AIK Kenpo Seniors: Truth

Kenpo Seniors Blog  - Truth #1

Martial arts training is a powerful tool, not only for self-defense but for personal empowerment. The skills you learn and the habits you form make you stronger and more effective than many people without that training. This is why warrior cultures throughout the world have adopted codes of ethics, to temper that power with self-imposed responsibility. 

At American Institutes of Kenpo, our code of ethics is Bushido, a list of eight moral principles from the samurai of feudal japan. This testing cycle, we’ll focus on the principle of Truth. It’s a word you hear a lot, but truth is far more complex than simply being the absence of untruth. 

As a martial artist, it’s important to look at truth on three levels: the exterior truth, the representative truth, the interior truth and the potential truth. 

The Exterior Truth is what’s actually happening in the world. There’s the old story about five blind men meeting an elephant. One touches the tail and says “an elephant is like a rope.”  Another touches the leg and says “an elephant is like a tree.”  It’s a good parable about how different points of view can be equally valid, but people who tell it often miss an important point: none of those opinions changed the fact that they were all touching an elephant. 

As a warrior, you should always look for the elephant. It helps you make the right decisions about what to do with your power. It helps you have more empathy for differing points of view because you can see what part of the elephant somebody else is holding. It helps you practice bravery because sometimes it’s hard to look at an elephant that frightens you or makes you sad. 

The Representative Truth is what most of us think about when we hear the word “truth.” This is telling the truth via your words and your actions. Don Miguel Ruiz writes in The Four Agreements that all people must be impeccable with their word. This is more important for warriors, because the personal power you gain through training will lead more people to trust you. Your representative truth must match exterior and interior truth lest those people make mistakes on your behalf. 

There’s much to be said about the apparent conflict between the representative truth and the virtues of Courtesy and Compassion, the most common example being what to do when a friend asks how she looks in a dress she’s in no position to change. We’ll speak more on that in a later post, but for now know that most of that conflict can be solved by choosing truthful words with care. 

The Interior Truth is about congruence, about whether the decisions you make represent your true values and opinions. At the surface, this seems like another kind of Representative Truth, but the difference is simple. Telling a lie breaks the Representative Truth. Lying to yourself breaks your Interior Truth. 

There are times in life when you want something so badly, or are so badly afraid of something, you convince yourself that your motivations or opinions are different from what they really are. Most adults have a friend who tries to change his or her basic personality to match the tastes of a new romantic partner. That’s an example of breaking your interior truth. Warriors hold the power of life and death in their hands. Be sure you use that power in congruence with the things you hold truly sacred – not the justifications of the moment. 

The Potential Truth is both empowering and dangerous. Your potential truth is the person you want to be, the accomplishments you want to make, and how congruent your choices are with making that truth a reality. Just like your words and actions should reflect the External Truth of the present, a warrior makes decisions that reflect the Potential Truth of the future. To “lie” against your potential can be just as destructive as lying against the current facts. 

This is dangerous because some people give themselves permission to talk about the Potential Truth as the expense of the External and Internal Truth. We all know that person who tells tall tales about himself, spinning yarns about the person he wishes he was instead of who he actually is. This can be harmless telling of “fish stories,” but it interferes with your growth as a warrior. If you tell others – or yourself - -that you’ve already learned what you have yet to learn, this leaves little space for actually learning it. 

As with all bushido virtues, it pays to think deeply about the Truth and your actions. Review a day from time to time for one or all four kinds of Truth, and how well you upheld them in your words and actions. With any such review, how well you did on that day matters very little. Everybody has good and bad days. 

What matters is that you analyze your performance Truthfully, so you can make honest changes based on real information about how to do better the next times. 

Kenpo Seniors Blog - Truth #2

Truth comes in a lot of different forms. There’s the objective truth – what’s actually happening. Then there’s the subjective truth – what you sincerely think is happening, whether or not that matches the objective truth. Then there’s point of view – where somebody sincerely holds an opinion that can be different from another opinion while both remain true. 

One place these often get mixed up is when one person acts on the word of another. This is harmless when the source of information is trustworthy, but if somebody powerful acts on untrue beliefs, it can cause harm. As a martial artist, you will find that people listen to you and act on your word more often. They trust you to be truthful, and to talk about things that are important. This is good, since hopefully they’ll be right. But if you are speaking or acting based on bad information, that’s bad news all around. 


