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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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Isshinryu - My Karate and MA Foundation

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

I thought I would present a bit about the core to my studies and practices in karate and martial arts. I don’t want to assume that my core karate is known to everyone ergo this effort.

Isshinryu [一心流] The characters/ideograms mean, “one heart style.” The first character means, “One,” the second character means, “heart; mind; spirit; heart,” the third character means, “current; a sink; flow; forfeit.” Google translates it as, “Isshin Flow.” 

I often wonder why the character is used [] for ryu meaning to most of us as, “Style.” In truth, to my mind, [流儀] should be used because it literally means, “Style; school; fashion.” Then again, I tend to go overboard. 

Back on topic, Isshinryu is a fairly new system created by Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei, over many years of innovation ergo why there is no actual birthday, and named it on January 15th, 1956. 

Shimabuku's second son Shinsho, said, "My father was always experimenting. Trying new techniques. He did this all his life. He was an innovator. There is no birthday for Isshin-ryu."  

The next is my view and my belief regarding Isshinryu, the style or system was unusual for the time of its creation and naming. I believe its popularity came about because of the American occupation of Okinawa and that the contracts and connections made with the military presence made Tatsuo-san’s living a bit easier after the war. The actual popularity may have stemmed from the Marines effort to spread karate as a combative system. It was the effort of those Marines in those early days that promoted and supported the system. 

Personally, it stuck a cord with me when I first began training in Isshinryu under then First Sergeant W. D. Henry, my company First Sergeant. I suspect as a Marine that those original students of Isshinryu, being Marines themselves, felt that same connection as if something about the system and its founder made a personal connection with each of us. 

Anyone can do a search and find the very essence of Isshinryu training and practice while discovering that there are several distinct interpretations of Isshinryu that gravitated toward a separate belief system that I refer to as, “The Nagle Isshinryu System; The Advincula Isshinryu System; The Long and Wheeler Isshinryu System; The Mitchum Isshinryu System; and The Armstrong Isshinryu System.” In essence, all of those distinctions on Isshinryu although different are all the same as to the core of the system. It is obvious in demonstrations of the similarities yet you will detect distinct differences that I believe effect every karate style/system. 

Regardless, there are certain traits, for the time circa 1950’s, etc., that made Isshinryu vastly different while based on the same traits of other styles that meant a more apropos and effective system for combatives (military combat hand-to-hand) and self-defense (for the times and the association with the Marine Corps). This appealed to me and I suspect those other early Marine karate luminaries that began the spread of Isshinryu in the United States.

Apparently, others took Isshinryu because although a fairly recent creation, probably the youngest style/system of Okinawan karate in existence, it spread around the world as it appears in a variety of countries in Europe and so on. And, as you may correctly assume, those editions and communities created a unique way of practicing the core or essence of Isshinryu ergo why there are even more differences of the same exact style/system. 

One of the best sources of Isshinryu can be found from two sources; first, is a Navy karate-ka who is currently stationed on Okinawan teaching, training and practicing Isshinryu who has take the research of historical Isshinryu facts, etc., to a new height; second, is a original luminary of Isshinryu who trained and practiced in the 1950’s and was instrumental in the spread of Isshinryu, Arcenio J. Advincula Sensei who currently resides in Southern California and who provides his rendition of Isshinryu history through his writings and teachings through his seminars. You can do a search to find his website, “Isshinkai: The Official Website of Sensei Arcenio J. Advincula,” where you can gain some insightful information of a variety of aspects regarding Isshinryu karate.

Several non-physical and more philosophical cultural gifts provided by Tatsuo-san to graduates of his students to Sho-dan student status was a copy of the, “Ken-po Goku-i,” “Isshinryu Dojo Kun,” and “Isshinryu no Megami” we can get a hint at the founders more spiritual (not a religious one) contributions in the creation and naming of the Isshinryu system. 

I say that Isshinryu is my foundation is because it was the first style or system I started and then remained diligently attached to and dedicated toward to achieve my goals in karate and martial arts. Although I had dabbled in other karate styles/systems along with other martial arts such as boxing and a small bit of judo it became my core practice and study until I felt I reached a point where I could discover my own way in karate and martial arts, i.e., more self-defense study, training and understanding; more self-defense realistic study and application of multiple principled based methodologies and a more philosophical understanding of it all. 

You can say as I travel through my winter years, 60’s and over, I have redirected my efforts from the chiefly physical into a form of study, practice and training that is wholehearted, i.e., embraced the fundamental principles of all martial arts and karate systems including American and European while refocusing on the multiple defense methodologies as can be seen by the following:

PRINCIPLE ONE: PRINCIPLES OF THEORY (Universality, Control, Efficiency, Lengthen Our Line, Percentage Principle, Std of Infinite Measure, Power Paradox, Ratio, Simplicity, Natural Action, Michelangelo Principle, Reciprocity, Opponents as Illusions, Reflexive Action, Training Truth, Imperception and Deception.)

PRINCIPLE TWO: PHYSIOKINETIC PRINCIPLES (Breathing, posture, triangle guard, centerline, primary gate, spinal alignment, axis, minor axis, structure, heaviness, relaxation, wave energy, convergence, centeredness, triangulation point, the dynamic sphere, body-mind, void, centripetal force, centrifugal force, sequential locking and sequential relaxation, peripheral vision, tactile sensitivity, rooting, attack hubs, attack posture, possibly the chemical cocktail, Multiple Methodologies [actual tactics and attack methodologies of impacts, drives (pushes), pulls, twists, takedowns/throws and compression, etc. are best for stopping a threat]???see below)

PRINCIPLE THREE: PRINCIPLES OF TECHNIQUE (techniques vs. technique, equal rights, compliment, economical motion, active movement, positioning, angling, leading control, complex force, indirect pressure, live energy and dead energy, torsion and pinning, speed, timing, rhythm, balance, reactive control, natural and unnatural motion, weak link, non-telegraphing, extension and penetration, Uke. Multiple Methodologies [actual tactics and attack methodologies of impacts, drives (pushes), pulls, twists, takedowns/throws and compression, are best for stopping a threat])

PRINCIPLE FOUR: PRINCIPLES OF PHILOSOPHY (Mind [mind-set, mind-state, etc.], mushin, kime, non-intention, yin-yang, oneness, zanshin and being, non-action, character, the empty cup, inner peace.)

