The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Starting to get back into the groove.

An unbelievable amount of information from Steve to process. This man took a tiny section of a 4-dimensional dynamic sphere (any profound movement discipline connects with the rest of life so as to embrace the totality of human experience. But Ed Parker didn't give his commercial students the full sphere. He didn't even promote Steve directly. We won't go into the motivations for this here--except to say that Parker was an exceptional man, but a man of his times.) But as anyone who understands geometry can recreate a full circle given any three points. By a lifetime of experimentation, he not only found the way of fighting that works for him, but for thousands of students. But then he began caring passionately about his community, so he started lecturing us about how if you can learn martial arts, you can be anything you want. His spiritual connection to Islam takes him even deeper: he's aligned and congruent, "coherent" perhaps, with every aspect of his life supporting every other aspect.

And he's balanced: a beautiful family, a thriving career (owns a security company), and an absurd level of physical efficiency. I know of no 70 year old man, anywhere, who can do the things he does. And still spars regularly with students a third his age--often experienced martial artists from other styles, and simply dominates them. It's ridiculous. His efficiency is so high that he can move SLOWLY and still destroy your position effortlessly. While he no longer explodes up and down the floor doing hundreds of martial wind-sprints a day, his initial explosion is just as volcanic, and his follow-up, in close range, is more like Wing Chun than Kenpo. Except with a kind of torquing power that had Chinese grandmasters looking at him and shaking their heads, I kid you not. In other words, he embraced the scientific method big time. He's had over a thousand street fights. Still has them--leading his troops into battle regularly, in a context embraced by by law and his church.

What does this lead to? Well...I'm going to say this, understanding how it sounds. It is quite possible that Steve Muhammad is the best man I've ever known. I've watched him for 35 years, and watched the impact he's had on countless lives. He has the same flaws that the rest of us have, but somehow he has managed to walk his walk as purely has Harlan Ellison has walked the line of his career. And that is SERIOUS purity, let me tell you. I feel incredibly blessed to have a man like this in my life, and I suspect that the road ahead for me is going to be clearer than much of the road behind.

Almost twenty years ago, Mushtaq asked me: "what kind of 70 year old do you want to be? Well, whatever it is, you'd better get started working on it."

Steve Muhammad is almost EXACTLY the kind of 70 year old I want to be. In a world of boys, he is a man. By bonding his physical and mental skills (he is a kinesthetic genius, on the level of any genius I've ever known. The mathematical precision of his thought excels his ability to convey it with language. Hopefully, I'll be able to help him here) to his family life and his spiritual life, he has done exactly what martial arts masters and grandmasters have done for centuries: transformed an athletic activity into a holistic life path. An international panel of Grandmasters said that he had actually created a new martial art. I think what he's done is as significant as what Ueshiba did in transforming various Jiu Jitsu forms into Aikido. But more than that, at 70 he's still kicking ass, taking names, and saving young men from the streets.

I walked one of the shopping centers that he protects in Atlanta. When he took it over, there were like fifty gangsters hanging around, chasing away the customers and killing business. He and his men took these guys out back, and...well, you can imagine.

I met some of the guys he did this to, and they are all, like: "good evening, Mr. Muhammad. Can we help you, Mr. Muhammad? (to their friends, with pride:) This is Mr. Muhammad!" The shop owners adore him. Mothers thank him for protecting their daughters. It was amazing. They LOVE him. His men love him. His students love him. The damn gangsters whose heads he whipped love him.

And dammit, I love him, right down to my toes. He and Larry Niven are the closest things to a father I have, and I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to have them. Maybe the best trip I've ever had.


quentin vaughan said...

it warms my heart to read these words. you honor your Teacher impeccably!

Anonymous said...

I can't help but wonder, any idea how he prevents these gangsters from coming back with guns? That's what they do in Chicago.


Anonymous said...

Steve, (and you probably suspect or know this already) you have the same effect on people - me especially - that he has had, and continues to have, on you. You ARE the example you so strive, wish, and hope to be! Now that is heady mead to take at a single draught, to be sure, but you've shown and proved both able and more-than-willing to gulp it down every day and come immediately back, emptied mug in hand, for more.

I'm obviously WAY carried away with my analogy, but hopefully my meaning is clear. And know that you are the kind of man I aspire to be!

Mike Ralls said...

"What kind of 70-year old do you want to be" is an EXCELLENT question to ask oneself.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

I know I've said this before, but just for the record, I only had one father, only one father figure for that matter, and my Dad was a good man from whom I learned a lot ... but outside that, you're the person who's had the most impact on me in my life.

