"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

Reader's of this Blog

What is Self-defense?

Wow, what a huge, huge, huge question. At my level of understanding I am not sure how to answer that but here is a start. First, Marc MacYoung tells you what SD is in chapter three of his book, “In the Name of Self Defense (462 awesome pages long),” starting on page 55 and goes on through to page 91. Take a notice that he writes to the answer and it takes at least thirty-six page - an that is just a basic fundamental explanation. In reality his entire book is describing the answer to “What is self-defense?”

I guess to answer this question my only true answer is to get his book, read it, study it and then continue to seek knowledge as to what is self-defense. Then, start taking on the study of all those fundamental components of SD and study them to gain even more insight into what SD is because as Mr. MacYoung and Mr. Miller have stated along with a lot of other experts or professionals on this subject, “It’s complicated.” 

Bibliography:
MacYoung, Marc. "In the Name of Self-Defense: What It Costs. When It’s Worth It." Marc MacYoung. 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. "Meditations of Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence" YMAA Publishing. 2008.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected." YMAA Publishing. 2011.
Morris, Desmond. “Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behavior.” Harry N. Abrams. April 1979.

Links to purchase bibliography from Amazon here: http://martialartlibrary.blogspot.com

Are Kata Full Fighting Systems?

In a recent posting on the Ryukyu Martial Arts (Research and General Discussion) FaceBook wall a person made the statement, " … each kata is a fighting system and curriculum in and of itself.’ Of course, there is more to his statement but this post is about this one perspective or perception, are kata actually a fighting system and curriculum in and of themselves?

In my very personal opinion, “Kata are NOT actually fighting systems or system as to each individual kata practiced both today and in ancient times. Kata are NOT a curriculum, i.e. lessons and academic content as would be taught in a specific course or program. I can see why one might consider them to be curriculum but in reality they are more of a teaching tool to convey certain concepts and principles that underlay the physiokinetics and techniques of a martial art. In addition, theses concepts and principles are indicative of all martial systems regardless of symbolic titles of style or the system themselves. In other words the concepts and principles are the same and immutable in every single system, style of type of martial art be it Kendo, Judo or Karate.

One glossary provides that “curriculum typically refers to the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, which includes the learning standards or learning objectives they are expected to meet; the units and lessons that teachers teach; the assignments and projects given to students; the books, materials, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course; and the tests, assessments, and other methods used to evaluate student learning.”

Kata practice and training are the teacher rather then the guide for the teacher. Kata are those controls that allow a teacher to provide concepts and principles through the practice and training of said kata to emphasis and train both the body and mind to adhere to the fundamental principles of martial systems, i.e.:

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.

PRINCIPLES OF PHYSIOKINETIC
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 & Sequential Relaxation, Peripheral Vision, Tactile Sensitivity, Rooting.

PRINCIPLES OF TECHNIQUE
Techniques vs. Technique, Equal Rights, Compliment, Kobo Ichi, Economical Motion, Active Movement, Positioning, Angling, Leading Control, Complex Forces, Indirect Pressure, Live Energy & Dead Energy, Torsion & Pinning, Speed, Timing, Rhythm, Balance, Reactive Control, Natural & Unnatural Motion, Weak Link, Non-Telegraphing, Extension and Penetration.

PRINCIPLES OF PHILOSOPHY
Mind, Mushin, Kime, Non-intention, Yin-Yang, Oneness, Zanshin & Being, Non-action, Character, The Empty Cup.

Kata are not meant to be fighting systems because the kata practiced today are actually either directly or modified version of the educational kata taught in the early 1900’s on Okinawa and Japan. These kata are based on sport competitions rather than combatives or fighting. Add in the complexities of both fighting and combatives the actual techniques, combinations one derives from the patterns, patterns, rhythms, cadences, etc. all are geared toward the more social types of both competitions and perceptions of violence/conflicts.  It does not mean that they are not adequate in teaching toward a goal of self-defense (rather use the correct term vs. fighting - which is illegal, SD is admitting to a legal justification of an illegal act, etc.) Combatives, to my mind and perceptions, are those hand systems used by military in combat situations and have no use what so ever in a civilian system. 

Kata are the tools that allow a more tactile approach to teaching how the body should move, how it aligns itself properly to apply techniques properly and how to develop a body, mind and spirit that will allow it to achieve its goals toward application of principles. Most kata are missing to many aspects of reality to achieve a fighting/defense system but they go a long way to train the body and mind in those principles used when you add in that reality part that is mostly missing in MA training. 

Now, if you are saying kata are not fighting systems but a form of moving meditation that conveys other more esoteric aspects of the fundamental principles to be a traditional WAY discipline for the training of the self as a means of improvement toward enlightenment then I would concur and accept that kata are that type of method toward enlightenment, etc. 

Note that this post is not a complete and comprehensive explanation as to why kata are what they are vs. what they are not because one would have to write an entire book, of which many martial artists have already done, and even that book may not convey the full picture of the kata toward teaching and learing a martial art. 

Lastly, kata are a great tool and provide a huge spectrum of examples toward teaching, training, practicing and learning that are unparalleled in most disciplines that are physical today. Regardless of what your personal perceptions are as to kata, don’t discount them entirely because you may or may not perceive value in their use, they are useful in many ways no matter what you believe they are and used for and so on. 


Is Karate Stagnate?

I was working out and training this morning when a thought occurred to me, “If karate-ka observed your kata today they would flame you for not adhering to certain basic and fundamental practices such as the enbusen line.” It made me think of those days when I worked construction building houses so very, very long ago. It goes a bit like this:

You start our building a house with blueprints and specifications. This is much like being exposed to basic techniques often called the upper and lower basics. It extends into the kata that are like blueprints where the drawings outline certain patterns in the home such as wall configurations and placements, etc. This is similarly or symbolic of the enbusen lines. 

As you practice as a homes construction begins you deal with a ton of logistics such as materials, workers, costs, construction techniques and of course the design of the house. This is similar or symbolic of such things as the fundamental principles of martial systems, i.e. structure, posture, power, etc. You are getting my drift here, right?

Now, once the construction is completed the home sits on the lot. It has a foundation, walls, roof, doors, windows, etc. but not much else. This is the state of today’s martial arts practice in particular “karate.” It is like we are happy with the home so we continue to check out the construction and go over the blueprints and so on to make sure the home is solid and long lasting but we are not truly living in that home because it is missing something, a something that makes that home, a home.

Most, if not almost all, seem content to play with the home as it is and often leave it every training session just like it was when they first entreated it after construction was completed. They are so thrilled to have a home and to have one built by a particular designer, i.e. “this home was designed and built by Tatsuo-san (using the karate system I learned as an example ergo Tatsuo Shimabuku Sensei).”

