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

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"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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Is Karate Based Upon, "One-strike: One-kill?"

Who knows for sure yet it is a favorite quote in today's martial practice with specificity to karate. Try a google on "one strike one kill" and you will get about 3,020,000 results. There is even a video on it. Sorry, it is for sale, not for viewing yet I bet you would get  some youtube video's if you used the same search parameters. "The Deadliest of Karate's Deadly Blows."

Some URL's:

Martial Views by John Vesia ; Marks Training ; Truth Through Time

This would get one started and it would be interesting to see comments on this subject as to personal views which brings us to mine. My view, my perspective, and mine alone.

There is no "one strike:one kill" in karate. There is always a possibility, although somewhat remote, that one could kill someone with a technique but that technique is not limited to karate. It can be said that "boxers: professionals" can/could kill with a punch. I am sure we would find incidents where a boxer died because of a boxing match.

It is a great idea and a great sound bite to sell it yet it is very hard to kill someone with an open hand technique. I may be wrong as there are professionals of violence/violent people out there who may say otherwise yet to apply a technique from karate and kill a person is remote and for most humans impossible.

Lets begin by saying that human nature instinctively avoids doing great bodily harm to another human being. When it comes to killing that instinctive tendency to strongly avoid that level of violent actions is so strong that in the military historically an officer with a gun would have to persuade the troops to actually shot and kill an enemy. That is with a weapon at a distance yet if you get up close and personal you will find it impossible.

Now, as to karate and the one strike one kill maxim, NOT. Very few martial artist actually know how to generate that much power. Power aside not many in the heat of combat can bring about the focus and targeting of a moving, breathing, and responding in kind attacker to kill. Then there would be only a few actual techniques with specific power, targeting, etc. that could actually achieve that one kill where all things have to meet exactly perfect to achieve death of the opponent and as far as I can tell it ain't happening.

I don't believe even the ancient practitioners of Okinawa or China ever truly achieved this one strike/punch one kill thing. There may be stories yet I suspect you could not/would not find facts or historical and medical proof that it can happen and has happened. This is like the glorification of Samurai as some highly moral warrior group when historically that would not bear fruit.

Then you would have to find out what specifications are present to kill a human with a fist or foot. I suspect you would find that because the body is so resilient and built to resist impacts that the specs would be outside the bounds of human achievement with out some blunt weapon, etc. to enhance the blow/strike.

As a goal I feel it a ridiculous maxim where I might better accept it if it were, "One technique to stop an attack," or "One technique to avoid being hit," and so on which seems more realistic and achievable.

Yes? No? Maybe? Your theories, views, idea's, comments?

Note: If we are truly working to that end then where is the article over the last fifty-four plus years where a karate-ka killed a person with their hands?

Blog Adjustments

Just to let you know that all my blogs have been "moved" into one account. I had them set to particular email accounts that would differentiate each accordingly but for efficiency I transferred all four blogs to the one main account so you might see some of my profile stats different, i.e. now under isshin.do.karate@gmail.com mail account, etc.

Everything else remains intact as do the actual historical postings, etc.


Charles J.

What Are Kata, Really?

This question, as is with many questions regarding Okinawan Karate, is difficult to pin down simply because nothing of kata had been documented before the mid to late 1900's. I can only answer this question from my personal theories and beliefs. This is not a simple answer and has been a bone of contention and great debates since karate was introduced to Americans at the end of WWII.

In some Isshinryu tribes it is said simply, "Kata are pre-determined defense, attack and counter-attack exercises. Kata develops speed, coordination, technique, and breath control." This, in my view, is to limited and may be interpreted as a basic or introduction to kata and its practice.

I can say truthfully that kata are the blueprints of the system that help us learn and build a personalized and unique system for each of us. It provides tools and techniques to discover the systems many techniques, many stances, and other fundamentals that make up the system in its entirety.

I can only pass along what comes to mind as I write this to convey the depth and breadth and possibilities of kata practice that is only limited to each persons desire, intent, ability and imagination. If you take a look at all the fundamentals of any system you will find a way to work them out in application through the kata.

Kata as a tool is only one layer and other layers are perceived in the practice of kata. Basic/Fundamental bunkai are just that, a key to open the mind and door to more techniques. Things like power and application of a specific technique to specific stance to specific applications is possible in its practice. It provides a means to achieve knowledge of targeting and range according to the move, posture, stance/pose, technique, etc.

Speed, coordination and technique are simplistic introductions and limited because there is so much more to it than this and it can be achieved in kata practice, training, and instruction.

You can find paths to knowledge of kata principles, strategies, tactics and applications. It helps us learn about breathing techniques, body energy generation, body structure as applied to power and technique application, bone-tendon-cartilage as it applies to structure, muscle, breath coordination as applied to specific stimuli, technique, etc., body transitioning, technique transitioning, muscle expansion and contraction as applied to techniques, momentum to hip to arm power and power enhancement, body-mind-sight orientation, and economy of movement to name just a few fundamentals derived from karate kata practice.

I can say emphatically and with confidence that kata serve a purpose. Kata is such that books have been written on just that piece and for myself I have provided a complete section of a web site with about 30 chapters and I have not even dived into the parts of kata such as the purpose of embusen.

