Tonight I was trying to come up with a topic for this week’s post and nothing came to mind. “Seek movement and there is no movement. Seek rest and no rest comes instead.” That is a lesson that is not lost on me because it is driven home over and over again. So, after a substantial amount of time sitting around and not being able to come up with anything, I decided to think back over my life as a martial artist and write about something that stuck out. This is an exercise that I do frequently. I find it very interesting how I am normally presented with some event or lesson that I hadn’t thought of in years or ever for that matter.
This time I was taken back to 1990. Grandmaster Ahn and I were sitting in a Chinese restaurant that was next to his school on Reading road. We were eating lunch. This was a daily event for us (Monday – Friday). I cherished very one of them because I always learned something. Normally it had something to do with the fact that my manners were lacking, but every so often it was something that would shake my world.
This post is about one such lunch. We walked over and sat down just like every other day. I ordered the same lunch special that I ordered every day. I was a vegetarian at the time and there was only one thing I could eat on the “lunch special” menu: vegetarian delight. We both sat there without saying a word, just eating. Sometimes this would happen and nothing would be said the entire meal but that was not the norm. About half way through lunch, Grandmaster Ahn looked at me and said, “There are no secrets.” He was referring to secrets in Taekwondo, techniques or knowledge that only a select handful of people knew. You see I have always been slightly obsessed with learning that which isn’t normally taught and Grandmaster Ahn knew that all too well.
My reply didn’t come right away but when it did I only managed to get out, “but…” before he repeated, “there are no secrets.” I sat there for the rest of the meal trying to find the hidden meaning in what he said. There had to be something because the alternative, that there really are no secrets, was not acceptable.
I was stuck in a no win situation. On one side was “there are no secrets” and on the other side was “my instructor is lying to me.” Neither could be true. So instead of trying to come to grips with what he said, I simply filed it away in the back of my head to be dealt with at a later date. The sad thing is that the answer was right in front of me and I didn’t even realize it. Grandmaster Ahn had given me a Koan, a “riddle” that isn’t answerable with the logical mind. However, that is what I have to do in order to finish this post.
The answer didn’t come to me until years later. Master Gallano, my Kali instructor, was doing a demonstration for a group of police officers in Toronto. He was using myself and one other student as partners for the demo. Toward the end of the demo Master Gallano was defending himself against a knife attack, executed by the other student. He proceeded to disarm him and throw him on the ground, on his stomach. He then placed his big toe on the student’s back and pressed. The student flailed around and couldn’t get up. I’m embarrassed to say I thought the student was faking it for Master Gallano’s sake. After the demo I questioned Master Gallano about the technique. I should have know better by then because questioning him usually resulted in me being in a lot of pain. Somehow I ended up on the floor with his toe pushing on my back. It didn’t really hurt but for some reason I couldn’t get up or out from under his toe. My body simply didn’t work. I remember thinking, “I have to learn that!” and I did that night. It really isn’t that hard to do. There is a pressure point on the back that when pressed generates the desired result. It doesn’t work on certain body types but the ones it does work on it is really easy to do. I could teach it to a beginner without any difficulty.
Again years went by and I was teaching a Taekwondo black belt class. I had just thrown a student on the ground that was trying to resist a joint lock I was performing for the class. I then placed my toe on the student’s back and pressed. The desired effect was achieved and the student couldn’t get up. I never thought twice about what I had just done. To me it was no different than doing a front kick for the class. I continued teaching and ended class without giving it a second thought. A couple of days later I overheard two of my black belts talking about how something I did in class must be a “secret.” They also spent a good amount of time discussing how they were going to go about asking me to teach it to them. I walked up to them and said, “What are the two of you talking about?”
As soon as they told me I had more than just an answer to one question. They had solved the Koan Grandmaster Ahn had given me. The secret (the big toe technique) they were talking about wasn’t a secret to me but it was to them.
So instead of me telling you there are no secrets, I’ll say this instead, “There are no secrets, just undiscovered truths.” Never stop looking for that which you have not discovered (I haven’t). It makes your journey down the path so much more enjoyable.
Something to think about…