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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why do I need to learn Verbal Self-Defense?

We are martial artists. We have practiced many years to achieve a level of proficiency in handling the physical side of fighting, protection, and/or self-defense and that is a good thing. We are training to handle that technique, that attack, that physical action taken against us, our loved ones, in protection of the weaker, etc. So, why bother with VSD?

Let me begin by asking two questions, 1 - How often do you find yourself in a physical fight and 2 - how often do you get into a physical altercation or how often do fights come along in your life? I can truthfully say as a younger, less experienced, and more full of pride and ego youth I got into a few yet in the last thirty years I have not gotten into one single fight. I will also add I have not gotten into one violent encounter where I was attacked on the street indiscriminately - or so I would think.

Then I have to consider the next thought and that it is a rare occasion when one needs the physical skills of a martial artist. I am not including the training/practice in the training hall, the tournament, in seminars, or for any type of martial arts exhibitions/demonstrations. This happens constantly for martial artists yet it is not the street, not fighting, and not violent attacks, etc.

Lastly, there are many conflicts encountered by all of us almost daily. Think about what a conflict is and you will see it stretches far beyond fists flying like Bruce Lee's fists of fury. In most cases in the conflicts I am alluding to you would find that using your physical marital skills would get you fired, arrested, or all the above. Even if you are in the discipline where the danger of physical violence is a part you will still have to find alternatives to the physical or suffer repercussions like censure, complaints from recipients or family of same, malpractice complaints and lawsuits, and any other similar issues.

In closing one must take into consideration that which would govern the actual tactics and techniques that would in all likelihood be the most usable techniques to stop conflicts. Remember a few points: a - physical violence happens about once for every several hundreds of conflicts, and b - almost all of the physical attacks are preceded by "verbal attacks." You will have some action that hits on someone's pride or ego, you will have words, then hostile body language, i.e. bumping chests, etc., and then the hitting. Up to that point you always have a means of avoidance through adequate verbal self-defense, communications.

Take up the practice and training of verbal self defense. Learn to communicate, deescalate, and avoid physical and verbal violence. Nip it all in the bud long before it actually takes on a dangerous theme.

Elgin, Dr. Suzette Haden. Why You Need to Master Verbal Self-Defense. date unknown.

KIAI - Revisited, posted long ago far far away ...

Upon Sue's recommendation the following is re-posted [previously on kiai]:

"A shout delivered for the purpose of focusing all of one's energy into a single movement. Even when audible KIAI are absent, one should try to preserve the feeling of KIAI at certain crucial points within martial arts techniques."

To most this may be the definitive definition of the "Kiai" as it is practiced in today's fighting arts. It turns out that there is so much more to the practice of "Kiai" and I hope to be able to convey that in the following.

"The Real Meaning of Kiai"

Kiai may be described much the same as the indefinable definition of "Tao". The potential power which governs the course of human life, and that source of energy that is inherent in all things - the energy of all energies. Its presence is in all things and the presence of kiai can be detected in all activities from gardening to playing checkers.

The Kiai is a compound of "Ki" meaning 'mind', 'will', 'spirit' and "Ai" is a contraction of the verb 'awasu' which signifies "to unite".

Psychologically it is the art of concentrating the whole of one's energy, 'Ki', upon a single object with that (energy/ki) which conquers that object. It is the art of deep, diaphragmatic belly, breathing (see crises breathing). It is that practical application within the fighting arts, and other aspects of life, used (within the fighting arts) to gain an advantage over your opponent.

Kiai is that energy or power one takes in action along with a strong resolve to complete said action to a successful conclusion, not losing. It is that force which instills the impulse to take advantage of any and all opportunities to not lose.

The fighting arts are of many styles and branches yet 'kiai' is the life blood of all; with out kiai the art itself can not be practiced to perfection.

The karate-ka who gains the advantage of their opponent first will not lose. It is not the physical techniques themselves that carry the battle but 'kiai' is that which gives the budo-ka the power to gain the advantage and not lose. [it must be noted that this perception resides in knowledge, understanding, and application of the fundamental principles of martial systems; kiai is simply an expression of those principles as applied - a simplistic expression of kiai]

The budo-ka must fix their mind on the 'saika tanden or hara', the point just below the naval, and to not think of delivering a strike to the opponent or of the opponents striking (remaining of mind no-mind). [note that to focus on principles is superior to that of any specific technique for the principles, kiai included, when applied bring about superior applications in fighting, etc.]

One must cast aside all specific thoughts and deal with the attacker quickly the moment an opportunity presents itself. To exert kiai at that specific moment is necessary to not lose the battle.

"Kiai and Breathing"

Kiai begins with proper breathing techniques [once again, note that this is begin and all principles are involved where kiai is another expression of many of those]. When you exhale you should feel both muscles and bone relaxing. When inhaling one should feel the strengthening of both muscle and bone. When exhaling you feel a loss of strength and energy while the opposite is true when inhaling. To attack emptiness with fullness is a sure means of not losing. Therefore kiai is synonymous with the art of breathing.

"Kiai wo Kakeru" (to utter kiai) means to attack an opponent with a shout at the exact moment when that opponent has no breathe in their tanden, or hara. The secret to this is to have your saika tanden (hara) filled when implementing kiai. The practice of deep, diaphragmatic belly, breathing is called 'fukushiki kokyu'.

