The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Power of Passion

Met with Lloyd De Jongh of the "Piper" knife system last night. Really interesting. I'd heard about it for years, and was present when Stevan Plinck, one of the world's great Silat Serak players, and one of the most solidly competent martial artists I've ever met, saw his first 3rd-generation, grainy video of the staccato, lightning-fast icepick grip technique.

HERE'S a video I shot in the room:

Let's just say that Stevan was impressed quite favorably, and basically opined that he'd rather stick his hands into a buzzsaw than attempt to deal with such technique with empty hands. Based more on rhythm and attitude than "technique", it feels different, odd in some ways I'll address later. It was especially fascinating when he made it clear that what he and his co-creator (Lloyd considers himself #2 in the system) did was simply try to formalize the knife fighting in the South African ghettos they grew up in, prisons and so forth. Definitely a mongrel in terms of "who brought what" but with a flavor that some of my African martial arts friends would recognize. But...very, very, abrupt and lethal. He was generous with his time and knowledge. As many of the honestly dangerous people I've known tend to be, a genuine sweetheart.

Lloyd is a born story-teller, and I could have listened to him, and moved with him all night. One of the things that he was insistent upon is that point about emotional content and rhythm as primary considerations. All else comes out of this. I decided to take him at his word, and examine the implications of that in relation to other disciplines. Assuming that you have the basic components of your skill at the level of unconscious competence, then directing your focus, then raising your energy with emotion. What is the emotional content of Piper? I don't want to phrase this poorly...let's say that it is more...shall we say carnivorous than I have previously encountered? Make of that what you will.

When you have tremendous focus, and intent (and this art is apparently distilled from the techniques and attitudes of extraordinarily dangerous non-theorists. I remember a book called "Street Fighting: The American Martial Art." Its cover was the image of someone being "curbed": being forced to "bite the curb" and then have his head stomped on from behind. It is, plain and simple, a book on how to mug and ambush people. I remember the back cover "about the author" blurb: "having been arrested on numerous occasions for battery and aggrevated assault, the author's credentials are a matter of public record." Brrrrr.

Well, when you collect the techniques and attitudes of people who are actually "in the trenches" in almost any discipline, along with whatever technical mastery they may have, what you find is EMOTIONAL DIRECTION. The ability to raise and channel the appropriate emotion for the task. Emotion overcomes lethargy and controls fear. Emotion keeps you practicing during the long, boring latency period when it feels that nothing is happening. In relationships, the ability to control and communicate emotions makes the difference between passion and dying embers.

In writing, I START with an emotional urge, back off to devise structure (intellect) and begin the process of writing, which may take a year. During much of that period, I am slogging through first drafts, and it is rarely fun. But toward the end, when things start coming back together...the emotion reappears, I remember why I wanted this project, and excitement builds again. It is a beautiful experience.

Heck, I pull myself out of bed at ungodly hours of the morning not because it's fun, but because the moments when Jason and I are in harmony, and he is happy with his life and feeling confident fills me with love and hope for the entire human race. Letting myself feel that emotional flow, and remember it in pale times, keeps me going.

For Lloyd, riding that emotional flow demands sequestration or radical integration. It is an emotional content few human beings want to experience, or ever experience, outside of a life and death confrontation. It is touching the part of yourself that...well, that enjoys hurting another human being. That is dangerous as hell, one of the principle reasons that ethics and moral teachings are such a core aspect of any martial art. They tell you, over and over again, the rules of ethical engagement because they know that karate or judo or silat or anything else will never make you a fighter. You have to find the part of yourself willing to die for what you believe in, that is ALREADY a fighter (all humans have it), and then teach that part to express itself through the movement system.

The same is true of writing. No course can make you a writer. But there is a part of you that is ALREADY a storyteller. Make contact with that part, and educate it.

One part of you is ALREADY a lover and nurturer. Find it. Connect with it.

One part of you is ALREADY anything that you want to be in life. A spark. If you didn't have it, you would never have had the urge to achieve the goal. We are all things: lover, warrior, healer, storyteller, teacher. We contain multitudes.

I seriously thank Lloyd De Jongh for another reminder of the power of passion. In the crunch, passion will rip technique to pieces, if technique is not very, very careful indeed.

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