In a world that is filled with paradoxes that we struggle to ignore, the practice of Flowing Dragon Swords gives us a mirror we can face, to learn about the paradoxes in ourselves; and through this gentle practice, facing the paradoxes in our own lives, we can better face the paradoxes in the world with more compassion and tolerance. Flowing Dragon Swords truly turns the sword into the plowshare.
When I started the practice of Flowing Dragon Swords in January 2005, I had no idea how I would change. As an Interfaith Minister, and life long heart-pilgrim, I thought I was open to learning about myself, and could anticipate the dark and light places. Flowing Dragon Swords, and the deepening of my game and practice has taken my exploration to profound levels I never knew before. I have learned things about myself, and myself in the world, in ways that I don’t believe I could have learned in any other practice.
Immediately, I understood the concept of connection in the game, but I had no idea how deep the possibilities were. I found myself putting into practice the art of the game in my everyday life. How do I meet people in the world, not just those I care about and want to be with, but people I don’t know, or don’t particularly like? I found myself making deeper more intentional eye contact with more people, and the response has been amazing. Often, without any verbal prompting, people in the store will greet me warmly and genuinely; conversations seem deeper; my attention to and with people in every context seems more connected, stronger. I find myself not as easily distracted when engaged with someone – at a gathering, in the store, on the street, at a restaurant, or in my home.
The mirror that is before me with each game I play has helped me to uncover “Dragons” with more gentleness, compassion and grace. (Dragons are parts of my ego, which limit my realizing the true connection to myself, others and the Divine). Because in the game there is no winning and losing, “death” is of who I am, into who I can become. By embracing these Dragons, and embracing the death of myself as disconnected, space is created for the Truth of connection, the Truth of Oneness to be revealed again and again. Through the movement of the game, I can feel myself re-membering me – the physical me, the emotional me, and the spiritual me. I re-member through the physical movement– thus restoring the connection, which in turn: restores joy, curiosity, Love, openness, strength, and the pure knowledge of the fact that we are not separate at all.
In my work, as a hospice Chaplain, I experience an intensity of the practice of Flowing Dragon Swords, everyday. Meeting each person wherever they are, emotionally and spiritually, without agenda is vital to end-of-life spiritual work and to the practice of Flowing Dragon Swords – both involve; listening/speaking, leading/following, opening & reaching. And this “meeting of the other”, is connecting deeply, while balancing the honor, integrity; reverence, and respect, of the continual reach for “I-Thou.”
Even though my practice of Flowing Dragons Swords has not been a long time, not nearly as long as my dear friend, teacher and founder, Richard Squeri, Jr., I am committed to continuing this as a vital spiritual practice for myself while helping to teach others to discover this for themselves. I believe Flowing Dragon Swords can and will change the world. In a way it already has – it has changed my world. If, as Krishnamurti says “You are the whole world” then each one of usis -the whole World, and we can meet each other, connect and then one day people of all varieties will play this game and realize they aren’t so different after all.
by Rev. Karuna Gerstein, CFDSI
Interfaith Minister, Spiritual Director,
Dream worker, Chaplain,
Assist. FDS Instructor /Certified Flowing Dragon Sword Instructor
Crossing Swords with Richard Squeri
I was 16 the first time I crossed swords with Richard. I remember the day well because it was one of the first few times that I realized that I could follow my own path. It’s strange how connecting with another soul brought that about, let me explain. I come from a rough background, so it was no surprise that I turned out as a bit of a delinquent. I had pretty much shaped myself into a tough guy who was too cool for just about anything positive. In reality I was riddled with fear and anger, using drugs and alcohol addictively.
Richard was a teacher and counselor at a “druggie” alternative school that I had landed myself in. I have always had an interest in Martial Arts so Richard and I had something to talk about. I remember discussing the concept of “Chi” or “Ki”. It was sometime shortly after that that Richard brought out his swords.
