"The Author, it must be remembered, writes from his own standpoint!"
My personal "Interpretive" Lens!

Do You Have A Question?

If you have a question not covered in this blog feel free to send it to me at my email address, i.e. "snow" dot here "covered" dot here "bamboo" AT symbol here "gmail" dot here "com"

"One thing has always been true: That book ... or ... that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour


"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon

Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.


Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

Reader's of this Blog

What Is A Black Belt?

Caveat: This article is mine and mine alone. I the author of this article assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and/or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this article. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding. Oh, and just because I wrote it and just because it sounds reasonable and just because it makes sense, does not mean it is true.) 

Please make note that this article/post is my personal analysis of the subject and the information used was chosen or picked by me. It is not an analysis piece because it lacks complete and comprehensive research, it was not adequately and completely investigated and it is not balanced, i.e., it is my personal view without the views of others including subject experts, etc. Look at this as “Infotainment rather then expert research.” This is an opinion/editorial article/post meant to persuade the reader to think, decide and accept or reject my premise. It is an attempt to cause change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs and values as they apply to martial arts and/or self-defense. It is merely a commentary on the subject in the particular article presented.

This question has plagued the martial arts and discipline community for darn near a hundred years. Folks assume that it has certain meaning and that one who wears one has certain abilities  but are they accepted standards and practices that govern that and do all those who wear a black belt actually meet or exceed those requirements? This, and a bit more, is what the post is about. It is an attempt to answer the many questions and have surrounded and clouded the meaning and usefulness of the coveted black belt.

What is a black belt, a question that comes in many flavors like 31 Ice Creams. Lets start with a literal answer. 

First, the belt is made of 100% cotton  strapping core surrounding by a 100% cotton colored covering (black for dan-sha ranks) that is stitched using a strong polyester thread. The ends are sewn using a matching color thread. There are various widths provided to suit the practitioner and dojo requirements, i.e., the common sizes are 1.5” to 1.75” to 2.0”, 2/5” and finally 3.0”. The thickness can be from 3.5mm for a softer core making it easy to tie and remain tied up to the 5.0mm that makes for a stiffer belt that can be hard to keep tied until it has been broken in by wearing it in training and practice. Then the sizes are often standard unless one orders a “Custom” belt. Todays’ belts also have “Styles” that are simple black belts to the red/white paneled belts worn to represent a certain status in the dojo. Add in custom embroidery along with care instructions and you have the martial art belt.

Second, most of the above description is of modern origins and the original belt or dan-i system that was adopted for Judo and later adopted by the Okinawan and Japanese karate systems were just black belts with no other additions. Even the Kyu belts and colors didn’t arrive until a bit later. The colors spectrum used for the kyu grades differ from one community or association to the next. 

Now that we have covered, “Just one of many,” ways to describe literally the black belt lets move on to a more interesting explanation of that black belt. 

First, it is a symbol. What it symbolizes is the question to start with here. The dan-i system came about when the Okinawan karate was adapted and adopted by the Japanese. The Japanese martial arts systems are based on a strong hierarchal system. That system uses a class and status hierarchal system that permeates their entire society even in modern times. It provided an easy means to readily see, identify and distinguish practitioners of all levels, grades and abilities in the dojo environment. Unlike the Okinawan brethren where dojo and participants remained informal and small the Japanese tended to be “Formal” and due to its feudal era hierarchal systems that became the way of the Japanese martial art dojo that absorbed the Okinawan karate system. 

Its meaning initially was to identify, in the Judo system, those who had accomplished a certain level of standards and practices that Sensei felt made them experts, professional judo-ka and sensei or instructors or teachers. The colored or mudansha grades came into being shortly there after to also identify and designate those not of the black belt levels, juniors or kohai. 

Here is where the rub comes in, in those early days, the standards and practices used to determine a black belt status were not examined, understood or documented as a means of evaluation of all those determined to be of black belt status. We will discuss it in a few minutes but that term, “Status,” is used here on purpose. 

Even today, the standards and practices to award the black belt status and level is random and made in some arbitrary way. The individual dojo tends to make its own determinations as to what constitutes requirements, i.e., standards and practices, that are to be met, at least at a minimal level, for award of a black belt. Some might say that this is good and appropriate but I resist that answer although I have used it to describe things black belt oriented. Lets go over this a bit.

First, everyone who enters the dojo to learn a marital discipline makes the assumption that the sensei, the teacher, has met and/or exceeded some requirements and standards and practices that made them a black belt and sensei. No one questions those credentials and assumes once again that the certificate often displayed is a valid and official testimony to their ability, knowledge, experience, etc., to study, teach and award a black belt. In a nutshell, “How do you or how does anyone know?”

Second, then came the associations, the governing bodies that everyone hoped would bring all martial artists together to provide that validation, etc., making it easier to determine when someone actually held appropriate credentials, I prefer experience, knowledge and ability, to wear a black belt and to teach a system. Where this falls down is those same folks who profess to be black belts depending on the same credentials of their teachers depending on what the believe means black belt holder, Yudansha, therefore creating standards, practices and requirements built on information, etc., that once again cannot be verified with some core standards, practices and requirements that are universally accepted by all the martial arts communities. 

Third, that age old argument arises that this is not possible because of the differences between styles. No one remembers that the birth of all styles are actually those individual and unique perspectives, perceptions and experiences of those who created the styles is what makes them styles. They forget that all styles have a foundation built from fundamental principles of marital systems that transcends the personal views that make styles, styles. This conundrum is about personal beliefs from training and practice along with their personal perceptions, environmental and social cultures and beliefs that make a perfectly human need and condition take over to make styles that are socially survival driven instincts into tribes of like minded humans who band together for solidarity, social cohesion our human instincts still need for survival purposes, and a way to have social cohesion through a like minded belief and discipline, the styles make that possible and breaking those beliefs systems is virtually impossible ergo styles, associations and a unique controllable belief system oriented requirement, standard and practice in awarding a black belt based on a class and status style hierarchal system. 

No one can truly tell anyone else what should and could be accepted as a base level of standards, practices and requirements necessary to designate and award a black belt to any one individual if for no other reason than the subjectivity of such an award through any type of testing and validation, etc.

