“The Magic Bullet and A Veneer of Silliness,” by Nev Sagiba

“The proven and surviving real life masters of their craft accepted apprentices. You qualified by proving yourself, live or die, not random guesses of multiple choice questions.”

Before I indulge my diatribe let me qualify it by saying that I first began training 55 years ago. Judo.

After that it was chopping wood, more judo, swimming, weights, cycling, running athletics and anything else that was accessible.

At 14 I was manually cutting sugar cane. At 16 rounding up cows on horseback and after that it was hauling nets, rowing and diving all the daylight hours, interspersed with growing food manually.

It did me good! Each activity taught me much.

In between I continued my other studies. I had discovered I could make better pace by wagging school and cycling to the National Library than listen to people claiming to be teachers boringly repeat what they had already told us over and over for weeks before.

Really, they must think kids are stupid or something. Short attention span my.. foot!
WE GET IT THE FIRST TIME! Thank you very much.

Then that’s trained out of us in case we learn HOW TO THINK, but no, they want us to “learn” what to think so we can become office and cannon fodder for the world’s mismanagers who like to imagine they are “gods.” Just look at the state of the world and there is you answer.

I think the diatribe has already begun.

Anyhow, today (I’m presently in transit.) I went to a gym to enquire about times, fees and equipment.

The lady in attendance was “out of brochures” and asked me to phone or go online! Extraordinary! I was there in person!!

I had to almost beg for a business card or something with those points of reference.

So, imagining some immense mystery, I went online but could not find them. After getting inventive I did but the website, whilst containing lots and lots and lots of WORDS, failed to provide the salient information I was seeking.

So I phoned. Someone said they would “put me through.” A recorded message told me they were sorry. I agree. It also told me to leave a message. I didn’t.

I re researched the website.

This was cutting into MY TIME!

I finally phoned again and explained that I had been to said gym in person, that they were out of brochures and that the website provided everything except the relevant information.

Again, I was “put through.”

This time a young buck went into long details about, this and that and how all the coaches had “Physiology Diplomas” and other weird and wonderful irrelevancies.

I waited patiently. Finally I got a word in edgewise. “How much?

Again more about “Sport physiology.”

“How much?”

“Sixty dollars per hour with a trainer.”

“I don’t require a trainer. I know my needs and the programme I wish to use.”

Anyhow to cut a long story short, one I had persisted with as a study in “human psychology,” success psychology to be specific for my, “Thing Not To Do” notes.

He again went into long lists of “qualifications,” and details I deem to be bs.

Finally, after much prompting. “Oh, you can’t train by yourself. We don’t allow it. You must have a coach.”

I thanked the child and hung up.

A racket, I concluded.

It brings to mind another story of another website, dedicated to, “Regulating Martial Arts,” another farcical concept designed aquire government grants and provide a dole for some office “workers.” One paragraph in their “strict regulations” they were going to enforce remotely with forms. It said, “As a martial arts instructor you should never speak harshly to your students because it may upset them and cause psychological harm..”

When I read that, the only reason I did not fall out of my chair in stitches was because of many years of “martial arts” training. My training came to the fore and I managed to control the imminent fall. Whew! “Martial” indeed.

Respect is a given in true Budo. So is scolding. How else are you going to prepare someone from a marital or a street savage situation where truly harsh words are used in conjunction with sharp objects.

But the author of this tome of regulations “had several diplomas.” Years earlier, when he attended my dojo he could not manage more than 3 abdominal crunches in the warm-up and rudely paused while we continued to warm up to give us a long speech on how our abdominal development was “abnormal” since we managed all of 20. He got that from a book, he claimed. That day I repeated and we all crunched the abs 100 times while the man stood talking and being ignored some more.

In my 35 plus career as a trainer, 27 of those instructing Aikido, I’ve had 4 accidents, 3 insurance claim incidents. One was a harmless fall from a horse. The other three happened when I left the dojo to pee early in my career and boys being boys two dunderheads decided to compete while the cat was away. Same two fools on two different occasions. Same incident, different side of the body. One guy tried to “attack with aikido” whatever that means and the other guy unleashed a fast snap kick breaking the other guys ribs. Not having learnt anything from this, they tried it on the other side. Following the second compensation claim the claimant stopped training but for years would fake a limp every time we met in the street. But only after he saw me coming which was considerably after I had noticed him.

The other incident a very petite novice, a lady who paid attention dislocated an attending karateka’s arm who disbelieved “aikido works.”

