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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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Code (American Bushi-do)

Much like the Samurai of Ancient Japan who had their code of conduct, bushi-do, we also must have our own code to use as a guide in our lives and especially in the practice of the martial arts.

What I propose is to provide a set of guidelines (specifics should be addressed in procedures and practices of an association) to bring back the art of civility not only in society but in the community of martial artists.

This is not a code to dictate how one will act, it is not going to provide rules to follow or recriminations if you do not. I would base the code on "Giri" or "That which is hardest to bear". This code of conduct is to be provided so the individual can decide whether to follow them or not (Giri). It is a personal decision and choice much like the one we all made when we began our practice.

If it is not then it should be well known that the core of any activity be it work or an art form requires that one act in a manner that is accepted by society as a whole with the well being of that society as a primary concern. All to often that precept is lost in the pursuit of the ego or the self. I propose through these codes to provide a venue to those who choose to take this path so they may return to the core of any civil society, that of civility and kindness.

Let this be a code that as a fundamental precept of the fighting arts, creates a good, successful, and serene life, to instill a quality of life unparalleled anywhere. Let this guide you in creating a healthy effective way to a better quality of life.

Only we as a person of bushi can measure the success we have in life by the way we treat one another every day. This code of conduct is a means of guiding us on this truly noble endeavor. The code is based on respect, restraint, and responsibility toward society and the community (of fighting artists).

Let us forge and polish our souls and express it through our every word and action. Let it reflect our true identity and that of the community of which we are members; for with out we would have chaos.

We have a choice about how we behave! (The following will have reference to the martial art community yet upon removal you will find that it applies to everyone and everything)

The Code:

Code One: Never strike first. Assume courtesy and respect with appropriate kindness in all your personal encounters. No actions taken are with out consequences for others. Anticipate what those consequences will be and act accordingly. How we choose to respond dictates the outcome.

Code Two: Develop proper attitude in you daily life. Look inside yourself for ways to cope successfully with life's difficulties with out ignoring the outside world. Remain positive in every thought and with every deed.

Code Three: Pay Attention! When ever you encounter another you must "to attend to" or pay attention. Remain alert to the person, environment, and be diligent in attending to the appropriate changes necessary to create a positive outcome to the encounter. To pay attention is to demonstrate your expression to the other as a worthy person. Your acknowledgement of the person validates them and shows your desire to treat them as equals and establish them as worthwhile individuals.

Code Four: Keep vigilant in your encounters, actions, and/or deeds when with others to validate their existence, their importance in society, and their personal feelings.

Code Five: Always think the very best of others. Assume the best and act accordingly with out losing sight of positive awareness in case of a sudden change. Approach every encounter with others as if they are good, honest, and sensitive.

Code Six: Possibly one of the most important rules you can assume in life is to "Listen". Listening or lack thereof is the most common reason for conflict. Listen to the words and feelings; focus on the person communicating; let silence be your primary means of action; let go of your past experiences and be in the present moment; disregard all thoughts of the future and be in the present moment; concentrate on just listening before doing anything else; establish eye contact; let you body reflect the positive; let your voice, tone, and response be on the others comments, actions, body language, intent, and so on; don't rush to agree or disagree; simply show understanding.

Code Seven: Speak kindly and never speak ill of others. Be the person others speak of as the one who never uttered an unkind word. Let that be your legacy. Always keep in your mind that you are speaking/interacting with a living, breathing, vulnerable human beings; always remember the power of words. Remember:

* When we speak to anyone in a derogatory manner we hurt.
* It is a coward who resorts to the use of words or deeds to attack another.
* How we speak to others reflects on ourselves.
* If we are present when ill words are spoken we can leave, remain silent, say something positive, or openly communicate to the attacker as to what they are doing.

Code Eight: A fundamental rule of society; one that is relevant and important when ever one comes into contact with another; decent behavior is when we care enough not to make problems, ours or theirs, into either our or their problem. The way we treat others is always a reflection of our own self-worth. Respect is a corner stone of any one persons contact with another. Assume they deserve it and then give it whole heartily.

Code Nine: Care for others as if they were a guest in your home. Be hospitable to every one you meet or connect with even if only for the moment. Get to know others by listening and when you talk to them talk from the heart. Always be considerate of others, no excuses.

