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

Please take a look at Notable Quotes, enjoy.

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

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

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

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

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Honoring the Master

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Honestly, I hold a great deal of regard for Tatsuo-san not because he created a system and not because he taught it to U.S. (pardon the pun and symbolism but he did teach us, from the U.S., right?). I hold him in high regard because he was willing to step outside the norm of his culture and society especially in the arena of Okinawan Karate. 

I hold him in high regard but I do not exalt, glorify or praise him in the manner some practitioners do then and today. Tatsuo-san earned the respect of his pears and our respect for his innovative inspiring creative mind-state that resulted in this, what we perceive as practitioners, unique way of learning, training and practicing karate - Isshinryu. 

I commend him philosophically, by word of mouth and through my writing about him in my blog articles, etc. I wish I could have met him personally but I am not young enough because by the time I was able to get stationed on his home island he had already passed away. 

Many Isshinryu’ists have placed Tatsuo-san on a pedestal and have hold him in such high regard and respect that they have transferred that belief into the how, what, when, where and why of teaching Isshinryu in a dogmatic highly restricted way (although a good many Isshinryu’ist today now enhance the teachings to include much more than originally taught by the first gen’s). 

This high regard and pedestal position put upon the memory of Tatsuo-san brings about some questions that came to me reading an article about another great American pioneer of martial arts.

  • Did it occur to those who have placed Tatsuo-san on that pedestal that he may not have wanted us to do that and that his original intent was for us to go further - much like he did in the fifties and sixties to create his system and art of Isshinryu?
  • Did anyone ask him prior to his death about holding his teachings and practices in a state of stasis, unchanging and unchanged, before assuming we all must honor him by our effort to keep Isshinryu in that state?
  • Did anyone ask him as well if he wanted the notoriety we have bestowed upon him since his death?
  • Did those who profess honoring the master consider that it may not be an honor but an obscenity to one who is unable to express their true feelings and desires especially with such a vast divide of culture and language obscuring truth, justice and the way?
  • Are those honoring the master really honoring him or is it about satisfying their own fantasies and achieving their own goals in his name?
  • Did anyone even consider that to simply, personally and privately honor his or her memory is a mark of true respect and may have been what he wanted to begin with?

Personally, I can see honoring the man who created and taught us the system/style in a personally private way during mokuso before and after each session, in our hearts - wholeheartedly. To make it a public exhibition and to broadcast it in media is pimping off his name, an obscenity.

It is interesting to note that all this came about mostly after his death and that he could not either acknowledge and approve or not acknowledge and disapprove this way of training, practice and application of HIS Isshinryu. 

Now, taking the position of advocate, it may be that someone or somehow Tatsuo-san let it be known that he wanted the notoriety, fame and accolades not just when he was alive but long after he is gone. The thing is, since he is dead and since he left no indication other than maybe the word and memory of others that I may be way off base here and all this was his intent … BUT …

  • He was known for his consistent change in even how he performed kata even in the same training session.
  • His studies and professions include referencing a few Chinese classics including the very Book of CHANGE called the I Ching.
  • His demeanor and manner as conveyed by the many who studied under him and his teaching all describe a person who, it would be perceived as a humble, honorable, quiet and private man. 
  • He was known to present not just rank certifications but a document that is or was derived from a more philosophical belief, the ken-po goku-i, so that each recipient would go beyond what Tatsuo-san and his senior students taught the individual and that I Perceive as saying, “take my teachings and take them forward in your own way using these gifts as your guide, etc.” 

It would seem from my research and studies that maybe Tatsuo-san wanted us to act this way in his name and maybe Tatsuo-san DID NOT want us to act this way in his name. But, since he is dead and with the belief systems and sources who profess this belief and way cannot be refuted by any sources from Tatsuo-san who knows if he did or did not want things the way they have come to be?

I have deviated a great deal from his original teachings as they were passed on to me and yet I have a high regard, respect and admiration for the effort, work and results of Tatsuo-san’s karate and I give him that credit willingly and respectfully … BUT …

p.s. I can also see influence principles involved here, i.e., authority, social proof, likability and a lot of scarcity. If you are curios about that perspective let me know. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Goals vs. Systems

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

“A goal is a specific objective that you either achiever or don’t. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of success in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you are waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.”

A technique is a goal, you expect to learn it sometime in the future. A methodology is something you do constantly and consistently regardless of the supposed techniques involved, that is a system.

Goals are a reach-it and be-done situation, whereas a system is something you do on a regular basis with a reasonable expectation that doing so will get you to a better place in your life. 

Systems have no deadlines, and at any given moment you can tell if it is taking you in the right direction. Techniques as a goal have one application so when it is done it is completed even if it is not appropriate for the situation and methodologies as a system have a variety of applications not hindered or obstructed by the given moment or situation with success highly likely while techniques as goals are narrow with no ability to deviate or create as situations change. 

