Dissecting a Cloud

No words, saved up thoughts
Can answer true –
Only tiptoe around
The most obvious truth
Yet never set foot on that ground –
Dissecting a cloud
And finding nothing in his hands
The scholar despairs
Yet it is self-evident I stood the sternest test
Without the need for thoughts, or words
Or rather they took their places as servants
To greater cause
Before the event they fell over each other
To show me the way
And so I erred and stumbled
Or worried about stumbling and so fell
Until the moment came for the test
And eyes fixed ahead, thoughts had no choice
But to follow the narrow avenue offered them
And under sweat and toil a thoughtless place was born
A simple switch of focus and hysteria became calm
Instinct took over and honesty –
Without compromise for bending truths
Or looking one’s best
Showed them all what I could do, and cannot
And being the best that I could be
Who would not be happy with that?
When the road unplanned offers up such un-guessed at wonders
Such gifts not wrought by my hands
And you few who understand these words
Can share the joke
That I have no other way to tell this story
But with words!
So off with you, no more philosophies
And see this place for yourself



My exploration of Zen and the Martial Arts helps me to understand myself and my place in the universe. I could travel across the world without finding the answers I have found staying in one room, devoted to one punch or kick, one sword cut or koan. These answers do not sit still however, every day I must find them anew. Once I regarded this as a curse that the final answer of enlightenment would one day cure. But now I realize what a gift the endlessly enquiring mind really is, and that the real curse would be having no more questions to answer. My enlightenment has been realizing I have no choice but to continue asking.

The metronome

Like a metronome the mind taps its beat,
Far above the range of our eyes to see,
Until we try to track it, change it-
Then our training begins.


The Martial Artist

I have always thought that a Martial Artist must embody both the Martial, combative elements of his style, and also the Artistic side.

We learn Martial discipline by standing on the line with our fellow students, by showing our Sensei and fellow travelers of ‘the Way’ proper respect and care-when they put their bodies on the line to partner us, and by turning up on time to the Dojo. We also put in the hard physical work required during training sessions, and the ‘donkey work’ – practicing our basic techniques at home, so that when we return to our Sensei we have improved.

The Artistic side of Martial Arts is one that many students find strange to begin with. Students often think they are here simply to learn to defend themselves, or to get fitter. But Martial Arts is also a metaphor for our own life, as any experienced student will know, and progress in the Dojo often mirrors progress out in the world.

The most obvious Artistic side of Martial Arts is found in the katas we display, and the interpretation we add to our performance. Though we have not written these katas, we must learn them intimately, and make them our own. We betray our innermost being in our every action, and this too is something that Martial Arts encourages.

Though the Artistic and Martial sides of Martial Arts may seem completely different, with some students comfortable with one but not the other, for an experienced student they come together, until at last they are the same thing. This is when we spontaneously create good Martial Arts solutions to combative problems, or follow our own impulses to create new katas. Bringing Martial and Artistic ability together requires a change in the mind, and this enlightenment is the link that once found, allows a continual process of self-improvement and exploration, as our perspective on Martial Arts and on life itself evolves. This process is what changes the student forever.

Self-Defence for the Mind

Over the last 9 months – 6 to write, 3 to edit – I’ve been writing my first self-help book. It is with a sigh of relief that I can announce it is finally complete. I say complete; in reality there will be numerous changes at the behest of friends and family that are currently reading it, but it is high time I blogged about it.

Self-Defence for the Mind is a book based on the understanding I have gained from my experience in the Martial Arts and my subsequent pursuit of Zen philosophy. When I was taught Zen it wasn’t as an esoteric philosophy or an incomprehensible state, but a set of tools for dealing with the various problems life can throw our way. No insight I have gained since has persuaded me there is a better approach. With this in mind I set out to write a book that would teach these skills in a way that was straight forward and practical. I set out to show the reader how to defend his mind as effectively as any Martial Artist can defend his body.

There are other books that have attempted something similar, through various means. On the whole I have found them to be largely incomprehensible, albeit genuine, or so watered down they were useless. It will be up to my readers, may they be many :), to decide if I have been more successful.

Now that I have a readable first draft in place, and whilst I seek representation, I would very much welcome feedback. In the first part what do you think of the name and selling point of the book as described? All comments welcome.

Secondly, I intend to  post some extracts here but to make this easier, it would be very useful to hear what you – my readers and fellow bloggers – would like to read about. There are many subjects to choose between:

1. Stress: finding your balance and riding the wave
2. Happiness: self-worth in your own hands
3. Emotions: mastering the mind-storm
4. New Eyes: life without labels
5. Living in a bubble: coexistence and the centre of your universe
6. Spontaneous Mind: handling problems as they come up
7. Images in the Mirror: the science and art of self-knowledge
8. Self Growth: setting a course for change
9. Conclusions: building strong pillars
10. The Positivity Bank: great inputs to keep you going and keep you growing

Let me know what chapter sounds most interesting and I will post accordingly. Votes by comment below. I will of course reciprocate by commenting diligently on contributors blogs. Many thanks!


Movement; the pen; the sword
Is there any difference?
A fusion beyond knowledge,
Breath in and step
As if a hand had pushed
At precisely the right moment,
As if you were always meant
To take this action;
A destiny uncovered
By your own sweat and tears
And the hand that pushes…

The Sword

There are many parts of a life,
That make up the whole,
And many components of a man
That forge his character.
Chill winds and winter snow,
Or sun and sea,
Each can test a man and temper his steel,
The mix of the iron the bough
That breaks or bends,
In the storm of his making

I am completely overwhelmed to have won the perfect poet award for week 48. More than anything it wonderful to be read and have so many great comments. Here’s to all you readers and writers out there, and all the inspiration you pass around, like torches burning in the depths of night.

I would like to nominate: Braga


A thin umbra of light,

All beyond is darkness, irrelevance,

There is only the now,

The fist, the blood and the pain…

And the joy, the unbearable, unbreakable joy

Of living,

In pure concentration,

This poem –

All that’s left behind

Empty Hand

The eyes just see,
the brain just thinks,
of the mind there is no trace;
a thought that comes and goes,
in this space
that holds all things,
in the palm of an empty hand.



In any aspect of life, playtime is vital. It is seriously important that we all chill out!

Think about a baby…They start with so little. They can’t walk, talk, or fend for themselves in any way. And yet they learn at a frenetic rate. There is much said about the elasticity of young brains and how this is lost as we grow up. Bullshit.

They learn quickly because they are not afraid to make mistakes. They laugh at mistakes. They celebrate them for what they are – another step closer to getting things right. And what is ‘right’ anyway? Just an egoic label arbitrary assigned by society.

To get good at anything, be that learning to speak, writing, sports, Martial Arts, dancing, anything… we have to play. We have to create for ourselves a zone where we can just try things out. A space free from fear of failure to try different permutations and see what works and what doesn’t. This is especially important in the creative arts. Here we adopt the rule of completely detaching judgment of what we are doing until we are at a point where we can reflect and review.  Then and only then is it time to let the control freak have their say. In this Blog, whether it is poetry, Haikus or longer articles I make great effort to write quickly and without too much self-consciousness. If my posts are not always as polished as they should be then that is a consequence of the playful spirit in which I write. And as C-C Lester writes in her brilliant post ‘The Author, The Journalist and the Blogger’, that is what blogging is all about – experimentation. Experimentation and play.

(C) Copyright Mark B Williams 2014
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