"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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Multiple Style Training, Is it Beneficial?

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

Systems and styles, for me, seem to be more about variations in the application of principles. It would therefore answer the question, is the training in multiple systems or styles beneficial.

First, multiple systems and styles rely totally and completely on fundamental principles where the differences of a system or style become preferences.

Second, multiple systems and style presentations are beneficial to self-defense if for no other reason the exposure, exposure that makes that presentation an awareness so when encountered it will not come as a surprise causing your mind to freeze because you don’t know that is coming at you.

Third, if one truly focuses on the principles then the first and second comment become mute. Focusing on principles then applying them under the adrenal stress conditions of reality focuses your mind of your goals of applying principles to stop damage, etc. 

Here, let me put it this way, every martial artists has heard the old maxim that if you learn one system or style completely, if you master it, then all other styles are understood. That is only true if you look beyond those other styles to see the principles underneath. The old saying applies even more to kata, to learn one kata well means you learn all the other easily and quickly.

In truth, regardless of the model and method, if you spend your time learning the principles and apply that knowledge to achieve understanding the system or style is superfluous to that study, learning, practicing and understanding. A person who has studied and mastered the fundamental principles of martial disciplines can then expose themselves to the various systems and styles and will in essence know them as they are applied through the same principles. 

The maxims of old were the best way to explain the study and learning of principles for the kata is one of the best ways to learn those principles for to teach kata properly is to teach the principles, not just technique based training for performances, etc. The limits of technique based training are just surface fluff and principles cross over all other models and methods, they take you past the book cover of kata or style or system and present the story itself of the principles. 

Modern times and the advancement of understanding along with higher ability of humans to articulate due to advancement in communications, sciences, etc., provide us the ability to convey the complexities that didn’t exist in times of old. Through the advancement of modern times we have found the key to open doors that once kept limits on how knowledge and skill was taught and passed down. 

Now that we can see principles through the efforts of the sciences we can now articulate and teach them without a need to assign them to any kata, system or style. Principles make systems and styles obsolete except in fulfilling the needs of humans, tribes and societal distinctions toward our nature and natural way. 

Example, MMA was a modern attempt to bring together a variety of different systems and styles into one. It failed to achieve true cross system status over singular styles due to nature, human instincts and a focus on those principles over a collection of technique based models, i.e., karate + judo + jujutsu + wrestling, etc. When the recognition and acceptance of principles without the borders created through models or styles or systems is achieved then humans will be able to create  the “One true principles based system” born of the efforts of the many. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Is Guān Yǔ (關羽), the Chinese God of War and of Martial Arts?

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Guan Yu died circa 220. A general serving under a warlord named, “Liu Bei” of the Eastern Han Dynasty. Guan Yu played a significant role in the civil war that ended that dynasty. It lead to the creation of the Shu Han dynasty during the three kingdom period in China. 

It just so happens that his connection to the Chinese God of War was something that came from the Wester world because of his notariety as a military general held in high regard by the Chinese. This is considered by many who study Chinese classics to be a misconception of his role. In general, as to worshipping, he is bette known as the “Emperor Guan,” or “Lord Guan” by some. 

As to his supposed role as a Chinese God of Martial Arts, there does not seem to be any references to attribute such a status to General Guan Yu. 

In general, most of what we know about General Guan Yu is from the book, “Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” that is more fictionalized rather than true life stories. 

“In the Western world, Guan Yu is sometimes called the Taoist God of War, probably because he is one of the most well-known military generals worshipped by the Chinese people. This is a misconception of his role, as, unlike the Greco-Roman deity Mars or the Norse god Týr, Guan Yu, as a god, does not necessarily bless those who go to battle but rather, people who observe the code of brotherhood and righteousness.”

Understand, most of the references found in my limited and personal research do attribute this status to his life but those sources are all Western in origin with little or no reference from Chinese literature as a source except the mostly fictionalized book mentioned above. Many sources found are also from Gaming Sites, ergo the games created and inspired from the book already mentioned. Many of those same western oriented sources tend to describe him in a fictional way similar to the actual fictionalized stories in Romance of the Three Kingdoms book. 

