A number of years ago, I used to take karate classes. I don’t anymore, but I don’t think I would have lasted very long in that environment anyway. It was very stratified, and the instructors demanded obedience from the students. You do as you’re told, and you do not question Sensei. Obviously this didn’t sit well with me, because I question everything and everybody. If you say something that sets off my BS detector, I’m calling you on it, and I don’t care who you are.
That is the point of my speech. Question everything, and keep questioning until you get a satisfactory answer. Be suspicious of people who discourage questions or who demand blind obedience.
You’ve probably seen demonstrations of board breaking on television, and this is something that was done in our dojo at the higher levels. I’m going to demonstrate something similar – ripping a phone book in half. I’m going to do this in front of you tonight, and then I’m going to explain exactly how it’s done. The magic will be gone, but you will leave this meeting tonight more knowledgeable than you were before. I won’t use an entire phone book, because I’m not that strong. I’m going to rip only 250-300 pages.
I’m not going to tear this phone book in the usual way – like this [tear single page] – that’s too easy; I’m going to grab it and pull it pull it apart from side to side.
Martial Arts people like to make a big production out of demonstrations. The instructor will stand in front of the class, generally in some karate stance, like this [do a shiko dachi stance]. Hold the phone book up toward the heavens, and then summon the inner tiger of past karate masters. He may also tell the students that he is trying to channel and focus his chi. This is a lot of nonsense… now, don’t misunderstand me — I’m not suggesting that chi doesn’t exist: it may exist, perhaps in the field of acupuncture. I’m just saying that in this arena, the karate dojo, channeling and focusing one’s chi is just an act.
The instructor will take his time, and he focuses the power on the phone book. There is no warning – when the proper alignment has occurred, then the book will rip. [rip phone book]
This may look impressive, since I’ve just pulled apart a phone book, but it really isn’t. I haven’t channeled the inner tiger of some past karate master; I haven’t summoned to focused any chi. As hard as it is to believe, I actually don’t have any extraordinary powers.
And now, I will show you how this trick is done, and you will all be supremely disappointed — which is exactly what I want, because I want you to develop your critical thinking skills, and not take anything at face value.
This trick is closely related to another karate trick: board breaking [show picture]. Take a look at this board-breaking demonstration. There’s something here that gives it away, and it’s something that’s never mentioned. Look closely at the boards themselves, and you will see spacers between them. Each board is separated by a half an inch or so. This is what makes the trick work. When the boards are spaced out, you need only enough strength to break one board. Then your hand will slice through a bit of air, and break the next board. You aren’t really breaking ten boards at once (although it appears that way, because it’s done so quickly), you are actually breaking one board, ten times.
The same principle is used with the phone book. As the karate master is holding the book up to the heavens, and moving his hands around trying to capture the ethereal energy, he is actually preparing the phone book. The posturing and histrionics are a deliberate distraction, so you won’t notice what he’s really doing.
This is what’s really happening. He grasps the phone book loosely, and then bends it into a U shape, like this. Then he grasps it very firmly, and bends it back. Watch what happens. There is a gap in the pages. The section in the middle bulges out a little bit. Just like the boards, the pages are separated by air. The trick is to get rid of all of the bunching, so that each page has a bit of air on either side of it. That’s why it takes so long to get started – you just go back and forth, until everything looks even. Then you put both thumbs at the base, push inward and pull to the sides [rip phone book]
If someone claims to have special abilities or has a line of communication to mystical forces, do not take what they say at face value. Chances are, there is a simple physical explanation for what they are accomplishing, but it is not in their best interest to tell you what that might be.
You are going to meet a lot of these charlatans, so don’t be fooled by their claims of mysterious or mystical powers. Question everything you see, because the greatest power of all comes with knowledge.