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

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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.

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Why should I use karate only in self defense?

This begs the question of what is self defense and what is fighting and even if the intent is self defense do karate-ka actually know and understand the difference and when their training and practice pass the point of self defense and enter into the realm of fighting?

Someone stated, " ... you've pretty much nailed it when you discuss intent as being the factor which differentiates the two." The two being self defense vs. fighting. Another comment was, "it made me think about how many schools of 'self defense' refuse the acknowledge that the defense may have to be aggressive and injurious in nature."

Both make me feel as if they don't truly know the difference. I am not an expert in self defense yet I am studying it diligently as to law and fighting, which is against the law here in California. Intent has nothing to do with the two but does have lots to do with your training and practice. It is also incorrect that defense is both aggressive and injurious in nature. It is going to be injurious to both parties regardless yet if one becomes aggressive then the tendency to be perceived as an aggressor, which is not self defense, and an attacker, which is not self defense, then we have trouble.

Another quote, "Effective self defense is anything but. It can be quite brutal if all other avenues have been exhausted." Effective self defense has two sides, one you use to not get hit and stop the fight and the other regards how others perceive what you did as either defensive or aggressive, i.e. defense vs. fighting.

If you don't get anything from this post you MUST understand just because your karate dojo says, "one should use karate only in self defense," and then teaches you self defense techniques you may be misunderstanding what defense, offense, fighting, violence, and violent attacks are really all about and that this subject is illusive and chaotic and so complex it takes a long time to understand it and then apply it in your training and practice.

I also perceive confusion, unconscious, of the differences between the sport aspect and self defense on the street. The two are so totally different and to think they are the same and applied universally you may find yourself in deep doo doo.

It is so complex I stopped teaching and posting on it, mostly, so would further stress emphatically that everyone do the research for you may find it enlightening.

In closing I would also mention that this is running rampant in todays martial systems simply because of the 90-9-1 Model. Ninety percent of people will never have to deal with fighting or violence in their entire lives, nine percent because they live in environments where fighting may occur and the one percent who work in the field, i.e. police, prison guards, military, etc.

Another view of the model, "The gist is that for the typical citizen, 90 percent of potentially violent scenarios can be dealt with using awareness and avoidance, and a further nine percent through verbal de-escalation. The final one percent were the scenarios where some level of force is called for." - Craig Willits

This is good because we can continue living in fantasy land but if you ever, ever have to deal with violent physical altercations you should be aware of it in its entirety.

Do the research, find the answers, and find that there is no "one" right answer.

p.s. read this one and had to comment, "modern martial arts and ways as our culture define them are indeed systems of self-defense. If you're learning fighting arts/martial arts with the intention to protect yourself, well, that's self-defense." Just because someone who may or may not have all the details and facts defines something does not mean it is that something. Modern martial arts and ways as our culture define them are indeed sports, not self defense.

CAVEAT: These are all my beliefs and since I am not mainstream I suspect almost everyone who reads this will basically state, "wrong Mr. James, you are just plain wrong!" My response, "I truly hope I am for your sake dude cause if you ever really encounter it, you will face prosecution if the line is crossed in the heat of battle."

What is Karate-do - Empty Hand Way?

"Karate is a disciplined, life-long practice of self-improvement that might incidentally have some benefits in the realm of self-defense, and which might incidentally be an outlet for occasional athletic competition." - Patrick Parker Sensei

This quote was redacted from a quote by Patrick Parker Sensei as to what Kano Sensei envisioned for Judo. I felt it spoke volumes on how things are today for martial systems or actually martially sportive systems.

Fighting, self defense, self protection, etc. are merely byproducts of its practice while self improvement should be of primary concern. Or, so goes the current sound bite for following the way via the singular practice of a martial system.

