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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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What exactly is a Grand Master ...

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

Well, mastery is a most awesome goal in the study and practice of martial arts and karate and that is a given but where I lean toward hesitancy is using master and grand master as titles to recognize a most fallible human being. When one has mastered something, become an extraordinary expert in some discipline, then I ask the question, have they mastered the system? 

What is mastery? In a literal translation of the word we are told that mastery is a comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment. Master is about control or superiority over someone or something. It is also said that mastery is the action or process of mastering a subject or accomplishment. 

When we remove one letter from the word we get, “Master.” 
  • A master is a person who has people working for him, especially servants or slaves. 
  • A master is a person who is a skilled practitioner of a particular art or activity.
  • A master is a person having or showing very great skill or proficiency.
  • A master is one who has acquired complete knowledge or skill in an accomplishment, technique, or art. 
  • A master is one who has the ability to gain control of; overcome. 
Now add on the first word, Grand, and we get.
  • A grand person is one who is magnificent and imposing in appearance, size, or style. 
  • A grand person denoted the most important item of its kind. 
  • A grand is a thousand dollars or pounds - money.
  • A grand is a grand piano. 
Now, lets try to add the two and see what comes up, “Grand Master.”
  • A Grandmaster is a a chess player of the highest class, especially one who has won an international tournament.
  • A Grandmaster is the head of an order of chivalry or of Freemasons.
  • A Grandmaster is the head of a military order of knighthood, a lodge, fraternal order, or the like.
  • Also, grandmaster. ( lowercase) a person at the highest level of ability or achievement in any field.
  • Lastly, there is a definition of a Japanese grandmaster (lowercase) in martial arts. “Grandmaster (or Grand Master) and Master are titles used to describe or address some senior or experienced martial artists. Typically these titles are honorific in nature, meaning that they do not confer rank, but rather distinguish the individual as very highly revered in their school, system, or style.” 
Another title that is used and connected to this articles subject is, “Soke.” (Quoted from
  • If Internet websites can be believed, in the English-speaking world the Japanese word soke has become a title for individuals who claim to be "great grandmasters" or "founders" of martial arts.
  • Surprisingly, however, the term is not explained in recent English-language dictionaries of martial arts directed toward general readers, nor in the more authoritative books about Japanese martial culture.
  • Apparently this very obscurity provides commercial advantage when it is invoked in a competitive marketplace crowded with instructors who promote themselves not just as high-ranking black belts, but as masters or even grandmasters.
  • This English-language usage stands in stark contrast to the connotations of the word soke in Japan where, if it is used at all, it strongly implies loyalty to existing schools, deference to ancestral authority, and conservative adherence to traditional forms.
    • Despite what many seem to believe in the West, as a Japanese word soke has never meant "founder," nor does it mean "grandmaster."
My intent here is to convey the convolution of title used indiscriminately throughout the American or Western martial arts and karate communities. You can read more about such things here: Soke: Historical Incarnations of a Title and its Entitlements by William M. Bodiford

In general, my perception and interpretation, grandmaster itself as a title would mean that a person who has attained the highest level of ability OR achievement in any field, in this case martial arts and/or karate, who is skilled in the art and way and who has accumulated or acquired a complete knowledge, understanding, and skill in the art or way or jutsu of martial arts and karate. In essence it is about one who has demonstrated through actions and deeds the ability to gain control of themselves and have overcome those internal obstacles of the ego to be in the moment and of the way of martial arts in theory, as a philosophy and toward the physical, mental and spirit of that discipline in every facet of life in and out of the dojo. 

Now, with all the masters, grandmasters (lowercase for a reason guys), soke’s and other such trappings created out of original historical context by the West has seldom, truly and honestly been accomplished. Having a high rank is not indicative of mastery although is often a symbol of years of practice, a solid understanding and the ability to adequately relay such expertise to others in teachings. 

When I looked up Soke [宗家] I found one translation that gave it the English, “Head of family; originator.” First character translated to, “Religion; sect; denomination; main point; origin; essence,” and the second character translates to, “house; home; family; professional; expert; performer.” Here is an interesting point tho, when the characters are translated elsewhere not one translation says anything about its use in martial arts or karate circles except sites in the West that run a dojo, a business. 

Then there is its usage, historically speaking, some titles are honorary and awarded in recognition of services, expertise, understanding and ability in a discipline. They are not meant to be titles used indiscriminately in a more egoistic self-soothing and self-serving way. In one view, to use such titles in this way simply states that the one holding said title is not worthy of that title of honorary recognition. But, then again, our way in the West is about self-esteem, self-soothing and the gratifications we can get wherever and whenever we can to … self-sooth and give ourselves the belief we have self-esteem. 

