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

Hey, Attention on Deck!

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

Search This Blog

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)