Systems have no limitations and are flexible to fit any situation at any time under any circumstances. Goals are specific with specific limitations and are not flexible at all. If the goal succeeds it ends and if it does not succeed, it ends so you can create another goal to end a situation. Systems are generic in nature making them a creative way to achieve any need for any situation that arises, i.e., like, but not exact, systems achieve individual inflexible goals and systems readily accept new, changed and differing goals to continue indefinitely to get things done. 

A system works consistently again and again while a goal works once and is discarded. A system works not just consistently but successfully more often than it fails and failure is not from any failure of the system but of the person using the system. 

The biggest mistake any human makes is thinking goals are a system and then blames the so-called system when it is the goal that failed. We humans, often through social conditioning and conditions, create goals while ignoring the necessary systems needed to accomplish goals. The creation of goals dominates in karate and martial arts especially for self-fense, i.e., we have a goal to earn a black belt, we have a goal to learn self-defense techniques and we have a goal to win yet we don’t recognize that to achieve all these goals we need a system to get-r-done. Sensei, commercialized programs, therefore unconsciously perceive that the goals will fail so are driven to make the goals easier and easier to achieve so they maintain attendance and income. In self-defense they leave methods out because they are systems that are not readily testable and gradable for techniques and patterns that are and live, breath and teach knowing that chances of failure in a real life situation is rare reducing the failure rate even further. 

Systems require long, diligent, consistent and constant work with sweat and blood equity along with a modicum of experiences that build on and support the systems consistently even with occasional failures natural to any good system.

Any good system with multiple methodologies that provide for any situation regardless will succeed at much higher rates of consistency over time than any goal(s). Once a goal fails, it is done; if a system fails, it is luck and viable for the next situation because systems are not tied to any one goal, situation or time. 

System: a set of interacting or interdependent components that form a whole. Every system is delineated by its spatial and temporal boundaries, surrounded and influenced by its environment, described by its structure and purpose and expressed in its functioning. Easily adjusted to work indiscriminately for the situation in that moment. A set of detailed methods, procedures and routines created to carry out a specific activity, perform a duty, or solve a problem. ... An organized, purposeful structure that consists of interrelated and interdependent elements (components, entities, factors, members, parts etc.).

Gaol: the object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result; the destination of a journey; a point marking the end of a race.

In martial arts and karate you use that system to achieve certain goals, i.e., a certain number and type of basics; kata and kumite, then those goals are set aside to use the results, set fundamentals, etc., to achieve the synthesis of a system unique to you as an individual that will be your system of fundamental principled based multiple methodologies that break out of the restrictions of goals to achieve anything possible in the chaos of conflict and violence where goals are more an obstacle rather than inspiration of creativity that makes a system viable, functional and generic. 

Systems are the way, the path that never ends and provides exits and off-ramps at every junction, every turn and every obstacle ergo why they call martial arts and karate efforts, “The Tao or The Way” Goals at the novice level give you the tools to create the system that gets you on the path and it is the resulting system that provides the “energy” to take you the distance. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I am not a very good black belt!

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Yea, I admit it that I am not a very good black belt. I was provided the rank of Sho-dan on or about December of 1979 while serving on the island of Okinawa as a Marine. My Sensei was also my Company First Sergeant, i.e., Warner Dean Henry. He arrived about a week after me, asked if they had karate at the Hansen gym and when I said no, said he was starting one then so I said, “Count me in First Sergeant!” 

I had some martial arts/karate background to include what one called Hawaiian karate, a bit of judo and some boxing along with various folks who claimed to know martial arts/karate and with whom I practiced to fight. 

It was about a year later when my tour at Hansen was ending that Henry Sensei did the sho-dan thing simply because I was able to learn the eight empty hand kata, three kobudo and some proficiency in fighting (note I said fighting, not kumite because Henry wanted us to be able to fight, not compete with his one caveat, we had to try to use perceived techniques of karate when we fought). 

When you consider all the variations on achieving the coveted black belt today and even a during the late seventies disregarding any other experiences one year ain’t all that long. The truth of it is that Henry Sensei told me when I left that I would find that in most dojo and with most karate-ka I will find my abilities in fighting far superior regardless of my kata, etc. Even then he alluded to such things as mere tools to get you to the fighting part. 