Kata, this is what I feel they are and the purpose they serve, really!

Why study the Chinese ancient classics?

We practice Okinawan Karate, yes? So, a good question is why would we want to study the ancient Chinese classics? In a nutshell to understand the customs of the Okinawans and especially the fighting arts of karate we would want to study the classics because Okinawan's are a product of the Chinese influences and they also studied the classics, the customs, the courtesies, etc. of the Chinese.

The Chinese as to historical data received the greatest influences from them and worked diligently to assume and practice them in a unique Okinawan fashion.

With out going into more depth I would express my answer here through my study of Isshinryu karate-do. Isshinryu is a fairly young Okinawan system but the creator, Tatsuo Shimabuku Sensei, did study the classics such as the Chinese I Ching and Bubushi, which is a tome on Chinese boxing.

He also presented early practitioners a copy of the ken-po goku-i on silk in kanji/English. The significance here is it is derived from his studies and influences from earlier masters of Okinawan karate who also derived these from the study of Chinese classics with an emphasis on the Chinese version of the bubishi.

Do you have to study them to practice/learn/instruct karate in any of its forms? No, you do not yet I firmly believe to achieve greater depth and breadth and understanding and applications you should study them. I firmly believe they are the Yin side of that coin, yang being the physical practice of karate. It will provide guidance and balance in your studies and practices where they will become most influential when you actually take up the instruction of karate-do.

Something one who studies a martial system should consider. You might want to remember that even the Japanese studied the classics and then incorporated what the felt was pertinent into their customs, etc. Everything Japanese/Okinawan were influenced by Chinese connections.

Which came first, kata or embusen?

I can only answer this in a theoretical setting. The reason is there is "no data or historical documents/documentation" to provide us an answer. It is a very good question tho and I am going to answer it only from my personal views and knowledge, as minimalistic as that is.

The kata came first. My belief is that those who came before, the creators of karate as derived from the original indigenous practice of toudi or ti, pulled together their techniques and along with their studies of the Chinese arts of the fist, Chinese boxing, they created their kata.

Lets take it back a bit and try to understand how karate came to be. Okinawa had some form of fighting system which came to be known as "Ti" which is Okinawan dialect for Te or hand if you will. It is also believed that it was referred to as "toudi" or a type of wrestling/grappling/striking system [this is arguable/debatable of course].

The Okinawan's relied heavily on trade with other countries for their livelihood. Their primary sources and influences were Chinese. The trade and exchange with the Chinese is well documented in the only English history book we have and other information/documentation is simply hypothesis by Americans, etc.

The Chinese influences permeated all aspects of life on Okinawa barring the one trait that seems to be exclusive to them, their gentlemanly nature; their peaceful way of politeness and decorum they expressed to anyone and everyone be they friends or conquerors.

The Chinese influences were very strong regarding Okinawan fighting systems in that Chinese boxing was a part of the relations both countries enjoyed for many, many years. We hear stories of Okinawan's traveling to China to learn Chinese boxing which we call "kung fu."

The Chinese already had patterns for practice which we call kata so that in all likelihood influenced Okinawan masters of their systems to incorporate these patterns of fighting into a "kata." We may have found if it were actually documented that they were not called "kata" then but some other Uchinaguchi term, i.e. this is the Okinawan dialect of language.

The Chinese had a name they called the forms or rather the movements, i.e. "Eighteen Movements of Lohan (Order 26). These techniques are thought to be the basis of the modern martial arts and the true origin of Shaolin Kung Fu," as stated here, " http://blog.gronski.org/2010/12/origins-of-shaolin-kung-fu-history-of-the-various-forms/ "

So, regarding karate of Okinawa, the kata came first and the patterns of movements where embusen are formed by the practice came to be and who knows when those lines or blueprints of kata came to be called embusen. I can extrapolate that it might have come from Japanese influences but suspect it actually came from the implementation of the "sportive aspects" and the "implementation to school systems" effort.

Most who refer to embusen tend to connect it to the tournament efforts for start/stop and evaluation grading in competitions.

So, what do you feel is the source and purpose of embusen? The one caveat I would express here and all the time is all information must be taken as theory simply because very little was actually documented for historical purposes. I my humble opinion documentation of any kind concerning karate did not come to fruition until the late 1800's but more in the 1900's after WWII.

What is the purpose of the embusen line in kata?

Cool question! It is another tool to teach the fundamentals of the system. I would suggest that it is a tool that promotes memory lock, i.e. when you associate something with something else that relates to where it reinforces then the memory becomes stronger and easier to reconstruct.

Embusen is that line that also provides guidance as to proper stance to the technique associated with it. Each technique has a specific stance, posture, pose, etc. that maximizes that techniques application. When you follow embusen it provides a means to indicate if a stance is properly assumed or not which affects the applied technique. A blueprint if you will.

It also provides you a means to orient the body to the proper directions, stances, postures, and application of techniques for range, targeting, etc. If you are not orienting your body and direction properly it will show in the initial stages by a loss of proper embusen. You can say it teaches using movement and kamae to cover distance and to gain proper distance to target for the particular technique in the kata.