I would like to submit that in reality self improvement should be of primary concern when taking up a martial system. I believe this is so simply because instructing someone in the mere technical leaves to much room for abuse in its application. If we don't set some sort of moral standard and simply go for what works quickly then how it is applied in real life may not be beneficial to anyone, you, your attacker, your practitioners, etc.

Although I will readily admit that originally the practice of karate came about on Okinawa as a self protective measure due to the removal of weaponry it did take on additional meaning that we tend to call the "way." Theoretically speaking maybe those luminaries of karate found that the brutality of it needed to be tempered with some moral compass to rein it back under control. Then again, due to no historical documenting we may never know yet I would like to let myself believe it is so.

To Fight or Not To Fight, that is the Question?

I can provide theories on self defense as it relates to possible legal issues but I am not an expert. I can tell you that the line between self preservation/protection/defense is fluid and tricky yet I am not an expert. I can only express my particular view at any one moment knowing as that moment leaves like a breeze blowing a leaf along it will change.

Iain Abernathy wrote a post on power and impact with a quote from Funakoshi, Gichin Sensei as follows, "When there are no avenues of escape or one is caught even before any attempt to escape can be made, then for the first time the use of self-defense techniques should be considered. Even at times like these, do not show any intention of attacking, but first let the attacker become careless. At that time attack him concentrating one's whole strength in one blow to a vital point and in the moment of surprise, escape and seek shelter and help.” 

It occurred to me when reading the quote that Funakoshi Sensei seemed to understand the ramifications of self defense vs. fighting. He seems to be saying that for it to remain morally upright a karate-ka must not fight unless not other option is available yet at the end he still stresses escape and seek help.

In avoidance hopefully one will not get hit or fight or have to protect themselves physically. If physical altercation is unavoidable and you must use your ability then, so it seems somewhat, that he advocates proper force to stop the fight so you can immediately run/escape/tactfully retreat to safety and seek help, etc.

Maybe those older karate-ka, in a time long ago, had more sense and sensibility than most martial systems today give them credit for other than lip service in a self serving manner.

Are martial arts for self defense?

Yes-n-No. Yes, any martial art can be taught and utilized in self defense. No, if the instruction does not delineate between fighting/violence and self-defense/protection. I say this from an American perspective and more so due to the legal requirements of the State of California.

I read the Chiron blog about self analysis where a commenter stated a model referred to as "90-9-1." I have not researched this yet so only assume the sources are accurate, i.e. I know the parties and in all likelihood the stats are close or accurate, etc. If this is true then I suspect that what I am saying will mean nothing as 90% of us will never, ever, have to deal with self defense vs. violence/fighting.

Today, I "see" American Martial Arts, proposing a 90% of, as "a sport" and NOT self defense/protection applicable. It also comes up that most who are sport oriented tend to believe that it will be there in a violent situation. All research to date indicates that this is not true except in a very, very narrow aspect which I refer to as a "school yard scuffle." I think others refer to it as a monkey dance but not sure.

Does this mean sport martial arts cannot be also self defense? Nope, as long as it is differentiated and the intent of practice and training are distinct and diligently done in a proper manner, format, etc. It is very hard yet it can be done. I believe there are, proposing a 9% of, those martial arts dojo/instructors who have that capability and instruct/teach it well. There are also a part of that group that are professionals, i.e. actually live, breathe, and work in violent jobs, environments, etc. and they can practice and instruct, mostly, in this arena as well. Then again this is just my opinion and view and perspective ;-)

Is It Bullying or Fighting?

I read a response by a person who has my attention in regards to violence. He made some excellent observations that cause me to stop and think. Maybe I am seeing the concept incorrectly. I look at it as "bullying," when I should be viewing it as, "fighting."

So which is it? Bullying is where one person tries to intimidate a person perceived as weaker or an easy victim. It might be an attempt to make a person do something unwillingly. It is also a domineering action; a tendency to browbeat another. It may or may not include some physical interactions.

