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.

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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, September 30, 2014

Karate - Reality Check (Why)

Recently Michael Clarke Sensei of the Shinseidokan Dojo blog wrote about his perspective on “Modern Trends: Reality-based Martial Arts.” It got me to thinking about our ultimate adversary, ourselves. I also feel it is about “control,” control of ourselves. It seems that the biggest and single most important aspect to life and in particular self-defense of conflicts is how well we control ourselves, i.e. our impulses, our monkey brain on drugs and our perceptions and perspectives of the external life as influenced by our internal lives. 

The gist of karate seems to be more about our internal selves, the battle we encounter in every facet of life. So, you might ask as to how karate, a perceived combative art or system, can help us in life’s battles? Our struggles from the very first moment we decide to take up the challenges inherent in karate training are the first steps along that “path or way” we follow in karate. Just making that decision alone is a huge hurtle for many especially if they decide to seek out a more traditional or classic form of karate. 

Each and every step, much like life, we have to struggle with the tidal wave of learning, practicing and training in karate. It soon becomes apparent that the totality of karate training, if approached and practiced properly, takes us way out beyond our comfort zone in life. It is often understood that life itself is a constant struggle and that many seek out guidance through self-help books, video’s and programs working diligently to gain a handle on the hurdles and obstacles that every day life throws at us and no where is that more important than in conflicts.

In some of the other articles I have written I believe wholeheartedly that karate was never truly about combatives or even self-defense at its core but a means to an end combining the rigors of training and practice with the mental/psychological obstacles that such practices open up to our consciousness that make karate a way of the empty hand. I have theorized that in essence karate was always some means to achieve a higher goal. Strictly speaking in a combative perspective it was actually a training tool to prepare warriors for the rigors of weapons training, practice and finally application in combat. 

When you think of the physical aspects of combat and then discover that the true weapon we all have available to us for success over an adversary you find that our “minds” are that weapon. Karate is about training the mind to create a mind-set or mind-state that can overcome any and all obstacles against an adversary and to accomplish this gargantuan task we have to first overcome ourselves. The true adversary we learn to control is our minds, our egos and our perceptions and perspectives within as influenced by the external - in karate the challenges of learning, practicing and applying both the mental and physical to achieve certain goals required in karate to move forward. 

As humans we all want to keep moving. That movement to be beneficial and awarding to life and its pursuits must consist of a forward movement. An example is when a human finds a need for physical power they must learn, understand then apply the mental and physical manifestations of various principles to apply them in the physical world - the cumulation of mental states, physical principles and most of all in this instance the forward movement of mass, ourselves, to achieve physical power. The disciplines and principles of karate when applied wholeheartedly are the means to that end, first for our selves as our main adversary with a goal to make our “self” our ally in ever facet of life. 

If we are to be successful against external adversaries we have to control our internal adversaries. Those mental and physical obstacles that would defeat us before ever encountering an external adversary. Traditional karate is about defeating then making our ego’s and prides our allies vs. our adversaries. It is about the struggle with our emotional intelligence to govern our emotional side of life so the emotionally driven monkey doesn’t hijack our minds leaving us exposed and susceptible to an external adversary. 

In conflicts, that which is permeated in life, it is more about our ego’s and pride and monkey dancing that we are either successful or not. It is not about winning the war but rather being successful in the individual battles encompassed by the war. Conflicts are about how we perceive them and then how we use our minds to implement both tactics and strategies that will not defeat the adversary but convince the adversary to become an ally. 

Karate makes us question our assumptions daily much like we must do in life to be happy and content and successful and so on. Through karate we can perceive and accept our nature, our aggression and by its practice helps us to channel that natural survival instinct toward a more productive use. It provides us the skills to create the confidence to recognize and identify those challenges that meet us in life as in those encountered in the dojo. 

Karate dojo are a microcosm of life by its representation of our homes, our neighborhoods and our towns. We introduce difficulties through training and practice that provide tools to handle them thus tools to handle similar difficulties outside the dojo. One of the reasons a traditional form of karate is about training the mind, body and spirit - all necessary intellectual and emotional capabilities that lead to balance in self therefore balance in life. 

Clarke Sensei said it best, “Aggression is a natural part of being a male; it is in our genes, but we do not have to fight each other, we can choose another path. In my opinion aggression is not the problem here; the problem lies in identifying where to aim your aggression and identifying exactly who or what you should be fighting against. You can choose to fight another person, you can choose to fight the 'system', or you can choose to fight your own negativity and the things about your character that lead to your unhappiness. While the first two options will undoubtedly create more problems than they solve, the third approach will direct you toward contentment. But it's not an easy path to walk; on the contrary, fighting your own ego offers far less 'instant gratification' than any other alternative, and yet its rewards are intensely meaningful and lasting.” - Michael Clarke, Shin Gi Tai, Karate - Training for Body, Mind and Spirit

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Just Goes to Show

You can turn anything into the thing you want it to be. Look how easy it was to take a small part of a post and turn it toward my favorite subjects, i.e. martial arts and self-defense. Just goes to show that almost anything can be shifted and molded and adjusted to fit someones personal perceptions and beliefs. Isn’t that the dangerous parts alluded to in the original post?

Look to the gokui as an example. There are few actual in-depth interpretations of what the short and terse koan means but when you do find them they are different as night vs. day. Take for instance what I created in the eBook PDF I feely gave out long ago vs. the book titled, “The Last Lesson (The Go-kui of Isshin-ryu) by James C. Burris, jr.” There is one that is day and one that is night and neither actually relates to the other in content and/or meaning.

It helps us explain the many factions of the system as well. Each has their own perceptions and interpretations of what was taught to the early pioneers and each adamantly and completely believes what they practice, teach and preach is the true Isshinryu system. So much so that none in the factions can achieve détente when dealing with the other factions. 

It also just “goes to show” that even when referencing the same sources each comes to differing conclusions and then wholehearted believes what they interpret is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Just goes to show nothing is without question without questioning. 

Note: still editing this eBook but hope to be done soon :-)

Critical Thinking and Scientific Method

When I read today’s post at the Chiron blog, Superstition,  by Rory Miller I had to admit to myself that I really don’t know the two although I felt, at the time, I understood the two. Sounds ludicrous doesn’t it saying I understood but could not actually layout the skill sets required for both. It gave me the motivation to pull up definitions of both. 

Critical thinking: the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

Scientific method: a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. The scientific method is a way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments. The steps of the scientific method are to: Ask a Question; Do Background Research; Construct a Hypothesis; Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment; Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion.

I think I addresses this or something similar a while back but cannot remember. Regardless, I have to admit that for this blog about martial arts and self-defense I am a little lacking on the use of these two skill sets in discovering the truth or falseness of what I train, practice and apply. It and other things similar are actually the motivation that I have tried to achieve these last eight or so years and the one thing I have come to understand is, “this stuff really does need more emphasis in teaching, training and practicing any discipline or we end up filling ourselves with self-serving beliefs to boost our own egos and fill ourselves with that same self-serving pride.”

I would suggest, as I am starting to gain momentum on, that anyone who endeavors to study and learn a discipline, especially something like self-defense, should take time to learn about both critical thinking and scientific method. As to CT, all to often students “assume” that their sensei is of such knowledge and expertise they can take what is taught at face value. Big mistake if for no other reason then everyone is subject to being fallible. We are, after all, human and fallible. 

