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

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"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 Martial Arts Dojo Use Japanese Terms, etc.?

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Well, it makes them feel good, it makes them feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves, and it also makes them feel connected to the mystical, exotic and more interesting culture and life then what they live in already. These and other reasons drive practitioners into the use of Japanese terms, characters and ideograms. 

What those terms actually do for us when properly translated and defined is provides us with a bit more insight as to the what, when, where, how and why of these interesting teachings from their culture and beliefs on martial arts. Granted, most terms are not translated correctly but with the advent of translations sites from the vasti-ness of the Internet Verse or Cortex, for you firefly friends, that ability to correctly translate simple terms increased ten-fold.

Terms are limited in use yet one of the benefits is that when translated we often find, as a direct opposite to English terms and words, the term, character and ideogram have “Several different” translations and meanings. 

Example: Isshin [一心]

The characters/ideograms mean "one mind; wholeheartedness; one's whole heart." The first character means, "one," the second character means, "heart; mind; spirit."

Note: I remember that most never truly understood who, why and how the term, “Wholeheartedly,” became a part of the system practiced until someone pointed out the various definitions from the use of Japanese characters/ideograms, etc.

When you look at the group of defined English translations you will see, and as it is taught in the actual dojo that uses this term, that it deals with “Heart and Mind and Spirit” where further definitions and meanings can and do come from how practitioners interpret, perceive and gain perspective on from the study of the system and the martial discipline. 

Yet, using them in the dojo, verbally, such as counting repetitions, etc. is more an ego self-soothing pride boosting and associative need from survival instinctual meaning not often conscious to the individual type thing. 

I remember once a very prominent Koryu Practitioner said, “When I left Japan my Sensei told me that I should teach in America as I would for Americans, the teachings in Japan are for Japanese (and of course visiting guest students like this practitioner).” Now, I don’t have that quote exact but the meaning in his post/article was that one should use the cultural etiquettes of the Dojo and Sensei and Country/Culture/Beliefs where you train but when you go to another then train, practice and apply your knowledge and experience to that Dojo, Sensei (if not you), Country, Cultural belief system and that means using here English, American style clothing to train in, and so on. 

Be aware that many also pick and choose, cherry-pick, what they want that relates to their needs and perceptions so that they benefit personally and directly rather than actually mimic that cultural belief system complete “Way,” to practice, train and apply said martial disciplines. We non-Asian martial artists don’t seem to be able to let that go, it has become ingrained and encoded as “What martial arts are,” when in fact it is about, “What we WANT martial arts to be!”

Here is the rub, in general, even those who want to totally and completely absorb the martial arts along with its cultural belief system heritages by traveling to the country of origin to train and learn are in for a huge disappointment. Those venues and avenues have succumbed to world commercialism to the nth degree. Almost all of it now caters to what we, the American or Non-Asian customers, want and need at the “Low, low price of …”

Then there is the conception of learning from the proverbial, “First Generation Students” of the masters from which they learned their martial arts but in reality, as to my experiences and research only, they were not exposed to those cultural beliefs as they pertain to marital arts and they were actually exposed to the more watered-down educational sport oriented forms of martial arts. 

Except for the very few who truly were exposed, over long periods of time that span decades “In-country” practicing what we understand as “Koryu,” to traditional martial disciplines practically none of the modern martial artists were ever exposed to and trained in that more traditional martial disciplines.

One solid and positive aspect to all this is there are a few, and growing in numbers, who actually are taking the time and effort to seek out the traditional aspects and incorporate that, at least academically, into thier training and teachings. It is a bit like the martial arts self-defense world that lacks reality there is a concerted effort of the few experienced professionals to teach us “Reality-based adrenal stress conditions training” to get us closer to “Reality,” and the “Reality of Conflict and Violence.” 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Is Kata Training for Self-Defense?

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

A person once stated that Okinawan’s didn’t practice contact practice like kumite because it “Eschewed the concept because their techniques were too potentially lethal.” I get this itchy feeling whenever I hear someone spout the deadly applications of karate. Granted, at one time long, long ago - historically speaking of the early 1600’s - the techniques applied as Ti or Toudi may have been devastating but as to deadly I perceive that as more a result of gravity or weapons over Te (karate as it is called today). 

In the early years as karate was introduced in this country it was almost exclusively about kicking and striking. Seldom was any other, regarding karate in a strict sense, methodology referenced toward self-defense. Mostly, it was about competitive aspects and we all know that competitive aspects has nothing to do with self-defense, fighting or combatives of the empty hand, i.e., hand-to-hand, kind. 