The second month of each training cycle includes some practice to develop the Bushido Value of the cycle. Your practice will be about identifying objective truth, subjective truth and point of view in your sources of information. You can choose one of two options.

Option One: If you Use Social Media

Each week this month, post at least one news article written by somebody who you disagree with, but who presents his or her case truthfully and with a sincere analysis of the facts available. Look hard at the information and presentation, and be certain what you share has merit. 

Also once each week, post a news article written by somebody whom you agree with, but does not present the case with truth. It could be based on bad facts, gloss over valid counterarguments, or simply spend most of its words on shallow platitudes rather than hard facts. 

By doing this, you practice the muscles of skepticism and respect for facts that are vital to serving Truth as a warrior. As a bonus, you’ll also develop a little extra empathy by understanding better the points of view of people with whom you disagree. 


Option Two: If you Don’t Use Social Media

Go to the library or bookstore and pick up one magazine or newspaper that generally adheres to your political and social views, and one that is generally in opposition. You can also choose to do this with watching an hour or so of broadcast news. One hour of watching FOX and one of listening to NPR will do this for most folks, regardless of their political views. 

For the writing or broadcast you agree with, take some notes about where and how they play fast and loose with truth. For the one you disagree with, identify the parts that seem to be truthful even where your opinions differ. 

You don’t have to show your notes to anybody. Just taking them is enough exercise to accomplish your goal for this month. If you’re extra motivated, do some fact-checking online of some of the “factual” assertions made by both sides. 

This will not be the most comfortable assignment you’ve ever taken on. Pretty much everybody – on either side of the political spectrum – holds a belief they arrived at because somebody, somewhere fed them false information. It will not be fun to find that out. It’s also true that analyzing the media this way can make a person more cynical about broadcast news in general. 

But “not comfortable” and “not fun” don’t mean the same thing as “not true” and “not necessary.”  Once you’ve built the habit of looking for truth even where you don’t want to find it outside yourself, you will be ready to look hard at yourself for Truth. 

As always, the team here at AIK is ready to help you if you need it.  

Kenpo Seniors Blog - Truth #3


You may have noticed we’ve spent this month with some lessons about bullying for our younger students. You might also have noticed that bullying doesn’t end when you get out of school. Though it’s (almost) never swirlies and stolen lunch money, some people learn that being aggressive can help them get their way in the adult world just like it did for them as kids. 

Adult bullying contributes to bad performance at work, stress-related illnesses including clinical anxiety, and relationship issues. The bullies are there…but they look a little different:

The Charismatic Bully seems like somebody who wouldn’t have to bully people. She’s surrounded by admirers all the time, and usually looks like she has her stuff together. But still she spends a lot of her words cutting other people down. If you call her on it, she says she’s joking…usually in the context of suggesting you need a better sense of humor. 

The Deceptive Bully might not seem like a bully at all until you remember that bullying is about power. A deceptive bully spreads false stories or tells outright damaging lies. Often, a deceptive bully isn’t in it to hurt you specifically, but to see the drama that unfolds as a result of what his lies stir up. 

The Manipulative Bully could be called a “reverse bully.” A manipulative power takes on an outward appearance of being powerless, and uses that to remain the center of attention or to make people do things for him. Passive-aggressive behavior is the hallmark of the manipulative bully, as is always talking about hardships or asking for help without ever inquiring after your life, or how to return a favor. Your classic “drama queen” is also a species of the manipulative bully. 

The Tantrum Bully doesn’t usually physically assault somebody. If he did that, we’d upgrade his status from “bully” to “felon” and let the courts – or our kenpo – handle it. Physical bullies use a loud voice, threatening posture and standing too close to form a combination of 50% intimidation and 50% emotional discomfort to insist of getting their way. If somebody consistently acts in a way that’s just one or two steps shy of toddler not getting his way, you’re looking at a tantrum bully. 

The Harassment Bully you’ve heard of at work. This is somebody who uses someone else’s gender, race or other personal characteristic as a way to put that person down or otherwise get advantage. Most companies are pretty hard on harassment bullies these days, giving rise to a second species of harassment bully – people who threaten to falsely claim harassment in order to get their way. Both are bullies.