As to a SM, it seems within the physical of the SD world another one of those critical training aspects where we question and test everything. We don’t assume anything even if it comes from an expert, especially an expert. As I am coming to understand more each day I study assuming what you are taught in SD without some form of both CT and SM and other methods you expose yourself to failing when failing has such catastrophic consequences as SD would. 

It is another addition to the sensei’s tool box to teach. It is about providing all the tools one would need because not having a hammer in the tool box when you really need to drive a nail in the board means you may have to resort to using something ineffective and dangerous - such as your bare hand. 

Click for larger view.

Click for larger view.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Mind of Two Minds

When we first begin to delve into the terminologies of the martial arts we assume a certain directness associated with the physical. As we progress, assuming all things being equal or balanced, we begin to see a more spiritual or psychological connection. Take a look at the term, “Isshin.” It is often deciphered as “one heart.” In some character/ideogram translations it means, “One mind; wholeheartedness; one’s whole heart; oneself; one’s own interests; throughout the body, complete change; reform restoration; remodeling; renewal; first instance; first trial, etc. Then you look closer at the ideograms or kanji to narrow it down further to, “one mind; wholeheartedness; one’s whole heart.” 

If you delve even deeper to those great oceanic depths of philosophy and psychology you soon arrive at a meaning that drives both the mind and the heart in practice, training and application be it in combat, fighting, contests or duels or just “the way.” When one thinks of the “heart” they usually take a more “emotional approach.” When one things of the “mind” they usually take a “rational approach.” Here is where the fun and relevant stuff begins.

In reality, how we thrive and strive in life is about creating a wholehearted balance between the emotional and the rational. This is mind-state stuff and important to how one actually applies themselves in life and in a more micro-world, the world of martial arts (as would any similar discipline taken up by folks). 

It has been shown in “Emotional Intelligence” studies that we have two minds. It is two different kinds of intelligence, i.e. one measured we are all familiar with as I.Q. while the other is “emotional.” Consider how often violence is more about an emotional issue while the more pragmatic and peaceful parts of life are considered the “rational” way of the mind. We find difficulties when the two are out of balance. 

The two minds we have are “rational and emotional,” where any imbalance or disconnect, depending on which, results in conflict so it seems logical that we must achieve a balance that keeps both regulated for the good of the individual, their families and society in general. 

In our brains we have a complementary of the limbic system and a combination or interconnectedness of the neocortex, amygdala and our prefrontal lobes. These are what can, should and are the partners of living life within the brain, connecting the proverbial heart and mind into “one.” The results when balanced are both emotional and intellectual intelligence thus ability. The ability is where martial arts begins to “get the picture.” 

When you find the intelligent balance (emotional intelligence and rational intelligence) of the two you benefit from a harmonized head and heart - what I would and could define as “wholehearted” and “one heart.” 

To emphasize this a bit more from the Isshinryu perspective the first character for Isshin is defined as “one.” The second character is defined as, “heart; mind; spirit.” Notice in the use of these terms and characters there is a inter-connectedness in that which I provide between the “one heart and one mind.” If true and follows the beliefs of this systems creator we can understand why he chose the label, Isshinryu. It was to help the practitioners learn about both the heart and mind and then using other studies, i.e. like the kenpo gokui koan like silk certificates, bringing them both into unity and  balance. 

Here in lies the truth and belief behind such a system, bringing the human mind together into one wholehearted unit of life, the rational and the emotional. Both proven in studies to bring about a stable, intelligent and balance person benefitting him or herself, family and society. If you follow the “way” you might find this illuminating. 

“The Mind of Two Minds that are One.” - cejames

MacYoung, Marc. "In the Name of Self-Defense: What It Costs. When It’s Worth It." Marc MacYoung. 2014.

Goleman, Daniel. "Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition [Kindle Edition]." Bantam. January 11, 2012.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Motobu Choki Sensei Quotes - Commented by Me

First, this is a copy from the blog posting by Victor Smith Sensei. I found it as it was shared on the FB Wall of John Bartusevics Sensei. As many of you already know, I have an opinion so I am going to give mine on the following. I am not saying that by my comments that these are either good or bad, right or wrong or of questionable meaning but rather that I take a certain perspective and perception when I read them.

Here we go:

In 1978, an essay entitled “Collection of Sayings by Motobu Choki” was published in Japanese (translated by Sensei Joe Swift). This essay is based upon the oral teachings of Motobu Choki to his students, and was overseen by one direct student of Motobu, namely Marukawa Kenji. Let us now take a look at these “oral transmissions.”

1. Everything is natural, and changing.

I honestly cannot think of one thing to say except that this reminds me of the Chinese yin-yang principles. Who knows what teachings and studies Motobu Sensei acquired during his time as a karate-ka. 

2. Kamae is in the heart, not a physical manifestation.

Hmm, maybe this will help many clarify what they feel is the manifestation of kamae. We westerners tend to think in the direct immediate meaning when that is often just the tip of the iceberg. Kamae, for me, is a manifestation of a moment in time where one achieves a maximum efficiency when applying a strategy and a specific tactic that adheres to the laws or principles of martial systems. It is not just a stance but rather all those things in the principles that comes together like the perfect alignment of the planets and stars for a moment in time unique to all things in the Universe.

3. One must develop the ability to read how much striking power any person has in one glance.

With the availability of knowledge in today’s eWorld this seems limiting yet I suspect as with many things Asian, similar to the Zen koans, this is meant more as a lead in to greater knowledge and understanding. That glance can see many things in an adversary provided that the person applying the ability has the basis or foundation to “know what they are seeing.” In today’s martial arts as in self-defense many don’t know the before stuff or the after stuff, they just know that for this applied attack you counter with this application of technique. This can at least lead a karate-ka or martial artists toward a fully and more complete answer, understanding and ability. Maybe that is the point here.

4. One does not have to take care to block every single attack by an opponent with weak striking power.

Oh this is so true. This again alludes to more than merely the physical manifestation of martial arts. It is about understanding those principles that talk of power applied where even the most physically fit and strong specimen can not achieve power without the knowledge and ability to actually achieve power, power over what many believe as power called “muscling it.” 

5. One must develop the ability to deflect an attack even from behind.

Again, it seems logical and simple yet it involves a variety of things that must have a basis in knowledge before one can learn, practice and apply. Such things as self-awareness, environmental awareness, and situational awareness. Even with the big three if one fails to know about all aspects of conflict, violence and defense you cannot truly have proper “awareness.” 

6. In a real confrontation, more than anything else one should strike to the face first, as this is the most effective.

I have to disagree with this one. I would think that there are many far more effective ways to stop an adversary on the attack or who is confronting you in a conflict. First, if it hasn’t gone physical then you have time and choices of which one is simply walk away, i.e. avoidance. If you have the type of awareness necessary for avoidance then those traits and applications will stop a need to strike a face first. The difficulty with such antiquated quotations are the assumption they apply to today’s world of self-defense. In a literal sense, if one were to strike to the face first it could be viewed as an aggressive move making it a strong argument for “fighting” and that would be illegal resulting in an arrest and prosecution. It must be made clear that such things as ancient quotations toward teaching MA must be considered in the light to which they were created, i.e. ancient more violent times, etc. 

7. Kicks are not all that effective in a real confrontation.

Can’t argue with this as for my system of practice the ability to kick is more a supporting set of abilities since there must be other means to achieve defense. Real confrontations, as I understand them, tend to be very, very close making kicks hard to apply. I also feel, mostly, that if you have the distance to kick then you have an opportunity to turn and run. 