Now, you have to realize that it only takes a few minutes of talking with Richard to know that he is good people. I’ve had people who have met him briefly ask me if he was for real or if he was just a master of first impressions (I assure them he is like that all the time). But, when Richard and I crossed swords I could absolutely feel the positive energy and genuine goodness flowing, the kicker being that I couldn’t immediately tell if it was coming only from him or flowing from me as well. It was undeniably beautiful.
Richard and I have played many times since then, our game has evolved nicely. He counters my speed and aggression with gentle altruism and constantly forces me to stay within the flow. It’s quite refreshing. But enough about Richard.
I share the game with many of “my” people. In the movie “The Bronx Tale”, one of the main characters explains a test he gives all of his potential girlfriends. He opens the car door for them and then observes if they reach over to unlock his door. I like to cross swords.
It is very intimate. Every individual has their own energy, but more importantly, every pair has its own combination or chemistry. It can be surprisingly unpredictable.
I have never had a bad experience crossing swords, even with people I had concerns with. I’ve had people who were initially very tense and stiff (and probably quite skeptical), completely give themselves to the flow with only a few games under their belt. You can literally watch the stress melt from their faces. As they begin to shake off the tension and pre-occupation of their day you can see them begin to trust their instincts more. They begin to find their feet or forget them (I’m not sure which it is), regardless their movement becomes more graceful. That is an invigorating sensation! I’m no doctor, but I’m fairly certain this is creating new neurological pathways within the brain and central nervous system. I have no doubt that nurturing focus, grace, and an empty state of mind is beneficial on many levels.
Personally, it has had life changing effects.
Chas – Padawan to Richard Squeri, Jedi master
Flowing Dragon Swords; the LaRegina report
When my good friend Richard Squeri, Jr., introduced me to the Flowing Dragon Swords game I embraced it with enthusiasm immediately. Three things preceded the experience that made it possible for me to love it so quickly.
First, Richard and I have known each other for about three decades, during which time we have worked together in several ways; on a theatrical level as members of the Spontaneous Theater Company, as compatriots in the realm of the martial arts, and also working with kids, sharing our mutual love of the art of calligraphy and other things.
This love of calligraphy is my second example. Though I am a professional western calligrapher, I can see the correlation between it and Chinese calligraphy and martial arts.
Thirdly, as a student of t’ai chi ch’uan (I am a member of the Cheng Man Ch’ing lineage,) and in particular, a student of the sword form, I already had practice with the sword.
Therefore, when Richard brought the game to me, I was open and ready to learn.
What amazes me as much as anything is that one does not need all this preparation to appreciate and benefit from the game. I have watched Richard introduce it to people so beautifully that they accept it without trepidation and begin learning and enjoying it in no time.
My favorite memory is of Richard working with a bunch of young people on the Branford Green here in Connecticut. Both of us were there demonstrating the Flowing Dragon Swords game as part of a festival. Richard and I played first to entice onlookers to give it a try. (As I am a female, it was helpful for me to be working with him because it made it less intimidating for other women.)
The young people that gathered around were dressed in leather jackets, metal accessories, various body piercing, and other signals that identified them as like-minded friends. My sense is that they were broadcasting their intention to appear powerful.
I believe that their idea of power was to be “tough.” Certainly none of them wanted to be humiliated by playing a silly game such as this. Yet Richard somehow managed to get one of them to play. The young man began by being as tough as he could; by being aggressive and uncooperative.
I watched Richard turn this person’s whole attitude around in short order. This young man became tamed, so to speak, and softened and even wound up having fun. His new found ability to exert self-control was empowering.
The combination of qualities that Richard employed in this situation included his great knowledge and experience of the game, patience, confidence, and genuine sincerity. He was relaxed, cheerful and encouraging.
Flowing Dragon Swords is a game that takes one’s full concentration. It requires skill, spontaneous decision making, respect for other, sensitivity, letting go of tension and ego, and creative action. The more awareness one brings to it, the better it gets. It has a certain intimacy to it because of how tuned in you must be to your partner. Yet it also commands a kind of respect for your partner that is due in part to the fact that it may be a game but it is also fencing, which means that if you are not fully alert to what is happening, you just might get “killed.”