Now, this is presumptuous of me and many will say that because I don’t have such recognitions and connections that I am just whining about what others have achieved. It is not true because the research I have done, more than most in the communities without some form of dissonance involved, comes from those who have spent decades studying and coming to understand the more historical facts of martial arts and karate. Koryu, is one form of traditional martial arts or jutsu.
  • Shihan [師範] is translated to mean, “Instructor; (fending) teacher; model.” 
  • Hanshi [範士] is translated to mean, “Fencing master of the top rank.”
  • Kyoushi or Kyoshi [教師] is translated to mean, “Teacher (classroom).”
  • Renshi [錬士] is not even translated by one source but is translated on a Shinjinbukan web site as, “Refined, polished Samurai expert.” 
  • Sensei [先生] is translated to mean, “Teacher; master; doctor; with names of teachers, etc., as an honorific.” 

Now, I am not Japanese and the year I spent on Okinawa is no qualification what so ever and just because I spent the last ten years studying various sources of note on Japan, Okinawa and China does not mean I am an expert but I do believe I am knowledgable, at least enough to pose theories and questions on the subject.

Here is my theory, by belief, on the titles. They are symbolic of certain things in general and toward expertise in martial arts and karate. In truth, as I perceive and distinguish the above translations those titles, including Sensei, may not be appropriate for martial arts and karate at all. 
  • Shihan is just an instructor or teacher of the fencing martial arts. Not to say that by its usage in martial arts, general, and karate could bring about an addition to the translation but it is pretty clear that such a change has not been implemented in any of the translation sites, other than martial and karate sites, to be used in martial arts or karate.
  • Hanshi is about fending and one who is a top ranked fencing expert. As with shihan above, if it were adopted and accepted by the masses for what is is used for today in martial arts and karate then the translations would reflect that change, right?
  • Kyoushi/Kyoshi just means teacher, in a classroom, and I would accept the dojo as a classroom and therefore, along side sensei, would accept kyoshi and sensei as the same level, meaning teacher. 
  • Renshi means polished samurai expert and no one, not one outside the Koryu circle or family rates to use or be honored by that title. As with the others, if accepted and used in this assumed meaning in martial arts it would be reflected in the translations, etc.
  • Sensei, is a teacher and is accepted even in martial arts, karate and the dojo. So, sensei as it is used in the West is the only one in my view, perception and belief as valid usage in the martial arts and karate dojo. 
I am proud to have done the work, come to understand the martial karate way and Jutsu and to have accomplished a lot toward knowledge, understanding and belief along with pretty good applications, etc., and that is enough for me. I judge myself to myself for myself and except in general fundamental ways allow for others to influence my self-judgement of self. I can always, and do, compare what I do, say and teach with others where I do what I call, “Data Mining,” to remove the chaff from the wheat so my understanding, etc., is based on more factual historical aspects rather, mostly, than emotions and ego and pride. In that light, if I had or were honored by my peers with such titles and symbols I would hold that close and have pride that the group accepted me as is, not as they expect and that is enough where I would take such trappings of accolades and respect, put them away in my office desk and on rare occasions take them out to honor the others for their view of me and my capabilities but they would remain there for personal reasons and use and views. 

I would not allow those accolades, titles, etc., to be used in public or even in private or even on correspondence, etc. It would be inappropriate and lead too far toward egoistic pride filled self-esteem building self-soothing aspects not of my way. I would prefer to witness the absorption and use of my teachings on the dojo floor, that is the only true recognition because that application toward action and deed by those who follow my mentoring attempts speaks volumes above and beyond mere titles, ranks and other accolades. I have always felt that when one mimics and synthesizes what you say, do and how you act into their efforts and lives, when they synthesize that into their own ways … that is the highest recognition anyone, me especially, can achieve even in one lifetime. 

p.s. back to the grandmaster and other such titles, who actually qualifies and validates that level even as I describe it above? If it is the dojo members, how can they assess and qualify then award such a title since none of them are masters or grand masters. It is an honor when your membership, dojo mates, think highly of you and want you to be recognized but if they don’t hold the rank, they don’t have the accomplishments and have met the criteria (whomever does that too?) and have no real knowledge or experiences to set the standards then is it valid? Is it true? and is it reality? Hmmmm, a bit like me being a san-dan and then deciding my student should be a Yo (Yon) dan? Hmmmm … now that I have thoroughly pissed about everyone in the martial arts and karate communities off …

Bibliography (Click the link)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Nyumonsha [入門者]

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

The characters/ideograms translate to mean, “a beginner.” The first character translates to, “Enter; insert,” the second character translates to, “gate,” and the third character translates to, “person; someone.” Dave Lowry wrote once in an article in the Black Belt magazine, i.e., 

“The word ‘nyumonsha’ is actually not used much in modern Japanese. Tragically, it is used even less in the United States, where, in terms of the martial disciplines, it should be used frequently. The last character sha refers to a person who does something - a practitioner. The nyu at the beginning of the word is written with the same strokes that are sometimes pronounced irimi, meaning ‘to enter.’ A mon is a gate. Putting the entire word together, we have - a person entering the gate.”