8.”Karate IS Sente” (Here, sente means the initiative, or the first move. c.f. Karate ni Sente Nashi – there is no first move in karate).

We can go deep and long on this one but fundamentally I find this true and false. There are always first moves when it comes to fighting or self-defense even if the first move is avoidance. I believe that there are and should be “first moves” in karate or any martial art. This is especially true if self-defense is involved. You must look to the entire spectrum of self-defense (reading the book “In the Name of Self-Defense,” by Marc MacYoung will get you a lot closer) in order to achieve a first move. You can take this to the extent of the OODA loop where achieving the “Act” of the loop while an adversary is still stuck in the OO section makes for a first move that will achieve a goal or an end strategy in defense. 

9. The position of the legs and hips in Naifuanchin no Kata is the basics of karate.

I am not arguing this point but rather taking a stance that assuming any one kata is a basic of any martial art is misleading. The position of the legs and hips are a dynamic moment to moment, circumstance to circumstance type thing where applying the principles of physiokinetics, etc. are better suited to achieve a positive outcome in a violent situation or in conflict in general. Granted, kata are teaching tools for such things and this is why I advocate not using such a specific but a more general approach so karate-ka are not locked into one aspect of many aspects. 

10. Twisting to the left or right from the Naifuanchin stance will give you the stance used in a real confrontation. Twisting ones way of thinking about Naifuanchin left and right, the various meanings in each movement of the kata will also become clear.

Go back to number 9 and also consider that this may derive from the feelings of Motobu Sensei as to a specific that worked for him in his application of fighting or even self-defense. It is best a student remember this as it may or may not actually apply to that student. It is really necessary each student take a sensei’s teachings and then apply them in a manner best suited to that individual. What works for one may not work for the next person.

11. One must always try and block the attack at its source (i.e. block not the attacking hand, but deeper on the arm).

No argument but a comment, if one were to focus on the body hubs (phrase coined by Marc MacYoung in his book, “Taking it to the Streets: Making Your Martial Art Street Effective.” Those hubs will tell you more about the source of the attack. Also, read “In the Name of Self-Defense,” where he addresses how one can learn to see an attack, etc. with greater success than simply knowing that one should go deeper. What does it truly mean to go deeper when you can achieve your goals and strategies before you have to go deeper on the arm

12. The blocking hand must be able to become the attacking hand in an instant. Blocking with one hand and then countering with the other is not true bujutsu. Real bujutsu presses forward and blocks and counters in the same motion.

Maybe true but today’s street defense would be better served by the attack positioning where the leading hand is for grabbing, etc. while the other is for a powerful application be it a fist, hand or something else. It is a matter of achieving a positon to maximize your ability to apply power. If this blocking hand is forward and changes to a strike the strike may not achieve enough power to achieve success but it also could be a means of achieving success with successive techniques but then again in today’s SD world ending it fast is more beneficial then turning it into a long, drawn out fight, fighting is illegal today. 

13. One cannot use continuous attacks against true karate. That is because the blocks of true karate make it impossible for the opponent to launch a second attack.

I suspect this is geared more toward the sport aspects or the dueling aspects of the times Motobu Sensei lived. When one says, “Impossible,” I tend to think, that is not possible. Violence itself does not always allow for such actions except maybe in either sport or the more social fight scenes. Again, clarifications and such need to go hand in hand with this type of insinuations. 

14. I still do not yet know the best way to punch the makiwara. (note: this statement was made when Choki was over 60!!!)

This is a personal feeling, no comment. 

15. It’s interesting, but when I just think about performing a kata, when I’m seated, I break a sweat.

Doubt it but it makes for a nice sound bite. I would like to research how one could break out in a sweat just by visualizations such as this. If it involved dynamic tension while not moving, i.e., tensioning the body part and muscles as you visualize then I suspect one could break out in a sweat. There are other aspect to visualizations where one visualized a recent violent situation causing the body to react with one symptom of sweating is possible. 

16. When punching to the face, one must thrust as if punching through to the back of the head.

This particular one is dangerous for many reasons today. One, even with makiwara and other conditioning methods, is that a fist to the hard part of the body as is the case with a fist to the face tends to lend itself to hand injuries. I have been told as well that on conditions one can be hit or hit someone in the face with no results but making the adversary angrier and more aggressive. Also, if you were actually hitting in such a manner is the level of force going to be justified. Does the technique when viewed by others appear more aggressive and over the proper level of force - circumstances in the moment apply and that is part of why expanding on such sound bits is important. 

17. When fighting a boxer, it is better to go with his flow, and take up a rhythm with both of your hands.

No, are you a boxer? The last thing I would want to do is go toe to toe with a boxer if I am not a boxer with equal or greater boxing skills. Now, if this were to apply toward a sport event then that is another matter but still I would not want to challenge a boxer to a boxing match if I am a karate-ka. This seems inappropriate. 

18. It is necessary to drink alcohol and pursue other fun human activities. The art (i.e. karate) of someone who is too serious has no “flavour.”

A philosophical viewpoint. Not one I would take. I can have fun without resorting to mind and body altering chemicals such as alcohol. We are all humans and as such tend to lean heavily toward social connections and inter-connections because nature provided us with these as a survival instinct type thing. Remember fighting and self-defense are “serious matters” yet one should practice, train and apply such things in a manner that allows the greatest encoding to the mind, body and spirit. 

19. It is OK to take two steps forward or back in the same kamae, but over three steps, one must change the position (facing) of their guard.

A complicated view that can be argued in many different ways. In the first part the kamae is something more that taking a particular static kamae or stance and remaining in one for one or more applications may not be the most effective way but possibly more of a novice learning and teaching tool but again is this explained fully. 

20. When I fought the foreign boxer in Kyoto, he was taller than me so I jumped up and punched him in the face. This is effective against people who are taller than you.

I disagree. It may or may not be effective but it promotes the idea that the face is his main target. I would rather have several targets and methods to get the job done, fast and quick and right now vs. a more sport aspect of a contest with rules. An example over jumping up off the ground to hit someone is to use your smaller stature to unbalance the adversary and let gravity to the work for you sounds like a good alternative. 

21. I started having real fights at Tsuji when I was young, and fought over 100 of them, but I was never hit in the face.

Great luck, I am happy for him. Apparently Motobu Sensei was focused on the face in his practices and applications. I would not want my students of MA and Self-defense to get mired down in just one target, one strategy, one tactic and one hope of ending the violent conflict. Not a good strategy on the whole. 

22. When I was 4, I was made to go to a school, but I hated studying, so I often skipped class and played somewhere with my friends.

Oh well, skipping school and remaining ignorant may be good for those times and Motobu sensei but the ability to learn, study and gain knowledge seems to me as an imperative toward understanding all that is necessary to achieve those “awareness” goals as stated earlier in this post. 

23. When I was still in Okinawa, Kano Jigoro of the Kodokan visited and asked to talk with me, and through a friend we went to a certain restaurant. Mr. Kano talked about a lot of things, but about karate, he asked me what I would do if my punch missed. I answered that I would immediately follow with an elbow strike from that motion. After that, he became very quiet and asked nothing more about karate.

Great story but what does it promote except that when one technique fails don’t get caught in the infinite looping one can when under the adrenal stress flood in a violent encounter. Good advice but is this about the principle or is it about him and his association with Kano sensei?