There does not seem to be a limit to the depth of this game; it has this in common with other art forms. One grows by playing it and this is true on many levels. It is physical, mental and spiritual. It inspires philosophical thinking and heartfelt discussion. It is a way to practice generosity. It teaches one about oneself and about others. Though a martial art, it is a way to practice Peace.
Student of Tai Chi
The multidimensional impact of Flowing Dragon Swords on my being has been profound. Each engagement offers me an expanded landscape of heart felt expression. Each engagement challenges my ability to stay in consort with myself and my lovely opponent / teacher. Each engagement offers me an opportunity to increase my tolerance for joy. I am more loving as a result of this game, more willing and more compassionate…
…Flowing Dragon Swords is a healing tool brought forth at a time when true connection is becoming an endangered human experience. This one act of reconnecting to self and the other would not only heal us all, but save our beautiful planet. It is a worthy endeavor.
REGARDING RICHARD SQUERI’S SWORD GAME
I cannot remember when I was first introduced to “the game”. I think it was around 1998 but it is hard to be exact because I believe the game is always there, waiting to be played.
Just last week, as I was preparing to conduct my Aikido class at The Educational Center for the Arts (ECA),I could feel a pervasive energy, certainly related to the result of the Presidential election. The vibe of fear and destruction was so prevalent, I wanted to do something that in no way could be misunderstood by my teenage students as “kick ass”.
Often young people and beginners in general look at the dynamic authority of Aikido and confuse it with “victorious battle” or “defeating an enemy”. These observations change over time, but given the state of the world I decided the best lesson was one that looked at “life” and “death” with equal value and no fear. Normally I prefer that my students’ first introduction to “the game” be presented by Richard Squeri (my teacher) in person, but given the situation I decided to undertake it myself, though I had laryngitis. I asked the students for their patience with regard to the low volume of my voice and began explaining the game. I noticed the pain-stricken face of one young girl. I did my best to describe the mythology and guidelines of the game, paying particular attention to the depiction of “dragons” as ego. I soon noticed a change in the young girl’s demeanor, her posture straightening and eyes widening as I continued my explanation.
I then began a series of games with my students, reminding those watching that the players needed the energy provided by the spectators. I went around the circle of students, enjoying how unique each person feels through the wood of the Bokken. I then had the students separate into four groups of three. As I moved from group to group, watching and occasionally playing, I could feel vitality, youth and joy. This seems to be a consistent reaction when the game is introduced at the right time. The hour flew by and I thanked my students with a bow, watching as they bounded out of class, giddy with teenage energy.
I was collecting the wooden swords when I saw the young girl approaching. I turned to greet her and she expressed her admiration for “the game”, asking if we could continue playing. Since her bus wouldn’t arrive for another forty-five minutes, I agreed and we began another game. She played with impressive flow and relaxation, but also in perpetual retreat as though she were begin attacked from all sides and powerless to change that condition. After studying her game for a while, I decided to ask her what was wrong. She explained her sadness, the loss of her older friends who would graduate soon, and how she would be left alone. I listened carefully, doing my best to offer some words of comfort and encouragement. Time passed and she had to catch her bus, but she agreed to play again after next class.
The following Monday, I quickly put the mats away so the young girl and I could get to our game. As we began to play, I could see she was worse than before; her movements more sluggish, her energy more self-conscious. We played a bit longer and did a few other types of sword practice before initiating conversation. She revealed to me that since we last played an acquaintance of hers had committed suicide, and that she was especially upset about the fact that it happened when she was “ready to give up”. This remark alerted me that the situation was more complicated than I had initially thought. I told her some of my own stories dealing with suicide, particularly about my friend Eddie who hung himself a year and a half ago and how I had to analyze, through time and reflection, the complexity of that situation. After we talked some more, I felt confident that she wasn’t in danger of her hurting herself. She promised to speak to the school counselor “first thing tomorrow”, and I called the school administrator to let him know she would be coming. He told me he would call her in as soon as her bus arrived and arrange a meeting with the school councilor. After hanging up the phone, I wondered what would happen tomorrow, and if we would play our game again on Wednesday. I prepared myself for a long forty-eight hours.
