Thursday, 1 December 2011

Try everything....

All arts have something to give.  Come out of your (corner/art) and sample what is available – build on your chosen art.  Don’t waste your opportunities.  My age probably makes me lean towards philosophy but maybe you youngsters should start now.  Get some balance to the physical side of the arts.

To find out more about Sensei Seth's club visit
 You can e-mail Peter at

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Need to Win

Hi everyone been a bit busy so only a short one this month.
Being devils advocate on this one:

The Need to Win.
Chuang Tzu (~300 BC.) (as translated by Thomas Merton).

When an archer is shooting for nothing
He has all his skill.
If he shoots for a brass buckle
He is already nervous.
If he shoots for a prize of gold
He goes blind
Or sees two targets--
He is out of his mind!

His skill has not changed.
But the prize divides him.
He cares.
He thinks more of winning than of shooting--
And the need to win drains him of power.
It also affects other areas of life, not only for the individual involved but also for others around them.  Concentrating all their energies to win, to be the best, can be a very positive activity.  It can be very empowering, a massive ego boost as you succeed in your goal.  The approbation of your peers, a reputation for success and the acquisition of the ‘prizes’ associated with success.
A positive, powerful person fully focussed on a single goal – to beat everyone else, to be top dog.  A ‘winner’ is usually a very attractive person.  After all, competition is an integral part of life.

It has long been known that the single minded ‘need’ to win actually detracts from a persons potential to win. 

So does this mean to ‘not try so hard’ may produce better results? 

Or maybe just to enjoy the game instead of ‘trying’ to win the game?

Or maybe like the Samurai, ‘No win’ – ‘No lose’ – ‘No thought’, just do!


To find out more about Sensei Seth's club visit
You can e-mail Peter at

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Way – Path – Direction through life.

A book to read:    Lao Tzu: Te-Tao Ching - A New Translation Based on the Recently Discovered Ma-wang-tui Texts (Classics of Ancient China) (Paperback)
by Robert G. Henricks (Translator)

Tao (pronounced ‘Dow’) means ‘Path’ or ‘Way’ of/through life.

Some quotes:

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.

Whenever you advise a ruler in the way of Tao,
Counsel him not to use force to conquer the universe.
For this would only cause resistance.
Thorn bushes spring up wherever the army has passed.
Lean years follow in the wake of a great war.
Just do what needs to be done.
Never take advantage of power.

Achieve results,
But never glory in them.
Achieve results,
But never boast.
Achieve results,
But never be proud.
Achieve results,
Because this is the natural way.
Achieve results,
But not through violence.

Force is followed by loss of strength.
This is not the way of Tao.
That which goes against the Tao
comes to an early end.

Knowing others is wisdom;
Knowing the self is enlightenment.
Mastering others requires force;
Mastering the self needs strength.

He who knows he has enough is rich.
Perseverance is a sign of will power.
He who stays where he is, endures.
To die but not to perish is to be eternally present.


The wise student hears of the Tao and practices it diligently.
The average student hears of the Tao and gives it thought now and again.
The foolish student hears of the Tao and laughs aloud.
If there were no laughter, the Tao would not be what it is.

Hence it is said:
The bright path seems dim;
Going forward seems like retreat;
The easy way seems hard;
The highest virtue seems empty;
Great purity seems sullied;
A wealth of Virtue seems inadequate;
The strength of Virtue seems frail;
Real Virtue seems unreal;
The perfect square has no corners;
Great talents ripen late;
The highest notes are hard to hear;
The greatest form has no shape.
The Tao is hidden and without name.
The Tao alone nourishes and brings everything to fulfilment.


The softest thing in the universe
Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.
That without substance can enter where there is no room.
Hence I know the value of non-action.

Teaching without words and work without doing
Are understood by very few.

Modern interpretation:

If you want to be a leader
who's in touch with Tao,
never use violence
to achieve your goals.

Every act of violence backfires.
An army on the move
leaves a trail of tears,
and a military victory
always lies within ruins.

