Just, Not the Same

Just, Not the Same

On the first day I received these two belts they looked nearly the same. The same two-inch Shureido black belts, the same gold embroidered kanji, the same five characters on one of the ends of each belt – “from Sakiyama Sogen” – the teacher who presented them to me.  On the other end of the […]

Mountain Karate is Outstanding

Mountain Karate is Outstanding

Every student in our program builds fitness and flexibility, with a level of challenge that’s just right for them. We teach a complete, authentic martial art, for practical self-defense. The atmosphere is friendly but serious. What we don’t have: high priced belt tests, big egos, a cult-of-the-founder, or long term contracts. Our instructors are experienced […]

The Dojo and the Crime Scene

The Dojo and the Crime Scene

  Amid all the shouts of f*ck the police there are millions of people who call the police, every day. For help. Most of them are calling because they are afraid or have been hurt, or their stuff has been stolen. They are calling for help.   Often, they call for protection from drug dealers […]

The Threat Matrix

The Threat Matrix

It is not just our bodies that may be threatened. Our minds come under attack every day. Our training makes it possible for us to detect those threats – and to take skillful action to avoid, reduce or eliminate them. These threats are as real and as deadly as the physical ones we face.   […]

Concealed in Kihon

Concealed in Kihon

  Ikken hissatsu may be an ideal way to resolve a lethal confrontation. We may train to achieve this with ippon kumite, developing speed, precision, and the will to take decisive action, without hesitation or haste. We can train this with every move in kata too.   But we cannot always rely on ikken hissatsu […]

Two To The Head

Two To The Head

Our double punch has a unique high-power application, facilitated by uniquely Okinawan training.

Having a Practice

Having a Practice

Having a practice is not the same as doing an activity or learning a skill set. An ‘activity’ is interesting or pleasant or distracting or edifying or fun. We enjoy it. It might make a lasting impression, but it probably won’t. Go to dinner or a movie, play a game or go for a walk. […]

Gradient of Competence

Gradient of Competence

There are a lot of pop culture references to traditional karate that make fun of it. From the Karate Kid movies to Seinfeld to Jim Carrey to Friends and on and on, karate dojo’s are mocked, and karate teachers are presented as pompous, self-regarding goof balls.   A healthy dojo is a training environment. To […]

What Bodhidharma Taught at Shaolin

What Bodhidharma Taught at Shaolin

The legend that connected Bodhidharma to the martial arts at Shaolin makes its first appearance in the 17th century, more than a thousand years after Bodhidharma lived: The “Sinews Transformation Classic” is the earliest extant manual that assigns daoyin gymnastics a martial role. It’s likely author, the “Purple Coagulation Man of the Way,” was the […]

Do Something Hard

Do Something Hard

Back in the old days, after work or on the weekends, people sat together in the yard and talked and played music for hours. They did it because they liked to do it. They didn’t need a psychologist to tell them it was good for them. They didn’t have an ambition to perform somewhere, or […]

Fire on the Mountain

Fire on the Mountain

Last year when I posted “The Point of Contact,” about tactical decision-making in martial arts, I wrote: “…we might want to evade threats, like if there’s a riot down the block, and it’s heading your way…” Several commenters thought I was just being dramatic. The Point of Contact took on the question of when to respond […]

The Point of Contact

The Point of Contact

One skill we do not usually train in the dojo is self-defense decision-making: When does an encounter become a conflict, and when does a conflict become a fight?   Discretion and Valor Under some circumstances we want to avoid threat situations. Tactical trainer John Farnam describes basic self-defense this way: “Don’t go stupid places. Don’t […]

Ansei Ueshiro’s Nin Tai

Ansei Ueshiro’s Nin Tai

One day Ansei Ueshiro walked onto the training floor. This was the first time I had seen him there in my three years in the dojo. I had met him briefly several times over the years. Those of us who started in the 80s had never seen him do karate.  Mr. Ueshiro was an early […]

The Sharp Edge of History

The Sharp Edge of History

A guy walks into the dojo and says: “I just want to learn to fight.” He paused for a second. “I really don’t care about all that other stuff.” He didn’t say what other stuff he meant. We didn’t ask. He wanted to learn to fight.  We teach that. He started that day. What he […]

Kensho: Phase Transformation, III. 3

Kensho: Phase Transformation, III. 3

  “The Path of Seeing” – Kensho, Entering Phase 3     8th century Indian Buddhist monk Kamalashila, in his Stages of Meditation, says there is only one way to reach the path of seeing: through the “thorough analysis of the nature of the mind.” This point is not disputed in Zen.     Bodhidharma: […]

Kensho: Phase Transformation in Kata, III.ii

Kensho: Phase Transformation in Kata, III.ii

Previous articles in this series: “Damatte Keiko: Phase Transformation in Kata, I” “Flow: Phase Transformation in Kata, II” and “Satori: Phase Transformation in Kata, III.1″ Satori: Phase Transformation in Kata, III.2 The following paragraph was written by D.T. Suzuki, an accomplished Japanese scholar and the leading transmitter of Zen to the west. It is from his […]

Kensho: Phase Transformation in Kata, III.i

Kensho: Phase Transformation in Kata, III.i

Introduction   This is the third of three articles on “Phase Transition” in martial arts practice, which describe the path of practice from beginning to end. The third phase is Satori or freedom.  I will post this article in multiple installments.   In the first article in this three-part series, “Damatte Keiko: Phase Transformation in […]

