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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Hey, NOTHING here is PERSONAL, get over it - Teach Me and I will Learn!

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Relevance and Context

Caveat: this post is my interpretation of readings and studies therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. It is highly recommended one fact check the data for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter.  

Relevance: means "important to the matter at hand.”; means "important to the matter at hand.”; the ability (as of an information retrieval system) to retrieve material that satisfies the needs of the user …

Context: the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.; the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.; the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect; the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.; the parts of a piece of writing, speech, etc, that precede and follow a word or passage and contribute to its full meaning: it is unfair to quote out of context; the conditions and circumstances that are relevant to an event, fact, etc.

the trouble with tribbles, i.e. the trouble with most posts concern the context and the relevance of that post as it applies to that context. In other words most postings, including mine, tend to take a quote from an article then post on that quote and that quote may or may not represent the entire article. This leads to an infinite loop that is self-generating similar to the conundrum of which came first, “The Chicken or the Egg.” 

When I remember I try to let the reader know that what I am posting regards the quote or terms or article that is often quoted or referenced in a bibliography and therefore have or has noting to do with that author or his or her posting or article. Often, mostly, it is about the exact quote taken on its own merit, alone and separate from the source material derived from for my posts, articles and mindless meanderings. 

Until the context is fully understood and until any comments, quotes or renderings are contextually connected and accurate the war on words will continue round and round and round we go, like an infinite loop. 

In my view, almost all arguments in the martial community comes from the human pension to stop immediately when they read or hear a comment, usually out of context to the relevance of the entire discussion, so they can immediately take control, a hierarchical and status type thing, and express their opinions on that one small thread that usually is not about the topic of the discussion. It is a monkey dance we all lean heavily toward and why “Active Listening” is such an important trait to develop. We all do it, not actively listen but jump as soon as our Monkey mind perceives something emotional and irrelevant to the context and relevance of any discussion be it spoken or written. We witness this phenomena every time some emotional volatile situation arises in the news such as police involvement where great bodily harm or death occur. We immediately shut out any relevant information that would go against what we are about to say or do so that we can excuse what ever we do say or do. 

The breakdown in communications between humans and human tribes or groups often come from that breakdown that happens over the relevance and context of any situation, regardless. If only we could, first, actually learn and apply active listening, second, we could shut down our emotional reactions from the monkey brain and prevent the monkey slide then use our human brains to actively listen, analyze the data, seek out more data though research and active listening and reading then make a relevant and contextually accurate thought that will be then spoken or written. 

Hmmm, sounds like a plan doesn’t it. How many of you actually read the entire post first before starting to formulate a thought and response? How many of you who have read this entire post now think, “Oh, yea, this could stop a lot of violence and create avoidance and/or deescalation thus avoiding violence therefore be a good topic and subject for training, teaching and applying self-defense for conflicts and violence.”

Twelve Traits Toward Traditional Recognition or Classical or Old Style …

Caveat: this post is my interpretation of readings and studies therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. It is highly recommended one fact check the data for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. This is not to disparage Ryan Parker sensei's article, beliefs, meanings, etc. but to simply pose questions for open discussion. In some ways I agree that his perspective in regards to traditional or old style is pretty good. 

The Ryukyu Martial Arts blog wrote an article to present, “Old Style Karate, Top 12 Ways it differs from Modern Karate.” The article was written by Ryan Parker Sensei who also administers the FB Wall on Ryukyu Martial Arts. Here are the twelve traits of the old style karate he presents ( ):

1) Focus on close range techniques and tactics (which in turn necessarily creates an emphasis on limb control and/or trapping, low-line kicking, and so on) 

2) Emphasis on special qualities which often are expressed by somewhat rare Okinawan terminology (muchimi, chinkuchi, gyame, muchi, gamaku, etc) 
3) Body Conditioning (kote-kitae, iron sand palm, machiwara training etc)
4) Tenshin / tai-sabaki (evasive body motion/body-rotation, sophisticated footwork) 
5) Hojo-undo / kigu-undo (supplementary training especially functional strength training using special implements) 
6) Tuidi (aka gyakute or karamidi etc i.e. joint-wrenching and joint-locking)
7) Use of sensitivity drills (kakie, sticky hands, Okinawan versions of "Hubud" etc)

8) Techniques are not “squared off” or enlarged for aesthetic reasons

9) Use of unusual (typically very small) striking surfaces
10) Medical knowledge (bone setting, kautsu, herbal medicine, moxa, cupping, tsubo massage etc.)

11) Kokyu-ho / kiko (breathing methodologies, qigong type training)

12) Chibudi / kyusho (study of anatomical weakness and exploiting body-reactions)

In a sense I am not sure I can actually speak on his view as to the twelve traits given but I do recognize them as considered a part of the, “Old Style Karate” practices of the early to mid 1900’s. I also recognize some of them appear in photo’s but those photo’s may or may not actually be from the late 1800’s. 

In that sense are these things actually considered old style karate if they come from the early 1900’s? In other words, what is the definition of “Old Style Karate?” For some, especially those who were born or started practicing karate in the late 1900’s and into the new century those who practiced and taught karate in the early 1900’s, i.e., 1900 to 1954, etc., may seem like old style to them but is that really old style?

