Please take a moment to read this post first, i.e. "A Different Perspective," before diving into this blog. Your comments, suggestions and participation are greatly appreciated.

Please take a look at Notable Quotes, enjoy.

Please take a look at the bibliography if you do not see a proper reference to a post.

Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

“All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of advice. I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.” - Montaigne

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Knowing and Knowing

You can know about something but to truly know it takes a bit more then merely learning in an academic form. Being knowledgable is knowing the book stuff. It comes down to experience, this is the key to all things. To truly know something means you know it from all directions and having experience in the discipline is probably the most important part of the equation.

In what I have been informed about traditional karate is that one can fight/defend if they practice hard and long enough. It has also been told to me that practicing the basic techniques, the kata and the drills for self-defense is how you traditionally learn to fight/defend. When I hear of this I question it.

I question it because "experience" either in real life violent encounters or through some form of reality based training how can you possibly learn about all the things that are part of a world of violence if you are not involved in that world - either as a professional working in it or as a person living in it. I, personally, don't feel sparring, as most sparring is sport oriented, will not do the trick if that is part of you regimen. 

As to basic techniques, kata and drills, wonderful training tools on a fundamentally basic learning level but as to working in real life encounters I tend to have my doubts. Even if you take them as a training tool and go beyond the repetitive visualization stages as possible it does not introduce you to the heat and stress of combat along with all the effects you have to deal with in the state of mind-body. You may be able to get a good start with this traditional model but will it take you the full distance, that is the question I have. 

I am not saying there is no benefit to this type of training, there is in spades. To assume that it will take you the full distance all by itself is what I will question, now and in the future. It is a question all should consider in their training, regardless, if that training is about fighting, defense and/or combat. There are just to many conditions of violent encounters that tell us that this type of training, although still of great value, may not take us the distance necessary for defense. 

I have studied a lot of things over the years and have to admit that without a certain level and type of "experience" that the training may or may not actually work in an encounter. 

Yes, I have written about this before and I will write about it again in the future if for no other reason but to keep my reality on the ground, as much as any human can, and to keep reminding myself that just because my practice and training "seem" to be valid they may or may not actually work if for no other reason than the unpredictability of any encounter with all that it brings. 

Example: when your heart rate and pulse reach a certain level and you visual ability diminishes, your sense of time slows. Sound, memory and broader social understanding go out the window so that your lizard can achieve more heightened awareness of an adversary - directly in front of us. We get aroused until our bodies start to shut down many sources of information. Our motor skills go to the crapper. As our heart rate and pressure increase we then can lose cognitive processing, i.e. the lizard has take over completely. Your behavior becomes more aggressive, etc. etc. etc. (courtesy of LtCol Grossman's books - redacted and paraphrased for brevity). 

Practicing basics, kata, drills, etc without some reality that induces such states of mind-body may not be enough (personally, I don't think it is enough). Then there is the question of how can these ROTE practices achieve the chaos and unpredictability of attacks? Even the military training recognizes that until one can gain experience that their training is limited, it works to achieve enough experiences so that when the real thing occurs the Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine will not totally freeze and die. This is why military work diligently to have the experienced combat veterans train and lead the uninitiated. 

Just something to think about, knowing is not necessarily knowing without experience. I have a formula that is similar to the use of the makiwara where karate-ka shall include at least 25% of all training either hitting something or being hit by someone or something or the combination of both, i.e. bag work and makiwara for fifteen minutes of every hour in training. If your training does not include at least 25% at a reality based experience gain then you might want to look at what you are doing and most of all the reasoning for doing it or doing it that way. 

Ahhh, just some more mindless meanderings - just saying. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Putting a Name to Things

Along with a solid explanation as to the why and what for of things this helps us achieve some semblance of understanding that goes a long way toward learning and doing things. This is also a fundamental to the learning, practicing and application of marital arts. This is that thing that must be done "before" a martial artist has to apply principles in violence. 

Just knowing a thing is not enough. It has to be encoded into our instincts so we can draw on it without the need to think about it. It must also be appropriate to the situation in that singular moment or it will either fail us or result in many bad things happening to us. Then the next step is putting it all back together into a more holistic use. This part is most important.

