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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Monday, June 30, 2014

No preemptive attack in karate

Some see this statement as a literal. In a philosophical sense this is something one must consider but as to avoidance over action. In our modern times preemptive is not set in stone, it depends on the moments circumstances. To take a preemptive strategy does not mean the first to land a blow. In modern times to land the first blow can be perceived as an aggression over defense. 

To hold dear those precepts laid down by those who came before are a wonderful way to show proper respect but must be tempered with modern concepts of self-defense often presented by those who have the least knowledge and experience in violence. 

Once violence is on the table it is an inappropriate strategy to assume some strictly defensive posture toward actions. Simply put, often the victor is the one who applies proper tactics first. Proper tactics don’t necessarily mean those of a physical nature. Think avoidance. 

It is also necessary to to keep in mind that defense also means taking the offensive. When necessary taking an offensive act is required to achieve a means to move away from the attack and find safety and security. 

Sometimes waiting to act in accordance to the circumstances puts a person at a disadvantage requiring they act according to what they perceive could lead to a violent attack and so forth. I don’t want to wait until hot falling sparks are falling on me to avoid and defend against the heat they bring. Again, avoidance seems prudent as a defense strategy. 

This just high lites the need to recognize that what the ancients defined as self-defense has changed drastically as times changed. What constituted self-defense in the 1600’s to 1800’s are not relevant to what defines self-defense in the 21st century - modern times. 

Lofty ideals without common sense, adequate prudence and reality tend to do more damage than good. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Blueprints -n- Carbon Copies

Blueprints are usually of something that is going to be built. Once a blueprint as reached its final copy then copies are made to ensure that the blueprints are standardized across all construction. Once construction begins there are always going to be modifications or versions. In this case they may come from differences in construction sites due to various environmental and cultural needs, wants and desires. This is pretty normal so modifications are made to the blueprints so they are carried forward in each construction. 

If we refuse to allow for modifications and versions then we are stuck with one exact construction that may or may not meet the needs of the various sites, etc. This means the something represented in the blue prints may fall short of the needs of those wanting that something. As times change various aspects of the blueprints will require changing so that the original something can be passed down through the ages. 

If we just make and require the same exact blueprint and carbon copies with no changes allowed that piece of something will end up in the trash bin in favor of a more advanced something that allows for changes.

The key to remember here is that the original blue prints remain intact as a reference and all those versions or modifications or changes that are added to the original make the original a unique something that will be desired and demanded as time progresses. Using the original blue print is great when taking on another construction of something and that is how we learn to see, hear and feel the needs and wants of the moment so that modifications or changes can be appended to that same blueprint. This may cause some previous modifications to be discarded and some new ones to be added. 

Regardless, the entire project will retain all the originals, modifications and carbon copies (that are discarded whenever a new blueprint with mods is printed) so that the uniqueness is not lost over time and due to stagnation, etc. 

This is Isshinryu, this is martial arts and this is the way of myriad things of nature. Nothing remains the same but often the original remains in the essence of the new thing. To remain connected to the carbon copies and to never allow for changes and modifications is not conducive to growth, newness and relevance to the current times, cultures and moments of life. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Self-Defense: The Line; The Point

“The Line” is that line we don’t want to cross in self-defense that means you are not actually defending yourself but rather you are either fighting or committing acts of violence against another human being. When I say, “The Line,” I mean the one that keeps you within the guidelines of societies self-defense law. It  means you avoid the need for it and if you cannot for any reason you use it judiciously enough so that you don’t suffer the consequences.

Now, we all know that in self-defense, much like in combat, you have to decide on whether you will do what is “necessary” to live. This means you have to give yourself permission to do what is necessary, needed and just plain required to achieve your ultimate goal - to win, to avoid, to be safe and secure and to remove or at least limit damage to yourself, your loved ones and to others who don’t have your abilities. 

“The Line” is a moving entity and it moves according to each and every single individual moment. No one can provide you that one line you cannot cross and this is one of the complexities of the law. The law tries to define that line and the murky water it tries to mark means that a clever person or persons can perceive the line where ever they can as long as they can make their case to those who judge these things. 