Fighting is a struggle between individuals. At its worst is it a violent conflict intended to dominate another person. It involves physical altercation be it pushing another; bouncing chests; or actually punching/striking another. There are other levels and ways that are fighting, i.e. verbal exchanges are also fighting, but for this post I want to point to the worst, physically attacking another person for what ever reasons.

Fighting is a form of physical engagement. It does not take a lot to cross the line from bullying to fighting. It does not change the view previously posted here that bullying is not a good thing and should be avoided, stopped, prevented, or just not done. This is something someone should deal with so young persons don't do it. A huge task, yes?

Bullying can and does provoke fighting. There are so many dynamics it ain't funny so like self defense it is complex and difficult which may explain why it is still prevalent in today's youth (adults bully too ya know).

Once bullying escalates to fighting regardless of the reasons it must be dealt with. It must be dealt with as to both parties. Once it gets to fighting, fighting is illegal which should be a good indication that it is not a thing we should allow, if we can. Again a difficult and complex issue with no clear cut answers.

We can "what if it" to death. We can take sides and continue the conflict, ops I meant discussion, until the end of time. It would be great if we collaborated and achieved detente on bullying and fighting by young folks.

Hmmm, human nature, good luck with this.

How Does Martial Arts Address Bullying?

First, I was a bully in junior high school. No excuses and no reasons why to explain it away, I was and it was wrong. Today it seems as if this is becoming a national crises and prompted me to post on the subject.

Do we, as Sensei, have a responsibility to instruct young adults in this subject? I cannot say with any experience or certainty that it is something we should do in martial systems instruction but maybe we should be contemplating it as Sensei.

I would be considering it in the strongest terms if I had a dojo that instructed young adults, i.e. young persons in grade and/or junior high school. This is grade five up to 12.

What is it that we could do as Sensei? 
Should we do this? 
Is it something we should provide in our fundamentals of any martial system? 
Is this a step beyond our responsibility and should this be on the shoulders of the parents only? 
If you do or do not address this in instructing young adults would you be either liable or not liable if that person used what you taught to cause grave injury to another young person?

I am sure many school systems today are fighting with themselves over this subject. I would suggest, theory only with no data to back it up, that Sensei of all martial systems who instruct persons under the age of 18 (legal age in the state where you instruct) should be giving this a great deal of thought.

I personally do not know the answers. If a karate-ka actually applied a powerful punch or strike to another child's head and it resulted in unconsciousness and hospitalization I would be devastated. With power comes responsibility! Do young adults really have the experience and knowledge to assume that responsibility?

All questions we Sensei should ask ourselves. Have you asked yourself these and other related questions? Take a moment, do a search on youtube for bullying, view what you see and consider the question(s), please!

What the Heck is Self Defense Competition?

While reading some posts on a group I came across a topic on competition. Someone asked for details that a professional coach would provide students to win a competition so one of the answers was, I assume, demonstrating self defense techniques.

I am not really sure how this can be done and/or judged, what criteria a judge would use to evaluate and score, and do they actually use or believe that it is for "real" self defense, i.e. street fighting stuff, or what. I did participate in tournaments a long, long time ago but had never heard of this part of it before.

Now, in the last few years I have come to "understand somewhat" violence and self defense which did not meet the criteria I used those long years ago and I cannot for the life of me "see" how they could make it into a competitive thing and be called "self defense." Maybe one of the blog readers/followers can comment and enlighten me how this is possible.

I have asked a couple of karate-ka, including on the group list, how this could be possible. I can only guess at this time that it must be a promotional/economically driven thing and that it cannot possibly be street self defense. I can only picture two persons facing one another while one attacks in a predetermined pattern while the other receives or responds in the same manner. I guess it could be another way folks can add to the trophy corner and say, "I am the world champion self defense black belt person!" If this were even remotely true then I wonder if they tend to create a false sense of ability and that it, what ever it is, will work in a violent encounter.