Now, as I understand Isshinryu history, Tatsuo-san always told his graduates (those leaving a tour of duty on Okinawa) that they must continue practicing and learning before they assumed a certain level of proficiency as indicated by a silk certificate he presented. This is tantamount to giving a new home owner their front door keys and saying, here you go, it is all yours, do with it as you feel you should.

We all took what we were taught and accepted the house as it appeared after that construction but we assumed that to change that house in any way would be disrespectful to the designer and the builder. This is where most karate gets stuck, it stagnates. It is also the reason why so many start out training and practicing in karate but soon, very soon, stop. 

What I propose is one must practice and train following the blueprints and design specifications but when all is done and open to move in the practitioner must “move in” and then practice and train until they are inspired by the house, the property and the neighborhood (i.e. the culture and beliefs system of Okinawa along with their personal culture and belief systems) so that they may begin to “decorate” it to fit them and their life practices. This is part of the budo of bujutsu. 

We decorate by playing with basics, kata, kumite, reality based training models, and as a simplified example we break the enbusen line; we break the patterns and line of the kata; we break the drills from their patterns; we break the drills used for self-defense training so that we reach higher levels of proficiency that is not tied to any particular pattern because such patterns tend to stagnate and freeze us when we try to apply them to life’s challenges. 

To decorate the home is to add curtains, purchase and arrange furniture that fits each room’s functionality and we put gardens of bushes, plants, flowers and such to create a new and greater house that comes from all the designer’s and builder’s vision into something unique. 

In Isshinryu, this is exactly how Tatsuo-san created the house of Isshinryu. If he had stayed steadfast and dedicated to what his teachers has taught him so long ago Isshinryu would not have been built (born). He did just what I suggest above but he took it one step further than most can, should or will do, create a new system and name it - that is not the point. Making a new system and naming it simply fogs the mind and clutters the arts in general but creating something unique and applicable to yourself is a good thing. 

As with history, we should be respectful to those who came before but we should also extend that respect into admiration by creating ourselves not in the image of that master but in our own image of what we aspire to be as a human and as a karate-ka. 


Karate today is stagnate and to achieve mastery of a life time of practice, training and applications is to break free of those chains and practice, train and apply something that is unique to you, the individual. It is about decorating your house of karate with all those things that tie directly to the true essence of all martial arts and to life, the fundamental principles of martial system - the one corner stone of building that does not change nor should they be changed. 

Is the Okinawan system of karate representative of Japanese Budo? Addendum Mon Apr 14, 2014



Now that you are up to date with my perceptions I can now say, "I was wrong!" In the new book, Karate 1.0 by Andreas Quast I have come to understand that Okinawan Systems of Karate may just be representative of the Okinawan versions of Japanese Budo. Much like the Japanese, the Okinawans had the tendency to take things of value from other cultures and absorb them into their own. This, apparently, includes Budo. 

The Okinawans, it would seem, had a very militaristic way of life up to the early sixteen hundreds when the Satsuma Samurai took control of the security of its outer most territory, Okinawa or the LooChoo Islands. 

I don't believe that modern karate as practiced in the 1900's and now this century are representative of Japanese Budo but I do believe historically that the influences are there. I really want to strongly suggest getting this book because it has blown a few holes in what "I believed" were a part of the legacy of Okinawan karate or Martial Arts. 

Why did the more traditional forms of martial practice require years to learn just "one" kata?


Ahhhh, a very good question and one I will answer with one caveat, it is my theory because there is no proof or historical record to truly answer this question. Here is what I believe:

The collection of kata we are required to learn in modern martial arts didn't begin until the mid to late 1900's. In the 1600's to the 1800's karate was actually referred to on Okinawa as "Ti (pronounced like tea)." This indigenous system was separated by distance between villages such as Naha, Shuri and Tomari. It may have been even more exclusive to smaller villages but as of the 1800's these villages were known and promoted in the 1900's as the three main factions of Ti. 

Those Ti masters or experts tended to teach and "know" one, two or maybe three kata. We all have heard the legends that those elders tended to require several years to learn and master one kata. The stories or legends even stated in one system the kata that is known today as "sanchin" is the first kata that must be mastered and that it took three (guessing the time window here) years to master. I imagine this is how the question came into being.

Why indeed, does it take several years to master one kata? It comes down to an attempt to understand what comprised that one kata in those years before the mass effort to bring karate into the school systems per WWII needs of Japan, maybe even earlier. Before Ti came to the lower classes of Okinawa the exclusivity of practice, training and applications were held close to those who practiced. It might even explain why such traditional requirements as "introductions" or "recommendations" were required to even get a chance to learn the system of some Ti master. 

Then you have to understand some of the teachings that may have been withheld from the Western mind either by the intention of the master teaching the military or by exclusion as things transcended from the ancient traditional methods to more modern methods of a school system, etc. Things were toned down and many intricacies were removed to ease the learning processes of young adults in the school systems. 

In addition the traditional method of learning a martial art as explained by the levels of "shu," "ha," and "ri" dictate that what is and was introduced and taught to those young adults was true to this model or method, the strict lessons of the level "shu." Because of the difficult and tumultuous situations of war and other influences of being a country concurred by first the Chinese and then by the Japanese in the 1600's the levels of "ha and ri" were lost and/or forgotten except by the masters who many we lost when they died during the war. 

To attain a level of "ha" and "ri" requires that the practitioner learn much more than the mere basics but the actual principles that are the foundation of all martial systems. This is how we begin to learn the need to study one kata for a length of time as told in the legendary stories of Ti practitioners of Okinawa.

Principles are many, although limited by the fact that they are finite principles due to physics, etc., and to learn them each and then to bring them into a "one whole and holistic" practice takes a lot of time. In addition to learn and apply kata and its technique(s) means you don't just learn the patterns but each and every individual nuance of each technique and combination derived from kata practice. To achieve a "ha and ri" level requires the ability to instinctually apply not only the obvious kata application but the nuances underneath them as a separate and unique entity so that the mind and body along with spirit can apply any principle instinctually and in the moment as needed by that moment to work. 

Try taking your first kata and mixing, matching and modifying according to any given situation even in training with the other more theoretical and philosophical principles being applied. Losing the pattern and rhythm of a set kata is difficult without first coming to know, understand and apply each minute atomistic quality of said kata from any direction or dimension according to the fluidity of any given moment. This takes a lot of work and only a few will actually make the effort necessary to reach these levels while others accept today's rendition of karate or Ti in a sport oriented fashion where kata are dances and fighting abilities are reduced to who can "tag" another target for a "point." 

