. In all cases, hands are of vital importance, so is breathing. Professional singers know that our craft involves athletic levels of abdominal support and breath control. The language of music and fighting can overlap in ways both metaphorical and concrete. MCs can ‘battle’ on the mic. Boxers can spar with broken rhythm, lyrically or poetically. Or box in phrases (punches in bunches). Negotiating the industry requires ninja stealth and courage, stoic resilience, patience, timing, Yoda-like calm and the ability to strike when the iron is hot. Some tips for basic hand maintenance include: soaking your hands after training in hot water after training. This is also true after marathon gig or practice sessions. Always take time to rotate wrists in circles before martial arts training. Visualise  energy evenly distributed throughout the hand and whether it is a palm strike or a fist that you are using – make it neat. Stray fingers bent back or caught in someone’s Gi, belt or nose, really hurt like hell! If like me, you have classical guitar nails, wrap them with the wonderful invention that is micropore tape. Massage the fleshy parts of the palm before boxing. When you box pads or bags remember to employ technique, not force and again visualise your energy evenly distributed, like light or plant sap through your forearm. Forearms and the tendons they contain are very important. Bruce Lee’s notebooks have whole chapters about them. He did ‘Zottman curls’, which I recommend. Holding a reasonably heavy dumbbell in each hand, and keeping the arm still, rotate slowly and evenly from the elbow in a clockwise direction. Alternate sides so that you have room to do it! The trick is to do that descending curve nice and slow. If you have played guitar for a long time, your forearm tendons will be in pretty good shape, but I do like this extra exercise. Avoid hard/hard contact such as knuckles on heads or other knuckles. If you do break or strain something remember that as a martial artist your pain threshold might be too high to realise it. Especially if you are flooded with endorphins and adrenaline, therefore know your own limits and warning signals.

 

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Some resources if you injure your hands:

Musicians Benevolent Fund

Musician’s Clinic

British Association for Performing Arts Medicine

Musician’s Union

I include this for fun – an example of 3 musicians displaying warrior prowess and a study in hand and wrist mastery. The Trio Project  (Hiromi Uehara,  Anthony Jackson and Simon Philips) live at the Tokyo Blue Note. The Trio project will be playing at Cadogan Hall here in London, 13th/14th/15th April.

 

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