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

Do You Have A Question?

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

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

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

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

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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What are some traits that lead to conflict?

Two come to mind because first they are forefront in my mind lately and second they are a big contributor to conflict. The first is to assume while the second it to have expectations. We can assume all we want when it is in regards to ourselves and we can have all the expectations to our selves as we wish, that is a good thing.

When we project our expectations on to others and when we assume others will meet our expectations and assumptions we are looking for conflict. It may be unconscious which seems to me to be the norm or we can do this on a conscious level which is toxic at the very least.

Listen to an argument sometime and you will likely recognize that the discourse involves expectations and assumptions from one, the other or both persons. It is where the GAVSD comes into play for that conversation could then escalate into more. Dangerous stuff and something to be aware of.

Mostly, it is best to have no expectations of others; to not project any on others; to have no assumptions toward others; to not project our own assumptions onto others; to remember that humans cannot control will and it is unnecessary, unfair and unjust to force our expectations and assumptions onto others - a true mixture for conflict.

These are not the only traits but rather an example or sampling. One consideration is that they all seem to support and blend into one another. Usually it is a compilation of several that gets us into a fight.

What is the key to survival?

Is it awareness? Awareness of what? Is it focus? Focus is on what? Is it proficiency in a martial system or some other form of physical self-protection? What is that form?

What is the key? First, it is subjective. It is that something each of us has to answer and I suspect that there is no "one" answer. Even if someone finds what they feel is the one answer the moment they express it others will say, "What if ....." The what if monkey is as bad as the monkey itself. It is the monkey's little brother whose sole purpose is to support the monkey's position and that is not a benefit to you as a person, an individual and a human being.

If I am going to take a stab at this I would have to say the key to survival is what you do with the knowledge you have, get and believe in. Does this sound like multiple answers, it might but I mean it to mean knowing what to look for in a threat matrix and what you do in response to that threat matrix. It sounds like two things but honestly, it is just one thing.

You can add all sorts of separate and unique things to this if you wish but that is just trying to gain control on what it is you need as a key to survival. We humans tend to take the simplest things and add layer upon layer of complexities to satisfy the monkey brain. Take self-defense, generally speaking, that is taught today. It is a complex set of actions in response to specific acts or techniques in a complex form to "ohhh and awww" the recipients. We tend to think if it is complex it must be good.

I don't believe this anymore. Simplicity and close to natural instinctive actions of the mind and body seem to be the most trainable and easiest to incorporate and use but I digress for explanation - see, I am trying to explain a simple concept in a complex way.

A thought, can it be simply living the belief that one keeps their eyes open and strives to be safe. Is it possible that one's mind-set in this manner leads to all the other things necessary to stay safe? If I keep my eyes open, my ear to the ground and my tactile/kinesthetic radar up  with the intent strategy of safe do I find that safety from threat and danger?

What is Mastery?

The recent post by "Kowakan" blog about mastery got me to thinking, again, on the slippery topic. What constitutes mastery of anything, one is the idea of having a comprehensive knowledge and skill in a topic. The actions one takes to achieve that level of "mastery" also plays an important role in achieving mastery - especially in marital systems.

Sometimes "martial masters" mistake their mastery of their respective martial system as control over or superiority to someone else of to something. It is also mistaken for domination, mastery, to dominate or defeat or subordinating a person or persons.

To my thinking mastery is the knowledge and skill that makes you stand out as a source for the topic. The knowledge and skill that denotes mastery over the system, mastery over the principles and mastery over those methods you use in teaching, leading and displaying proper actions.

Recently one was honored with a high level of achievement through the bestowing of 9th level of Dan-sha but that award didn't come from true mastery. It was awarded for some specific accomplishment that did not transcend the particulars and cover the entirety of the practice. It involved tournaments, trophies and other accolades. No where did it become apparent that this honor was in recognition to what I describe above and Kowakan blog describes denotes "master of a topic or activity or both."

Let me provide the example by addressing just one term in the defining of mastery, domination. First, to dominate anyone or anything is not mastery but rather master over. The one word added, over, is significant for a true master of an art like the martial systems does not dominate over anyone or anything, ever - they don't need to, their mastery is apparent in the actions and deeds.

