Podcast – Mistaken Zen in Martial Arts, II

Podcast – Mistaken Zen in Martial Arts, II

How much can a teacher really do for you? What does Zen have to do with martial arts?

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. […]

Keeping it Real

Keeping it Real

How much do we need to modify techniques for safety, without sacrificing realism and maximum challenge? Full contact with no equipment? Kata only? Jyu kumite? Ippon kumite? Where do we draw the line. What’s real? What prepares us for real defense? What is a “natural” way to train?

Warrior Samadhi in Kata

Warrior Samadhi in Kata

The brilliant beam of a search light sweeps past where this guy is hiding, crouched behind a dumpster.  The light slides down along the wall. For a second the darkness returns. Without a sound he sprints behind the building and disappears. He felt the lapse in his opponent’s perception and got away. When you face off […]

Sakiyama Sogen’s Last Letter

Sakiyama Sogen’s Last Letter

“The final hurdle for us is to be free from the limitations of our own ego. The disease of modern people is that they are slaves to money, power, fame, etc. They are enslaved by their own egos, and are unaware of it. You will become a true master when you become aware of it, and become free of it. There is no easy way, but it is the most important task, one worth devoting one’s life to accomplishing. This is the central task for anyone trying to master a true martial art.

Does It Really Work?

Does It Really Work?

A critique of martial arts is that the benefits it claims to offer – for health, fighting competence, and spiritual training – are overstated. It is worth considering that, if you are seriously practicing, the opposite is true – the benefits of martial arts for health, combative skill and spiritual development – are wildly understated. But you have to know what you’re doing.

Podcast – Zen Confusion in the Martial Arts

Podcast – Zen Confusion in the Martial Arts

D.T. Suzuki, who introduced Zen to the west, blamed the devotion of Zen priests to militant Japanese imperialism in the years leading up to World War II, on the fact that the priests were uneducated. Zen priests, he said “…have no knowledge or learning and therefore are unable to think… independently…” (Cited by Brian Victoria, in Zen at War.) Many modern Zen practitioners…

Beyond Self-defense

Beyond Self-defense

To go beyond self-defense we need to master self-defense. We need to transform our bodies and minds in the heat and pressure of action – inside the dojo and perhaps outside as well. We need to deeply penetrate the meaning and purpose of our techniques, and be able to apply them spontaneously and effectively, under pressure. We need to develop the quality of character of a warrior – calm, clear, purposeful, strong, and totally committed.

Podcast – Fuel for Love – Part 1

Podcast – Fuel for Love – Part 1

Modern culture is poison. Martial arts is medicine. …As long as science and culture are used in a way that treats the world and its people as material, treats minds as brains, uses gain and
ambition as sufficient motives for action, and feels no compunction
about leaving loving kindness out when considering what to do…

Podcast – Fuel for Love – Part 2

Podcast – Fuel for Love – Part 2

Martial arts have served
many purposes. Now they offer good medicine… to reverse physical decline, to recover from mental weakness, moral uncertainty, lack of will and the fear that comes from all of these…

Fearless Asymmetry

Fearless Asymmetry

As we move we quickly discover that our bodies are not symmetrical.One side is stronger than the other. This asymmetry is not a weakness. It is a key feature of our body structure. It is a survival advantage. This understanding was built in to our martial arts as they developed in China, Japan, Okinawa and […]

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 […]

Mistaken Zen in Martial Arts, II

Mistaken Zen in Martial Arts, II

One of the most influential incidents in Zen was invented in China about a thousand years ago. The story is set in India during the life of the historical Buddha, 2500 years ago. In this story the Buddha teaches “The Flower Sutra” – a teaching “without words.” The Buddha sits before the assembly of monks. […]

Podcast – Three Skills Every Fighter Needs

Podcast – Three Skills Every Fighter Needs

…Essential training for warriors and martial artists – for at least 3,000 years. “When the moment comes, and you face an opponent, things get real simple. You do what you need to do. What you bring to bear on that moment, its shock and chaos, is not so simple. All your experience, all your training, […]

