"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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Is there actually an accurate translation of the ken-po goku-i?

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I wonder all the time which of all the translations are accurate to the kanji passed to us as the "ken-po goku-i." Let me begin by what is provided just for the title, "ken-po goku-i."

Ken means "fist." Po means "law." But doe it really mean that when you look at the kanji. I will use the translation from the AJA tribe which has not apparent kanji characters available for the title. I have one copy of the silk certificate where you can extrapolate the approximate characters but since it is written by hand and the clarity is questionable who can tell for sure.

First, the block and hand written versions in the accompanying graphic have no kanji for the title of ken-po goku-i. In the silk certificate you can see at the far right four characters that would fit the "ken" "po" "goku" "i" translation. Since they are written in what I would call "freehand or cursive style" it is hard to determine the exact characters.

Some may ask the question, "Why bother?" Well, from my perspective if we are to study the system completely we must study the ken-po goku-i but to do that we must find the "correct and accurate" translations of the characters. If you compare these three you can at least determine with some accuracy the block characters to the free hand of the silk certificate and be pretty positive they are the same.

This reminds me of the study of the I Ching, did the translator's get the character to English right?

I have two kanji sites I will use to try and determine the meaning of the characters. Also, I have humbly asked a Isshinryu practitioner who is currently stationed on Okinawa to see if he can get a more accurate translation from the Okinawan Isshinryu practitioners, etc. Petty Officer 2nd Class Andy Sloane, Go-dan Isshinryu Karate-do.

1 - http://www.saiga-jp.com/cgi-bin/dic.cgi?m=search&sc=0&f=0&j=&g=&e=&s=&rt=0&start=1&sid=1256767060_65568
2 - http://translate.google.com/#en|ja|

Another issue is that these characters have more than one meaning when taken separately which also convolutes the translations and overall meaning. Take the character for "heart" which is used  in the Isshinryu kanji as well, it is " 心 ."

1 - heart: 心 = mind, spirit, heart, a soul, a thought, will, a mood, a feeling, sincerity, consideration, sympathy, the core
2 - heart: 心 = heart, mind, core, wick

As can been seen there are several ways to interpret the kanji. Another issue as will be seen is that when you translate the English versions of the kanji translations through the google translation module you find that the characters that are provided in the silk, and other, certificates don't translate to those English versions - none of them.

Note: The thought just occurred to me of another road block to understanding martial systems with my emphasis on Isshinryu and Ken-po Goku-i. Humans, my theory, tend to "stop" when they first perceive an answer they feel is what they are looking for in relation to their experience and understanding to that point. It is the same when reading we come across the very first thing that seems to answer our inquiry according to our perspective and view then we "stop." This may also be why the translations don't gel, we got what seemed like the stuff we seek and never took it beyond that point. My experience to date, a hard lesson still trying to work past, indicates that we need to go beyond our acceptance and seek out more knowledge for that additional knowledge will change our views, knowledge, and perceptions.

Back to the title, ken-po goku-i. The first part, ken, is 拳. I have viewed it in both 1 & 2 to find that it, the kanji character, matches the one in the silk certificate. It means, "fist." The part, "po," has been provided as "law" in most translations. I found in both 1 & 2 the same character as the silk, "法," which means "law" in both.

We can translate the first two title characters as, "拳法," as "fist law." So, this seems to translate to "fist law for ken-po." Yet, does it really. What happens when you put fist and law together in 2. You get, "拳法," which seems to work, in this case. I also reversed the translation in 1 and got back the same, which often is not the case, of "Kenpo."

Here is where things get a bit muddled, the goku-i part in both 1 & 2 don't match to the two remaining characters in the silk version of the graphic so we must do a bit of hunting to find the correct translations. How do we do that? First, what is the English translation found on various sites:

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a. essential principles or essential points which become, "essential = 必須 and point = 点," no match. As a matter of fact, which adds to the confusion, when the characters are copied and placed in the reverse they translate to "required." Interesting, yes! Essential principles is, "essential = 本質的な and principle = 原理. Neither translate properly and in reverse, "本質的な原理 = essential principles." Do we start to "see" how convoluted it all is and that translations are very difficult if we don't know and understand the author's intent as to the time, place, customs, and beliefs of that person and time and country!