Mastery also does not mean that just because you know the fundamentals, the kata, kumite and all perceivable aspects of your system, your style or your techniques that you have mastered your system, i.e. dominated it by knowing it, but rather something sometimes unexplainable yet detectable is apparent denoting a mastery of something.

Master also has an unwritten but understood meaning that a person is selfless and pure of heart. The person holds perfection in every way even if not perfect - perfection in imperfection. It is something see, heard and felt all the time and in every perceivable form. It is real, complete, pure, unqualified, unconditional, self-existent and conceivable in relation to normal things. Principles are well established and confirmed in all actions and deeds.

In a nutshell, true mastery is one who knows the path and one who "walks the path." I wish to thank Kowakan blog for this inspiration in my defining a master of a martial system.

Mastery, to get on the path and stay on it. - George Leonard, "Mastery"

What would you consider good reasons to change a system of martial practice?

There are prerequisites to this question and the answers. A prerequisite or set of prerequisites:

A. A certain amount of experience in teaching, practicing and applying the system in question.
B. A certain amount of proficiency of "making it work" in the appropriate contexts.
C. A certain age of the proponent of the system.
D. A certain number of years in the system.
E. The ability to answer the question, is it needed? Is it beneficial? Does it work?

This is the minimum. If you cannot answer it an affirmative then you don't need to change the system. Change simply for the sake of change is not good for the system. It may be beneficial for an individual in practice only but for the system and especially for teaching of the system do not change it unless you can address all the requirements and specifications.

Most of those who made changes to karate had spent the time, effort and gained reality experience before even considering a change. In a lot of cases the changes were geared more toward a specific philosophy of the practitioner - the system adherent. Often those changes are of a subtle nature and none of the fundamental principles of martial systems changed - they can't or they lose the status of principles and undermine the foundation of a working system.

When you do reach a point where you meet or exceed the prerequisites then you still have to vet the change. In a short version the following questions need to be answered before trying to change the system as a whole by its parts or specifications.

Specifications on Change:

1. To add a feature.
2. To fix a broken feature.
3. To improve on a feature.
4. To optimize the system for a specified and accepted feature.

In most cases the addition of a feature is a more esoteric change that is governed by:

"The work of art is always produced by a certain person in a certain time and place, and it is always related to its author's other works, his contemporaries, his sources and traditions, his intellectual, political, economic, and aesthetic climate. Background materials that can help the modern reader grasp the ideas or catch the flavor of a literary work of the past serve a valid and necessary purpose." - Damon Knight, "Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction."

To bring that into a direct form I would say that the person instituting the change only does so because the current time and place as to the current customs and morals of the time and place; the persons intellectual level; the climate of the times; the persons background and the ideals of the society as to ramifications if the change or addition of the feature is validated.

This would also apply to all the four specifications because it would be a critical matter. If a feature that was once valid and worked suddenly begins to fail it must be determined that the failure is due to the reasons above. If the failure is indicative to an individual regarding such as application at the moment, etc. all features of a system fail in this instance. It must be determined that the broken feature transcends the individual and is indicative of all applications at every moment. A very difficult spec to determine.

Lets step up and add both to any and all improvements. It must be necessary to all the reasons already provided. It applies to the optimization of the entire system.

It also must be asked, does this require change or simply dropping from the system entirely. This last is important for the moment you lose it you have changed the original classical intent of the originator's intent in creating the system. This is neither a good or bad thing but rather a step taken with extreme caution.

Change is inevitable, it is nature's way and it governs all life and all living things on Earth. Don't enter into this lightly or quickly.

p.s. this part is only provided because it is usually the reason most change the system or amend the system; to justify commercial gains and the pronouncement of mastery and the highest rank of the martial arts - 10th Dan.

What do you look for as a part of your self-defense strategy?

Sue asked, "list me 10 things that you look out for in your environment when you are out and about as part of your self-protection strategy?" I gave some specifics but felt clarification was necessary and this resulted in the post I am doing now.

In reality I don't have specifics I look to when I go out in the world regarding self-protection strategies or should I actually say tactics. My strategy is to know and understand what constitutes danger or dangerous situations or dangerous persons. This knowledge and understanding becomes what my mind looks into when my spider sense tingles. It is that which says, pay attention Charles and then I start to focus my awareness.