24. There are no stances such as neko-ashi, zenkutsu or kokutsu in my karate. Neko-ashi is a form of “floating foot” which is considered very bad in bujutsu. If one receives a body strike, one will be thrown off balance. Zenkutsu and kokutsu are unnatural, and prevent free leg movement. The stance in my karate, whether in kata or kumite, is like Naifuanchin, with the knees slightly bent, and the footwork is free. When defending or attacking, I tighten the knees and drop the hips, but I do not put my weight on either front or back foot, rather keeping it evenly distributed.

I get the impression he is trying hard to explain those fundamental principles of all martial systems as they would apply in a violent situation. He is also trying hard to address kamae in combat. I also think he is trying to say that learning stances is a good basic teaching method but one must move beyond merely taking a stance and becoming fluid to the moment and circumstances. 

25. When blocking kicks, one must block as if trying to break the opponent’s shin.

I am against this one entirely. No matter how conditioned one’s body when in combat that same body part will break when applied to a hard target. I advocate the hard-to-soft-n-soft-to-hard maxim in defense. If you are also far enough away to block a foot then you are far enough away to leave the scene, avoidance. Take into consideration this model of teaching is leaving out two-thirds of what combatives/defense require and must be known and understood to achieve victory. Again, this is a huge problem with modern martial arts outside of the more philosophical practices. 

26. When I came to Tokyo, there was another Okinawan who was teaching karate there quite actively. When in Okinawa I hadn’t even heard his name. Upon the guidance of another Okinawan, I went to the place he was teaching youngsters, where he was running his mouth, bragging. Upon seeing this, I grabbed his hand, took up the position of “kake-kumite” and said “What will you do?” He was hesitant, and I thought to punch him would be too much, so I threw him with “kote-gaeshi” at which he fell to the ground with a thud. He got up, his face red, and said “once more” so we took up the position of kake-kumite again. And again I threw him with kote-gaeshi. He did not relent and asked for another bout, so he was thrown the same way for a third time.

Sounds like he succumbed to the monkey emotional ego pride that often get folks into trouble more than getting them out of trouble or avoiding trouble all together. 

General: It seems that for historical purposes these quotes are educational but my concern as a sensei and karate-ka is when these are thought of as a means to “winning the fight” over simply defending against aggression. Even in the sport arena this may be far more detrimental to the overall mental and physical philosophies of a martial artist leading to a more aggressive ego pride driven approach that can become aggressive in nature over other more appropriate and acceptable ways of martial arts. IT IS IMPERATIVE that a more full and complete understanding and explanation accompany such historical references. It is good to know the mind-state of our ancestral teachers but it must be about its intent at the time through the cultural beliefs systems whereby those systems apply or don’t apply to current standards, practices and societal needs and acceptance. 

I applaud Swift sensei’s efforts to bring us such enlightening historical translations so that we see through the eyes of that person, in the times in which they lived so as to show contrasts in comparisons to todays’ practices and applications. 

Translation  By Joe Swift

Giving Credit

A long time ago I began writing the blogs I have on Martial Arts, Self-Defense, and Philosophy of MA. In those humble beginnings I didn’t give credit where credit was due. I used direct quotes and even longer content exactly as the originating author provided. It was pointed out by another author of web sites and blogs. 

Blogs and web sites are personal venues that usually consist of personal perceptions, viewpoints and ideas, etc. Often they are simply presenting information gleamed from other more qualified and knowledgeable folks. I learned this as I went along. It began my providing names with quotes and bibliographies. I also, from time to time, posted that much of what I am writing about comes from the knowledge of others and is not my own but rather a view or perception of what I think of the material, a redaction if you will. 

Regardless, I began providing those posts of clarifications along with bibliographies not only to give credit where credit is due but to also provide my readers source materials for additional research. 

No one, I mean no one who is knowledgeable of any subject matter I present is thinking that all this comes from me, it does not. I was not born with this knowledge and experience. No one in the world comes into this world with life knowledge, etc. You learn from others and then you try your best to apply it and absorb it into your way. Normal human living, learning and experience. 

So, once again, everything you read here comes from others. As this quote states, "One thing has always been true: That book ... or ... that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour (see, I am giving credit to the quote :-)

As does everyone, I use knowledge of others to learn and part of that learning process is to redact into my own words, which I didn’t do so well when I stared, what I am learning in the hopes of getting feedback so that I can learn. I personally think this is how it is done.

Now, if I were getting money for what I do then I would be required to go the distance to provide all the sources to include those that are fist hand accounts and remembrances even if that is all I have. If I write a book for profit or just for free I have as many of the sources in the bibliography as possible or available. I understand that is the “right thing to do.” 

If anyone finds that I have used a quote of thiers or they feel they should be credited with teaching me as read in my postings please don’t hesitate to comment and let me know. Make sure you provide me validation so I can add that to my bibliography. 

I regret wholeheartedly that I missed providing credit in those earlier years. I have and am learning more each day and my postings are there to provide hints in others research for more information and that seems like a good thing. 

What I try hard NOT to do is provide a post with criticisms laced with disgust or contempt because I feel that would diminish the information and possibly lead to others discarding such good data over some emotionally driven monkey ego pride toward some group dogma that separates the MA world into a “them or others” type system. That does not promote growth, potential and learning. Ah, the fact is that I am human and because of this need to work on this aspect daily. 

For a bibliography of this site click the link above. I have links to bibliographines on my blog sites and on the FB wall for review. When I can I do add them to each particular posting as needed. 

Thanks for reading my stuff and thanks for your kind considerations all these years. Early today someone made a complaint about something I did about ten years ago and that made me think, “Wow, I have been doing this a while now and I hope I have gotten a bit better in how I do it.” 

Thanks All!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Benefits of Kata Training

The value or benefit of kata training in martial art has been bandied about for many, many years. I have posted many times on the value of kata training and that includes kata two person drills, etc. You can also add in the two person drills for kumite as well, with caveats. 

While reading the second go-round of the book by Marc MacYoung, “In the Name of Self-defense,” I came across his comments or questions regarding traditional martial arts kata training models. Remember, this is an excerpt and if nothing else should motivate all martial artists to read his book cause it holds “so much more” than this small quote.

“Is the repetitive motion of kata good for ingraining neural pathways and developing good mechanics? YES, IF done correctly (capital emphasis mine). Is that all you need? NO (capital emphasis mine). You need to have someone actually try to hit you in one-step drills so you learn the importance of moving off line and the need for correct structure against incoming force, among a variety of other things depending on the training and teacher. Then you can tweak your kata so you train yourself to perform it effectively against another person. … (ellipse, of course indicate missing words) Does someone who has had years of training in a traditional martial art school need to go through adrenal stress or scenario training? YES (capital emphasis mine). … (ellipse, of course indicate missing words) There is no such thing as one-stop shopping for all your self-defense needs.” - Marc MacYoung, In the Name of Self-Defense, Chapter 9, page 200 or print version (second and third paragraph).

Mr. MacYoung makes some general comments on things to do to enhance your MA experience if you desire it be effective in SD but I will personally assume there is more that must be taken into consideration and that is covered in other materials and training. My goal with this post is to provide those who traditionally train their kata model to consider that it will be of great value as long as you enhance that training with additional reality based adrenal influenced, etc. training. 

In my view from where I sit and that seat is not necessarily one that takes all considerations into light but I do believe wholeheartedly that most, not all, traditional/classical martial arts tend to gloss over this type of training and practice because it is not an easy path to follow and incurs some additional efforts and means leaving the more convenient ways one trains and practices. It is kind of out of the box type thing. 


