"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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I trained in Japan, why was it so disappointing?

Simple answer first, your cultural programming greatly influenced the experience. Your cultural programming also influenced your expectations. More complex addendum is that the only way you can even begin to experience Japanese is to become one and that would take being born in Japan or at the very least to live in Japan for an entire lifetime.

Otherwise, even if you lived there for decades, your personal cultural programming will greatly influence that experience to a degree that you would and still are an "outsider" to the Japanese and the Japanese culture.

Many folks assume that to be a true martial artists one "must" travel to the place where it was born and to participate under the guidance of a Japanese Sensei and all that entails. Then we get these grandiose idea's that we will be certified by them and come back home as true Sensei of the traditional kind.

Often the well intentioned and anxious/excited visitor will be surprised and frustrated when that vision of exotic Asian martial arts turns out to not fit the picture, the assumptions, they created within their own minds.

So, the next question would naturally be, "how can I get the most out of my visit?" The answer is to study as much of the cultural system of the people of Japan, or Okinawa if your practicing karate, and learn as much about the culture, beliefs and cultural words, kanji and kana as possible then go with not expectations other than to train hard. Expect that the reality gap between you, a Westerner, and the Japanese Sensei, Senpai and Kohai of the dojo will be huge and work hard with humility. Especially, refrain your instinct and impulse to talk, talk, talk. Listen and Observe and when appropriate, not in the dojo but after when indulging in food and drink, ask our questions and actively/syntonically listen.

Have a good time and soak it all up, it is worth the time, effort and discipline.

New Blog

I tend to spend time posting on terminology as it relates to the kanji/kana so thought it might best serve the martial community to create a blog devoted to defining the terms with an association to the kanji/kana or "ideograms," used from a traditional point of view. At least as close as I can come from my understanding and perception.

I ask for patience and indulgence with a caveat that all comments complementing, correcting or refuting my views are "Welcome."  If you do refute or correct my posting please provide a source for the correction.

I have five web sites I use in my research along with several books on the cultural words of the country involved, i.e. Japan and China, not to forget two outstanding dictionaries in book form.

Welcome or "Mensori," to the martial art terminology blog, I look forward to an continuous exchange of information to take us closer to the culture and belief systems that brought us the arts such as Okinawan Karate/Kobudo, Japanese Aikido and the many other systems in practice today.

Can we have associations or governing organizations and not politics governed by commercialism?

I have read many articles about the governing bodies for martial systems and find it impossible to find just one that is not governed by money, commercialism and internal politics. It begs me to question my views on the need for any governing bodies outside the Sensei and the Sensei Dojo.

I see martial systems as an extremely personal endeavor that has the potential to stretch beyond the person and embrace others, i.e. family, friends and society as a whole. I feel that to allow others to validate and dictate what martial systems means and does for you the person unproductive. Too many variables exists to allow someone else to drive how you practice, train and apply martial systems. It is the person's responsibility solely to dictate to themselves how to practice, train and apply their martial system.

To often we find ourselves pushing responsibility for our actions and deeds onto others to excuse our lack of self-reflection. It is understandable the great difficulty lying in the act of self-reflection but this is the, or one of, the core components of martial practice. If you apply it incorrectly resulting in actions taken legally and morally it is not the fault of the Sensei but solely your responsibility, you the individual who took up the practice.

It is most easy to lay blame on our actions toward others and it is most difficult to lay blame at our own door for self-reflection and taking of responsibility for that action.

Isn't this the whole point of martial system practice.

Back to the subject, it is a question each of us has to answer for ourselves. Maybe it is a yang-yin answer. Yang in that we allow Sensei and his beliefs, perceptions and governing to lead us on the initial path of the martial system but it must shift naturally as dictated by the rules of the universe to shift toward the yin side where we take what it learned and make it our own thus taking full and complete responsibility for what we practice, train and apply regarding the yin-yang of martial systems - physical and spiritual whole.