Code Ten: Refrain for taking action or speaking with out thinking twice. How you communicate can result in either a peaceful resolution or a combative one which can turn quickly into a physical altercation. Self-restraint means we ignore the ego and stay in the current moment with complete respect and regard for the opinions of others regardless of our assessments. The goal is to have an amicable meeting of the minds when two connect in today's society. Civility or lack thereof are major causes of anger, fear, and conflict.

Code Eleven: Don't try to shift responsibility or blame to others. Take complete responsibility for all of your actions be they verbal or physical. Your attitude and how you express it can be either acceptable to all or not. When not, then you have conflict. Conflict does not benefit anyone.

Code Twelve: Develop the courage necessary to be brave. Bravery and courage does not mean jumping into any confrontation with the desire to win at all costs. It takes one who has courage to avoid conflicts, to find alternatives to doing battle. To create relationships that end in proper balance for all concerned is the epitome of bravery and courage. Anyone can take up arms and do battle yet only the very bravest; those with the most courage; are able to overcome the ego within and to achieve peace and tranquility within and in society.

Code Thirteen: Create good will among those who you come in contact by providing the type of influence that creates camaraderie; a societal connection of benefit for all. Be a benevolent guide to your fellow man; influence them to influence themselves; become someone who creates a desire in others to become a better person and a complete part of the society in which we all live.

Code Fourteen: Conduct yourself with the highest morality and personal values necessary to influence others to follow the path of civility; kindness to others. To provide others with good example of morals, proper conduct, and the type of courtesy that leaves a favorable impression is a great achievement.

Code Fifteen: To conduct one's life with ideals of both truth and honesty is the highest achievement of a bushi warrior or a solid citizen of society.

Code Sixteen: Loyalty to self, loyalty to the group, loyalty to society is a hallmark of a true citizen who contributes to the betterment of society. This is not blind but with a true heart in creating a bond among each of us that transcends the ego and creates a feeling of belonging and benefits all.

Code Seventeen: Make it your goal to achieve within yourself humility, respect, righteousness, trust, loyalty, will, endurance, perseverance, patience, and courage as your standards in living. At least make a commitment to "Try" every day for your entire life.

Code Eighteen: Make it a personal goal to look within yourself with truth and honesty with the outcome of acknowledgement as to your own foibles; to make it your life's measure to achieve dominance over such foibles; to never allow them to lead you astray from the noble path you have chosen; to never allow them to create disharmony among others; make this a most important trait of your personality and try to achieve the goals of the code daily, moment by moment. Make this your presence as a personal present to yourself.

Code Nineteen: Remember tolerance at all costs. Lack of tolerance is unfair to others and opens the door to discontent, anger, and conflict. Put yourself in anothers position as if what you say or do effects you and act/adjust accordingly. To remember that everyone is a person; a human being; vulnerable; sensitive and no different than ourselves before you speak or act is important; do it.

Code Twenty: Keep your balance. Study, train, and practice to achieve balance or In-yo (Yin-yang). Create the one by achieving balance. The ability to achieve balance is a cornerstone of a serene life. Balance in mind and body. To achieve emotional balance leads to life's balance and allows us to follow the way through our code reflecting on others, on society, for all our benefit.

The goal of the code is not to dictate to others our own personal perspective of what is acceptable or not to an individual or society. It is a personal code for the individual thus is provided in as a generic form as possible to fit everyone. It is a simple guide that assists others in creating a personal life to live that is conducive to creating a society that is humble and serene.

Remember "Giri" or that which is hardest to bear. It is a personal obligation that no one can require of you but you yourself. If you don't feel it then you don't have it. No one will take you to task for not assuming the obligation. No one will come down on you. You must decide for yourself that this is the path you desire most and then stick to it under all circumstances, to the end of this life. Giri, assume it or not. Your choice, choose wisely.

Why Karate? (Why Empty Hand)

Originally, karate was born from the indigenous system of "Ti or Te or Toudi" of the culture that is Okinawa. Ti or Te means simply "hand." The individualized styles were born of the Japanese influences starting in the 1600's. No one can say definitively why the word hand or empty hand came to be the name used for this system of fighting. 