When I compare what most believe is criteria for black belt, and that varies a huge amount dependent on whom you talk to or what organization you ask, I can see why I am not a very good black belt. 
  1. I don’t have credentials that come from any big time org or person.
  2. I am not a first or second generation student of anyone of any fame or notoriety.
  3. I did not participate in many tournaments, seminars or other type contests, etc.
  4. I did not earn or attend a variety of systems or styles earning a variety of black belts for each.
  5. I have not amassed the many trophies that many believe indicate a great fighter. 
  6. I have not had hundreds or thousands of students and I have not promoted hundreds of black belts.
  7. I never had or ran one or more commercialized dojo, training halls or studio’s. 
  8. I don’t have a plethora of books out and there is not one video out there of me training, teaching, practicing or mentoring martial arts/karate.
  9. I don’t have any affiliations with any Asian or Okinawan karate masters of any system or styles honbu dojo. 
  10. I don’t belong to any associations or organizations recognized and not recognized by anyone or any master of my system/style of practice or of any others. 
In short, and the list does go on but ten seems to get the point across, I am not a very good black belt, now am I?  Then again, if becoming a black belt meant you had to achieve all the above and most likely more than how many black belts would there be? How long would commercially driven dojo last? What would become of the income that comes from buying, ops - paying fees, rank? As with anything in an economically driven society there is a lot of money riding on such things and for those whose purpose is commercialization that is a good thing cause that is how we all work here in the good ole USofA. 

Does any of this or lack thereof degrade or denigrate one’s achievements of black belt and beyond? Just because someone works hard outside the proverbial norm, does that mean their black belt is less or does it mean it is more? 

I have come to think of, consider and believe that a black belt earned from their respective sensei is valid, true and beneficially positive for that individual. I know of one person whose capabilities in the physical realm are much less able than more average persons and this person worked on learning three kata over a ten year period, they didn’t do any of the above bulleted accomplishments and they can’t kumite/fight/compete their way out of a wet paper bag but as to intestinal fortitude, attitude, consistency, effort and a lot of sweat equity has earned his black belt if for no other reason then honest persistence and a great moral compass. You may initially find them lacking to your perspective and perceptions of black belt but in truth his is probably of more value than yours. 

Rank, grade and such things are a very personalized thing, a thing between not all but just two human belongs, one being the sensei and presenter while the other being that individual regardless of what others may think, feel or believe. Traveling a budo road is very personal and means that meaning, substance and recognition does not come from others but from within the person themselves, it is the way. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Why Rank Matters

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Well, in a nutshell it is about belonging, and belonging is about survival and survival depends on hierarchal systems with status and ranking within the group, group dynamics. When you start to study humans, our species, and what makes us tick while getting past all the cognizant dissonance driven tapes and movies we humans need and create we get down to our very base instincts of survival and that means procreation for both are similar to the egg and chicken - which came first. 

Our species like any other wants to survive and in order to survive we must procreate so which came first is the only question and that is totally an academic one because when it comes down to the base foundation, it is survival and procreation. Everything, and I mean everything we humans create in that endevor, is about that survival. It may have transitioned from hunting and fighting rival tribes to working hard to achieve income that presents status to others and fighting verbally, psychologically, economically and physically against others or rival employees, companies, etc., it still comes down to - wait for it - … SURVIVAL and PROCREATION!

In the dojo, in martial arts and in karate the entire system is a microcosmic form of the tribe, tribal members, status according to a hierarchal, say rank or grade, system the denotes where you stand and how others perceive you within the system. This is why we gravitate toward building such systems and then assigning them status driven symbolic titles, etc., such as senpai, kohai, sensei, soke and other such as hanshi or master or grand master and so on. Ain’t life grand. 

In the scheme of nature and its base instinct toward procreation and survival these models we humans create simply stoke the ego, give us self-soothing satisfaction and fill in all those missing components of nature’s base instinct to survival and procreation to fit the social models that evolved over time due to influence of war, violence, and revolutionary changes such as the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution and todays technological revolution. In the end, it is just a way to determine status and how well we procreate and survive. 

Ain’t Life Grand!!!

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Teaching Coherent, Comprehensive, Complete and Understandable Programs (Strong Presentations)

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

“For a kata to be perfect, the technique must show strength, the style must be accurate, and the eyes must be completely alert.” - Sakumoto Tsuguo Ryūei-ryū Karate

Yep, here I go again, ripping apart statements made in teaching karate and martial arts because I feel, from my perspective and perception, that such meme’s and quotations should be accurate. It takes a rare ability to create a meme or quote that speaks volumes and does so with accuracy and clarity of understanding even without explaining particulars. 

First, to say that one’s technique must show strength, how do you show strength while still building and using power and force? How do you show strength without sacrificing positive relaxation necessary to achieve speed and speed along with body mass movement contribute a great deal to force and power? Is the use of dynamic tensioning in practice of technique thus seeming like a display of strength actually powerful and forceful? How does showing strength, even if someone can actually define that as strength, translate into power, force and the ability to overcome adversity and adversaries of a predatory nature? 

Second, to say that one’s style must be accurate, how do you know that it is accurate and what is it accurate of? If it is accuracy toward the creation of patterns, movement and applying technique to the air then it is dancing and mostly not effective in violent situations of a predatory nature. Accuracy in performance is only one short initial step to learning martial arts and karate because to achieve some semblance of success in violent situations of a predatory nature takes more than accuracy as dependent on who, how, what, when, where and now that word is defined. Bet you can talk to about ten who have heard this and get ten different and distinct answers. 