Once a person learns the fundamentals of the entire kata and set of kata then is the embusen still as important? Less so as the practitioner progresses there is going to be changes and adjustments to suit that particular individual due to many factors such as size, weight, leg length, arm length, etc. which affect momentum, distancing, focus, range to target, etc.

Embusen is the signature of the base gross movement of kata and can be tightened as progress is made until its need and purpose no longer exists. This can happen quickly or in years depending once again on the individual.

Yes? No? Maybe?

Once you achieve proficiency you have to remember strict adherence to embusen means you lose the ability to adjust both stance and technique as it relates to the present moment stimuli. Remember in real fighting  you are going to adjust many things according to space, environment, surrounding stuff such as rocks, uneven ground, parked cars, and other obstructions to include the difference between a bit of distance that separates to close up body contact fighting.

You need to adhere to learn but have to adapt when required by the current present moment situation, etc.

I remember watching a practitioner working on Chinto-no-te but kept ending up facing the wrong way and applying a technique ineffectually. I kept an eye on the practice/struggle and it then dawned on me, they are not working or using the embusen; they were not taught what it is and how to use it, etc.


- It was argued that embusen plays no role in applications. [not exactly accurate: embusen does play a role for it provides a way to "see" how a kata moves, transitioning between kamae, proper stance to application of waza, etc. Ergo it does play a role but not what most think.]

- It was also argued that it has no significance to kata bunkai. [not exactly accurate: In its usage as a tool to the kata as explained fundamentally it does provide guidance in applying bunkai correctly and efficiently.]

- It was also argued it applied to the teaching of body movement. [Hm, yes and no depending on what you mean by body movement. As to changing and transitioning so that your body mass remains directly behind the direction you move in relation to the application of a technique to create momentum along with range and targeting and such things as focus of application to the vertical axis then it works as it should. It provides a basic/fundamental view or blueprint in learning, practicing and applying various techniques with a caveat that this is a fundamental learning system that will be less stringent as one progresses.]

- Embusen is a tool or strategy for instruction in kata, etc. but also a tool as described above in applying karate to various scenario's in preparation for street protection, combative applications, and fence.

Caveat: one must know how to measure the embusen line to accomplish all the goals of its intent. I would bet that most if not all including Okinawan Masters do not have the dimensions of the line for each kata. It still serves a purpose to orientation, etc. but as to exact stance positions and distance moving in any direction, etc. having the ability to actually create the embusen, for each individual according to height, etc., is difficult or impossible. I suspect it all got lost because it was not transmitted to most, if not all, American Service Persons due to a variety of reasons. Can you recreate it? Possibly.

Note: One statement I read on embusen as to Isshinryu, "To make it work, remember that all steps in kata are adjustable." This made me stop and think to myself, this is backwards sorta. In my view steps should not be adjusted to fit embusen to make it work because returning to the exact start point at the end is achieved by setting proper stances in relation to the techniques and those other factors that make technique effective and powerful. The embusen should work regardless of the person's leg length, their height, and other body factors that differ from person to person. It is a good idea that a part of kata training is to learn the embusen pattern of the kata and then work out the measurements necessary to achieve a proper stance to waza, etc. In my view this is how we associate things to achieve a solid memory and encoding of kata, kata waza, and how it all applies to varying stimuli in combative situations.

Note: I quote another reading, "All things being equal, the person closest to the start of his kata will win in a kata contest." This is of course secondary simply because this involves competitive forms of a tournament. To me this is applying embusen to achieve a pretty form that impresses judges for trophies. The real value in this is the effects felt when competing as they simulate some of the effects one feels to fear, anxiety, etc. in other situations. There is good and not so good in all things, i.e. all bottles are good, they all serve a purpose!

Note: Another quote I wanted to express "my very personal view on," is, "It is important to stay in your embusen in a dojo other wise you run into another practioner." I am not actually disputing this or the other quotes but today this may or may not actually apply and in the end it should not be a focus of great concern as it is not to me a primary goal of this tool of practice and training. To me embusen in relation to others during practice in a small space tends to overshadow the true instruction which is to remain mindful and aware of your surroundings and while performing/practicing kata your awareness, not embusen, should alert you when you are coming into another's space, i.e. a collision is immanent with another, etc.

Note: I would wholeheartedly agree that embusen's start/stop point in most cases being the "one" point is important to both proper execution of kata but more so as to its relation to Yin-n-Yang, i.e. the ken-po goku-i and its connections to the teachings of the Chinese ancient classics.

Note: It was posed once, by another and by me in a post of mine, that embusen actually spell or represent something like a kanji character. I suspect, but cannot prove, this is another American creation. When looking for reasons to express as to why one practices or even learns about something like embusen it is sometimes patched or filled in on the fly to create a more alluring reason why one would bother learning about, researching on, etc. a particular subject or practice such as embusen. My view, in does not matter as long as you and your readers know it  is a theory or hypothesis so all who read of it can be inspired to go find answers and learn more.