There is a great deal of speculation even with the Okinawan's today. We can attribute the influences being all over the Asian cultures with emphasis on both Chinese and Japanese martial arts. The greater of the two being Chinese. Still, as to why hand or empty hand is not obvious. The original system of Okinawa started out as I have already stated and before empty hand came into prominence it was called for a time "China Hand, i.e. where the characters/ideograms depicting the system were different yet the pronunciation was the same. 

If we speculate we can come up with something that tells us why they used Ti/Te/Toudi and Kara-te, i.e. because it was a means of fighting, combatives and defense using no weapons other than the practitioners body, i.e. being hands that would normally hold weaponry in combat now you have no weapons therefore you have empty hands or just your hands. 

As Ti/Te progressed and influences grew then to achieve acceptance the final name for this unique form of fighting came to be empty hand. When the Okinawan's developed a means of using everyday items as weaponry then that was added to the empty hand training and they called this "kobudo." I believe this name is more modern then ancient but who knows for sure. 

Today, karate is both empty handed and weapons. Some separate the two into empty hand and weapons, i.e. karate and kobudo. Some actually teach, train and certify separately, i.e. you may achieve sho-dan in karate while still holding a kyu level in kobudo depending on circumstances and training requirements. 

You can also say that what is practiced today is not really empty hand since a karate-ka will use hands, arms, elbows, feet, knees, etc. when applying karate in a fight or for self-defense. Makes me wonder, "What would be a proper name for the system of empty hand?"

In the end it is a matter of opinions, perceptions and cultural history of which not much is written on Okinawan. Speculation is still our best method of determining how things came to be. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Testing Techniques or Demonstrating Techniques

As I review many explanations and demonstrations as to why a technique in karate works or does not work, why one way of doing something is better than another I tend to think about how they are testing out that hypothesis.

Where I start to question is the tests are often not based on real life encounters or reality based training but on some sort of physics oriented thinking. 

It seems to me that if either or of the tests used to explain and validate some specific is much like a scientific test model that may or may not be based or tested on reality.

It is similar to the training and schools I attended in both my military career and my civilian civil service career with the Navy. Often those training models were more about providing fundamental knowledge necessary to get your foot in the door but reality was often very different once you began you "on the job" training in the discipline.

I believe and found this to be true for most martial arts training and validations for what was being taught. Some times what was being taught or explained seemed true but when actual reality hits the validations more often than not failed in the heat of a violent encounter.

Now, learning mechanics or rather principles with emphasis on physiokinetics and techniques is important but one feature that may be lost with teachings not based on actual experience in fighting or combatives is that adjustment necessary to make them work.

Working out theories are great. It can be a part of the scientific method often used to find out if a hypothesis is true or not true but until you test that same hypothesis with reality it is just another fun feature of working out and training. 

I have noticed when the chaos of fighting is applied with two individuals that such things end up out the door for more instinctive and natural actions and reactions. Granted, continuous and diligent training can overcome and encode karate into a more natural and instinctive action/reaction but without the full spectrum of working and testing techniques, etc. with reality and that means violence and those chemical reactions of fear and anger will not come to a full, complete and valid conclusion as to what works and what does not work. 

Study just that part that speaks toward the "adrenaline dump" and its adverse affects to see how it is possible that all the testing and discovery of how pivoting on a heel vs. a ball of foot needs more than a preprogrammed patterned test but one that involves as many variables as possible to see and test workability of a technique.

Then again, once something is validated it is imperative to release the specifics and go back toward a more holistic application, etc.

See, as this discussion continues the complexities just build and it is also important not to be consumed or fooled by either the quantity and complexities of things or the validity of a less the full analysis of any given technique, techniques and combinations, etc.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Learning One Kata - Many Years

Ahhhh, a very good question and one I will answer with one caveat, it is my theory because there is no proof or historical record to truly answer this question. Here is what I believe:

The collection of kata we are required to learn in modern martial arts didn't begin until the mid to late 1900's. In the 1600's to the 1800's karate was actually referred to on Okinawa as "Ti (pronounced like tea)." This indigenous system was separated by distance between villages such as Naha, Shuri and Tomari. It may have been even more exclusive to smaller villages but as of the 1800's these villages were known and promoted in the 1900's as the three main factions of Ti. 