I know of Ryan Parker Sensei and have respect for his practice, teachings and beliefs but that sill brings up the question similar to the one, “What is the definition of traditional and/or classical fighting arts or karate or martial arts?” It is way up there in the flame wars type discussions and will continue so for decades to eons from now. That is just the way it is and until everyone comes to some agreement as to what is traditional? What is Classical? What is Old Style? Then that is always going to be a bane of discussions throughout the martial community. 

Let me take one at a time:

1) Focus on close range techniques and tactics (which in turn necessarily creates an emphasis on limb control and/or trapping, low-line kicking, and so on) 

Whether I would accept this as an indication of old style karate is up for grabs but I will concede the point on the fact that this is the actual way fights or attacks occur except in the more modern social venue and especially in the competitive community. I also personally believe that the indigenous Okinawan system of Ti (pronounced Tee) actually created their systems as close in ranged because of this fact. After all, the way humans fight has not actually changed in the entire human history. The body works a specific way and that is why I believe in the fundamental principles of martial systems since those are the same now as they were hundreds of years past. 

I would agree also that due to the nature of violence between humans that the close-in fighting model would and should include joint manipulations, controls, trapping, etc. but does that actually make it old style karate?

2) Emphasis on special qualities which often are expressed by somewhat rare Okinawan terminology (muchimi, chinkuchi, gyame, muchi, gamaku, etc) 
I can’t actually tell here because my first impression seems to tie the statement to the rare terms used that come directly from the Okinawan dialect, i.e., hogen/uchinaguchi, etc. When I think of the principles I think of these terms. I do concede once again that most of the more modern versions of karate don’t even know or nor can they explain such things as Parker sensei talks of in this second statement. 

I can believe that some either naturally utilize these principles of martial disciplines but often they have no clue yet those that do are not necessarily old style karate practices since this is also about principles, i.e., things like structure, posture, breathing, axis, and so on. They are just referenced using these ore dated terms but does that actually make the karate you use them with old style karate?

I mean, Isshinryu is a fairly new system of karate and the older or more “traditionally minded” practitioners who have had exposure to some of the older practitioners of this system are familiar with and use the teachings of things like gamaku, chinkuchi and other such terms while other practitioners of the same system use the more principle based English terms. As long as the results are the same does that mean one, both or neither are old style karate? Does it mean that even tho Isshinryu has only been a practiced form of Okinawan karate since the early 1950’s that it is not an old style karate? Does it mean if they use the terms as Parker sensei presents that it now becomes an old style karate? 

What if those in the west who morphed their versions of karate into the modern but use the terms and practice the principles involved, do they now qualify as old style karate?

3) Body Conditioning (kote-kitae, iron sand palm, machiwara training etc)
Karada-kitae, body conditioning, is not new. It is not exclusive to Okinawan Ryukyu based or forms of karate or martial disciplines. The fact that many other forms of martial disciplines including those of the west and those of European ancestry also rely heavily on conditioning the body, thus the mind, thus the spirit of the individual in its practices and training regimens so does that mean they are old style or old style karate or should the symbolic term of karate even be included. Take a look at the reference to iron sand palm, is that actually a practice of Okinawan origins or is that merely adopted from some other Asian source like Chinese Kung Fu? Then again, since today’s karate is actually a compilation of both Okinawan Ti along with influences from both Japan and China, is Okinawan karate actually old style? Then again, depends on how you define old style.

4) Tenshin/tai-sabaki (evasive body motion/body-rotation, sophisticated footwork) 
I tend to think this one might be about the disparity of practices toward teaching as ignorance of sensei who are more recent, say last decade or so, that learned the more sportive or maybe educational versions of karate vs. reality based defense type karate - what some call combative or fighting karate. 

This is also seemingly tied to terminology because, as stated earlier, other martial ways also teach and practice and apply these concepts or principles toward fighting, competitive fighting and especially self-defense/defense versions. I don’t see, other than by terms, this as exclusive or indicative of old style karate. 

Consider this, many of these terms were not truly known by these actual terms until the advent of the Internet with its plethora of applications that make such things available at the click of a mouse. Looking/remembering the early publications such terms were not used as much as you would think. Most of the early pubs were actually more Japanese based and most of the Okinawan based terms didn’t truly become more known until the advent of the WWW or Internet. 

5) Hojo-undo/kigu-undo (supplementary training especially functional strength training using special implements) 
Same comments previously made with emphasis on the terms used still applies here. Granted, such terms and equipment are special to the Okinawan systems of karate but not much historic information is known to say it pre-dates the early 1900’s. At least not by much. One of the reasons this type of stuff remains under discussion today is the lack of historical data to support this except the word of mouth. 

Word of mouth is always questionable because of the human brains natural way of storing and retrieving information. Information that is influenced and changed according to perceptions, perspectives, new and old knowledge that may affect how that is stored and retrieved, etc. Word of mouth in some cultural ways tends to change according to that cultural influence at the time of a question and its verbal answer. Add in the aging of a practitioner and naturally what they remember and believe changes accordingly. I don’t say that word of mouth is not a good source but it is one that must always be taken with skepticism because of human brain workings. 