Third, the eyes cannot physically or physiologically be alert because it is the informed, educated and trained MIND that must be completely alert. How one utilizes their eyes for visual stimuli capture, interpretation and follow-up appropriate actions is not conveyed by the misconception you are training your eyes to be alert. In addition, eyes or the visual sensory system does not work alone because it requires all the other sensory systems to input data to properly inform your mind as to what is transpiring outside your body, in the environment, etc. 

In closing, this is not to disparage Sakumoto Sensei for he spoke in his time, under his education and understanding and in the best way possible for his culture and teachings of karate. Where it all breaks down is when such meme’s or quotes are used and sensei ASSUMES that the student/practitioner fully and completely understands what was said and what was meant. 

None of this is easy but since this particular set of disciplines involves dangerous, harmful and possible death require, demand, that sensei teaching for the art of self-fense convey and teach a comprehensive, complete and understandable program for Self-fense (offense/defense model).

What stimulates these kinds of articles is the use of such meme’s and quotations in teaching while failing to convey the true meaning and intent. It is a bit like my recent article on muscle memory, a term/phrase that is inaccurate and mistaken as true when reality says it should at least refer to a deeper meaning like, “Primal Conditioned Response training and practice.” I just want to convey that sensei should think first, contemplate teachings along with words, phrases and quotes/meme’s and then make sure that all of their followers understand intent and meaning. 

Quote/Meme Re-write: “For kata to be perfect it must teach fundamentals and methodologies where its presentation appears easy and effortless, the style or system must be accurate in that teaching of fundamental principles, multiple methodologies and levels of force, and the senses must be tuned to perceive and distinguish when it is appropriate to apply these teachings.” - cejames

Note: The above quote should and shall be analyzed and then assessed toward its accuracy so that if changes are necessary the author can synthesize and appropriate version of the quote/meme. 

Note II: Think effectiveness vs. presentation; think proficiency vs. presentation; think teaching tool vs. presentation because presentation is not efficient application in the chaos of predatory violence but simply, “Dancing an ancient dance.” 

Note III: Now, as to presentation toward a kata tournament competition this aspect of kata as to strong presentation, great accuracy and seeing accurately by the presentation of movement with the eyes and head, works. 

Note IV: Where I prefer to show, demonstrate and achieve strength is through my efforts in teaching correctly; in my actions and deeds both in and out of the dojo; in the actions and deeds of my dojo mates both in the dojo and out of the dojo; in my understanding and application of fundamental principles, multiple methodologies and application of force in self-fense, etc. This is where true strength is shown in an appropriate way, i.e., the way in the dojo as in life. Strength shown and demonstrated as to honor and morality; the living demonstration of justice and courage along with mercy and politeness, honesty and sincerity, character and self-control, self-discipline and self-reliance. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016

Secret Technique vs. Special Technique

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

This comes to mind simply because so many manipulation experts, in karate and martial arts, use the term “Secret” to sound and be perceived as “Fascinating and Mysterious,” when in reality it is more a sales manipulative influence effort to get folks to “Sign on the dotted line.” 

If you really want to be as truthful as possible with a whole lot more accuracy the term secret should to changed to, “Special.” After all, your goal is to teach something special to your students and if that teaching is unique to you, the sensei, and your system or style then it is truly special. If it is common among other systems or styles, etc., then it is NOT special, it is Ordinary and Common. So, you lose the term and find another way to make the sale. 

Regarding anything secret, if it is truly secret then that means very, very few are privy to that information and selling it or teaching it to anyone in your dojo, style or system therefore makes it no longer secret, it is public even if only in the dojo. Secrets are not something you want made public or provided to more than those who have a need to know that secret. 

To be secret it must be a piece of knowledge that is not known by more than a select few and when outed it must not be the same, similar or close to any other thing or piece of information. Saying a certain way to punch is a secret is ludicrous unless its overall effect and influence on some thing is unique in regard to any other thing or information.

Secret: Something not know or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others such as being classified, top secret, undisclosed, unknown or private as if under wraps. It is about keeping things to oneself or about something unknown. It can also be something not properly understood; a mystery. A valid but not commonly known or recognized method of achieving or maintaining something. 

My litmus test is, if it is being advertised to the public domain in any manner or way or method then it is not a true secret. Secrets are not advertised or spoken of or written about where anyone not classified as needing to know can see, read, hear or feel that secret or inference to being secret. In short, a secret technique is about misleading and misdirecting for a person or professional agenda. To let loose a secret inappropriately makes the secret, NOT SECRET!