Two Ways To Win

Two Ways To Win

Movie fights and drunken brawls seem to go on and on.  For self-defense your preferred tactic will be ikken hissatsu. It’s simple. A devastating full-commitment strike that ends the threat. It echoes the famous advice of Carl von Clausewitz, the 19thcentury Prussian general, now studied in military academies throughout the world, who advised using massed force […]

Podcast – Dope and Freedom

Podcast – Dope and Freedom

… …”You want to blame the cartels, the companies, the poison factories which take advantage of people like that boy… they can’t make you buy their poison… or join them in the extraction of the wealth and freedom of a whole world. Not even if they put a gun to your head”… “The Good Fight” […]

Kata and Dominance

Kata and Dominance

To prevail in a combative encounter you need to take the initiative and dominate the opponent. It is not enough to select a good target, to do a good technique, to move from the center, to have power, speed, conditioned body weapons, or any of the other components of skillful combatives that we practice day […]

What do you mean “Know Yourself?”

What do you mean “Know Yourself?”

Serious practitioners use ideas – our own and from our traditions – to deepen our understanding and improve our practice. Some ideas work. Some get in the way. You want to know an idea that has confused people for generations? “Know yourself.” It is an important idea. Everyone talks about it. But by drawing on […]

Yoi for Bunkai

Yoi for Bunkai

A “ready stance” has an important place in practice. But in bunkai it can yield good results when it is understood as a pass-through point in ongoing movement. Not as a static position. People sometimes try to interpret the first move of their kata as if they were standing still in their “yoi” position when […]

Perfect Balance

Perfect Balance

  The well-trained person keeps to the center in action;  the poorly trained person moves away from the center in action.  The center, for the well-trained person, is such that he is always exact in his timeliness; the departure from the center for the poorly trained person is such that he will notice nothing.” – […]

Karate and Subject Control

Karate and Subject Control

Many grappling arts are designed for subject control: the opponent’s ability to threaten you ceases when he is under your control. That means your objective in the encounter is to restrain his ability to move, and you do it by using a pin or lock. Wrestling, east Asian grappling arts, as well as defensive tactics’ […]

War and Peace

War and Peace

“The civil is the inner principal and the martial arts is the outer principle. Outer technique without inner principle is simply the brute courage of physical strength. However, when one is no longer in his prime, bullying an opponent will not work. Those who possess inner principle without outer technique, who think only of the […]

Zen Confusion and Martial Arts

Zen Confusion and Martial Arts

D.T. Suzuki, who introduced Zen to the west, blamed the devotion of Zen priests to militant Japanese imperialism in the years leading up to World War II, on the fact that the priests were uneducated. Zen priests, he said “…have no knowledge or learning and therefore are unable to think… independently…” (Cited by Brian Victoria, […]

Evidence of Old Karate in Modern Kata

Evidence of Old Karate in Modern Kata

Some people say that the technical range of karate is limited to kicks, punches and blocks. Seeing kumite matches in many styles – Japanese, Okinawan and Korean – would make that conclusion seem reasonable. As karate was modernized and popularized some styles did narrow the technical range and made it more suitable for matches and […]

The Place of Honor

The Place of Honor

For about a million years people used only one tool.  A rock, chipped into a long oval, with sharp edges and a point. A hand ax. It was handy.    If you lost it, broke it or gave it as a gift you could make a new one. You could find plenty of blanks in the […]

Strength Stone

Strength Stone

We made chishi at the dojo today. Chishi are training tools. The name translates as ‘strength stone.’ They are used in Okinawan karate to develop our arms and shoulders. They pour concrete into a mold and make the handle from a dowel. We use them the same way and we make them the same way. […]

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 […]

First Kata

First Kata

In our  first kata we learn to project power in eight directions. This kata, Shoshin Nagamine’s “Fukyugata Ichi”, has some very advanced elements.   “Blocking” in Two Dimensions If you look at the s-curve at the center of the yin yang symbol you will see a map of our blocking system. Follow the progression of […]

Personal Safety Seminars

Personal Safety Seminars

Personal safety and self-defense are everyone’s responsibility. Our seminars for families, individuals, government departments and professional organizations are custom-designed to empower participants to be more aware, more effective and to stay safe – at work, at home and on the road.   “Random” criminal activity is not random.  There are lots of things we all […]