This does not even take into consideration how today's martial systems are encumbered by societies "rules and requirements." To achieve a level of understanding and application means opening the mind and leaving the rules in the dressing room. Not many can achieve this in today's litigious societies or if you prefer today's commercialized societies. 

It does take several years to truly master one kata when you apply "ALL" the requirements but to achieve the level of "shu" that is merely a ghost of a system it doesn't take much and there lies the reasoning behind learning many kata, many systems and achieving many levels of many systems of black belt status. 

Then again, all this is my theory as to why it takes much time, effort, sweat, blood and tears to learn just one kata. Who is up to the challenge?

Can you learn how to fight or defend using drills only, no sparring, etc.?


This is a subject open to debate and that debate will always continue regardless of the answers either I provide or others provide. It is just the way this subject is and that will always differ depending on the perceptions of each individual practitioner. 

Drills are a great teaching tool. The military have used drills and drilling since time began. It is one tried and true way of training the military who have yet to achieve experience in battle. What changes is the individual combatant when they start to accumulate experience then those drills become lost in the reality of battle, fighting and today defending. 

In today's martial arts rarely do practitioners get to test their drilling practices in live fire, out on the streets in a violent situation or even in the sport side rife with rules and requirements under the auspice of safety, etc. 

How do you know your drilling and practices will work if they are not tested in the heat of battle? You don't. Drills were created by those experienced combatants long ago so that novices, inexperienced, can learn some foundation or basics to work with when they do enter into harms way. That transitional phase is crucial to combatants, especially military, because that is the point where the greatest loses are experienced. 

I remember a Viet Nam veteran Marine I worked with when speaking of newbies who arrived in country and how they would be treated a certain way until they accumulated enough experience that they might survive without causing their fellow Marines to possible die along side them. Ignoring the good or bad to this one can see that the initial period of entering combat is critical to both the newbie and the veterans - for survival. 

Is it conducive to lasting past that initial period to rely solely on those drills, i.e. the drills and kata of martial arts, steeped in patterns, combinations and rhythms to teach a person how to survive violence without providing some means to get closer to reality? In modern times and I suspect even in the past those who trained in such a manner instinctively knew that they needed to do something that would enhance the teachings of drilling and kata, etc. 

In ancient times it was not hard to gain experience in combat for the times provided many opportunities to test your skills. Japanese tales abound with how samurai would challenge one school or another to test their skills not to forget that during those feudal years they got to test their skills in combat. Today, we seldom, if ever, get to test our skills in true violent defense.

Is is possible relying solely on drills and kata to achieve fighting ability is less that optimal? Is it possible that one does not voluntarily go into a scenario like fighting, etc. as a part of human survival instincts thereby making the idea of drill effectiveness more acceptable? What happens when a violent adversary does not adhere to the patterns and rhythms of your drill? What do you think your mind does when the adversary is not following the drill or kata? Is going into a training regimen beyond drills and kata resisted because it would mean leaving the comfort zone of your perceived safety and security? 

I have learned over the years that many traditional marital arts believe and rely heavily on drills and kata for their combative or defensive skills. I have learned over the years that many martial arts consider competition and kumite sufficient for their combative or defensive skills. How will any of them discover the validity of what they learn and practice if they don't learn through experience in violent encounters? 

Even if martial artists are exposed to reality based training regimens how will they encode it into instinct if they don't do some sort of repetitive training using what they learned and still not know for sure if it will work for them until they experience violent encounters where they can utilize the lessons learned. This how will always be a bane of contention and my theory is that the only way to truly find out if what you train will work is to test that training by the fire of combat - just like the military in combat. 

In closing, the answer to this question resides solely in the hearts and mind of each individual martial artist. No matter what I say, what others say and what is professed as the ultimate defensive system it will only have meaning when that individual finds the truth through combat experience. 

I have a youtube video doing my kata, can you take a look and tell me if I have chinkuchi?


First, you can not "see" chinkuchi manifested in kata or kumite. There is no way to determine a person is or has chinkuchi and/or principles through a video. Two, the only way to determine if one has chinkuchi or principles applied is to feel it through training on the dojo floor. 

It is too limiting to see chinkuchi or principles applied through video since there are aspects that occur that are not perceived through the lens of a camera or the human eye. We can be fooled into thinking something is chinkuchi or principles. 

Take sequential locking and releasing. You can not see that and to think a strong muscle it appearance in performing karate denotes chinkuchi/principles is a mistake.

If you want to know if you are practicing correctly get on the training hall floor with one who is proficient/has expertise and determine it as you practice. 

Even then to observe chinkuchi takes someone who has pretty much mastered it over a long time of practice and who has also taught it over time. It takes an ability in perception that most karate-ka cannot or have not developed.

Even so called karate masters with high rank fail to understand the concept of chinkuchi and principles (one cannot live without the other) because they never developed the full spectrum (some manifest individual aspects of the whole and assume that is it but that fails in reality).

Am I an expert on chinkuchi/principles? 

No, yet I have a greater understanding to know that I cannot determine if one has it unless we train together over time on the training hall floor. Then maybe and mutually we karate-ka can determine the level and completeness we have gained in chinkuchi/principles.

Sparring, what is its value?


Sparring is not combat or even fighting. It has value but the extent of said value toward self-defense depends a lot on the context and intent of the sparring model. I do believe that sparring, as it exists currently, is more a dueling model, a social type fighting means of practice and training. Much like I expressed toward certain two person predefined drills. 

Sparring consists of a different emotional involvement. Both parties are willing participants. The model allows for getting a feel for the others fighting skills. In a lot of cases both parties are fairly equal in skill and ability. What happens if one or the other actually take it outside the dueling model and take it to some extreme fast and chaotic model that would test the others resolve and ability to handle it, both mentally and physically? What would happen if the role of tori were to not follow any protocol and that the tori would be bigger, stronger, and more skilled? What would happen if suddenly, without warning, you had the biggest, toughest and most skilled person in training attack someone outside of any context of sparring, etc.? 

Sparring is a great essential exercise to get novices outside their comfort zones. It can be used in a manner to stress the mind while stressing the body as well by taking it to a level of shugyo or austere type training, i.e. where the participants go until they drip and drop exhausted, spent and pretty much in a daze? Is this even possible?

Remember that the techniques necessary to defend against violence may not be as applicable during sparring, and vice versa. 

Bibliography:
Pearlman, Steven J. "The Book of Martial Power." Overlook Press. N.Y. 2006.