I can see maybe creating a "waza drill competition" where the same happens, i.e. one gives a set pattern and the other responds. Taking the "self defense" title out of it seems to me to make it real clear this is a technique drill/application competition and not some real street self defense type thing. Here I go again with semantics but come on guys, if one person misconceives the intent and gets hurt badly or killed ...

Ok, anyone know the details of a tournament judging of self defense competition?

Ok, some Youtube examples:

Ok, hmmm, I guess ... no, I cannot make any comment to these examples - too difficult. In those examples, "How many times can you count where it was illegal if used on the streets for self defense?"

Why Study Kobudo? (Okinawan Traditional Weaponry)

Click for larger View!
Note: I am not positive yet I believe the three sectional staff and nunchaku depicted here are of Japanese origin but then again I am not a expert in traditional Okinawan Weaponry except those in my system, the sai, the tuif, the kama, and the bo.

The most touted explanation I have ever heard is that weapons give you insight into and additional understanding of hand techniques. What I have heard the most when I ask why someone practices a particular weapon of focuses mainly on weapons. Another is the, my view now, misleading perception that it will help you in a self defense situation as you will scope out weapons as you walk through life just in case your attacked so you can snatch up that make shift weapon and trash the attacker. Think about that one!

People love weapons and weapons training or kobudo. It flashy, its cool and everyone asks when starting up karate, "When do I get to learn the bo or sai or tuifa or nunchaku (thanks Bruce)?" Yes? No? Maybe?

When I think of kobudo practice/study I no longer think of it as applying weapons in self defense. I don't believe that resorting to weapons, make shift as found laying about, is legal or promotes the defense that one is apply self defense against an attacker. I also do not believe anyone outside of those who actually work in dangerous occupations need to consider weapons and then they tend to have them supplied, i.e. police with batons and guns and taxers, etc.

So, if this is so why would anyone want to practice and train in kobudo? In a fundamental sense I agree with the book, "Becoming a Complete Martial Artist," as I quote, " ... we do encourage the study of weapons. ... because of the discipline, concentration, physical skill, and lessons in tradition, ceremony, and ritual."

My view and opinion here, in self defense you don't usually have time to seek out a weapon. You have to remember regardless of what you are told as to the use and practice of kobudo it does not enhance your use of hands but actually commits both hands to the weapon limiting or disrupting your hand movements. Let me add that seeking out a weapon, picking it up, and then making use of it COULD BE INTERPRETED as aggression which is fighting which is attacking and (Fighting is ILLEGAL!) passes the self defense maxim. DO NOT TAKE MY WORD for IT, seek out expertise advice from an attorney or law enforcement type and ask. Then sign up for and attend a course provided by, if available from, police or schools of law, etc. Its complex.

Again, I quote, " ... the bottom line is that without the courage or determination to use the weapon, a high degree of skill is useless." I use the martial systems/arts to achieve a morally directed spirit and develop my mind and body. In order to do that it means we learn about our systems history, culture, and in this case combative's which includes study of its historically based weaponry. I did that and now I don't and focus on empty hand; that's me tho!

Think about your goals in the study of kobudo. Mine was originally misguided because I was told it enhanced my abilities with empty hands. Later I decided it was a good way to understand Asian/Okinawan traditional weapons. I also kept it up for the love of the art. Self Defense, never and no way dude!

I want to do one more quote, "The decision to use a weapon will be yours. The decision if that use was justified ore misdeeds belongs to others. Your decision to use a weapon must be in accordance to that reality."

Think seriously about the reasons and goals for practicing and training in traditional Okinawan Weaponry?

Sutrisno, Tristan, MacYoung, Marc and Gordon, Dianna. "Becoming a Complete Martial Artist: Error Detection in Self Defense and the Martial Arts." Lyons Press. Connecticut. 2005.

What is the Most Dangerous Martial Art Today?

