"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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I was told my sport oriented martial art is good self-defense too, is this true?

True .... False .... Yes ..... No or rather "it depends." It depends on the mind-set reality based training your getting or not getting to name just one of many, many, many variables involved in violent encounters. This is why there are many books, articles, video's and training halls out there. It is a complex issue and there are and will be many "strong opinions" on this question.

It depends on the person who seeks to apply their sport oriented strategies and tactics toward self-defense. There are many, many, many considerations one must address and accept to make anything work for self-defense regardless if it is sport oriented or combat oriented or fight oriented. You have to know of these things, accept them and give yourself permission to use them for self-defense.

There are many aspects to the sport arena that are helpful in attaining the mind-set and abilities to use self-defense in a fight, conflict and violent encounter. I have witnessed the dedication, mind-set and willingness to believe in their abilities even if on the surface it may appear what they do may not actually work in the streets. Sometimes, not often, the mind-set will carry the ball even if the technique, tactic and strategy are weak or perceived as ineffective. I have also been exposed to folks who trained exclusively in self-defense, good self-defense, who failed because their mind-set failed to carry the day. It all depends.

One reason why training the mind openly, actively and obviously is as important as the physical training, it makes a huge difference. This all begins with data-mining, finding out all the knowledge, encoding it to the mind and then using it in training and practice to achieve a holistic well-rounded self-defense model for you, the individual.

It might just be that it depends on you, the individual, on how effective you are in a fight. Intensity in training, hitting something, being hit by something or someone, etc. all affect the mind-set and mind-set can achieve great things whether sport or fight self-defense oriented. It depends :-) ..... everything goes in the street, it is your life isn't it?

For more read:
Christensen, Loren W. and DeMeer, Wim. "Timing in the Fighting Arts." Sante Fe New Mexico. Turtle Press. 2004.

Has it always taken three or more years to achieve black belt status?

No, not at all. As a matter of fact many of the pioneers of karate came back from overseas with little more than around one year of time in training to open dojo and teach karate to Americans. On average black belt has been awarded only after learning the actual movements with out bunkai or bunkai that was simple and incomplete, i.e. just enough to explain why we did kata and often not much more in the year of duty most served overseas.

It was assumed, rightly so in an Asian culture, that one would begin dedicated, diligent and comprehensive training and study over the coming years. In other instances the dojo and masters who actually had contracts with the military overseas felt it necessary to present black belts at the end of an tour or possible lose students. The military in the fifties vied for black belts and would be disappointed if they didn't achieve those levels before heading back to the states. After all, the majority would not return for additional duty overseas, i.e. only a hand full went back for successive tours or extended tours of duty.

In some rare cases for those pioneers they would actually receive a certificate for sixth dan or level of black belt with the understanding they would not assume that level until they had fifteen years or more of continuous diligent dedicated practice. Many donned the rank upon return to the states and opened dojo.

This may have been the precursor to the McDojo phenomena we experience in today's world of martial arts. Sometimes practitioners would attend just long enough to look good then branch off and open their own dojo and charge a premium fee. With appropriate marketing and con artist type promotions toward unsuspecting and inexperienced individuals it worked. McDojo's were born and have flourished since.

In defense it is turning around where more and more dedicated individuals are diving deep into their studies and bringing the true essence and intent of martial arts back to the forefront and through the internet more and more are no longer entering into practice without the fundamental knowledge and understanding necessary to make informed choices and decisions.

I personally applaud such folks I am aware of such as:

Michael Clarke of Shinseidokan dojo; Iain Abernathy Sensei; Marc MacYoung; Patrick Parker Sensei of Mokuren Dojo; Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder Sensei of Martial Secrets blog; and many many more who have indirectly influenced my continuing studies in the art of karate-goshin-jutsu-do.

Is karate a good self-defense system to learn?

Depends, depends on the mind-set and expertise of the sensei. What I mean is that most martial arts taught in the west, and more so in the east now as well, are sport oriented or philosophy oriented systems. They are good for what they are meant for but as to self-defense they often don't provide more than "a false sense of security."

With all the physical stuff in today's karate along with the sides-show physics oriented practices such as breaking boards and bricks it can give one the sense that what they are doing is effective, dangerous and applicable to defense. This is simply not true but for a few dojo.