If you cross “The Line” then you had better understand all that is involved so you can articulate your position so others who are hell bent on making their case are convinced your case is true, correct and within the “spirit” of their intent regarding self-defense. 

Martial Arts that teach self-defense need to teach you all of this and they must achieve success if you are to have and use self-defense. Marking “The Line” is not as important as teaching students to see the line. Teachings are not meant to induce fear and obstacles of the mind that would cause a freeze. It is more about teaching you that the line exists and you should want to remain behind it but when you do cross it you have the tools to control others perceptions so that they also feel you are behind the line. 

“The Line” is a teaching tool itself. Much like the complexities of self-defense the line is that something you are aware of and that lives in your lizard mind so that when you approach it you can naturally and instinctively decide if you need to cross it or if you do just how far you can go before you reach that “point of no return.”

The point of no return is that point where nothing you do, say or believe will deter the others from making you suffer the consequences for crossing “The Line.” 

The Line and the Point of No Return are both fluid. They change, shift and flux according to many factors that are controllable and uncontrollable. You have to learn how to shift, slide and change your actions so that you control both rather than either/or one or the other controls you. This is extremely difficult and many who teach self-defense/martial arts cannot achieve that level of teachings. 

Know the line, know the point of no return, and train to achieve a state of expertise that allows you to stay behind the line and the point. Know that if you cannot that you have the knowledge, ability and expertise to persuade the perceptions of others so that you move the line and point to your advantage. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Importance of a Martial Philosophy

Philosophy is about your basic beliefs. It is the concepts and attitudes you have toward something and involves you personally and may be related to any connection you have to a group or tribe. It provides you with self-respect and possibly the respect of the group or tribe. It is about self-discipline, hard work and sacrifice toward a thing. It is about the development of humility toward yourself and toward others be they in the group or tribe of on the peripheral of same. It is not just about the technical but rather a more cerebral spiritual aspect that makes that thing of more value. 

A martial philosophy means you have given life to that particular “thing” you believe in and that drives your life. It is connected to a particular belief and practice. In most cases it is connected to a particular martial discipline like Kendo, Aikido or Karate-do. It is what gives balance to that discipline. It is also an integral and inter-connected part of the fundamental principles of martial systems, i.e. philosophy, physiokinetics, technique and theory. 

It is what makes for a traditional form of training and practice. It is what takes a purely technical understanding of a physical form of competing, winning, losing and fighting toward a more traditional, classical and philosophical form of martial system. 

Most understand martial philosophy from exposure to others writings on the subject. It is connected by ancient Asian classics written hundreds and even thousands of years in the past. These forms are indicative of the Asian martial practices while others such as European martial systems tend toward a belief system in that part of the world. 

The Asian perspective as westerners have come to understand them are derived from the various forms of influence such as Buddhism, Zen and Confucianism. They are interwoven into the very fabric or essence of martial arts practice and training. The Japanese in feudal times called this martial philosophy “Bushido.” As the combatives waned during the heavy changes to the feudal systems it also changed to become called, “Budo.” Both Bushido and Budo believe in the philosophical influences derived from “courage, honor, duty, respect, benevolence, wisdom, honesty, loyalty, rectitude, wisdom and self-sacrifice. 

As Budo caught on while Bushido faded to the past one believed in Asian martial communities that it was more about perfection of self over either victory or defeat. It was about seeking self-perfection, excelling in all you do, respect for others and not harming others until the need rose to that level while still exercising restraint. It is about avoiding violence but handling violence properly if required. 

Martial systems were introduced to westerners as early as the 1600’s when foreigners entered ports of places like Japan and the birthplace of karate, Okinawa. The early pioneers of Budo styled martial systems focused on a purpose of self protection while training the mind, body and spirit in the Way. It was about not attacking or harming others except when necessary to safeguard that person or persons who are exposed to violence and damage. 