Leaning through dissection of things is good but the ability to put them and other things back together into one whole thing is critical. You don't want to get lost in the forrest for the focus you place on the trees, the limbs or the leaves. Leaves have a good deal to offer but they work best when you put them together with the branches, the limbs, the trunk for the whole tree. 

Putting the name to the leaf is fine but the enjoyment of what the tree has to offer means making the leaves a part of the tree as well as the roots that extend into the earth giving us the full and complete picture of nature, the tree. 

Yet, we tend to focus more on the leaves, the techniques, then what makes the whole of martial arts. I sometimes wonder why and things like today's post rise up out of the unconscious. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another Fine Post at Chiron Blog

"Your Nature" by Rory Miller at Chiron Blog. 

Year's End/New Year's Beginning

Keiko osame [稽古修め]

The characters/ideograms mean "last practice of year." The first character means, "think; consider," the second character means, "old," the third character means, "discipline; conduct oneself well; study; master." 

The year end practice is a time to reflect on what you have accomplished (or not), what needs to be improved, what and to who you are thankful to in your Budo training. An evening of cleaning, meditation, training, and purification, all in preparation for the coming New Year.

Hatsu geiko [初稽古]

The characters/ideograms mean "first practice of year." The first character means, "first time; beginning," the second character means, "think; consider," the third character means, "old."

The years beginning practice is a time for setting new goals and establishing the proper mental, maintaining your relationship with the dojo, and setting the physical and spiritual attitude of your practice for that year. New Year's training, which lasts several days and finishes with competitions and special events.


I often think to myself, "what have I accomplished in my life?" I tend to think to myself that I have not done very well so I have this moment in my life, more often than I suspect, and I do what I do most of the time, I sit down and write about it.

When I am done I then realize that I have accomplished many things and I have done well my entire life. Then I take that writing and I destroy it completely. After all, the only person who really needs to know and accept that I have done well in my life is me. Once I establish that things are not as bad as I imagine I then destroy those writings because they have served their purpose. 

This seems to me normal behavior. We all, as humans, tend to want some validation that what we are and do in life has some meaning. It does not have to be anyone else's meaning, just one that satisfies our purpose in life. If we can satisfy ourselves that we are living morally right and with honor then we shouldn't feel a need for any further validation. It should be enough. 

We should also measure all that we did, do and want to accomplish with this in mind. If we do that and are comfortable with our service then we can be satisfied with life. As to specifics, that is not really important because if you answer your own question of what you have accomplished in life then you should be satisfied. 

Don't allow others to dictate to you what satisfies your life and the way you live it. You will end up chasing the rabbit in a never ending circle of continuous dissatisfaction that comes from everyone else but who is important to you, you. Don't allow others to judge you because they will do so with their own beliefs, perceptions and personal life contexts. It is their personal and infinite combinations of perceptions and memories combined with their sensitivities to what is perceived and remembered, then they project this on you often in an attempt to elevate themselves artificially into a belief that is false and detrimental to both them and you. 

Be your own person. Don't allow yourself to fall into your own delusion of life but take into consideration others as you perceive so that you may learn about things but always, always, determine what is best for you by you without allowing the others to directly or indirectly influence whether you take it as value or discard it as of no value - for you to you. 

The most difficult way of being human is to distance yourself from influences of others so you can make decisions and accept life's lessons without biases that would lead you down someone else's path. Your path is the only path for you and it MUST be your choice. To take outside influences for judgement and consideration before acceptance is to live for yourself. The ability to say "no" to outside influences as needed makes for a more robust way of living. 

Let the moment be your moment and yours alone. Live in the moment and make life decisions in the moment according to your personal life beliefs without reservation and undo influences as to others perceptions and beliefs. You might find things more satisfying. When in doubt, write it down and then decide what is you and what is others and then keep that which is of value to you. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

My Contingency Philosophy

Martial artists in their effort to cover every singly contingency in a defensive model can not possibly learn every single technique to be fully and completely prepared for a future emergency. This is how marital artists get caught up in the quantity of techniques model in lieu of quality of technique. No one wants to encounter a self-defense or combative situation where chance has a dominant position over how things will end. No one likes the uncertainty of the fight or combat and that is why we train, but we must train "smart."