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)”Attitude, Socio-emotional, Diplomacy, Speed [get-er done fast], Redirected aggression, Dual Time Clocks, Awareness, Initiative, Permission, multiple attack/defense methodologies (i.e., actual tactics and attack methodologies of impacts, drives (pushes), pulls, twists, takedowns/throws and compression, etc. are best for stopping a threat)

PRINCIPLE SIX: CHEMICAL COCKTAIL: (Attacked Mind, Train It, Breath It Away, Visualize It Away, Sparring vs. Fighting, Degradation of Technique/skills, Peripheral Vision Loss, Tunnel Vision, Depth Perception Loss/Altered, Auditory Exclusion, Weakened legs/arms, Loss of Extremity Feeling, Loss of Fine Motor Skills, Distorted Memory/perceptions, Tachypsychia (time slows), Freeze, Perception of Slow Motion, Irrelevant Thought Intrusion, Behavioral Looping, Pain Blocked, Male vs. Female Adrenaline Curve, Victim vs. Predator, The Professional, Levels of Hormonal Stimulation, ???)

Multiple Defense Methodologies [actual tactics and attack methodologies of impacts, drives (pushes), pulls, twists, takedowns/throws and compression are best for stopping a threat (types of force applied such as spiraling, scissoring, carving, vibrating, and/or sheering forces.)]

Still, when you see me practice and train; when you hear me; when you read my writings in all the various forms you will still see, hear and feel the Isshinryu that underlies all of it but with less emphasis on technique based study, training and practice vs. greater emphasis on principled-methodology based study, training and understanding through practice. 

In closing, and after some research, Isshinryu although the founders name, for my training and practice and study will be changed to, “Isshinkei,” to have greater meaning and understanding when translate as, “One heart/mind/spirit system/lineage; group,” because, although my Japanese and understanding of the language and kanji is really rudimentary at best, seems less appropriate, i.e., “current; a sink; flow; forfeit.” At least as my current translators programs provide now. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Chinkuchi: Karate’s Hidden Internal Face - An Interpretation

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

This is not my interpretation but anothers with some of the explanations quoted in this article for a bit of study in an attempt to clarify, for my mind, and understanding. Overall, to my mind, chinkuchi is not some mystical, “System,” that explains and provides for inner energy developments at least as described because, to my mind, there are not mystical mysteries to how one manifests a goal by a chinkuchi effort, techniques or other model. 

No one today can truthfully, including my explanation of chinkuchi, convey the true meaning behind the use of the term in Okinawa of, “Chinkuchi.” They can only make assumptions toward personal theories that may or may not actually be true, relevant and factual. Let the fun begin (please note this is my mind meandering around some quotes or meme’s extracted from an article on the subject and is not a comment on the actual article itself).

Subtle Energies: In one of the first paragraphs it is mentioned and defined as follows, “We now know they are composed of electro-magnetic  fields, sound waves (both audible and silent, such as kiai and breath), light waves, other finer vitalities, and the effects of various psychic states on physical strength and performance. All these vibrational phenomena fall under the single and popular Asian umbrella labeling as Chi or Ki.”

I am not too sure the term subtle is adequate or correct in describing how such things as electromagnetic fields, sound wave, etc. apply to the human body as it relates to chinkuchi and so on. Lets talk about electromagnetic fields as a part of the bodies subtle energies, is this real, true and medically viable as something within the body and able to be manipulated? 

Upon a small amount of initial research the human body does not actually contain electromagnetic energies. For instance, from the World Health Organization, Electromagnetic radiation has been around since the birth of the universe; light is its most familiar form. Electric and magnetic fields are part of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation which extends from static electric and magnetic fields, through radio frequency and infrared radiation, to X-rays.”

Electromagnetic Fields, EMF, magnets, alternating electric and magnetic fields, radio freq radiation and microwaves, infrared radiation, the sun, from ultraviolet rays and X-rays to name a few so I am having difficulty understanding how electromagnetic files can be subtle energies of the body as manifested as ki or chi. 

I can accept that to manifest energy, force and power through breathing, structure, alignment, etc., principles of karate and martial arts, but not through sound and light waves. I can accept that those things can have an effect on human bodies but as to their connection to subtle energies of the body and to their being manipulated, not so much. 

Now I ask, “What are vitalities,” in the same opening paragraph. I wonder if it is an attempt to give meaning to a more mystic oriented ancient study of classics to give an impression of knowledge to make what has long been unexplained some meaning with some agenda involved. Ok, nuff said on this one, the first quotation or meme needs a bit more substantive verifiable material and references to hold sway on my interpretation of chinkuchi.

The very next thread of the article that jumped out at me was:

Chinkuchi, “Power” (chinkuchi) is developed by striking with:

1. Proper Breathing
2. Proper Tensing
3.Accompanying each movement with what I call “mind control.”

First, there is a presupposition that the reader already understands what power is or they are conveying the idea that the reader must already know and doesn’t need it explained so they will readily assume and accept that chinkuchi is power. In reality, chinkuchi is not power itself but a term used to explain how certain physiokinetic sub-principles when applied properly will actually help or assist or enhance true power generated by proper means and methods. 

Yes, breathing is an absolute as a part of a whole that helps the body generate both energy and its product, power and force. Tensing, is not, tensing should be another part of a whole where sequential locking and sequential relaxation are more appropriate but also not exclusive to the term chinkuchi yet at least a part of the whole. The mind control in number three is not truly mind control since we all know that nothing happens, either consciously or subconsciously, in the body without the participation of the mind. Here, a better term is, “Intent,” as driven by training, practice and a mind-set toward a mind-state. 

