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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 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. […]
This phase transition is sometimes described as entering “flow” or “the zone.” In Japanese budo zanshin, mushin, immoveable mind, unstoppable mind, unfettered mind are used to name aspects of the same experience.
It was a short drive from the dojo to the beach – on Okinawa you’re always close to the ocean. The driver was a long-time karate practitioner who agreed to teach me a new kata during the last few days of my visit. This stretch of beach was wide-open, with the endless sea, brilliant sun, […]
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 […]
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 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 […]
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 […]
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 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, […]
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 […]
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. […]
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?
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 […]
“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.
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.
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…
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.
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…