The Masters do what needs doing
and that's all they do.
Do what you have to do
without arrogance or pride.
Get the job done
and don't brag about it afterwards.
Do what you have to do,
not for your own benefit, but because it needs to be done.

And don't do it the way
you think it should be done,
do it the way it needs to be done.


The mighty will always lose their power
and any connection
they ever had to Tao.
They will not last long;
If you're not right with Tao,
you might as well be dead.

Weapons are terrible things.
If you want to get right with Tao,
reject weapons.

The Master,
knowing all things came from Tao,
recognizes what he has in common
with his enemies
and always tries to avoid conflict.

But when there is no other choice,
he uses force reluctantly.
He does so with great restraint,
and never celebrates a victory;
to do so would be to rejoice in killing.
A person who would rejoice in killing
has completely lost touch with Tao.

When you win a war,
you preside over a funeral.
Pay your respects to the dead."

The Tao Te Ching
a modern interpretation of Lao Tzu
perpetrated by Ron Hogan
copyright 2002, 2004

To find out more about Sensei Seth's club visit You can e-mail Peter at

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Inward Journey

After well over forty years studying martial arts my thoughts at the moment are that (as probably been said many times before), the real "message" of martial arts is not to compete with others. But instead to take that hardest of challenges the "Inward Journey" of competing with yourself.
Instead of the "outward" competition, the goal being to fight, win, destroy, kill, take, dominate – the list goes on!
If more energy was devoted to an inward journey in this case using martial arts as a vehicle.  Then maybe a less negative set of outcomes would result.
If you can absorb the "essences" of an art without the encumbrance of the need to compete with others to win and prove yourself/your art superior. 
You can concentrate much more on the nuances and the depth of the art.  Engage with the whole art, the physical, philosophical and ethical aspects which all activities hold. There will of course be the cry, that to learn a martial art you have to ‘compete’ with an opponent to see if the movements/techniques work, to test their effectiveness.  This is valid up to a point, where most people perceive martial arts training as two (may be more) people ‘squaring up’ for a match to test their skills.  Actually most people (me included) usually go through the competition phase during the first few years of training.
There are other ways depending on your attitude and whether you are on an inward journey or outward journey.
If you and your fellow artists are on an inward journey you tend to respect the fact that your partner is freely giving you their body and wellbeing to help your journey to improve your skills, knowledge and aspirations to improve your art.
They trust you to respect their commitment as you trust others in the same way.
The training can is as dynamic and positive as that of traditionally perceived competitive arts and in some ways more "in depth".
Taking out the requirement to "win", to beat your opponent, gives you that extra space to take a deeper look into the art.  The cooperative training method (keeping in mind the reality of combat), allows you to take your art to a different level.
It takes more skill to harmonise with and control an opponent without beating them up.  You are reconciling an aggressive act whilst limiting its negative impact.  Of course this extra skill can be very effectively applied to beat, win, and destroy, etc if necessary.  Hopefully with a positive view this path would just be used as a back up to cope with unforeseen circumstances.
The "inward journey" can be applied to any activity and allows an individual to better understand themselves.  They can develop a better sense of perspective, a balance and better sense of self. Maybe get a glimpse of themselves as others see them and allow them to develop into the person they would like to be seen as?
You also develop other skills, patience, empathy, tolerance, understanding body language, negotiation etc.  The ability to recognise, address, manage and reconcile aggressive behaviour so reduce the need for physical action. Especially useful as you get older – the older I get I feel I would tend to ‘over react’ with the violence to compensate for the physical "dimming" age brings.  Not a good thing.   
Conflict management/resolution training is also useful to help pull all your accumulated skill and knowledge together and keep you abreast of the legal implications of conflict – protects you from the law.

To find out more about Sensei Peter Seth's club visit You can e-mail Peter at

The space between...