“Of all the karate joints in all the towns in all the world, he/she walks into mine. The nyumonsha!” I am glad when a nyumonsha walks into my dojo, it is an opportunity to guide and mentor that person towards a great, wonderful and satisfying life as a karate-ka, a martial artist! Notice the title? One of my pet peeves is all the titles in all the dojo and expressed, inappropriately, in all the world, at least the western world. We have shihan, hanshi, kyoshi and others both drawn from actual use in Asian dojo and others created by egoistic souls who crave unique, specific and glorifying titles and symbols to show others just who and what they are. 

Yet, seldom do I find anyone using this title because NO ONE wants to be a beginner, a novice or a newbie or boot as we call them in the Marines. I don’t think most really understand all the Asian martial arts and karate titles especially this one. This one is especially hard to define, much like trying to define what it is to be traditional or classical in their study and practice of martial arts and karate. 

Dave Lowry further writes about nyumonsha, “ … we can see that a “person at the gate” is someone who has a lot of work ahead of him. He has no direct path to the heart of things. He has to go around and around, approaching his destination obliquely. That’s why, if we’re serious about our journey along the “martial path,” we must always think of ourselves as nyumonsha. There is always another gate before us, another turn, another new discovery to be made.”

In modern karate studio’s and/or training halls practitioners are given a syllabus with certain requirements laid out one must achieve in order to move up the chain of belts toward black and higher. This promotes a perception, distinction and misguided understanding that once you achieve that particular requirement - you are done. This is far from the truth in the form or way of study of martial arts and karate for the “Way” and for “Jutsu (Self-fense).”

It is not about taking a multiple choice question where one answer is, “The Answer.” It’s about discovery, searching, analysis and synthesis of things on a continuous on-going creative discovery of what you have done, what you are doing and what you can achieve in the future. Nyumonsha, is a title, is way to designate the character, personality and beliefs of a martial artist and karate-ka without designating any particular style, system or way - a way of the individual is what it is without borders, requirements or tests beyond what the person puts on their selves to achieve their goals. 

If I were to put a title on a business card for my teachings, on the dojo door or in all correspondence, i.e., like the title shihan as an honorary title not to be used when addressing that person, etc., it would be the title, designation or honor to put, “Nyumonsha!”  

p.s. here is one for ya, when googling the term most results are in a foreign language and the term is used as a title, etc., not much in English or on sites that define and use it in the way described above. Even searching for a title in Amazon returns Japanese editions for about five book search results. 

Bibliography (Click the link)
Lowry, Dave. “The Gateway to the Martial Path.” March 1997. Black Belt Magazine, ‘the best of dave lowry.’

The Anger Emotion: What is it Good For?

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

Anger in the academic sense is defined as, “A strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” Some other words that are or relate to the state of anger are, “Rage, displeasure, irritation, indignation, annoyance, fury, wrath, outrage, ill temper, etc.” 

Anger tends to be an intense emotion and emotional response to some stimuli. It is often triggered by some perception of threat, provocation or what we call today as, “Being dissed.” If a person’s boundaries are threatened or actually being violated it can trigger anger. It comes at both times appropriate and times inappropriate to incoming stimuli. Where inappropriate it may be due to non-existent or inappropriate coping skills for such conflicts of varying levels. 

In my mind, anger - along with fear - are two dominant emotions of survival. It is said by modern psychologists that anger is, “A primary, natural, and mature emotion experienced by virtually all humans at times, and as something that has functional value for survival. Anger is seen as a supportive mechanism to show a person that something is wrong and requires changing. Anger can mobilize psychological resources for corrective action.”

There is, as symbolized by the yin-yang symbol and concept, a duality toward emotions such as anger and fear where one can survive when anger or fear are triggered according to the actions and reactions they stimulate while anger and fear, to include other emotions as well, have a negative effect, and affects personal and social well-being, on our bodies, minds and spirit. 

How one controls and utilizes anger makes a difference where modern professional experts believe that anger can be used as a manipulation strategy in conflicts. There are a few kinds of anger as follows:

Hasty and Sudden: This is our natural impulse for self-preservation and is considered episodic. When tormented or trapped in a corner anger, along with fear, mix and create certain survival and primal conditioned responses (dependent on training and experiences) that triggered provide the person a means to survive the situation/encounter. 