Power is not generated by these factors alone, body mass movement along with gravity are the chief power generators withe all the other principles when applied tend to give an enhancing effect to build on a limit to energy and power generation of a human body of a specific type, etc. 

Also, simply striking with breath, tensing and mind-control does not develop power. Striking alone is not powerful unless other principles and sub-principles are involved first. It insinuates that the shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand are powerful when in truth, alone, are not powerful no matter how you tense the muscles, etc. 

Then the article went on to state: 
  • “Chinkuchi is a whole body action with its roots extending in proper body/mind structure.”  My Comment: A somewhat limited explanation and yet it does touch peripherally on the full subject and explanation. 
  • “Chinkuchi is designed to intensify our physical strengths while simultaneously depleting the adversary of his power.” My Comment: No, it cannot intensify anything. It can be used when holistically understood to assist in teaching one how to apply principles to achieve power and force. It cannot add to or deplete another persons power, force or ability because that would depend on that persons understanding and proficiency in such things. Making such assumptions can be dangerous in the application of self-defense. 
  • “Chinkuchi is primarily about the relationship we have to our existing conflicts, which for martial artists implies adversarial forces.” My Comment: I have no idea what the heck is being said here, a relationship with existing conflicts? We have no way, except maybe in sport cøntext, to know an adversaries power or forces or abilities in an attack, we are going to have to act in an appropriate way to that kind of chaotic surprise situation. 
  • “In chinkuchi, proportionality and placement rule power.”  My Comment: Proportionality and placement have little to do with power, they are way down on that list of power generation. I can’t even begin to understand what is meant by proportionality. As to placement, that is not governed by chinkuchi and placement is about application of some methodology to a chaotic unknown situation except maybe in sport yet there as well it is unpredictable. Power is ruled by energy, its generation, and to body weight and movement in appropriate ways toward the appropriate situation with everything else a means to enhance things for slight advantages in a fight, combatives and especially self-defense. 
  • “Chinkuchi training pays particular attention to both the inner and outer form both prior to and during the execution of a move.”  My Comment: It sounds like an expression of proper application of fundamental principles of multiple defense methodologies for defense. 
Another quote or meme to comment on:
  • “Chinkuchi is accomplished by a precise combination of breathing, physical tension/relaxation, correct body alignments, concentrated volition and other key causal factors that can heighten the body’s expression of both power and control.” My Comment: There are no casual factors in using violence; the first part actually hinted toward fundamental principles and that is good; there is no expression of a bodies power and control for proper application of principles will instead make the body look less powerful.
  • “Chinkuchi’s combative emphasis is upon defeating another person.” My Comment: Chinkuchi is not a philosophy or does it impart some mystical ability to defeat an adversary. Your preparation, training and practice toward your goals has a better chance of getting you to defeat another person on the attack. Chinkuchi is merely a descriptive word used to convey certain concepts that are used to apply principles. Simply just saying it is so does not make it so. 
Laster a smaller meme caught my attention, i.e., “the nature of authentic power,” My comments: making some assumption that chinkuchi is the origins of power when reality says power comes from body mass and weight, momentum, gravity and principles applied.” Power is power, nothing about power is either authentic or not authentic. Power is either powerful or not, it is as simple as that and to say it is authenticate is some sort of agenda to entice and titillate possible enrollment increases, etc.

“Chinkuchi, physical strength is consciously manipulated by sequential bodily tensions in both still and ballistic posturing.” My comments: Chinkuchi is not about physical strength for power does not come from strength. Strength contributes to stability and movement where body mass and movement along with gravity generate power. Strength has its benefits but in reality toward self-defense, not as much as we often attribute to strength. As to ballistic posturing, I just don’t get it because posturing is about transmitting your intent and you don’t want to do that and it also has nothing to do with chinkuchi. I also don’t relate how sequential tension and relaxation affect posturing but I can see how it effects movement, structure, balance, and other physiokinetic sub-principles to effectively utilize the bodies limited energy to create the most power and force the body is capable of.  

“Chinkuchi is the practice of the inner details of a move.” My Comments: Mystic mindless meanderings because, to me, there are no inner details to any movement of the body because it is about the skeletal system, the muscular system, the other systems like circulatory and respiratory to move the body mass and make use of physiokinetic principles to achieve power and then transmit that into the target. There simply are no inner details of a move. 
“Sanchin: A rich body of knowledge exists within this form regarding the Subtle Energies.” My comments: the only part that troubles me is the reference to subtle energies, I wrote on that earlier. 

“Breathing: Asian ‘breathing ’is not meant solely as the action of air/oxygen passing in and out of the lungs. Breathing is also synonymous to ki flow.” My Comments: There is no mysterious energy flow but there are internal systems such as circulatory and chemical and nervous and respiratory and others that actually relate do the concept and idea and philosophy of chi/ki because all of those along with fuels consumed, etc. provide the energy of the body. Admittedly, if breathe stops the body and mind die in short order without fail while the other systems if they fail allow time for the body to be repaired and continue. It is that simple. 

“Speed with which people are moved through their martial systems today— two years to black belt, on average — and one can easily see why deep layers of the martial arts are being lost.”  My comments: I apologize to the author, this is just bullshit. I say this because every single person except a very, very few never went beyond one to two years to achieve black belt. This all stems from not understanding that sho-dan is simply moving from a novice start into a student status beginning. Most of those early pioneers simply stayed with it and either learned or developed the so called depth and breadth of karate and martial arts. Even the Asians work under the handicap of the early, 1800’s late to early 1900’s, efforts at converting karate and martial arts away from its combative origins to the more accepted educational version for self-improvement, etc.   