One of the greatest ever Martial Artists was Morihei Ueshiba
(1883 – 1969).  He was an expert at a number of Martial Arts, which as common perception goes, after an experience of ‘personal enlightenment’ (Satori) he amalgamated into the martial art of Aikido.
Today millions of Aikido enthusiasts practice the techniques he adapted and developed, thinking it the way of the Art.
When in fact his message can be misinterpreted.  They only copy some refined techniques from other arts, which he used to enable students to practice Aikido on a technical level.  Giving them a ‘key’ and a path to follow, leading them to the door of the truth.  His real revelation was in fact the discovery of taking control of ‘the space between’.  Initially in a physical sense but then as the revelation unfolded he saw the parallels with all areas and aspects of life.
His control of ‘the space between’, his timing and his innate humanity allowed him to master the space and not be at any time in a vulnerable position.  He could blend with energies and bring them into harmony and balance.  He only used his experience and techniques to bring closure to his movements when necessary.
I am sure he would have said something like – ‘There is no me or you, only us, together, as one energy in harmonious flow along the energy stream of life’. 
A few other Martial Artists have also discovered this.  Bruce Lee for example, understood and had the same insight, albeit from a different perspective.  But all paths lead to the same truth eventually.
So it is not techniques that are important, at best they are only the ‘full stops’ at the end of the ‘energy’ sentence as it were.  See the attack before it develops (even in the mind of your opponent). Be somewhere else before it arrives (be where your opponent does not want you to be).  Blend with and balance their negative energy and lead them to realisation.
See the ‘form’ - Control the space.
So, maybe the secret to most things in life in general, is to control the space between, not the person, object or situation?  This applies to all areas of life – Physical, mental, emotional, behavioural, psychological, moral, ethical etc.
An example of the physical could be in combat, where you first ‘see the form’- the intent and manner of attack before it is developed (ideally before it forms properly in your opponents mind) -  (Sen No Sen – Before the Before).  Ensure you control the space by being in a ‘between’ position, a position your opponent does not want you to be.  They will instinctively know and have judged their correct timing, position and distance from you to deliver an effective powerful attack.  You, the defender must ‘see’, first the ‘intent’, then the ‘form’ before it is delivered and move into a position to break you opponent’s rhythm and spatial control so they are ‘in between’ good distance and timing.
Usually a pre-emptive half step in the appropriate direction (area of space) is enough to disrupt and unbalance an attack. You catch them ‘out of phase’ as it were.  You now control the ‘space’ and can lead (or even combine with) and neutralise the energy within it.
An attacker’s energy can be neutralised to varying degrees by blending with their energy.  As mentioned, their timing, balance and also direction can be affected to such an extent they have no viable base which with to continue.  They will be (depending on your blending), ‘without energy’ – they will be ‘in the void’.
An analogy:  A ball/object thrown in the air has mass, energy, timing and direction on the way up and also on the way down (slightly more – gravity).  A balloon may be a simpler example of the state you are trying to get your opponent in – light and easily moved.
But – there will be a split second at the top of the trajectory when relative to its surroundings it has no kinetic energy, just potential energy.  Relatively speaking it has no mass, direction, neutral time/distance therefore no energy to directly affect its surroundings. 
You can with practice be able to get your opponent extended beyond his balance, outside of his timing, going in more than one direction at the same time with his energy dissipating ‘every which way’.  In this way he will be unable to carry out his perceived attack, you will have harmonised and neutralised his efforts.
Its then up to you how you proceed?
These principles can be used in either a positive or negative manner in all areas of life.
 Positive - Imagine using the same principle in an argument, debate, business negotiation or the many other fields of life where a fair and equitable outcome is desired.
 Negative - Or as is so often done, to control or gain unfair advantage over others.
There have been many treatises written over the ages and all illustrate in so many words the fact that it is the ‘space between’ in its many forms which affects and connects all things.  By controlling this you can affect and control this connection and thereby, what is connected to it.
See for example:         The Art of War - Tsun Tsu. 
The Book of Five Rings –  Minamoto Musashi.
 NB:  Please read ‘become’ instead of ‘control’ the space between. 
If you ‘become the space’ everything in that space is yours, any other energy coming into that space does not belong and relies on you for its integrity.
(I’m not happy with the word ‘control’, it implies direct attachment to others and competition rather than harmony).
 The Analogy of Music:
 Imagine music without the ‘spaces’ of silence between the sounds, the gaps between the notes. Without the spaces there would be constant noise, which may vary in pitch and intensity but would be chaotic and unbearable.  These spaces set the time/timing, rhythm and beat of the music, which in turn affects/controls the whole composition.  So influence in this area of the ‘space/s between’, effectively allows the leading of all these energies.  You become the ‘conductor of this orchestra of energy’.  