"Munen Mushin and Kiai"

Munen Mushin (with out idea and with out mind) is another essential component of the practice of 'Kiai'. This can only be developed by fukushiki kokyu.

"Posture and Kiai"

The next essential component of 'Kiai' is development of proper posture [body alignment, posture, etc. are the FPofMS's]. One must keep the body soft, pliant, and elastic. It order to do this one must again concentrate energy and breathe in the hara, while keeping the chest empty. Proper posture has an important bearing on proper breathing and also promotes proper flow of energy, ki, through out the body by means of body meridian (energy pathways) lines. Both must be studied and practiced concurrently.

One must keep the mouth closed and the chin tucked towards the throat. The muscles of the throat are then taut and the spine is straight. This provides proper flow to the hara. The effect of proper posture over the mind and body is great and this should be practiced diligently. The correct posture stimulates the circulation of air and blood and invigorates the muscles and other organs. The mental effects are no less considerable. [note: proper posture, alignment, etc. also contribute to less tension when applying both soft and hard and less tension means less wasted energy thus more energy to kiai or to the end application of a technique/principle.]

Maintaining good posture refreshes the mind and creates an air of dignity which is also an important factor of kiai practice. [this is expressed by viewing military; military bearing is simply proper body alignment, posture, etc. that brings one into a erect, confident, and etc. bearing or presence; this is tantamount to the kiai eyes where the body language contributes to the eyes which seem to be invincible, etc.]

"Kiai and Eyes"

Great importance is given in kiai to the eyes. It cultivates clear and rapid vision and it helps them radiate an air of dignity. Also, the habit of looking straight into things is good kiai practice [note that in FPofMS the straight look is supplemented by the superior peripheral vision]. The student of any fighting art must cultivate the habit of looking straight and steadfastly into the face [note that looking at the mouth in particular and allowing peripheral vision to catch movement or tells] of an opponent and regard every other object in the same manner with little or no blinking.

"Kiai and Fingers"

Nigiri-katami, grasping tight, is where the practitioner closes the fingers firmly with the thumb on top of the index finger (locks the wrist). It is said that this practice also instills energy into the body and enables one to preserve the presence of mind in the most tense of situations. [yet remember that in FPofMS one must be relaxed to acquire the speed along with momentum where the last second the grasp tight upon contact is important to transmit power and energy into the target.]

"Kiai and Feet"

It is also practiced in the art of kiai that one must put more strength into the feet (thus stances; rooting to the earth) than into the arms and hands. The feet anchor one to the earth and proper anchoring allows one to generate the 'ki' from the hara and extend it out to the arms and hands. [also note that the stance is transitory in nature; kamae which involves stance is something taken only for the exact moment of application to target otherwise moving from kamae to kamae is important]

In studying the art of kiai the feet must be trained carefully.

"Kiai Psychological Aspect"

A Philosopher once said, "If the mind be kept one and undivided it will accommodate itself to ten thousand varied circumstances. That is the reason why a superior person can keep their mind empty and undisturbed."

The mind must always be kept in a state of readiness (zanshin) to meet with any situation with calmness at any time. One must make good use of the mental force or state of their opponent so they may bring that opponent under their control - deprive the opponent of their mind, or no-mind (mushin). This can be a technique of distraction followed by taking the advantage.

Takuan said, "Mind makes ki a vehicle to convey it far and wide in its active operation." Mind controls 'ki', but the latter may sometimes influence the former.

When 'ki' is quiet, mind also remains quiet. In 'kiai' it is very important to cultivate and train the ki. In fighting arts stress is laid on the concord of mind (ki) and force (chikara).

"Manifestation of Force, or Chikara"

Kokoro (mind or spirit) dictates action to ki, and chikara (force or strength) executes the mind. The art of kiai deals with the cultivation of this ki.

Kiai implies the making of a strong body by means of a strong mind. Kiai hardens the entire frame/body rendering it invulnerable to attack. [this is exemplified by Sanchin and testing with Sanchin Shime]

"The Secret of Not Losing"

Do not think of winning the battle but rather think of the way in which you may not lose the battle. Take your mind off of the technique and the threat as training and practice when done correctly will act instinctively so the mind remains on the current present moment, not the past or the future or winning or losing yet on the void.]

Going back to the original quote of the kiai shout. Kiai can be silent. You may then think of the shout as a technique to teach one to focus ki to that one single moment, the one single moment of energy focused into that one single point of contact. Once someone has mastered the art of kiai they can then utilize a shout or not.

The Kiai is not just a shout that is placed at specific points within training or combat; it is something far more and warrants deep thought and practice.

It must be noted that when translated directly from the characters the above is not evident and the above may or may not actually have accuracy yet this is my view on the subject and my perception in practice - do what you will with it, if it gives you inspiration to practice and learn it and the FPofMS's then it has value. If not, let it go.

Why so many posts on "seeing and hearing?"

We process information of the world by our senses. The majority fall under either sight or hearing - primary. The others, i.e. touch, taste, smell, are important and most of us in martial arts must, should, will train to use those as well yet the eyes/ears are also a primary.