The hand written version has what the author "believes" are the English equivalents but do they, according to the translation of 1, you get:

person 人 - heart 心 - same と同じ - heaven 天 - earth 地

and we can tell immediately that although separately some are verified yet not all and one that does partly has two other characters that are appended, etc. to complete the translation.

If we translate just the English in site 2 we get:

person 人 - heart 心 - same と同じ - heaven 天 - earth 地
blood 血液 - pulse パルス - similar 同様 - sun 日 - moon 月
method 方法は、- hard ハード - soft ソフト - swallows 飲み込む - spit 唾
position 位置 - advance 事前 - pass パス - separate 別の - meet 満たして
body 体 - follow します - movement の動き - proceed 続行 - change は、変更
hand 手 - meet 満たす - empty 空 - suddenly 突然 - enter のように入力します
eye 目 - necessary 必要な - see を参照してください - four 四 - sides 辺
ears 耳 - "should examine" を調べる必要があります - eight は、8つの - directions 方向

Although the core characters, mostly, appear there are still other characters that are added to make the translation work in this site. The first site does not allow for full translations that can be added to this post but if you take a few moments and punch in the English you find some are accurate but have again many other English meanings so which would be correct and/or accurate.

Since I could not find a character for either goku or i I find that the character translation for that part is to be even more "iffy" but maybe Sloane Sensei can provide them from Okinawa.

I took the next graphic from site 1 and find that they "might" be the closest characters using a lot of leeway. They would mean essential points and if they are by some chance correct we get, "fist law essential points," which to my view come close to what I would use as a meaning behind the title of this group of characters.

What is the hardest thing to learn in martial arts?

Wow, love this one and there could be many, many answers. Bet the readers can provide about a million answers to this question. Some might say learning to do the jump spinning back kick while others might say applying a specific pressure/vital point technique - take your pick.

The hardest thing anyone can learn in the martial arts is, "self-honesty!" The ability to see any and all obstacles encountered in the training and practice from the view that if it goes well or not so well it is because you did not do something correctly, i.e. failed to follow a fundamental principle, etc. Self-honesty in that you are "brutally critical of yourself." Not so brutal that you end up hindering your training and progress but a form that allows you to see truth and to have the intestinal fortitude to "change" and "correct."

We as humans, my speculation and theory, tend to look "outward" to the answers. If we lose an encounter we automatically tend to lay blame on something totally out of our control. We would allow ourselves to say it is ok cause it ain't my problem when in reality every experience and its effects are always a direct result of us, what is inside us, etc.

In martial arts the body-mind connection is critical. The body-mind principle [read the book, "The Book of Martial Power," in this book will provide more information regarding this subject matter.

If we delude ourselves, fool ourselves, encode false beliefs and perceptions then we lose. Only by our ability to self-analyze ourselves, our honesty with ourselves, only then can we truly learn and apply martial arts.

I quote, "The state of the  mind effects the state of the body; the state of the body effects the state of the mind. As the mind perceives, so the body follows. ...  As martial artists we require a deeper, more specific understanding of how each effects the other."

Perlman, Steven J. "The Book of Martial Power: The Universal Guide to the Combative Arts." New York. The Overlook Press. 2006.

Is Karate legal for Self-defense?

Maybe the better question is, "Will being a black belt in a martial art be detrimental to a self-defense criminal trial action if I use it or participate in an altercation?"

Vague but good question. I can only say that it may or may not be detrimental to a person who intervenes for defending or self defense if attacked or intervenes to assist another under attack, etc. Rory Miller does remind MA's that most of what we practice is actually "illegal." I assume that because of the nature of karate practice, combative and not sport, that the techniques are kind of brutal in their applications [an understatement yes ... ].

I can only tell you what I think personally and that is if you defend yourself, you find your being prosecuted, and now trying to justify your actions in the manner most appropriate for a self defense defense strategy you might find the Jury thinking that because you are a "professional," as they perceive it from media propaganda, you might find that your MA will get you convicted.

Even in criminal court if you win what would it tell a jury that is deciding your civil suit?

These are questions I would be asking a lawyer who actually specializes in self defense law (force law), etc. because I suspect it is very complicated and convoluted. It is why some professionals like Mr. Miller and Mr. MacYoung will recommend you retain a good force law/self defense lawyer. Especially if you teach as a martial artist self defense.

