There is a scene in the movie, ‘The Patriot’ where Mel Gibson’s character (based on the real life revolution Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox) looks at a rocking chair in the enemy’s office. He is at the beginning of a vital negotiation but instead – he is looking at the rocking chair. Earlier in the movie, he has been working on building a chair and his barn was filled with broken, failed attempts (or, ways not to build a chair).
I remember the first time I built a piece of furniture.

It was a daunting task – the measurements, the angles, the loads, the physical aspect of actually assembling my own chair.

And the failure. The slow irritation at my inability to make a chair…how hard can it be?

But, after numerous failures – I built my own chair. I sat in it, I smiled, I felt accomplishment that buying a chair at a furniture store could not give me. Was I a master chair builder – no. But, I have done something others did not do – I built my own chair.

Years later, and after two generations of Powell dogs had their go at that chair – it is only a scanned photo on my harddrive.

But it stays with me. Using science – physics, mechanics, design and drafting, painstaking measurements, my own mind – I built a chair.

Martial art, to me, is a lot like a chair.

Too many people are happy having some one somewhere build their furniture for them. And slowly, over time, they begin to think only that person can build the chair they would need – never understanding that their back kind of hurts when they sit in that chair that person built. It’s a little too high. The padding is a little off and the arms just aren’t right.

But, hell, a master chair builder made that chair – so it must be right.

Which leads me to the question I most often get, ‘Why do you talk about mechanical concepts so much? Why not just teach a technique.’

Because I want to be free from dogma. I want to be free from teachers. I want to be able to work without a teacher. A guide, yes, I will take a guide. I will take a guide who shows me the way, but let’s me move into that direction.

I want to be free to create.

When we are able to break down martial art concepts into non-metaphysical concepts, we begin to see we are truly capable of creating our own methods, our own concepts.

That’s what keeps us going for years, learning and adjusting, understanding, and developing new methods…and becoming better.

– Matt
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