From “Pathways,” written by Dr. Chris Dewey

I was at the United State Judo Association Coaching Symposium last month and we had a truly talented instructor there who is also a stand up comedian and a magician. So between laughing myself senseless and being amazed by his conjuring abilities, I was touched by some pretty profound messages. Hidden within the comedy and the magic were some rather deep lessons about compassion, connection and giving.

Before I get too deeply into this article, it is probably best that I define how I will use the word magic here. I am not talking about some supernatural non-explainable phenomenon. I am talking about our inability to see what is right before us. We only ever see what we want to see, which is the essence of magic tricks. Our eyes delude us and magic happens. Understand the trick and it is easy to “perform”, but it doesn’t happen until I believe it can. Interesting point.

Much is the same with martial arts: It does not happen until I believe it can. I like to use Judo as an example because it is so deep in me. I watch beginners struggle with Judo, trying to make it happen and they force weak positions, create rigid actions and generally lack anything that might be described as grace or elegance. That’s not to say I am any different. But occasionally, we let go and the Judo happens….as if by magic.

When I see it for what it is, as opposed to what I think I want to see, something novel happens. Something unexpected, something Judo. The same is true of teaching or any other endeavor for that matter. Until I believe in something, there is nothing out there that can happen for me. Life can come and go, flowers can open and close, but there will be no magic in it.

It so happens that Mark Tripp (our comedian) is also a children’s teacher. He teaches science and he teaches martial arts (Judo and Ju Jitsu) specifically), and I have to tell you, I have watched his classes almost spellbound. What he does, people call “gifted” or “talented”, and I find myself in the same vein as I watch and wonder: “How does he do that?” But then as the tears are rolling down my face and my sides are aching from his comedy act I am suddenly hit by his sense of caring. He does what he does: Teach kids science, teach kids martial arts, teach adults to take themselves less seriously, shows kids of all ages the magic of life...because he cares. It’s that simple, that profound and that easy. Because he cares, he creates bonds of connection around him and those bonds of connection allow the magic to happen.

The magic always happens right in front of our eyes and yet we don’t see it. Martial arts changes our lives right in front of us, and yet we don’t see it until years later. Martial arts works its magic in little ways that we don’t see on a daily basis, but if we believe in the process of change we look back in wonder, years later and are grateful for the gift of learning and the gift of understanding and the gift of change.

When a child does something and you can see in her eyes that she didn’t think that it was possible until it happened, you know that the magic is happening. When a young man lays to rest a ghost because he sees in himself something better than he was, you know the magic is happening. Martial arts are a physical journey, a mental journey and a magical journey. Because it works at so many levels at the same time, the opening of a “physical” window is often associated with opening a window in the heart.

When a student lets go of the strength he has relied upon to make his techniques work, he may, in the same moment let go of years of stress. When a young lady lets go of self-doubt and throws a man much bigger than herself in a seemingly effortless move, it is possible in that same moment to see that her limitations in life are only the ones that she has placed there. These, for me, are moments of magic. These are the moments I live for.

I can show you the tricks. I can perform the trick, but until you believe in the magic it cannot happen. For your gift this past month Mark, I cannot thank you enough.

The magic cannot happen until you believe it can. - Mark Tripp

Scientist leaves his mark on students


Mark Tripp describes a crime scene investigation technique during the "Crime Scene Science" assembly held at Judd Elementary School in North Brunswick on Friday. NORTH BRUNSWICK - Mark Tripp had a student dip her finger into pencil shavings. He pressed her thumb onto a white latex balloon, and then inflated it for everyone to see. "Look how clear that is," he said to the group of preschoolers through second graders in attendance.
As part of the "Crime Scene Science" assembly held by the Mobile Education representative at Judd Elementary School on Friday, Tripp spoke about how fingerprints are detected during investigations. The former high school physics and chemistry teacher said that in 500 A.D., the Chinese discovered that no two fingerprints are alike. He said the rest of the world caught on much later, with the first crime in London being solved by a fingerprint in which the crime never happened and the detective never lived - he was referring to Sherlock Holmes.
Tripp demonstrated the difficulty of finding fingerprints by having one student choose a tile letter from a felt bag and having another student use a magnifying glass to figure out where the print was left. Although the student couldn't figure out where the marking was, Tripp used an ultraviolet light to show a message saying "pick me" written on one of the tiles; he used sun block, which is visible in UV light.
"Interestingly enough,we are using light a lot now to find things we wouldn't normally find," he said.
Tripp also showed the students a chemical containing little crystals that have holes like a sponge. He said that when a liquid is added, those crystals swell, forming a puttylike casting. He said that in forensics, the substance can be used to lift fingerprints or tracks.
"The purpose of forensic science is not to put people in jail, but the purpose of forensic science is to keep people out of jail," Tripp said. "We've got to be careful. We can find that print, but we've got to make sure [it's correct]."
In addition, Tripp said that "chemistry is important in finding things that we don't know what it is." In one experiment, he wrote on a girl's shirt with magic disappearing ink - down her sleeves, on the front of the shirt and then on the back. He explained that some chemicals disappear in the presence of another chemical, which is called a chemical indicator. He said the ink would stay blue until it comes in contact with carbon dioxide, which is in the air.

Another experiment to demonstrate chemical indication used a jar of clear liquid. Phenolphthalein, which was the main component of Ex-Lax until 1998, turns purple in the presence of a base such as ammonia. Starch, when added to iodine, turns blue. Vitamin C plus two drops of sugar will turn the blue liquid clear again.
"Chemicals help us make something unknown, known," he said.
After the experiments were concluded, Tripp challenged the students to find elements of chemistry at home. He said powder or syrup used to make chocolate milk, Kool-Aid or Crystal Light and toasting bread are all simple examples.
Tripp performed a similar assembly afterward for the third- through fifth-graders. The program was sponsored by the Judd Parent-Teacher Organization.

© 2010 Mark Tripp 
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