Over the years I've looked in a lot of places for role models -- no disrespect to my own father, who was an outrageously tough SOB, but who was born into the Great Depression in 1930 and never quite shook it; was an alcoholic who quit cold turkey when I was young and never drank again for over 30 years ... but who started eating after he got sober and fought obesity for the rest of his life. I respect him for never quitting and never backing down, but there were things I couldn't learn from him -- a lot of things.

I've known any number of men who had the Answers To Everything .... but whose personal lives were war zones, littered with the detritus of shattered relationships. Or who were obese, or addicted, or constantly broke, or whatever ...

I've known guys who were fit, successful, good family men ... and who had every possible advantage growing up to put them in that circumstance, and while I respect that very much, I don't respect it quite as much as I do what you've done, which is to achieve all of that from a very different and much more difficult starting point.

To paraphrase something I heard elsewhere recently, you've always been one of my personal heroes.

suzanne said...

since I'll be 70
(*gasp*) in 9 months
I better get cracking
on that question!

I usually work
shoprter term
on what kind of person
I want to be for the
remainder of today

Unknown said...

I've known any number of men who had the Answers To Everything .... but whose personal lives were war zones, littered with the detritus of shattered relationships. Or who were obese, or addicted, or constantly broke, or whatever ...I learn stuff from a few of those, too, though; it's a matter of context.

Being married to a man with bipolar disorder, I've gone with him to a number of support groups, and met a number of people with different adjustments to the illness. And I do look, at who seems to be managing his or her illness better. Some of it's a matter of luck - some people respond very well to one or another medication while others haven't found one that works. But another part of it is what choices people make, whether they're honest with themselves in evaluating where they are and what they need to do. And so, some of the people I admire are people who, in one sense, are less obviously successful than I am (maybe they make less money, or maybe they have extra health problems that I'm not struggling with), but they're dealing particularly well with a hand I wasn't dealt. Maybe one of them will be obese, and another always broke, but they'll still have taken strides toward stability that others in their shoes haven't.

On the other hand, I also need to look at people who are living well a life that's more like the hand I was dealt. And, of course, there I do look at who is giving me advice that seems to have actually had good results for him or her, and whose philosophy seems to have brought him or her nothing but trouble.

Marty S said...

Steve: This is off topic, but I just read a perfectly awful novel by a very popular best selling author. He lost sight of the importance of writing a good book first and preaching your view point second I've seen this before from a number of excellent authors. So far Steve, I feel you have not fallen into this trap, but as reader, the disappointment in this novel makes me want to caution all the authors on this blog that it is indeed a trap.

suzanne said...

which point of view is that, Mark?

Marty S said...

Suzanne: Since I don't see any Mark, and I used the term point of view, I will assume you were addressing me. The answer is any point of view. I've read conservative, libertarian, and liberal authors, who went from books that were great stories,with a taste of their philosophy to books that were nothing but diatribes with only the ghost of a story. This is a best selling author. After, I read the book, I was curious what others thought of it. I went on Amazon and looked at how readers had rated it. 138 readers out of 268 gave it one star and I bet most were fans of the author like myself. Most of the negative
comments were about how unbelievable and mindless the plot was.

Anonymous said...

Truth be told, the late esteemed Arthur C.Clarke was ensnared by the Advocacy First, Story Second pitfall during his final years. For example, 3001 was largely a tour of possible future wonders combined with a sustained diatribe against the atrocities of religion. While I wholeheartedly agree with Clarke's castigation of the major faiths, more attention to Frank Poole's experiences would have been welcomed.


AF1 said...

I have Sijo Muhammad's Torquing Power DVD and he explains the mechanics very well.

Hearing you speak so glowingly of him in previous posts led me to investigate the man further...thanks for turning me onto him.

Steven Barnes said...

Steve and his staff carry guns, and are expert with them. I think that the reason they don't come back with guns is that he treats them with respect. Most gang members have just never met a real man before, I think.

Steven Barnes said...

Thank you all so much for your kind comments. Like all of us (I think) I have holes in my heart. I try to fill them with love and friendship, and feeling that my days are being invested rather than just "spent." Any time I feel that I've been able to make contact with the people I care about, or people of like mind, life feels very good indeed.

Christian H. said...

I wouldn't mind meeting him. I'm definitely NOT the average middle aged male.

My hands are even faster than they used to be. I try to stay way from violence though - even practice - because I tend to enjoy it too much.

Anonymous said...

An Ed Parker reference! I got to meet him once, shortly before he died. I believe I was a yellow belt at the time...