Black Belt Forum

The posts on this site – both in this “Forum” and the other articles on the site – started with talks we have had in our dojo, after classes and at events.

The Mountain Karate site is an opportunity to share the same content, in an organized and accessible way.

Movement and technical study is better suited to the dojo.  Ideas and information are presented here.


Black Belt Forum Topic:

Regarding the Post on our site “Maintaining Perfect Balance” – reposted below – some people were asking if we teach this type of movement to beginners (we do) and if we can share it with people outside our dojo (we can).

The question also came up as to whether this could be taught in a seminar in a matter of a few hours. We can introduce it in a seminar – in a matter of a few hours – with enough depth that people can take it home and practice it, no problem.

It is very natural for the body to do it, even though we are not accustomed to moving this way. It is not hard to learn.  It takes persistent practice over several months to get enough skill for it to be spontaneous and powerful.

The length of time it takes to make use of it depends on the individual’s practice.


According to Confucius:

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.

– from Zhu Xi “The Middle Way” (title is also translated as “Maintaining Perfect Balance” and as the “Doctrine of the Mean”) [1.2]


In our karate we emphasize the physical and mental application of this principle. The physical comes first because it is easier to learn than the mental.

When we move in our karate all motion is initiated from the center of the body and projects up the spine, down to the foundation and out to the target, in a single wave.

The hips, waist, shoulders and head, and the hips, knees, legs and feet all move in coordination, forming a single structure, conveying energy freely and sending force where it is needed.

Any other way of moving is sub-optimal. That is: any other way of moving uses more energy, yields less force, is slower, and is more vulnerable to disruption.

For example shifting the weight to the front foot before moving the rest of the body forward. This is slow, weak, and awkward. It is the way we ordinarily move when not under pressure, because it conserves energy. Under normal conditions we may want to conserve energy. In a life and death moment it would be unwise.  Following a defeat there would be no way to use the energy we have conserved.

Confucius articulates the fundamental principle of the body mechanics and energy flow used in our karate. When people see our karate, even people who have practiced martial arts for many years, wonder how we can move so quickly and effortlessly.  This is how.

“Keeping to the center in action” also means being able to move from there in any direction without having to shift the balance or delay the move. It means not overextending an arm or a leg and so making it vulnerable to manipulation. It means maintaining centered balance even in motion, so that an opponent’s attempt to shift, grab and destabilize will work against him.

We keep to the center inwardly as well, with equanimity: not wanting, not fearful; poised and present.

Not being baited into premature attack; not projecting ourselves into a hoped-for or fearful future. Not hesitating when the moment has come.

Not clinging inwardly to an error or a regret, to a moment of victory or an obstacle overcome.

Here were are, poised in the center, free to move spontaneously, without impulse, in response or in action, as fits the moment.

Unencumbered by the imaginary we are free to see everything, as it is. We notice what is about to arise.

In weakness, without training, without balance, this is impossible.

Talent will not provide it. Enthusiasm will not. A righteous cause will not.

Good training will.

Zhu Xi’s comments on Confucius were concerned with the source of morality. It has often been applied to politics and personal conduct. We can export our karate experience into these realms. Zhu Xi’s work formed the centerpiece of Chinese philosophy for 700 years.


Post by Jeff Brooks



Next Black Belt Forum Topic:

Drawing from the Source


The Okinawan island nation was a satellite of China for most of their history. Their wealth came from shipping – they moved goods between China and what is now the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. The key route of travel was Naha to Fuzhou. They also had a permanent Okinawan community, serving as a diplomatic and trade mission,  at Guangzhou.

From these ports they would travel overland to the centers of commerce and imperial power. The sons of the elite would stay in China for years, to study, preparing for official posts back home at Shuri.

The sailors, guards and traders would spend months or years at the ports, until they were called for.  While they were there they learned martial arts like Shorin Ryu White Crane. They traveled, and they found new knowledge and new perspectives they never would have encountered at home.


Martial artists today travel from the west to Okinawa in the same spirit. There is a lot to discover that may be unavailable at home. There is new technical knowledge. There is a level of mastery that is high. There is a simple, unpretentious dedication to training.

Even now there are new worlds to encounter and new ways to experience martial arts.

One thing you may notice is that among the accomplished practitioners of martial arts on Okinawa there is mutual respect, and a genuine interest in one another’s art. The sharp delineation or enmity between styles is not prevalent there.

Over the years Sensei Brooks, while practicing in the Shorin Ryu White Crane style, trained closely, in person and through correspondence, with Sakiyama Sogen Roshi, a master of the Goju Ryu style of karate.

Over the years, Sakiyama Roshi presented Brooks with his hand drawn calligraphy pieces, marking various important points in the path of training.

While not religious in nature they do mark significant steps in martial arts, expressed from person to person, between teacher and student, expressed in light of the insights and culture of Japan, China and Okinawa.


Bun Bu – Mastering the proper use of the martial arts and the art of language


The ‘Enso’ symbolizing the dynamic unity of the causes and effects that form our world


Harmony – in motion and in stillness, with nothing extra and nothing lacking


Ken Zen Ichi Nyo
Ken Zen Ichi Nyo – 5 foot tall calligraphy on rice paper, drawn and presented by Sakiyama Roshi to Sensei Brooks at the conclusion of their training time together.


Peaceful Spirit
Peaceful Spirit – the embodiment of martial practice as strength in virtue and dedication to service


Sakiyama Sogen, Goju Ryu Karate Black Belt
Sakiyama Sogen Roshi
Sakiyama Sogen Roshi at Kozenji, Shuri Okinawa


Nin Tai
Nin Tai – Perseverance Presented by Ansei Ueshiro to Jeff Brooks in 1986





Next Black Belt Forum Topic:

Shut Up & Train

In this photo two accomplished karate practitioners – Kyoshi Glenn Cunningham, 7th degree black belt, and Hanshi Masaji Taira, 9th degree black belt – are holding a small framed print of a mural painted by Tarleton Brooks. It reads “Damatte Keiko.”

This is Sensei Brooks’ expression of the essence of his approach to karate: “Don’t talk. Just train.” Also translated as “Shut Up and Train.”

Goju Sensei's with Sensei Brooks Quote


Our friends training under 10th degree black belt master Kensei Taba, at the Shogen-Ryu Ontario international seminar, appreciate this spirit too!

shogen ryu damatte keiko


Sensei Brooks with original Damatte Keiko mural from the New England dojo.

Brooks damatte keiko

In response to inquiries about ordering the print:  Order the Print by clicking here.

Send your shipping address and use the PayPal link at the bottom of the page. The print is $15 including shipping, for US addresses. Also available on canvas in other sizes.




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