After all, it also should be a part of your training syllabus, yes? It makes me wonder just how many "self-defense" training systems actually stop to consider this and it also makes me wonder how many assume that their liability insurance will take care of any suits [might be a false sense of security, might]? It also asks, how many are out there that don't know and don't even have insurance to mitigate this type of action?

p.s. I just received a couple of comments from both Rory Miller and Marc MacYoung on this topic. In a nutshell it does not matter for if you can "articulate" your stand in self-defense you will be addressing that aspect or view. "Articulation" seems the most important aspect in you defense and it should be a part of your training and practice, i.e. analyzing situations and coming up with the words and phrases that would "articulate" why you did what you did. Thanks to both Mr. Miller and Mr. MacYoung!

Is this statement really true?

"A clear mind is the only thing that can help you in a confrontation."

Not really, a clear mind is pretty much impossible yet you can train to control the mind to a point. Remaining present and mindful of the present moment seems more appropriate.

If you also take into account the adrenaline dump effects to the mind you might find your mind doing so really strange and bizarre things. The idea is to make your actions instinctive or encode them well to achieve proficient ability yet that is not the crucial matter when we talk of the mind. It is complex and involves our perceptions and beliefs along with the knowledge of what we will "actually encounter" in a real attack. Not the monkey dance which has a path it follows before blows are thrown, generally, but that unexpected and violent attack of some nefarious dude who has his goal and plan done and in place while your mind is trying desperately to understand what is happening, etc.

In a nutshell before you believe or tell yourself the story that what you practice will be there for you make sure you find out all about violence and violent people so you can determine your needs and your beliefs in what you would or would not do if attacked. This is a simplistic answer with only one goal, to get you the reader to find out about all this stuff before you have to deal with it.

If I recommend anything it is to access the No Nonsense Self Defense site by Marc MacYoung then go to the Conflict Communications site by both Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller for a real good start. Then get, read, and re-read books by both these guys. Start with Mr. Miller's new book "Facing Violence" where he succinctly provides the primer to violence before you face it.

We can spout off such things as "mushin and zanshin" but until you actually "know" about the subject and have practiced and trained with that knowledge driving the specifications of the realistic training/practice mushin and zanshin are merely words, sound bites to impress students and the uninitiated.

Don't take my word for it. I do not have the experience these folks have and when I ran my self defense training it was "INCOMPLETE" because I really didn't know or understand what these guys are teaching us.

Oh, as to the word, "only," that is a bit misleading. Fighting whether it is the monkey dance or a true violent encounter involves a lot more than "only the clear mind."  There is stuff before a situation, during the situation, and after it is all done. The variables involved begin with the mind and mind training yet they extend far beyond that and if all of the parts are not working together to some extent then it can fail.

The idea is to "NOT FAIL!"

Caveat Alert - Danger, Danger, Danger Will Robinson

I quote a lot of folks; I allude to their writings; I am wanting to ensure that readers know that the opinions and theories and stuff I post is my opinion, theory, idea's, beliefs, and interpretations of said sources and MUST NOT BE MISCONSTRUED as coming from them or that they are validating/advocating anything I say here on this and other blogs.

I use them as sources of posts where I tend to slide off into my own world, my soapbox monkey brain. I am meandering through this wonderful world of ours, the martial arts, and want everyone to KNOW that this is my stuff and subject to being incorrect; to omissions; to errors of all kinds.

Take it all with a huge dose of skepticism. Nothing is as it would seem yet if has value in your "PURSUIT" of truth and knowledge if only as a stepping stone to greater knowledge.

If you find I am in error; if I am just wrong; if I have omitted; if I have misinterpreted then comment! I can take it! Go ahead and let me know for it means I still can learn and grow and prosper from the wisdom of all who stop by and read my mindless meanderings of martial arts and life.

What is a Powerful Kata? How can one observe a powerful kata?

A blogger made this statement, "When I observe a strong kata, I think: I really would not want to get hit by that person." It made me ask, "how can one observer power in a kata?" The following is my possible answer(s):

How can you observe a strong kata? What constitutes an outward manifestation of what is called a "strong kata?" An interesting question because I wonder if the person is looking for so called telltale signs of power. Isn't it reality that true power manifests itself as "not powerful looking" if applied correctly?

In The Book of Martial Power is is quoted as, "The Power Paradox." Defined in the book as, "true power feels, and actually should be, effortless AND that which feels like powerful exertion is not." Does this mean that one should not or cannot actually observe a strong kata?