Question: Which came first, kata or embusen? Good question, so look for my theory/hypothesis in a blog post. :-)

Lineage - ADDENDUM

It occurs to me that regardless of the lineage issue being important or not really important that all of us, every karate-ka today, can truthfully say they have roots to the core of karate on Okinawa. Okinawa had "Te or Toudi" and that morphed into Naha-te, Shuri-te, and Tomari-te. Then the next gen karate become Goju-ryu, Shorin-ryu, and as it progressed it become various factions of those systems.

So, in realty, all karate-ka today can claim a solid lineage to the masters of "Ti or Te" as the indigenous fighting system of Okinawa is referred to by today's historians.

Now, then there is the matter of perceived importance as to how close you are to what some refer to as "first generation" lineage. First generation student is a phrase I have heard only from Isshinryu. It refers to those who actually trained under Tatsuo's personal guidance. Now this can be iffy because my Sensei actually did this yet he is first to express that Tatsuo Sensei never physically participated in his training. Tatsuo Sensei's second son actually taught most of them and others were under the tutelage of other more senior Americans while Tatsuo Sensei sat and drank tea and smoked cigarettes.

Now, this is not meant to disparage Tatsuo Sensei but then again Tatsuo Sensei merely did what other older masters did, they observed and let Sempai to most of the teaching and intervened only when absolutely necessary, etc. That is just the way it was.

I am merely hashing older posts here but we have to get real in that the only truly important fact is that we are practicing and passing along the knowledge of karate-do. What matters is our current ability and proficiency. What matters is what are we doing right now in the dojo and in life. What we did yesterday and what yesterday's practitioners did or did not do, who they trained with or did not train with, and so forth is not important except for historical purposes, the lessons one had learned and applied to "today's" practice and training.

In a nutshell, your rank, your lineage, your Sensei, your knowledge, etc. means absolutely nothing until you demonstrate it on the dojo floor and more importantly in every day life, the actions and the words and the demeanor and the customs and the manners you do, say, and demonstrate every single moment of ever single day.

Why is it so "IMPORTANT" to us as to lineage?

I may have posted on this before. I read a blog today that spoke of this topic so it kind of spurred me to give my "opinion." I still don't really understand why folks tend to speak of linage as if the closer you are to the founder of a system the greater your teachings and knowledge. It is like, to my mind at this moment, saying because I studied directly under Tatsuo Sensei I have some insight and ability to teach/practice/instruct that others are missing.

This brings to mind the ken-po goku-i silk certificate Tatsuo Sensei provided early practitioners. Today, much like lineage, it seems to denote some special status that I cannot fathom. I would look at the silk certificate literally as a keepsake that has value only to me and to him yet to take it further seems ludicrous because its perceive importance tends to loose steam when you find out the holder has no clue to its purpose, meaning, relation to Tatsuo, and to the spirit/custom/beliefs of the founder even if that is important.

Maybe I feel this way and spout of like this because I can't say that I studied directly under Tatsuo Sensei, etc. Maybe it has something to do with "family connections" such as family history and lineage. Knowing one's history can tell that person a lot and even provide them some means of knowledge that helps them in their current life yet in reality it means something of significance ONLY to that person, no one else. It does not provide some special status either, just a way to learn of our customs, history, family, and past. We can and do learn from our past YET once again it does not indicate some special status in society.

In reality, what you currently know and practice is of greater importance. It is meaningful to you, the practitioner, and your Sensei, no one else. Just because your Sensei studied under so-n-so and his so-n-so under another back to the founder. I can say emphatically that I have witnessed at least one person who studied under Tatsuo Sensei directly, sorta, that because they lack the ability to "teach/instruct" and they are missing the "basics-fundamentals" that what they passed on is not really what Tatsuo Sensei passed to his so called first generation American students.

Then again  cause I can't lay claim to a special lineage it could mean I am just jealous. But, then again, it is my blog and my opinion and if your not agreeing then either leave or comment or just do nothing and disagree or agree as you wish ... cool!

Oh, you want my lineage? Ok, Warner Dean Henry, retired Marine Sergeant Major who studied martial arts since the mid to late fifties. He introduced me to Isshinryu and I have never looked back since. I once asked if he studied under Tatsuo Sense and only years later did he tell me, "The ole man always sat on the side drinking tea while I worked out with senior Marines." Ok, cool, now I are special too, yes? ;-)

What is a black belt candidate?

Wow, I must be totally out of touch with today's karate  world. First, I hear for the first time a thing called a "provisional black belt" and now hear another referred to as "a black belt candidate or candidate black belt."


At this site I believe they use the term to indicate someone who is eligible to test for black belt. This sounds normal to me and does not appear to indicate some special classification of a black belt holder. It is seemingly, at this site anyway, an indication that although the test might be a bit far off that the classification of candidate means or conveys to the person that their test has begun. This makes sense to me since in my day you are tested every day. In lieu of my Sensei designating me as a candidate he conveyed this to me simply by promoting me to Ik-kyu, first level brown belt, which told me the day I put it on I was now being watched and evaluated for Sho-dan.

The Sensei at this site was kind enough to respond and let me know that it is a means of identifying and informing a person they are being considered for black belt. Thanks Sensei, kind of you to respond.