In a nutshell the system came about due to the human nature and pension to gravitate toward a controlling class system, i.e., a lower, middle and upper class type structure. This structure is created through the needs of a large group that transcends and exceeds the human survival necessities of a smaller tribal type social structure. You are first born into and designated one of these three class structures and then within those smaller supporting groups or tribes are created. All of them have status driven class and hierarchal structures to control and protect the group or tribe. It has been this way since time began for human existence. 

The dan-i system is a symbolic one established in support of the “class structure” and that was the creation of the hierarchal system for control and survival that has not yet been discarded and our evolution as a species has not reached a level where it is no longer needed for our survival (good luck with that mother nature). 

Since the award of the black belt is totally a subjective and arbitrary one how does one tell, how does one know and how can one prove that the person you have delivered your life to is capable, experienced and qualified to teach you, the student. If a standard, practice and set of requirements don’t exist then one can expect as it is passed down to each generation that some of those standards, practices and requirements will fall aside and be lost therefore diminishing the importance and significance of the “Black Belt.” 

This is just a viewpoint that is narrow in scope since many modern black belt awards come from a system that caters to a more economic need along with categories that are also arbitrary and designations such as sport oriented, competitions vs. combatives, fighting, self-defense where one or all lean heavily toward a more philosophical need than a more concrete requirement, etc. 

When one awards you a black belt then consider that persons meaning, set of standards, their practices and requirements. Are they accepted and will they carry the weight of a true black belt. Then consider, what is really a true black belt. There is no one, absolutely no one - person or entity - that can tell you anyting that is not about that groups needs, wants and beliefs - often at odds with everyone else’s.

Example: I have a black belt. I was awarded said black belt by my sensei. I made assumptions as to his qualifications both as a black belt and as a teacher. Most of those assumptions came from my perceptions and perspectives of his teachings and abilities, totally subjective and subject to my life’s perceptions, beliefs and cultural influences from birth to this very moment. Over the last forty years of teaching, training and practice of my discipline I have come to understand that a lot of what my sensei, bless him, taught me was less than I had assumed. Beneficial still even today but lacking a lot, a lot I feel today would be more valid for a black belt designation. The danger with this is the inclination to make it tougher and take longer and require more to be a black belt and that leads to all kinds of additions that may or may not actually be beneficial but they exist just the same. Today, I would not have accepted a black belt at that time knowing what I know today. I would have reconsidered my black belt awards to students as well. All because there are not standards, practices and requirements that all must meet or exceed.

All of this brings about all the confusion and disillusions that many feel when it comes to the dan-i system. How to overcome this is also a part of the whole that permeates all we do in this discipline and martial community. How would I answer the question, “What requirements, standards and practices should I meet to be a good black belt that everyone would see, agree and accept?” There is just no enough paper, pen or ink to answer that question to the level of acceptance of all in our community. Maybe it is more about what would be the underlying principles of a black belt that would be accepted, a generic set that does not degrade, denigrate or affect the style or system or the individual beliefs, etc., of its members. 


In closing, unlike when I was first exposed to the martial arts, the coveted black belt has come to mean little or nothing to me. I don’t even wear the belt or uniform anymore. I practice and train in my every day clothing/apparel so it may be more relevant in a combative, fighting and self-defense meaning. Then again, that is a personal view and one that I don’t impose and require on others if they find themselves studying, practicing and training with me. It has just become another distraction in my Way of martial practice and I believe such distractions as unnecessary so warrant removal as much as “Humanly possible.”

The following graphics are for emphasis and instruction only and are not indicative of any disagreement in the sources information and beliefs regarding black belts, etc. Strictly informational purposes only. 

Kataaro Belt Presentation/Construction Comparison, not related to this
article, information only. Not intended as an endorsement of my
thoughts and idea's or the product provided by Kataaro. 

Click to read, advice from Kataaro belt providers to the martial
communities, not related to this article, information
purposes only. Not intended as an endorsement of my
thoughts and idea's or the product provided by Kataaro.



What is Your ‘go to’ Kata for Learning Balance?

Caveat: Please make note that this article/post is my personal analysis of the subject and the information used was chosen or picked by me. It is not an analysis piece because it lacks complete and comprehensive research, it was not adequately and completely investigated and it is not balanced, i.e., it is my personal view without the views of others including subject experts, etc. Look at this as “Infotainment rather then expert research.” This is an opinion/editorial article/post meant to persuade the reader to think, decide and accept or reject my premise. It is an attempt to cause change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs and values as they apply to martial arts and/or self-defense. It is merely a commentary on the subject in the particular article presented.


This article is mine and mine alone. I the author of this article assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and/or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this article. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding. Oh, and just because I wrote it and just because it sounds reasonable and just because it makes sense, does not mean it is true.) 

Balance is one of those principles that should have been realized and a part of training from the get-go. What I am saying is that upon starting in a system you should have been introduced to what Isshinryu’ists call “Basics, i.e., Upper and Lower body basic techniques.” There are what some call body mechanics, I tend to call them physiokinetics as follows:

PHYSIOKINETIC PRINCIPLES (Breathing, posture, triangle guard, centerline, primary gate, spinal alignment, axis, minor axis, structure, heaviness, relaxation, wave energy, convergence, centeredness, triangulation point, the dynamic sphere, body-mind, void, centripetal force, centrifugal force, sequential locking and sequential relaxation, peripheral vision, tactile sensitivity, rooting, attack hubs, attack posture.)

These are the principles that provide you the many aspects of what some call, “Balance.” They are not exclusive, i.e., you just learn about balance, but a inter-connected, yin-yang type thing, set of principles that are holistically molded and melded into “One wholehearted” application or goal, the goal being to achieve proficiency and efficient applied principles in the fight. 

I do understand your tendency to take each as an individual principle to learn and that is good but don’t tie them to any one aspect of your training and practice except to encode it with intent toward blending into one, the essence of a fighting/defensive system. 

Balance is not just about the stability of your body when applying martial techniques but a holistic balance of the body, the mind and the resulting spirit. This is why new students should be introduced to not just basic teachniques, i.e., te-no-bu and ashi-no-bu, but those principles that transcend technique to achieve techniques. 

PRINCIPLE ONE: PRINCIPLES OF THEORY (Universality, Control, Efficiency, Lengthen Our Line, Percentage Principle, Std of Infinite Measure, Power Paradox, Ratio, Simplicity, Natural Action, Michelangelo Principle, Reciprocity, Opponents as Illusions, Reflexive Action, Training Truth, Imperception and Deception.)