Or, maybe looking at it another way is that the person who said he liked to observer a strong kata as in the quote means that his observation does NOT detect what is normally thought of as power or powerful kata.

Maybe they meant that if the kata is strong it merely displays good stances, good stance transition; applied techniques as appropriate with momentum, speed and power; maybe observing powerful kata is the observation of good posture, body alignment, economy of motion, structure. If this is what was meant then yes, I would not want to be on the receiving end of that karate-ka if they were going to hit me.

Perlman, Steven J. "The Book of Martial Power: The Universal Guide to the Combative Arts." New York. The Overlook Press. 2006.

"Do we lose creativity due to being judged?"

" ... no one can judge us unless we let them." - Rory Miller Chiron Blogger

Reading a post by Rory Miller on the Chrion blog created this question in my mind. Could this be one reason why testing and judging someone's ability promotes a loss of creativity? Rory does mention, I believe, that our creativity (or is it spontaneity) is important in self-defense.

Is it also a detriment if we are told that we "must remain true to the system" by not allowing any deviation in our practice. Some today think that it is critical to remaining true to the system by adhering to a maxim that "one should learn, practice, and teach the system as the creator/founder taught it." [note: this might be a good thing if those who teach today actually learned and had full knowledge of the entire system; start to mastery!]

If we practice for self improvement and remove any and all intent to use it in real fighting and/or self defense then maybe this maxim us valid yet if what I am perceiving it true then doesn't it cause us to lose an important aspect of martial arts for defense, spontaneity/creativity?

If we spend our time trying to memorize it "exactly and unchangingly and rigidly" are we not removing the trait that may actually provide us the ability to use it in defense/combat/fighting?

If we are focused on validation from Sensei, Dojo, and the governing organizations don't we lose the real focus of defense in application? If we don't actually point our focus where it does the most good then it seems we should make sure our intent is self-improvement and not delude ourselves into believing that it provides security and ability in defense.

As an instructor would it be more prudent and efficient if I am able to inspire creativity and spontaneity vs. dogmatic doctrine used to control and profit?

I advocate participation in events like seminars and tournaments but to test our mental ability to deal with pressure, etc. so also recommend when participating remove the judging and thoughts of winning and focus on training the mind to deal with stress, stressful situations and such yet leave all the fluff and glitter in its proper place.

Remove the external and remain fixed on what internals are needed to achieve a goal. It is like one of the principles of martial power being to focus on the true and efficient application of principle and forget about the opponent. Keep focus properly focused!

What is the best source for a beginner to learn about self defense?

Many might say that a person should seek out a martial arts training facility that specializes in self-defense yet I don't feel that is adequate. A person intent on following this path must first learn and understand what they are seeking and that comes from knowledge.

Knowledge may get you to thinking, well I don't want to get into a fight or be attacked to gain knowledge of what I need to know and you may ask, "Where can I learn about this before I look for training?" I would make some recommendations but as of today I have received the one "starter book" for the uninitiated and inexperienced that will give them some working knowledge so if they feel they still need to seek out training they will have a foundation of knowledge that will allow them to "ask the right questions."

Asking the "right questions" is critical. Critical so you will achieve your true goals and critical so you are not "fooled" into a false sense of security and critical to save you from spending your good hard earned cash on something that will NOT provide security and SELF-DEFENSE.

Start here:

This book can be the cornerstone to self defense!
If you finish this book, the primer to facing violence of all kinds, then if you still feel it necessary to pursue training then I suggest you continue on with:

Miller, Rory. Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence. YMAA Publications. 2008

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.

MacYoung, Marc. No Nonsense Self Defense: http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/

MacYoung, Marc and Miller, Rory. Conflict Communications: http://www.conflictcommunications.com/index.htm
Otto, Frandon. Use of Force: http://www.useofforce.us/

MacYoung, Marc. "A Professional's Guide to Ending Violence Quickly: How Bouncers, Bodyguards, and Other Security Professionals Handle Ugly Situations." Paladin Press. Boulder, Colorado. 1996.

MacYoung, Marc. "Violence, Blunders, and Fractured Jaws: Advanced Awareness Techniques and Street Etiquette." Paladin Press. Boulder, Colorado. 1992.

Chiron Blog by Rory Miller: http://chirontraining.blogspot.com/

Was the Ken-po Goku-i actually a very important document in the development of Isshinryu?