This site seems to be saying the same but a couple of quotes at least indicate strongly the sport aspects, i.e. " ... develop yourself for a Black Belt position? ... & ... Whether you are a process owner, Master Black Belt, or Champion, you will at some point need to interview candidates for an open Black Belt position. ... & ... Customer Advocacy ... etc. "

Ok, treating it like the business it is and advertising for student to apply for a black belt position. Not my cup of tea but if it works ... cool.


This one is of a candidate who had to write a paper for his eligibility. Another one that is not my cup of tea but I have used this as a means of instruction, i.e. getting them to find out more of what karate/karate-do is as to customs, etc. but not as a requirement for black belt level progression. So what, still a cool thing for those who wish to use it.

That is it, in this particular case my end thoughts are that this particular title is merely a way to let the person know they are going to be invited to demonstrate ability and proficiency to earn a black belt. This is a pretty good idea.

What is a "provisional" black belt? - ADDENDUM

Ok, some lights are coming on. In my research the places that speak of provisional do have links to many, many "sport oriented/commercial" sites. The more I dig the more I find that these terms "may be associated with the sport aspects" of karate/karate-do.

Now, this does not mean that my comments are directed toward all systems that use this means of achieving black belt for one system and its participant has a lot of my respect in their studies and practice - diligent and intelligent and curious and seeking to learn, etc.

The sites I pulled up in my search also talk about "black belt candidates" which, of course, sparked my curiosity.

Hm, interesting and another one that says to me, "Hey, you are a bit out of touch aren't you Charles?"

What is a "provisional" black belt?

Caveat: My question, to me, and my answer, to me!

I am not sure but here is what I have determined from google sources. Apparently a person testing for black belt is not awarded one but instead is provided a "probationary" ranking or level. In order to achieve a "certified" black belt one must maintain at least one year of consistent training as a provisional black belt to achieve "black belt - certified."

[Hm, does this mean one who rates a black belt is not trusted to wear it appropriately or to continue training? If so, who cares. If your goal in life is to gain a black belt and you are asked to test for it why would you diminish it by saying, "Although you are black belt material you have not proven yourself until you have worn it and shown us in the next year you deserve it." --- am I being too negative on this?]

In the source where I viewed this possible definition it also states that the certified black belt can then wear a "single gold bar embroidered" at one end of the belt. The gold stripe "designates that the student is a certified sho-dan black belt!" Hmmmm, my brain is going on overtime ... the buzzing is really kicking up on this one if it is true.

Ok, let me pose my "personal opinion" on this designation. First, in my opinion there is no provisional or probationary black belt. You are either a black belt or you are NOT a black belt. Second, this one year of consistent training to achieve/earn a certified black belt falls under the same statement above, you are either one or NOT one, no certified and not provisional; black belt or not.

I can only hypothesize that this may be an effort for system organizations to provide some additional incentive to remain at the dojo beyond achievement of Sho-dan. After all, most who earn the black belt usually "quit" after putting the belt on.

It could also, my opinion only, be another way to gain at least "one more year" of revenue too. I mean if you quit are you still paying dojo dues and organizational fees? Lets get real, if you promote someone to sho-dan and they quit then maybe, for me anyway, it requires a review of the instruction, etc.

If the foundation is set and one achieves black belt it should, in most ideal and best case scenario's, mean that this person has assumed the practice as a lifetime endeavor. Are you diminishing the value of both instruction and the coveted black belt by saying it has to be provisional for one year first? Why? If instruction is correct and adequate then why provisional? Why bother to try and suggest one more year? I don't get it?

It seems to me that since the other black belt levels do not require some provisional/probationary period before being a certified, Ni-dan, that this one level has some particular significance. So I have to ask myself, "Why provisional?" I have asked a person who is going to test for a "provisional black belt" to see if I can determine a reason at least in this one system.

I can also hypothesize that maybe this is something adopted by a larger organization, i.e. some world association, etc., and that maybe the dojo in question is simply following their guidelines and requirements and that its presence has no real meaning or effect on that particular dojo, Sensei and practitioner. Yes? No? Maybe? Theories?

It just sounds "hinkey" to me. In my system, my day, my dojo you were promoted to black belt and that was it for life. I always hoped that if you achieved it with me you were past the black belt goal phase and dedicated to a lifetime of practice. I can say about half of the black belts I awarded are still practicing some martial system. That aint' too bad and honestly do I think if I had added a provisional/probationary level for one year it would have caused some miracle change in that persons attitude to remain beyond, nope. I suspect by the time a person is a black belt their personal predisposition is pretty much set and what ever happens, happens.

I also suspect that defining provisional is not going to be cut and dry but rather subjective to what ever organization, system, dojo, and/or Sensei decide is "their" way. Nothing wrong with this ...

p.s. by the way, the single gold stripe - The gold stripes seen on many Okinawan black belts represent the special title designations, i.e. a renshi, hanshi, etc. There are only three and depending on the title, etc. are either one, two or three gold stripes.

p.s.s. In some places it is taught that Okinawan Karate-ka don't bother with titles such as this nor do they use the gold stripes but many of the leaders in such as Uechi-ryu, etc. use them. Hmmm!