If a governing body could take on a more neutral role in providing "guidance" not "dictatorial rules and requirements" for those who choose to follow the way then maybe that is a way to have both worlds, i.e. a balancing of yin-yang. It would take a great deal of effort and work to face and then discard the temptations of such organizations, i.e. politics, power and money.

I could see a governing board of advisors for Okinawan karate where they provide guidance in running the Sensei dojo and on teaching the system, in a general way, so as to not restrict or hinder progress on a personal and individual level.

Then again, I have a dream - many dreams. Some come to reality and most are dreams I continue to enjoy and strive to bring forth into reality. It is just part of my way.

It occurs to me that mostly, my personal perspective, view and belief; subjugation to the authoritarian rule of governing bodies where profit, control and authority are primary one becomes subject to involuntary requirements that cost the individual both their individuality and spirit where by those commodities are of primary concern to the practitioner of the martial systems. 

There are some well-intentioned good governing bodies out there for the martial systems practiced in the West. I have yet to find one that isn't geared toward the many topics of which I write above but then again that is simply my experience to date. There is always room for change and I hope one day to meet and greet such a martial system governing body.

In defense of those bodies out there today, I can say their success and failures can be attributed to one immutable fact, the lack of participation by its individual members.

Oh, if you have a governing body that you respect and feel does not fit this description then don't feel you have to defend your org with a comment, it ain't necessary.

Is there an end to learning about martial systems?

Simply, no .... but if you allow yourself to remain glued to the thought that all there is is a few techniques once mastered ends the lessons then you can say simply, yes.

How would one find the continuance of learning martial systems? Simply through open-minded practice. If you allow for the concept and principle of dualistic monism, yin-in-yang principles, where one never achieves neutrality but rather rides the ebb and flow of yin-n-yang as things change, grow and achieve fluidity then the lessons will never, ever end.

If you are always allowing for greater quality through self-reflection then it never ends. If you are always allowing for a change in quantity toward knowledge then it never ends. If you are always allowing for a greater all encompassing structure to your practice, training and learning then it never ends. As long as you allow for changes within through its constituent yin and yang elements then it never ends.

I am just now finding after fifty-eight years of life that it never ends and the excitement of getting up to live life is that change is inevitable and I try to embrace it as a good thing leading to a greater understanding that all things are changing, impermanent and open.

If not for the principles that are the universe we would learn all there is to know in a short period and then the reason for life's many cycles would end and thus our existence. Existence is to find the question, answer the question and then live the question until living inspires a new question with a new answer and the cycle is never-ending, perpetual.

Here lies the lesson of martial system practice and training, to allow for a never-ending cycle that perpetuates upon itself from within each of us. Life therefore would never be boring but full of life's changes. A good thing I think. Therefore I am :-)

Mastery, is it achievable in the West?

We have many "masters" in Western martial systems as can readily be seen by the titles given, i.e. master, grand master, and great grand master to name but a few. It makes me think, can one achieve true mastery of the Asian martial systems? I will be posting/speaking from a more traditional view to answer this question from my point of view.

I have determined in my studies that "Shintoism" is deeply imbedded in the core of the martial systems and therefore to be a true martial system, complete and whole, one must accept the tenants and premise dictated by Shinto. To have that one must have a reverence for the past with deep intertwined integration of a deep sense of responsibility for the future thus merging past and future.

Past means biological origins, ancestry and all the cultural and belief systems that drove them to present person. This is a deeply imbedded sense of contiguity of form whereby one cannot disengage parent from child, ancestor and progeny. This is a huge responsibility. This is a huge undertaking - for any human being.

This is often described by the term or characters, "Naka-Ima," or "Eternity of the generative force of life."

If we truly desire to entertain the whole of the way then we have to take responsibility for the past and all those who in that past provided our culture and beliefs for today. Assuming the role, "giri," then we can only pass it along by merging the past to our present actions and deeds thus passing to the future, i.e. our children and in the dojo our Kohai, that which accumulates from understanding and practice of the lessons of our past, our ancestry and promoting a blend of it along with changes for the present so those who come after are influenced, taught and practice the way.