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Reading a statement on the web concerning the value of the ken-po goku-i or the "Secrets of the Fist Way," taken from the Bubishi, is reportedly what is stated, a very important document to Tatsuo Sensei's efforts to create his own system of Okinawan karate-do. Is this true?

Now, as to the source of this statement I have to say that there is no reason I can fathom to refute this statement yet in my efforts to learn and understand I can not say emphatically that this statement is true/truth. Why?

In all the efforts to research the matter there has been absolutely nothing said, written, documented, passed down, passed along to anyone, American or Okinawan, that states its purpose and value to karate-do. We can infer a lot from our studies yet nothing to verify, validate, or explain it or its purpose other than this one statement.

Andy Sloane Sensei who is stationed on Okinawa and active in Isshinryu had this to say about my question: "This is not anything I've been able to come across in my research, and there are precious few senior Okinawan 1st-gen students left who even MIGHT be able to answer this.  It appears, though I could be wrong, that Tatsuo Sensei did not give out silk diplomas until after the Agena dojo opened in late 1957.  I would just have to guess that Tatsuo Sensei felt it was important enough to give it to them so much so that he had an English-language translation drafted by someone to assist in their understanding of the deeper meanings of their training. ... and ... he also stated as to the English-language translation ... y the way, you do know that the kanji for the precept 'The body should be able to change directions at any time' does not actually say that, right? Likewise, the kanji does not say 'The time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself.'"

Sloane Sensei has dedicated a lot of energy and effort to clarify various teachings of the Isshinryu system so I do consider him and expert in Isshinryu History, customs, and courtesies.

Personally, I find the ken-po goku-i, in its original/exact English form with Kanji, a valuable document in many things not just karate-do. I find its connections to the I Ching and other Ancient Chinese Books, etc. of even greater value. If nothing else it has taught me to seek out things way outside the box for both martial practice and other aspects of living this life of human being.

Now directly answering the original question, no one can say that it was or was not a very important document in the development of Isshinryu. We can theorize all we want yet Tatsuo Sensei is gone and since he cannot answer the question and his son, Kichero, cannot answer the question either then there is NO ONE who can validate the statement.

I can say if I wish, "The Ken-po Goku-i was directly responsible for influencing Tatsuo Sensei in his development and practice of Isshinryu!" I can also say, "The Ken-po Goku-i was NOT directly responsible for influencing Tatsuo Sensei in any way, form, fashion, etc., in his development and practice of Isshinryu!" Either way, can't prove the statement as either true or false, period!

Is there really a benefit to a person who gets a black belt in a variety of systems?

Yes. No. Did you expect me to answer it any other way. I have practiced Isshinryu for about 32 years as a black belt. I am familiar with other systems yet I felt instinctively that trying to take on more systems to lay claim to more black belts just would not work for me. In that I feel very lucky.

Also, I have done so with my system yet even now realize that I still have not learned all the principles/fundamentals of the system and/or those of all martial systems so how can I achieve a black belt in several systems in such a short time.

I had to take note of Marc MacYoung's comment about the system and its uniqueness of movement. To learn that and then several others along side it in short order seems to me to be a very tall order for even the best of practitioners who have natural ability, etc.

I guess that what I am saying, for me anyway, is that I am very lucky I couldn't fall into that trap and that I remained within my core martial system and continue to expand on it.

Yes, there is a benefit if it is merely your assimilating the system as a familiarization. No, if you are not fully encompassing all the systems principles, both martial in general and system specific, then your just adding a lot of different hand and foot movement that runs on your core system.

Lets not forget that in order to make all these systems available and applicable to combative aspects it takes a lot of work to encode it all adequately into the brain so it will actually work. That in itself says a lot cause it takes a lot of effort and time to achieve that natural and instinctive encoding, i.e. changing/adding to the minds neural pathways/networks, yes?

This then begs the question, why do it? If it is what I think, then it is merely a way to fluff up the martial art resume. Yes, I suspect this post, as many of my past posts, will "piss off" a lot of folks who have lived and achieved fame on having this or that many black belts in this or that many systems.

If you wish, won't hurt my feelings, to say that my disparity is simply jealously cause I never did or never could do the same then have at it.

p.s. Personal thought, once you have really, really learned your system then to achieve total understanding of another would require the same dedication and time so in a lifetime, to my view, you might be able to actually learn two systems ...

p.s.s. Oh, and truthfully can the brain/mind actually keep the two apart, i.e. not inadvertently as the brain does, meld them together. Can one do this with out the full time and dedication?