PRINCIPLE TWO: PHYSIOKINETIC PRINCIPLES (Breathing, posture, triangle guard, centerline, primary gate, spinal alignment, axis, minor axis, structure, heaviness, relaxation, wave energy, convergence, centeredness, triangulation point, the dynamic sphere, body-mind, void, centripetal force, centrifugal force, sequential locking and sequential relaxation, peripheral vision, tactile sensitivity, rooting, attack hubs, attack posture.)

PRINCIPLE THREE: PRINCIPLES OF TECHNIQUE (techniques vs. technique, equal rights, compliment, economical motion, active movement, positioning, angling, leading control, complex force, indirect pressure, live energy and dead energy, torsion and pinning, speed, timing, rhythm, balance, reactive control, natural and unnatural motion, weak link, non-telegraphing, extension and penetration, Uke.)

PRINCIPLE FOUR: PRINCIPLES OF PHILOSOPHY (Mind, mushin, kime, non-intention, yin-yang, oneness, zanshin and being, non-action, character, the empty cup.)

Then for those who are studying MA for combative and self-defense purposes, as the traditions would indicate, then I would add the following to your principles:

PRINCIPLE FIVE: PRINCIPLES OF SELF-DEFENSE (“Conflict communications; Emotional Intelligence; Lines/square/circle of SD, Three brains (human, monkey, lizard), JAM/AOJ and five stages, Adrenal stress (stress induced reality based), Violence (Social and Asocial), Pre-Attack indicators, Weapons, Predator process and predator resource, Force levels, Repercussions (medical, legal, civil, personal), Go-NoGo, Win-Loss Ratio, etc. (still working on the core sub-principles for this one)”Attitude, Socio-emotional, Diplomacy, Speed [get-er done fast], Redirected aggression, Dual Time Clocks, Awareness, Initiative, Permission, )

PRINCIPLE SIX: CHEMICAL COCKTAIL: (Attacked Mind, Train It, Breath It Away, Visualize It Away, Sparring vs. Fighting, Degradation of Technique/skills, Peripheral Vision Loss, Tunnel Vision, Depth Perception Loss/Altered, Auditory Exclusion, Weakened legs/arms, Loss of Extremity Feeling, Loss of Fine Motor Skills, Distorted Memory/perceptions, Tachypsychia (time slows), Freeze, Perception of Slow Motion, Irrelevant Thought Intrusion, Behavioral Looping, Pain Blocked, Male vs. Female Adrenaline Curve, Victim vs. Predator, The Professional, Levels of Hormonal Stimulation, ???)

As you can see readily enough from just the lists provided that as a novice there is much to learn at that level and that is just the academic side let alone learning how to apply the same physically, mentally and spiritually. Note that the one on chemical cocktails is a entry point toward adrenal stress conditioning through reality based training. 

Remember that this is something that should be understood before learning the kata, kata drills, etc., as this is how we achieve a state of mind, mind-set, that will take us across the chasm between sport and reality of violence and conflict, the lead we all have to make regardless, the mind we need to make ourselves leap.


A key issue to understand in all of this is that we must not get caught up in the atomistic, the plethora of minutiae, details, because once you get those individual principles understood then the challenge is assimilating them under stress oriented conditioning where they work holistically, as a whole one thing, that changes according to circumstances. You can’t achieve this goal focusing on the atomistic after a certain level of training and practice.

The Dojo, what is it to you?

The Dojo, what is it to you?

Caveat: Please make note that this article/post is my personal analysis of the subject and the information used was chosen or picked by me. It is not an analysis piece because it lacks complete and comprehensive research, it was not adequately and completely investigated and it is not balanced, i.e., it is my personal view without the views of others including subject experts, etc. Look at this as “Infotainment rather then expert research.” This is an opinion/editorial article/post meant to persuade the reader to think, decide and accept or reject my premise. It is an attempt to cause change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs and values as they apply to martial arts and/or self-defense. It is merely a commentary on the subject in the particular article presented.

This article is mine and mine alone. I the author of this article assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and/or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this article. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding. Oh, and just because I wrote it and just because it sounds reasonable and just because it makes sense, does not mean it is true.)

This morning a Mr. Mike Kleiman asked some decent questions in his effort to learn about dojo and to write up a paper on the subject. I applaud this effort because simply that is how I learn and encode such knowledge in my old gray cells. Here are the questions with my answers directly following each:

1. What is a dojo to you? Simply a training hall where we train and practice. I know that there is a Japanese culturally driven formal dojo with special and significant configurations but when we speak of Okinawan training that occurred mostly outdoors and in places like the Sensei’s home/yard, etc. The Okinawans adopted a lot of the Japanese martial cultural and environmental type processes and procedures so they pretty much are Japanese martial arts now with roots in the indigenous disciplines of pre-1900’s.

If you are training to fight and defend, a combative type system, then it is important to take the training into environmentally challenging locations to gain a bit of reality. That would then indicate that my idea of a dojo is more a mind-set/mind-state than a place. Therefore the dojo is your car, your home, your work and everywhere in between.

If you are training for a traditional feel that helps you connect, physically and philosophically, to the ancient practices then creating and adapting those proverbial traditional trimmings and symbolic trappings of that form of dojo may be the way you go. They are all training halls and what is trained there provides the distinctions as to what, why and how that dojo is created, etc.

2. What makes a dojo a good dojo or bad dojo? The people with the Sensei setting the tone, the rhythm, the cadence and its philosophy. Bad and good are relevant according to who created the dojo, how they run it, what they teach and its connections to either traditional, classical or modern philosophical traits, etc.

3. Some believe a dojo can be your garage or backyard so is it possible for someone to practice karate somewhere that is not called a dojo? This question is inaccurate for to define the dojo is to call it what it is, a training hall. The perception of the traditional Japanese dojo may seem to be the defacto perception and assumption of the “Dojo,” but that is as I said, inaccurate. Yes, a dojo, a training hall, can be anywhere, anytime and with anyone. It is about what is taught because to train and teach the combative martial system of a traditional nature can use the term dojo while all others are actually a physical endeavor distinguished by the essence of its teachings, i.e., sport, combative, fighting, self-defense, etc., and that being said all of them except the one are trained in a training hall, i.e., what we Americans call the “Gym.” 