To leave out any type of martial philosophy means one becomes technically proficient in the mere physical manifestation of that system like karate is to fighting, competing in kumite tournaments or regarding self-defense. Without adequate emphasis on all four principles that includes a philosophy means a practitioner can use the technical for both good and evil. 

The western practitioners of the more physical/technical forms of martial systems have achieved a high level of skill that has flourished since its beginnings in the mid to late 1960’s. 

The philosophical principle of all martial systems is actually a concerted effort to learn and understand the essence that is built naturally into the martial arts through the history, culture and beliefs of its creators. Since the Asian connection is deeply rooted in such Buddhist, Confucian and Zen like beliefs it is only natural the martial arts in question be influenced in such beliefs. 

In the western practices of Asian martial systems there are many skilled, proficient and expert practitioners but regarding the more spiritual philosophical teachings you would find maybe one in one thousand sensei who have adequate understanding, knowledge and experience in that philosophical connection. 

There are frauds who will provide plentiful sound bites that would indicate an understanding but rarely will you find one who can actually explain, teach and provide a living example to their students. Even modern Japanese sensei can be clueless about this part of martial arts. There are just as many egoistically driven Japanese Sensei as there are American Sensei who fall into this category of brutish, sadistical and militaristic teachings. 

It is easy to sound exotic, sagely and profound but it is rare to live it. Those who spout such sound bites are mostly illegitimate and nonsensical. They use the students ignorance to further their economical, egoistical and prideful goals. It is difficult even for those with a rudimentary understanding to week out the realities from the pseudo-Oriental philosophical garbage floating around almost all martial arts studios.

When you seek out such philosophical understanding you can forget about the technical and focus a lot more on the cultural origins of your system. They will teach you facets of your system that can only be learned by exposure to the cultural beliefs that lead to the creation of that martial art. It has to have an inter-connectedness to the lineage and historical aspects of the martial system be it from Japan, Okinawa or China, etc.

One must have a smidgeon of understanding of and appreciation for that systems cultural origins so that you can develop a personal philosophy that actually completes the art and way of say, Karate of Okinawa. 

A martial philosophy will have many things that make it a philosophy of martial arts. In the end the goal of having a martial philosophy will build toward a personal life philosophy that comes from “character,” your character and how that connects you to yourself and to others. 

Note; Principle of Philosophy - Mind, mushin, kime, non-intention, yin-n-yang, oneness, Zanshin and Being, non-action, character and the empty cup all provide toward an Asian philosophical wholehearted martial practice. 

Chikurin Ryu [竹林流]


The characters/ideograms mean, “Bamboo forest style.” The first character means, “Bamboo,” the second character means, “forest; grove,” the third character means, “current; a sink; flow; forfeit.” The first two characters/ideograms mean, “Bamboo thicket.” The last character means, “A style of; method of; manner of; school (of thought).”

Based on the Isshinryu system of Okinawan karate-do this system was developed with small changes necessary for modern times. It remains faithful to the origins of karate from the early nineteen hundreds with additional emphasis on a return to a more combative traditional means of application with additional emphasis on the modern legal requirements/laws of self-defense. It embraces all the requirements that make up the full spectrum of self-defense through martial arts or disciplines with a foundation in the fundamental principles of all martial systems, i.e. “Theory, Physiokinetics, Technique and Philosophies.”

It bases its birth on the need of change in an ever changing world while remaining true to the original system as to theory while moving forward to embrace all that will be required to advance self-defense in a litigious society flawed by nature’s instincts and drive to the more emotional view of the world. 

It still holds to the need for principles, kihon, kata and a variety of forms bundled under the traditional heading of kumite, i.e. kumite as to reality based adrenaline driven scenario’s, etc. to bring about a wholehearted training regimen that leads to a practice form best suited for today’s self-defense world and finally to an application that falls within the guidelines of self-defense law meaning, “to embrace the before, during and after of violent defenses that remain within societies present moment model (avoidance before conflict, etc.).” 

