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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]