One of the unusual traits of the fairly new and young system of Isshinryu is the, “Crescent Step.” Some of my thoughts, ideas, theories and beliefs on this aspect of practice and training can be read in the following articles:

The author who wrote about this, the same one who wrote about the chinkuchi principle, has the following to say:

The Crescent Step

“Chinkuchi crescent stepping is a ki-pumping action that maximizes the flow of energy in the leg’s Strength Channels for enhanced body power. The maximization occurs as a result of the semicircular leg action, which activates all the primary leg meridians simultaneously, something that straightforward stepping does not accomplish.” My Comments: First, this is the very first time anyone has related the chinkuchi principle to the crescent step and that does not mean it is not so but I have to consider how my belief of chinkuchi connects to the crescent step. Then I have to ask the question, “What proof, fact, or reference can be given that the stepping action regardless of whether crescent or standard indicates that it is a energy pumping action?”
In addition, regarding, “Maximizes the flow of energy in the leg’s Strength Channels for enhanced body power,” is just plain mystical mumbo jumbo used to give an answer that cannot be given and proven, not according to my research as to possible testing, examination and proof by medical research even outside of the K&MA origins. There is no proof either way that the action actually allows free flow either because the legs assuming a seisan stance then moving as described is not natural movement of the legs. If nature intended us to benefit from such unnatural movement they would have that implemented naturally through nature itself. Even if I am correct all of it is in need of validation and verification as to reality and the results professed herein. 
Nowhere is there any reference, proof, validation or verification what is said, to include the statement, “Something that straightforward stepping does not accomplish,” that would indicate, other then the authors unsubstantiated word, this to be true. I do admit that the legs and their natural movement has very positive effects on the body and mind toward health, fitness, and other more natural effects as medical research indicates by the very recommendations made by the medical community with extra emphasis by heart health specialists who advocate walking as the best form of exercise for health, fitness and overall wellness. 
Yes, I admit freely that many of my assumptions although derived from my persona studies and overall conclusions on this and other K&MA studies is also in need of testing, verification and validation when not referenced properly in my bibliography. Neither is either true or not on both ends of this written discussion. 
“Chinkuchi crescent stepping is a far more specific an action than just gliding the leg in a general arc. It involves the movement of the upper thigh, the foreleg, precise knee flexion and abductor/adductor orientation, and the arc must cross the body’s mid-line (spine). The foot must skim low to the ground, with weight forward on the ball, and assume a particular proportionality in length and width to maintain an open flow of energy in the Bubbling Springs acupressure point on the bottoms of the feet.”  My Comments: Nicely articulated in print but …
“Why aspire to such detail and complicate the simple action of crescent stepping? … attention to detail could result in instantly doubling one’s physical strength … “ My Comments: Strength like energy, power and force in each human is finite, it has limits that no matter what you do and how you do it can be doubled, it is just not in accordance with nature and the laws of physics. We can enhance application of force and power through such activities including the one described in this quote but doubling - not going to happen. I can see how a student can perceive a true application of power and force as some wonderful discovery when in truth all that is accomplished is teaching that student how to apply principles properly to make use of their true maximum potential. 
“Biofield functioning as a science, true of false?” My Comments: Biofield is defined as, “biofields (subtle field manipulation, etc.???) as “energy fields that purportedly surround and penetrate the human body” The keyword here is, “Purportedly.” It means, “allegedly,” which means, “used to convey that something is claimed to be the case or have taken place, although there is no proof.” These may be those very fields he mentions early on that one is supposed to have an ability to control but since it has not or cannot be proven then we can lay claim to all kinds of results and beliefs yet actually accomplish nothing of note. In other words, because he says so it must be true when coupled with extensive experience in the field that promotes the chinkuchi and crescent step theory. 
“Karate’s Hidden Internal Face” My Comments:  Hidden would mean it is still hidden and therefore unseeable and undiscoverable. One of those terms used to reach a personal agenda, a supposition and a leading term to make the reader believe that karate has something hidden much like having some special, “Secret.” In the philosophy of Japanese K&MA there is a concept of an inner and outer perception of something somewhat like yin-yang where, in nature, there are two sides to anything living or not-living. In truth even the Japanese don’t use hidden but the terms omote [], which means “surface” and ura [], which literally means “behind”. It is used to indicate that a study of kata, for instance, must be taken up with the omote and ura mind-set, i.e., to look for what is obvious and then to study and research to find that which is behind the practice of things like kata. Not hidden, but something not as obvious, especially to a novice, but rather behind the training and practice waiting to become obvious to the practitioner, a cultural belief system called shi-kata that is used in Japanese society that defies explanation to the western mind. Look at it as omote, or watching a good movie, while ura is having the behind the scenes information made available to the viewer. 

New Information: Energy Therapist; energy medicine; integration of the physical, emotional and spiritual within the individual; My Comments: I came across this while researching some of the disciplines this author uses such as hidden internal face, biofield, and subtle energies. It is like the professed and advertised supposedly yet not actually medical discipline of energy medicine and energy therapist. If it works for you and floats your boat, great and if it comes across as a new age agenda driven marketing ploy to extract as much of your money that it can - buyer beware. It reminds me of my grandmother on my father side who started out a wealthy socialite who believed in fortune telling and seance talk with the dead belief ended up losing every penny of her wealth, drinking herself into oblivion only to die broke, sad and a drunk. Believe what you will for if it does float your boat and you can sail lives currents with ease and contentment, go for it. This just adds to my belief that it is salesmanship selling the next elixir to make your life feel and be better. This energy therapy and medicine seems a lot like the Asian healing art of Reiki. Go figure …

Closing Statement: What has been presented in the chinkuchi and crescent step article has a lot of value but it requires mining out the suppositions and leading statements and questions used to persuade, guide and affect how the reader interprets and perceives the material. Anyone, including myself, can be easily re-programmed so that their memories come to the conclusion that want we see, hear and feel is our reality even when, in some cases, it is not true reality. Investigators, like the ones you will face in a self-defense - defense - will use such suppositions and lead comments and questions to maneuver you into saying something they can use in prosecution even when you discover later it is not the truth. Overall, I liked his article and how it was presented but I also feel he could have done far better (then again that is making the assumptions I have a greater skill and understanding - do I?).