6) Tuidi (aka gyakute or karamidi etc i.e. joint-wrenching and joint-locking)
Read 1 to 5 above, all of it applies.

7) Use of sensitivity drills (kakie, sticky hands, Okinawan versions of "Hubud" etc)

Read 1 to 5 above, all of it applies.

8) Techniques are not “squared off” or enlarged for aesthetic reasons

Read 1 to 5 above, all of it applies.

9) Use of unusual (typically very small) striking surfaces

Read 1 to 5 above, all of it applies.   

10) Medical knowledge (bone setting, kautsu, herbal medicine, moxa, cupping, tsubo massage etc.)

Read 1 to 5 above, all of it applies. Not sure this would qualify any dojo either here or on the island of Okinawa. These are good things to know but not sure they actually had this knowledge base in the “old days.” I suspect this comes from the concerted effort of modern western influences to incorporate them into the training hall. Most of this, even if not actually concered medicine, etc., takes a considerable amount of knowledge, certifications and application/experience. I have a hard time believing any dojo, here or Okinawa, can actually become proficient in these disciplines. If the dojo or training hall merely takes some seminar type classes for “Familiarization” then they are going to do their students a disservice because to apply such things without proper training, education and experience levels is almost criminal or criminal. 

This is a bit like earning your sho-dan then going straight out to teach and open a dojo thinking that because you are a black belt that you have the knowledge, etc. that allows you to teach. Ergo, why we have such a large volume of McDojo’s and the like. Yet, we are the first ones to complain when someone teaches and passes along such things. 

11) Kokyu-ho/kiko (breathing methodologies, qigong type training)

Read 1 to 5 & 10 above, all of it applies.

12) Chibudi/kyusho (study of anatomical weakness and exploiting body-reactions)

Read 1 to 5 and 10 above, all of it applies.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Karate ni sente nashi

Caveat: this post is my interpretation of readings and studies therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. It is highly recommended one fact check the data for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter.  

It is assumed that the meaning here is about not attacking first in karate but is that actually the meaning. There are several interpretations to this quote and all are dependent on the characters/ideograms used as well as who interpreted it along with what version of translator was used to do that interpretation. In my efforts I found two other terms used in this interpretation other than the term “Attack.” 

The first one found is provided by Henning Wittwer, in his book (see bibliography) where he interprets the characters/ideograms as “Movement.” Then there is the one that comes from the characters/ideograms presented on the wiki site for Gichin Funakoshi, i.e. his characters in one translator uses, “Initiative,” in lieu of attack. 

The Tangorin translation site translates the individual characters/ideograms as follows:

- empty; sky; vacant; vacum.
- hand
- before; ahead; previous; future; precedence. 
- hand

(Note: the other characters are - two; load; baggage; cargo; freight; goods; burden; responsibility; red earth; takes after; two; bhikkhuni; soil, - name; reputation; indicates emotion or emphasis; form of verb for prohibition; command, - death; decease; poem; verse of poetry; four; magazine; city; reasons; official; teacher; master; one’s mentor, etc.

This makes interpretations difficult but in a sense since most characters/ideograms when combined assume a different meaning then we can attach some validity to these translations, i.e., “Attack, Initiative, and movement.” 

If this is true then it would change the meaning of the quote significantly since movement, initiative and attack tend to lead the reader is a direction according to their perception and perspective dependent on which term is used. 

The Western mind may tend to lean heavily toward the term attack as it would connect to the perception of karate as a combative or defensive system. This may be a mistake but it would depend heavily on why Funakoshi Sensei made it, i.e., as a teaching toward the physical application of karate or as a more spiritual or philosophical teaching in the practice and application of karate. Personally, I lean more toward the philosophical. Even if he were alive today and gave us his English term it may not be adequate since his perceptions and perspective along with is culture influence when speaking English would have an effect different then our cultural understanding of words, etc.

Personally, I prefer the term, “Initiative,” over attack. Taking the initiative leaves the mind open to many other paths to take other than just blitzing an adversary with some karate technique. It leaves us open to taking other paths that would lead to avoidance or even deescalation vs. simply attacking. An adversary in modern times will, mostly, go through a process before committing to a physical attack so that would allow a karate-ka the time and hopefully distance to use the human brain to perceive some other type of defense, i.e., taking the initiative to prevent violence unless that option is removed by the adversary. 

I can say that the characters/ideograms provided from Internet sources are all the same across the board so the chances that one or more are incorrectly presented, created, are small. 

In the end, the use of attack should not be considered the only or even correct translation and/or interpretation. The variables involved leave plenty of room to speculate and actually use a term that would suit the philosophy of each and every karate-ka. This is something similar to the interpretations of the ken-po goku-i, i.e., where I believe the intent is to understand it from a personal perspective similar to Zen koans, i.e., a karate koan. 