Settled and Deliberate Anger: Something we use, especially when other coping skills are non-existent, to survive according to an individual when faced with possible harm or unfair treatment from and by others. As can be determined in this description this kind of emotion is episodic. 

Dispositional Anger: This is about our  character, how we perceive ourselves; how others perceive us; how the group perceives us within the group structure, etc., resulting is irritability, sullenness, and churlishness. 

In short, “Anger can potentially mobilize psychological resources and boost determination toward correction of wrong behaviors, promotion of social justice, communication of negative sentiment and redress of grievances. It can also facilitate patience. In contrast, anger can be destructive when it does not find its appropriate outlet in expression. Anger, in its strong form, impairs one's ability to process information and to exert cognitive control over their behavior. An angry person may lose his/her objectivity, empathy, prudence or thoughtfulness and may cause harm to themselves or others. There is a sharp distinction between anger and aggression (verbal or physical, direct or indirect) even though they mutually influence each other. While anger can activate aggression or increase its probability or intensity, it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for aggression.”

Read about passive and aggressive anger here: (note: fact-check required)

An excerpt of the reference, “Six dimensions of anger expression: Anger expression can take on many more styles than passive or aggressive. Ephrem Fernandez has identified six bipolar dimensions of anger expression. They relate to the direction of anger, its locus, reaction, modality, impulsivity, and objective. Coordinates on each of these dimensions can be connected to generate a profile of a person's anger expression style. Among the many profiles that are theoretically possible in this system, are the familiar profile of the person with explosive anger, profile of the person with repressive anger, profile of the passive aggressive person, and the profile of constructive anger expression.”

Here is the rub I feel dominates in martial arts and karate self-defense, not many discuss anger or fear, especially fear, because like the discussions of SEX, many find to discuss such emotions is likened to admitting weakness and ignorance because we all should know, understand and have awareness to our emotions. 

If I had to guess which emotions tend to get folks into more trouble it would be anger. How to address that anger, what coping skills can be useful, especially in conflict and violence, to avoid or deescalate the conflict would be a great topic of discussion, lessons, training, practice and experience relevant to remaining within the self-defense legal square. 

It is also important to reference that, for many, anger is often triggered when someone senses some offense according to their belief system so in anger they respond in an approved manner to their belief system to communicate and teach, like the ‘Educational Beat Down” so the person learns their lessons. 

There is more, read the reference and fact-check, so I won’t waste time and space regurgitating that here except for those excerpts to convey my understanding and meaning in this article. You do have to take some action and initiative to learn about such things, all a part of the “Way” don’t you know. 

Anger, fear, resentment, etc., are all emotional survival tools of the species and in modern times one must seek out coping skills, etc., along with primal conditioned responses so that we don’t succumb to the monkey brain on adrenal drugs simply because we cannot cope with and govern our emotions, emotional maturity, so we can avoid, deescalate and remain within the legal, moral and social principles of self-defense. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Can you see it building the critical mass?

Boom, talk about critical mass!

Looks a bit like the Socially Angry don't you think?

Up and in your face angry!!!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Disparities in Karate Training

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

Hmm, thinking about the article title, got to think about using disparities - ops, off topic, apologies. Now, in my Sensei’s dojo circa 1979 he had rules. His rule was no karate-ka would spar until Go-kyu. He wanted to create and condition the students with a solid foundation of basics and kata from which to draw so when they do spar, they can at least make connections when faced by Tori in a fight.

He also had a rule about pacing things and using a process of control that would build up to full force, within safety reason, to learn and apply karate methodologies, principles and forces in achieving the goal of fighting effectively and efficiently. Fighting because we were all Marines and we took the direction of how we trained as Marines for combat.

So, what I say disparities I mean the ones that exist between what is taught and how in karate self-defense vs. what is reality in both the social and asocial self-defense world. 

The first one is insisting that new students jump right into the deep end of the pool by participating, against senior experienced karate-ka, in kumite or paired-drills where absolutely no understanding of the true nature of the tori-uke relationship exist for the express purpose of teaching,not to simply beat the crap out of the new guy because you can. Here, these are some quotes, redacted, about a newbie’s first days and week in the dojo.

He said, “He was getting his ass kicked by a young woman, green belt 10 years younger than me, receiving strikes to his body which strung, how her foot would end up in his mouth repeatedly.” He thought of it as, “Literally as ass kicking.” … He thought, “she was an extremely talented green belt of that time, she and the other green belts were fighting terrors.” He described his dojo training and practice, “In class they (the green belts) worked me over repeatedly. And they worked a very wide range of techniques, including grounding movements.”