For all I know, this persons expertise, training, studies and experiences may well be proof that it all exists and it all works - I just have my doubts as described above. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Teaching vs. Training - Too Early

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

Today, Joelle White at her blog wrote about the relationships of Sensei to Practitioners but that is not the subject of this article but she said something that did inspire this effort, i.e., “Sensei relies heavily on us senior students to teach new beginners.  We’re willing, but that means we sacrifice a good bit of our own training.”

The early years of learning, practice and training are absolutely, “Critical.” To truly set a solid foundation for a life of K&MA one must focus solely on the learning. All to often dojo allow and promote the lower levels, i.e., all kyu and the first three levels of the dan-sha, to assist in teaching with a false reasoning of, “Teaching is a good way to learn aspects of K&MA.” I don’t believe this for one minute and the next paragraph describes my reasoning.

As a Marine with about seven years experience as well as a novice toward the system I was taking while stationed on Okinawa in 1979 I was encouraged to teach classes from time to time. When teaching I spent a good deal of time not training myself. I had one benefit that I had experienced K&MA sporadically over previous years but truthfully, the teaching distracted me from learning. I didn’t realize till many years later that a good teacher, Sensei and mentor must, stressing the MUST, have a solid foundation of study, knowledge and especially, “Understanding,” to properly teach and mentor students/novice practitioners. 

It took me years of exasperation and frustration, almost to the quitting stage, before I began to understand what it takes to be a Sensei. There are, like all things in life, no shortcuts and to achieve a true mentor teacher ability you cannot take those shortcuts or deviate from first learning the root essence of knowledge and understanding of K&MA, especially if for combatives and self-defense - as a Marine the focus was combatives and self-defense. Of course my efforts after leaving active duty were still combatives and self-defense with my winter years focusing solely on self-defense. 

It became my mantra that a Sensei first must learn the full and comprehensive knowledge of the system that would be the foundation for all efforts in K&MA self-defense. It also meant I needed to shift from the original technique-based teaching model of self-defense toward a principled-based multiple-methodology model of K&MA. 

To allow any student practitioner to deviate from learning the entire comprehensive knowledge and understanding of K&MA is to stunt their growth and potential as a true Sensei and mentor. It has resulted, over a span of the fifties through the eighties and even nineties, a loss of a complete system to a more stunted less relevant and applicable system for most applicable goals except in very narrow ways. Lucky for K&MA, there are those whose experiences and professions have redirected a lot of effort toward K&MA as a more diverse yet applicable training, practice and application toward things like, “Sport (legal fighting), combatives (military based mind-set training and use), the self-defense (the socially legal and legal system oriented applications) and the philosophical spirit self-improvement models, i.e., the Way or Doh of K&MA.” 

A student should focus on the shu of shu-ha-ri and only at that level up to the “ha” level, under supervision, before taking on a  teaching role. I also advocate self-analysis and self-discovery to determine if one should even take on a teaching role because that, in and of itself, is another entire system and profession. Not everyone should be a Sensei, many who do turn out to be less than effective all to the detriment of both student and the style or system. 

Spend the formative “shu” hears learning, only assume an associate teaching position with a good sensei when in the “ha” and then as one gains more of the “ha” of shu-ha-ri do they, with their sensei/teachers blessing, move on to a solo role as their own Sensei of their own dojo. It is the best way, it is the true way and it is the ONLY way.  

Bibliography (Click the link)

Basic Belief Systems

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

How does our basic belief system become who we are, it has been suggested that our brains through exposure and experience from the moment we are born through childhood to the teen years is set and encoded from our parents, our siblings (unless we are the first born), and other family members as derived from their lives and experiences, i.e., through their perceptions, beliefs and experiences toward their collective belief systems. Soon, we as children then venture out and experience other children from other neighborhood families and these experiences tend to tweak our brains making neuron connections that become memories and that build our personalities, characters and belief systems.

Next is how we venture forth into society and for almost all of us in these times that means through the local education systems. Then couple that with the types of social conditioning the society we live in imposes on us as a type of group control system. As can be seen by this list, not all inclusive either, our brains and memories formulate a set of memories that will create through those influences our belief system. 

It is interesting to understand that when we are born our brains, except those encoded zombie like sub-routines that control the uncontrollable, the brains are kind of blank slates where through these influence neurons are removed, adjusted and connected and reconnected until we reach a certain point in life where our personalities and characters are set, to a point for we can achieve changes and adjustments throughout our lives but the core personalities and character of ourselves and our belief systems are encoded. 

“Consider this, as adults, our past in not a faithful record. Instead it’s a reconstruction, and sometimes it can border on mythology. When we review our life memories, we should do so with the awareness that not all the details are accurate. Some came from stories that people told us about ourselves; others were filled in with what we thought must have happened. So if your answer to who you are is based simply on your memories, that makes your identity something of a strange, ongoing, mutable narrative.” - David Eagleman, The Brain: The Story of You

We assume the accuracy of our memories and those memories, we believe, tell us who we are and our personalities and character are derived from that belief system yet we can be fooled into actually believing in something through leading questions and suggestions that we can come to believe as absolutely true thereby changing the belief system and shifting our personalities and character accordingly. 

“Basic beliefs can be conceptualized as value systems that are learned in childhood and adolescence. They encompass religious or political beliefs and values as well as basic definitions of oneself and one’s personal goals in life.” 

Yes, as I mentioned already our belief system, our character and our personalities are learned and encoded in childhood and adolescence and yet from the end of out teens to about age twenty-five years there are other adjustments going on before our identities as personality and character along with collected, collated and constantly changing memories are then set, to a point. Set to a foundation that still is in constant flux but to drastically change personalities and character, etc., would need some sort of catastrophic change in our brains. 

“They are needed to guide coherent behavior over the life cycle of an individual, and even over generations for groups and whole nations. This makes them resistant to change, even when confronted with opposing evidence.”