This allows me to be up without the stress of being in combat mode all the time. You can't be in combat mode and you cannot focus your mind on the particulars of what you should look for but rather have that knowledge there to trigger the spidery sense and get your shields up and running to take more appropriate actions - this is my avoidance strategy.

I don't focus my mind on ten "things" per say but rather all of it is encoded into my brain so when instincts kick in I know what to look for for what ever reasons appears. To focus on particulars could shut out those others that are just as important.

This falls under learning the details, forgetting the details and allow your instincts and impressions be your strategy for public geared self protection strategy. Make sense?

Why do we focus on muscles for power?

Interesting question. It may be because we have be programmed that strong, large muscles make you powerful. I was hell bent on being one of those early in my life. I gained the weight and muscle mass of a body builder. I can tell you that the perception, misdirected as it is, got me through some possible ass-kicking, mine that is, by causing the attacker to "pause and think" that maybe going after me was not a good idea.

You know because you were taught that "muscle-ing it" will make you feel powerful and by feeling powerful you think your powerful. I have been hit by very large, strong and body building type muscled folks and it didn't drop me or knock me out and I responded accordingly. In my old mind that guy should have killed me, but he didn't.

When I first started to box I found out quickly that my size and strength meant very little. Why? Cause I didn't know how to apply my self to generate power, the muscles were a hinderance vs. being an asset. Shit.

As the boxing took hold I started to learn by osmosis that this much smaller and seemingly less strong person was causing me to go down - a lot. In those days much like the ancient stories of the stoic Sensei he expected you to "get it" without being told or having it explained.

Thank goodness today the professionals are explaining it, demonstrating it and helping us to "get it." I am not going to try to provide you that information here and will recommend you go to "these two sites: site one and site two," and read a pro's words.

What is the Ken-po Goku-i?

I would begin this post by saying that it is NOT any particular theme, it is not something that will be anecdotal and it will not be stories on how I attained my "insights" into the Isshinryu system. There is no definitive topic to the gokui (will use this to represent ken-po goku-i for brevity) but my posts on the subject are my personal interpretations.

I would also stress emphatically that the recent publication with this title is not what I perceive is the meaning and function of the gokui. This is not about ego, pride, self-esteem or commercialized stories to promote and put my self on any type of pedestal. It is not about self-absorption, self-promotion or self-driven ego building see how great I am stuff.

Phew, now that I have that out of the way I want to present a short description of what the Isshinkai tells us the gokui is.

First a statement from me personally:

(Authors Note: The "gokui" is fluid. There is not right or wrong, good or bad, and yet their is duality and the one. Take the gokui in all its forms and translate it into a meaningful translation for your life and practice of karate-do. Let it remain fluid so as you grow it grows. The meaning today may lead to another more profound meaning tomorrow. - C. E. James)

Now the statement from the Isshinkai:

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

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

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

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

I have come to firmly believe that this description is only the beginning. It is a wonderful beginning for a fledgling academic studying the ancient Chinese Classics. You will notice in this explanation that the definition is not really the element of the gokui but rather a way to clinically define it as a starting point for the new person entering this philosophical keystone to martial systems.

The essentials, the philosophical principles, of a system which can be martial or any other concerted effort into some system of training, practicing and living. It is the "heart" of the wholehearted system I practice and refer to as "Isshinryu." No form or system that speaks to the physical, mental and spiritual of a person is just about kicking, punching and grappling. It is not just about trophies, accolades or validations but rather about the self and what that self's potential has for them. It is unlimited.

Some of the incidentals that also assist us to discover within ourselves the meaning of the gokui is a perceived close correlation between the code, the I Ching, and Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine deals with the cycle of life forces (the blood), time, and the relationship of man with the forces of nature, etc. It seem that the gokui is a road map for behavior, harmony with oneself, harmony in relationships with others, and nature, as well as a roadmap for training/living karate-do.

It must be expressed at this point the fluidity of the gokui. This fluidity is a result of first, its terseness and second, its source or its original. It is meant to transcend things and allow any time, place or peoples to interpret it in a positive way allowing the mind to reach the depths of intuition and inspiration giving back insight and those things that lead to enlightenment.