A system of karate geared toward self-defense taking into consideration all of modern societies rules, requirements and laws in regard to self-defense law, force law, etc.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pushups Are Shugyo

Why? Because I hate the damn things. I remember just how difficult they are for me. I realize that they are not so tuff for most folks but for me, psychologically speaking, they are horrible and I don’t like them and find them most difficult to do. 

This is why I say, pushups are shugyo, for me. I dread them, I feel horrible while doing them and I feel they should be done if for no other reason then to experience and overcome my resistance to doing pushups. 

I even go the extra mile using pushup bars, etc., to get a deeper work out across my chest, shoulders and upper back not to forget to mention the arms, etc. It is one of the best exercises a person can do. One well known physician said they are necessary to remain fit and healthy especially as you age. I stall hate the damn things.

I incorporate them into everything I do including my karate practice and training. I go the distance and every few days stretch it to go beyond what I can do simply as a means of shugyo or austere training.

You might be wondering right now, what the heck is this guy doing with a post like this because pushups are nothing. For me they are torture and my reason for the post is to say as a martial artists one of the ways you can stretch yourself in a shugyo fashion is to find those things you dislike, even hate, the most and make them a regular part of your training and practice. 

This will put them in plain site where your mind will know the torture is coming and teach your mind to say, “so what,” and then do them. Do the consistently, regularly and with vigor even when you hate them the most. Take them beyond your limits not only physically but mentally or psychologically as well. 

Consider this, fighting and combat are not things a person comes to like or love but we have to protect ourselves from those who use violence as a part of their lives and livelihood. This means doing things that are uncomfortable and training to do them without hesitation and with vigor and without hesitation. 

Addressing those things especially in the system you use for either, or, or both self-defense and combat will provide you the ability to use them when necessary and without hesitation. 

I hate pushups with a passion but when I train and practice I drop down and do them regardless of how I feel and what I think about pushups. Then there is my dislike of pull-ups - arghhhhhhhh

Note: my brother and I had a discussion about such things from a military perspective and we both agreed that mind-state or mind-set carries the mind and body way beyond its perceived limitations simply due to that mind-state. This helps in a small way to set that mind-state in its proper form for conflict, etc.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Joint Issues and Martial Arts (Karate)

I believe, no medical evidence or research here, that any injuries in the practice of the martial arts comes from either accidents or the lack of understanding or principles such as the physiokinetic and technique principles. 

If your sensei understands the principles and adheres to them in teaching, practice and training then the possibilities of joint issues or other such injuries are minimized. There are no guarantees that one who participates in a discipline that has physical contact between participants but when it comes to solo practice and joint issues or injuries then it is pretty much up to the practitioner. 

I had a senior black belt who always had to ice his elbow after a demonstration at seminars. This has gone on almost his entire career and as he aged he found that this ongoing thing is resulting in less mobility, etc. in that arm and elbow. I watched his demonstration with an eye on that joint only to quickly discover he was constantly violating the physiokinetic sub-principle of Structure and alignment along with the technique sub-principle of techniques, positioning, and natural and unnatural motion. 

Basically when performing the punches he would allow his elbow to extend outward from being aligned behind the forearm, wrist and fist. It was his effort to achieve a lot of power in the punch. This also spoke to the other principle of “active movement“ that speaks to speed and power achievement, i.e. real power comes from effortlessness. The “motion (sup-principle of natural and unnatural motion)” used was unnatural to the joint used, which is a hinge joint. If the joint had been a ball and socket or rotation type joint then it may have been all right depending on the technique and application applied. The hinge joint of the arm should adhere to its movement according to structure and alignment with deviations causing stresses that injure. It can be said that he violated the principles and demonstrated how a joint manipulation of a hinge joint can control, cause pain and lead to injuries. 

So, if my belief is accurate, adhering to principles of martial systems works to achieve maximum proficiency, efficiency, etc. along with reduction of injury, etc. This makes sense as after thirty-seven years of practice, training and twenty years of teaching I have not experienced any discomfort in joints, etc. except when I exceeded my bodies abilities or violated principles in execution or both. 