Ok, you were wondering when I would get to the core of this blog, karate and martial arts training, practice and application - well, I am here because as the last quote or meme states our beliefs are our guide but when they become so deeply entrenched and permeate our immediate group then they become religious dogmatic beliefs where we and our group members will resist any changes, even when confronted with irrefutable opposing evidence

This is how we end up with different dojo, styles, systems and organizations because dependent on beliefs, character traits and personality traits we either collect together into groups or we move on till we find that group. It is because of those individual characteristics of the indifivdual that styles and systems come into existence, to create a group dynamic that fits the person’s personality and character traits.

We can add to this explanation because this tendency and effort to gravitate toward separate and distinct groups, dojo, is driven by our natural instincts toward survival. Even if our societies are such that an apparent and obvious need toward survival, i.e., as in when we ran from Lions while hunting and gathering in the Sarangety Plains, will still trigger that lizard brain oriented death fearing instinct, one that we are quickly losing knowledge and understanding about thus creating a stress-condition that further stresses humans because of not knowing the what, when, where and especially who of our natural nature. 

This brings up another issue worth exploring, why humans - especially men - gravitate toward sports and now, in the last sixty plus years, karate and martial arts. Well, in my mind, it deals with those very natural instincts when it comes to actual and perceived dangers that involve harm, both grave bodily and grave psychological, conflicts and violence. When things get a bit dicy and our spidey senses start to tingle most who are just ignorant to our very nature or who refuse to believe we still have and need those instincts don’t want to accept and deal with them - big mistake.

When the dangers fall into a stasis state hidden away due to better times we still instinctually have the need to find, build a group and participate in those things that speak to conflict and violence both physical and psychological. Life is full of conflicts and violence, they may be about some aggressive verbal act or they may be some physical attack for a process or the resource needs of the attacker but they all are reminiscent of those early hunter gatherer times of human existence. 

So, just like the Romans and the Greeks, when war was not going on they gravitated toward activities that would keep their skills sharp and ready. Our modern society through fear has conditioned us out of our conscious understanding of that very nature but our deeply imbedded instincts still make our lizard push our human and monkey toward those very activities that stimulate and sate our instincts toward conflict and violence thus keeping them sharp and ready - even tho our minds may not understand that need. 

This leads us to the club like atmosphere where our training, practice and applications of karate and martial arts for combative reasons fill those instinctual needs and becomes, through a lack of true understanding and acceptance, a form that is more socially driven then survival even if under the social the survival drive still drives the social. We then gather into those groups and through a more social influence meet our natural needs resulting in our dismissal or make believe that what we are doing is actually combative even when the essence and principles of combatives is not fully realized. 

All this and a whole lot more comes from our basic belief systems that drive our identities developed through our created personalities and character toward who we are today. We, as a whole are easily led and that allowed social conditioning and other factors to lead us all to this current state of life. I hope that realizing our state and what it would need to realize reality would allow us to see, hear and understand the changes we need to take. 

“In fact, the more disconnected from reality our beliefs are, the more likely it is for us to experience events that will shake them.” - God’s Bastard Blogger

God’s Bastard hits the nail on the head here, this disconnect from the reality of our very nature, a nature that has not evolved far enough and is stressed by the speed of our automated lives today, has resulted in this disconnect and our belief system that makes acceptance, understanding and change almost impossible. I see it more and more in the news how this disconnect is causing more conflict, violence and “Othering” making it worse than if we accepted and allowed for our nature using answers that would embrace and provide coping skills relevant to our modern times so we can do better and avoid all this angst, anger and aggressive behavior out of pure exasperation and frustration that also lead toward all types of violence.

In karate and martial arts for self-defense we accept such things and create avenues to cope with the frustrations society and technology put on us so that we recognize our true nature making it easier to allow our human brains to achieve things like avoidance, deescalation and escape and evasion over the damage and danger of physical confrontation and violence. Isn’t it all truly about a more acceptable relationship with all humans rather than falling into separate and disparate group existence where conflict and violence become more than just a communications tool but a tool to end the existence of others who do not accept our belief system? 

Our socially driven karate and martial arts existence is still viable, necessary and beneficial but it must not be the totality of our reasoning for entering into such groups, it must support and promote a much larger goal that actually brings all the styles and systems together for like minded realistic mutually necessary goals while allowing the identities, character and personality of the individual and the individual styles and systems to prosper and grow. 

My thanks to God’s Bastard whose article today inspired all this mindless meanderings I do, you can read that article of hers here:

Bibliography (Click the link)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Toad Impediment

The following poetic rendering teaches us in the karate and martial arts communities an important lesson. First, the centipede:

A centipede was happy – quite!
Until a toad in fun said, 
“Pray, which leg moves after which?”
This raised her doubts to such a pitch,
She fell exhausted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.
                                      – Unknown

The lesson the centipede and the toad are teaching, “To focus on the atomistic while a good novice teaching and practice tool if not taken to the higher levels will lock one in the human logical slower brain mode.” The need for speed in self-defense requires we encode and program the brains sub-routines and procedural memory so the faster lizard brain, nature’s survival sub-routine, to extract appropriate actions to the situations for survival. 

Like the centipede, if you focus on the atomistic and make that focus the source of your actions you will always run into confusion. In a technique-based self-defense model the focus is on individual techniques for specified attack techniques so the focus will be on which leg/technique do I use and that puts us in the human brain, slower, and that brain locks, freezes, and you end up in the OO bounce - the freeze. 

Don’t let the toad, the teaching of technique-based self-defense, cause you to focus on which leg is used to act in any given situation. Expand the mind and progress toward the more creative zombie like sub-routines programmed through appropriate training to speed things up and let you walk as if you had been walking your entire life. 

Don’t let the toad impede your training, progress and ability. When in self-defense you can’t afford to think about which leg to move or the attacker will put you in the ditch in a pitch while your brain is still trying to decide what to do. 

