“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.

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 […]

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?

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 […]

Three Things Every Fighter Needs

Three Things Every Fighter Needs

When the moment comes, and you face an opponent, things get real simple. You do what you need to do. That is something all fighters know. But what you bring to bear on that moment is not so simple – things change suddenly and dramatically.  All your experience, your training, the sharpness of your skill […]

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.” – […]

The Protectors

Excerpt from “The Good Fight” On the vigorous defense of virtue: “…Peaceful people need protection. They get it. Once they feel safe the protectors are no longer welcome. They are a reminder of danger. They are a reminder that they rose to meet the threat when others did not. In times of peace they have […]

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 […]

Too Flexible or not Too Flexible

Too Flexible or not Too Flexible

Flexibility is a critical component of power. Under pressure we can yield, be resilient and quickly recover. We can disappear from an attack vector and instantly fill the space with our counterattack.   Too soft – we break at the contact point. Under pressure we collapse. We drift, lack form and purpose. We go nowhere, […]

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 […]

The Presumption of Innocents

The Presumption of Innocents

Most of the people who come into the dojo for training are good people. Or so it seems. My impression is that the people who practice traditional karate and stick with it are decent. I know and have known a lot of them. They want to be happy and safe and strong. There are a lot […]

Gratitude

Gratitude

This calligraphy says Gratitude. It is pronounced “Kansha” in Japanese. The beautiful calligraphy was done by Chie Nakata and given to our dojo by her and her husband Jeremy Blaustein, an accomplished karate practitioner, who trained with us for many years. He says this is an expression of his philosophy of life. The message is […]

There is no Last Defense in Karate

There is no Last Defense in Karate

They say there is no first attack in karate.  There is no last defense in karate, either.   It’s not over. Lets say you’re sleeping. It’s the middle of the night. You hear something downstairs. It’s probably nothing. You hear it again. It might be something. You get up. Quietly, so you don’t wake your […]

Power From the Center

Power From the Center

People admire strength.  Courage. A clear mission. Commitment to a cause. Skill in means. Honor in fellowship. An uncritical willingness to face danger. No one is born with those qualities.  We cultivate them. We can cultivate them in traditional martial arts. That’s why people appreciate what we do. That’s why we do it. That is […]

A Wild Moon

A Wild Moon

In Japan long ago friends gathered at night in an exquisite garden to admire the light of the moon.  They basked in it, delighted in it, wrote poems, philosophized, fell in love, strolled and mused and set aside the cares and concerns of daily life.   They looked up and saw what looked to them like […]

Maintaining Perfect Balance

Maintaining Perfect Balance

“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 […]