The others are more necessary when the two persons start to physically interact. Smell of a person tells you something; feel of a technique as applied tells you something; taste can also tell you stuff  be it a taste in your mouth or something tasted, etc. yet what you see or hear are a primary tool in awareness.

In deescalation you eyes and hearing are critical to the communications you use but that is also tempered with knowing what to see and hear as well as what to say in response to the many stimuli you encounter in a self defense/protection scenario.

This is why you will see far more posts on seeing and/or hearing than other senses for SD, etc. or just for training/practice of martial systems.

Yes? No? Maybe? Comments?

Gorin no sho

Gorin refers to the five elements that are representative of the Buddhist belief of the five elements, i.e. earth, water, fire, wind, and void/air. The Gorin-no-sho is a book of five elements which loosely connects to the buddhist belief of these five ergo the chapters referencing each and the content related to traits inherent to those five elements, etc.

First point, the actions depicted in the current narratives and drama's about Musashi are based on legend and fiction. This will lead me to believe that most of what we understand and believe of this legendary folklore type person is in all probability false. At the very least the stories have been dramatized and vilified to an exalted position no real person could possibly live up to then and today.

Second point, the book has been referenced as the "book of five rings" which seems inaccurate since the reference shown here provides a more realistic view of the five elements. I believe that the five rings reference was created by an author who wrote a book where the actual chapters were in align with those five elements in the gorin-no-sho. Much like movie's, etc. this can take on a life of its own thus leaving us to believe it is rings vs. elements.

Third, not the less important point, the writings of Musashi tend to validate many of the instruction/teachings of the classical instructor of today. In many of the quotes I will provide in follow up posts it becomes apparent that the martial arts thrives only as an art when it takes into account both sides of the practice and training coin - both physical and mental, i.e. academia oriented training/study.

All in all the book and this particular chapter provides further insight into the Musashi Martial connection we have incorporated into our practice of such as karate. It goes a bit further in a manner different and clearer than the ken-po goku-i that the physical and mental aspects are important in maintaining balance in all martial systems.

五輪の庄 - Gorin no sho: book of five elements [ 書籍 - book; 五 - five; 要素 - an element; 五要素 - five elements ]

Is Self Defense a Crime?

No, it is not. If it were a crime then it would NOT be self defense. Again, if it were a crime then it will not be self defense! First, the line the separates a crime from self defense does move a bit yet if one is well versed in remaining behind that line then SD remains legal.

Second, if you fail to know and understand that line then you can easily cross it while remaining convinced your still using SD yet in reality and in the reality of the police, the prosecutor, and those twelve folks that will judge your view of SD is fluid. As long as you can "explain" it well to them you stand a good chance of remaining within the "legal" zone.

Finally, most folks who pass this line, still believe they are defending themselves, and are in trouble will find that when analyzed they failed to maintain enough awareness and use of restraint to remain legal and thus fall into illegal. This is easy to do especially when you take into consideration such things as pride and ego - especially and almost exclusively male oriented.

If you know what to look for in SD situations; if you train adequately; if you remain in present moment mind and leave all the stories the monkey throws out there then you can remain within the realm of avoidance self defense. This is optimal in SD yet if you let slip the dogs of war then your mind will fool you into believing your safe within the SD zone - Not.

SD is tricky, it is sometimes elusive that line between SD and Criminal activity but if you have the right tools to get the job done then if you have to resort to some physical act you will remain in SD mode, not crime mode. Last note, SD is legal and if you leave SD then the crime is fighting.

How and Why do I need to seek perfection in marital arts?

"Perfection is a direction, not an end goal." - Charles James, Isshinryu Practitioner

It has become a maxim of many martial arts practitioners, to achieve perfection. Perfection is an elusive bird frittering and fluttering around the skies, observable but hard to pen.

First, perfection is not a goal. A goal is something achievable or it would not be a goal. This is setting our sights to high thus always missing the target. It is an ideal that cannot be achieved simply because nature is nature and humans are human. Fallible.

Second, perfection should be a direction we all travel. It does not matter whether it is in martial arts or some other discipline. It is something to aim at and thus achieve in smaller increments that provide us a means to improve with out experiencing discouraging road blocks.

Third, it should no longer be the maxim in practice and training for martial arts. It should be an ideal that will promote continued growth for both the practitioner and the system. As instructors we should ask them to aim at perfection as the direction to travel on the path to better martial arts and not try to push them into a perfection that is just a personal view of any one individual which is unattainable.

Perfection should be the direction we travel to improve, grow, and allow greater contributions to self, tribe, and society. It is a belief system that allows us to stretch outside comfort to build a greater zone of comfort. It is that "arrow" that by effort connects with the target of "perfection" so that our path to which the arrow flies will be true, steady, and unwavering.

What is Shugyo: Austere Training?

Shugyo is commonly used in martial practice to indicate a type of training that will take one to a mental and physical extreme where the degree of severity determines for the individual where that level resides within their mind and body.

First, it is not just a hard physical activity. The activity is not meant to just stress the muscles to a point of fatigue. The physical activity must be coupled with a mental intent. The intent is derived from the practice in general - for me it is karate.