Now, how could one possible learn adequately and effectively especially without learning bad habits. I have observed this particular persons articles and such and find a lot of glitches as to teachings and perspectives regarding karate, kumite and self-defense. But, then again I have encountered this type of thing countless times in the last decade or so.  

Then you add in inappropriate and ineffective self-defense techniques you have a real mix of reasons why many karate and martial arts have lost the very thing they need most in teaching others not just karate and martial arts but self-defense. The only redeeming factor is in the last few years I have also observed and detected a huge change of the paradigm of martial arts, karate and self-defense. It is a good thing coming and still there are many more that run it like I describe here. 

To teach and learn and condition oneself especially in regard to self-defense the relationship and use of the tori-uke must consist of a more gradual and increasingly challenging training program that will allow you to do it right, correctly and without glitches that will come back to haunt you if you have to stop an attacker. 

If you don’t have a base of fundamentals and a foundation from which to draw from you will find you have to create something just to survive. Surviving without the appropriate tools to get-r-done. Yes, you can create survival instincts in the dojo against your dojo mates but why and what does that really accomplish other that self-soothing self-stroking egoistic needs of folks with not so great self-esteem and - shame on the instructor and shame on the dojo. 

Once a person has created that foundation and has been guided along toward certain levels of accomplishments then adding the heat to the training accomplishes other more serious and higher levels of experience, knowledge and ability. It is no wonder, in the early days, the attrition rate of students was deplorable and I have to consider the types of folks that made up the dojo who toughed it out experiencing this type of instruction. 

When you dump a person in the deep end of the pool, those who drown - drown. It seems better to start in the kiddy pool, learn how to stroke, paddle and float in the water then experience the shallow end of the pool and once you practice, condition and apply those swimming skills you can safely move to the deep end so later you can swim in the ocean without fear and plenty of confidence you won’t drown.

Bibliography (Click the link)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Harmony and the Martial Arts

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

Harmony, a concept hard to feel and to live by but easy to define, at least academically. Harmony is the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole. In the Asian practices such as “Chado (tea ceremony),” “Shodo (calligraphy),” and especially, for this article and for us as karate-ka and martial artists, “Karate-do, Budo, etc.,” the philosophy of Zen influences the practitioners and the arts into a spiritual discipline (not religious but religious in a kind of non-religious way) that is focused on calmness, simplicity, and self-growth. 

In the more physical violence part of these disciplines harmony is a model of conditioning that drastically reduces and conditions the practitioner toward the reduction of effects from adrenal stress-conditions inherent in fear, anger, and other emotions triggered by facing grave harm, extreme violence and possible death. 

Practicing a way of martial art and karate toward a harmonious way of not just applications in the various forms from sport to fighting to self-defense provides us a dualistic complementary way of training, practice, study, understanding, applications and experience that is, harmonious in that it creates a one singular wholehearted way. 

When practiced with Zen principles in mind, practice and training can be a peaceful journey through the chaos of a blunt, physically demanding and emotionally challenging discipline where self-cultivation leads to harmony in conflict, where calmness leads to a positive state of relaxation that reduces drastically those mental obstacles that rise under stressors, the serenity of mind to make decisions quickly speeding up the OODA loop while maintaining a mind-set and mind-state that pulls appropriate legal and socially acceptable actions toward safety and security let alone toward a mind, body and spirit that builds character and personality toward social connectivity building a tribe, clan and group dynamic that is a contributor to the social fabric of our society and culture. 

Then there is the need for “Concentration” that all this practice, training, experience and applications teach us to handle life challenges even with stress inducing conflict along with associated violence of both psychological and physical. 

Zen harmony practices focus on the mind, body and spirit unity, the one whole that is harmonious to nature, to the self and to others in your community. It creates an attitude whereby the benefit is a harmonious nature and feeling while creating a means to act in the moment and in the no-mind state of primal conditioned response created by training in karate, martial arts and Zen-Buddha-Harmony for balance in mind, body, and spirit. 

Harmony is an attitude, a mind-state, while harmony leads to proper attitude, a mutually beneficial way that is represented in the symbol of the, “Yin-Yang.” 

Zen-harmony of the martial arts and karate-do provide pathways toward other benefits that create a sense of aesthetic balanced harmonious presentations, actions and deeds by teaching us to appreciate moderation, asymmetry, perfection of imperfection, rusticity, and a naturalness along with a Zen connection with nature that is demonstrated in Japan by the value found in Shintoism. 

Zen teaches respect of nature by not managing or controlling nature but finding that connection with nature where one establishes and maintains a spiritual bond with nature as can be observed in various Japanese art forms such as chado or the tea ceremony or when admiring the Japanese Zen garden. 