What is Muscle Memory? Is it real?

Second question first, "No." Now the first question. I want to answer it by providing a quote from a post made on the "Animal List" by a Mr. Marc MacYoung.

"Muscles do not have brain cells or any other capability that denotes a type, any type, of memory yet there ARE neural networks that course through the body -- this, as well stuff upstairs in your brain pan."

The usage is prevalent through out any physical endeavor but in martial circles it remains a steadfast answer to why someone has to repeat something over, over, over, and over again. It is inadequate and incomplete for the process of making a movement natural, as possible, and instinctive is complex and warrants more than this more simplistic answer.

The brain has what may be called neural pathways/networks where many things encode many things in the brain for retrieval and use by us in our every day lives. Normal, yes.

Encoding is where appropriate, efficient, and applicable training and practice add, adjust, change or modify those pathways or networks to when the mind achieves that state of "action" it actually retrieves the correct stuff and implements it with out conscious thought. A really tuff thing ergo why we practice, practice, practice.

This is also, like telling you about so called muscle memory, a simplistic answer yet it is supposed to inspire you to seek out the entire and complete answer as to why you have to do things a certain way to achieve instinctive action.

It prompted Mr. MacYoung to say, I quote: "I have such a problem with martial artists who claim to have 'mastered' five or six martial art styles in 15 years or so. ... This is somewhat problematic since, like different beers are brewed to go well with certain foods, a style's hand work is pretty specific to how they move their bodies. With someone who actually knows different styles, you can see the change in their body movement like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. With someone who has tacked on extra stuff, it's just them waving their hands around in different ways while their body remains the same."

I do like the way he puts stuff, informative and entertaining!

Why do Sensei go to the technical all the time to answer questions on fighting/defense?

The technical seems to be the easier path to follow. What I am saying is to immediately go to a specific technique to answer some question regarding, "What do you do in ???? situation Sensei?" You might also hear, "Why does this technique work or not work?" You find Sensei going directly into a demonstration of the why it worked or not or to demonstrate a specific technique that is supposed to work against that specified situation.

The hard road ... well ... is hard! Sometimes, mostly, folks want a simple this fills all type of answer and if it starts to take a while or get a bit complicated you can sometimes see in the eyes the mind just shutting down and they wait till your done and just say, "yes, thanks Sensei." You can say, "Do you understand?" They just smile and say yes Sensei.

In my opinion the strictly physical as taught mostly, my opinion here, is a matter of this technique to counter that technique. This kind of system can be learned quickly and with little effort yet when you start to add on stuff say like bunkai in kata the eyes glaze over and some tend to start second guessing their practice, etc.

The more esoteric explanations, the psychological, the discussions on repercussions in using martial systems, the principles/fundamentals that actually give the physical stuff their oomph are either not known thus lost or not discussed cause it takes time and a lot of effort to teach and learn, at both ends, i.e. practitioner and Sensei.

Lets not even get me started on those who do it, teach that is, because they enjoy the power and the sparring. I had one guy say that the only reason he had a dojo was to have students he could spar with and, basically although not openly admitted, to beat up on. Fruitless and pointless in martial arts.

A good example, when one person of note is asked about self defense you get sent to his site where the entire site is dedicated to that topic. It is deep and complex and has no clear cut answers. Why? Cause that is its nature.

What is Avoidance in regards to Self-Defense?

It might be good to try and convey what I feel is necessary to achieve the best and most effective self-defense posture every, "Avoidance!" So, I felt a short post to convey that idea so maybe someone can use it to discover their own personal self-defense avoidance system. If you follow the various posts on the Internet blogs, etc. you will understand the complexities of entering into violent behavior so therefore find that the only true way is to avoid it at all costs, this is why I am doing this post - Avoidance is the superior self-defense system ever.

Self-Analysis: The first layer to the "Art of Avoidance." Your life choices, do you find that your time is spent where you either encounter or witness violent behavior? Where you live, how you live, who you associate with or socialize with, how you play or socialize, where you work, the routes you take to work and going home, where you go and travel to do everyday life tasks, etc. All these will tell you, if you are brutally honest with yourself and determine the level of activity that exposes you to violence or violent environments, etc. will tell you if you even need to seek out the Art of Avoidance, i.e. self-defense instruction.