4. What happens in a dojo that doesn’t happen in other learning facilities i.e. why not call it a karate classroom – what makes it a dojo? I alluded to this answer a bit in the last set of answers, i.e., it is more about the philosophy and essence of what is taught under the heading of martial art, martial discipline, martial system, etc., where a more traditional form uses terminology such as dojo while the others may or may not use terms as dictated by the person running the training facility. Remember, the term “Dojo” is not just a martial art term just like “Sensei” is not exclusive and indicative of martial arts training and dojo because all of that comes from the entire Japanese culture, i.e., the shi-kata of the culture derived from influences of the feudal era, etc. We are assuming since we were introduced and exposed to such terms in the Dojo through martial arts that those terms are martial and that is inaccurate. 

5. I used to train in a fight club and we called our training hall a dojo. The students there would argue tooth-and-nail that it is a dojo but, philosophically speaking, do fight clubs have dojos or is that term reserved for traditional training?  See the answer to 4 above. A dojo is a club is a training hall is whatever you want to use it for, even training in the gym could be referred to as training in a dojo. I would say that the term is not appropriate for all those other venues but it would not be incorrect, especially as used in its home, Japan. 

6. Karateka train in dojos but do all martial arts have something similar? Yes, the Korean’s call it the Dojang, etc. I can’t remember the term for a Chinese Kung Fu training facility but all of them tend to describe a place where one trains and that training, to be a bit more accurate, is NOT exclusive to martial arts, karate, kobudo, judo, Aikido, etc.

More on Dojo:


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Fair Use

Caveat: This article is mine and mine alone. I the author of this article assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and/or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this article. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding.)

Wow, like self-defense I never realized what I thought I knew along with that, “I don’t know what I don’t know” thing I am discovering fast just how much I don’t know in martial arts, self-defense and writing. This post is on writing. Writers already have a good idea on the subject simply because of the title, “Fair Use.”

I made assumptions about how I use materials from the sources I am studying. As I got closer to completing my effort to write a book on martial arts I started to research writing and publishing. Since I do use quotes, etc., from my sources books I realized that at a “minimum” I needed to give them credit but just found out that “may not” be enough. 

Like the self-defense world, the world of writing is chock full of stuff that effects how you write especially when you publish. Note that publishing includes blogging and even FaceBool Wall posts. I will use one quote here for what I perceive is nonprofit educational purposes, i.e., mine and the readers who may want to write themselves. The quote is, “Fair Use is an “affirmative defense — the defendant copier has the burden of proof to show that Fair Use applies. Essentially he says, ‘Yes, I copied the work—but I am allowed to because my copying is Fair Use.’” - Excerpted/quoted from “What Every Writer Ought to Know about Fair Use and Copyright by JOEL FRIEDLANDER on FEBRUARY 8, 2010”

When I read the quote, it reminded me of all the quotes in all the books on self-defense where it is painfully and comprehensively explained that self-defense is an “affirmative defense.” Then upon considering all the ways one can find themselves outside the “Self-defense Square” I then realized that this is the same in the “Fair Use” arena. Granted, there is more and I have not researched it enough yet but it does make for a cautious approach to my writing especially if my book is going to be published for money.  

What I am saying is that my book is going to take a great deal more time in the editing stage. I have used my references to learn and to pass along that learning in an attempt to educate other like minded folks but I NEED to make sure that I am well within the “Fair Use Square (to borrow a bit from Marc MacYoung’s version of SD Square).

My ultimate goal in writing the book may have been altruistic in nature but the fact that it might infringe on my reference/source authors does not sit well with me. I respect and admire their work and do not want to even hint at some infringement even if they don’t really care because all my efforts are toward “getting it right.” It is a slow learning process but that is what I intend. 

The last thing I want to do is break copyright of these most excellent authors but that would include the fair use aspects in writing. I need to study about copyright and fair use then develop a check list to guide me toward creating a book that will, hopefully, provide some guidance to those martial artists out there who, like me, went so long training, practicing and teaching under a cloud of ignorance and misinformation with a strong emphasis toward the self-defense domain. 

Stupid is as stupid does says Forrest Gump and like him, I need to not be stupid and not do stupid. In closing I would like to express the following, “If I have written anything that misuse your materials let me know the post/article with your concerns. I will do one of two things, first I will correct the mistake or, second I will remove the post/article completely. 

Lessons learned: If you have a desire to write regardless of the venue, i.e., magazine articles, blogging, FB entries, books, etc., you really need to learn about writing completely, fully and as comprehensively as possible, i.e., start with copyright law along with fair use law and requirements so you don’t misuse and misrepresent what you write and what your sources “worked so damn hard and diligently to produce.” My mistake here comes under that misquote I use, “You need to learn what it is you don’t know you don’t know and DON’T MAKE ASSumptions!”

Thanks and have a great day!


Note: I immediately went to the Google images page to find a cool looking graphic to associate with this post then I stopped and asked, "Am I using this under a fair use thing? Is it copyright infringement? Do I need to ask permission? Does the use pass the four rules of fair use? Questions, questions, and more questions. I will use avoidance this instance until I acquire more knowledge on this fluid subject. 

What is deadly force?

Caveat: This post is mine and mine alone. I the author of this post assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and/or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this post. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding.)

In a nutshell and in a terse form where one must seek out additional guidance deadly force is the use of any force that is likely to result in death. To keep a balanced perception we must then add in a terse form of what “non-deadly force” is as well, i.e., in a nutshell and in a terse form where one must seek out additional guidance non-deadly force is a use of force option, as defined in Section 4034.2, subsection (b) of California law, which is greater than verbal persuasion but less than force that is likely to result in death. 

This is the bare bones terse like versions and you won’t find anything, so far, in California that can be presented without some additional guidance from a legal professional who is well versed in self-defense law. 

If my understanding is fair to good on this, you have to remember that those forces for self-defense are not consistently the same across the board because use of force, deadly or non-deadly, differ between you as a civilian and those used by say, police who have a duty to act. 