Second, many are not completely sure as to its true meaning. It is both physical and mental with a benefit of a greater level of spirit - not of a religious nature. When we practice something wholeheartedly we are developing spirit. Spirit is like esprit de corps felt by Marines. Marines have a common spirit developed by group cohesion, enthusiasm, devotion, and a strong regard for the honor of the group. Martial practice can be that which brings the group, dojo, together, provide for fuel to create personal and group enthusiasm, and the practice over time does give a sense of regard and honor toward the spirit of the system through the spirit of the individual.

Third, it does also involve a type of abstinence where that type of abstinence is determined by whom? Abstinence of what can be stretching the mind away from the ordinary and mundane into a realm of the unknown. It can involve abstaining from thoughts of the past or future so we remain in the present moment. It means abstaining from thoughts of dominance and self-indulgence. It is a meaning that must be determined by the individual to achieve a stretch beyond what the mind and body assumes are its limits.

Shugyo is a personal journey of all those who train/practice a more classical form of the system where they achieve higher levels of endurance to sever discipline of extreme practice where removal of the typical and mundane with an opening of the mind for "kaigen: 開眼: opening one's eyes to truth achieving enlightenment."

Kata: Does it really provide the training for "Life and Death" situations?

No, let me repeat this answer, No! Even the Marines cannot train you to handle life and death situations. They can do their best to prepare you for the eventuality yet until you encounter one you will not be trained for it. Life and death situations, in my view, are learned by OJT - on the job training in combat.

Karate is a fighting system. It is today mostly the monkey dance variety and if lucky will provide something for those rare predatory type violent encounters - maybe. Due to the natural mother nature driven encoded instincts within each of us to not kill, not talking about the rare sociopath/psychopath, we will do many things unconsciously/consciously to avoid killing another human. We will even need to build up through stages the ability to harm, i.e. beat the crap out of a human, another human being and for most will still balk at it when the monkey dance is on.

So, prepare you for life and death? No. If you feel that you need to prepare for a life and death struggle you may want to perform a self-analysis of your life. If you determine you need this type of training then either do one of three things. One, remove yourself from the life. Two, join the Marines, go to combat, survive, and then find a civil system that will take your life and death combat experience and translate it to the civilian system for protection be it boxing, martial art system, or three, realize your ego has taken the monkey out of its cage and ... ? [wake up dude]

Common, get real guys, if your using this sound bite is it really because you work or live in a situation where your life is in danger or is it to give you some sense of ability to soothe your ego and such stuff?

Needless to say, I am in a real mood today ...

What is Kiai 気合?

気合 means fighting spirit; yell; clamor; shout; cry; scream; bellow or roar, i.e. noun.

気 means air, atmosphere, spirit, mind, heart, will, intention, feelings, a mood, nature, a disposition, attention, care, a sign, and an indication.

合 means match, fit, suit, join, combine, unite, coincide, and agree.

A recent categorization of the "kiai" in martial arts says it didn't originate with karate but Kendo, i.e. Japanese influences. It states it was NOT a part of the Okinawan indigenous system of fighting hand-to-hand but was incorporated into karate practice beginning early 1900's. Is this all true?

It also states that normally in their system the kiai is not used except in cases where a demonstration of proper breathing techniques or timing or teaching the duration of exhalation and inhalation. Occasionally for kata competitions the kiai is used and we can surmise that the reason is it is expected by most participants and judges. It is a part of the grading of the kata performance. Is this true? The demo of breathing via kiai?

I also asked myself long ago if I felt I needed to have "kiai" in my practice. I found that I didn't need it yet I try to understand it and its practice as a form of understanding the history behind it and its applications in martial systems. I feel that it is true that Okinawan's did not utilize it and I find in my view that it is just another one of those "cool things" Americans added to make it more exotic to participants. Just me ... :-)

First question, not able to verify/validate the statement that it was not a part of the Okinawan karate circles pre-1800's, late. I have no clue as to its origins in Japan be it Kendo or not. After all kendo is a fairly new thing like karate anyway.

Second, as to kiai to demo breathing, timing, or how to control inhale/exhale, no clue and no way to verify or refute. I don't believe it is but then again I am not completely clear on its true purpose, only what is written in the last thirty years which is not clear.

Third, I have never tried to use kiai to demonstrate breathing ever. I use the Sanchin kata with Shime to demonstrate not just breathing but breathing is a strong and important part of it.

So, in general kiai is something you can take or leave depending on your goals in martial arts. It is worth the time and effort to learn as much as you can, within reason, to understand it simply as a historical part of Japanese/Okinawan martial arts.

Should a practitioner use the preemptive strike for self defense?

Preemptive: Serving or intended to preempt or forestall something, esp. to prevent attack by disabling the enemy; An adjective used to describe some action designed to forestall or deter some anticipated negative outcome. A preemptive military strike, for instance, is one taken before the other party has taken military action, based on the belief that the other party would otherwise strike.

Thanks Sue for the question/idea for this post.

Self Defense is difficult to justify to twelve jurors, i.e. the court system if prosecuted. Yes, even if you firmly believe that your actions were to forestall an attack by a threat it can be determined that you stepped past the acceptable point, which is fluid by the way, of what is to be determined legal defense.