In the end it is a personal decision with no one source absolute, even Funakoshi Sensei’s.

p.s. Karate by Jesse writes, ““sente” really means “initiative/first move”, and notattack”. 
p.s.s. Nagamine Shoshin in the book, “Tales of Okinawa’s Great Masters,” said, “The time has come to learn in sincere humility the true meaning of “Karate Ni Sente Nashi […] In martial arts, wherever kokoro [the spirit] has been forgotten, or never learned, so too will the principle of Karate Ni Sente Nashi also be misunderstood, or worse, not even known! In reality, Karate Ni Sente Nashi is a warning, and any martial artist who ignores this maxim is a hypocrite.”

Wittwer, Henning. “Scouting Out the Historical Course of Karate: Collected Essays.” Impressum. Germany. 2014 (
Jesse. “Karate Ni Senti Nashi a la Motobu Choki.”
James, Charles E. “COMPARISON: “karate ni sente nashi.” and "The time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself."

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Yushikisha [有識者]

The characters/ideograms mean, “Expert; knowledgable person.” The first character means, “Possess; have; exist; happen; occur; approx.” the second character means, “discriminating; know; write,” the third character means, “someone; person.” 

The title is misleading yet its influence is wide spread throughout society. When the news brings on an “Expert” to provide an opinion of an event we all tend to give them credence simply because of their status as experts with a resume of experience and education to bolster that view. Here is a quote, “The long-distance diagnosis of public events, even by experienced experts, can easily become a parody of professional procedure. The result can be a form of glorified gossip, lent credence not by the facts but merely by the experts credentials.” - Unknown

Experts as a whole are no where near as infallible as we would like to think. Often, their opinions, theories and hindsights,” are simply a form of personal gossip based on personal perceptions, personal perspectives and even more important a foundation of information that is incomplete, inaccurate and biased by media, etc. 

The next time an expert tells you that something is what he or she thinks, take it with a grain of salt and do the research and you will find that most times that something is just plain bullshit. 

Then there are those personalities, like radio personalities, who provide their opinions and are often believed simply due to societies belief in celebrity status tend to provide information that skews the truth and spread drama emotional, incomplete, inaccurate and biased data on things they should just “keep their mouths shut” about. But, ratings and income tend to push aside truth, facts and accuracy, i.e. the complete and unabridged truth and facts of the thing.

This goes for anyone who promotes themselves and expert martial artists or expert self-defense instructors. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Familiarity with Martial Systems/Styles

It is a very good thing to become familiar with other systems/styles. It becomes even easier if one can discern the underlying principles of martial systems within each of those systems/styles because they all are subject to them wholeheartedly. When it comes to principles there are no differing systems/styles. 

An old story goes like this, a martial artists who spends the time learning one kata really well will find when he learns additional kata the learning curve is much smaller. This also goes to the story of the Japanese Story Teller, a student who was required to spend years learning how to tell one story leaves his sensei out of frustration and when the student stops as a way station is tempted into telling his story. The listeners were so impressed they assumed he was a master story teller when in reality he was a novice student.

The real story is not about learning one kata or one story really, really well but to actually learn the underlying principles really, really well. Once you master the principles then any and all systems and styles are familiar but with a personal touch that makes them a system or style over being just one martial art.

Like the one martial system of Okinawan ancient times called, "Ti (pronounced TEE)," being the forefather of Tomari, Naha and Shuri that were the forefather to Shorin, Goju and Uechi Ryu's. They are personal interpretations of Ti and Ti adhered to the fundamental principles of martial systems and became Uechi-ryu, Shorin-ryu, Goju-ryu and Isshinryu, etc.
So, in reality if we spend our time and have the goal of mastering the principles of martial systems regardless of the "name" of a system/style then we truly master all systems/styles or at the very least master the fundamentals underlying all systems/styles.

Study the fundamental principles of martial systems, then study the other systems/styles to become familiar with the individual personal way of applying the principles in martial disciplines.

When your reach this stage then to achieve the ability to defend against conflict/violence you study the non-martial aspects of martial arts as depicted in the addition of the fifth principle:

PRINCIPLE FIVE: PRINCIPLES OF SELF-DEFENSE (“Conflict communications; Emotional Intelligence; Lines/square/circle of SD, Three brains (human, monkey, lizard), JAM/AOJ and five stages, Adrenal stress (stress induced reality based), Violence (Social and Asocial), Pre-Attack indicators, Weapons, Predator process and predator resource, Force levels, Repercussions (medical, legal, civil, personal), Go-NoGo, Win-Loss Ratio, etc. (still working on the core sub-principles for this one)”

Bibliography (The above post are my thoughts and mine alone, the below are simply sources that influence my thoughts on this subject):
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.
Miller, Rory. "ConCom: Conflict Communications A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication." Amazon Digital Services, Inc. 2014. 
Miller, Rory and Kane, Lawrence A. "Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision-making under Threat of Violence." YMAA Publisher. New Hampshire. 2012
Miller, Rory. "Force Decisions: A Citizen's Guide." YMAA Publications. NH. 2012.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Meditations of Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence" YMAA Publishing. 2008.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected." YMAA Publishing. 2011.
Elgin, Suzette Haden, Ph.D. "More on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense." Prentice Hall. New Jersey. 1983.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1995
Morris, Desmond. “Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behavior.” Harry N. Abrams. April 1979.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1993.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Written Self-Defense" MJF Books. 1997
Maffetone, Philip Dr. “The Maffetone Method: The Holistic, Low-stress, No-Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness.” McGraw Hill, New York. 2000

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Proof of Self-defense/Proof of Martial Arts

How does one prove that what they do and what they teach and what they practice and what they know is going to work? Even if it works or even if it does not work in a SD situation does not prove or disprove its validity. Isn’t this the crux of anything or rather any discipline. 

