The Threat Matrix

The Threat Matrix

It is not just our bodies that may be threatened. Our minds come under attack every day. Our training makes it possible for us to detect those threats – and to take skillful action to avoid, reduce or eliminate them. These threats are as real and as deadly as the physical ones we face.   […]

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. […]

Fire on the Mountain

Fire on the Mountain

Last year when I posted “The Point of Contact,” about tactical decision-making in martial arts, I wrote: “…we might want to evade threats, like if there’s a riot down the block, and it’s heading your way…” Several commenters thought I was just being dramatic. The Point of Contact took on the question of when to respond […]

The Action and the Scenery

The Action and the Scenery

We are all responsible for other people. Our family and friends, students and teachers, co-workers, clients and customers, our neighbors, ourselves, and who knows how many others who may be influenced by what we do.  We are practitioners. We train. As we do, we strengthen our body and mind, and refine our lives. Because we […]

The Fog of Peace

The Fog of Peace

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 […]

Training in Time of Plague and Panic

Training in Time of Plague and Panic

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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, […]

Keeping it Real

Keeping it Real

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?

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.

Fearless Asymmetry

Fearless Asymmetry

As we move we quickly discover that our bodies are not symmetrical.One side is stronger than the other. This asymmetry is not a weakness. It is a key feature of our body structure. It is a survival advantage. This understanding was built in to our martial arts as they developed in China, Japan, Okinawa and […]

Podcast – Three Skills Every Fighter Needs

Podcast – Three Skills Every Fighter Needs

…Essential training for warriors and martial artists – for at least 3,000 years. “When the moment comes, and you face an opponent, things get real simple. You do what you need to do. What you bring to bear on that moment, its shock and chaos, is not so simple. All your experience, all your training, […]

Two Ways To Win

Two Ways To Win

Movie fights and drunken brawls seem to go on and on.  For self-defense your preferred tactic will be ikken hissatsu. It’s simple. A devastating full-commitment strike that ends the threat. It echoes the famous advice of Carl von Clausewitz, the 19thcentury Prussian general, now studied in military academies throughout the world, who advised using massed force […]

Evidence of Old Karate in Modern Kata

Evidence of Old Karate in Modern Kata

Some people say that the technical range of karate is limited to kicks, punches and blocks. Seeing kumite matches in many styles – Japanese, Okinawan and Korean – would make that conclusion seem reasonable. As karate was modernized and popularized some styles did narrow the technical range and made it more suitable for matches and […]

Strength Stone

Strength Stone

We made chishi at the dojo today. Chishi are training tools. The name translates as ‘strength stone.’ They are used in Okinawan karate to develop our arms and shoulders. They pour concrete into a mold and make the handle from a dowel. We use them the same way and we make them the same way. […]

The Three Powers of Karate

The Three Powers of Karate

There is nothing mystical or mysterious about the three kinds of martial power – ‘jins’ or energy-flows – that are used in Chinese, Japanese and Okinawan martial arts.  All three are useful in the dynamics of combat. All three are accessible to us. Some claim that karate relies on only one kind of power, and […]