Why don't all dojo have fundamental stance/movement basics/warmups?


In Aikido they do something referred to as a walking kata. It teaches footwork, posture and body movement. In karate, my system in particular, does not focus directly on such fundamentals. It seems to promote all the proper fundamental principles of martial systems as given in the book of martial power and considering the importance of such things in the overall scheme of martial arts, combative arts and/or self-defense I wonder why it does not exist.

Take a look at the post over at Patrick Parker's blog, "Mokuren Dojo." 


When I viewed his video I began to wonder why this is not, in some form, a part of the fundamental basics, i.e. in Isshinryu they use the upper and lower basic techniques as a warm-up/training for those basic techniques that are supposed to train a karate-ka in things like proper stances, transitions when done in a movement or walking manner, and kamae, etc. I just wonder since things like posture, body alignment and movement, etc. are so important that karate communities/dojo's don't focus on the assumption, movement and transitional aspects of just the stances along with incorporation of the fundamental principles before going into basics such as hand and foot techniques. 

Consider this theory, the assumption (although very brief in delivery of combinations, etc. and often on the move type stances) of stance or kamae while applying various techniques seems to detract from the importance of said stances. I feel that the stance and the Earth contribute a good deal to the transference of power to the adversary. 

Then I think of those maneuvers that require us to move, out of the way or off center of the adversary, while applying appropriate principles/techniques are not given more due diligence at the novice levels. I watch the walk, Aiki Tai Sabaki in the video, and can see how that would be of benefit in laying out a solid foundation for the art as well as for self-defense principles. Watching this video shows me movement beyond what most karate dojo practice in basics, i.e. the forward and backward straight line model. Is this why many karate-ka get stuck in that straight line model vs. something more adaptable to self-defense?

In my later years as a teacher I did move toward adaptation of stances, movement, etc. without hand techniques to keep the novices focus on proper stances with applied principles of martial systems because in my previous years observed many students lose site of proper stances, etc. and having to struggle with it later when changes are much harder. 

Some will speak up and say, that is what the basics are for as well as the kata but I find that so many are caught up in other aspects, i.e. applying hand and foot techniques, that they lose site of this part and then struggle longer to gain a modicum of proficiency. Over taxing the mind seems counter productive to me and when someone is learning the martial arts as a novice, i.e. absolutely no previous experience at all, then it seems to end up confusing or more difficult then it has to be. I attribute this to expediency vs. slow deliberate progress. 

It is great when you finally get to the "more fun stuff" in martial arts but without a solid foundation in principles/techniques you end up with useless stuff that may look good but may not work especially in the fight. 

What do you think?

Why are there so many styles or systems of karate?



Simply, a personal signature on the one single form of Ti or Toudi that is Okinawa Ti. Ti is the term used to designate and denote a singular form of empty handed defense that today is referred to as karate, i.e. formally China-hand and currently empty-hand. The various styles and systems such as Isshinryu, Gojuryu, and Shorinryu, etc. are those designations given by individuals who have reached a level of mastery in Ti/Toudi that they feel the need to name their own personally formed system that is ti/toudi but with a personal signature or essence that makes the distinction that this person is responsible for this way of practicing, training and using Ti/Toudi. 

In a nutshell, my view, is this is merely a form of ego driven recognition and in modern times a means by which one differentiates a teacher and style from others with promotions as to a particular personality of the person and style as unique thereby bringing more students and income into the dojo. Cynical, yea a bit but with a smidgeon of truth. 

Lets look at this a bit historically. At first there was only Ti/Toudi. Then to distinguish it was to separate it from one another as to location ergo why Ti took on names such as Tomari-ti, Shuri-ti and Naha-ti. To distinguish is actually a need for man to differentiate and make unique something that was previously shared by all. 

As time passed and as it became more available to all Okinawans there came a further need to differentiate, distinguish and make unique the jutsu of ti into systems/styles that were associated with individual masters of long standing especially since the three main villages slowly were absorbed into many that is Okinawa, i.e. Goju-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu, Isshin-Ryu, and so on. 

Even today in modern times those original "styles" soon branched off into more unique styles and systems associated with new and more prolific masters to differentiate between just karate and the special karate's that you would need to fight and defend or worse compete. There are not a long list of variations within a system like Shorin-ryu, i.e. 

Shōrin-ryū Reihokan[8]
Shōrin-ryū Shidōkan normally called Shidōkan or Okinawan Shidōkan
Shorinkan
Kobayashi Shorin-ryu
Shōrin-ryū Seibukan
Okinawa Seidokan Shōrin-ryū normally called Seidokan
Shōrin-ryū Kyudōkan normally called Kyudōkan
Koporyu Shorin-ryu
Oshukai[9]
Okinawa Shorin-ryu karate Shinkokai
Chubu Shorin-ryu[10]
Matsubayashi-ryu (also translates to Shorin-ryu)[10]
Shorin-ryu (Shaolin)[10] also known as Shobayashi.
Ryukyu Shorin-Ryu[10]
Rendokan Shorin-ryu
Seibukan Shorin-ryu
Matsumura Seito Shorin-ryu

Even in the singular style/system of Isshinryu there are many different factions of that system yet to be renamed into new more individualize unique systems/styles except those who merely added to the name Isshinryu, i.e. Advincula's Isshinryu, Long and Wheeler's Isshinryu, and Nagle's Isshinryu - all three practiced and taught differently with small variations, etc. 

In the end there is absolutely nothing wrong with this as long as the practitioner/participant knows this and understands that in reality there is only one system of karate called "Ti" and that all of them are fundamentally the same except for that unique signature on Ti used by the dojo sensei for teaching, and often renumeration sake, today's karate of Okinawa. In the end all systems and styles of martial systems rely on the same exact fundamentals, the fundamental principles of martial jutsu or in this particular case, "Ti."

Addendum dtd Friday February 21, 2014 at 15:15

It is also stated in an article written by an Okinawan karate master that his belief is that styles were adopted by Okinawans due to the historical influences of Japan's martial systems that rely heavily on a hierarchal system, etc. Because Okinawa was absorbed by Japan and Japan dictated this along with influences through the interactions of Okinawan masters and Japanese martial arts, i.e. Funakoshi Sensei, etc. this came into being, i.e. styles and systems. 

Ti is Ti or Toudi. The principles of martial systems are the concrete foundation of all variations of empty handed Asian combatives. Putting a unique stamp on a personal version is just that, a symbol or stamp or title to differentiate a personal belief and view of a singular system of Okinawan Toudi.

How do I know if I am practicing a Martial Art?