Those Ti masters or experts tended to teach and "know" one, two or maybe three kata. We all have heard the legends that those elders tended to require several years to learn and master one kata. The stories or legends even stated in one system the kata that is known today as "sanchin" is the first kata that must be mastered and that it took three (guessing the time window here) years to master. I imagine this is how the question came into being.

Why indeed, does it take several years to master one kata? It comes down to an attempt to understand what comprised that one kata in those years before the mass effort to bring karate into the school systems per WWII needs of Japan, maybe even earlier. Before Ti came to the lower classes of Okinawa the exclusivity of practice, training and applications were held close to those who practiced. It might even explain why such traditional requirements as "introductions" or "recommendations" were required to even get a chance to learn the system of some Ti master. 

Then you have to understand some of the teachings that may have been withheld from the Western mind either by the intention of the master teaching the military or by exclusion as things transcended from the ancient traditional methods to more modern methods of a school system, etc. Things were toned down and many intricacies were removed to ease the learning processes of young adults in the school systems. 

In addition the traditional method of learning a martial art as explained by the levels of "shu," "ha," and "ri" dictate that what is and was introduced and taught to those young adults was true to this model or method, the strict lessons of the level "shu." Because of the difficult and tumultuous situations of war and other influences of being a country concurred by first the Chinese and then by the Japanese in the 1600's the levels of "ha and ri" were lost and/or forgotten except by the masters who many we lost when they died during the war. 

To attain a level of "ha" and "ri" requires that the practitioner learn much more than the mere basics but the actual principles that are the foundation of all martial systems. This is how we begin to learn the need to study one kata for a length of time as told in the legendary stories of Ti practitioners of Okinawa.

Principles are many, although limited by the fact that they are finite principles due to physics, etc., and to learn them each and then to bring them into a "one whole and holistic" practice takes a lot of time. In addition to learn and apply kata and its technique(s) means you don't just learn the patterns but each and every individual nuance of each technique and combination derived from kata practice. To achieve a "ha and ri" level requires the ability to instinctually apply not only the obvious kata application but the nuances underneath them as a separate and unique entity so that the mind and body along with spirit can apply any principle instinctually and in the moment as needed by that moment to work. 

Try taking your first kata and mixing, matching and modifying according to any given situation even in training with the other more theoretical and philosophical principles being applied. Losing the pattern and rhythm of a set kata is difficult without first coming to know, understand and apply each minute atomistic quality of said kata from any direction or dimension according to the fluidity of any given moment. This takes a lot of work and only a few will actually make the effort necessary to reach these levels while others accept today's rendition of karate or Ti in a sport oriented fashion where kata are dances and fighting abilities are reduced to who can "tag" another target for a "point." 

This does not even take into consideration how today's martial systems are encumbered by societies "rules and requirements." To achieve a level of understanding and application means opening the mind and leaving the rules in the dressing room. Not many can achieve this in today's litigious societies or if you prefer today's commercialized societies. 

It does take several years to truly master one kata when you apply "ALL" the requirements but to achieve the level of "shu" that is merely a ghost of a system it doesn't take much and there lies the reasoning behind learning many kata, many systems and achieving many levels of many systems of black belt status. 

Then again, all this is my theory as to why it takes much time, effort, sweat, blood and tears to learn just one kata. Who is up to the challenge?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Yudansha, Black Belt and Fighting Ability

Often I hear someone say, "He's a black belt, I wouldn't want to fight him." Often, more than not, people relate a black belt with some ability to fight, defend or have a proficiency for hand-to-hand combat. This is just not true. 

In the early days my sensei, who studied martial arts since the mid to late fifties in the Marines, would tell me stories like the one Marine who was awarded his first black belt without ever sparring or competing in any type of tournament. It seems that some who just wanted a work out and to learn kata could and would be awarded sho-dan, the first level of black belt.

Now, when someone asks a person their level and they hear things like roku-dan or hachi-dan or even ju-dan (sixth, eighth and tenth dan) they are awed and make an assumption that this means they are some master fighter in martial arts. This, again, is just not true.