To find out more about Sensei Peter Seth's club visit You can e-mail Peter at

Keep your windscreen clean!

In all martial arts (I am sure this also parallels all areas of life), practitioners can visit many different classes, recognise the techniques and training and feel comfortable with the practice.
But, is this wrong?  Should not art be taught at each class, which reflects the instructor’s individual knowledge, understanding, interpretation and feel for their art.
If an instructor is sincere in his quest for the art, each class should be different, individual and unique. Each should, when the basics have been absorbed, move constantly on, reminding and encouraging their students to create and develop their own art.  Only in this way will any art (thing) grow and flourish.
If you practice in an environment which concentrates solely on techniques, gradings (belts) and status = ego, you may end up with many student black belts who are good technicians.  But, being so self-absorbed and encased in the ‘system’, you will never move on to the level of an artist who strives to become the art, ‘being’, instead of just ‘doing’.
Technicians, no matter how good, just keep the ‘machine’ running, usually along a single road.  Their single-minded focus on the workings (mechanics) of the machine keeps them from noticing that the windscreen has become dirty and the artistic brakes are being applied.  Consequently, their vision is obscured and journey restricted and very little real progress is being made.  They only see the road ahead and the many other roads are missed.
Open your mind, adjust/release the brakes, clean the windscreen and see beyond the machine.
See all roads, explore, get out and walk round.  All roads weave in and around each other, it is easy to move back and forth bringing back new experience and knowledge with which to make your art.  Don’t restrict yourself to travel just one road no matter how familiar and comfortable it is.
In fact don’t just restrict yourself to travel many roads, it’s two-dimensional.  Spread your wings, be unconventional and fly, soar into the air, use every dimension life offers.  Engage your very being in the spirit of whatever art you practice (especially the art of life) and assist and encourage others to fly even higher and further than you.
Don’t just ‘do it’.  ‘Feel it’ then ‘be it’.  Easy to say, very hard put into practice – but try!

To find out more about Sensei Peter Seth's club visit You can e-mail Peter at

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Time shifting...