If you really want to preempt an attack it is better to preemptively avoid the entire situation or use some preemptive tactic that involves leaving, running, etc. to a safe zone. When you add in the word strike as to preemptively applied you open the door wide to a view of your "aggressive action" toward another human being. That human in this type of scenario is no longer the aggressor/threat/attacker but that has shifted from them to you.

It should be noted that witnesses, uninformed/uninitiated type, will most likely not see the "tell" that resulted in your preemptive strike but will only see you strike "first." If you hit first, you are the aggressor. If you are the aggressor then you are breaking the law - in most places U.S.

Are we truly practicing a martial art?

If you are participating in an MA, any system, then you should at one time or another ask yourself the question, "Am I actually practicing a martial art?" It is the most difficult question you can ask yourself.

Here is the clincher, there are many out there who will tell you quickly that they practice the one, the true, the traditional system of <fill in the system here> in the world of martial arts. How do you tell for yourself?

First, do the research. Second, then try your best to validate, verify, and remove the fluff from the facts for "yourself." Third, don't assume anything from any source outside your own ability to study and test what you read, hear, or see in the world of MA.

Here is a good start point, read this web page from Marc MacYoung's "No Nonsense Self Defense" site: http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/MAmessage.htm and get an idea of what Sensei Sam Walker, and Marc MacYoung believes, says defines "commercialize, traditional and classical" martial arts "may or might be."

I can now say and admit that my practice for the "longest time" was not classical. I was by these definitions actually practicing a "traditional" form of Isshinryu. I can now say and believe that although I practiced "traditional MA" I am not in the process of converting it to a "classical form" of MA practice. In the last five years I have made definite strides in that effort with a long way to go.

There have be some traits of both traditional and classical I have practiced, i.e. my dojo and the one I learnt in were all small, one-on-one versions BUT still mostly traditional in nature.

I once again can truthfully say/believe that what the Marines were taught on Okinawa in late 50's and early 60's was, in this viewpoint, traditional, i.e. what Tatsuo Sensei taught post WW-II which was greatly influenced by making karate a school subject that was watered down and also due to supply-n-demand of Marines wanting a black belt in short order. In the end Isshinryu and those American Marines who came how with it suffered because of it.

A good question in Marc MacYoung's postings is "do your bunkai have real applications and do they have all of the components to make if function in a real encounter? Do you use bunkai that are limited to one technique in response to one technique vs. its ability to express many ways to act? Do they all contain all the fundamental principles of a martial system and do you apply them uniformly, as it all well, and consistently in real scenarios and real life?

Ask yourself these questions, "Is what I am practicing geared toward sport? Does my system emphasize only a limited aspect of a martial system? Does it teach me the fundamentals of the system and the fundamental principles of all MA systems? Is there a hint of money/profit in the dojo makeup? Is there an apparent marketing of the system that seems commercial? Is the system focused on tournaments? Does the system have hints or practices that seem political, i.e. creation of organizations, etc. in the system?

If you can say yes to some or most then maybe you want to consider your belief in what you practice. It may not be a true martial system. Only you can make that distinction. If someone makes it for you, reconsider your position. Just my viewpoint and recommendation.

There are a good many good training facilities out there. There are a good many solid instructors out there. You just have to decide what you want and be clear on what you get into regarding MA, if it is truly an MA.

And here lies the "rub," now you will get a lot of responses saying just how wrong I am about all this ... maybe I am, you decide.

What is your recommendation for a good, solid, self defense system, course, or school?

I cannot make a good recommendation. There is a source for learning about SD and its many facets. I could recommend books and web sites and blogs but I cannot truly recommend any system, course or school out there that I am aware of yet I would highly recommend after reading all my recommended reading stuff you find where Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller, to name just two, are giving SD seminars, etc. and go take their stuff.

If I am going to "teach or instruct in SD" I am not going to promote a particular technique or set of techniques and tell you that these will do it for you yet I will make the effort to get it into your brain that it is far more important to "recognize" a threat and that in a nutshell it would benefit you far more in SD to learn all the many ways of "good communications."

In my most recent studies there is a chapter in one that actually states emphatically that all violence is a result of bad communication or communications. This is a bold statement yet as I progress I find hints of truth that actually surprises me and makes me want to learn more so I can try my best to change my communications ability to actually get things done and "avoid conflict."

Start with:

The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense, The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense at Work, and The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense in Writing. All three may be hard to acquire yet you can find used copies in good shape to purchase for a small amount. I can truthfully say that the amount I have spent on these three books has already come back to me far more than the money spent.

Watch my posts for the future as soon as I get the book on writing, in the mail and soon, as I am going to try my best to let its teachings reflect within my blogs, web site, and group participation. I am finding more truths about myself in the communications area and in those around me. As I continue to study and "practice, practice, practice," I am finding recognition of the same in those I encounter in life.

I am also finding that explanations on why we do the things we do or should I say, why we say/write the things we do, are allowing me to "see" and "hear" with knowledge that "it is not personal."

I am not sure if I will be successful yet I feel confident that no matter what level I am able to achieve in the art of verbal SD it is something beneficial to me, my well being, and to those I am now communicating better with ... yuck that sentence is not the best yet you get my meaning, yes?