In addition as I have stated in previous posts, "The work of art (in this case the gokui) is always produced by a certain person in a certain time and place, and it is always related to its author's other works, his contemporaries, his sources and traditions, his intellectual, political, economic, and aesthetic climate. Background materials that can help the modern reader grasp the ideas or catch the flavor of a literary work of the past serve a valid and necessary purpose." - Damon Knight, "Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction."

Both these last two statements should provide the reader the idea, in general and on a fundamental level, what the possibilities are regarding the gokui. This post is an attempt to define, explain and inform one as to its basics and to inspire more through practice, training and studying.

As nature permeates all things with the Tao, the gokui permeates all activity of a person injecting an energy, a custom, a symbol and the inspiration necessary to live it - the Ken-po Goku-i (for my system it is referred to as the "Isshinryu no gokui.")

My rendition of the ken-po goku-i:

A person's heart is the same as Heaven and Earth while the blood circulating is similar to the Sun and Moon yet the manner of drinking and spitting is either soft or hard while a person's unbalance is the same as a weight and the body should be able to change direction at any time as the time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself and both the eyes must see all sides as the ears must listen in all directions while the mind must grasp all the tactual data not seen on all sides and not heard in any direction.

An eBook ......

I am considering a book. An eBook to be exact. There is a means of publishing on a site called "smashwords" so it spurred my creative juices. I have several years of material that I would pull together into this book so wondered if this blog's members and readers would be interested if I publish it?

I really appreciate the response and any comments on the idea. I wanted to break away from the typical book on techniques, etc.


Charles J.

Part as a Whole

This blog, like other blogs, is a message in a bottle. I know who I am and what I understand, but I can only guess who you are and what you understand - the people who are going to pop the cork on the bottle and read the message. (redacted from the similar quote in the book by Damon Knight.

My desire to write both the blogs and (future) short fictional stories is to express things from the self in a way that folks can see, hear or touch in some direct or esoteric way.

I can't pump determination into a student, and would not if I could. What I can do is try to tell folks what they are in for, and help them acquire the knowledge that makes the difference between an amateur and a professional.

A successful martial artists, like any other professional endeavor, is all one wholehearted thing, not just the collection of the parts. Everything in the martial arts, its parts, fits together, flows together, and harmonizes with a unique personal rhythm. When we talk, teach and write about the components of the whole, when we try to teach you to achieve proficiency of a new skill, you need to know what the components are and how they work.

You try to improve one piece or component at at time - work on form, function and application, for instance, until you make progress; then turn to another aspect and work on that. If you try to learn all of it all at once, you will stifle growth, your progress, ability and proficiency will be stagnated, frozen and paralyzed.

Remember that the sum of all the parts, components, dealt with in practice and training are all interrelated. It is up to you to bring them together into the one whole of the system - and make it work.

You must learn the system your own way, or you won't be able to truly learn it at all. I am not trying to say that a karate-ka can do whatever they please; the karate-ka still has to learn along with the rest of the dojo. I am trying to convey that although the Sensei can tell, show and direct what is necessary to a karate-ka you have to learn the rules, follow them, and the bend (break some) them to fit your uniqueness.

We all have different bodies, minds and spirits - we are unique human beings. Remember that the brain, each human brain is more unique and individual than fingerprints, has a lot of variability. The number and kinds of cells in a given area are different inside every brain. You follow the rules until you get proficient enough to then start to blend the parts into a whole that will be a bit outside the rules and sometimes outside the entire box to best encode the practice and application into mind, body and soul.

Karate or any martial art is not just "one thing." It is a cluster of many things and abilities that are merged in a unique way each and every time they are applied. The components or parts learned are where you find your strengths and weaknesses and that uniqueness in your blending into a wholehearted "one whole system" is where the rubber meets the road. The system your being taught is designed to help you do this and it behooves the practitioner to learn to get the most out of what you have.

The unconscious works better if you don't watch it too closely. Follow the rules, learn them and apply them - then let them go, somewhat by bending and sometimes breaking. Remember, The unconscious works better if you don't watch it too closely.

If I find myself in a self-defense situation how will I know if I went to far?