Then you have to go into that whole “use of force options.” What are they and how do you know when, where and how to use those options in self-defense. There are choices and many try very hard to present them such as, “Verbal persuasion, restraint, physical strengths and holds, less lethal force, lethal force and so on” but are those lists really a good idea? Not from my perspective and when you begin your studies on this subject you will find no clear and concise answers because as one author in my references said, “It depends!”

What you should take away from this post is the fact that if you are training for self-defense you have to dig a lot deeper than simply finding the latest, greatest and most deadly self-defense course  and look to the entire spectrum of self-defense. A good start is the books I list as my primary self-defense sources below. 

This is what makes the concept and application of self-defense martial arts so difficult. You can be assured that if you're reading some advertisement that what someone is offering is the best and the most deadly self-defense course you can learn in only 9 weeks at a cost savings of some amount of your hard earned cash that you need to do some more research on the subject and seek out a more qualified self-defense course. It is my personal opinion that you will end up attending a group of different programs/courses by different professional experts in this discipline before you gain a modicum of understanding on the world or community of self-defense. 

What is deadly force is a good question but don’t expect a terse, quick and comprehensive answer because, there ain’t one - or two - or a dozen answers and there is no clear cut right or wrong - as someone else said, “It depends?” That “it depends” is the one that will get you either out of or in to “trouble.” 

Do NOT take my word for it because I am just starting to study this and just beginning to understand it let alone one with experience actually applying it in real life conflict and violence. 

Example: I went searching for some references to explain this question here in California, where I live, and found thousands of individual oriented answers such as the use of deadly force by police but could no find any one document that said, this is deadly force except the two short answers already answered above. Then, when you read those short answers above you will get an impression that even those answers will have a huge variety of translations and explanations and defining law references that will mean different things to different people be they you the martial artist, the police as first responders to your self-defense situation, the prosecutor that will inform the first responding police as to whether they should arrest or not and those twelve folks under the guidance of the presiding judge who will decide and present a judgement of whether you stayed within the acceptable limitations of the law when you defended yourself. 

Note: See, this is just one small post of one persons perceptions that will seem very complex, chaotic and confusing and it should inspire you to achieve the greatest self-defense ability, to avoid conflict and violence of that nature, just walk away, just stay away from those places where conflict and violence are present and just plain remain polite and nice in every thing you say or do. It just ain’t worth it, if it can be avoided. Yet, there will always be those who will let pride, ego, honor, and face (think the monkey brain here) dictate their beliefs, emotions and actions. 


Note II: Remember also, what you perceive and feel is either appropriate force or inappropriate force is not set in stone because there are many who will get involved that bring a complete different culture, belief and perception of what force is, what is appropriate and what defines (or a better word might be divine) deadly vs. non-deadly. When you apply force in self-defense you will have to deal with the flux and chaos of what defines what in self-defense. Something to think about, something to consider and something to train for in self-defense.

Why do we do kata that way?

First, watch this video then read the post.



Note: This should not be construed as a critique or criticism of the kata, the practitioner or karate in general, it is simply a question as to another perspective of kata training and reality based self-defense. 

Caveat: This post is mine and mine alone. I the author of this blog assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this post. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding.)

Now that you have watched it take notice that every single, or almost every, technique is done from a motionless body stance and posture. Granted you have energy generation from slight movements in the body such as from the waist but where I question it is in power generation, power generation comes from the forward movement of your body mass. True and powerful, power. 

I ask this, “if attacked don’t you need to apply the greatest amount of power to the adversary to stop the damage and leave for safety?” I would think so as my understanding of a violent attack, i.e., a surprise, aggressive, pain filled, fast, hard, close attack means I have to end it fast to stop the damage and find alternatives to fighting (fighting is mutual and illegal making both participants criminally negligent). 

Why don’t we see a type of movement in kata practice that helps train the body-mind for that type of movement that generates power? Again, I have heard the arguments of power through chinkuchi, gamaku, etc., but is that the type of power that is perceived through impressions and perceptions coming not from actual live violent experiences but from a perception of perceived power through the feeling of muscular tension over true effortless principle based power generation? I think so ….

When I practice my kata and techniques and combinations today I work to execute them with body mass movement that generates power. It is difficult as I am overcoming that typical kata training that sets a stationary stance before, not during the execution of, technique application. It is like the boxers drop-step technique in generating power, i.e., if the step is completed prior to the fist hitting the target, some  and maybe most of the power generated is lost. 

Just because your uniform snaps and pops, just because your fist makes a large resounding sound when hitting the makiwara and just because in kumite you feel a solid connection when tagging your partner does not mean it generates the power necessary to stop an aggressive, experienced and experienced street adversary - especially when it involves the asocial process/resource predator attack. 

Do you feel this is not a valid concern because you feel strongly that when you apply your martial arts in a fight that what you do now is enough power? Or, do you feel when you need to hit hard and with power in a fight you will be able to do it just because you tell yourself you will do it in a fight? Think about that and those types of things NOW, before you have to depend on it when attacked. 

Primary Bibliography of Self-Defense:
MacYoung, Marc. "In the Name of Self-Defense: What It Costs. When It’s Worth It." Marc MacYoung. 2014.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Meditations of Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence" YMAA Publishing. 2008.

Secondary Bibliography of Self-Defense:
Ayoob, Massad. “Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self-Defense”Gun Digest Books. Krouse Publications. Wisconsin. 2014.
Goleman, Daniel. "Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition [Kindle Edition]." Bantam. January 11, 2012.
Miller, Rory. "ConCom: Conflict Communications A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication." Amazon Digital Services, Inc. 2014. 
Miller, Rory and Kane, Lawrence A. "Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision-making under Threat of Violence." YMAA Publisher. New Hampshire. 2012
Miller, Rory. "Force Decisions: A Citizen's Guide." YMAA Publications. NH. 2012.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected." YMAA Publishing. 2011.
Elgin, Suzette Haden, Ph.D. "More on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense." Prentice Hall. New Jersey. 1983.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1995
Morris, Desmond. “Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behavior.” Harry N. Abrams. April 1979.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1993.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Written Self-Defense" MJF Books. 1997.
Maffetone, Philip Dr. “The Maffetone Method: The Holistic, Low-stress, No-Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness.” McGraw Hill, New York. 2000
Strong, Sanford. “Strong on Defense_ Survival Rules to Protect you and your Family from Crime.” Pocket Books. New York. 1996.
and more … see blog bibliography.