Personally, as I have come to understand, karate as to striking and kicking has its human limits governed by survival of the tribe and the human instinct to communicate through violence, when necessary, in a way that is guaranteed to prevent grave bodily harm or death, i.e., those proverbial potentially lethal applications. 

Striking and kicking are about getting what you want and enforcing rules that often govern human interactions be they in a family environment or a more tribal societal family like environment. It was not meant to be a deadly lethal system. I repeat, karate in its bare educational sport oriented form, was not meant to be a deadly lethal system. 

If you goal is to cause grave bodily harm or death then your best bet is to get a weapon and apply it with a killer mind-set/mind-state because unless you accidentally cause an adversary to fall where gravity kills them karate ain’t going to get the job done. Violence, except in rare cases predation violence, seldom results in grave bodily harm and/or death (here agin is where accidents happen). As one source indicated, it is about communications. 

Bunkai, Henka, Ouyou-bunkai, Omote-Ura and Embusen are being touted as the way of self-defense but in reality those training paths are about learning concepts and principles but fall way short of providing the kind of defensive goals one needs in conflict and violence. They are paths a novice needs to open the conepts up for interpretation and understanding but are NOT about defense against violence of a predatory nature. 

This brings me down to self-defense. SD is about avoidance, avoiding the socially emotionally driven monkey dances almost all humans, especially males, endure from their testerone overloaded youthful interactions that don’t often end in grave bodily harm and/or levels of lethal force that would end in death. This comprises what I would say is about 98% of modern violence. I would also say that 98% of martial arts in modern times is about sport competition rather than self-defense. I would go a bit further to say that the teachings of modern martial arts is about 98% ineffective in real self-defense, i.e., a predatory resource/process situation. I would say that for 98% of martial artists who believe they know self-defense that only about 2% of those will ever deal with a predatory resource/process type assault. I will go even further to say that 98% of martial artists who believe they know self-defense that only about 2% of those actually know and understand the full comprehensive understanding of self-defense. 

I will also say that 98% of all martial artist who believe they know self-defense have no experience nor have they received training from anyone with experience in self-defense, fighting and combatives. Lets add one more, 98% of all bunkai taught as being applicable self-defense, fighting and combatives is not valid, i.e., they won’t or don’t work in self-defense, fighting and/or combative situations. 

Kata is not training self-defense. Kumite is not training in self-defense. Sport competitive participation is not self-defense. Bunkai do not teach self-defense techniques. Martial arts self-defense models do not teach self-defense that works. 

I could go on but I sense that it may be overkill. Karate, all martial arts, have benefits and are beneficial to all who partake of its studies but as to kata or other distinct parts they are not the means to achieve proficient ability in fighting, combatives or self-defense (especially SD).

Note: Such terms used in a teaching model like bunkai, henka, ouyou, omote/ura and embusen are just excuses to tell ourselves we are actually learning a combative fighting defense system. Yes, they have purpose but in the end they are just ways to describe things so the initiate can achieve greater understanding toward actual hands-on ability to fight, defend and apply combatives in a violent way. 

Note II: Being traditional or classic or even modern does not equate to ability in the fight. It may get you started but it won’t take you the entire way. This stuff has been a bane of discussion since the first moment the caveman lifted a piece of tree to club an attacking beast over the head for protection. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

What are the differences between Okinawan karate and Japanese Karate?

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

“Okinawan Karate Vs. Japanese Karate. The differences and why … “ is the original question asked by Charles B. Stanley on the Ryukyu MA Research and Discussion Facebook group. It inspired this article.

These are my thoughts and mine alone. If you wish to see the research behind it simply review my bibliography but understand that those contributed to my personal feelings in this article.

First, understand the differences between the cultures because that is the very essence in the differences between Okinawa and Japan. In a nutshell the Okinawan culture is similar to Japanese only in the sense they both sought out and absorbed what they felt was beneficial to them from all the surrounding cultures over their history. You can say that the Chinese influences were one of the greatest for both but more so for Okinawa as can be understood by the study of Okinawan history.

Second, what was absorbed by each differed. In general the Okinawans although part of their culture involved militaristic philosophies and disciplines that took a back seat to other more socially and philosophically and peaceful oriented cultural influences. In general the Japanese focuses heavily on their militaristic oriented (think of bushido and samurai here) influences of which the concept of “Shikata” dominate even today. 

Third, when I look at Japanese culture in martial arts vs. Okinawan culture in martial arts - at least in what was taught late 1950’s and onward - I see differences such as Okinawans using sparring/fighting contests vs. an almost exclusive use of kata, forms that come from the shikata concepts in their society, as a means of learning how to defend, fight and apply combatives. There was also a much higher military like discipline in the practice hall in Japan vs. Okinawa where a very relaxed family like atmosphere existed. This will be hard to prove historically as well as disprove ergo why it is my theory, view and belief.