The Brain and All the Hoopla about Monkey and Lizard Stuff

Chiron Blog by Rory Miller provided a term I had not heard before, Triune Brain. In that light as I tend to do I did some searching on the subject that led me to a site I believe would be beneficial to all readers as it leads you to all the complexities of the brain functions that can either help or hinder our ability to apply karate or any system to self defense/protection, etc.

The site I found the most helpful in my continued understanding of how we work in society is: http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/index_i.html 

It has layers much like Marc MacYoung's web site "No Nonsense Self Defense" so take your time and go through the main topics then click links to continue the journey to more knowledge.

One main point I have derived so far confirms what others with more experience than I tell us about self defense. In a nutshell it is best to enhance our instincts provided by mother nature to achieve a good solid defensive ability. If I have got it right that means "avoidance" is still the 90% rule. Taking those natural abilities that have worked so well for centuries and give it some enhancements that build on it will serve most folks better than simply learning a few techniques and then assuming they will work when needed. News flash folks, us normal folks will not apply these waza but simply fall back on the flight or fight response. Actually, freeze and face the threat then either totally freeze or run like hell or something like this, read the pages and come to your own conclusions.

What I found to be important to this site is it validated the teachings of what I have "seen and heard." It also provides some insights as to how you can enhance your training and practice so you can program how your brain constructs things and hopefully puts it into action when required.

Instruct/Practice Self Defense? Read this site!

Mr. Brandon Otto's Use of Force site at www.useofforce.us ... awesome information!

What would you recommend my son do to learn how to defend himself?

My neighbor asked me this question recently and it is difficult to explain in a few sentences just "recommend" a course that will provide him the answer he seeks. Hear is the truth of this, his perceptions brought to the table when the question was asked colors his ability to accept the complex and very long answer I was tempted to throw at him. I then stopped myself, became mindful of the emotion that trigger this impulsive response, took out the story related to that emotion, and then finally spoke from a logical perspective.

What would I recommend, I started by saying that he might want to study the legal and moral ramifications to fighting first. I also mentioned that he must also find out the psychological effects which would last a life time that his son WILL have to deal with if he gets into a fight. I was focusing a bit more on the view of a school yard scuffle, i.e. acting in a bullying situation, etc.

I felt those two items would open his eyes a bit more yet I also feel that due to the ego driven machismo attitudes driven by testosterone survival hunter-warrior instincts provided by mother nature, DNA and the male genes he would fixate on learning the ultimate techniques guaranteed to provide all the defense you will ever need in life type programs.

In the end he pretty much ignored my advice and enrolled his son into a Korean system that from my analysis was "sport oriented" with a bit of self defense rhetoric thrown in for good sales/measure. He in a short time has already achieved a colored belt.

This just reminds me how hard it is to change someone's mind once they have "accepted" something as truth and the way of things. After all it is much easier to just take a class, learn a few techniques, and then set your mind into a comfort zone that says I can handle any situation if it comes up. The best thing about this, if there is truly a silver lining in every cloud, is that in all likelihood his son, in this case, will never actually encounter a truly violent attack. Yes, he may be exposed to a school yard scuffle or a bullying session but because he is fairly athletic and well liked at school I doubt it will happen.

Regardless, it got me to thinking so I went to my sources on Self Defense and came up with some questions I would want to see answered from any instructor of a self-defense program.

Questions to pose regarding Self-Defense:

1. Do you instruct participants as to what is violence?
2. Do you instruct participants as to what are the medical/mental ramifications to violent acts?
3. Do you instruct participants as to what are the legal ramifications to violence?
4. Do you instruct participants so they can recognize environmental and human conditions that indicate violence or possible violence?
5. Do you instruct participants so they can recognize the stages that lead to actual physical violence-altercations-fighting-predatory violence, etc.?
6. Do you instruct participants as to the definition of self defense?
7. Do you instruct participants as to the legal definition and requirements of self defense?
8. Do you instruct participants so they know and can apply "people skills?"
9. Do you instruct participants as to a life style self analysis regarding their possible exposure to violence, violent environments, etc.?
10. Do you instruct your participants that physical applications of self defense should be the absolute last resort?
11. Do you instruct your participants that the physical end of self defense is also the most unreliable of responses?
12. Does instruction focus more on the "options" that would prevent you from ending up in any violent situation that would require physical responses?
13. Do you instruct on those behaviors, the participants behaviors, that lead to violence, i.e. will result in your escalating it vs. deescalating it?
14. Do you instruct on the difference between self defense and fighting?
15. Do you instruct that it is not a matter of winning or losing but two persons who will both be arrested and if you are the winner you will be arrested?
16. Do you instruct the participants that involvement in any violence will have life long effects, both physical but mostly psychological?
17. Do you instruct the participants that in reality "most people" cannot apply effective self defense techniques in a crises?
18. Do you instruct the participants that the adrenaline dump caused in a crises can only be overcome through specific and ongoing training, it is not a matter of take a few classes and then assume it will work when needed?
19. Do you instruct the participants in the ability to communicate correctly regarding self defense with police and defending your actions in a court of law?
20. Do you instruct the participants in their responsibility for their words/actions, i.e. see manners, etc.?
21. Do you instruct the participants or at least introduce participants to the concepts of the behaviors that "lead up to" violence?
22. Do you instruct the participants as to where they can continue their research into the concepts of behaviors leading to violence? laws? psychological ramifications, etc.?
23. Do you instruct the participants that research, education, analysis, and seeking legal/expert advice/instruction, etc. is an ongoing process much like education, i.e. it is continuous for life?
24. Do you instruct the participants that is is their responsibility to seek legal advice as to Self defense before taking a self-defense program or before completing said program? Is this a requirement/prerequisite to the programs attendance/completion?
25. Do you instruct the participants as the difference between "lethal" vs. "non-lethal" force?