This post inspired by a post by Marc MacYoung on traditional, classical and commercialization of martial arts, etc.

What is "busai" and how does it apply to "karate?"

Busai references martial age. It is the age of the martial artist without regard to either their age in years or any grade/level/rank. It is used to describe one who has true depth and maturity as a practitioner of the martial arts. This person has complete understanding of their system as to fundamental principles as integrated into their system regardless of that particular system vs. other systems. One who can and does continue the evolution/growth of the system by developing, researching, demonstrating and teaching the system as a whole. It is also a reference as to the "true depth" of any martial art.

武 - Martial Arts
才 - Sai

This confuses me a bit when I translate the two characters separately. I understand the "martial arts" character since if involves reference to martial in martial age yet the second actually represents "sai" which is a kobudo of Okinawa. This makes me question the source of this term. I tried to translate "depth and maturity" to see what I would get:

深 - depth
成熟 - maturity

and both together: 深さと成熟度 - depth and maturity. Just another example of the complexities and difficulties using and translating a hard language with such complex defined characters into English. I even copied the entire meaning provided by the source to see if the second character appeared, not one character matched.

Finally in another translation system the character appeared with the following translations:

才 - abilities; a gift; talent; aptitude; a genius which given the meaning - generally - does now fit. All the words in one way or another do say that one has both depth and maturity by the talent, aptitude of that practitioner to a level of genius which in reality is a gift to achieve. In addition when added to specified other characters, i.e. 才色兼備, you get "to have both wits and beauty." If you study the Japanese ways you will find that the ability to make decisions and their believe in nature  and its beauty as a foundation for their buddhist and shinto beliefs it does fit - generally.

Ok, now that I got that worked out, are there any "busai" in karate-do? I can only speak from my particular viewpoint, nope, nadda, none, it ain't happening any time soon - to much work to do, to much to accomplish. ;-)

Caveat: As with all characters from the Asian systems of communications - take it with a grain cause we ain't from there and errors/omissions are definite.

E-Language Processes to Follow:

Look at this as E-Language Tactics so you don't find yourself in a e-language self defense mode or attack:

Rule 1: Force yourself to "think" before we speak or write.
Rule 2: Write down you message and read them carefully before you actually write them.
Rule 3: Print out your Internet messages and read them before you send them or save them.
Rule 4: Do something else for a few minutes and then go back and read them before sending.
Rule 5: When you feel like you have been attacked, hold the message for twenty-four hours before responding.
Rule 6: When you fired the opening shot, intended or unintended, hold it for twenty-four hours before responding.
Rule 7: When you send an unfortunate electronic message, do make all efforts to repair matters. Call or send an apology and/or explanation. Do what you can to set matters right.
Rule 8: DO NOT share intimate personal information by voice mail, e-mail, or on the Internet.

Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Self-Defense at Work." New York. Prentice Hall Press. 2000.

Written Language and E-Language

Wow, something I want to get out on this blog. Flame wars are misunderstood written language where a party projects some sort of internal misgiving, to be nice about it, into what they read. This is an important distinction when communicating by written language.

Remember, the written word does not convey the all important intonation or melodic pattern of the spoken word. It does not have any body language either. There is no way in hell you can possibly fully understand what is the meaning behind the written language of a post, etc.

I quote, "It is never sage to assume that you have been verbally attacked on the basis of written language alone!" - The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work, chapter 6 "Malpractice of the Mouth," by Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D.

If you find that some written language/word/statement you receive in an email, letter or post either on a blog or social system has caused you to become angry then "stop it" and remove the "personalization" of it. It is you and not the composer. If you do get one then ask questions if you are unable to "hear the sequence from the speakers (author of original post/writing) own lips. Sometimes a back-n-forth of generic non-aggressive questions will get the author thinking and maybe the true meaning will arise in the thread. Note: If after two or three threads it does not clear up then drop it, remove any personalizations, and assume that until you can "see and hear" the person's intent and context that you just agree to disagree.

Sometimes you can get more by a phone call but that is lacking as well. It is so darn complex.

Final quote, "Unless you can find a way to hear the sequence from the alleged attacker's lips, or find additional evidence that the language was an attack, assume that it was a neutral utterance.? - The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work, chapter 6 "Malpractice of the Mouth," by Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D.

"Language used on the Internet in e-mail, chat rooms, listserve messages, blogs, social networks, and the like. The same cautions hold for electronic language as for both spoken and written language, but they hold more strongly. This one applies to training yourself to "stay away from the send button" until you have written, reviewed, analyzed, re-written, and then with a count to ten and many deep rythmic breathes then and only then "send." When you write a message on the Internet, regardless of its neutrality or inappropriateness or plain abusive nature, it is gone - instantly and irrevocably. You can not get it back or revise it.

p.s. Now I am finally beginning to understand why Rory Miller gave this particular book/author such mention in his bibliography - it is an important key to SD, etc.

At what age should one stop sparring, fighting, etc.?

First, if it is in regards to a persons voluntarily fighting for practice and training or in competition, etc. then the age depends on the person. I watched a video of a fighter from MMA who had the last fight at age 47. He explained his reasons and they seemed reasonable and valid. It was, for him, a personal thing and kudo's to him for doing it on his terms.

