Sunday, June 21, 2009


A Different Kind of Conversation

posted by barsoomcore

Training with my instructor today he reminded me that "Katori is conversation."

It's a pretty serious sort of conversation, of course, being the sort in which, if you do it for real, somebody ends up dead.

Those stakes make it incumbent upon me as I practice to be constantly aware of what's really at stake here: that this is a conversation of life and death. Only my mindfulness can make it so; that puts the onus on me to ensure I am bringing my full attention and my entire mind to my side of the conversation.

Even in the kata themselves, our posture, our focus, and our swords communicate, one to the other, the life-or-death moment that each strike and each block contain. The topic actually came up today as we practiced a common move in Katori: O-Gasumi.

In this technique, we find ourselves with our opponent's sword laid overtop of our own -- clearly not a position we wish to remain in for long! But the opponent's mechanical advantage precludes simply lifting up. One way to convert this situation to our liking is to turn the sword over so that it is edge-up, and then lift the tip upwards as we step forward. If our opponent does not step back, we may cut his wrists from below, or even slice open his torso with a rising cut.

Performed quickly, it appears decisive and easy. Break it down into its component moves (or more traumatically, attempt it against someone more skilled than yourself) and you will find that your opponent can easily counter-thrust -- IF you fail to maintain contact with your sword against his. That contact is what keeps the "conversation" going. You can FEEL when your opponent attempts a counter-thrust, since their sword is pressed against yours. Likewise, your opponent can feel that no opening is being provided, and has no aggressive options.

Part of practice is learning to hear this conversation between our swords -- so that we are training ourselves to look for the opening when it comes, to recognize the moment so that we can speak our piece when appropriate.

Blindly performing moves, lost in our own worlds, is not the way of Katori. This practice requires open eyes, an open heart and a developed capacity to perceive what is truly being said to us.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009


The Convo Mark 2: The Online Community

posted by barsoomcore

It's time for the second round of what came to be known as "the convo". The last one led to all sorts of larger conversations and community efforts, but ground needs re-plowing. Seeds need replanting. This time around, I thought we'd target a more narrow topic than last time: What are the characteristics of successful online communities?

Most of us are involved in multiple communities whose primary medium of social exchange is online -- whether that be a Twitter group, a discussion board, email list, or whatever. When positive, these communities can turn into massively productive sources of energy and transformation. Some online communities thrive while others never get off the ground. Some prosper vibrantly for a short time and then wither and die for some reason. More interestingly, some communities (all healthy ones) appear to reach beyond the online sphere and into "real-world" connection and influence.

Are there characteristics shared by successful online communities? What are they? Are any of them necessary qualities? Are any of them sufficient qualities? Can any of them be fostered or nurtured constructively, intentionally? Can they be DESIGNED?

And, perhaps more importantly, what is the purpose or output of these communities? How is economic value generated? In a sense, where does the marketplace begin and end -- to put it bluntly, under what terms can we authentically go after money and seek economic reward in this community without (as RT so delicately put it) being douchebags?

Sign up on the wiki -- we're planning to hold this on the morning of the 23rd, location TBD. Stay tuned and hang out in the comments!

Photo credit: Ivan Avramov.


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