After that I stopped drinking tea before class and either crossed my legs or got everyone to meditate while I left briefly to do my business.

Now, with a little more experience I have absolutely trustworthy seniors who exercise commonsense and the tradition of training safely and having fun, a request of O’Sensei, is being honoured.

And then there was the canvasser from a door knocking “karottee school” who could “guarantee” me, “a black belt in six months” and who then set about selling me a plan for thousands of dollars committing me to a debt collector in advance!

That was simply resolved. I invited him into the dojo which is my chairless lounge room.

“Son, please come in. Give me your best shots. Here’s a disclaimer. Sign it. If you can take me down I’ll join your school. And don’t worry, you’ll be looked after. I will call the ambulance for you to make sure you’ll be fine.”

He left fast, after turning whiter that his already pale skin!

The only coaches I respect and trust with my body are those who’ve done it and IN FACT KNOW, FROM DIRECT EXPERIENCE, WHAT IT ENTAILS. Theories and concepts are great but not with my body, thank you very much.

Besides most of these “highly educated” fools display a very light surface understanding of how either body or the mind works when compared to the field experienced, who often have no equivalent certification. I wonder why this may be?

Millions of years of super active cave dweller ancestors had no, “diplomas, “certification,” or “highly trained coaches,” or any other veneer of abject silliness.

The proven and surviving real life masters of their craft accepted apprentices. You qualified by proving yourself, live or die, not random guesses of multiple choice questions.

They hunted, gathered, lived or died TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR ACTIONS. And fortunately for you earned their fun in the sack. And you are now here.

Sadly, being here, now often means we must suffer “educated” idiots among us in an obvious DECLINE IN EVOLUTION.

People. Education is good. Commonsense is better. Theories are great. Facts are all there is. Please learn to distinguish between veneers of silliness and real life.

COMMON SENSE may be becoming rare.

My advice is this EXERCISE IT. DON’T LET IT DIE.

Otherwise we as a species are already extinct.

The Magic Bullet

Have we as a species really started losing the plot or something?

We want to imagine that if you take “the right pill” it’s going to do it all for us. No need to exercise common sense, diet, physical activity and rest. Just pop a pill. Or press a button and work is going to be done for us. Or believe in a mystical idea of “ki” and it will fight for us. Or “the techniques” are going to work all of the time just because we have an opinion about them.

Are people for real?

Comments such as this, “I got roughed up and Aikido doesn’t work.” On enquiry the person had been practicing for, “a few weeks,” was an office “worker,” and thought, “a technique” was going to do it all. And he is still alive with no fractures, so the “attack” was nothing much anyhow.

I think we have become too self congratulatory about things that don’t matter, have too many infantile desires for undeserved approbation, accolades and smiley stamps without PUTTING IN THE WORK!

Our ancestors survived millions of years of near impossible attrition so we could, after 4.6 billion years arrive at the superlative state where:
We think we are “working” because we shuffle bits of paper and talk a lot in between cups of coffee.
We stopped walking and like cripples favour an air polluting machine on wheels to go to the corner shop.
We have “labor saving devices” which mostly waste time and energy.
We get others to do the fighting for us and the killing of animals so we can go to the supermarket and buy it packaged.
We press buttons, lots of them. So much so we are mutating into RSI riddled creatures.
We have learned to be specialists in making excuses about nearly everything.

The list is longer and painful.

Do you really think this stupidity constitutes life?

We haven’t really lost our ki-no-musubi, our empathy with ourselves, life, others and reality. We merely let it fall asleep through lack of use. It can be revived with use. The more natural skills you activate, the more this common sense attribute will come alive.

There are no “quick fixes” or intellectual or verbose avoidance mechanisms that will provide REAL SKILL. You must DO THE WORK repeatedly and with attention, with BODY and MIND UNITED until you begin to acquire REAL SKILL.

The refinement of skill never ends.

The “magic bullet” does not exist. The secret resides in how you use your initiative with the tools at hand in the face of necessity.

From that you can build anything!

Nev Sagiba


  1. I have nursing students who now want to be talked to nicely all the time by their preceptors – they quit very early into their career because their patients don’t follow that rule.

    I’ve told a few of them, “No one likes the drill instructor. But he does cause far less stress than War. If you’re not prepared, you won’t function.”

  2. John, you nailed it!

  3. “As a martial arts instructor you should never speak harshly to your students because it may upset them and cause psychological harm..”

    I saw this today right after your post and laughed myself silly…but really this is sad. I don’t want to be teaching any art for this office. I thought it related well even if it is about a Yoga teacher.


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