Maybe it is more about “consistency” in application especially when it involved conflict/violence. If something consistently works then maybe that is proof. Don’t assume tho that because it works or worked that it is proof because that means that it is working for that person in that instance for that situation. It may not work the next time and not because it is fallible but because humans are fallible. 

We martial artists spend and exorbitant amount of time explaining, analyzing and dissecting things to see how they work but when it comes to determination of its working in a real life situation we make assumptions and those assumptions are not based on fact, studies of fact with a scientific base or reality based experiences. Do you want to make a life and death situation on assumptions?

So many things must be assumed. In SD we lean heavily toward such assumptions because to do otherwise is to expose ourselves to the dangers and pitfalls of violence and conflict and all its peripheral effects such as legal prosecution, physical injury and psychological damage. So, we assume that what the teacher teaches actually works and we use thier words and lessons as “proof” that it will work.

Is this the way of things? I think so after all the military makes a lot of assumptions and then uses those assumptions to create training that will, at the very least, prepare soldiers for combat and all that entails including the real threat of death.

Where martial arts goes bad is when the second and subsequent generations continue to change, due to assumptions and the words of others with less or no fighting experiences, the systems from the origins created from combat experiences. Even those combat experiences are subjective in nature because they worked for those does not mean they will work again for others. 

Trial by fire or to forge the blade in heat of battle is a requirement. Experience puts the words to the music and all of it holistically and wholeheartedly creates the symphony that is SD for conflict and violence. Even then, it is still subject to individuality as to experiences, perceptions, perspectives, cultural social influences and beliefs. 

In the end proof only comes from consistent successful experience. So, what in martial arts is proven to be consistently successful in conflict and violence? In a nutshell, “avoidance.” Our human natural instinctual fight-or-flight instincts to avoid extreme violence that results in death or great bodily harm to which both are not conducive to tribal survival. 

The need I find most necessary is “distinctions!” All of us have to self-assess what we are doing and why we do it so that we know, understand and see, feel, hear and accept both depth and breadth of our disciplines along with their limitations. If we can make the distinctions and then train and practice accordingly then, maybe then, all of this will actually work and we can find our proof of SD and MA.

What say ye?

Zanshin in Self-defense

Caveat: this post is my interpretation of readings from Meditations on Violence therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. It is highly recommended one read his book for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the book.  

Zanshin is explained in many ways by many systems and by many martial practitioners. It is actually a combination of “both awareness and experience.” In order to expand this understanding you have to expand on “awareness” and “experience.” There are a variety of awarenesses one must understand, achieve and experience to get a state of zanshin. 

Example: When confronted by the monkey dance one who acts bored and thoughtful can come across as a very powerful individual. It is a matter of not questioning your own status thereby making it harder for someone to challenge you regarding your status. In the monkey dance status and respect affects your status within the tribe, tribes are about survival. This type of posturing provides the adversary with indicators that you have power, confidence and your status to be unquestionable and impeachable. Your power is demonstrated by the calm you project and its aura of confidence. 

This attitude and projection of zanshin comes across as a clear signal you are not going to fall into the monkey dance trap. This aura is zanshin, this aura of awareness and experience that creates a mind of zanshin, an aura cultivated by a combination of awareness and insight into experience. 

As important as experience is toward zanshin, experience without the mindfulness is not zanshin. Mindfulness toward a self-analysis and self-appraisal as the experience provides a balanced whole that is zanshin. This is one aspect of self-awareness and awareness that builds that aura of zanshin. It is this type of awareness that provides you the tools to look inward and gain insight from and into experience.

To develop this zanshin you have to remain open to experience along with all its effects. In order to gain zanshin, “YOU have to have experienced experience. It has to be allowed to become a part of you meaning you cannot hide your head in the sand and you cannot “ignore your experiences” no matter how ugly and distasteful it may feel. You have to examine it, much like professionals create and study their after action reports, and that means you have to seek to understand it completely and as thoroughly as possible. It is the lessons of experience that creates the awareness that is zanshin. This type of awareness and experience contributes greatly toward other aspects of awareness in self-defense that completes the circle that becomes zanshin.

Look to zanshin as the development of “cool and calm” that projects confidence that comes across with the aura of competence. That competence that is zanshin projecting the cool and calm that speaks to adversary’s and fundamental obstructs their ability and will to act against you. 

I quote, “A self-defense expert who has read DeBecker and Christensen and MacYoung and Strong and Blauer will be able to get good information to their students - in a very real sense, they will know the words, but not the music.” - Rory Miller, Meditations on Violence

The question here is, “How many of the self-defense instructors have adequate experience along with experiences awareness that allows them to properly teach self-defense rather than merely passing along the academic knowledge?” Even the type and amount of experience will lend a level of credence with more experience building on the instructors zanshin over mere knowledge, i.e., adding music to the lyrics. 