This is why there are principles, those principles that are the same regardless of the system or style or the method trained. Balance is balance whether one is using a boxing method, a karate method or a ground art method. There are a plethora of techniques you can envision and practice to hit someone but a strike is a strike, a kick is a kick and a punch is a punch. The principles are all the same.

It is knowing the value of a principal that transcends mere technique and allows us to apply the principles regardless of the technique involved. Knowing your options in a dangerous situation has far more value then an accumulation of techniques where you can apply motion and power to end a conflict. To know what makes something function at its peak efficiency where that something adheres to the principles of martial systems allows us to fully understand what motion is being applied to what target with maximum efficiency, etc. 

It can be said, "All techniques function from the same principles, any ignorance of principle manifest itself in every technique." Trying to cover every contingency with a encyclopedia of techniques without the substantive foundation in principles simply confuses our minds resulting in non-action - a freeze. It gives us plenty to talk about and to use as an exercise for health and well-being but leaves us without solid defensive capability. We could dance and reach that same model but this is martial arts for self-defensive/combat, etc. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Life is like a box of chocolates

Life really is just a matter of chance as can be symbolized by the opening scenes in the movie "Forrest Gump." I have always felt over the years that I had control of the things I did and the things that happened in my life only to discover at age sixty I had absolutely no control over events and paths my life has taken.

I say events and paths I have taken but I really mean the events in life that influenced my path in life. Like the feather I was blown about here and there by circumstances and events that are affected by my environment and the people within that environment. I guess it is a bit like the discovery of the "one thing" of life that we all need to understand and this is it.

If I were to actually take control of my life then there are decisions I have made and decisions I will have presented to me that I need to take to heart and go with my heart. Then again, what is to say that the control of my heart doesn't reside elsewhere than in my hands.

Pooh kind of reminds me of Forrest in this graphic. 


It is amazing what things are crafted from mere words, how beliefs can form from books. It may be due to how people WANT to believe in these things. Not everyone wants to believe the truth. Then there is the whole subject (subjective nature) of truth. 

It has been said that the truth of history is one sided, the side that wins in war. War being a part of human evolution in societies. Belief has been the spark of many such wars from religion to political. 

Beliefs are influenced by words but the words have not substance without the underlying communications of the body, i.e. the face, as well as the tone or intonation of the voice. They all work in unison to convey words and those words make up the beliefs held dear to each person. 

Want is huge in this perception. How one might discover things about another and then form the words to persuade a person to believe in something even when the truth of it is not truth. It is incredible how a belief can lie to someone for the sake of comfort and security. We all want to be safe and survive so that belief becomes an intricate part of that survival. 

Once a belief becomes encoded in each human changing that belief becomes impossible except in the rarest of situations. It can be forced and over time those who follow tend to lose site of the fact that it was forced upon them so they then embrace a new belief - this takes time, a lot of time.

As a martial practitioner who embraces all aspects of the principles involved in the practice of the art it becomes necessary to have only one belief system, one that allows for changes in each and every moment of life and breath. This is not an easy belief to embrace because humans resist naturally and instinctively any change of a belief that is proven beneficial toward comfort, security and survival. This belief system will take time to achieve even for one lifetime. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Shadowing (from a fictional series I am currently reading)

Kage []

The character/ideogram means "shadow; silhouette; reflection; image; presence; sign; light (stars, moon)." 

This term I have taken liberties with as to meaning. Yes, it means shadow or in my interpretation "to shadow." The shadowing model is one whereby a practitioner shadows a person who they wish to emulate, to learn from and to guide them in an endeavor such as martial arts. It is another way to convey the importance of the sensei-deshi, senpai-kohai, and tori-uke relationship. 

A shadow is a silhouette of the person being shadowed. It is a part of that person and makes the relationship one of importance. It is that something one assumes when they acknowledge the presence of the shadow. It is and will be a reflection on that persons efforts to teach, lead and guide in martial arts where the potential brutality of the discipline can be either for good or for evil. 

To be a persons shadow, shadowing, is be be in such a close proximity that they will detect everything the person has to offer making the person with the shadow assuming a responsibility that is immense. Immense in that the person is helping the shadow to shape and build themselves into something unique to the shadow, to shed light upon themselves through the teachings and efforts of the person they shadow not to become a mirror image of that person but the use the guidance to build a personal philosophy and moral system that will change the shadow so they become a person who another might wish to shadow. 