I am fifty-seven and the last time I trained in fighting/sparring was about six years ago. So, I was fifty-one. My Sensei was about the same age on Okinawa in 79 and stopped training in karate altogether two years later, say around 53-55 years. Personally, I think that is stretching it a bit.

Fighting, etc. is a young person's endeavor (I deliberately did not use the term young man's "game" cause to me it ain't a game). I feel sorry for those who can't let it go and find that the reason mostly concerns the fear of aging and the ego/pride driven machismo that causes us to try and keep up with young folk. Sorry guys, it is the way I feel.

In regards to instructing/teaching martial arts I believe you can go, with some deliberate reduction in the intent, etc., all the way to a real old age. Your spending more of your time demonstrating what your teaching and then allow the younger tori-uke's to train "hard" for fighting or self-protection/defense, etc.

It depends and it is a question for each individual and no one else should make it for them especially "expectations and I dare you mentality persons." In this case you don't have to keep up with the Joneses - you already proved yourself over and over again, right?

Why do we have to learn empty hand before weapons in karate?

Mokuren Dojo Blog says, " http://www.mokurendojo.com/2011/07/does-weapon-teach-hand.html ," so read first for a very interesting take on this question from two viewpoints, i.e. Filipino and Japanese martial arts.

This particular discussion has gone on for the entire span of martial arts in America. Everyone has their opinions with both the pro's and the con's which from my perspective is just an opinion - nothing more, nothing less.

So, how would I answer that from my system+viewpoint? I feel that karate and kobudo, although combined in most karate dojo, are totally and completely separate systems. Kobudo stands on its own merits. Karate stands on its own merits.

I also believe it depends on the goals of the practitioner. If their interest is in the Asian weapons systems then kobudo all by itself is perfectly doable and acceptable. The same goes for an interest in empty hand systems. Personally, I prefer leaning all and as much as I can of empty hand in my system with familiarity in others which comes at a mid point in training and practice of my system. The fundamental principles of martial systems transcends this differentiation yet it takes a good while to achieve proficiency in one discipline for principles than to create possible confusion by trying to learn and apply principles in two distinct/separate systems like karate and kobudo.

Lastly, I believe if your practice is for self-protection, not sport, then weapons serve no real purpose because to use them in a self-protection or self-defense situation is considered aggressive and fighting which is "illegal." Even karate traditional if not applied according to the laws, beliefs, and customs of a particular society can be viewed in the same light. It matters.

As to the statement that kobudo either does or does not enhance your empty hand ability is also up for debate and for me I feel it is poppy kosh. It can feel different especially in the beginning yet I feel once that initial feeling passes it is a moot point. Last, if your mind and body can differentiate and learn two systems at one time adequately then go for it, otherwise, make a decision which you want. Stick to that decision until you feel confident, you not someone else, you can move on.

Why is it we hear stories about Sensei who use silence to answer questions?

Stories or fables or folktales of Asian Sensei of history abound as the Stoic, hard, and uncommunicative person who gets up, preforms a technique maybe three times for the student, and then sits down and watches.

First, in Japanese groups such as martial practices the juniors or practitioners don't question Sensei. In addition, due to group-orientations of Japanese, they develop group specific rules to adhere to for group solidarity. This is through a development of "non-verbal communications, the distinction between uchi and soto, and the emphasis on harmony which is a part of the Japanese distinct group consciousness.

Japan is a society, major group here, which require a conciliatory, cooperative attitude. Both lack of speech and silence is seen as a means of communication. The Japanese have to become adept at perceiving these things in lieu of talking, etc. - mostly.

It is believed, mostly, that if a Japanese person expresses what they really think they could possibly "hurt the feelings" of others. It would also disrupt the group atmosphere thus resulting in the destruction of harmonious relations.

This is my terse answer to this question yet it is not complete due to the complexities of the Japanese beliefs, customs, etc. which means if you really want to understand all the stuff you use in the Dojo that is not American - research and study is in order.

What is the difference between fighting and combat?

In a thread about "karate" it was mentioned that karate is not combat but fighting and not necessarily one that was taught as the pre-cursor to what is practiced today, i.e. sport oriented, etc.

In that thread two quotes were made that prompted me to consider the question. Quotes are:

Combat (intent to kill someone from another tribe as he tries to do the same to you) is very different from fighting (usually two people in the same tribe in contest over something). - Marc MacYoung on Animal-List; Subject: AL:KARATE: Contemporary vs. Traditionalist by Tristan Sutrisno Sensei.
A DI expressed the attitude about boot camp trainees undergoing grappling training as, "We don't expect them to fight at this range, but we want to instill the willingness to fight at any range." - Marc MacYoung on Animal-List; Subject: AL:KARATE: Contemporary vs. Traditionalist by Tristan Sutrisno Sensei.

We get things so mixed up and it is simply because we see or read or hear something that triggers this innate feeling of "cool stuff" and then without further ado we use it and only find out that it is crap when someone who took the time to research and find out the "rest of the story" and are told we are wrong, incorrect, inaccurate, and just plain stupid.

Marc MacYoung in his quotes above really provides a good view of combat vs. fighting. If you are on the animal list you can read the entire post which is enlightening. He has such a good way of conveying things, crude sometimes and funny and factual with a smidgeon of experience thrown in.