How to handle these bullies depends on the exact situation. If this is somebody you don’t have to spend time with, the solution is simple. Stop spending time with that person. Most adults have at least one bully in their lives they can’t stand being around, but keep being around anyway. This is bad for you. You don’t even have to have a “friend divorce.” Just stop returning calls or suggesting that you get together. 

If you do have to spend time with that person -- family members and co-workers are the most common examples of this situation – things are more complicated. This feels much more like being bullied in school, because you have to be around the bully even if you don’t want to be. Because it’s so much like school bullying, the best response is similar to what you would do at school:

1. Call the bully out on his behavior. Calmly identify the kind of bullying and the specific action that’s out of line. Tell him you will not tolerate it. 

2. Leave the situation, temporarily if necessary. “I’m going to take a quick walk. When I get back we’ll move on with what we were trying to do” does the job pretty well in a work environment. 

3. Bring in reinforcements. As adults, it’s best to handle our problems ourselves but sometimes talking to a mutual boss or mutual friend can help make the person take the issue more seriously. Few adult bullies see themselves as bullies, so it usually takes more than one person for them to make the connection. 


This advice works for all but one kind of bully…

The Boss Bully could be the most frustrating kind of bully because she has authority over you, and you don’t get to choose when you leave. Sometimes a boss bully is literally your boss at work. Other times it’s someone like a landlord or security officer, or even just a customer service representative making the most out of his authority to deny you a refund or special order. There are several things that make a boss bully a special case:

·He has some kind of legal or official authority to do you harm if you don’t continue to accept the bullying

·You have to – at least temporarily – stay inside the bully’s circle of influence

Long-term, there’s only one good way to handle a boss bully: get out.  It’s bad for you health, happiness and finances to stay under the power of a boss bully. Find a different job. Finish the conversation, even if you don’t “win” it. Stop doing business with that company. Do whatever you can to no longer be in that situation. 

This isn’t always practicable in the short-term. You can’t just quit your job without having another one lined up. Some security staff can legally detain you until they want to end the conversation. In such cases, sad as it is to say, it’s best to just acquiesce to the bully’s demands. Fighting usually only makes the bullying worse. Do whatever gets you out of the situation the fastest, then do everything you can to avoid contact until you can make changes that get the bully out of your life forever. 


It’s not as satisfying as unleashing your kenpo, but it’s the best plan. 

Kenpo Seniors Blog - Truth #4 (Assignment)


Belt Promotion is right around the corner. By now you’re polishing your techniques and forms to razor sharpness, and figuring out which of your friends and family members to invite to the test. You’ve thought hard about the Bushido value of Truth, and how it applies to your daily life. It’s time to take all of that polish and thought and turn it into a single expression of your Kenpo and Bushido journeys to date. By your blue stripe test day, you’ll turn the product in for your teachers to read and comment on. 


This is not an academic class, so we don’t have detailed rules about minimum length, formatting, or anything like that. You don’t need a bibliography or refined thesis. Just write something meaningful about “Truth” and what it has meant in both your lifetime journey and your martial arts journey. 

That said, we do have a few basic requirements:

  • Include at least two references to something you’ve read or viewed outside of class.
  • Speak from your heart as much as you speak from your brain.
  • Please spellcheck it, and turn in a typed or printed final draft. 
  • As in all things, do your best. 

We would also challenge you to take whatever you write a step further. No matter how good it is, look at it one more time and find one or two spaces to make it a step better. Not only is this good practice for all techniques and tools in your lifetime toolbox, it’s especially good practice for Truth. It can be hard to admit there’s room for improvement on something you’ve worked hard at – but it’s Truthful to accept that room is always there. 

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, consider these three main themes we’ve seen over and over in our history here in Tucson.

  • A personal essay of your thoughts, growth and experience
  • A historical repot about a specific event or individual
  • Writing about a current event and how Truth could have made the situation better
  • An examination of when Truth conflicts with other values, like safety or manners, and how to resolve that conflict

Whether you use one of these ideas just as we’ve presented them, or use one as springboard for your own concept, or do something wildly different, it’s all good. What matters is that you’ve thought about what you’ll write, then written it well.

Of course, if you have any trouble, you can always reach out to the instructors at AIK. We’re here to help you with this part of your training must as much as we are with the kicking and punching. 

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