In your self-analysis the most important personal trait you can have is "honesty." That is total and unequivocal truth of who and what you are, etc. The ability to open all the protective layers you have acquired in life to see the true and completely bare exposed self. the naked self where nothing is hidden for to not see self completely and honestly can hide those things that lead to conflict and conflict leads to violence, etc.

Ask your "self:"

1. Are you willing to die for what you believe?
2. Are you willing to kill for what you believe?
3. Are you willing to sacrifice your family for what you believe?
4. Are you willing to sacrifice your financial security for what you believe?
5. Are you willing to sacrifice the family and financial security of the person your encountering?
6. Are you willing to sacrifice your mental and physical health and well-being for what you believe?

These are just "some of the questions" that you should ask your "self" about and the concerns you should consider if you decide to go past the Art of Avoidance and go right into violent behavior no matter the excuse or reason you believe justifies it.

Academia - Knowledge: The second layer of the "Art of Avoidance." Can you recognize violence, violent behavior, area's where violence is likely, what are traits of violence and violent people, what is predatory violence, what comprises self-defense what are the repercussions of self-defense/violence/violent people, what is the path that leads someone to violence, etc. If you cannot answer such questions then start here because if your brain/mind/spirit does not know these things you will fail at avoiding them. The brain and mind can only reference what is encoded in the memory so if it is not there ... ?

Do you know what kind of behaviors, yours, that will get you into violent encounters and situations? Are your communications skills viable to deal with the various personalties that make up people who tend to do violence/violent things?

The knowledge base must be one that not only encodes that information accurately in your brain but must be trained and practiced daily in life and in the training facility. If that does not occur then you need to find it and get there.

The third layer of the "Art of Avoidance." Do you or does your training facility actually teach the fundamentals/principles that provide what is necessary to avoid conflict. It it or they cannot answer let alone provide for any and all of the first two layers then seek it elsewhere.

Realistic training scenario's must be conducive to utilizing all the first two layers into action. Knowing something does not necessarily equate to the mind/brain actually retrieving it as viable in avoiding attacks. Utilizing the ability to discover and recognize actual signs or the instinctual alarms is not as easy as reading about it in a post.

The Art of Avoidance: This is the layer where the rubber meets the road. These are some of the things you must utilize and utilize frequently to achieve a good solid foundation of avoidance.

It is easier to start by providing zones that move away from the center, i.e. referred to in martial principles as "centrifugal." Then we will try to cover when danger or violent traits/behaviors/environmental stuff starts to penetrate that outer zone coming toward you, i.e. referred to in martial principles as "centripetal." [Note: I am taking some liberties with Stephen J. Pearlman's book of martial power.]

Your closest zone is what I call the exclusion zone. This is the moment a person or person's actually enter a range where either of you can actually attack physically with strikes, kicks, etc. This is called the exclusion zone because your goal here is to keep any and all folks who are intent on violence or violent intent from gaining access to your body. Here is where your martial training, if combative in nature, comes into play. This is the first that communication ability of  a diplomat is effective to keep if from physical and hopefully achieve deescalation, etc. Hopefully this zone is never penetrated under any circumstances because all the other layers achieved avoidance. Your diplomatic ability is coupled with all your senses, your body language, your demeanor, and more ... so if training does not teach it, seek it elsewhere.

The next zone is your clear zone. That area where you still have the ability to detect and still avoid by say, "running or leaving the area or seeking an area of safety, etc." Your EWS has triggered alarms and your eyes, hearing, smelling, etc. are assisting all those trained academic knowledge material into some semblance of intent and action to avoid.

The next zone is one that extends as far as the eye can see and the ears can hear. This is the zone that provides a much larger buffer zone and a lot more time to consider the alarms, etc. Nature imbued us with instincts that are programmed in our DNA and Genes so they tend to trigger that so called "spidey sense" so we pay attention. I mean pay attention and disregard/remove the stories we tell or might tell ourselves that this sense "means nothing, it cannot possibly happen" type stories, etc.

If I had to pick the most dangerous moment for anyone who is practicing the Art of Avoidance for Self-Defense it is this moment where we try to hide in some comfort zone of it can't happen to me syndrome. Yes, we do live in a society that provides a great deal of safety and security. It is not bullet-proof.