MacYoung, Marc. “In the Name of Self-Defense: What It Costs. When It’s Worth It.” Marc MacYoung. 2014.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Karate no Dojo [空手の道場]

The characters/ideograms mean, “The hall used for martial arts training of the empty hand.” The first character means, “empty; sky; void; vacant; vacuum,” the second character means, “hand,” the third character is the Japanese character to designate “of the” emphasis, the fourth character means, “road-way; street; district; journey; course; moral; teachings,” the fifth character means, “location; place.” 

The hall of the empty hand is a tome meant to convey the extent that study of the art of the empty hand as handed down to us from the Okinawan culture is applied to every day life. It is meant to stretch those minds that remain steadfast in the physical realm of this art so that it takes on a deeper meaning toward how one conducts themselves outside of the smaller training hall or dojo where many play at Asian karate-do only to leave it in that dojo while doing something else when out and about in our world. 

It is a philosophical spiritual aspect that includes such things as morality and humility, to name just two traits. This is meant to balance the physical practice with the needs, culture and beliefs of the society in which a practitioner lives, works and plays. It is meant to temper the physical into a more rounded way that is body, mind and spirit (the wholehearted heart of a truly moral, humble and proficient person). 

Topics of the Hall include “mind-body-spirit, Mushin, Non-intention, yin-yang, oneness/wholeheartedness, zanshin and being, non-action, character and the empty cup.” Look at it as a more esoteric approach to the study of the empty hand that will translate and inter-connect to everyday life events, i.e. what happens from the moment you wake to the moment of slumber then think about how it can be translated through your dream state. It is about that esoteric meaning that transcends those created within any specific discipline without having the ball-n-chain of any type of religious requirements.

It addressing those more esoteric underlying connections between a person and the seemingly different approaches that influence the martial arts as well as life itself. Those factors that contribute to make a true and traditional discipline work. Look at it as a spiritual or esoteric principle set that guides the actual fundamental principle of martial systems as it transcends those limitations and provides a far reaching set of additional principles that translate a martial system into a life system of sorts. 

Look at it as a moral compass that provides navigation through the applications in both conflict, which is indicative of all life, and life. It is about looking past the obvious and seeing the more mysterious and hidden. 

You can even look at this effort as an attempt to bring in a more philosophical meaning to martial arts. It is a philosophy or rather a belief system that drives a martial art in a direction that can be either positive or negative especially when applied to conflict. It is also that something that drives how you apply techniques, tactics and strategies that are about life. 

It is a philosophy and belief philosophy that allows a person to see, hear and feel all facets of life that actually prevent negative conflicts and possible violence. 

Ego and pride, controlling the monkey seems to be one key to enlightenment. Yodanada once said, “A person who can reform themselves, can reform the world.” To reform the self is to control and incarcerate the monkey so the thinking mind can achieve control over life. You can never truly rid yourself of the monkey. It is what made Spock a popular character because he embodied symbolically what man requires for enlightenment, recognition of the yin-yang of the human condition that the thinking mind and the monkey mind are always at odds. It is the battle that Spock endured to live up to his culture and beliefs by ridding himself of human emotions (the monkey on drugs) and allow the logical mind of the Vulcan control life, i.e. the thinking mind of man. 

His depiction of this always left the audience thinking, “will he succeed and become completely logical or will he succumb to human emotions?” It also symbolized that the ego, the monkey, is an intricate part of the human condition and cannot be truly removed so we then learn that to achieve dominance over the monkey we must constantly, diligently and continuously train, practice and apply that discipline that holds the monkey in the background and allows our Vulcan logically driven  thinking brain dominance over those parts that trigger emotional life situations. 

In martial arts we tend to focus on this only when in the dojo training. We don’t address those emotional stresses that trigger adrenal stress responses so we can practice as practicing this is key to everything. Without this we remain prisoners of the monkey brain and are doomed to expose ourselves to the worst of conflict. 

Often, such training methods are lost or driven away simply because they are difficult and the aspects that bring about greater advances and are seen as fun take precedent, the physical practices over the entire spectrum. 

Taking shortcuts seems, to me, to be normal human behavior. Maybe it is that monkey telling the thinking human brain that this is a good thing and that doing it will release all these wonderful hormonal chemicals that take you higher so you feel wonderful type thing when in reality that lazy assed monkey doesn’t want folks to become more, more that means the monkey doesn’t get to go out and play. 

This endeavor is about training the mind, the psychological area that influences how we interact with others, others being those who we align ourselves for the sake of survival. Survival that long ago meant not being eaten by a predator and today not being consumed by social/mental predators. 

It is that which causes us to pause, to think, to contemplate and understand what we say or do with all the consequences that brings. It is about taking the time to allow the thinking mind to assess and arrive at conclusions best suited to benefit the person, family and society as a whole. It is that part that tells you or whispers in the back of your mind, “Hey dude, don’t do that as it causes issues with others and you will have to bear the burden” vs. “Hey dude, kick that assholes butt and move on.”

The metaphor “the hall of the empty hand” is about what the hands symbolize. It starts with the obvious of empty-handed martial arts, it extends into the expressive gestures of communication that the hands provide and also takes into consideration as to the world’s essence of community and survival being held in the hands of countries, leaders and the people. 

Let us begin:

“A person's heart is the same as Heaven and Earth while the blood circulating is similar to the Sun and Moon yet the manner of drinking and spitting is either soft or hard while a person's unbalance is the same as a weight and the body should be able to change direction at any time as the time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself and both the eyes must see all sides as the ears must listen in all directions while the mind must grasp all the tactual data not seen on all sides and not heard in any direction.”

Let us begin:

First comes awareness. This awareness is internal and it must be open to everything it encounters. It is difficult as this requires putting aside any biases that would skew perceptions, perspectives and beliefs. As regarding beliefs, this is very difficult and requires one ignore them when listening and experiencing things that directly go against one’s beliefs. It is the only way to learn. 

Second comes knowledge. This knowledge is internal from external sources. It is about opening the mind and allowing all things to flow into, through and past so the human mind can absorb, analyze and then pass judgment on the merits of the knowledge. It is allowing knowledge already absorbed to be changed accordingly to the validity of new knowledge. This is also most difficult and why this “hall of the empty hand” has come to be. It is about learning of things we didn’t know we didn’t know. It is to look and hear from all directions and all sides be they physical or metaphysical. 

Third comes verification. To verify is to validate knowledge so that awareness remains reality based and free from personal and environmental influences that would distort knowledge into something that would result in damage. 

Fourth comes action. Putting your awareness, knowledge and verification into actions that would guide, mentor and teach you to say, do, hear and touch with openness, wholeheartedness and with childlike curiosity to foster a greater connection with the universe. 

Let us begin:

Emotional intelligence gives birth to emotional maturity. First there is emotional intelligence derived from knowledge whereby the intelligence allows us to use that knowledge to teach us about emotional life. As we learn, practice and apply our emotional knowledge we acquire emotional intelligence. Only with time and experience can we ever become mature. It is this application over time that provides us the means to become emotional mature. It is maturity that allows our influences to teach others or to influence others especially since emotions are contagious. Thus, through a natural and natures process we become aware of emotional awareness.

When we are aware of our emotional self we seek out emotional knowledge leading toward personal and group verification through life experiences that gives us emotional intelligence. Continued application is the action necessary to achieve emotional intelligence inter-connected with emotional maturity benefiting all for emotional survival. 

Emotional intelligence and emotional maturity are the key to open the doors to peace, tranquility, enlightenment, peace and prosperity for the person, the family and for the tribe. 

