Empty Hand vs. Drugs

Empty Hand vs. Drugs

What we do is the opposite of addiction.  We move forward, like a river. We continue, following our course, with purpose. We change. We meet obstacles, we adapt, we move on. Sometimes our course is smooth and clear, and then maybe with no warning, narrows, cascades, cataract, whitewater. We deal with it. We continue. Our […]

Making History

Making History

They say the modern world is in an advanced stage of decline. We don’t need to decline with it.  We are not helplessly riding an arc of history. History is not a thing. History is what people do.  We can think in accord with accepted norms or contrary to them. Or neither: we can make […]

Why They Did It

Why They Did It

…the essential inner stream of east Asian martial arts culture… When you make something, you change the material you are working with. And you change too.  Anyone can fight. Kids hit. It takes no training, no brains and no skill. Impulsive ones lash out. The other ones learn what to do about it. People cannot […]

The Best Martial Art

The Best Martial Art

We love our training. We know what it is, and what we get from it. Not everyone does. So from time to time, we run into people who criticize karate. They say it is not as aggressive as this martial art, not as esoteric as that martial art, not as practical as this other martial […]

The Momentum of Truth

The Momentum of Truth

At first enthusiasm gets you in the door. You imagine yourself as you want to be, with great skill, great confidence, great power. The reality of the first hard steps in training is acceptable. You can overlook not knowing what you are doing, not being able to do as much as you want, lower in […]

The Moment of Truth

The Moment of Truth

If your life is framed by the choice between gain and loss, fame and obscurity, praise and blame, and pleasure and pain then you are done. It is too late. As practitioners we have a better basis for deciding what to do and what to avoid.  By practitioners I do not mean all people who […]

Healing Your Body with Your Mind

Healing Your Body with Your Mind

If you look at people who live under pre modern conditions, embedded in the natural world, doing what they need to do to live, you can see that their bodies are healthy and their faces are calm. They walk, they work, they live together. Maybe they farm, they gather, they hunt. Certainly they protect their […]

Assault

Assault

Our training benefits us every day of our lives, in many ways. Health, stamina, strength, flexibility, confidence and focus are ours, continually. The self-defense model of training is very useful because it gives a sense of immediacy and urgency to the way we move and think, which can be more intense than some games or […]

Bugs and Features

Bugs and Features

Over the course of training people change. Whole new qualities appear. Some start out thinking they are unstoppable. They learn about the limits of talent, and the benefits of training.  Some start out feeling that they are behind the curve, because they are learning something new, and don’t know how to do it yet. There […]

How to Rotate

How to Rotate

“I move, I lose balance. What do I do?” In the beginning you learn new things. As you speed up, even as a good athlete, you’ll lose balance from time to time. You feel it. It is easy to see what is going wrong. There is some deviation of the central axis of the body […]

What Sakiyama Saw

What Sakiyama Saw

In these three articles I tried to convey something of what was exchanged between myself and influential Okinawan Zen priest and karate master Sakiyama Sogen, Roshi: True Karate Do His translation into Japanese, and distribution to the karate community on Okinawa, of my vision of the potential of dojo practice… Sakiyama Sogen’s Last Letter    His […]

Play, Work and War

Play, Work and War

There is a lot of info out there about ways to train. Both physical training and meditation advice, as they are presented now, are highly biased toward self-attention. If you have only trained in this modern mode, it might seem that there is really no other way to do it. Here is something to consider: […]

How Things Get To Be The Way They Are

How Things Get To Be The Way They Are

The first day of after-school karate at the elementary school was, in the beginning, not quite chaos, but it was not the orderly, focused, respectful atmosphere of the dojo either. The kids there for the first time lined up when I told them to, but they wiggled and talked and did what they do after […]

You and Me

People sometimes feel afraid. But it passes. They may get complacent. Both are dangerous. In training we learn to protect our bodies from assault. Our bodies get strong, fast, flexible, skillful and under our control.  As this happens, we get the ability to protect others – family, friends, neighbors or strangers who may be in […]

Penetrating the Truth

Penetrating the Truth

When you begin training you get advice. You try to understand. Sometimes the advice is easy to use, like “Close your fist.” Often, even though the words are familiar and the grammar makes sense, what to do with the advice remains obscure. As a result of practice, the meaning becomes clear. By returning to the […]

Why We Train

Each person has their own reasons to start.  Some join to get in shape. Some to stay healthy and strong. Some want a calm, clear mind after a hard day’s work. Some want confidence, to know they can take care of themselves. Some have a had a bad experience which they will never allow to […]

Action as Medicine

Action as Medicine

He sat alone on the wooden floor of a little cabin, miles from town. Deep in the night the clouds parted. Moonlight came in and made its way softly across the floor. From time to time the sound of voices far away, talking, maybe singing, were carried in on the breeze.  Someone strange jumped in […]