Dogmatic Religious Adherence for Preservation

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

Hey, Michael Clarke of the Shinseidokan Dojo blog wrote about a discussion he and a friend had on kata. The question was whether one should rigidly preserve the kata in the way it was originally taught or practice with an open mind toward individual interpretation of that kata. His exact words were, “ … whether or not kata should be [rigidly] preserved, or open to interpretation?” - Michael Clarke, Shinseidokan Dojo

He also stated that kara are there to be understood and in a nutshell, for me, answer the question quite well. To understand the kata you have to practice the kata, over time, in three stages. Ever hear of, “Shu-ha-ri?” 

In my mind, one should adhere dogmatically, “Perform the kata,” to the kata as taught in a dogmatic way until they get to a certain point then they should deviate. This is the practice phase where we pass by the mere physical performance of the kata and begin to, “Understand the kata.” I look at it as a paradigm mind-set shift because as everyone is saying, there is more to kata then merely the form. It isn’t just application as to bunkai but to understand you do have to go past the surface or the book cover and begin to read the content of the book to begin to hear and understand the story. 

If a practitioner is very, very lucky they reach a point of deep understanding, an understanding that is unique to that person and that person alone and is not compared to others, then it is time to begin, “Living the kata.” This is where one has achieved enough understanding and experience to begin their personal, “Interpretation of the kata.” 

Clarke Sensei is also hitting the nail on the head saying, “The role of kata … it’s something to ponder, don’t you think?” To which I would answer resoundingly, “You betcha Clarke Sensei!” I have pondered my kata practice and I will continue to do so.

It is a shame that many never get past the dogmatic performance level with kata for the accolades and self-gratifying trophy collecting levels to really understand kata to their fullest. 

Note: I am not insinuating that I have that understanding and yet I can say that at the very least I understand what needs to be done so I continue to do what is needed in the hopes that one day I will truly understand the kata - then, maybe I can finally interpret them with understanding.   

Bibliography (Click the link)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Optimal Performance High Stress HSA Axis Dump Training Recommendations …

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

When overwhelmed by events there are ways and means to reduce the demand and give support toward reaching back to the flow zone. 

There are three ways that follow:
  1. Practice and train the relevant expertise to raise skill levels to meet higher levels of demand.
  2. Enhance your concentration abilities so that you can pay more attention, because attention itself is a pathway into the flow zone.
  3. Take notice, be aware, when we and others have left the zone of positive good stress and peak performance, so we can apply the apt remedy.
Indicators, like, “threat displays and pre-attack indicators”, can “Tell” us when one is leaving the zone into the frazzle high bad stress zone. 
  1. Look for performance decline.
  2. Look for wondering attention.
  3. Look for loss of focus.
  4. Look for when the other person appears or feels like they are off their game compared to normal.
  5. Look for when they appear rigid in how they respond to issues in situations.
All indicate that the person is losing their cognitive efficiency.

Eliciting Flow includes a balance between the demands of the situation and a persons skills - often flow occurs when we are challenged to use our abilities to their utmost. This should be a goal of training and practice as if one were enduring shugyo or austere training. Shugyo should also, as part of the process, induce levels of adrenal stress releases into the body and mind. The important consideration is that each trigger that release the chemicals from the HPA axis of the brain, cortisol and adrenaline, change the way the mind and body release and handle the effects so that one might result in the zone while another could take us to the frazzle high stress zone. 

General Strategy for the Flow Zone:
  1. Practice (daily) methods that enhance concentration and relax you psychologically.
  2. Give your brain and body the chance to recover and relax.
  3. Meditate and breathe accordingly.
  4. Anything that truly relaxes you.
  5. Practice mindfulness.
The more you can break the cycle of the right prefrontal capture by the amygdala, the freer you will be to activate the beneficial circuitry of the left prefrontal cortex. 

Enhance Concentration Skills:
  1. Meditation, a training exercise for keener attentional focus.
  2. Any concentration enhancement technique that allows you to focus on A and whenever your mind wanters off to topic B or C, D, E, etc., and you realize that you wondered, bring it back to A again.
As can be readily perceived in this article many of the methods to achieve the flow zone are also practiced in karate and martial arts regardless of their objective and goals. To really achieve results, as with any practice and training, it must be done frequently, diligently, mindfully, emotionally and maintained by continuous practice in every facet of life especially under the duress of stress and stress released hormones so that you can perform methods to brain back peace, harmony and an entry into the flow zone for optimal performance be that personal entertainment and relaxation, home needs and requirements, family needs and requirements and finally work needs and requirements then when a need for self-defense arises you have the tools, the training, the practice and a limited amount of experience to get-r-done - in the flow zone. What could be better?

Bibliography (Click the link)

My Greatest Obstacle

Credentials, I write a lot and I understand that what I am writing and teaching may or may not be accepted by the karate and martial arts communities simply because of my credentials. I am not talking about my rank, rating or level - dependent on how certain groups look at belts - but about the type of credentials most of us tend to lean heavily on to validate presented information and teachings. 

I don’t have an active dojo; I don’t have a horde of trophies (Note: Chuck Norris once stated he didn’t start to prosper as a teacher until he went out and won tournaments, trophies and recognition by others of like ilk); I don’t have direct connections and associations with the karate and martial art world of luminaries or what some call first gen students, now teachers; I don’t have names to drop as my teacher and I are kind of loner type who appreciate a certain solititude; I don’t have hundreds of black belt students; I don’t have thousands of students out teaching in their own dojo; yadda, yadda, yadda and I could go on but the idea should be detected by now. 

I had a dojo, of sorts, that I created after I achieved yudansha status. I opened a training hall at every duty station after Camp Hansen in Okinawa circa 1979 and taught Military, Civilians and Dependents through the military special services, now called MWR or Moral, Welfare and Recreation. I can count the black belts I promoted on one hand and the overall students over those many years amount to about thirty or so. 