My conclusions are that to master the Asian traditional martial systems requires us to venerate the past, hold the present as a blend of now and past so that the future can achieve the next level for which all mankind strive in the cycles of life that are similar to the movement and changes of the universe, i.e. the heaven and earth with man as the link, the sun and moon for man is a microcosmic of the universe as is man of heaven and earth.

We cannot master it for it is that something that is driven into the very core of human existence through a life long living of the culture, beliefs and life of the Asian be they Japanese, Okinawan or Chinese with all the roots that support the great oak that is ancestor, present-human and progeny.

Of course I have to add that mastery in the perception of Western culture, beliefs and life give there own defining criteria for mastery of a system. If one has a dojo with many, many paying participants then along with "time-in-grade" as well as meeting or exceeding the governing organizations that provide rank criteria they can be considered "masters." One is traditionally Asian culture based and the other is western culture based. I can live with that .... but, prefer the Asian instance better.

Should MMA be called a martial art?

Why not. It is not a traditional are form as one might perceive it when speaking of traditional/classical martial arts but it is like many systems throughout history where it is comprised of combative skills.

I would nick pick a bit from my perspective because I cannot determine any spiritual part of the practice of MMA. I would tend to discount the "art" aspect of the title but also understand that many martial or karate like techniques in a system tend to get that system lumped under the general title of karate and/or martial art.

If I understand it correctly MMA got its name because it was a mixture of a couple or possibly several systems like Jujitsu, Karate, Judo, Wrestling, etc. It is a "mixture" of what is perceived to be the best for that genre of competitive "sports-like" martial arts - what ever that truly means.

Since the "majority" of practitioners in the west tend to call everything they do that smacks of Asian systems of fighting, etc. as "martial arts" then since the majority do accept it thus then it must be accepted but rather as a new definition  and not the traditional or classic definition of martial art. Honestly, the martial arts are muddied to where the true spirit and meaning of that phrase is mostly lost to except a few knowledgable folks.

So, why not.

What are martial systems good for other than fighting?

First one must understand that the essence of martial systems is a physio-psychological sensitivity to the structure and direction of movement within  nature, i.e. constituting nature. If we fail to recognize this true essence then it will become a physical means of dominance toward man. This is in direct contradiction to the true meaning of the way.

One must strengthen and refine the physical center (hara: haragei) of the individual. Only when the self is balance and in harmony can it achieve the same in society. Once the self is fully centered and the centering is centered in the physical body, the hara, only then can one achieve a harmonious unification, i.e. create a holistic whole, wholeheartedly, of the entire self.

This is accomplished through diet, physical activity (karate-jutsu-do to name one means), mental activity, establishment of order (in its most basic state achieved through kata or shikata of life), by serving others (the senpai/kohai and dojo community achieves this so the individual can express and achieve this in the greater society), and self-reflection (to look into the mirror of self and truly see both sides of self).

When we add the yin, i.e. mental activities, etc., to the yang, i.e. kihon, kata and kumite of karate-do, we achieve a whole that begins to train the intuitive aspects of the mind so that it may lead the body toward a holistic practice in both physical and spiritual domains.

Why do they teach such complicated and difficult techniques (bunkai) in karate?

Well, it appears it has something to do with perceptions and the brain. It appears that the more options, the more information and the more difficult it is to either do something, learn something or apply something that the brain and our perceptions say to us, "It is important." If it takes more of our time and more of our attention it has greater worth therefore it is more important.

Our brains are programmed at an unconscious level that which is more difficult, any type of difficulty, is important and important means it must be true, it must be applicable and it must be the better of our choices.