Around one o’clock the next day I realized I had missed a phone call. I checked the message and discovered it was from the counselor at ECA, leaving me shaken that I’d missed the call. I called back at the exact moment the young girl was meeting with the counselor. The counselor asked for details of my conversation with the girl. We then hung up in order for the counselor to continue her interview with the girl.
I immediately felt like I had betrayed the girl’s confidence. As a teacher of young people there is an obligation to “report” any information that might suggest suicidal feelings. The only way I can explain why I felt badly, is this: by playing “the game” we had shared a mutual vulnerability, which allowed her the comfort to tell me her feelings. And even though my first priority has to be a student’s safety, I felt that in achieving that priority, I lost my footing with my student. What had been level now felt lopsided. I don’t claim to have a better method to deal with circumstances like these, but I still felt badly. The rest of the day was a bit murky until my evening Aikido class, where for a while I regained the present moment.
The following day, I was still lost in these thoughts. As I tied the front knot of my Hakama, I wondered what state the young girl would be in when she arrived. Sighing as I closed my locker, I began setting up the mats. As usual, several of my students helped bring the mats into the arts hall. The young girl was there, but would make no eye contact with me. I decided to respect her space. After warming up the class, I conducted a lesson on tactile sensitivity, using forearm contact to measure our partner’s intentions. We studied horizontal and vertical lines and curves, and the relationship between our own centers and our partners’. The hour flew by and it was time to go. I watched the young girl quickly rush to put on her shoes and collect her belongings. Still no eye contact, but I approached her anyway.
“Would you like to play swords today?” I asked. She replied with a soft “No.” and continued collecting her things. I returned to folding up the mats, trying to hide my own disappointment.
I thought at length in the locker room, wondering what I could have done differently. I sighed, slung my bag over my shoulders and made my way downstairs to the front of the building. To my surprise the young girl was sitting on the little wall beside the front entrance. I stepped out and asked if I could join her. She shrugged indifferently, and in that moment I decided to speak to her with as much sincerity as I could, “person to person” as oppose to “teacher to student”.
“I want to apologize for what happened yesterday,” I said. I felt in that moment it was less important to explain the adult reasons behind yesterday’s inquiry, and more important that she know that I respected how she was feeling now. “I didn’t know it would happen the way it did. I just called ahead to let them know you were coming.”She seemed to let her guard down a little by giving me brief moments of eye contact. I hope you’ll play swords on Monday. I’ll be around if you still want to.” She nodded her affirmation. I said good-bye and left.
The following Monday the young girl stayed after class to play swords. She did the same on Wednesday. Her energy is much better in her swordplay, class practices and her attitude. She has been very conversational, telling me all about her musical preferences and her recent experiences in the marching band.
David Lasala –
Martial Artist & Instructor
Swordplay, in the way master teacher Richard Squeri presents it, is a language of the soul. It provides a direct route to what my heart wants to reveal to me. Facing an opponent with the swords brings me an awareness of my deep spiritual and emotional body. I’ve had the immense pleasure of “playing swords” with Richard Squeri on several occasions, and experienced surprisingly different results with each encounter. I’ve also played swords with my life partner of thirty-two years. It is difficult to describe how profound this has been for me. It was a soul-to-soul, heart-to-heart conversation. In this modern era, we live in our heads. We talk from our heads, we move from our heads, we create from our heads. We spend little time feeling the animal of our bodies and tapping into the profound wisdom they contain. Never in human history has there been such a need for all of us to connect with one another in deep understanding and love. The swordplay as created by Richard gives us an opportunity to practice this connection on a visceral level, in a safe place. It provides an elegant way to truly experience our enlightened body wisdom as we connect deeply with one another. Practicing this dance over time teaches us to tune in to the body, mind, and Spirit while we remain engaged with another human being.
As I put away my sword and ease into the rest of my day, I find that this remarkable game transforms all my encounters in a positive way.
Uncommon Wisdom for Unconventional Times
Changing the World One Broadcast At A Time
New Dimensions World Broadcasting