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sitting Seiza in Karate

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

In a recent blog article by Victor Smith Sensei he talks about something called, “Suwari [Suwari Waza is the generic name for techniques performed in the seated stance in traditional Japanese (Koryū) martial arts.] and Tachi-waza [Suwari waza contrasts with hanmi handachi waza (a person sitting in seiza defending against a standing attacker) over the tachi waza (standing techniques, which comprise the stance in which the majority of standing techniques and training are performed in aikido, and where the attacker and the defender standing).],” and in that conversation he speaks to how most no longer kneel in seiza in everyday life. I wrote in comment the following:

“That is too bad because "traditions,” and "ceremonies" and other such things are all under the heading of "Heritage" and heritage is what all cultures of significance are built from and upon. Seiza, the actual process has its own shi-kata or form from Japanese, Okinawan and Chinese cultural influences. It is what connects and binds us to the heritage of karate and martial arts from that part of the country - too bad. 

I remember how difficult it was to sit seiza and perform mokuso at the start and end of dojo practice and training. I never truly got comfortable with it and I rightly assume it was because I didn’t grow up sitting seiza and didn’t sit seiza outside the dojo. Regardless, for many years that was what I did before and after dojo practice because, as I state, it was a way to connect in a direct physical way to the past, the heritage of karate from Okinawa. Yes, Okinawan’s sat seiza and I suspect they started it because of the strong connections they had with China and later, after the 1600’s, they also assumed and kept that piece of cultural etiquette when the Japanese took control. 

Many of the cultural heritage connections such as sitting seiza have been slowly removed from modern karate practice here in the West and I can only assume and speculate that it is because those who removed those heritage connections just didn’t understand, or even care, about the past. We in the West tend to have forgotten about our own past and heritage, as short as that is when compared to such cultures as the Chinese who have thousands and thousands of years in their heritage. Anyway, I digress toward distraction so back on the subject I go.

Sitting seiza is not indicative or inherent solely in the dojo for it is how the entire culture sat or sits even today (well, maybe not so much but some still sit seiza). I do understand that for many it is only about the physical challenges and attitudes and contests of karate and martial arts. I do understand that for many it is only about or in addition too the preceding, self-defense and I understand that for many it is only about the competitive aspects BUT …

Sitting seiza and for mokuso before and after have certain traits and concepts that support and build on all the above reasons why one takes to the dojo. It may not be readily apparent but with some effort and research one can find that connection and find benefit. I can only say that I recently got back into a art form that has competitions in it and due to the connections I made to the historic cultural philosophical principles of karate and martial arts I have progressed rapidly up and back almost into expert status and believe/feel that mastery is not as far away as it normally would be if I had not studied such things as sitting seiza.

You see, there is a kata, shi-kata, to approaching, standing, kneeling, assuming the seiza position, setting down on the heels and placement of hands, etc., just like there are kata that teach principles, fundamental methodologies, force levels, and so on to utilize in self-fense, etc. It is one of the myriad of things that connect us to our past and allow us the ability to analyze and synthesize our practice, training and applications for modern times, the present if you will, while maintaining the core principles developed and taught by the past and allowing for growth, progress and the natural evolution of the systems and arts for now and for the future. Think of it as a three-stage stack where we learn the past and practice it diligently then we synthesize appropriate aspects for the modern times of today and then finally we learn to synthesize new aspects, traits and ways to apply proper principled methodologies toward appropriateness of future systems, dojo and practitioners. I personally see it as how we take the past, learn from it and then take it into the future - creating a three-stage stack. 

Sitting seiza in karate or any martial arts may seem to be not beneficial or realistic for modern times but then again …

COMMENT: On the arts of suwari and tachi waza, although they may appear or seem or be perceived as something we would not encounter in reality, violent attacks, etc., they still hold lessons that will benefit the practitioner in a combative situation be it some socially driven monkey dance or other predatory type of resource/process attack. Skipping such training simply weakens one’s abilities in the end, don’t skip. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Note: the following graphics may or may not depict correct seiza, etc., do some research to validate or find
the correct shi-kata to sitting seiza ...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A karate-ka’s greatest strength

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

“A karate-ka’s greatest strength is in observation, the more observed, the more the karate-ka comes to know. Such knowledge gives the karate-ka power, especially when others fail to see.” “The eyes must see all sides,” a ken-po goku-i meme as part of the whole that is the “goku-i.” Awareness is about seeing all sides or the myriad of things in the Universe. Our Universe is not just that of the vastness of the space that surrounds our Earth but the vastness of that space the surrounds each of us as if a micro-cosmic variation of the entire Universe.

To achieve such mastery of the seeing of all sides we must cultivate that which is observed more than merely seeing but to analyze all that we observe then synthesizing what we need to survive in our own Universes. It is truly our greatest strength and the greatest weakness of each individual karate-ka dependent on a myriad of things of which seeing all sides is but one. 