The differences have become harder to perceive simply because of the concerted effort by Okinawa to have their martial arts accepted and approved by the Japanese budo-like societies/organizations. Remember that the Japanese orgs changed drastically after the war ended simply because of requirements made by American leadership as a requirement/part of the surrender agreements. 

As to teaching a modified version to the Japanese I think that was a result of the Okinawan need and effort to gain acceptance and approval, nothing more and nothing less. It seems less about what was taught then how it was taught. The focus on kata become dominant vs. applying it in a fight contest and so on. As I stated earlier on in this thread the educational version effected both cultures and since it was driven by strong suggestions from the Japanese government both instances, Japan’s schools and Okinawan schools, the end result was pretty much the same except I would expect the Okinawan teachers to have a certain Okinawan flavor of an influence on their own. This also leads to the possibility that no matter what when said and done the end result was a more homogenous version of karate that encompassed the needs, wants and requirements of both societies making its cultural essence a mixture over either one being a dominant influence. Remember, both Japan and Okinawa have a history of absorbing what they wanted and needed into their way and that way differs between Japan and Okinawa only in general ways as far as I can tell.

In the end, it is not actually a matter of Japan vs. Okinawan karate but the study of the actual fundamental principles of those varying disciplines because in truth that is the real connection between them that levels the playing field. Principles actually transcend any societal cultural belief system since they are all the same since all human physiques, etc., are kind of identical, i.e., we all have blood, we all breathe, we all have a skeletal system and we all have muscular systems, etc. that need alignment, structure, etc. in order to work and in karate apply force and power to achieve our goals in self-defense. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Innovative Practice, when can it be acceptable vs. detrimental?

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

“At what point is innovation (in regard to the practice of karate) acceptable and when does it become detrimental?” asked by Kyle Pjd on Ryukyu Martial Arts research and discussion Facebook group.

First, an excellent question if I do say so myself. The answer I would give is, “It depends.” It does depend on a variety of factors and one critical factor is the practitioner, the individual learning and practicing. I can only say, from my perspective; my perception; my experiences as limited as they are, etc.

Second, a practitioner can only reach that level of practice if they have an excellent mentor in their system of practice. It is this dual symbiotic relationship that leads one to achieve a level of proficiency and expertise that allows such innovational understanding allowing one to stretch, reach and achieve innovative practice of say, “Karate.”

Third, to achieve this level both the deshi and the sensei must understand concepts such as “Shu-ha-ri and Shin-gi-tai.” I don’t need to go into this here because there are others more qualified who have published excellent literature on the subject such as Sensei Michael Clarke of Shinseidokan Dojo of Australia. I will say that most practitioners achieve a solid understanding of the “Shu” levels but rarely go beyond into the “ha-ri” levels. 

Finally, as per my perception and perspective, one does not have the expertise and proficiency to move to the higher levels at the sho-dan or lower yu-dan-sha levels, it is just to early and today’s gratuitous awarding of black belts kind of muddies the waters on this subject. In my limited experience I believe that, all things being perfect, one cannot, does not and will not have that innovative mind-set and mind-state until they reach the following as to levels and criteria:

1. Go-dan levels in a perfect world (it doesn’t exist but it is a good gaol to set).
2. A certain level of maturity that in my opinion cannot be achieved until one reaches the age of fifty years.
3. A level of symbiotic mentoring with others that also relates to age as in mentoring age, i.e., about twenty years as a mentor (not to be compared to the age of the individual as indicated in no. 2.
4. A certain level of knowledge, understanding and most important experience. (Note: the experience level must include a certain level of proficiency through actual hands-on like experience dealing professionally with conflict and violence both social and asocial in nature along with experience through adrenal stress conditions)
5. A complete comprehensive understanding, knowledge and application of the fundamental principles of martial disciplines. (Note: it does not have to be martial art oriented but some form of hand-to-hand defensives systems)

This is the bare minimum and only when one achieves some level of understanding, knowledge and expertise here and through continued studies will they reach a level that allows them to be innovative. It is also important that they reach a level where they can perceive and determine what is innovative and what is simply change for change sake. Too many have simply made cosmetic changes to their practice so they can self-promote and create a “New System” so they can be masters with all that entails from a strictly commercial standpoint.

As can now be seen herein to achieve a level that allows for innovative change is also a very complex model that is often too complex to explain fully and completely in an article or comment but you can at least see through this effort that it is not a simple nor easy answer and to actually achieve it is rare indeed. Asking the question is a good start but only a start for the road is long, treacherous but achievable to at least a few. 

Bibliography (Click the link)