In my time I have bested black belts who have trained longer and hold higher levels of black belt and at the same time had kyu level karate-ka make me look like I didn't know jack and couldn't fight for shit. Some people are natural fighters and some are not. It is just the way it is. Sometimes an excellent fighter will get his hat handed to him by some joker who normally couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag. 

Look at the black belt like you might see a degree from high school, college or a university of higher learning. It says a lot about the effort and diligence and intestinal fortitude of the person who has worked hard to earn those levels but it does not mean they can take that education and perform at a high level of proficiency and productivity out in the working world. 

In the military I attended many "schools" but they often meant I was able and ready to begin learning the job, on the job, and over time with the hope that I would reach a very effective level of expertise some day. This is similar to the black belt system. I look at the black belt system as those higher education certifications that I have learned the fundamentals and have earned the level of knowledge to apply things appropriately as required by the system of study. 

Black belts tend to mean that someone has attained the knowledge and acquired a certain level of experience that validates the knowledge so they can continue to learn and in some rare cases teach others martial arts. 

Fighting, Combatives and Defense are a totally different bag of things that go beyond the black belt as a symbol or status or requisite to violence and defending against violence, etc. 

I don't equate the level of ability to combat violence by the belt color or dan rank levels but by what they do on the dojo floor. I assume that anyone who steps on that floor or out in the street can fight when they show they can fight and even then it all depends on the moment and circumstances and a whole lot other stuff. 

Black belt symbolizes hard work, a lot of sweat and at least a modicum of applicable ability but when it comes to dealing with violence in a social, asocial of professional way it really means nothing more than some knowledge you may or may not be able to apply in those circumstances. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cold Weather Training

Kangeiko, or mid-winter training, is a form of shugyo training. It is an austere training. It is a mind-body training regimen, i.e. karate training in the dead of winder - a Japanese traditional martial training. It is about training the mind while subjecting the body to winter extremes as one might do for shugyo. It is a process of individual growth through martial training that subjects the practitioner to things normally not endured. 

Kangeiko or cold training is a type of toughness training. I look at it as a mind-state training. If the mind does not experience hardships then it will not remain fluid when hardships are encountered. Hardships teach us to endure and persevere. We force ourselves to perform under difficult and painful conditions to strengthen the individuals spirit by teaching us about our true limitations or as I like to say, our limitless abilities. 

It is an annual challenge to the dojo and its practitioners. It is about engaging in practices that bring the practitioner closer to perceived limits so they may surpass them thus teaching them about their limitless abilities. It is about pushing yourself so as to develop the ability to surpass the stresses of combat, fighting and self-defense.


A martial mind-state is one that has a foundation in determination and persistence with diligence to balance the two out for a positive will toward any discipline but especially the martial arts as a combative system. A system that puts the practitioner in harm's way on a moral stand that coincides with the tribe, or society on a legal and moral ground. 

It is one who has built their mind-state on personal Initiative, grounded moral faith and a will that transcends the concept of failure and obstacles. It is that intangible will from thought that drives ones physical and mental actions through the application of known principles, i.e. in martial arts the fundamental principles of martial systems. 

It is that created mind-state that "knows enough to seek expert council (~ Napoleon Hill). It is an ego and pride buster leading to enlightenment and humility. It is about not succumbing life conditions but the management of them toward a more productive and efficient model. It is the knowledge that the mind-state is infinite while physical prowess is limited by the physics of human nature. The mind has no limitations and can reach beyond the stars. 

It is the recognition that in combatives what survives is the level of the mind-state of the combatants. The will, the intention and the efficiency which a mind manages the stresses of combat will be the overwhelming dominant persona - the winner and survivor. 

Developing the proper mind-state is embracing the philosophy of martial arts to create a strong mind that leads to a strong body. The proper mind-state is to free the mind of the normal traps of ego, pride and emotions that an adversary can exploit against our mind-state. It is the manifestation in martial systems of mushin, zanshin, kime, non-intention, and other principles within the major principles of theory, physiokinetics, technique and most important to mind-state - philosophy. 