None! Like a gun, it is only dangerous in the hands of a human being. There is no "one" most dangerous of all martial arts, it does not exist. Two persons can practice the same "exact" system while one of the two is a cream puff and the other absolutely deadly.

People are dangerous, animals in the wild are dangerous under some circumstances but humans are consistently a dangerous species. Any martial system can be used in a deadly and dangerous fashion by the human who decides to use it for nefarious deeds.

If someone says they provide or teach the deadliest system in the world then your being subjected to a sales pitch. "And for only a five year contract at 2 thousand dollars a month you too can be the deadliest human in the world with our absolutely guaranteed fool proof deadly Martial Art system. Join today and get a free uniform!"

Why do some systems have lower stances?

Is it possible that lower and deeper stances are also a product of the effort to dampen it down and to create greater physical fitness benefit when pushing for the incorporation of martial systems into the Okinawan/Japanese school systems?

If true, then the other trait supposedly a innovation of the Isshinryu system of natural stances vs. deep stances is also merely a return to original karate or Ti/Te. I just have to ask the questions and express the theory simply because many Isshinryu factions, as other martial systems I suspect, will fervently and furiously refute this theory or assumption since it goes against their supposed belief system.

Even when I have observed systems in sparring/kumite/competition kumite they set in a deep stance yet once the action begins they are up and in a more natural stance. Many do the bouncy bouncy thing wasting energy, etc.

I once read somewhere that Funakoshi Sensei deepened the stances in response to physical fitness, etc. Holding and assuming and keeping deep stances along with moving into and out of them is strenuous, yes?

I guess one needs to evaluate and test all stances both deep set and more naturally set to see the pro's and con's of their use. I suspect much like Marc MacYoung explains in his book that it depends on the technique, the situation, the application, and other more chaotic or constantly shifting situations of fighting. Hmmm, more basics/fundamentals to learn and practice, yes?

One of the benefits of the higher and more natural stances I use in Isshinryu is its allowing me to move in a variety of directions quickly which seems to work well in kumite/sparring sessions in the dojo.

Why, Oh Why, didn't I ask these questions so long ago!

What are basics; What are fundamentals?

It is imperative I relay that this particular post answer is a set of direct quotes from Marc MacYoung's book on Effective Offense. See the Bibliography and notes as you read. I have found this book to be most informative. It has focused a spot light on issues often not taught or lost in training and practice.

"A basic is an introduction. A fundamental is a foundation. A fundamental is a premise, idea, or fact that an entire system arises from and is based on. A fundamental determines the shape of  what arises from it, much as a foundation of a house dictates its layout. A basic is how you introduce people you are teaching to the system. It is a beginning concept, often simplified to assist learning. If a fundamental is the foundation, a basic is the front door to enter the system." - Marc MacYoung - Secrets of Effective Offense - Chapter Eight: Blocking and Deflecting - page 124.

You practice basics so you can ingrain fundamentals. The novice, beginner, works on the gross movement; advanced practitioners focus on different aspects, making little tweaks and adjustments. Basics can be learned in five minutes, but fundamentals can take years to fully understand. - Marc MacYoung - Secrets of Effective Offense - Chapter Eight: Blocking and Deflecting - page 124 and 125.

In training facilities that make no distinction between these two terms, people rush past the basics hoping to get to the "good stuff." When told they need to pay attention to the "basics," they dismiss the idea as too rudimentary, not realizing the difference between a fundamental and a basic. - Marc MacYoung - Secrets of Effective Offense - Chapter Eight: Blocking and Deflecting - page 125.

In doing so, they ignore the fundamentals and do not ingrain them into their consciousness and reactions. Then they wonder whey what they are trying to do falls apart in a fight. - Marc MacYoung - Secrets of Effective Offense - Chapter Eight: Blocking and Deflecting - page 125.

MacYoung, Marc. "Secrets of Effective Offense: Survival Strategies for Self-Defence, Martial Arts, and Law Enforcement." Lyons Press. Connecticut. 2005.