A good example is part of an explanation given at the redtape chronicles article today that the plathora of options for products provided today create a mind-set that to choose one is most difficult causing us to go into a mode of, "this is very important so I must take time to choose wisely," along with a lack of information resulting in our "difficulty" in making a choice. He calls it "decision quicksand" which inspired this post on the "difficulty of applying complex and difficult techniques in application, both kumite and survival on the street. It is that difficulty that causes the mind to go into importance and difficulty mode resulting in "pauses or freezes" of a kind.

No wonder most professionals teaching survival techniques teach is that the simpler and the more closely associated with movement instinctive to said survival the better the technique to apply for street survival. I know from my limited personal experience that the simpler techniques worked best for me.

Think of it, do your rank tests seem difficult and complicated? If yes, are they truly indicative of survival applications of said techniques? Is it possible that unconsciously those setting up requirements and testing naturally know that the more complex, the more difficult that the perception is that it must be good, important and applicable to what a person is doing in that particular martial system?

Questions on exams, not martial system type but normal school stuff, can be either simple or difficult. If you take one that is simple you feel like it is a waste of your time but if those same questions are then formed properly they tend to appear difficult so you walk away feeling like you "did something important."

Can we achieve perfect balance?

Often I posted that the true ultimate meaning of it all is to find "balance." I have since come to the conclusion that balance is not ultimately possible but one can achieve a level of balance within a certain spectrum of the yin-yang that promotes peace, tranquility and ultimately enlightenment with all that comes with that level of achievement in life.

An entity is always dominated by an either yin or a yang phenomena, being or thing. It is a matter of nature, the universe, the rules of the way. That tendency is what makes things go round so to speak. This speaks of continuous change, changes within are changes in the quality, quantity, or structure of its constituent yin and yang elements. Thus it is virtually impossible to be both yin and yang at the same time ergo the constant tendency to fluctuate from one end of that spectrum and the other with a seed of the other remaining within.

So it comes to my mind that what we should seek is a balance of the fluctuating of our yin and yang to a zone that allows natural and nature to continue its tendency to oscillate between being yin and being yang. To achieve minimal movement from one to the other seems the ultimate meaning of all it is to follow the path. Let my graphic demonstrate that zone.

If we can truly remain in this zone, area, then we can achieve better health and well being. We create a way to achieve many things, this is our goal, the way, our ultimate meaning of life.

The Obi, should I wash it or ?

Recently reviewing an eBook on traditional dojo I read a statement that said one must not wash the obi. The various aging effects such as fading and fraying are a testament to your training and should not be fixed, repaired or replaced.

One word, "poppy-cock!" This, in my personal view, is pure egoistic prideful display that is just the opposite of what I strive for in the dojo. Not to say that I didn't fall for this one in the beginning but I can tell you after all that I have come to the conclusion that the obi MUST be properly maintained.

Proper maintenance means to wash it in cold water to remove dirt, stains and STINK. Wash it in cold water and let it hang dry. Do not subject it to hot water, bleach or dragging it behind your truck to get that "experienced bad ass" look many like.

Now, I realize some folks like their first black belt. It has significance and meaning to that person. It was a great achievement and sometimes it is a personal item from that Sensei but ... once it gets to a stage that the fading starts even after maintaining it as I state in the last paragraph then take it off, hang it up and use it for special occasions. Buy a new obi and keep it clean and neat along with the uniform.

I have gone through the well worn faded black belt period of my time in karate. It was my Sensei's older faded obi so I wore it with a bit of pride and did so for a long time but realized that it had to go. Thankfully, a move lost it before I could finally decide to let it go and since then I used a new, clean and black belt.

I also went to the red/white paneled belt and even had a gift of an all white belt with the last seven inches of only the ends in red with Kanji on it but I wear them only for/on special occasions. For instance the custom white belt was worn only once, when I awarded a karate-ka his San-dan.

Now, I don't got to wear no cotton pickin obi; black, white, red and white or red. I just practice and train .... nuff said don't you think.

If your uniform doesn't look like this while in the dojo, fix that!
Clean, orderly and neat - the way it should be don't you think?