A shadow is to follow and observe someone very, very closely. It can be likened to that deshi of old Japan martial systems who becomes sensei's personal person not only learning the art but working as the sensei's personal attendant. A deshi or uchi-deshi [] who is sensei's "inside student." A live-ion who trains under and assists sensei on a full time basis. The uchi-deshi system existed in ancient Japanese arts such as kabuki, rakugo, shogi, aikido, sumo, and karate as well as other more modern Japanese martial arts. 

The shadow, although not actually as complete as the uchi-deshi, still provides a similar relationship that benefits both the person and the shadow. It is a symbiotic relationship where one both grows as one due to the mutual influences they exact upon one another. It is a system that allows the sensei to keep growing toward enlightenment while the shadow learns how to take that path within and upon themselves with a goal of achieving their own path unique to their own cultural beliefs, etc. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Questions, questions and more questions .....

You study hard. You practice till you drop. You train and train and train. All for the day you achieve your black belt. All good and you continue on because you know in your heart you have only begun to learn and there is so much more you can achieve in your dojo. All good.

As you progress do you notice how often you ask questions? As you progress do you notice when you speak with authority and have less and less questions to ask? When is it that you no longer have to ask questions because you have assimilated all you can about your system and the martial arts in general?

As I age and as I put more years under my belt, no pun intended, I notice that when I think, teach or write I am leaning a bit more toward asking more questions to clarify what I know and to learn more of what I don't know. Questions, when I don't hear questions over statements of proverbial facts I begin to wonder if I have been doing my job on passing down marital arts to those who would follow. 

I would have thought just a few years ago that I had reached a level where I would not often need to ask questions yet I am actually noticing that what I am learning today tends to send me more questions to ask. Maybe that is key to any endeavor including martial arts, to ask questions constantly and continually to learn new things and to vet our what I already "think" I know. It is about the constant change that occurs naturally in nature and that means in our efforts of life and martial arts. 

Questions, are you asking questions? Are you caught in the making statements of what you think are facts syndrome? You can even have a balance in both making statements and asking questions or even making a statement of fact as if it were a question to validate or change what you know so you can be more informed - is this enlightenment or at least the path to enlightenment?

Is enlightenment actually knowing that you can not possibly know everything and questions are mere clarifications to the moment in time you live? Keep asking questions, keep learning and keep open to changes to what you know or think you know!

Dedication to Practice

I often wondered when I taught full time Isshinryu whether people were truly dedicated to learning. The reason I wondered was the amount of time they dedicated to practice and training. 

When I first began learning some form of martial arts I was a bit sporadic and inconsistent. I attributed this to the fact that what I was doing didn't meet what I wanted or needed. I guess I had not found my core, foundational, system of martial arts. I finally found Isshinryu on Okinawa under then First Sergeant Warner Dean Henry and knew that this was my core system.

I practiced daily, seven days a week. I did this for about twenty years until I finally gave myself a break by taking some weekends to myself. Even today as a retired sensei and a full time practitioner still devote a lot of time to my training and practice along with more hours of study as well. I still take time for weekends simply because in those many years I found my soulmate and married. I use what time I can find throughout the day to train, practice and study about not only my system but others as well along with the more esoteric studies the enhance and build on my system, such as it is.

I wake and train. I train at work breaks as well as work lunches. I often train and study evenings for an hour or so - most evenings. I actually think and breathe my studies and training/practice. It is something I enjoy so much that it is literally a part of my life as I believe martial arts should be to be a martial art. 

So, when I see someone showing up at the training facility two or three times a week for about an hour and a half I wonder if they are truly learning a martial art or are they simply participating in a club environment much like a jazzercize session, etc.? I can tell most times when someone is putting in time and effort outside the training hall. I wonder whether they actually have the dedication to practice they should have to be true and real martial artists? 

I am not advocating that someone dedicated the same amount of time and effort I dedicate and I know that there are those out there who dedicated a lot more time, effort and study to their practice and training than I do so I know my dedication is a middle of the road type thing. 

I also can tells, mostly, when someone reaches black belt, sho-dan, because they met some time and test criteria that may or may not be actually black belt jutsu or even "do (doah)" criteria, they simply attended a certain number of sessions and completed a basic set of requirements set forth in the syllabus set by the instructor, much like in schools, so they are given a black belt. 