One, being the great “Tai Chi” that through the natural way of the Universe, i.e., Heavens, Earth and Hu-mans, is to divide into the four then the eight and finally into the sixty-four hexagrams that tell us how to travel the path of life as karate-ka. 

The more we can observe through the wholehearted efforts of education, training, practice and attaining of experience is how we accumulate the inherent knowledge necessary for mastery. Observation leads to education; education leads to knowledge; knowledge leads to understanding and understanding leads to analysis and synthesis of old, new and the creative - to see all sides of things. 

I would further add that “to hear in all directions” holds the same weight, i.e., as in “While a persons unbalance is the same as a weight” thus making a lack of observation leading to the end results null and void without the addition of hearing and weight and a loss of balance when these principles are missing or incomplete. 

To observe takes all the senses with the two of sight and hearing dominate, dominant sensory input processes that provide a wholehearted whole of observation and awareness, etc. This is one meaning attributed to the goku-i!

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Is Self-Fense Realistic?

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

In a recent blog reading it came to me that due to the disparities between each human, be they male or female, that trying to teach or sell self-fense to those individuals is just not possible. We, each of us, are unique and have individual needs and wants and other such stuff that is, fundamentally, different from all other of our species.

Yes, we have like things that are somewhat able to match us up especially in the survival mode all humans have to deal with but when you start digging deeper beyond those facades you find, once again, differences. Differences that often require each of us to set aside when dealing with others so that we can - “Deal with Others.” This is true even in families, i.e., between spouses, between siblings and between parents and children. We all have to compromise and shift and change, at least when dealing with others, on a face level minimum. 

In the Self-Fense (most call it self-defense but since I have done a bit of study of MM’s work on violence, as with RM too, I like to use self-fense) model of most vendors they are only able to sell that product if they can create a model that would span a large audience of individuals, all with their own unique needs and wants and requirements, etc. This presents problems that result in self-fense being - NOT true and reality based but generic to the degree it is often useless in reality. 

I have to wonder then, is the self-fense industry any good or realistic or productive or efficient in reality? In general, I have come to conclude that toward most who seek out such vendor supplied products it is more a ego stroking feel good effort over a real reality-based need to protect ourselves. Those who actually need realistic reality-based methodologies are those who work and/or live in violence based environments or jobs that work in violence based environments. Like Police, Corrections Professionals, Body Guards, Military, Bouncers (some) and other professions that expose the members to violence or possible violence. 

This tells me that most, almost, all self-fense programs are simply tools to sell a product and that is why I often shout out when I read their testimonials and web sites and ads are written or presented in certain ways as if their program, for instance, is the ultimate warrior based military proven way to provide foolproof self-defense. Yes, there are programs out there that are realistic and run by experienced violence professionals while the others are sold by using “Compliance Principles (Influence principles)” that make folks feel good about themselves and instill a confidence that they are safe and secure. These folks, like most in our modern times, will never, ever, encounter the types of conflict and violence that truly require true relative realistic self-fense. 

When I view or review many of the karate and martial arts self-defense programs, by attending in the past and by academic reviews today, I feel like they are more what I feel is reality rather than what they think, feel and believe to be realistic. 

As instructors they are forced, in most cases I believe, to use compliance principles to sell the product and sell the individual into believing they are getting something unique and useful, the principles are use every day and in every moment of our public lives to get us to do things and buy things we might not truly want or might not truly realize is useless but it does hit on those human fundamentals so that we feel good and believe that we are safer and more secure. It works and most humans go through their lives completely without the realization of reality for we create our reality in our minds so we can survive. 

Humans tend to not think a lot about stuff for no other reason than if we thought logically about every single decision, etc., we would be stuck in limbo unable to move, to live and to … you get the picture. We look for shortcuts, it is all part of our survival needs and instincts and allows us to use that to survive. When it doesn’t then the self-fense you are sold may or may not work but it too has to be a knee-jerk reactive or proactive model as well so that a need to logically analyze and act is bypassed, think OODA here, and that is why the education, training and practice along with reality-based experiences is needed to program those tapes. 

Self-defense, mostly, is not realistic in my book. We can pay lip service all we want to self-sooth and stroke our ego’s into believing we are gaining and learning all those warrior combatives like technique based programs that are cookie cutter programs that fit everyone while failing to fit each individual but hey, we won’t ever have to prove either’s legitimacy.

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

PART I: Zendo (The Dojo)

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

It is often hypothesized that the dojo of martial arts/karate are based on the Zen Zendo. The following are excerpts of the Zen-do, the dojo of Zen Buddhism. It is believed that the MA/Karate dojo are where some train and practice the physical in balance with the philosophical/mental to achieve a balance in body, mind and spirit toward a way of life with the more physically violent aspects a side benefit toward self-fense. 