Even those who attempt to practice a more fighting, defensive or combative system still have to live under rules, rules mean hindrances against realism, realistic violent conflicts. When you place rules in the picture the picture becomes a caricature of the real thing.

Now, some sobering information. You will in all likelihood experience more violence and injuries in a marital art system than in real life defensive situations. It is just a fact. A month did not go by in my first five years of training, practice and teaching that I didn't get hurt, i.e. a broken tooth, a cracked rib and the times I broke toes just is not worth counting/tracking. Then there were the bruises, shin scrapes, bruised bones, etc. and that was with some form of protective gear.

Karate is a medium that promotes healthier bodies and minds. If taught as intended it is truly a way of things, a "Do" if you will. It can provide some ability to defend yourself provided it is coupled with all the knowledge and understanding of self-defense law and all those other things associated with self-defense situations - in a limited way, i.e. a social monkey dance encounter. But beware, remain aware, the law is fluid as to self-defense and there is so much more here than is taught in most training facilities.

If your need is for self-defense keep in mind all this and that the statistics state that most folks will never, ever encounter true violence in their entire lives - do you really need it or is it you need "a sense of security" that comes with taking marital arts and/or self-defense instructions.

You got to ask yourself all these questions; you got to asses and analysis your needs for this stuff; you got to know what it is you have and don't have - it is more important than signing up for classes that may or may not give you what you need, not necessarily what you think you want.

Try this, if you feel your martial art is adequate for self defense then truly test this out. How? Find a seminar for either, or, or both Rory Miller and Marc MacYoung and discover the answer for yourself.

Note: not an endorsement for either Mr. Miller or Mr. MacYoung but they are the primary folks I find for my perceptions as a litmus test for reality in self-defense. Try them out and see for yourself.

How do you control practitioners in kumite?

First, it is natural for many to get involved to a point where they tend to lose a bit of the control necessary for safety. It becomes an issue many times simply because you want to get them as close to the line of reality without losing it to the point where injuries are frequent and serious. Remember, not that you really need reminding, that martial arts are contact systems with the goal of defense meaning violent encounters - when things fail of course like avoidance and deescalation, etc.

I can only provide my thoughts and theories on the matter of kumite or sparring. It is my intent to provide a practitioner a fundamental foundation of knowledge, technique and limited controlled experience before allowing them to free form fight.

I tend to want their fundamental principles of martial systems solid along with the basic waza and at least a solid understanding of one kata. This is the core, the foundation and the book of techniques or the tool box they must draw from to make karate techniques work.

Second, this is often done gradually and slowing and without real power in a step-by-step form. Like one-step, two-step, three-step practice where all the techniques and responses are set for the practice session. As they become familiar and at ease with what they are applying then you begin to ramp up the speed and power while keeping it under control. This is a dangerous part simply because most have no clue as to how much power the human body can apply without actually understanding or knowing anything - Sensei or Senpai must remain diligent and in control.

This is how they learn control and teach their mind consciously their power and the levels of power they can control and apply depending on the waza applied.

Only when they have acquired a modicum of natural ability in this do you allow a bit of spontaneity into the picture. Then you allow the tori to shift the techniques out of alignment with the predefined one, two or three-step model. This should get the practitioner to think - thinking in practice is important for to think here means you won't think in the fight - hopefully, if all goes well.

Lets, skip ahead to the free form sparring/kumite. When a bit of spontaneity is acquired with adequate results you can either continue to add predefined and spontaneity to the mixture or you can move slowly and deliberately into the free form stuff.

When you move them into free form sparring where anything goes, to a point, then you have to ramp it back DOWN to slow and no power or speed. You want them to think, apply and react appropriately. It is important they don't get stuck in one set of combinations. It also requires Sensei or Senpai to remain diligently observant or involved directly in this stage. It is too easy to get excited at this point and move to fast into sloppy stuff - avoid this at all costs.

As they slowly dance through attacks and defenses they can see, hear and feel how it works and then work out mistakes and variations that adjust the waza, kata and bunkai into a form that fits their bodies, minds and spirits - it allows proper encoding into the mind as well.