As to the example karate-ka, he still has to ice his elbow after practice and I don’t expect he will ever change or not experience his discomfort. He also has some issues with his feet and/or legs for the same reasons. 

In other words, when someone states that a certain activity will result in damage, injury and other medical issues as they age may be suffering from a lack of knowledge as to proper principles applied to their discipline of practice. Granted, there are some issues that will arise as we age that may or may not result from what we do or did in life, they may be genetic or something similar but in a lot of cased I believe that violation of the physiokinetic principles or body mechanics are the culprit. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Shodai [初代]

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The characters/ideograms mean, "First generation; founder." The first character means, "first time; beginning," the second character means, "substitute; change; convert; replace; period; age; counter for decades of ages, eras, etc.; generation; change; rate; fee."

Shodai or "first generation" is a term used often in my branch of Shorin-ryu, i.e. Isshinryu. It would seem to hold a high level of importance as to relational training and practice of those who trained directly under Isshinryu's founder, Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei. The argument, debate or illusion that somehow training directly under Tatsuo-san provides some mystical insight into Isshinryu or any other system of karate is ludicrous and distracting as to the essence of martial training regardless of the system, style or branch of practice. 

Many of the finest karate-ka I have had the privilege of training with over the years I found to be more rooted and earthly in nature than most so declared "first generation" practitioners as described here.

So, what is it that makes being a first generation student of the system founder so important? Is is something that is inherent in Asian martial disciplines or is it something made into an importance by western culture? Is it something that is driven by the ego and pride of importance that some seek to off set their lack of self-esteem? Is it something that provides for power over others? Is it an attempt to make a tribal statement so that one who holds that title is to be the undisputed leader of those weak minded enough to follow? Is it some proven level of proficiency that comes only from someone with a direct link to the founder making for a master karate-ka? 

These and many more questions come to mind when I hear that someone is to be held to the highest levels of respect and honor because they had the luck to train directly under the tutelage of Tatsuo-san, founder of Isshinryu. This seems to be a complete western concept because there seem to be very few Okinawans who actually recognize Isshinryu even exists. 

Is this an elitist mentality? Do those who profess that connection feel superior because of it even if they are just mediocre practitioners who hold dear a state that is only superior in the minds of themselves and their followers? Is this something that came into being from our instinctual need to belong to something special that “others” cannot because they are not a member? 

Or, is this just another bullshit elitist method to hold people under one’s influences for egoistic pride driven esteem building pedestal sitting money driven economical whatever?

What about being a direct student of Tatsuo-san makes that person a superior martial artists over others who have worked just as hard and often times much harder than the first generation student? Why do folks have the feeling that something unique and special comes from being a direct, first line generation, student of Tatsuo-san?

Am I just jealous because I am not a first generation student of Tatsuo-san or the first generation student of my Sensei who just happens to be a first generation student of Tatsuo-san even if not true or if true one who can only truly claim that Tatsuo-san was at least present when he trained and the honbu dojo? What says that it is something worthwhile and special if all they can truly say is that Tatsuo-san was present when they trained at the honbu dojo but in reality it was actually another military person or the second born son of Tatsuo-san or just another leading Okinawan student who actually trained them under the guise and guidance of Tatsuo-san’s presence?

Why can’t we all be proud to practice Isshinryu and give thanks to Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei for creating such a wonderful discipline art form that we all can enjoy and practice for our life times?

Note: for the longest time in my beginnings with Isshinryu I too felt some pull to “belong” to that special group called first generation students. Since I could not then I got caught up with trying to prove that my Sensei was a first generation student of Tatsuo-san. What I found was that regardless of that connection my karate was what it is and whether that connection existed made no difference in what I practiced, what I trained and what I taught to others. It was far more important that I be the best I could regardless of what other thought as to lineage. History is great, our ancestors whether blood or associative teach us about the past so the future can be brighter and non-repetitive but those things don’t make us who we are, we make us who we are by our actions, deeds and example - the actions, deeds and example we set for others who follow.