If your in a physical encounter, you went to far; if you find the cuffs on your wrists, you went to far; if you find yourself hiring an attorney and sitting in front of a judge, you went to far; if you find your medical bills going through the roof, you went to far; if you find someone handing you a piece of paper suing you for all your worth, you went to far; If you wake up in a sweat screaming, you went to far; If you find yourself behind bars with some very dangerous guys wanting to marry you and take you on a five year honeymoon, you went to far and if you missed the opportunity to avoid the mess then, you went to far.

Awareness - Avoidance - Deescalation/Manners

Try it, you'll like it!

When should a fledgling practitioner ask themselves the question, "what is my martial path?"

A difficult question to answer. My first so called knee-jerk answer would be "before" they join a dojo. I would hope that such a serious decision and its resulting choices would spur a person to seek out knowledge so they can make an informed decision. This is not a normal response.

Most folks, us humans, tend to respond to something like karate classes with a perception resulting from television, movies or Youtube surfing. Lets not forget the influences of the current reality sports of MMA, etc. People today seem to be driven by commercial sound bites and the latest and greatest new fangled and well promoted "things."

Lets face it, I feel personally that most who join up for lessons will not even consider such esoteric understanding because of the drive we have to excel quickly and to achieve notoriety, fame and hopefully fortune. The self driven philosophical aspects that were first introduced to us here as Asian Philosophies driven by the much maligned and misunderstood "bushido code" have colored our view of what is important. Ok, important to me and some others like minded practitioners.

I mean in my system of Isshinryu I hear sound bites on such things as the ken-po goku-i and the bottles quote that sound good to the novice but in reality don't hold water, no substance and do well defined definition. Even as to individuals, no well defining meaning other than to impress the fledgling novice because it sounds Asian, it sounds mystical and it is promoted by the supposed Asian culture of the silent sage like Sensei who grunts and says, "it will come to you, go back and do more punchy-kickie."

Yes, you should know what your path is before you make that decision. Realistically, if you join, are lucky and have a good Sensei then you may find that after you reach a certain level you will start asking yourself questions and they may be found in those esoteric philosophical studies that contribute to a defined path you will want to follow.

You cannot get the answers from me or others - this is a personal and confidential thing you have to find and discover all on your own. I just wanted to get you to ask yourself the question.

What is the Martial Path?

As I contemplated my retirement over the weekend I found that I had a variety of thoughts. The main thought that sticks to my mind is this question, "What is the martial path?" I hear the phrase spoken, I read it in blogs, web sites, and other testimonials on martial arts. I just have never actually read what it means to any one, any one person or any one organization.

Service, there is nothing more important that providing service to others. What do you use as a definition of service? I read a business analysts manual where their definition of a service is, "Service: something provided for remuneration's." This is not what I would use to define "service." It is what the business world is currently using ergo why it is such a non-entity and troubling to the human condition.

I decided to jot down some notes as to what I mean when I say to anyone, "I follow the martial path." I felt, for me, it was time to put into words that which is most difficult to express in words much like the Tao Te Ching. I am not comparing the post here to that great historic philosophical document.

The path to the empty hand is self-defense, not fighting. It is the mastery of the physical self to wield karate properly. It is the alignment of mind and body with will and spirit. It is the purging of the negative to open to the present moment. It is the reduction of distractions and the increasing of focus. It is a daily expression of self-discipline. It is centering with calmness. It is the balancing of mind, body and spirit. It is transcending past and future to live in the moment. It is the realization of the nature of the universe and our part or connection to it. It is to immerse oneself into practice, practice, practice. It is  knowing the levels or stages as well as their mastery to continue from one to the next. It is a path taken without aggression but rather one of empty present mind. It is non-violence and seeking non-violent solutions to any encounter. It is a desire to seek out knowledge and understanding. It is to move forward without resistance but with a navigation of the currents the assist us. It is patience. It is to seize opportunity. It is to be fair and firm in all things.

It has become apparent why it is seldom written or spoken, what is the martial path. Like the ken-po goku-i it is that something that is like the early morning mist that floats above the grass, elusive and ever moving - something most difficult to grasp on to but is there and apparent to the senses.

Look at the path as your plan. If you have a plan you will succeed. If you don't have a plan then your plan is to fail. Even the most chaotic aspects of nature all have a plan. Karate-do is merely the process used to follow the plan, the path. It is not written in stone. It is fluid and changing, ever changing as nature intended from the beginning of time.

What is your meaning when you say, I follow the martial path?