Note: My personal experiences are not adequate to provide a completed song of self-defense. I have the lyrics with a few notes of music but the entire song is not adequate to convey the entire track. It is a bit like having good sight but the peripheral vision is blurred and veiled. 

This post is meant to convey another aspect of the principles of martial systems, i.e. sub-principle of zanshin under the principle of philosophy (mind, mushin, kime, non-intention, yin-yang, oneness, ZANSHIN and being, non-action, character, the empty cup).


Miller, Rory Sgt. "Meditations of Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence" YMAA Publishing. 2008.

Bibliography (The above post are my thoughts and mine alone, the below are simply sources that influence my thoughts on this subject):
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.
Miller, Rory. "ConCom: Conflict Communications A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication." Amazon Digital Services, Inc. 2014. 
Miller, Rory and Kane, Lawrence A. "Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision-making under Threat of Violence." YMAA Publisher. New Hampshire. 2012
Miller, Rory. "Force Decisions: A Citizen's Guide." YMAA Publications. NH. 2012.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Meditations of Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence" YMAA Publishing. 2008.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected." YMAA Publishing. 2011.
Elgin, Suzette Haden, Ph.D. "More on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense." Prentice Hall. New Jersey. 1983.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1995
Morris, Desmond. “Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behavior.” Harry N. Abrams. April 1979.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1993.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Written Self-Defense" MJF Books. 1997
Maffetone, Philip Dr. “The Maffetone Method: The Holistic, Low-stress, No-Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness.” McGraw Hill, New York. 2000

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dan Grades and Progress

How accurate are dan gradings as a sign of progress?” - Photo caption Shinseidokan Dojo blog by Michael Clarke

Caveat: This is my post and my views and my perceptions, not Clarke Sensei’s. The quote above as a question on his site under a photo inspired my post today, nothing more and nothing less. Don’t read into this post as anything Clarke Sensei says or writes or does not say or doesn’t not write or believes or does not believe - it is my perspective and perception and any inferences are mine and mind alone.

First, as a sign of progress is more or less dependent on the individual, the dojo, the Sensei, the Senpai and so on for those unique individuals. It is a personal matter that often gets projected to larger groups with differing perceptions and perspectives and there lies the rub and the fuel that ignites flame wars. 

Second, their accuracy is a misnomer and driven by a social dynamic and actually this distracts from the accuracy and signatory toward progression because, once again, it is a personal journey and thus a personal individual unique thing for that person as to his association toward his seniors in the dojo. Specifically it is a personal relationship with him or herself with the sensei of the dojo. No one else and no one else should be involved or concerned. This is why the wearing of the belt may need to remain a dojo thing rather than a symbol to be recognized by anyone outside that dojo. Only the individual as they grow in depth and breadth in their “personal” practice and training can see within themselves their level of progress toward mastery of the system or style or “Way (doah as in “Do”).” 

Granted the second statement requires clarification because when a novice is learning they are still ignorant to the system and its ways until they reach a certain level of academia and physiokinetic proficiency, understanding and knowledge. It is only when they begin to deviate from the path they follow according to the teachings of the dojo and its sensei that they begin to realize and recognize their self-discovery, self-realization and self-analysis that allows them to determine the accuracy of the level or grade as appropriate to the progress they are achieving. This is the tricky part simply because external influences in the dojo and in the martial communities will influence their thought processes on this especially as it pertains to the human instinctual need of a group dynamic as discussed in human survival instinctual teachings that are group and societal dynamics. 

Third, the practitioner must then have achieved a level of maturity that will allow them to join others outside their dojo while allowing for a return to the bottom to gain acceptance in dojo and communities or groups or tribes that have “different” needs, beliefs and requirements due to different perspectives and perceptions. It is important that the practitioner have as their understanding and belief that such differences and changes have nothing to do with their progress to date along with the level they personally feel and achieve in relation to the new dojo, tribe of social group. 

When you try to create a grading system to recognize and symbolize progression in a martial system you open that system to the incongruities of human nature and differences. It then pits one person against another as well as one group against another creating a divide between like-minded folks in an overall community under the heading of martial arts, martial systems, or martial styles. 

One persons treasure may be another persons junk and that goes for gradings and levels as that disparity under differeing community dynamics tends to create. This is why any attempt to achieve a larger governing community or association tends to fail or at least fall way short of this most personal aspect to the martial arts. 

The uniqueness of human qualities, perceptions and beliefs leads us to recognize this and yet humans still try to assign “things” that will allow them to be managed or governed or controlled where control, government or management is not appropriate. This is why I personally believe that ranking, grading or levels of progress must be a dojo and only a dojo thing. That is why I believe, even at the dojo level, that requirements that are both … and … are best served if derived from the principles that underly all martial systems rather than the specifics created by each individual system or style. The only reason there are systems and styles is the human need to gather into groups or tribes for a perceived survival need but principles transcend all this human intervention through ego and pride based requirements. 