It is my endeavor to connect the dots between the Zen-do and the Do-jo in an attempt to better understand its humble beginnings and heritage tied so adamantly to the practice of what some term as, “Budo and Karate-do.” I will take the individual excerpts first and comment then provide my synthesized belief toward a more holistic and wholehearted theory at the end.

“The Meditation Hall (zendo) is where Zen educates its monks. To see how it is regulated is to get a glimpse into the practical and disciplinary aspect of Zen.”

As in the Zen-do, the dojo also is where one educates and masters it proponents, its martial artists and karate-ka. Like the Zen-do, the Dojo acquired, adjusted and synthesized the dojo in a regulated, etiquette and morally driven way and through its hierarchal governance one can get a glimpse into the discipline and practice of martial arts and karate all connected historically to the heritage of Zen Buddhism. As will be perceived as this article/post continues this is just one of many aspects that makes the modern dojo. 

At all the Meditation Halls the practitioners work, especially that which is commonly regarded as menial, is the vital element in the life of the monk; manual labour, such as sweeping, cleaning, cooking, fuel-gathering, tilling the farm, or going about begging in the villages far and near. No work is considered to be beneath their dignity, and a perfect feeling of brotherhood prevails among them.”

In the dojo, paying homage to this ethic, the practitioners also work hard and to pay respect to oneself, the others and the dojo there are certain menial-like tasks undertaken before and after the day’s practice and training sessions called, “Nitten Soji [毎日の仕事] The characters/ideograms mean ‘daily chores’.” It provides a connection to the very practices and principles of the Zen Buddhism in the Zen-do. 

“Muscular activity is the best remedy for the dullness of mind; The trouble with most religious recluses is that their mind and body do not act in unison; their body is always separated from their mind, and the latter from the former; they imagine that there is the body and there is the mind and forget that this separation is merely ideational, and therefore artificial.”

It has become an accepted, if not actually factual or accurate, belief that the Chinese monks who practiced Zazen Zen Meditations were taught physical methods to keep the body strong and healthy. It is also the belief in the dojo that one’s mind must be strong as well as one’s body in order to create a balance of both leading to the creation of a strong spirit. Zazen was instituted in the dojo to prepare the mind for the rigors of the physical activities to follow along with another zazen session at the end to allow the mind and body to feed the spirit in mindful meditative processes and thoughts. It is the dojo’s method to achieve the same goals as Zen and the Zen-do, to teach that there is no separation between the mind and the body; the mind leads the body and the body prepares the mind and both foster greater, stronger and more stable spirit. 

“The body kept busy will also keep the mind busy, and therefore fresh, wholesome, and alert.”

A basic tenant of the dojo believed to have be born from the dojo’s birth through the practices of the Zen monks in the Zen-do. It has born out in truth through practice as well as modern research that an active mind and body keep the mind busy so that the body is alert while the mind fresh,clear and aware. 

“Moral assertion ought everywhere to be over and above intellectual judgment; that is, truth ought to be based upon one's living experience.”

More of a philosophy and not actually directly connected in martial arts and karate yet it is and should be because the best intellect, the best judgments and the best actions come from what is learned by living and experiencing life itself. Truth should be based on what you live and experience because there are no falsehoods in such things for experience in the world is the best teacher and the best litmus test to truth based on the facts experienced through touch, taste, vision, smell, etc. In the world of martial arts and karate as it may be applied to self-fense, fighting and/or combatives it is hands on actual live experience that will best teach how to get-r-done. 

“They put into action whatever reflections they have made during hours of quiet-sitting and thus test their validity in the vital field of actualities.”

In the end, in the dojo and for all martial arts and karate it is about what you can do and how the doing relates, connects and validates knowledge and understanding. We sit seiza/Zazen, we contemplate and we analyze and then synthesize but until we take those reflections and test them in the fires of life and actions we cannot determine their validity and actuality. 

“The Meditation Hall, or Zendo as it is called in Japan, is a rectangular building of different sizes according to the number of monks to be accommodated.”

The moving physical meditation hall of martial arts is based on this premise, i.e., a practice hall where the number of adherents is only goverened by the time of day and day of week where one practices and trains. Often a small sized outside dojo, such as a home yard or garden, where practitioners come and go. The size and capacity of the Zen-do, as the dojo and as any home in Japan tend to work from the same plans, etc.

“The desire to possess is considered by Buddhism to be one of the worst passions with which mortals, are apt to be obsessed. What, in fact, causes so much misery in the world is the universal impulse of acquisition. As power is desired, the strong always tyrannize over the weak; as wealth is coveted, the rich and poor are always crossing swords of bitter enmity.”

This is also not directly related to dojo except toward the more philosophical teachings were ego and attitude govern how and why one enables and makes us of such skills. 

“Though the master or teacher of a Zendo is its soul, he is not directly concerned with its government, which is left to the senior members of the community, whose character has been tested through many years of discipline.”