Let us begin:

Adrenaline, stress responses triggering the full spectrum of chemicals the body uses in such “fight-or-flight” situations. Often forgotten or dependent upon stresses induced in competitive models, i.e. MMA bouts, tournaments and shugyo. This is not enough. The reality based training should induce similar or the same responses you would get in an actual street attack. This is most difficult and requires training in ways most self-defense and empty-handed martial systems provide. 

It has been indicated through research that often persons exposed to real life combative situations will have their chemical releases due to situations and scenarios that are most often not a danger but the similarities or symbolic connection to  a real life event still “flood” the body with those same chemicals. It is not the way one would want to train for the flood but if a person is experiencing such things they can use that as a means to train the mind and (a big maybe here) that would provide a means to overcome this type of after effects.

Regardless, most of those who practice, train and utilize the empty hand are never exposed to such situations and may never be exposed but that is not to say that they may or might be exposed in the future. It is up to each individual since the majority of violence is avoidable. If one must achieve that proficiency then it is best to seek out various supplemental training courses and seminars that expose the martial artist, empty hand systems, etc., to such reality based training. 

If not, then each of us has to accept and admit that we are not training for combatives or self-defense. This “flooding” that is an absolute part of violence is critical to achieving some level of proficiency in achieving self-defense while remaining within the confines of societal requirements of self-defense. 

Let us begin:

Ok, lets get to it, lets discuss how we can segregate and exercise those special muscles we call “stabilizer muscles” to improve our martial arts practice, training and most important of all “applications.” You know, those muscles we use to provide us stability when punching and kicking, etc. These muscles need to be addressed with special exercises that will result in what some call “good chinkuchi.” Wait a minute …..

Here is the rub when someone makes the statement that some exercise or system provides for stronger stabilizer muscles therefore creating a stronger body part, i.e. hands and wrists, feet and ankles, etc. If you do some research, especially in the fields of kinesiology or anatomy, you will not find any category called, “Stabilizer muscles.” 

Here is a more exact response to the notion of “stabilizer muscles,” whereby to stabilize the human body our muscle can and do ACT as a stabilizer during the execution of a movement. It is all about what you are asking a muscle to do depending on the task at hand. Our muscle can act as both agonist and antagonist when performing an exercise or the performance of a particular task. 

Depending on the task or exercise the muscle can act as a stabilizer in order to allow other muscles to function as needed for that exercise or task. It is a bit like this, “Understand that when a muscle contracts it pulls equally from both ends. In order to have movement at only one end of the muscle other muscles must come into play to stabilize the bone to which the other end of the muscle is attached, in place.”

Another defining explanation is that a stabilizer is more a set of muscles that contract so that there is no significant movement so that it will maintain a posture of fixate a joint. In that light then it is understand in karate circles of Okinawa a chinkuchi action is about “fixating a joint or set of joints, etc.” In one suggested physical exercise the forearm, wrist and hand muscles will fixate so they don’t move or move only very little to achieve a solid unmovable forearm-wrist-fist configuration while the rest of the body continues to move its muscles in the agonist and antagonist fashion signifying normal muscle activity. 

Note: my explanation is a bit simplistic and may involve a bit more explanation of complexity but you get the idea.

So, in a nutshell there are no “stabilize muscles” as if a type of muscle you can dedicate an exercise to in development. It is more about utilizing your muscles in an appropriate way to both move and stabilize the skeletal system so that movement and certain types of moves can be accomplished in the most economical and beneficial way maximizing the strength and physiokinetics of the body, i.e. those that are explained by the fundamental principles of martial systems such as posture, spinal alignment, structure, sequential locking and relaxation and so on. 

Let us begin:

No-mind is also a term or inference toward controlling the three minds, i.e. the human mind, the monkey mind and the lizard mind. In a violent encounter we all, humans, experience what is referred to as the “flood.” A chemical rush or dump that is called inappropriately the “adrenaline dump.” Adrenaline is just one chemical of a mix of chemicals the body uses to protect us from dangers in life, i.e. the old fight-or-flight thing. 

The monkey tends to have its own agenda depending on both instincts that nature provides, the instincts trained into the mind when reality based systems induce the fight-or-flight response, i.e. the flood. It is about discarding all those emotionally driven thoughts that end in not too good results for the person affected and these emotionally driven distractions are all part of the monkey brain influencing the human and lizard minds. 

It is not truly about having a mind of no mind but rather a controlling of the monkey and the training of the human and lizard to the extent they achieve automation through instinctual responses. This comes from adequate and repetitive training regimens. 

The reason this “state of mind” or rather a mind-state or mind-set is critical in self-defense situations is simply because of how the monkey can hijack any volatile situation and run things against your better human brain logic, i.e. even fooling the human brain into thinking what the monkey is promoting is true and relevant to defense. 

Training the flood, training the mind and creating a sense of no-mind as it pertains to the socio-emotional monkey mind is about making room for the human to train the lizard enough that the monkey is repressed to a point where actions are appropriate and done within the socio-societal requirements that cover the before, during and after repercussions of any conflict. 

Let us begin:

When I think of zanshin I think of present moment mind. Being totally and completely in the moment, have total attention to the very moment in time in which you reside - even when those moments last only a moment. It is about losing yourself by being in the moment. It is a type of awareness toward everything that is happening in the moment. The ancient Asian martial masters had a saying, "stand like a mountain, flow like water, move like the wind," that means "full attention to the moment." It is about total focus, it is about total commitment. 

It is about reaching the end of the loop before your adversary. Total commitment and focus is an advantage over an adversary when you bring together all the martial principles into one whole effort or action to defend and protect. It is about transcending any other conscious state that hinders, restricts or creates tension of the mind and/or body. Be in the moment and keep your adversary in their conscious minds subject to the freeze and other obstacles. 

It is about seeing the true nature of things - being in the moment.

The question then becomes how we address being in the moment. Understanding how the mind works especially under the pressures and exposures of conflict and violence is critical with emphasis on the human, monkey and lizard brain. To achieve zanshin or being in the moment means repressing those socio-emotional tricks that our monkey brain imposes on us unless we have take appropriate steps to overcome through proper realistic training programs.

It is about living the kind of life as symbolized in martial arts philosophical principle training that allows us to recognize when the socio-emotional monkey is driving the bus whereby recognition then promotes training that alleviates its effects allowing a calmer and open mind to take charge. It is so that when repressed the mind opens and becomes a blank slate so that the human training of the lizard allows instinctual actions properly trained and encoded to be drawn forth and utilized while remaining within the confines of societal social and legal limits and requirements. 

It is that same zanshin that allows the mind to register without influence of the monkey so that proper articulation is allowed when dealing with the aftermath of violence and conflict. If the monkey is driving the bus and the flood is rushing about like a tidal flood whereby various effects distort the truth your human brain can extract and articulate the truth to your advantage.

Let us begin:

The reciprocal of mushin is kime, i.e., focus so sharp that you lengthen your line in relation to your adversary. It is a focus that is aware of things like situational awareness, environmental awareness and most of all personal awareness. The type of awareness that provides the time and distance necessary to apply all aspects of self-defense starting way before any physical conflict begins, i.e. by seeing the socio-emotional monkey kicking it into high gear. 