My Blog Bibliography
Cornered Cat (Scratching Post): http://www.corneredcat.com/scratching-post/
Kodokan Boston: http://kodokanboston.org
Mario McKenna (Kowakan): http://www.kowakan.com
Wim Demeere’s Blog: http://www.wimsblog.com

Does the snap you hear of the karate uniform indicate power?

Caveat: This post is mine and mine alone. I the author of this blog assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this post. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding.)

No, it is simply a misconception of those who are not truly understanding of power generation and it comes from the time those same folks started to use the snapping of the uniform to grade tournament kata competitions. There are many misconceptions about the snapping of the gi. It got so bad that uniform makers began to make and sell karate uniforms with the end of the sleeves and pant legs made thicker so they would always snap or pop no matter how one performed the techniques. Just another way to get the judges to award points to accumulate trophies.

One reason I believe this occurred is because of the lack of information and knowledge practitioners who teach failed to rectify as they progressed. This comes from newly minted black belts, sho-dan’s, mistakenly thinking that because they are now a black belt they can go open a dojo and teach people to be black belts. Since the first failed to learn what was necessary to be a good sensei, these passed on that same failure to their students who would then miss more and so on till they all were merely dancers with no substance. I did this for years until I ran into folks who actually knew what they were doing and even then I found in the last ten years that those guys were also missing a lot.

The snap means absolutely nothing especially when it comes to power generation. It gives one a false sense of power and it sends the wrong message. It is a focus that is misplaced in my opinion. 

Look at the early pioneers who first started to use the karate-gi, they often either didn’t wear the top or they used them with shortened sleeves that did not and would not snap or pop in practice. It also serves another purpose, in the dojo and not the street, of removing the sleeve from grabbing techniques from the elbows down. (Note: notice I said dojo, I don’t consider it important in self-defense simply because one is never wearing the dojo karate-gi when they are attacked on the street. Then again, what do I know.)

Focus on those power generation important fundamental principles and if you by some chance hear a snap or pop on your uniform - cool sound huh? Don’t lose site of what is important for circus arena entertainment valued sound effects. Sound effects don’t stop a predatory adversary who is hell bent on you getting damage while they either get what ever resource they are after or worse, apply the damage that attains the process they were after in the first place. 

There is apparently so much missing from martial arts regarding self-defense. Now, if you are only in it to impress others and build your trophy collection then go for it, buy the specially made uniform and snap and pop to your hearts content. 


Oh, and the snapping punch itself is only one small aspect of applying techniques and it is not even the best one to use in self-defense. Just sayin!

How can a dojo incorporate survival-stress training for Self-defense into their program?

Caveat: This post is mine and mine alone. I the author of this blog assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this post. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding.)

It occurred to me that an example provided in the book, Facing Violence by Rory Miller and Lawrence A. Kane, seemed kind of familiar to me. It was a survival-stress reaction test the author experienced during a shooting training exercise. It involved strenuous exercises done in a way and under a time constraint that induced the effects one might experience in a survival situation. (Caveat: I am not a professional and I don’t have the experiences in the adrenal flood to validate my post but I would consider this type of test to be physical, mostly, and not indicative of what occurs when the mind is flooded, etc.)

There is no real way to induce the type of mind or psychological mind-state that one will encounter when life and limb are on the line under circumstances that involve no rules and a very real danger of loss of life or great bodily harm but this would get the practitioner a modicum of experience. 

What I suddenly realized is that the Marines use the same type of training over a long period of time, basic training that lasts about three months, that expose recruits to such stresses that would provide the same survival-stress type exposure, experience and testing. The moment a recruit steps off the bus and assumes the position on the famous, for Marines anyway, yellow footprints. Take a look at the current video’s on Marine recruit training or any of the military training. Consider that for some that extends into other training regimens and those combat circumstances. Thinks also training requirements for Grunts, Marine Recon and others like the Navy’s Seal/Buds training, the Army’s special forces and so on. 

Now, considering this and the example provided by Miller and Kane, can you come up with scenario’s that would also induce such stress reaction training for the dojo? 

Consider those ancient training beliefs many Asian martial arts programs use such as the winter training done in the cold and snow. Add in some of the training stresses that are described by both Miller and Kane or Military stuff and you might actually have some stress inducing training that will provide some semblance of reality for self-defense martial arts. 

Add in those training opportunities like the many commercially run challenge races, i.e., the Spartan Races type challenges. Those quasi-military training challenges that will definitely induce stresses that you can use to train your mind-set/mind-state. An example, take the Spartan race challenge (I just picked this one out because some family and friends like the Spartan races) for example. You can get a group of practitioners together to run a race and then have half attack and the other half defend throughout the race to induce survival-stress like situations (careful here, you may have to let the race promoters know what you are doing so they don’t think racers are fighting.). Or, you can do kata and two person drills immediately after completing certain challenges or obstacles through out the race (better yet, so they won’t assume racers are fighting). 

Once you get some of this going on in your training, use your imagination to create more opportunities to create stress-survival like training. 

Primary Bibliography of Self-Defense:
MacYoung, Marc. "In the Name of Self-Defense: What It Costs. When It’s Worth It." Marc MacYoung. 2014.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Meditations of Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence" YMAA Publishing. 2008.

Secondary Bibliography of Self-Defense:
Ayoob, Massad. “Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self-Defense”Gun Digest Books. Krouse Publications. Wisconsin. 2014.
Goleman, Daniel. "Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition [Kindle Edition]." Bantam. January 11, 2012.
Miller, Rory. "ConCom: Conflict Communications A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication." Amazon Digital Services, Inc. 2014. 
Miller, Rory and Kane, Lawrence A. "Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision-making under Threat of Violence." YMAA Publisher. New Hampshire. 2012
Miller, Rory. "Force Decisions: A Citizen's Guide." YMAA Publications. NH. 2012.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected." YMAA Publishing. 2011.
Elgin, Suzette Haden, Ph.D. "More on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense." Prentice Hall. New Jersey. 1983.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1995
Morris, Desmond. “Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behavior.” Harry N. Abrams. April 1979.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1993.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Written Self-Defense" MJF Books. 1997.
Maffetone, Philip Dr. “The Maffetone Method: The Holistic, Low-stress, No-Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness.” McGraw Hill, New York. 2000
Strong, Sanford. “Strong on Defense_ Survival Rules to Protect you and your Family from Crime.” Pocket Books. New York. 1996.
and more … see blog bibliography.