So, what I would ask is if the person has a dedication to practice that transcends merely going with the flow, doing what everyone else is doing or simply follows the path of least resistance so they can say, "I am a black belt." What is your dedication to practice and are you a black belt or are you a black belt?

Oh, regardless of black belt or black belt, when you get one do you continue with your efforts of study and practice or do you just quit thinking you have achieved all you can? You know, like earning your degree from college or diploma from high school, your done so why bother now? Hmmmmm?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Ken-po Goku-i Translations

I have posted on this before. I thought it prudent to cover this once again because it is important, from my perspective, that one understand the fluidity of any translation especially coming from an language most difficult to understand even for those born to it.

The gokui has been written and spoken of as an important aspect of martial arts, karate, from Okinawa and its origins are born from Chinese influences. The Chinese thoughts and writings are even more difficult so this will give a tiny bit of perspective as to the difficulties but alas the real point is how each individual will interpret the gokui as it applies to them.

This is similar to the karate koan or gokui I use in my philosophies of karate-do. It is that something one must contemplate and study as they progress. This part is important as well because how we perceive, believe and live changes from moment to moment. What you get from the gokui in those beginning years will be different from what you get in the middle years and then again different as you enter the winter years. It is just how it is. Take a look at the characters provided for the Isshinryu gokui as passed down from Tatsuo-san depending on who presented them to you.

人心同天地 [人の心と同じ天地] person heart same heaven earth (person; heart; equal; heavens; earth)
血脈似日月 [血パルス似た日光の月] blood pulse similar sun moon (blood; pulse; becoming; sun; moon)
法剛柔呑吐 [方法ハードソフトドリンク串] method hard soft drink spit (principle; strength; weakness; drink; spit)
?進退離逢 [重量前進後退外れるが従事] weight advance retreat disengage engage
身[随?]時?變 [身体追従時間が変更に適応] body follow time adapt changes
手?空則入 [手の時間空規則は入る] hard time empty rule enter
目要視四面 [目は4面を見る必要があります] eye must see four side (insight; essence; see; four; face)
耳能?八方 [耳の能力は、8つの方向を聞く] ear ability hear eight direction

In the above I provided as many of the characters as I could find from the six or seven translations. It is important to remember that the characters/ideograms may not exist as they may have changed or are actually characters/ideograms either used exclusively for the Okinawan dialect or originate from Chinese characters/ideograms.

Notice that I give the characters/ideograms I was to understand came from Tatsuo-san then in brackets I give a translation that actually comes from inputting the English words that follow the bracketed characters/ideograms. In parentheses I provide my translation work as to the characters/ideograms that start each line as given to me as I understand came from Tatsuo-san. There are noticeable differences.

One should note that there were about three characters I was unable to find using all the English translations you will see above and none of them actually match up with what follows:

A Person's heart is the same as heaven and earth.
The blood circulating is similar to the moon and sun.
The manner of drinking or spitting is either hard or soft.
A person's unbalance is the same as a weight.
The body should be able to change direction at any time.
The time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself.
The eyes must see all sides.
The ears must listen in all directions.

Translated to ideograms/characters, etc.


It makes me wonder who translated the characters from Tatsuo-san into English. It may be that the person involved took liberties and that Tatsuo-san accepted them readily simply because he expected, as was his prerogative, all his students both Okinawan and American to continue their studies and learn more about the esoteric aspects per the gokui and other teachings.

I actually put down over eighty pages in a iBook or eBook for the gokui. Even then as I went through it and edited it over and over again I either came up with new idea's or I came up with changes necessary to convey meaning to the reader as to how I perceive and interpret the gokui in my practice of Isshinryu.

I am not doing this to dissuade or disparage other translations because those are also valid. This is why it seems difficult to the Westerner and Western mind. It is vastly different in the method of thinking that it takes considerable study and contemplation to come to any unique rendering. This may explain why there are so many versions from other systems/styles of karate, etc.

In the end it is best to accept them all and consider what applies meaning to you and your practice without adhering to any one way so that your way can achieve its uniqueness along with fluidity through out your live as a karate-ka.

Interesting stuff!