As they get into it and become proficient then begin to slowly and methodically ramp up the speed, power and most important CONTROL. Often when these steps, i.e. what is posted here is not all inclusive of what needs to happen, are lost due to excitement and motivation things get sloppy and bad habits form.

Lets skip ahead once again. When they get to the point where they can apply a variety of waza in a variety of situations, scenario's and partners and speed and power are controlled to the very limits possible then we must move into a more reality based set of scenario's where we add in more in-depth aspects necessary to have confidence and ability if one were to encounter conflicts.

Note: we are assuming that all the knowledge on violence, avoidance, deescalation, awareness, legal and psychological considerations are covered and instilled within each practitioner - this is before all the actual contact training starts.

All this instills a sense and conscious awareness of control and how to apply it accordingly, correctly, and with proper spirit to remain within the confines of a safety oriented reality based training system.

Note: if you have someone who seems to need quick self-defense then this system is not for them due to the time needed to make it work. There are methods and systems geared specifically to get one up and running fast and efficiently. It should be noted tho that this quick SD method is not without limitations and restrictions. The main sticking point is that it takes not just that quick training cycle but continued efforts in training to keep it active and effective over time. You can' t just take a class and expect it to work a year later or two or three years later.

Other stuff like stop words or tapping out when taking it to the limits may be necessary as well but all the safety stuff is basics as well and remember that safety are rules and in a fight or violent encounters those rules could result in hesitation or freezes so prepare for this as well.

Sadly, there are no quick and easy answers. As can be seen as I add on tidbits it is very involved and needs due diligence to gain a modicum of proficiency and then there are no guarantees. Even professionals will tell you that what worked once could not work the next time - beware and aware.

Do kata change? Should kata change?

My theory is kata are cultural in nature and along with that culture is the concept of continuous inprovement where one never achives prefection but instead continuously continues to perfect the forms. In this practice, over time, natural instinctive nature takes over and variations to the form arrive spontaniously that fit the mental and physical predispositions of the unqueness of said person becoming "their own."

This does not mean loss of the original essence of the system or kata but rather an individual stamp on the original to suit each person. It also means one must not remain dogmatically glued to exactly what was created, that is not the spirit of the master and this is obvious in the historical stories of how the masters came to be masters.

In Okinawa as well as other Asian nations one trained for a period under a master-apprentice system then were graduated to other known systems/masters to continue training to build expertise until the parts become a whole that sometimes became, or named, a new system, style or branch. This is traditional and promotes progress.

Forms change for change is inevitable, a part of nature, and what we need to return too for nature to work for us in lieu of technology.

Are Sensei by there title and ability unbeatable?

No, fighting proficiency is not necessarily the criteria one should use to determine if the person is deserving of the title Sensei and the position in the dojo of Sensei. The proficiency in fighting and sparring is only a very small part of being a Sensei. I look at Sensei more as a mentor, one who has the experience in the system and holds within the shu-ha-ri principle of it. They are able to impart the physical, mental and spiritual aspects as well as the essence of the system.

It is almost always up to the individual to develop skills and if you are able to defeat Sensei, all the better but don't let that singular victory defeat your efforts to seek out more and more and more of the entire, holistic and wholehearted system we call karate goshin-jutsu-do.

I was able to thump on my Sensei in 79 on Okinawa but he still had plenty to teach me and I listened as I still listen to his advice and guidance today.

p.s. by the way, the next night he let me have it good so you can say we floated back and forth as to who got the best of who in kumite. :-)

Why do we do repetitive basic waza?

Repetition is one way to encode things so they become instinctive but there are limits. One, simply performing repetitive techniques without additional mental intent is only good for health and physical fitness. It won't be there when you need it.

Even repetitive basic techniques must be taken to the next level to work and to benefit the way. If you don't visualize then take them into the uke-tori dynamics with both predefined and chaotic methods of practice it won't be there when you need it.

Mind-set, intent, context and more are a necessary part of practicing budo, karate goshin-jutsu-do. You just can't rely on doing only the movement.

Oh, lets not forget the fundamental principles of martial arts, i.e. basics or basic techniques are a means to train, practice and forge those into your tool box. You want the right tool for the right job, right?