Try and view ‘far things near’ and ‘near things far’.   In doing this you can attempt and sometimes succeed to manipulate events by mentally adjusting the time scale of the events. In general ‘world terms’ time is perceived as a constant, moving inexorably onwards without pause or control by anything.  But, it is also only a figment, a construct of the human brain.  Time is relative to our thoughts, what we are thinking, where we are, what we are doing, where we are moving, at what speed and direction. 
All this is relative to everything else around us. Therefore our thoughts should be able to alter perceived time if we can learn and adapt to certain perspectives.  Ie: The ‘Far things near’ and the ‘Near things far’ principle. The time frames which contain certain events and the actions within those events can be viewed ‘out of time’.  Much as a video clip which you can speed up or slow down, zoom in and out of at will, in your own time.
Imagine someone is close to you and launches an attack – you have your ‘video remote control’ switched on in your head – you press the ‘slow’ button and alter the relative perceived speed of the attack to visualise danger and response ahead of any contact.
Equally, if someone is ‘far’ from you.  You then activate your mental video remote control to fast forward, as though the full scenario has already unfolded. This will again manipulate relative ‘mental time’ allowing you to ‘see’ ahead of the event and address the situation in your time and out of your potential opponents’ time.
‘Response’ is possibly the wrong word, as you are perceiving, starting and finalising the event before it has physically taken place. 
This ‘zanshin’ (awareness) is essential in combat situations.  But, the same sort of ‘time - shift’ effect can equally be modified to suit almost any life situation. Essentially be aware of the rhythms and timing of things, people and situations around you.  Be ‘tuned in’, as it were to the timing and rhythms of life and you can blend and flow easily and hopefully peacefully through life. Until the time comes when you are confronted with the need for more positive action, which you should be able to handle using the same approach.
‘Sen No Sen’ is Japanese term which attempts to describe this - meaning ‘Before, Before’.
One explanation may be that the human brain can somehow speed up its processing when initiated by the chemical messages generated in extreme stress situations.  Also partition as it were, different functioning levels of awareness, isolating distinct areas relevant to particular situations. Where perception, thought and action processes are compressed closer together? Different levels of intuitive mental acuity may be developed which function to protect us. 
These intuitive ‘gifts’ are probably born in us to varying degrees, but we are also able to harness and develop them through training and exposure to ‘situations’.  (Training is after all simulating ‘situations’).
I’m sure we have all heard of individuals with ‘natural timing’ and a natural intuition, being able to be ‘in tune’ with people and situations.  Successful sportspersons, boxers etc are good examples of the physical – The boxer Mohammed Ali is had a natural timing and rhythm plus that something else which enabled him to dominate other fighters even if they were bigger and more powerful. This ‘gift’ is of course not limited to the physical arena of combat, it covers all aspects of life. Throughout history examples of the application of ‘Sen no Sen’ can be seen.  Sun Tsu, Alexander the Great, and the many great politicians and diplomats throughout the ages all had this ability to varying degrees.  As I believe do we all – to what level, well that depends on nature, inherited traits, awareness, sphere of activity/life we are in, the amount and quality of training and practice we do pertinent to our needs etc.
The idea for this blog came from an answer I gave to a question on an internet forum (WWW.AIKIWEB.COM).   There are a lot of theories about this sort of phenomenon but I think we are all capable of being in that state, of moving/being ‘out of time’ relative to what’s going on around us.   I used a similar example to the one in the first internet post in my first book ‘The Far Between’.  The actor Richard Griffiths had a similar experience on his motorbike and sidecar when he was a young actor travelling across the North Yorkshire moors in England.  In avoiding an oncoming bus he left the road and was heading towards a cliff edge.  He related that in those few seconds, time seemed to stretch out into what seemed like minutes and seemed to allow him more time to regain control and escape shaken but unhurt.
This is a print out of the last of an in depth discussion on a related topic which I answered regarding ‘Time shifts.
time shift" effect
In the "to look at opponent's eyes or not" thread (HTTP://WWW.AIKIWEB.COM/FORUMS/SHOWTHREAD.PHP?T=5920) George S. Ledyard mentioned "time shift" effect that interested me.
I experienced that couple month ago when I was driving on 101 in carpool at my usual speed 75mph and somebody cut right in front of me. For some reason I was very calm and found myself in an "observer" situation. My body was working by itself and my mind was looking at it as a third-party. Time stopped and I remember every millisecond.
First my body hit the breaks, then when car was very close maybe a meter or two from bumping my foot released the breaks to avoid a drift (my car does not have ABS and maybe that saved me) and I turned the wheel moving the car into emergency lane. When I passed the car I thought should I cut the freak or not (this is the first time my brain intervented, probably because the danger was over), I cut right in front of the car (to my shame) and hit the gas.
To me that lasted for several seconds, but when I looked at my wife, she hadn't had the time to feel scared. Only after couple of seconds we realized what happened. She was shocked, to calm her down I started to sing. I was very satisfied for being calm in a danger.
Could anybody comment or explain that phenomenon?
Re: "time shift" effect
Look at far things near and near things far'. - you can put your thoughts through time and picture events out of what appears to be 'normal sinc'. If you are lucky/on the ball/aware, you can in effect 'react in advance' if that makes sense. Its actually 'working zanshin' and is the state we are all training to achieve. It is already there in us, but too many people cloud their minds and train to 'achieve' a certain goal or objective they 'focus' too much on their ego and achievements instead of just letting go - enjoy - dance the dance without trying to get the steps perfect. Enter the 'flow', enjoy - sometimes the greatest things are achieved with the least effort in no TIME at all!
Sorry, bit of a ramble - but?

To find out more about Sensei Peter Seth's club visit You can e-mail Peter at