For the martial artist and karate-ka Zen was morphed into its practices from the very culture of Japan and Okinawa because in MA and Karate one emphasizes self-composure, vigilance, and tranquility for life and for the purpose of facing grave harm or death in Self-defense. In its practice toward detachment the practitioner learns to detach the mind in the present moment from distractions of the past and possible future and from the material things that would lead the mind astray toward things not needed in the moment. 

Zen’s connection to the martial arts and karate-do provide a road to a philosophy, a fundamental principle of the discipline, so that the practitioner can better understand that martial philosophy. A philosophy that transcends the mere physical toward the full spectrum of self-defense of theory, physiokinetics, technique, philosophy, self-defense, the chemical cocktail - all principles that govern all forms of conflict along with the psychological and physical violence associated. 

Harmony is something that is often undetectable and unobservable in a direct conscious way when you meet others who have character and personality that just connects with others both in and out of that persons tribe, clan or group. They reflect leadership, brotherhood and a strong sense of honor. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Leading Later

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

To lead, one must establish a connection that fosters “matching” i.e., where the leader first achieves status by telling people what they are “Ready to Hear” because they already think what you are saying is true but just a different way of explaining the truth they are already thinking. You need to “Match” yourself and the subject with the others, either one or several people, to establish a connection where you have others ready, willing and able to follow because now you established a belief in their minds that you, and they, think and feel the same way - now, you can lead. 

It is often the mistake that because one has a certain expertise, that they have been in positions of certain levels of status in a group and have experience in a field, discipline or system then add in their understanding assume they can just walk in and take charge. Many black belts, first level sho-dan’s, assume because they earned that belt they can just walk in, open a dojo, and teach others and the others will assume and accept what they teach. Now, in some cases this works but in the long run, not so much.

When a person first enters into a group to accomplish a goal, that group must first create connections and become a group. Just being in a group does not achieve the respect, status and acceptance of abilities, education, understanding and experience. Having credentials is not about getting others to accept you and what you can offer, it just opens the door where they are willing to listen until you prove to them of your abilities. What I have presented above is just one way to open the doors to acceptance. It allows all the members to get to know one another, to experience the social connections through experiences they have together and then they build upon those established connections to create confidence and a “Brotherhood” that establishes the character and personality of the individuals as well as the collective, individuals as a tribe, a group or a clan, etc. 

The reason so many dojo collapse regardless of the Sensei’s desire, service oriented efforts and the mutual goals of Sensei and the dojo if there is not connection, to pacing to reach that point and not confidence regardless of symbols, credentials and perceptions then there is no clan, no group dynamic conducive to connectivity and cohesiveness and not feeling and like-minded thinking, etc. Therefore, the dojo fails, the Sensei fails and the membership lose. 

This is why I advocated that one not attempt to take the teaching role alone, I advocate that one who achieves sho-dan to remain under the tutelage of more senior and experienced until they learn these types of requirements and who have a chance to establish teaching abilities so that when they enter into a new venture, a new dojo, they can first earn others respect, confidence and beliefs so that when it comes time there leadership will have established a solid foundation so when you lead, they follow and by that established relationship one builds a dojo, a dojo family and future teachers of the arts. 

Avoid the first mistake of sho-dan, assuming your accomplishments, experiences and knowledge with understanding are going to be accepted simply because you wear a black belt or you have won a few competitive matches or you have achieved experience in the application of your arts. People don’t work that way, even tho I have a degree in a certain field along with extensive experience to back up that credential I have found that until I establish this kind of connection most will NOT accept me or my abilities until I pay my dues. Dues in this case is first, accomplishing the art of matching that literally can bring about that thread of attachment that allows us to bridge the span between strangers thereby making them friends, associates, co-workers, tribal contributors and interconnected like-minded group supportive members of the same clan whether family discipline oriented, etc. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Monday, January 23, 2017

True Shugyo

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We all hear stores of how the dojo went in the dead of winter to practice a few days in the snow and if possible did sanchin under a waterfall of icy cold water but I had to ask myself, “Is that true shugyo?” Although challenging; although it takes many way outside their comfort zone; although it is probably more than most have ever endured as to hardships in their lives it is still not shugyo, not in my view.

I prefer to call such things - challenges, those events and situations you allow or place yourself in that take you out of your comfort zone and hopefully present you with things that prepare you for life events especially if that involves a career in disciplines that expose you frequently to conflict and violence. 

When I think of shugyo, I first consider boot camp for the United States Marines. Within that training there are other challenges that take you beyond the shugyo of boot camp such as what I experienced, at the time referred to as, “Motivation Training.” Now, another form of shugyo is what I would call the training to qualify for and get into military special operations. In my time it was Marine Recon Training and today has been morphed into Marine Raider Qualifications and Training. Now, that is shugyo!