This one may be connected indirectly because many a system and dojo look to the founding father and his heritage, beliefs and core teachings with a few first-generation students working as his staff in dealing with many students yet this also is about politics and humans buy into this wholeheartedly and that in and of itself tends to lead to changes, both appropriate and not. 

“The basic principle of the Zendo life is "learning by doing". They disdain soft education and look upon it as a predigested food meant for convalescents.”

At least in part, the learning by doing motto and process is definitely ingrained deep in the teachings of martial arts and karate even taking the use in violence out of the equation, i.e., as a means of life affirmation philosophy - the way - practice and study, the need to “Just Do-It philosophy” is required along with other stuff to make it work in reality. The disdain of soft eduction may be correct only in that a total and complete focus on that aspect is to the detriment to making it work but if you study just for the philosophy and knowledge, not so much. I look at the educational aspects as a necessary side to bring balance to the practice and study. 

 “The Zen master, who will often treat his monks with every manner of seeming unkindness.”

Yep, many accounts of Asian Sensei teaching with an unkind look, etc., is how that is done and not just due to the influences of Zen Buddhism and the Zen-do or Zen-dojo but also due to the concept of “Shi-kata.” It is in their culture and cultural belief system toward every day life etiquettes. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Contrary Views

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

“I believe any view that runs contrary to the established order of things is bound to appear offensive.” - Shinseidokan Dojo Blog Excerpt

Yes, I understand because any time one refutes or questions a dogmatic-belief the owner of said belief is going to take it personally, even when it is not personal. That is the species condition that is either directly or indirectly born of our very survival instincts-needs. It takes one of great strength and inner integrity to see past the dogma, analyze the incoming data and then synthesizing their beliefs accordingly. 

It is so because evolution is about having such survival tapes, click-n-whirr, but with one caveat that when the not so obvious becomes - obvious - the species assimilates it and over time encodes it into a tape used … wait for it … survival (tape=click-n-whirr). 

It took me almost fifty years to realize the truth in this and to allow myself, with constant due diligence along with occasional failures, to accept this fact and work with it. So much of my angst these last few years has come from this realization and the stresses that come from overcoming the tape and allowing the recording of a new tape. Then add in that it takes time and great effort to push the old tape into storage so that the new tape can assume its rightful place (see, this delay is similar to the evolutionary processes of our species). 

Communications has become a huge subject for me and it involves relaying such things often in the face of resentment and resistance. I did this the other day on a subject of importance and found myself attempting to communicate another perspective so that a person and group could analyze and synthesize a possible new view on that subject. It took me a period of time and efforts to realize they were trapped in their beliefs and I was wasting my time continuing the effort. Some times you just have to see that you must cut and run because waste not want not lives.

A karate-ka and blogger I have come to respect is stepping back from his blog efforts and I understand why, the “established order” of the karate community has dug themselves into a deep hole of egoistic economic power driven dogma simply because it feeds the ego-esteem of those who run it along with the blinders placed on by the income and potential income of the new product. It is not their fault but from where I sit I have to say that letting something change simply to feed the machine while killing its very essence, in my personal view, is just not proper or even legitimate to the heritage. 

Yet, things change and for the evolution of karate this change may be necessary or our art just may die on the vine and end up killing the entire vineyard. I am sure, and from my continued studies, that such things have occurred throughout human history and that many like me tend to feel it is a detriment only to discover much later that the changes was good and it evolved us so that we would continue with human survival. Then again, there are far more changes in regard to evolutionary processes that are not good and are discarded for the sake of survival, you just never truly know until much later. 

Meanwhile the species tape of contrariness and the comfort zone of the order of things has a strong hold on the community. Changes are difficult even in the best of times and with all the gratifications felt from the current state of affairs it will take some huge contrary thing to result in either good change or the death of the art. 

A good example are the recent current events regarding the election of the next President of the United States. As protests continue and the media becomes consumed by the effort to NOT CHANGE we see an upheaval of society at least on one side. Even tho we all did the democratic thing and voted along with the electoral system find that the change we actually wanted, as shown in the vote and electoral system results, we have a large faction whose beliefs are such they cannot accept this and move on and therefore are resorting to breaking the law and acting in a violent manner contrary to societal rules and laws that things remain - uncomfortable. If we are lucky, it will take a lot of time and a considerable effort to make those who are resisting - to change. 

Our community in karate is the same and like the above example it is a small number that resist simply because it disrupts the continued existence of what we have come to love but we are the minority so we should step back and allow those who are in the new established order discover the benefits and detriments that will be uncovered over time and will judge and adjudicate the continued existence or demise of karate and martial arts. 

Like in our current societal upheaval those who believe in the past and old ways must step back, continue our ways and allow our children to discover and come to change accordingly. I know this, there has been; will be; will always be a contingent of so called traditional ways and practices that the few, the proud and the traditional karate-ka will exist. It makes that form of the way, unique!

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)