So, in closing, the accuracy of dan levels or grades as to any sign of progression must be kept personal between the individual and the sensei. Even in the dojo it must be an ideal that is fostered at every part of training, practice and instruction even if that means only a white belt is worn no matter the grade or level of any individual so that any hierarchal perception and perspective is achieved through experiences found in practice and training, i.e. the proverbial philosophical symbolic saying of “shown on the dojo floor!”

Friday, December 5, 2014

Osu [押忍] and Martial Arts

The characters/ideograms mean, “greeting used between close male friends; Hi!; yes sir!; Yo!.” The first character means, “push; stop; check; subdue; attach; seize; weight; shove; press; seal; do in spite of,” the second character means, “endure; bear; put up with; conceal; secrete; spy; sneak.”

This term is overused in martial arts circles. Especially in the West where the use is inappropriate and misunderstood as being indicative of martial arts training where a student uses it indiscriminately to indicate they are pushing hard despite physical and mental exhaustion. It is used in Western dojo as follows:

1) As a greeting to fellow dojo practitioners, etc.
2) As a response to a question or instruction, i.e. in lieu of Hai for yes or other terms to mean, “I Understand, etc.”
3) As a means of showing respect say in a tournament or sparring sessions, i.e. said when bowing before and after a contest.
4) As a compliment when one practitioner wants to acknowledge the skill of another.
5) As used after the execution of a technique although I personally cannot fathom why this is so.

In a nutshell, it is about a custom and cultural etiquette for the Asian or Japanese societal practice. Much like bowing as a greeting that naturally followed into the dojo and westerners, at the start, assumed it was specific to the dojo etiquette requirements. 

If Osu (Oss) is used in any dojo in Japan it is not because it is a specific martial term and practice but simply a thing adopted from the use between close-male-friends used as a curt greeting between friends. Since the early days of martial arts training were dominated by males and most students were younger males along with the closeness developed in the dojo tribe it seems practical that such a cultural method of greeting would enter into the community of the dojo. In addition, the use of Osu is more a modern thing than the passing down of an ancient cultural etiquette of martial budo.

For additional information on this term see the posting by Karate by Jesse where he postulates about its use through three theories, i.e. the Koykushin, the Good Morning, and the Onegaishimasu theories.

Now that the use of Osu in the dojo has been covered there are other references to the term or word, “osu,” that can be seen as follows:

おすosu common · オスOSU 【雄 · 牡】
noun / noun with genitive case particle :
male (animal)  →

おすosu common 【押す · 圧す · 捺す】
godan verb → conjugation / transitive:
押す:to push;  to press
押す · 圧す:to apply pressure from above;  to press down
押す · 捺す:to stamp (i.e. a passport);  to apply a seal;  → 判を押す
押す:to affix (e.g. gold leaf)
押す:to press (someone for something);  to urge;  to compel;  to influence
押す · 圧す:to overwhelm;  to overpower;  to repress
押す:to push (events along);  to advance (a plan)
押す:to do in spite of ...;  to do even though ...;  to force
押す:to make sure  → ねんをおす【念を押す】  /  だめをおす【駄目を押す】
押す:to be pressed for time
押す:to advance troops;  to attack
押す:(of light) to be diffused across an entire surface

おすosu common 【推す】
godan verb → conjugation / transitive:
to infer;  to conclude;  to support

In closing, do I use osu? Nope

Power Perceptions

“I have been watching the different videos I have that display Isshinryu Karate Katas. Your videos show a display of power in the movements, while the others go through the motions, without any power, suggestions of technique or talent. In all the katas I have viewed I think yours are how Master Tatsuo Shimabuku trained them to be taught. With power and rhythm.”  - No name to protect the commenter

I am not naming the person who wrote this quote because it is not about what he understands and believes but rather that this belief is one held by a lot of martial artists. You see it as a means of grading a persons kata in competition. You see it as a grading requirement for rank advancement. You see it used as a means of exercise to display a perception of strength and power.

I quote, “The power paradox defined the very nature of power, i.e. true power “feels,” and actually should be, “effortless.” That which feels like powerful is “Not.” Actualized effortlessness, however,constitutes our goal in martial technique. A technique that feels powerful cannot actually be powerful. The feeling of power emerges from the sensation of exertion, and greater exertion means less power. Don’t confuse “harder” with “more power.” When we produce a greater “effect” through equal effort, an equal effect through less effort, or a greater effect through less effort can we be said to have increased our power.” - Stephen J. Pearlman, The Book of Martial Power (Source for the fundamental principles of martial systems)

If what I quoted is true then the display of a feeling or sense or view of power by a practitioner and/or observer is flawed. If you go back and review the sub-principle of ratio you will find that to adhere to those five ratio’s to achieve power, etc., would negate the above concept of what many believe is power. 

Granted, the power perceived through dynamic tension while performing kata or doing drills has its purpose but to label it seemingly exclusively as “power” is a misrepresentation of what power is to a novice or student of martial practices. Look at it as an exercise of the muscles, ligaments, tendons and the skeletal system along with secondary benefits for the internal organs, etc. but not a true indication of power. Also, consider the expenditure of the energy to perform techniques this way. Again, it is a benefit for fitness training and health, so some believe, but not power. We have a limited amount of power.