It is such a focus that you apply your tactics and strategies faster and instinctively remaining in the upper half of the loop while the adversary is trying to catch up stuck in the lower half. This type of focus is not just about the physical bur rather a focus that provides recognition of the self when it runs into the monkey. It is that type of focus that allows us to seperate the socio-emotional monkey that leads to acting outside the self-defense perimeter. It is also the focus that can utilize the human, monkey and lizard in a positive, reliable and instinctive manner before physical conflict but also during and after should the physical be required. 

The type of focus that is fluid in nature allowing you to remain in a mind uncluttered, unfettered, and unfocused while remaining responsive, alert, and aware when in chaos and under the influences of the bodies chemical dump from the encounter. To achieve total kime remember that the principles of proper technique become critical, it must be singularly powerful and complete.

Let us begin:

Duality, the type that the universe is born from, i.e. the one that brought the “big bang” and that the ancients recognized as the essence that makes life possible. The Japanese terms are, “in-yo.” 

In self-defense the yin-yang is more about the self and how it reacts and controls the monkey’s socio-emotional effects when stressed. It is about the positive aspects of that monkey that promote efficiency of the human and lizard brains under stress, conflict and the physical. It is the yin side of the monkey we tap into in a conflict while the yang side of the monkey, i.e. the socio-emotional monkey, that we need to suppress, to keep locked up tight and to control as possible under the flood, etc.

It is the yin side of self-defense that speaks to the various types of awareness to include the full spectrum of what self-defense entails along with knowldge of violence and force. 

It is the yin and yang requirements we must learn and understand that says, yin is that side that keeps within the confines of self-defense while yang is what takes us outside the safety and security of those same lines that hold self-defense within the acceptable confines of the societal and legal requirements, etc. 

Yin-yang are those concepts that mark the line of life’s conflicts to beneficial and detrimental since conflict is also a intricate part of life’s communications between human, animals and the fishes. 

Yin-yang are those inter-connected pathways that remain fluid and chaotic in their nature to achieve rhythm and cadence that permeates all things in the universe. It is the philosophical as inter-connected to the physical world. It is the spiritual vs. the action of the physical. 

It should be noted that this overall view of the inner principle that is philosophical provides for the over all yin-yang of nature. Much like the I Ching's trigrams composed of the four two-line set of lines that are used to create both hexagrams and trigrams composed from the singular great tai chi into the two lines, one broken and one complete being yin-yang whereby nature further divides into the four (set of two lines) lines or stages that are greater (old) yang, lesser (young) yang, greater (old) yin and lesser (young) yin. The four are represented by the combination of the singular lines.

This further represents how the flux or flow of life waxes and wanes between the greater and lesser of either yin or yang as appropriate. The four are dependent upon one another to create the one wholehearted holistic aspects of life and nature. This is the basis of all disciplines with emphasis on martial arts. 

Using the principles as our foundation you can see that there are equal yin and equal yang representations as shown above designations of principle categories with a equal number of yin-yang associations within each category of principles. This, I believe, is how martial arts were created and developed over the history of martial arts. 

Even our Okinawan styles and/or systems are all born from a single marital entity that is Indian to Chinese to all others. The history goes so far back that the only connection that is known today is the indian influences on the Chinese martial arts. 

To achieve true master of any martial art the practitioner should strive to keep an equilibrium or balance of all yin-yang aspects. To lessen or remove any one aspect puts the entire system out of balance and like a great weight will result in the fall of that system, especially when needed the most.

Let us begin:

These are the corner stone of any discipline, i.e. character and personality. It creates a symbiotic relationship that governs how a particular discipline is practiced, trained and applied. It ia about the mental and moral qualities that a person brings out and is distinctive, as a fingerprint, to that individual. It is about personality, disposition, temperment and persona, etc. 

Character is about trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and tribal connectivity. It is about a moral compass that guide the individual along their path in life and since the path is another trait or cornerstone in martial arts this becomes of greater significance to the individual. It is about empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty and loyalty. 

Using the yin-yang concept, character is only one side of the duality coin while personality is the other side. Personality, by itself is shallow but when character is added then the quality of the persona is greater and a compass that guides both to enlightenment. These moral behaviors when a part of the tribal inter-connectedness achieve unity and define the tribe as a distinction from others. 

As defined by a psychologist, Lawrence Pervin, moral character is “a disposition to express behavior in consistent patterns of functions across a range of situations.” 

Character is not about the outward manifestation but the inner. Again, yin-yang dictate that there be duality in all things so the duality here is the inner with the outer but the inner is indicative and drives the outer - not the other way round. Most duality matrixes tend to fluctuate between both sides of the coin while this particular coin is, hopefully, dominated by the character. This is a training and practice trait of the Asian martial arts, i.e. development of the inner to influence, train and apply the inner to the outer then to the inter-connectedness of others both within the tribe and as to others outside the tribe.

Let us begin:

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"
"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

How does man empty their cup? By creating an open mind unfettered by distractions and preconceived notions, ideas, perceptions and beliefs. These are intricate to human existence yet must be put aside in order for the mind, the person, to receive and accept the changes that come from new things and an open mind that is empty to receive and to encode into the human mind. 

Often perspective martial artists come to the dojo with preconceived notions as to how things are and this comes more from the entertainment media then from historical factual documents. Our society is heavily influenced by movies, television and the Internet. Often these venues contain false or dramatic renditions of things when true facts and completeness tend to shine a brighter light on what is reality vs. what is fictional. 

To accept things as they really are in life takes great strength and intestinal fortitude to allow such an open mind or to empty the cup - to empty the mind and make room for enlightenment.

Let us begin:

Why are you crying," he asks the soldiers. 
"We thought you dead," they responded. "How on earth did you survive that?"
"Oh, that is nothing," says the old man. "Instead of fighting the water, I became it. When the water pushes me down, I go down. And when the water pushes me up, I come up. Thus, I move with the water as a leaf in the wind."

Non-action challenges us to accomplish a given end not just through minimal effort but through non-effort. It would be accurate to say that, "Technique happens." 

How does technique just happen. How does one encode the mind so that the human mind, monkey mind and the lizard mind work toward implementing an action appropriate to any given situation? This is the essence of learning non-action. It is why this somewhat philosophical principle is a part of the fundamental principles of martial systems and its importance is set by the applications of those systems be they sport, combative or for many, self-defense. 

To achieve non-action action you need to blend together many things of a simple yet complex nature, the nature of self-defense in this particular case and as an example as to how this is accomplished in every day life. To achieve non-action is to achieve a holistic ability to apply all principles, i.e. theory (as it works for this topic), physiokinetic (as it works to encode both physical with other principles through a model of realistic practice of applications), technique (as it works to apply both a psychological and physical applications), and the philosophical (as it works to build the spirit and mind of a martial artist, etc.).

The Chinese ancient philosophies call this “wu wei [無為, jp.]” or “non-doing.” In Taoist beliefs it literally means, “non-action or non-doing.” It is about using balance and harmony to achieve results in life and this is also indicative of martial systems as microcosms to life. 

This is about taking all the variables of both realty and philosophical methods or paths that guide applications in martial arts toward the ability to create actions that are non-actions regardless of obstacles such as the flooding of the body and mind from stress releases often called adrenal dump or rushes. 

A simple concept that requires complex knowledge, understanding and implementation on a realty based model that will allow, non-action or wu-wei. 

Let us begin:

Becoming conscious of one’s own character, personality, feelings, motives, and desires. Creating a capacity for self-perception thus becoming self-conscious. It is becoming a person with the ability and capacity for introspection. To recognize oneself but most important to achieve a level of emotional intelligence so as to recognize one’s feelings and emotions with emphasis on emotions. 