My Blog Bibliography

Cornered Cat (Scratching Post): http://www.corneredcat.com/scratching-post/
Kodokan Boston: http://kodokanboston.org
Mario McKenna (Kowakan): http://www.kowakan.com
Wim Demeere’s Blog: http://www.wimsblog.com

A Perspective Study - What is Bunkai [分解]?

Caveat: This post is mine and mine alone. I the author of this blog assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this post. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding.)

Bet you the first thought that comes to mind it an explanation of a technique in regard to its possible applications in a fight or for self-defense, right? I am going to go a bit further in today’s post to answer the question, “What is bunkai?”

First, you have to have the characters/ideograms to adequately define this martial term. This is the one I use:

Bunkai [分解]: The characters/ideograms mean, “disassembly; dismantling; disaggregating; analysis; disintegrating; decomposing; degrading." The first character means, "part; minute of time; segment; share; degree; one's lot; duty; understand; know; rate; chances," the second character means, "unravel; notes; key; explanation; understanding; untie; undo; solve; answer; cancel; absolve; explain; minute." Bunkai means to analyze or disassemble, a term used to describe a process of breaking apart a form to explain the application toward fighting or in more modern times self-defense. It describes the meaning of a movement within the kata and basic techniques.

Second, this is the bare bones translation from one of many kanji translations found through Internet sources. Martial artists often assume, rightly so, that bunkai is pretty much about analyzing and dissembling kata, etc., to explain or demonstrate what one can do in relation to what one does to combatants. 

When I think of bunkai, I tend to think about a bit more than analysis of technique. Granted, this is a cornerstone of bunkai and martial arts but it is not the whole of bunkai. When I study things like concepts in martial arts for self-defense, when I study things like fundamental principles in martial arts for self-defense, and when I study the theories and philosophies then use that knowledge to disaggregate my study of martial arts especially toward self-defense I think, bunkai. 

When I study the history of the systems and then use those to analyze and segment and understand my martial arts practice and training I am using the bunkai of the system. Look at bunkai as another way to categorize concepts, principles and philosophies and so on under the heading of Martial Bunkai. It is NOT just explaining the techniques applications, it is explaining the applications that span the entire system of study, the discipline.

I have spent the last decade and more to discover the underlying meaning of my study of martial arts, specifically self-defense martial arts/karate. In order to find that underlying meaning, the systems bunkai, I have to research, disassemble, analyze, recompile, understand, solve, explain and teach and practice and train myself and others the system that is my martial arts (for self-defense).

Bunkai is not just an explanation of the techniques applications in the fight, it is about obtaining the martial bunkai that is the meaning of the system itself. It is the research, disassemble, analyze, recompile, understand, solve, explain and teach and practice and training of the theory, physiokinetics, techniques, and philosophy of the entire wholehearted system and it includes all the aspects of self-defense if that is included in your martial arts. 

Bunkai, not JUST about techniques anymore!

Primary Bibliography of Self-Defense:
MacYoung, Marc. "In the Name of Self-Defense: What It Costs. When It’s Worth It." Marc MacYoung. 2014.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Meditations of Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence" YMAA Publishing. 2008.

Secondary Bibliography of Self-Defense:
Ayoob, Massad. “Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self-Defense”Gun Digest Books. Krouse Publications. Wisconsin. 2014.
Goleman, Daniel. "Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition [Kindle Edition]." Bantam. January 11, 2012.
Miller, Rory. "ConCom: Conflict Communications A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication." Amazon Digital Services, Inc. 2014. 
Miller, Rory and Kane, Lawrence A. "Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision-making under Threat of Violence." YMAA Publisher. New Hampshire. 2012
Miller, Rory. "Force Decisions: A Citizen's Guide." YMAA Publications. NH. 2012.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected." YMAA Publishing. 2011.
Elgin, Suzette Haden, Ph.D. "More on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense." Prentice Hall. New Jersey. 1983.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1995
Morris, Desmond. “Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behavior.” Harry N. Abrams. April 1979.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1993.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Written Self-Defense" MJF Books. 1997.
Maffetone, Philip Dr. “The Maffetone Method: The Holistic, Low-stress, No-Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness.” McGraw Hill, New York. 2000
Strong, Sanford. “Strong on Defense_ Survival Rules to Protect you and your Family from Crime.” Pocket Books. New York. 1996.
and more … see blog bibliography.

My Blog Bibliography

Cornered Cat (Scratching Post): http://www.corneredcat.com/scratching-post/
Kodokan Boston: http://kodokanboston.org
Mario McKenna (Kowakan): http://www.kowakan.com
Wim Demeere’s Blog: http://www.wimsblog.com

Is it mandatory one keep true to the original kata taught?

Caveat: This post is mine and mine alone. I the author of this blog assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this post. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding.)

A recent posting brought this question up with the following quote that, for me, stood out prominently. It speaks to one of modern karate’s issues that I personally feel leaves most karate-ka in the past rather then in the now especially regarding self-defense martial arts or self-defense karate. The concern was thinking that if one changed the kata or lost a technique of the kata that the resulting bunkai or technique would also be lost or changed. The quote:

“Kata was wrong therefore the bunkai will be wrong” 

Here is how I would respond to the question:

First, kata cannot be wrong. It may be done differently than you but that does not make it wrong. Second, bunkai also cannot be wrong. It may not work in a particular situation or circumstance but it might work the next time around. It all comes down to what works in a real fight for self-defense, not sport or competitions but in self-defense. That is a whole nother ballgame there and most bunkai today is simply a creation of folks who have not had to find out if it works or not and it is a creation of folks who have not had to apply their self-defense except maybe is some socially driven monkey dance and that was probably not martial arts based. 

Changing or removing techniques has nothing to do with what works and what does not. It means that particular technique won’t be passed along to students in that kata. Remember, kata is not about fighting or self-defense or combatives or competitions but rather a blueprint of techniques strung together it a form that makes it easy to pass things down to students especially when those students have no fighting or combat experience to draw on.