I am still coming up with questions and in all likelihood most courses of self-defense will not be able to answer them or they will skirt the questions with sales pitches that promote their ultimate programs.

I just am very thankful that in today's world unless you choose or are born into environmentally proven violent conditions you will never have to deal with the truth of it. You can rest in your comfort zone with less than a one percent chance you will encounter the need to defend in a violent encounter. Not my expert guess but one derived from my expert sources.

What is the Ken-po Goku-i?

As to Isshinryu, which is the basis and reason for my study of this short terse tome on karate-do:

The "Kenpo Gokui"(Secrets of the Fist Way), taken from the Bubishi's "8 Poems of the Fist." Shimabuku Sensei reportedly received his Ken-po Goku-i from his Goju-ryu teacher, Miyagi Chojun. This document was very important in the development of Isshinryu. Shimabuku Tatsuo would give copies of the ken-po goku-i to his early students.

Advincula Sensei relates information on this as follows:

Isshinryu's Kenpo Gokui is from White Crane. The Kenpo Gokui is the yin while "Kihonteki, kata and kumite" (practiced until they become "one") is the yang of Isshinryu. Tatsuo used the I Ching which influenced his creation and practice of Isshinryu. We can see this in the Kenpo Gokui.

Kenpo gokui is a code which is often called the Pome of kenpo (Karate). The word kenpo is made from two kanji or Chinese characters; ken means "fist" and po means "law". Kenpo means "fist method" or "Law of the fist."

A code is a systematic statement of a body of law. A law is a system of principles or rules that also include a moral code. A moral code is a state of mind that dictates moral practices or teachings, modes of conduct, and ethics. Conduct is the act, manner, or process of carrying on in different situations be it mental or physical. A code is also a system of symbols letters or numbers used to represent assigned (and often secret) meaning(s).

The Kenpo gokui has eight precepts (as does article 13 of Bubishi). Precepts are principles intended as a general rule of action. Action is a function of the mind, body, and/or one of its parts, and can also be the manner or method of performing something. This can be brought about by altering or modifying each precept (much like the I-Ching) to suit a certain situation. Each situation can be dealt with by physical force or with (civility) reasoning. Reasoning means using the mind and drawing inferences or conclusions through the use of reason and or argument. Argument demands reasonable thinking and thought.

The Kenpo gokui is a micro I Ching (Book of changes/wisdom) in the form of a very terse, forty word pome (a pome of wisdom). The very reason it is called essential. The Kenpo goku puts the "Do" in karate for it is the very essence of karate.

The gokui are the "Essential principles of a system". To Tatsuo Sensei these precepts of the Kenpo Gokui were so important that he gave his students a copy written in kanji on silk.

The Kenpo gokui is rich in history and knowing it brings more value to Isshinryu as an art. Karate is not just punching, striking, and kicking; it is about life and harmony. Harmony of Mind, body, and spirit. Harmony of cultures.

This is a set of thoughts as taught in the Isshinkai, a group dedicated to the preservation of traditionally taught Isshinryu by Tatsuo Sensei.

You find many variations from system to system even in the splinter groups of the Isshinryu system. Not many actually have any understanding as to its purpose in karate but those who wish to go beyond the mere physical manifestations, to even find more of the physical, can discover many things by the research, investigation, study of the silk certificates.

A couple of notes one should consider when in receipt of the English translation. It was written by someone other than Tatsuo Sensei who provided the kanji versions. It should be understood that the English versions don't connect exactly to the characters for those are more subjective in relation to the times, customs, and beliefs of the person who wrote it, it was written long, long ago by Chinese who passed it down within the system of ken-po or way of the fist.

I found that it can and does provide more than just its minor connection to karate or any other martial system that has it in their teachings. I see that it has connections to the I Ching or book of changes, the tao-te-ching, and other older translated Chinese classics.

I see it as a key that can and does open many doorways revealing many paths with a variety of signposts that when followed lead to more answers and more questions that result in a never ending endeavor to learn, understand and practice both karate and all of life's encounters, etc.

I hope this short and vague answer inspires the reader to seek out, investigate, analyze and understand it and its implications for there is not right answer, only the unique answers for each individual.

I have a blog that posts on this and older, unpublished web pages, that expand on my studies from the beginning to today. Anyone who wishes to read what I have compiled can ask via email and I will try to create a pdf to send to you.

Think of the ken-po goku-i as a seed. You plant it, cultivate and feed it, you let it grow not knowing it it will be a beautiful flower or just another weed. Don't pull it until it presents its true self, you never know. Most gardens are filled with the beauty of nature in flowers, shrubs, and bushes while the weeds are few due to the gardeners constant tending of the garden of knowledge.