First, you have to understand what a martial art is and that is not so clear. Second, martial arts actually includes all systems of combatives/fighting and this includes our systems here in the America's as those in Europe, etc. A martial art is a system with traditions and associated cultures and beliefs of combat practices. 

Third, you have to differentiate between what is considered classical/traditional martial arts and then those that are more modern. In my perceptions very few of what we term as martial arts is truly a martial art. But then again the "art" part does differentiate those that are born of the jutsu. Jutsu referring to the technique, method and skill used to fight, combatives. 

Does this include self-defense? Yes and no, because self-defense is always a part of combatives and combatives are about offense and defense with a stronger emphasis on offense, i.e. where in combat you are trying very hard to make the enemy die for his beliefs while you live to promote yours by combat. Self-defense is further muddled by the restrictions, i.e. the laws, etc., imposed by society that is increasingly disconnected from what is violence and what is perceived violence along with what is necessary to survive violence. 

I guess the reality is that martial arts of old now encompasses those activities that are more toward a symbolic venue geared to satisfy the need to be proficient in combatives while not actually causing damage and death. I guess it is now a matter of degrees. Yet, I feel strongly that martial arts are either bu-jutsu oriented or sport oriented with symbolism toward bu-jutsu or sport oriented with emphasis on competition and winning trophies, accolades and egoistic pride building. 

If I were to follow my perceptions and beliefs as to martial arts then most of what I have seen and experienced in modern marital arts in not truly martial arts. It is a bit like the label "karate." Karate is often used to label many systems that are not karate. Where does all this misconception come from, from media events such as television and movies where reality is often sacrificed for drama. Even those industries are misled by today's view within the martial arts world. We are so blinded by what is perceived as to looks we tend to think things that look good and impress observers is what works in combatives. Here again lies the crux of this issue, what is violence and how does violence manifest itself in all its forms - and there are many forms to know about.

So, how do you know if you are practicing a martial art? Well I guess in the end it is how you perceive things, what you believe in and what makes you feel comfortable (note: if you are comfortable with your martial art you have to ask why you feel the comfort because violence and classical martial arts involves a lot of discomfort - an enjoyable, sorta, discomfort.). 

This is one of those questions you will have to consider, analyze and change as you grow in depth and breadth of practice and training. It is one of those things that is personal and causes a lot of discourse as to personal views and beliefs. If you cannot look at yourself, your practice and your system with an open mind, if you find you resist vehemently then maybe your stuck in a false belief - usually a sign when you resist in the face of truth, facts and reality. 

Then again if you are comfortable, having fun and have a solid social connection with your dojo mates then it matters not - except if you encounter violence and it fails to work for you. When one thinks martial art they assume it is a means of self-defense when it may not be exactly what you assume or expect. Even those who truly practice a martial art may find things not working as intended. 

Convoluted and Complex Topic!

When should one retire from teaching marital arts?


In a recent article at the Kowakan Blog titled, "Paragons of Health: I Think Not," brings up some relevant points in the practice and teaching of martial systems (in this particular example Okinawan Karate). His post made me think, when is it prudent to stop the leadership role, one that requires health, fitness, knowledge and experience, etc.?

I will use myself as an example. First, as we age (I am closing in by months to my winter years, i.e. 60 years) things change in the body and mind that we may or may not have control over. I have meniere's which is an inner ear thing causing vertigo and my status is the problem remains lingering with bouts where I lose more balance and then gain it back with about 98% most times. Should I teach?

There can be many factors involving a sensei who reaches toward their winter years. There can be many factors that crop up suddenly that will affect a person health, fitness and well-being that could effect their teaching abilities. How you handle those and incorporate them into your training, practice and teaching matters - they matter a great deal. 

Physical disciplines like martial systems require demonstration to supplement the whole teaching model. It means you must be able to demonstrate. It does not mean you have to keep up with younger, healthier and more fit practitioners but you must be able to demonstrate. You must lead by example and your health, fitness and demeanor to include how you walk, talk and the aura you project by the spirit and physical is important.

I liken sense to the military leadership I came to understand as a Marine. Your life depends on the what, how, who, when and other factors of those who would lead. The examples you set by the actions you take mean a lot, a lot. If a Marine goes fat, lazy and becomes unhealthy no matter the past credentials they lose a huge amount of credentials with those who have to do. This applies to all of life but no more so than in the military where your life depends on others of like minded military presence, etc. 

If you are not going to maintain your health, fitness and mind/body for your age as appropriate and if you are not going to maintain a level of expertise and continual update and change to your knowledge and experiences then you should consider relinquishing the mantle of sensei. 

I stopped teaching a few years back and now remain healthy, fit and knowledgable through personal practice and training. I keep researching and theorizing and working it out in my practice (as much as possible without a partner, etc.) to maintain a certain level of knowledge and expertise. I do realize that the lack of working it out with others, i.e. sensei, senpai and kohai, etc., limits my growth but I realize that as I enter the winter years and due to certain uncontrolled issues of mind and body I would not benefit practitioners on the dojo floor so I am kind of retired from teaching.

I am not overweight nor infirm to the point that I cannot do my martial arts but it may lack what I perceive is necessary to give a full and complete system of martial arts over to those who would follow. I relegated myself to an advisor in a academic form with emphasis that one must take all I provide to the dojo floor to work out with a sensei/senpai before melding it to their practice and training. 

An important, a critical essence that is teaching and practicing is knowing when to adjust to the aging process and knowing when to step down as a sensei on the dojo floor. A very difficult thing to detect within yourself. Like many things, it takes hard work and a lot of self-reflection. 

Is the Okinawan system of karate representative of Japanese Budo?


This question is difficult to answer. The Japanese started to influence Okinawa around 1600 when the Satsuma Clan invaded the island. The particulars of that invasion along with the resulting effects and influences is not well documented. It would seem that the Satsuma Samurai and their cultural belief system would be present and have influence on the locals but as to whether the Okinawans adopted any or all of that cultural belief is open to debate.

When we talk about Budo we are often referring to the Japanese culture. In the 1600's budo as a warrior way was till active but it was not to far off in the future that the more feudal era aspects would start to wane whereby the more spiritual and self-improvement, etc. type model was created and promoted to keep the spirit of the ancient budo alive while diminishing the more combative aspects. 

The term itself may have come from those changes toward a more acceptable form of martial practices. The term bushido is more a modern, i.e. about the late 1800's and early 1900's, term as well in the effort to explain the Japanese samurai feudal era type culture. It may have been very important to the Japanese to maintain their warrior like culture but with the influences of modern times some changes had to occur. The Japanese are well known in the abilities to absorb other cultural things of other peoples and then "make it their own."