Takuan’s Solution for Practical Combatives

Takuan’s Solution for Practical Combatives

Combat training simulates conditions of high stress. It works that way now and it worked that way in Tokugawa era Japan. Under hyper arousal we experience changes in sense perception and physical performance that can hinder our effectiveness: Our field of vision contracts to a small circle right in front of our eyes, an effect known […]

The Bun Bu Trinity

The Bun Bu Trinity

Bun Bu Ryo Do, “The Way of Both Pen and Sword,” seems like a binary system – with the arts of war and the arts of civil life complementing each other as needed. As martial artists we learn to fight. We also cultivate the self-control, respect and clarity of mind which free us to connect […]

Funakoshi’s Crisis Intervention – Bun Bu Ryo Do, Part 1

Funakoshi’s Crisis Intervention – Bun Bu Ryo Do, Part 1

Funakoshi Gichin’s book the Karate-Do Kyohan (空手道教範) is a concise and comprehensive technical manual. It is meticulous and accessible and, without confusing beginners, opens the door to deep understanding for practitioners with the experience to grasp what is there.   In it, Funakoshi Gichin bookends his technical material with personal comments. At the beginning he explains his motive for […]

Members Test Positive for Excellent Spirit

Members Test Positive for Excellent Spirit

Training on our own and holding classes online is not what any of us were expecting. It is a great test of spirit, and meeting that test is a great statement about our commitment to our art and to each other. We never missed a class as we transitioned to meet the new conditions. Our […]

Bun Bu Ryo Do: Cultivation and Power

Bun Bu Ryo Do: Cultivation and Power

The Unified Field Theory of Martial Arts Ethics, tactics and metaphysics form a unified field of action. Martial artists who regard them as separate are at a disadvantage. These three dimensions cannot be separated.  If you try to separate them, becoming an expert in one and neglecting the others, you may advance temporarily, but you will soon […]

The Action and the Scenery

The Action and the Scenery

We are all responsible for other people. Our family and friends, students and teachers, co-workers, clients and customers, our neighbors, ourselves, and who knows how many others who may be influenced by what we do.  We are practitioners. We train. As we do, we strengthen our body and mind, and refine our lives. Because we […]

The Fog of Peace

The Fog of Peace

Modern commanders can map and model a vast battlespace and watch it change in real time. They can locate fighters and civilians. Guns and armor, aircraft and satellites. Threats and targets, and the changes of posture and subtle movements that signal a new phase is about to begin. They can act on that intelligence to […]

Martial Arts & Martial Law

Martial Arts & Martial Law

Operating in the dark is a challenge. Darkness may be helpful. Sometimes it is necessary. But it’s difficult to orient in the dark; harder to detect obstacles, threats, targets and the path we need to take. Which is a lot like training now. Isolated from the dojo, separated from friends, from the normal routines and […]

Training in Time of Plague and Panic

Training in Time of Plague and Panic

We train to detect threats before they emerge, and to deal with them effectively if they do. Threats are always present in our environment, sometimes in the distance, sometimes up close.  Opportunity is around us too. At our Tuesday evening class on September 11, 2001, pretty much every member of the dojo showed up to train. […]

From Buddha to OODA

From Buddha to OODA

Restoring Tactical Bunkai Analysis to Kata Bunkai: Tactics not just Techniques Even among those in martial arts who say they are teaching “the warrior way” some overlook what actual warriors do. The reciprocation of training and experience – between the world of the dojo on the one hand and of the street and the battlefield […]

The Kansha Controversy

The Kansha Controversy

If you do a word search on the titles, keywords and quotations in the articles I have written over the last few years you will see, month by month, who has been inspired by what I have written: who has republished it, or who has changed some words, reordered the ideas and posted it as […]

Senior Karate Training

Senior Karate Training

Our Senior class is for people 65 years old and older.  Sometimes classes for this age group are watered-down version of “the real thing.” Older people are sometimes treated as less competent versions of younger people. They sometimes think of themselves that way.   New technology makes old technology seem obsolete, and irrelevant, and sometimes ridiculous. It […]

Mastery & Happiness

Mastery & Happiness

Habituating to operating in a flow state requires: clear goals, high challenge, performance feedback, complete engagement in purposeful action, being in control, feeling that your efforts matter.   As you pass the phase boundary through training, to flow, you experience a merging of action and awareness. Your action becomes spontaneous and effective.  These conditions are associated […]

How to Encourage Mushin or “Flow” in the Dojo

How to Encourage Mushin or “Flow” in the Dojo

Researcher Steven Kotler writing in the Harvard Business Review, listed four conditions that produce a flow state – intense concentration, goal clarity, feedback as to how well you are doing, and a properly matched challenge to skills ratio. We use these continually in martial arts training.   If the challenge level is set lower than the […]

“Group Flow” in Kata

“Group Flow” in Kata

Researchers have identified a phenomenon they call “group flow” which emerges in the performance of well-trained groups. In traditional martial arts we know it well. When members of a team, band, military unit, business or dojo “cooperate, agree on goals, skills and patterns of action”, then “group flow,” or group cohesion, emerges. Pioneeered by psychologist […]