Senior Karate Training

Senior Karate Training

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 […]

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 […]

How to Encourage Mushin or “Flow” in the Dojo

How to Encourage Mushin or “Flow” in the Dojo

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 […]

“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. […]

Mushin and the Science of Flow: Phase Transformation II

Mushin and the Science of Flow: Phase Transformation II

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.

Damatte Keiko: Phase Transformation in Kata, I

Damatte Keiko: Phase Transformation in Kata, I

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, […]

The Sharp Edge of History

The Sharp Edge of History

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 […]

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 […]

Ansei Ueshiro’s Nin Tai

Ansei Ueshiro’s Nin Tai

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 […]

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?

Having a Practice

Having a Practice

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. […]

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…

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. […]

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 […]

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.” – […]

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 […]

The Place of Honor

The Place of Honor

For about a million years people used only one tool.  A rock, chipped into a long oval, with sharp edges and a point. A hand ax. It was handy.    If you lost it, broke it or gave it as a gift you could make a new one. You could find plenty of blanks in the […]

Is “Nothing” Sacred?

Is “Nothing” Sacred?

Miyomoto Musashi lived in turbulent times. He sharpened his sword-fighting skills at the great battle of Sekigahara, in sixty duels and ceaseless training for single combat.  Later, living alone in a cave, he wrote the Book of Five Rings. His story is legendary. His example of the traditional virtues of courage, skill and integrity retold in novels […]