As I understand "Ti or Toudi" of Okinawa I suspect and speculate that it was more a protection system for unarmed Okinawans yet I question how many since it would appear, with the lack of documentation this remains speculation, that it was practiced more with the affluent Okinawans as used by the Courts of the King of Okinawa. 

Regardless, it seems to me that Okinawan Ti or Toudi now referred to as karate was like most nations hand-to-hand combatives - a last resort. Weaponry was and is the preferred method of combat or fighting. Human's naturally want to distance themselves from the type of close up conflicts and when you consider their cultural nature being one of honorable and gentlemanly manners who tended to avoid major conflicts, i.e. such as invasions by say China and Japan, by a more diplomatic approach - adjusting and absorbing the conquering group - which may answer why such a small island country could have developed a relationship with the giant of a country, China, creating a solid trade oriented relationship over a possible dictator driven running of the island by Chinese. 

Actually this way of life by the Okinawans made it easier for both parties when the Satsuma Clan came to invade. As time passed and the King's influences waned then those upper echelon Ti/Toudi masters began to allow more Okinawans to train and practice karate. Since weaponry, other than implements of every day use developed into kobudo, was banned the empty-hand or the hand-to-hand system grew and expanded making it a more civil type of defense vs. combative type. This seems to me indicative of other martial systems through out the world so gives a certain amount of credence to this theory.

So, in the end I would not consider Okinawan karate as a budo. When I see today's modernization toward a more sportive perspective then I tend to move far away from the "bu" aspects. I would consider most Okinawan karate as supotsu-do or sport way of practice and training. The combatives or defensive aspects are much smaller if actually taught at all. 

Yet, most still use the Japanese inferences of budo to expand the excitement and glitzy way karate is practiced today. Using budo in most practices of karate today is nor truly acceptable in the strictest terms but could be applied if the spirit of budo as explained in my mind may still apply with caveats, i.e. unless it is used as self-defense and combatives (i.e. military implementation of martial arts systems today as in the MCMAP).

Will folks stop using such terms? No, as a matter of fact those types of terms and their resulting advertisement oriented use will expand to bring in more participants and, of course, their pocketbooks. I accept it and always take the usage with a grain of salt simply because a persons perception in relation to reality is not always accurate (read Rory Millers excellent post on "Knowing and Believing." http://chirontraining.blogspot.com/2013/06/knowing-and-believing.html

This is what I believe at this moment and at this time of publication/posting and believe wholeheartedly when I get more data will possible change this belief into another belief.  

When did it become a standard to earn many grades vs. learning one very, very well?


I can't answer this question. I was lucky in that my sensei spoke often of learning our system very, very well before doing anything else. I can say I have one particular flaw in that I did familiarize myself with other systems but stayed with my "one system" for these past 40+ years, i.e. since 1976. Even today I find interesting things to do with my practice and I can say that often it is the familiarization of other systems and the way they do things that have inspired me in my practice. My system is still the same but different in interpretation today vs. 1979.

I have no idea why it become vogue to suddenly require more and more credentials, i.e. black belts in many systems, where the resume' tend to seem impossible. I, my view here, spent a considerable amount of time trying to learn my one system adequately let alone trying to learn many systems with many requirements different than my system in a time span that seems impossible. 

Most of those guys who do have a "few" additional credentials tend to have a few, i.e. credentials in say karate, jujutsu, and kobudo for instance. Some well rounded knowledge that covers the stand up striking to the grappling to the ground work that seems to be fighting or combative methods. Having a dozen black belts in karate or some other system seems <you fill in the description here>.

I am not saying those who do have so many grades in so many systems are not experts and proficient its just I can't get my head around how long it takes, today, to get a black belt, i.e. about four to six years, yet I read about some who are not yet in their forties desplaying black belts in a variety of systems, i.e. four to six in some cases, where the math just does not add up.

Yes, once you learn a system really, really well the next one "seemingly" is easier and faster but do those take into account the fundamentals of that system or is it they just add a bunch of forms to their own system and use the current systems name and grade to add to their own system. Seems like a bit of familiarization vs. full and complete knowledge of a system to me. 

I do think that martial artists should enhance their parent system with things that would teach them to counter things like grappling, tuite, or ground fighting, that is part of familiarization, right?

Sometimes I wonder how they decide what to use in a fight or in self-defense since the mind has so much to choose from to counter something in an attack. Isn't the KISS principal more important so when the proverbial stuff hits the fan the choice is there, not the freeze - mostly.

Then again, what do I know. I can barely hold my own in karate. This is just my opinion :-)

Will martial arts provide me the self-defense skills I need?


It's possible but highly unlikely. Today's martial arts are so far removed from their roots in Budo that the majority of martial arts are sport oriented. The fact that those thought of as Budo or self-defense are in truth misguided attempts to label something as self-defense when in reality it is not self-defense. 

This is pretty much a blanket statement since there are many factors involved in self-defense, i.e. for example whether self-defense is for a social conflict vs. an asocial predatory attack. 

One factor that speaks to me regarding the validity of self-defense is one's mind-set. In most martial arts today they speak easily of such things as budo, warrior mind, etc. but actually do not practice what it takes to achieve such levels of experience and proficiency. If it were so then they would be lining up outside the recruiting facilities for police, fire, emergency medical, corrections, and military - to name a few professions that make violence and conflict a part of the job. 

We spend so much time worrying about rank, authenticity, ego, titles, and a resume that the ancient masters would have been stunned by if they were to encounter such things in their day. Then there is the need to get validated by the birthplace of karate, Okinawa, through methods that remove the need for effort, diligence and reality. You don't think that the Okinawans are not commercializing these trips to visit the Okinawan masters for karate are not oriented toward continued attendance and economic gain? (I will admit that there are methods to achieve the goal of authenticity through Okinawan masters but if your reading it in an ad somewhere I would have my doubts) It does remind me of the often encountered "clubs" that use martial arts as a foray into social gathering, drinking and partying.

Martial arts can provide you many things toward a self-defense model. The fundamental principles of martial systems are actually the same principles that one would want to achieve in any other non-Asian martial art system used in self-defense. Leaning to get hit, learning to move, learning to hit properly with speed and power, etc. all of these plus some others as applied to martial arts contribute greatly to learning self-defense. 

