May 13, 2008


Old Chinese image of Shaolin monks practicing martial arts, courtesy of wikipedia.

The theme at Goat Rope this week is how to apply some peaceful lessons from the martial arts to writing and working to make things better or a little less bad. You'll also find links and comments about current events.

Yesterday's post was about thinking defensively, as in talking, acting and writing as much as possible in a way that doesn't leave an opening for one's opponents to exploit.

Today's lesson comes from karate and can be summed up in two Japanese words: kime or focus and kyusho or targeting vital points.

Here are two liberating insights. Even though the forces we're up against may be more powerful than we are, if we can focus our energy at the right time and place we can improve our chances for success. And no matter how powerful they are, every person and every system has weak points. Putting one and one together, if you focus your energy at the right point when an opportunity occurs, you can be successful even if the odds are against you.

Kime or focus is like sunlight concentrated in a magnifying glass as opposed to ordinary sunlight. It's the difference between being hit with 5 pounds of force by a basketball or by a needle. Kyusho is the difference between being poked in the shoulder or in some tender spot that I will leave to the Gentle Reader's imagination.

Now here's a caveat. Usually one can only target a vital point when an opening exists. One's opponents aren't usually nice enough to leave themselves totally open--if they're any good that is--, although sometimes they do. That means you have to pay attention to a constantly changing reality and take advantage of openings as they occur.

So how do you apply that outside the dojo? First, don't waste energy. A good karateka is completely relaxed until the instant of action. Second, have a clear vision of what you're trying to accomplish (hint: it helps if it's realistically possible). Third, when you write or act, aim at a specific target. That means in part being accurate and timely. Fourth, pay attention!

All periods of time are not created equal. Sometimes, windows of opportunity or openings occur. When they're gone, they're gone. Examples may be a vote that's about to take place, an event that raises public awareness about an issue, a scandal, an anniversary of a significant date, etc. You can't always know in advance when such an opportunity will occur but you can practice paying attention and developing your capacity to act when the time is right.

The goal is to be able to respond to events in the manner expressed by the late great Bruce Lee:

When the opponent expands, I contract, When he contracts, I expand, And when there is an opportunity, I do not hit--it hits all by itself.

HERE'S A SHOCK. Some states are trying new ways to help low income working families. I won't hold my breath for anything new like that in my beloved state of West Virginia.

SAD PROJECTIONS. Bloomberg reports that some experts are predicting that the number of suicides by US Iraq and Afghanistan veterans over time may exceed combat deaths.

THE BIG SQUEEZE. This item talks about the economic squeeze millions of Americans are feeling.

THEY OBVIOUSLY WEREN'T TALKING ABOUT GOATS. Here's yet another article on the health benefits of pet ownership.


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