Combat does not occur on the streets against violent attacks. We are not Samurai, we are not Warriors. We are civilians who wish to learn how to compete in sport based competitions. Those who practice to fight still are not learning combat but actually a ritualized way to fight in the monkey dance. Seldom does anyone actually practice and train for predatory violent encounters.

Even if a predator is trying to kill you it is not combat. Your fighting for your life yes, but not combat. Combat is where one tribe, say country, tries to force something on another tribe, another country, or tries to take by force something away from another tribe/country. Sometimes wars and combat are a result of belief systems such as religion. It is not fighting, it is combat where folks on both sides try their very best to kill each other.

For what fighting is in its entirety you need to go to nonsense self defense and both Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller's books on violence where they will be more than willing to explain all the various forms of violence and "fighting."

Lets get real, all those sound bites are "selling points" to get the uninitiated to buy into their all encompassing three day course of how to be the deadliest person on the planet. There is no such animal ... ops, sorry Mr. MacYoung, forgot you are the Animal! ;-)

This post is mine and does not reflect in any way any meaning that would be Marc's, he may or may not agree with what I have posted. The quotes are his and are outside the thread so may be incomplete in meaning as it should be read with the rest of the post for proper context.

Did those who trained with Tatsuo Sensei really understand his intent, etc.?

As I study another book on Japanese communications I am finding the possibility that the American Service member of the late fifties and following decades of the sixties and seventies may have assumed incorrect or inaccurate information from their discussions with Tatsuo Sensei.

Some might say that this is not possible since Tatsuo Sensei was not actually Japanese, and my source for this post is a book on Japanese communications, but Okinawan. Here is the rub, both relied heavily on influences from China. A lot of the Japanese ways are direct decedents of Chinese Buddhism influences as they are practiced in Japan as Zen Buddhism.

After finding that such things as silence and other traits some of the claims and information that seemingly comes directly and indirectly from Tatsuo Sensei may not have be conveyed to Americans where we truly understood the meaning of what was said.

I am not looking to disparage those who believe what they understand to be Tatsuo's wishes regarding his system of Isshinryu yet I do want folks to consider the possibilities. We have great difficulty understanding what we say to one another as Americans and yet we assume our viewpoint and knowledge actually translate into our belief we understand all that Tatsuo Sensei, Japanese and Okinawan together, mean/meant/implied between the lines - silence to perceive the void between, etc.

Face it, we don't truly understand the Japanese/Okinawan mind, belief, customs and courtesies - we think we do but we don't. Even those who live there don't fully understand it - they tend to accept it.

When folks asked Tatsuo Sensei questions and met silence, sometimes this means no and sometimes yes, which must be interpreted by someone who has close ties, understanding and like beliefs, etc. to see the answer from the void of his silence do they truly understand. Some who met the silence kept up the questions which is rude and crude would maybe then receive some response to remove the feelings Tatsuo Sensei might have felt from the insistence where a Japanese would never push or insist but interpret the silence properly, etc.

Is this possible? If you are open to "maybe" then you may find the book below of interest.

Davies, Roger J. and Ikeno, Osamu. "The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture." Tuttle Publishing. Tokyo, Japan. 2002.

What does "humility" mean to you (me)?

First, read the post by Sue at "My Journey to Black Belt."

I remember once long ago while instructing my system at the Naval Weapons Station Concord California, as a civilian karate-ka, when a person spoke up about an article in the base newspaper. He mentioned that it was a bit forward of me to promote health and such via karate while holding a cigarette in my hand. You see, the picture along with the article had me at my work desk so they took a photo out of the karate-gi and I held a black pen in my hand, between my first and second fingers much like a smoker.

The moral here is a persons perceptions can be askew with out all the facts about such things. So, before I go into what humility means to me I just want to say that a blanket statement from a stranger to another stranger with out full understanding and proper perspective means diddly.

Sue, there is nothing haughty or prideful in your blog, at least from my point of view.

When we think of humility outside the world of martial arts we consider a person to be without a false sense of pride. To be at a level of modesty that is accepted by a society/group/tribe as appropriate. It can be a feeling within or a feeling another has who may know of you. It can be a diligent personality trait, both natural and learned, that says you do things in life out of the goodness of your heart. It can be a spirit that exudes a feeling when others are in close proximity. It can be demonstrated in simple conversations. Some might think it a type of charisma. It can be the absence of the tendency to boast. Vanity is not apparent or present.

I think of Mother Teresa when I think of humility both spiritual and outwardly. Mother Teresa should be the level of humility we seek in our lives. If in doubt simply look her up in google and take a moment to read and be reminded. I am not saying drop everything, take up a religious stance, and go around the world doing the kind of unselfish things she did, that would not be proper. Just take the time to realize that you can achieve great things in a humble way by following her example. There are others we can look to as well.

How about Ghandhi, don't you think he can be an example. But I am skirting the issue as to the question where I must come up with my own answer as to what humility means to me.

I guess I have to say just one thing, "Asked and Answered." It matters not whether your a MA practitioner or a school teacher or a minister or another Mother Teresa, humility is something that transcends any one thing much like my view of fundamental martial principles that also transcend all systems and those who practice them.