Often it is more than a few hours or even days of high stress physically demanding training but weeks and even months. In some military operations after qualifications you still have to endure heavy stressful demanding training for a minimum of two years where at any time you could end up out and back to the regulars. 

The types of shugyo training I have researched in karate and martial arts is not true shugyo but a realistic self-test challenge of being stressed and taken outside what you have experienced to date and into something never experienced before but not true shugyo. 

Lets find out, at least from one translation source, what the actual characters/ideograms mean, i.e., Shugyo [修行] The characters/ideograms translate to, “Ascetic practices (Buddhist term); training; practice; discipline; study.” The first character translates to, “Discipline; conduct oneself well; study; master,” the second character translates to, “journey; going.”

First, I notice that in this translation there is no reference to austere but to ascetic as to a Buddhist term. That word is defined as follows, i.e., “Characterized by or suggesting the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons; a person who practices severe self-discipline and abstention.” It must be noted that the word “AND” exists between self-discipline and abstention and lets not forget “RELIGIOUS” reasons. This does not mean that the term, Japanese and English, are not accurate because it occurs on a regular basis even in Japan that translations, meanings and definitions depend on the person, their education and understanding and the area of cultural beliefs drive how it is used and defined, etc. 

Second, as you put together the translated English words it could define a person who practices severe self-discipline and if enough accept that as a use then it may end up in the definition of said translation but note that this does not happen in the translation programs used. 

Austere, not a word found in this translation, means, “Severe or strict in manner, attitude, or appearance; (of living conditions or a way of life) having no comforts or luxuries; harsh or ascetic; having an extremely plain and simple style or appearance; unadorned.” But does this include a more temporary setting for shugyo or austere training because the strict definition of the English word indicates a living condition or way of living your life meaning to me, it is not just in a set time, place or way. Is close, close enough to give the meaning to shugyo that is provided in martial arts and karate communities? This is why I use, seishin shugyo as defined below although references “Spiritual Training” as its use and definition it does rely heavily on the acceptance from the community, and does it? 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Other articles of shugyo:

In another way of seeing shugyo, it should be the type of experience that consistently and accumulatively adds to the challenges of each instance, i.e., in short, once you experience the first challenge always make the next one more demanding and more intense than the last. If it is not at least this type of challenge then it can never be truly shugyo, austere training. 


Seishin Shugyo [精神修行者]

Seishin and the first two characters/ideograms mean, "Mind; soul; heart; spirit; intention." The first character means, "Refined; ghost; fairy; energy; vitality; excellence; purity; skill," the second means, "gods; mind; soul." Note: See the shugyo entry for that word and set of characters.

The Okinawan's believe that Seishin Shugyo or spiritual training is the "training that comes first." They use a phrase, i.e. Oku Myo Zai Ren Shin," that has a meaning that, "in order to find the secrets, one must first have spiritual training." It is also said, "Polish the heart through the polishing of technique." 

This adds more meaning to "shugyo" and its importance to the study, practice and training in the art of karate-jutsu, the Okinawan art of the empty hand.

Shugyo [修行] The characters/ideograms translate to, “Ascetic practices (Buddhist term); training; practice; discipline; study.” The first character translates to, “Discipline; conduct oneself well; study; master,” the second character translates to, “Journey; going.” 

Teaching Martial Arts and Karate

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It has been stated (“I do not consider teaching training. Teaching you do for others, training is for yourself.”), at least once, that teaching is not training so I had to ask myself, “Is this true?” After much mindless meandering, thought and contemplative thinking I came to the conclusion that if teaching does not train or teach the teacher than the teacher, the trainer or the mentor, is not teaching - they are instructing and that means something else all together.

In the military I was an instructor. The reason they used that term is because every single lesson is INSTRUCTED, i.e., we use set lesson plans and set syllabus that is only changed from higher authorities in the discipline being instructed. Instructors don’t have leeway to adjust, change, correct or modify the instruction, period. The instruction material is created, modified and adjusted outside the authority of the instructor. The instructor must submit any changes with appropriate justifications so that the experts who actually create the instructions can test, analyst and then change or synthesize appropriate changes to be disseminated to all courses of instruction from a central point. 

Teachers create all their own material using sources and references that support the material being taught. It starts and ends with the teacher and they tend to be seen as and are the experts. Teachers use instruction materials along with reference materials, etc., as a source referenced in the make up of material being taught. This is why being a teacher is more important and requires more authority and puts a great deal more responsibility on the teacher over an instructor. 