If your self-analysis dictates you should learn the Art of Avoidance/Self-Defense then don't let the little voice of dissent dissuade you from listening to the EWS alarms. Look at it this way, find safety quick and what harm does it do, none. It may mean a few moments delay in your journey but the delay if you get attacked will be a lot more costly. Think about it.

Environmental Awareness:
This layer speaks of both Self-Analysis of probability  of violent encounters where the places you go, you frequent, you need to pass through going to these places. Knowing this beforehand is paramount to avoidance. If you ignore them for convenience, etc. your asking for trouble and if you are asking then the probability of ending in violence is higher.

Know all the environments and what potential for violence they have so you can plan accordingly.

Self-awareness: Know thyself! Everything we do, say, encounter, experience, etc. is a direct result of "self." To me this means knowing how you think, act, talk, socialize, etc. so you will recognize those triggers that would send violence your way. This is especially important as to Self or "Ego." I would say in my limited experience and growing knowledge that the most responsible thing that always leads to or away from violence is knowing thyself, our ego's, or what some refer to as our "monkey brain."

A good maxim might be if you cannot take a picture of it, then it has done no damage you cannot recover from. If your being "dissed" or "insulted," etc. then the choice is all yours. If you allow such things to push your buttons and trigger anger, fear, resentment, etc. then you are open to responding in an inappropriate manner that can/will get you in deep.

All in all this is a mere tidbit of what I am trying to convey here as to the Art of Avoidance. Go to level one and try to continually learn and discover what violence is and what it takes to get there so you can avoid it at all costs.

Layers of avoidance are long and complicated. They have no real order of importance because it takes a "whole" to achieve success. Don't leave out any part and don't forget all the fundamentals/principles that are involved.

Remember, if you find you don't need it then don't yet if you have a remote chance of needing it, then do.

Questioning Authority: Why do karate-ka resist questioning authority in martial arts?

Somehow it was conveyed that one should never question the Sensei. How this came to be is a question of debate and its validity is also one of greater debate even today. Personally, my theory is that it started from a complete misunderstanding of how Asian's Sensei teach where it came to be understood that Sensei not talking or even recognizing a practitioner in practice was some "aloof" type demeanor that resulted in one putting that one up upon a pedestal. In some circles it was frowned upon and one who questioned Sensei was responded to as if they committed some grievous sin. I can go on yet that is not the point.

In some circles Sensei of Asian origin would demonstrate a thing, watch the practitioner emulate Sensei, then correct or demonstrate a couple more times, and finally leave the practitioner to practice. Sometimes with Americans it was not some special teaching method but a matter of communication where Sensei didn't speak English all that well so demonstrating and utilization of Sempai were the way to instruct.

Somehow, in America, I also theorize that some Sensei, prematurely taking on the mantle of dojo operator and instructor once sho-dan was achieved, tended to incorporate this method, wrongly of course, to preclude any questions that he/she could not answer. What occurs here is the fostering of incorrect and deficient and watered-down systems that no longer met the level of martial art or martial system.

I have run into those who when asked  would not comment as to my instruction or demonstration of something simply because my level was such-n-such and my years we so long or longer by a margin than theirs. Poppy-cock!

NO ONE; repeat; NO ONE is above or beyond reproach! Everyone is learning and everyone is capable of mistakes, errors and omissions. As I age I find that when I actually go to give a talk or to instruct a specific or set of specifics for martial arts I take a set of 5 by 8 note cards to use as a guide. I feel it is something done to make sure nothing is missed. I even take notes of questions I can not immediately answer so I can go back, think, contemplate and if needed find the answer in some further research. This seems "normal" to me, we are all fallible.

I found out early on that sometimes a beginner/novice or someone some where in the middle can see things or hear things that make a difference and can get me or any Sensei back on track, we all make errors and omissions and relating that to practitioners is not some unacceptable fault but a means to continue learning and refining.

How you ask the question and how you do it in the dojo, etc. does matter. Respect for one another is an intricate part of training and practice. How you pose the question is also important as it can denote how it is received and how it is interpreted. Communication and communicating questions is important and a most difficult technique, all part of what we are striving to learn in avoidance and deescalation, etc.

If I have posted/said it once I would say it a thousand times, if you have a question then ask it. How are you going to learn and discover if you don't seek out information and answers to questions. How can you possibly program/encode the mind/brain if you don't. Anything less can and will result in a loss of the way.