If your martial arts does not teach you about all aspects of violence then it isn's teaching you self-defense. If your martial arts are not teaching you about the psychological aspects of violence in self-defense then it isn't teaching you self-defense. If your martial arts are not teaching you about legal and medical aspects of violence in self-defense it isn't teaching you self-defense. If your martial arts are not teaching you about verbal self-defense then it isn't teaching you self-defense. If your martial arts are not teaching you about how to recognize an attack and working with deescalation then it isn't teaching you self-defense. If your martial arts are not teaching you the difference between self-defense and fighting then it isn't teaching you self-defense. If your martial arts is simply spouting out quotations from ancient texts such as the go-rin-no-sho or the art of war along side self-defense techniques then it isn't teaching you self-defense. If your martial arts testifies that it is the only and ultimate method of self-defense then it isn't teaching you self-defense. ...

If your martial arts is skipping all this and more and taking you straight to the self-defense techniques of self-defense then it isn't teaching you self-defense. 

See, self-defense is not about showing you an attack method and then teaching you one way to counter that attack like many self-defense courses. It is complex, chaotic and confusing. If you doubt this visit Marc MacYoung's "No Nonsense Self-Defense" web site. As you read you will find a plethora of links within articles within links that has the unerring ability to convey the complexities of self-defense to the reader. 

How often does physical fighting come along in my life?


Honestly, rarely if ever. I am talking about the every day person who lives in a fairly safe environment. That means most of us. The one's who get into a physical fight meet some pretty simple requirements. They often have imbibed in some form of mind altering substance be it smoking marijuana or drinking beer, wine or whiskey. Add in a mixture of ego, pride and male testerone and then your moving like huge leaps toward physical fighting. 

If you are not putting yourself in some form of lifestyle that opens the door to conflict then your not going to find much physical fighting outside of sport events, competitions and martial arts dojo/tournaments, etc.

How Often am I likely to get involved in physical combat and conflict?


Honestly, rarely. The only time you, in all likelihood, will use any of your skills of either/or martial arts or self-defense is in a dojo contest, a tournament or other sportive event involving martial arts, etc. As to conflict, your going to find a lot of conflict in your life but it is really your choice whether that conflict ends up getting physical. You will not go one day without some form of conflict and how you deal with it will hugely effect whether physical conflict enters the picture or not. 

Iken [意見]


The characters/ideograms mean "opinion; view; comment." The first character means, "idea; mind; heart; taste; thought; desire; care; liking," the second character means, "see; hopes; chances; idea; opinion; look at; visible."

The word iken kokan [意見交換] of which the characters/ideograms mean "exchange of ideas; exchange of opinions." The third character means, "mingle; mixing; association; coming & going," the fourth character means, "interchange; period; change; convert; replace; renew."

What I am attempting with all the writings I provide is to give my opinion an various subjects with the hopes that others reading will reciprocate by giving their opinions so that we exchange our opinions and ideas coming to a greater understanding of the subject - martial arts and self-defense, etc.

What is the best weapon for self-defense?


Well, your going to start thinking about things like guns, knives, or maybe martial arts weapons. Some might consider anything of weight and mass that you can find in your environment. Then there are those martial artists who practice self-defense saying I would use this or that technique. In my perception all of those don't meet the best weapon title. 

What is the best weapon for self-defense? Your mind and your mind-set. All the weaponry in the world will do no good at all unless you have a proper mind-set. You might ask me, well explain yourself. That would be a huge post because I would have to gather all the data from all the sources and compile a terse version from those to explain and then list that bibliography at the end for further research. 

Let me just say that you can get an idea of what I am saying by reading all of Rory Miller's books, all of Marc MacYoung's books and the various blogs and web sites of these two professionals. Then go to their seminars, etc. if you can. They also have a variety of video's available on the subject of violence and self-defense. 

I may be wrong here as to my perception but what I gleamed from all of that and my meager experience and knowledge is that your best weapon for self-defense is your mind and mind-set. 

Are you a Professional?

No, I am not. I served as a Marine from 1972 to late 1981. I was not a combat veteran, I was not a police, fire, EMT, bodyguard, or other such job.

I did work black box type work for the Navy as a civilian. I did work as a physical security professional for the Navy Security Force, I was a special weapons mechanic, I did work a type of security at a classified site for the Navy. I handled security materials as well as being a radiation control technician.

Those are the only things of significance I have done in the last thirty plus years and none of them spells out the type of professional I often mention on my blogs and through any self-defense materials I present.

I have practiced martial arts since I was young, got serious in 1976 and still practice and train with self-defense in mind even today (today, not so rigorous as when I was younger with more piss and vinegar in my system).

So, to answer the question again, No, Nope, Nadda, Not even close. If you want to learn from a professional there are many out there you can go to.

I guess you could say I am a "geek" now. Oh, and I work with computers as a tech, qa tester, release analyst and now administrative services. Geek, yep that sounds about right :-0  ;-)   :-)

Oh, the fact that I am even answering this question tells that I am not a professional. Most professionals already know that I am not by my writings and I know the person who asked the question is not a professional because a professional, or an operator as some call it, would not ask - they would know already without asking .... yikes :-[

Can Okinawan Martial Systems be Classified as "Koryu?"


Koryu [古流] 

The characters/ideograms mean "old school (of art); old style; old manners." The first character means, "old," the second character means, "current; a sink; flow; forfeit." 

Koryu relates to the ancient traditional or classical martial arts. The old/classic dojo is to study the arts of classic combat, including the use of weaponry and was a primary goal of samurai training. It is an old tradition that is carried on in its original form, i.e. as close to the original as humanly possible.

My post today regards the use of the term "koryu." Can it be used to symbolize the art of karate from Okinawa? Can the current systems and styles be classified under this term? Is the referenced traditional system of karate called "Ti" or "Toudi" of old Okinawan be classified as a koryu of Okinawa? Is this term exclusive to the ancient arts of Japanese martial systems? 

First, the term koryu as to the sources I use for terms, characters and ideograms says that it means "old school; old style; old manners." If I were to go with this stand alone definition per those sources then I would say that as long as one used the term in conjunction with the words "Okinawa or Old Okinawan or Ancient Okinawa" then it would apply especially since Okinawa was and is a territory of Japan. 

I am not saying that everyone could or should use the term. I am saying "it could be applied just like the terms traditional and classical." It seems logical and yet I suspect that those who actually practice and teach Japanese Koryu systems would disagree. 

I would also provide for consideration the following from the site "koryu.com" as to what koryu literally means, i.e. "Koryu literally means "old flow" and is used in Japanese to refer to old styles, schools, or traditions (not necessarily only in the martial arts)."

If I used this exclusively toward my theory of Okinawan martial systems then I would say that they are considered "Okinawan Koryu." What I noticed on the koryu.com site is the inclusion of the word "bujutsu" as in "koryu bujutsu." This is how that particular site classifies "Japanese Classical Martial Arts."