I retired as a civil GS-11 Physical Security Specialist (Officer) and opened a garage dojo after and that gave me about twenty-five years experience in teaching karate. I now study, practice and train on my own. I participated in a dojo of my preferred style for a year in the 2001 or 2002 year(s) and then stopped group participation to seek out my own dojo once again and due to circumstances remained in training and practice in a solo way. It gave me time to work toward a final retirement, in about a year from now, and study, train and practice to master myself and my karate. 

There are other aspects to my life that I would consider a huge contribution to my karate and martial arts discipline and expertise. I am a inactive-duty Marine of ten years active duty experience. My experiences during those years and the following years after until 1998 gave me some personal learning that also contribute to my overall expertise and master of self, karate and martial arts. 

In a nutshell, that is it - so you can see that compared to what the general public understands and expects I don’t have the type of credentials that would garner the attention of others in the karate and martial arts communities so the outcome is the lack of attentive study my articles, etc., contain. Then add in the subjects I write and teach are not mainstream thinking and beliefs, i.e., for instance, I dropped kobudo at least ten years ago to focus on self and empty handed self-defense, so that what others believe is karate and martial arts are not the same so the majority see my efforts as outside their paradigm of karate and martial arts. 

It is not enough that I spent about forty years or more in a personal state of study, understanding, practice, training and application of my karate and martial arts with emphasis on the reality of self-defense. Since I don’t have the media type attention and the awards, accolades and publications of accepted authorities I am not considered an expert that one would WANT to pay attention to over others who fill the bill. You get the idea, and all I can say is this, “I am very OK with that”, I followed my own path and I didn’t let or allow others to lead me as I let myself. I allowed others to present their views, theories and expertise so that I could expand, grow and live the way without closing myself off to possibilities. 

I look at my practice, etc., as a type of, “Backyard Dojo.” I didn’t advertise; I didn’t rely on my karate and martial arts as a form of income; I didn’t compromise my studies for the glory of recognition, accolades and other such things; I didn’t compromise my teachings to retain students, if you didn’t like it you leave or you stay if you have the intestinal fortitude to practice, practice, practice then train, train, train; I allowed my mind to learn how to be open to other ideas, theories and disciplines so that mine could flourish as much as my self allowed creating a greater depth and breadth, for me, of my system of training and practice. 

My greatest obstacle to acceptance is me, my self and my way because that way toward acceptance would mean I needed to compromise in a way that would have stunted my growth potential. It would mean I would have had to focus on what others think and allow that to influence the way I travel a most difficult road. You get my drift.

To the individual who asked, thanks for asking but I have a path and although it changes as needed to remain on the path while flowing with the currents of ever changing modern times I still travel my path and mine alone - when things happen I can see me as to why, not to put blame on others because I allowed them to control my self on their path. 

So, once again, thanks for the question and hope the answer is adequate, now I need to get back to my studies and practice and training and living …

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hijacking the Brain: How it Works

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

In the following I provide information on how our brains work when we are struck with the adrenal stress-conditioned chemical dump and some hints on how to train to handle it, to get back some semblance of sanity before it is too late. Some very critical points are provided that help us understand why some seemingly innocent (explained as to why we feel and react the way we do; not so innocent to the brain) events tend to send us off on a monkey run dangerous reactions. 

The amygdala captures the prefrontal area, driving it in terms of the imperatives of dealing with the perceived threat/danger at hand. When the alarm triggers, we get the classic fight-flight-freeze response, which from a brain point of view means that the amygdala has set off the, “HPA axis (the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis) and the body gets a flood of stress hormones, mainly cortisol and adrenaline. There is a problem here, the amygdala often, more often than we like in these modern times, makes mistakes. 

The amygdala gets data from sight and sound senses in a single neuron from the eye and ear - that is super-fast in brain time - it only receives a small fraction of the signals those senses receive (appropriate training can achieve success in how those signals are interpreted). All the rest of those signals go to other parts of the brain that take longer to analyze these inputs - and get a more accurate reading. 

The amygdala, in contrast, gets a sloppy picture and has to react instantly. It makes mistakes, particularly in modern life, where the “dangers” are symbolic, not physical threats so we overreact in ways we tend to regret (note: the brain when confronted with symbolic dangers does not know the difference so reacts as if life or death) [Top modern triggers of the amygdala: condescension and lack of respect; unfair treatment; being unappreciated; feeling you are not listened to or heard; being held to unrealistic expectations

In such circumstances humans tend to operate day-to-day in what amounts to a chronic, low-grade, amygdala hijack. Like being in a hyper-vigilant state of mind. (training is often about creating a mind-set and mind-state) Combating this state of mind is about two things: One, is self-awareness through knowledge, understanding and ongoing experiences; second, is through the act of paying attention, i.e., pay attention by noticing that you are in the midst of a hijack and to understand as long as you remain unaware you have not chance of getting back to emotional equilibrium and left prefrontal dominance until the hijack runs its course. 

Steps include: Monitor what going on in your mind and brain, i.e., “I am really overreacting,” or “I’m really upset now,” or “I’m starting to get upset.” Notice familiar feelings that a hijack is on its way - like butterflies in your stomach, or whatever signals that might reveal you are about to have an episode. It is easier to short circuit the hijack in the earlier stages so it is best to recognize it and head it off at the bare beginning. 

Additional Data:

First, realize you are in the amygdala’s clutches and all that entails. Second, realize if you don’t head it off that it can last for seconds to minutes to hours or even days and weeks. Remember, for some it is consider a normal state and can be seen as, “Always angry or always fearful.” There are more clinical effects of being in this hyper-vigilant state such as anxiety disorders, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. 

Other ways to get out of the hijacked state of hyper-vigilance: Have intention to cool down when detecting the state; a cognitive approach of talking yourself out of the state; reason with yourself and challenge what you are telling yourself in the hijack; apply empathy, imagine yourself in that persons position; use meditation or relaxation to calm down; breathe a deep slow diaphragmatic way; practice the ways continuously and diligently because without regular practice they will not be available when the hijack hits. 

Bibliography (Click the link)