The result is a knowledge and intelligence toward over very feelings. Feelings that govern our thoughts and reactions. To know if our thoughts and emotions are ruling a decision rather than the human mind, i.e. the monkey is driving the bus. It is about seeing deep within so that one can see the consequences of allowing the monkey to dance so that alternative human mind choices can be made and then apply them to create decisions about handling such things as conflict, anger and violence, etc. 

Self-awareness is about recognizing and acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses; seeing within yourself a self that is positive and realistic so as to avoid the more common pitfalls that come from the effects of allowing the monkey free reign in conflicts. 

Managing the monkey means managing your emotions and to do that you have to have that emotional intelligence so as to identify, name and address such emotional effects. You need to realize what is behind such emotions such as when some perceived hurt triggers anger when that hurt is more emotional than actual or real.

SA is about taking responsibility for the self, i.e. the human, the monkey and the lizard, so all your decisions and actions are right, correct and acceptable to society as a whole. 

It is about the ability to see reality so that you can distinguish between what someone says or does so that your own judgment and reaction is appropriate to the situation at any given moment. It is about being assertive over being angry or fearful. It is about creating the ability to provide conflict resolutions to yourself and thereby to others as conflicts arise. 

Look at it as Aristotle did so long ago, it is about developing a higher level of emotional intelligence or as he said, “Emotional Skillfulness.”

Let us begin:

I was just kind of mulling over things when I decided to come up with what it might take to actually do self-defense. Not saying there has to be any special ability but there are some things you have to allow yourself to do in order to make it work. Success in self-defense, like any discipline but especially the physical ones, is all about the mind and the body.

Regardless, the mind and body require a bit more than just talent and athletic ability but for self-defense to work you have to give yourself “permission.” You have to train that deep part of the ancient part of your brain, the lizard, to overcome some fundamental inhibitions both instinctual and societal so that you can either enforce those inhibitions or be a bit more relaxed about them. You need to truly and completely believe: This is OK. This guy is an adversary out to do you harm. You are better than him. You are the best in the world. Anyone who challenges you deserves to go down. You have to train the lizard and monkey to turn a switch off that allows you to act properly and accordingly to the situation as governed by social and legal requirements. 

You have to turn that switch off so you can act without dealing with ramifications of long term societal perceptions and perspectives because what you are encountering may be more than merely a school yard scuffle. You have to develop a mind-state that allows you to remain relaxed enough to keep tiny jitters out and hard enough to control a violent explosion, i.e. an explosion with the right kind of force as dictated by circumstances and those circumstances are changing constantly. 

Then we address the knowledge base from which a person has a solid foundation in so that they can see what they cannot see as well as see that which they don’t know they don’t know so that they can see that as well. It is just not seeing either, it is recognizing and then acting according to that same knowledge. Without knowledge of subjects like conflicts, violence and other such things you cannot see what you don’t have a basis or foundation for unless you know that knowledge. 

Knowing how violence and conflicts occur regarding what comes before, during and after are far more important than just knowing how to get physical. Even getting physical takes prerequisites that allow us to achieve that action (go back to paragraphs above for a reminder). You have to give yourself that permission, etc. along with learning how that is applied under adrenal stress, i.e. the flood. The flood changes the dynamics of how you apply your knowledge and how you apply self-defense, not just the physical applications but the entire spectrum. 

Part of that knowledge is learning that there is a reality based, no bullshit community that has lived and breathed a life chock full of things like conflict and violence. Not just the ones we experience day to day like the small conflicts between couples or between coworkers or even between customers and service providers but those conflicts, etc. that often take us toward violence or those actions that expose a person to the type of violence outside social circles, i.e. predatory violence and so on.

Let us begin:

I was working out and training this morning when a thought occurred to me, “If karate-ka observed your kata today they would flame you for not adhering to certain basic and fundamental practices such as the enbusen line.” It made me think of those days when I worked construction building houses so very, very long ago. It goes a bit like this:

You start our building a house with blueprints and specifications. This is much like being exposed to basic techniques often called the upper and lower basics. It extends into the kata that are like blueprints where the drawings outline certain patterns in the home such as wall configurations and placements, etc. This is similarly or symbolic of the enbusen lines. 

As you practice as a homes construction begins you deal with a ton of logistics such as materials, workers, costs, construction techniques and of course the design of the house. This is similar or symbolic of such things as the fundamental principles of martial systems, i.e. structure, posture, power, etc. You are getting my drift here, right?

Now, once the construction is completed the home sits on the lot. It has a foundation, walls, roof, doors, windows, etc. but not much else. This is the state of today’s martial arts practice in particular “karate.” It is like we are happy with the home so we continue to check out the construction and go over the blueprints and so on to make sure the home is solid and long lasting but we are not truly living in that home because it is missing something, a something that makes that home, a home.

Most, if not almost all, seem content to play with the home as it is and often leave it every training session just like it was when they first entreated it after construction was completed. They are so thrilled to have a home and to have one built by a particular designer, i.e. “this home was designed and built by Tatsuo-san (using the karate system I learned as an example ergo Tatsuo Shimabuku Sensei).”

Now, as I understand Isshinryu history, Tatsuo-san always told his graduates (those leaving a tour of duty on Okinawa) that they must continue practicing and learning before they assumed a certain level of proficiency as indicated by a silk certificate he presented. This is tantamount to giving a new home owner their front door keys and saying, here you go, it is all yours, do with it as you feel you should.

We all took what we were taught and accepted the house as it appeared after that construction but we assumed that to change that house in any way would be disrespectful to the designer and the builder. This is where most karate gets stuck, it stagnates. It is also the reason why so many start out training and practicing in karate but soon, very soon, stop. 

What I propose is one must practice and train following the blueprints and design specifications but when all is done and open to move in the practitioner must “move in” and then practice and train until they are inspired by the house, the property and the neighborhood (i.e. the culture and beliefs system of Okinawa along with their personal culture and belief systems) so that they may begin to “decorate” it to fit them and their life practices. This is part of the budo of bujutsu. 

We decorate by playing with basics, kata, kumite, reality based training models, and as a simplified example we break the enbusen line; we break the patterns and line of the kata; we break the drills from their patterns; we break the drills used for self-defense training so that we reach higher levels of proficiency that is not tied to any particular pattern because such patterns tend to stagnate and freeze us when we try to apply them to life’s challenges. 

To decorate the home is to add curtains, purchase and arrange furniture that fits each room’s functionality and we put gardens of bushes, plants, flowers and such to create a new and greater house that comes from all the designer’s and builder’s vision into something unique. 

In Isshinryu, this is exactly how Tatsuo-san created the house of Isshinryu. If he had stayed steadfast and dedicated to what his teachers has taught him so long ago Isshinryu would not have been built (born). He did just what I suggest above but he took it one step further than most can, should or will do, create a new system and name it - that is not the point. Making a new system and naming it simply fogs the mind and clutters the arts in general but creating something unique and applicable to yourself is a good thing. 

As with history, we should be respectful to those who came before but we should also extend that respect into admiration by creating ourselves not in the image of that master but in our own image of what we aspire to be as a human and as a karate-ka. 

Karate today is stagnate and to achieve mastery of a life time of practice, training and applications is to break free of those chains and practice, train and apply something that is unique to you, the individual. It is about decorating your house of karate with all those things that tie directly to the true essence of all martial arts and to life, the fundamental principles of martial system - the one corner stone of building that does not change nor should they be changed.