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 […]

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 […]

“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 […]

People Get Ready

People Get Ready

Some people feel worthless. They get used to it. You may know someone like that. It’s not good. For every person with an inflated sense of their own importance there may be many more who feel like their life doesn’t matter. They feel like the world is rigged against them.  It may be.  Maybe they […]

The Path to “Flow”

The Path to “Flow”

The path into a state of “flow” is open to everyone who sincerely wants to take it. It is blocked to observers.

Training the Hara

Training the Hara

The science of high-performance – of advanced states of body and mind known as “Flow” – confirms what we discover in traditional karate training:  Training the hara is essential to effective martial arts. In one sense the “hara” refers to the center of the body – our center of gravity, the center of our energy. […]

Police Incident

Police Incident

Motels are like life. You never know what will happen. And at some point, you have to go.

Kansha, II

Kansha, II

I’ll tell you another reason we have the Gratitude calligraphy in front of the dojo: Gratitude is not a mushy, sentimental feeling. It is a hard practice. It’s up there as a reminder to appreciate having a good place to train, and to appreciate each other. It’s easy to focus on what’s lacking.  Faults of the […]

Thanks to our Readers Worldwide

Thanks to our Readers Worldwide

Thanks for all the great feedback on “The Good Fight”! If you have not read it, here’s some info on what’s in it: There is a sense that the world is spinning out of control. People feel something is wrong. Martial arts has a role to play, in our lives and beyond, to make things right. That […]

You Are Your Art

You Are Your Art

In the olden days the word “art” was applied to anything that required skill; like the art of farming, the art of architecture, the art of war. This is the use of “art” in “martial arts.” It doesn’t mean “for aesthetic purposes,” or artsy or intuitive. It is not distinct from “scientific.” Builders work with […]

The Good Fight

The Good Fight

The groundbreaking new book by Jeffrey Brooks. In a culture of commercialized, trivialized martial arts, The Good Fight is essential reading. “Eloquent and thought-provoking…” -Mark Tankosich, Hiroshima University of Economics, Dan Rank Sho-ha Shorin Ryu and Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei Jodo “Such deep thoughts about martial arts are very rare! I really enjoy the excellent content.” –Prof. Christof Paar, Kishaba Juku, […]

The Rhinoceros Tale, 3rd Edition

The Rhinoceros Tale, 3rd Edition

Reviews of “The Rhinoceros Tale“, by Jeff Brooks: “An unforgettable account, crackling with energy and full of heart… the kind of book that can change your life.” – Philip Zaleski, Editor, The Best Spiritual Writing series “…honest, entertaining and forthright…” – Dave Lowry, author of Autumn Lightning “The best book I have read in a long time …filled with […]

The Warrior’s Choice

The Warrior’s Choice

Warriors can neither cling to safety, or be careless with their lives. None of us can. A pivotal moment in the fate of Okinawa and of Japan lets us reflect on the depths of our martial art.

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?

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]