So, if I am a teacher then I have to continue learning, changing, analyzing and synthesizing materials at ever turn because change is about the needs and requirements of every moment, every person and every detail. If you don’t learn from how you apply your teachings while teaching students then you do disservice to them and to yourself. 

Here is a more detailed explanation of teacher: 

Teaching, to my philosophical perspective and belief, is more than mere instruction and it requires, is critical, learning while teaching and teaching while learning. After all, sometimes students can present perspectives and perceptions that will be beyond the teacher and therefore should “INSPIRE” the teacher to continue on-going learning processes of analysis and synthesis, etc. 

Training is training and it is best to not assign any particular meaning to it because then it loses its ability to teach and becomes dogmatic unchanging and stifling rather than inspiring, fluid and changing/changeable. 

"I can instruct you on how to do kata, I cannot teach you how to use kata. I can inspire you on how to use kata but you have to learn how to use it yourself." - cejames

Bibliography (Click the link)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Adornments, Accoutrements and Other Stuff

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Hash marks, worn and frayed obi and a rainbow of colored uniforms both in traditional styles as well as creative styles of the individual and/or dojo and/or organization. What is up with that some may or may not say, either privately or publicly but the real question is, “Does this have any effect in the practice and application of martial arts and karate?” No, not in the slightest. Where the issues take on sometimes heated discussions is when one faction, the traditional or classical martial artists and karate-ka, faces off in a discussion with another faction, the modern martial artists and karate-ka and reality is on that one, that is all about group dynamics and personal/group beliefs tied unconsciously to the survival instincts of humans. 

So, why bring it up? Well, because I can and often do just to create a thinking mindless meandering process of analysis and synthesis toward a way of looking at things in a better way - at least personally and hopefully, inspire others who read this to do the same thing.

I once read an article, another person actually admitted to me they did this when they achieved sho-dan, where newly frocked sho-dan would take the new obi, wash it first with bleach to fade the black a little and then later, they would tie it to rope and then tie the rope to their vehicle, a truck in this case, and drag it around on country roads until it achieved a level of frayed and fade that closely matched that of their sensei’s obi. 

Why do folks do this or want this? There are as many reasons I have come across then there are stars in the night. One reason is a drive to be perceived as experienced, someone who has been practicing and training for a long, long time. Well, when you are anywhere between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two years wearing such a belt it does occur to me that at those ages unless you began at age five and achieve sho-dan at age ten there is no way that the obi could be in that state even in those six to six year span of training and practice, especially when that happens maybe three times a week for about two hours each. 

Now, there are those who are awarded their black belts currently worn and owned by their Sensei. It could be about awarding that obi to an individual as a personal symbol of the Sensei to student relationship as well as some special meaning toward the progress and progression of that student vs. the normal student and time to sho-dan. There is nothing wrong with this but rest assured from my personal experience that may not be exactly true for my Sensei used his obi at most sho-dan promotions so he would get that students newly purchase black belt so he would not have to buy a new one every few years. It was almost always faded a tiny bit with maybe a fraying where the knot ties every time it is put on. 

Personally, I used to adorn my karate-gi with a few extra patches in those early years. Not too many because I am a bit of a minimalist but one or two more than just the styles patch normally over the heart on the left side of the jacket. I also went through a phase where I wanted to wear an obi other than the standard black like the paneled obi when I reached a certain level in black belt. I even had a special obi I wore for special occasions such as when I would promote someone above second-dan or ni-dan. It was a gift that was created with a Zen like mind and meaning attached and that represented that age old legend and story about the obi worn till it turns dark from use, blood, sweat and so on till it came full circle back around to being almost white again. Except, this one looked and remained looking new since it was worn maybe three times. 

I like to think that I am a bit more traditional, I tend to feel that the basic white karate-gi is appropriate with just one patch, totally voluntary to put on, be on it at the left over heart position such as the Isshinryu patch. I now have hanging in my closest a really quality white karate-gi with just one thing in the patch position, the embroidered kanji for Isshinryu. I hung that one up a few years ago and now train and practice in my street clothes, yep you heard right - My Street Clothes.

Anyway, it is best to remember that regardless of what you wear and other such things in the end what you train and practice for is truly the cored critical and important thing you do because in the end when all is said and done, your actions and your deeds and your beliefs and your philosophy are what truly matter. 

p.s. If for some reason, such things really bother you consider why and ask that question of yourself, could it be because you are jealous or that you would like to belong and does it trigger that group dynamic of belonging and the social needs connected to the deep dark mind of species survival? Ask a bunch of questions like this and then decide because you may find that in truth it doesn’t really matter anyway - it does not change you, your knowledge and expertise in your art and who you truly are …

Bibliography (Click the link)