Kata are the creation of those who came before, our ancestors in the martial arts communities who had to take their combat experiences and teach those with no experience so they may go to combat and at least survive to gain some semblance of experience to continue to survive. They created kata in a form that provided a symbolic representation of individual techniques then they put them together in a rhythmic and inter-connectiing form that made it easy to learn but most of all importantly, to remember.

Kata were not created to remain exactly as their creator created them. Since they pass down his experiences in combat you can expect that they will change, not just for changes sake but due to the students personal experiences, studies and accumulated knowledge toward making them relevant to the times of that person. That person living in more modern times where the old ways may or may not be relevant to the current situations and times. 

Kata are meant to be fluid according to the times, the cultures, the beliefs and the experiences of present day practitioners BUT DO NOT CHANGE KATA OR BUNKAI simply for changes sake. If you don’t experience actual social and asocial violence applying your ability and knowledge thereby learning what didn’t work just like you wanted and changing it so it will work at least mostly consistently over many events and situations then DON’T CHANGE THE KATA AND BUNKAI.

Too many of us make changes we “think” are going to work based on assumptions and knowledge learned second or third hand, this is dangerous. 

Bunkai are simply primers toward learning combatives, if you are military, or self-defense, if you are a self-defense martial artist, and are not set in stone. Think more in terms of concepts and principles. 

Concepts such as those taught by professionals who have accumulated many, many experiences with violence. Admit it, most of us have minimal experiences in violent encounters and many of us have almost no asocial violent experiences but that does not mean we should not study and learn self-defense martial arts because like the military, recruits have to begin somewhere so they may or might survive their first combat encounter thereby allowing them to learn from their personal experience and the guidance of senior military with experience.

Concepts are not about specific techniques but rather conveyed experiences that promote better ability to apply any relevant action that will get you through violent conflicts. It has and always will be about learning second hand those concepts, principles, strategies and tactics that will get you through all three phases of self-defense, i.e., the before, the during and the after. Look at specifics found in kata and bunkai as forms that actually refer us physically and mentally to underlying principles of martial systems, i.e., structure, centeredness, sequential locking and unlocking, etc. then let those basics and fundamentals apply toward the concepts of self-defense, i.e., like the before, during and after and so on. 

Look at bunkai as a novice level doorway to create a more holistic concept to what you need to survive conflict and violence. It is similar to the upper and lower basics, they are a good start point but not the end of the road. Think concept, i.e., like understanding the concept of adrenal flooding and then learning how to make that work in your favor instead of against you. Think concept, i.e., like the “freeze” and how that can be overcome cause you are going to encounter it even if you gain experience, it is a fact of life. Think concept, i.e., like “mind-set/mind-state” where giving yourself permission to ignore every day societal well mannered courtesies that are often used against you to allow predators to attack, i.e., to collect some resource they need or to apply some process like they want to see you get hurt type thing.

Addendum: The reason why kata are beneficial to passing marital arts down through the ages. First, it is a form that is suited toward encoding into memory. It is organized in an order similar to some types of memory encoding, i.e., kata as a type of physical and mental mnemonic; where one has a physical, visual, and spatial oriented order with rhythm and associations such as two person kata that show how one movement when association to another different movement work in a specified way; certain positioning in space that leads to a natural order or flow, i.e., why techniques are strung together in kara forms; in an associative way that associations in memory that are associated with images or visualization intended as “examples” tend to cause such associations to encode into deep memory the kata and bunkai; the association of emotion with an image, i.e., performing kata while applying bunkai either by visualization or by two person drills that will result in said emotion and image to be readily recollected and connected in the need to apply it outside of training;  then there is repetition as a common process along with image visualizations and physical repetitive drill practices that play a role in the more complex toward encoding into memory; finally when the adrenal flood is used to train the holistic application of kata bunkai then it can be further emotionally and chemically encoded into the deepest of memory for retrieval later in a violent conflict that is the purpose of our studies in self-defense martial arts.

Kata and bunkai are used as a mnemonic teaching technique or device that aids in retaining the information passed down through the kata. Kata, being a physical manifestation of the discipline combines several senses to enforce retention, i.e., sight, smell and touch. These mnemonics in this form translate the necessary information of kata and bunkai in a way that aids in the transfer of that information, both mental and physical, into long-term memory. Look at the connectivity of kata, i.e., as each section of a kata is done in threes, that promotes memory encoding because of its use of spatial, personal, physical, emotional, etc. solidifying the lessons so they become instinctual.

Because of the kata form and function, kata itself creates its own system of spatial techniques or strategies that themselves consciously improve memory. The only piece often missed in this equation is the effects of the chemical releases due to fear and/or anger produced when confronted by violent conflicts. 

Primary Bibliography of Self-Defense:
MacYoung, Marc. "In the Name of Self-Defense: What It Costs. When It’s Worth It." Marc MacYoung. 2014.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Meditations of Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence" YMAA Publishing. 2008.

Secondary Bibliography of Self-Defense:
Ayoob, Massad. “Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self-Defense”Gun Digest Books. Krouse Publications. Wisconsin. 2014.
Goleman, Daniel. "Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition [Kindle Edition]." Bantam. January 11, 2012.
Miller, Rory. "ConCom: Conflict Communications A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication." Amazon Digital Services, Inc. 2014. 
Miller, Rory and Kane, Lawrence A. "Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision-making under Threat of Violence." YMAA Publisher. New Hampshire. 2012
Miller, Rory. "Force Decisions: A Citizen's Guide." YMAA Publications. NH. 2012.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected." YMAA Publishing. 2011.
Elgin, Suzette Haden, Ph.D. "More on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense." Prentice Hall. New Jersey. 1983.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1995
Morris, Desmond. “Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behavior.” Harry N. Abrams. April 1979.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1993.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Written Self-Defense" MJF Books. 1997.
Maffetone, Philip Dr. “The Maffetone Method: The Holistic, Low-stress, No-Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness.” McGraw Hill, New York. 2000
Strong, Sanford. “Strong on Defense_ Survival Rules to Protect you and your Family from Crime.” Pocket Books. New York. 1996.
and more … see blog bibliography.

My Blog Bibliography

Cornered Cat (Scratching Post): http://www.corneredcat.com/scratching-post/
Kodokan Boston: http://kodokanboston.org
Mario McKenna (Kowakan): http://www.kowakan.com
Wim Demeere’s Blog: http://www.wimsblog.com