Self-defense vs. Protection Rackets 

Self-defense vs. Protection Rackets 

Kids need love and protection. They may wander off. They may get frightened or hurt. They want someone who can do protect them.  Families do that. Part of growing up is the transition from wanting protection to providing it. As a teenager you learn to look out for yourself. You take care of your body, your dignity, […]

Balance in Space, Time and Mind

Balance in Space, Time and Mind

Balance in Space During training you may notice that you are over extended toward your target. Arm outstretched in a punch, you notice too much weight on your front foot, your spine axis projecting over your front foot, too close to the balance point. You notice the vulnerability in this and correct it, bringing the […]

Karate Koan from 把握不能心

Karate Koan from 把握不能心

We practice karate, 空手, empty hands. Hands empty of what? “A weapon,” people say. A hand can take many forms. It can punch or grab. It can release or withdraw. It can tear flesh from bone, build a house, play the piano, caress a loved one. A hand has no fixed form. We can learn to use […]

Training at Sunset

Training at Sunset

As civilization sheds its skin, or drops its mask, our karate training is a treasure that we need to protect. Unlock the door. Open the windows. People enter and bow. We create a zone of order and beauty. My teacher began the day by lighting a stick of incense in the alcove at the front […]

Three Instructor Stages

Three Instructor Stages

There are three levels of instructor in our style. There are many different styles of martial arts. Within them are many different approaches. Our approach is what we use. The first stage instructor demonstrates technical competence and the interest and ability to share what they know with others. The second stage instructor combines that with […]

The Benevolence of the Butcher

The Benevolence of the Butcher

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”    -Adam Smith, 1776, An Inquiry into the Nature and Sources of the Wealth of Nations Adam Smith was describing how free markets work. No one knows everything. […]

Naihanchi’s Strange Omission

Naihanchi’s Strange Omission

In “te”, the indigenous Okinawa fighting art which evolved into karate, for the first three years some students practiced only naihanchi kata. Why?  We may also observe that there are no high blocks or head strikes in naihanchi. Why? The answers are closely related. Naihanchi does not present a full spectrum fighting system. It is […]

Karate and Nuclear War

Karate and Nuclear War

Shoshin Nagamine, founder of Matsubayashi Ryu Karate, was a Police Chief and an Okinawan political official for much of his life. In 1996 he was also recognized for his spiritual achievements. In his address “Karate and World Peace” he reflected on the spiritual heritage of Okinawan culture, as embodied in karate, and its role in […]

No Menkyo Kaiden for You!

No Menkyo Kaiden for You!

Fixed and bounded systems can be fully known. In martial arts this is a convenient and reassuring structure. But it is a fiction. To be sure there needs to be a clear, well-defined and structured knowledge base. It needs to be scrupulously acquired and mastered. But this should be understood as the platform for exploration, development and innovation, […]

True Karate Do

True Karate Do

Written by Jeffrey Brooks Translated into Japanese by Sakiyama Sogen, Roshi, Shuri, Okinawa, a Goju Ryu karate practitioner, as well as the Zen teacher of Shoshin Nagamine, founder of Matsubayshi Ryu. In the translation Sakiyama Roshi named this essay True Karate Do. Many people feel they are missing their lives, that real life is going on […]

Threats and Miracles II

Most of our training time is spent getting the skills we need to deal with a possible assault. We get stronger, faster, more agile and more skillful in the use of our body and mind. We train in threat awareness to alert us to the presence of a threat, before an assault can begin. We […]

Stable Equilibrium 

Stable Equilibrium 

As we train, without quite realizing it, our lives take on the character of a stable equilibrium. That does not happen automatically. But if you practice well it will happen.  It is essential for every able person.  A stable equilibrium system tends to return to stability when it is disturbed. Imagine a ball at the […]

Look Out

It is easy to hurt people. It is difficult to protect them It is easy to burn. It is hard to build. It is easy to trick people, bother people, seduce people, frighten people.  It is easy to weaken and humiliate people. Intoxication is easy.  Slander is easy.  It is easy to fall. It is […]

A Different Ken Zen 拳禅

A Different Ken Zen 拳禅

The expression Ken Zen Ichi Nyo – 拳禅一如 – Fist and Zen as One – was derived from Ken Zen Ichi Nyo – Sword and Zen as One 剣禅一如. The Fist version was adopted by Shoshin Nagamine (1907-1997) as his motto. The Sword version was famously used by Zen priest Takuan Soho (1573-1645) while teaching Zen or swordsmanship […]

The Other World

Dojo life is different. For some it is ideal.  Dojo life is dignified, collaborative, strong and devoted to freedom. Different from a world of coercion, deception, isolation and dependence. In some places, where our friends have trained for many years, dojo life is over. Classes banished to cyberia.  No more daily renewal through training with groups […]

Mind Training in Kata

Mind Training in Kata

Mind training begins as soon as physical training begins. If you make an error, you notice it, fix it and move on. We cannot get stuck on the error, regret it, announce it, or have an emotion about it. We learn to instantly fix it and forget it.  Continue In a combative situation we may […]