What is the difference between ippon kumite and bunkai?

Awesome question from Sue C. of the "My journey to black belt" blog site.

So, how would I answer this question, a very, very good question I  have not had presented in my past instruction, training, and practice. Let me begin by first providing my literal definition of each.

Ippon Kumite:

Ippon literally means "one point." Then it is connected to other Japanese terms to provide greater meaning, i.e.

Ippon-ken: one-fist, Ippon-kowashi-no-waza: one technique to destroy, Ippon-nukite: one figher spear hand, and then finally Ippon-kumite which means to me a "one point sparring" process or technique.

To me ippon-kumite is just a level or step in the process to train a practitioner to apply a karate technique, not sport fighting, against another pre-defined technique. Both parties are restricted to either applying or countering one set of applicable techniques. This is a drill format training tool. Since ippon kumite in my system of instruction does not occur until all the fundamentals are ingrained and at least "one" kata is thoroughly covered one does not do kumite of any kind.

In my system of instruction the drills or ippon-kumite level is derived from the kata bunkai (see next for my view/definition of bunkai). This is not always true in other dojo to include other dojo that teach the same system as I do. Some actually have separate ippon-kumite, or drills, that are created from fighting techniques. These fighting techniques are those best used for tournament/sparring/competitive/sport derived applications. I believe Tatsuo Sensei as well as most of the Americans who brought it to the United States developed.

When you consider the short duration and the predominance of promotions that came from Tatsuo for their participation and achievements in "contests" which are tournament/sport oriented you see why they split from kata bunkai to a separate and unique form of instruction and practice.

Ippon-kumite is merely a tool that introduces the practitioners to fighting techniques and helps develop and train in the gross or broad strokes so proper form, stance, posture, weight transfer, power generation, etc. can be taught, trained, practiced and applied in a relatively reality based trainable fighting system.

Too many karate-ka who were exposed to the shortened versions of this tool ended up dropping the kata bunkai for sport fighting techniques and combinations that would get points quickly and achieve recognition and promotions for the trophies won, etc.

In my system of instruction I have tried to keep the kata bunkai, the foundation of techniques for the system as I see and believe it to be, tied to the actual fighting training tools that provide the foundation to applying true karate techniques to fighting, i.e. defensive applications in a combative non-regulated non-sport oriented endeavor.

Once a practitioner achieves a level of proficiency in ippon-kumite then they will move to san-bon-kumite, gohon-kumite, shiai-kumite and finally jiyu-kumite with levels and graduations of levels in and between each of these kumite/drills. The idea is not to find patterns and habits but to achieve a level of proficiency with an end result of each individual taking it beyond the drill/pattern/form level into a unique level where the person can achieve results spontaneously and according to such things as range, application of proper technique, power, and so on. Since fighting is fluid, chaotic and dangerous one must have a foundation that can be morphed and connected and molded on the fly which is extremely difficult. Ergo, why drills with combo's for sport are so quick and more easily achieved, no real effort.

Ippon-kumite at the base level is slow and deliberate enough with mutually beneficial relationships between uke-n-=tori that allows one to "see," "hear," and "feel" how it all works and connects so the brain/mind can learn and file it for retrieval when needed later, etc. Each kumite/drill adds, changes, and increases the level of difficulty. It is not set it stone either.

Each of these can be moved up in intensity as well as a more chaotic application. If you have a variety of one-step sparring techniques after learning them in order and correctly you can start to mix and match, set the drills and follow them, with a final application where tori-n-uke are free to pick and choose what they wish to apply in a one-step fashion to achieve spontaneity of a sort.

Kata Bunkai:

Kata are the blueprints of the system. They contain all the system has to offer for fighting but that is not the limit of what kata provides to the entire person and system of practice and training (this is another post entirely).

Bunkai are and always have been the core techniques of the kata/system. The system has basic bunkai or basic understanding of each move, etc. It is a basic understanding that can and is applied for practical use in fighting. The standard basic bunkai of the system is set by the creator but is not restricted exactly to it other than as the introduction of kata bunkai.

It is incumbent on the Sensei and the Practitioner to achieve more regarding bunkai which when taken to a higher level incorporates the "fundamentals of the system." If it does not then the bunkai are merely academic thoughts which should be ignored if the fundamentals are not present.

Even tho a system has basic movements with basic practical applications bunkai means once the basics plus fundamentals are achieved and proficiency reached the individual must continue to break down the kata moves to achieve a deeper understand and potential of applied to fighting criteria that includes basics, fundamentals and now greater bunkai.  It is a means for the practitioner to "study" their system of its basic practical applications to find more that can be applied practically.

If you then tie both ippon-kumite (as wall as sanbon, etc.) to this level of bunkai study you can then extrapolate and examine additional "karate techniques" and test them for validity to real life fights.

This is an aspect many seem to have lost, the fact that ippon-kumite is not just a basic tool of instruction but a tool the higher level practitioners use to find out if their bunkai has all the fundamentals and actually can be applied to a fight, etc. It helps validate it before one has to use it. It is a tool that helps us find realistic training application that supplements all training tools.

One more tool for the instruction/training/practice tool box.