In a sense a well developed strong durable mind-state leads toward the defense of avoidance in that an adversary will readily detect our sense of clarity of action, lack of intentions and emotion, and a lack of fear. 

Pearlman, Steven J. "The Book of Martial Power." Overlook Press. N.Y. 2006.

Words of Wisdom at Cornered Cat

Monday, February 3, 2014

Every Kata "Should" Begin from Defense - Some Thoughts

I wonder if the defensive aspects of kata, i.e. every kata should begin from the defense technique, should be emphasized as it is in modern karate. I also wonder if how we perceive and interpret that meaning is actually what the originators of Okinawan "Ti" actually meant. 

I understand why modern times require is to think and act in "defense" but wonder the actual benefits of that thinking. 

Isn't it true that to react in defense is slower that acting in offense? Maybe defense should be emphasized to achieve the goal of meeting societies "need and demand" that any violence perpetuated on humans must be in a "defense mode or model." Is this because society today has removed itself from our violent instincts? 

I find it a lofty goal to achieve a non-violent society but I tend to think that tempering that with a solid ability to handle violence a must. Why? Because we are humans and humans are fallible thereby the violent tendencies, especially concerning those whose minds might be born to it, still exist and how we deal with them is important.

Back to the subject, every kata should begin from the defense technique, tends to lean more on a reactionary model and that in some violent encounters "may not be a good thing." 

I lean toward this discussion because often the defense in kata is actually a technique but in some it is more a symbolism such as some comments on this share indicate. (see comment by Indishe Senanayake on Advincula sensei's wall post shared below).

As a teaching and symbolic representation I feel it should be one that is not "sometimes" inferred to a means of defense, i.e. more a posturing that is only a small part of violence, i.e. posturing is more a social act. Posturing is all fine and dandy when completing in a tournament or some form of sport activity but is it actually relevant in a truly asocial violent act?

Don't get me wrong, I believe that avoidance is the first line of "defense," if relevant to the situation and if possible. But when it is not relevant and not possible then actions speak louder than reactions. The distinction is important and what I personally consider an important part of the culture, customs and symbology in kata are those theories and philosophies that go beyond the surface into the depth and breadth that is kata.

Granted, some dojo teach the full spectrum and the possible misinterpretations and misunderstandings are lessened but for a lot of training facilities this is lost completely. 

Kata as a tool to teach martial arts are critical. Learning the essence, cultures and symbolic attributes are important and also critical but it goes further that this - it is not about turning kata into some symbolic spiritual dogma but using them both in its original forms and in modern interpretations of modern times that should be taught, sought out and learned. 

The moral of this mindless meanderings is "don't assume anything and don't assume that what is written is the end all of the explanation." Look to things as questions that open the mind and the door to knowledge, knowledge and knowledge.

Addendum: I have to wonder when kata first came into being if they actually had a defense in every kata at the beginning or was it more a symbolic gesture or technique to teach a more philosophical aspect toward karate? I also wonder if "Ti" was actually about kata before the late 1800's and early 1900's or was Ti about a compilation of techniques found to work in a violent encounter?

Consider the need for karate as given in what history is available, i.e. the ban on weapons, etc. Is it possible that the more defensive aspects were incorporated to water down true karate into something more acceptable for incorporation into the school systems?

I can't imagine a Okinawan encountering a violent attack first posturing to demonstrate to the adversary that they know and will apply karate if forced rather than simply doing that adversary the service of felling him before he has a chance to do damage to that Okinawan. 

Some of the legends that were written about tend to convey the quick actions of a karate-ka to fell an adversary over any posturing to demonstrate a defensive philosophy or to defend rather the act against violence in a more "action oriented" way vs. a reactionary act. 

Many of the things we have been taught in karate or martial arts has been subjected to such things as what teachings are influenced and constrained by the teachers own knowledge, experience, imagination, and attitudes of those times. 

The times, the cultures, the beliefs all influence perceptions including our own during these modern times, cultures and beliefs. Nothing is set in stone and nothing is as it seems. Historical records about martial arts in Okinawan culture are scarce and subject to more modern interpretations due to a lack of documentation. Even documentation is subject to the same constraints mentioned above so "how do we know, how do we really know?"