The site does postulate that koryu bujutsu are those arts that actually came into existence when actually used on the battlefield. When they speak of classical traditions the tell us that they were developed by and for bushi, the warriors of Japan. They also have a "sort of lineage" that runs back through each head master to the founder of the system or tradition. Apparently it is important to establish the "stream" of the tradition, a single flow from one head master through its practitioners and to the next generation. In addition the waza or techniques of a koryu system must keep its battlefield essence, context or characteristics and that the design of the original remain intact for battlefield use. 

Then the question remains, if this is a true definition, meaning and context of koryu the does the Okinawan system actually meet those standards to be considered a koryu system, i.e. traditional/classical combative systems? 

Or are we to assume that since Okinawans seldom fought on the battlefield, i.e. I am not sure we can count the battles fought on ships transporting goods from various Asian countries through and to Okinawa while fighting off pirates, etc. Even the so called battles against the incursion of the Japanese in the early 1600's. 

Then there is the social structure that seems to be part and parcel to koryu systems. The site states, "In the true traditions, culture and technique are part of a cohesive whole that includes the head master, traditional licenses, and a unique code of behavior." Do Okinawan traditions of Ti or Toudi have these three traditions? 

I can only speak from my limited perspective, knowledge and understanding. Okinawan karate as it stand today in the West would not meet these and other standards, none of them regardless of what is professed by the leaders of those systems. On Okinawa there are a few Ti traditions that could possibly meet these standards so I would possibly assume they could be considered Okinawan Koryu. 

Finally for this exercise we come to the student-teacher relationship that seems to be unique to the Japanese Koryu systems. You need to have had direct contact, through your sensei possibly, with the head master or other fully licensed instructor. The social structure of student and teacher is considered the core of the systems social structure and technical transmission. The practitioners are actually taught on an individual basis geared toward that unique individual so the training and teaching will thus be different as from practitioner to practitioner. There are no "dan" or "dan'i" systems and when a practitioner is ready the license is grated by that systems head master.

In this part I feel none of the Okinawan systems including the Ti or Toudi systems are to be considered "koryu or Okinawan Koryu." None of the Okinawan martial systems have a licensing system, they all use a dan-i or dan grade system. That system of dan grades is not all encompassing of any system or style but from dojo to dojo and sensei to sensei is more of a personal system of grading. 

Then in most if not all systems I perceive work on a class structure of many practitioners working together similar to school systems where the individualized teachings may be there in a more simplistic form and the class teaching environment dominates so this would exclude those systems form Okinawa Koryu type status. It is just the loss of the stream or connection to the original founders that seems to be missing. There are claims of those who trained with said founders but without the stream of licenses, students and teachers all the way back to the founder it is just a personal unsubstantiated claim. Okinawan's, especially due to WWII, lost any and all of their historical documents, what there was of it in the first place, due to the devastation of the war on Okinawa. 

My personal conclusion after this short, terse, discussion or posting tells me that no one who practices an Okinawan martial system can make use of the term koryu even with the designation of Okinawan. The necessary criteria can not be met. We will have to remain with the some what convoluted and disjointed term of modern, traditional and classical martial systems. 

Truly, the definition that is given at the koryu.com site by those best known as Western Koryu practitioners, teachers and knowledgable of koryu is the one that defines it completely and wholeheartedly. Even tho the definitions provided by translation sources provide the more terse definitions that would lead some to think it applies to Okinawan karate or martial systems, it does not appy as the additional accepted definitions that go back to the origins are the true meaning of koryu. 

Please take a moment to visit the koryu site, i.e. "A Koryu Primer" by Diane Skoss, and get the full picture. The definitions provided are pretty exacting and other sources I have researched support this one fully and completely.

Are you comfortable wearing your black belt?


No, I am not. I have never been truly comfortable wearing a black belt. It holds a special meaning to me and to this day I have difficulty wearing it in front of people. When the day came I was told that I could wear a red and white paneled belt. I had more ease wearing that then the black belt. I suspect it was because on some subconscious level it relieved me of wearing the black belt. The black belt can be intimidating. 

I used this mind-set to remind me to leave my comfort zone. I try to do that as much as possible without going so far that my health suffers for it, i.e. anxiety, stress, etc. I want it to be beneficial so I can use it in the proper context. As I assumed higher levels of the black belt I would have a bit more apprehension when I would put my obi on. 

Is this because psychologically I am placing too much emphasis on the power of an inanimate object? Am I giving this symbol too much power and importance? It depends on just how much I give it and how much I allow it to cause discomfort. I believe the discomfort is a positive thing much like my use of it as a reminder to live outside the comfort zone as needed. 

I do feel that the black belt is given way to much importance in the dojo and in the martial arts community. Other than the importance that an individual decides to give it for themselves it is not all that important in the community itself simply because it is an individual perception and perspective and that is the way it should be for that person. 

The black belt in essence is simply a symbol that a person has reached a level of knowledge, experience, training and practice that says they are a serious practitioner. It symbolizes their personal commitment to their efforts in this discipline. It is also a symbol that signifies the obligation one assumes as it relates to their commitment to the system and the relationship with others in the same discipline. It can be a symbol that one has committed themselves to their betterment and the leadership that assume to provide example to others who may want to follow the systems path, the same path as the black belt wearer is walking. It symbolizes a huge responsibility to the individual that transcends the self, the ego and the pride of that individual. 

The black belt symbolizes a desire for constant improvement not only in the system but in the self and through actions and deeds influence those who choose to associate and dedicate themselves to a discipline. 

When I put on the black belt I often think of my responsibilities to others and to myself and am humbled by the immensity of that commitment and the resolve I have to meet it. It reminds me that I still have a way to go and that I have come far. When I think of the black it symbolizes the blackness of the space that surrounds the entire universe that has not true measurable depth or breadth but limitless and all encompassing. The fact that we create a circle, a circle symbolized infinity, with it around our waste, hara, we are reminded along with the blackness of the belt that it is all encompassing, vast, huge and immeasurable. The same is said to where we were, where we are and where we are going. 

So, yes, the discomfort I feel every time I put a black belt on speaks to me of things that are important to what I do, say and believe. It is a culture and belief that supports and supplements my life and how I live it. Yet, it is just a cloth colored black that wraps twice around my waist giving me the discomfort yet supporting and holding me fast to my commitment to be the best I can be and to pass that along to whomever chooses to listen. 

Black belt, not much but still a lot. Depends on you and how you look at things. I talk to much!