Our limits to power generation means that if we expend that energy with such applications of technique then we reduce the energy that could be applied to a target. The argument for years has been that the method of application in performance of said powerful techniques and talent are transferred to the target yet this has been argued as another perception misunderstanding. This is explained well in Pearlman Sensei’s book of martial power. It is about positive effort to yield ration, power to yield ratio, movement to yield ratio, time to yield ratio, and space to yield ratio. 

Note: this is just the ratio’s and to achieve power adequately for self-defense it is about a more holistic application of all principles of martial power. 

It is a shame, and I was guilty of this teaching Isshinryu for a long time, that our tendency to remain stagnant in a comfort zone as taught by our sensei that this has continued throughout the last forty years. My question to end this post is this, “How many of them have applied this type of power in a real violent surprise driven fear inducing pain experience of self-defense?” The answer may never be found, after all it has not been refuted, except in postings like this one, in a self-defense situation as I describe in the question.

p.s. the person who made the quote started his martial arts training and practice around 1963, he has a good thirteen years on me :-)

p.s.s. I still practice like described but I perceive it as more a means of health, fitness and exercise over actually applying power. When I practice toward applying power I step back and work to apply the proper principles in that practice. Look at the power perceptive exercise as my warm up period along with basic technique practice but principles are of my focus once I get into kata, drills and SD practices (such as they are according to my experience, assumptions and perspective, etc.).

Monday, December 1, 2014

Groups, Tribes or Survival

“My unconscious expectations that are simply assumptions based primarily on foolish prejudice, itself likely the product of a lack of thought and experience.” - Unknown

We humans tend toward socialization and from my perspective I tend to wonder the how and why of such a thing. My reason is that fundamentally I don’t like socialization. It makes me very uncomfortable and drains my energy by a considerable amount until I can get alone and recharge. Social things are stressful for me.

In order to understand how such things work for self-defense it is very good to understand the how and why, mostly the why here, that we humans tend to gravitate toward groupings. It involves, among other things, socialization. 

We gather into groups by instinct. That instinct is about survival. We humans have advantages but mostly not so much when it comes to physical prowess. We are born with no way to defend and protect ourselves so our first exposure to socialization is through the protection we receive from parents, family and the tribe to which they belong. 

Now, it is true we needed tribal connectedness to achieve protection toward survival. Since our early years are spent learning and growing, etc., this is also a time that we, as an individual, are exposed to death in a big way. As to the animal kingdom, humans go through a very long period of prey like exposure that would result in quick death if not for the group, the tribe or societal connectivity. We are most vulnerable during those stages, i.e. say age of birth up to about age twelve to sixteen. Even at those ages our lack of maturity and experience still leaves us vulnerable without that group cohesion.

So, if we need the group for survival then due to the vast differences between each person we have to establish “Rules” to follow for the sole purpose of tribal survival. It takes a tribe like set of rules to control and protect an individual as a part of a whole that is that tribe. It needs to provide a set of rules determining what is right and what is wrong as to actions, etc., within each tribe. The group or tribal rules and laws protects the group thus each individual in that group whereby the end results are a tribal societal fabric strong enough to keep the others at bay and providing strength of the whole toward survival against others. 

The tribe therefore has to create repercussions if rules are violated. In our past that repercussion often was controlled violence against the offender. Look at it in modern times as a “Beat down.” There are a variety of reasons why folks tend to follow the tribal requirements:

First, a rational understanding from an appraisal of the odds of being caught or in survival times being killed or the tribe being anniliated.

Second, a tribal belief system of what is good vs. what is evil. 

Third, an appreciation of the tribal need for social cooperation and harmony often with violence as a tool to keep things balanced.

Fourth, the capacity as humans to think about, and be moved by the feelings, rights, needs, and well-being (safety, security and survival) of the tribe. 

That ability to create and hold a cohesiveness in the tribe is called, “Socialization.” It has been around since man first walked upright in the plains of early history. Our evolvement over the centuries has not dampened that inherent need for social connectivity even if the dangers for tribal survival is “Different” then in those life-and-death early days. In some cases those exact needs are still present and govern how tribes work in this modern world but with more advanced, so to speak, societies the tribal needs are different. Even so, those skills and instincts are still necessary.

Our modern societies has dampened or even hidden the true essence of survival, even now, with violence as both the threat and the controlling mechanism. I feel strongly that ignorance and hiding our heads in the sand in regard to violence is creating a greater threat toward human survival than those survival applications of our ancestors. Our fear of violence along with our human pension of trying to circumvent or avoid altogether violence has opened us to the threat of annihilation by overpopulation, etc. 

Our concerted effort to avoid ugly topics except in very round about ways has opened the door to violence. We cannot hide from such things for they will present themselves at the most inopportune times and maybe this is actually nature’s way of reducing the population by exposing ourselves to the unexpectedness of violence leaving only the strongest survivors (sound familiar). 

Even for me, tribal inter-connectedness, is necessary to survive life in general and even more so when violence is involved. No person is an island is a metaphor that actually applies to reality and life.