When you research the statues you will find a large variety of poses and renditions of Guan Yu. This also brings to question as to the authenticity of those variations. Although very similar one would not truly know if that is a proper representation even when seen in the most obvious locations, Chinese Restaurants. I have found upon further inquiry at such restaurants the owners, Chinese, tend to put such objects in because of their beauty and rarely know who Guan Yu is, etc. but that theory is very limited and questionable as well. 

In the end there is no real proof from reliable Chinese sources to say that this is true or false. I like the representation and stories around Guan Yu as they symbolize what we all would like to feel is true of martial arts and the origins of those who may have affected the discipline in both a realistic and historical effort but in truth, who the heck knows.

Would I relate Guan Yu to my martial arts practice even if it is a practice toward civil self-defense over others like sports, etc.? Not really and I would not try to assign it any cultural value toward my martial discipline as to its origins on Okinawa other than its possible influences through the trade relations Okinawan’s had with China over its illustrious history. 

Honestly, there is no real definitive proof either way but if you like it, you appreciate the association with a considered great Chinese General of Ancient Chinese times and you want it to symbolize how you approach your training, practice and application of martial discipline - you go for it!

If you are going to express and teach it as a historical fact - NOT! As relevant to martial arts today - NOT! Nice stories all but not reality based as a provable fact, theory or even philosophy. But then again, ?


Bibliography (Click the link)

Is it Guan Yu or is it Memorex?

Does the ken-po goku-i contain 8 trigrams?

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

I addressed this belief once before in the following article, i.e., “ http://kenpo-gokui.blogspot.com/2011/03/8-ken-po-goku-i-8-trigrams.html “ but when I read another inference that the gokui actually contained eight trigrams I had to do a bit more research. In the end I found that in truth the gokui DOES NOT have eight trigrams contained therein but most who profess this are actually and loosely trying to relate the eight kenpo gokui to the eight trigrams by the reference of, i.e., “There are Eight Trigrams in the I Ching, Eight directions, Eight Precepts in the Kenpo Gokui, and Eight empty hand kata of Isshin-ryu.”

When I say loosely, I do mean loosely. As can be readily perceived there are a lot of things that number eight as there are a number of things that reference to the number three as well but to say, “all of them contain or are connected to the eight trigrams or any number of hexagrams” is ludicrous to say the least.

I believe and have little doubt that Tatsuo-san, as a known fortune teller and user of such tomes as the I Ching, was influenced by those studies along with some references and connections to other references such as the Bubishi where an original eight laws are provided but as to a direct and solid connection to the trigrams, hexagrams or even the I Ching, loose and arguable. 

I accept the influences that can be loosely perceived since a lot of references and history, also loosely documented, do hint at or refer to the Ancient Chinese Classics and when you relate the close relationship to Chinese and Okinawan trade along with trade to other Asian countries you can see how such things influence how they are perceived and later trained and practiced. 

Literally tho, the eight kenpo gokui DO NOT CONTAIN the 8 trigrams, they do have a loose connections with them such as the references to the earth, the moon, the sun and heaven that can be represented with four trigrams. There are also inferences to man and other uses within the gokui when one studies the eight precepts called the “Gokui.”

When you study the ken-po goku-i as it was meant to be related to a practice of the fist, karate or Te or Ti as referenced toward early Okinawan karate, you can see that holistically speaking the gokui does not contain direct inference or reference or contain actual trigrams and/or hexagrams. Maybe in some translations of the I Ching you can find closer connections but the study and understanding of the I Ching is a huge and daunting task even for the most dedicated student of Ancient Chinese Classics. 

Regardless, if I do desire I can create connections to all of this as it relates to the gokui, practice of martial arts and those same classics including tomes like the Tao Te Ching and so on but that does not make it so, true or correct. It is nice and cool and relevant to each persons interpretation and understanding as to their personal, individual and unique study, training, practice, teaching and application of martial arts but it don’t make it true for others.

This is why I make such studies as the ken-po goku-i a personal one and present my studies in my articles as an inspiration to do the study on each persons own because it is not a group thing but a personal one. 

In closing, the gokui does not CONTAIN trigrams. The first two of the eight do make a tenuous connection the the I Ching if you take them alone but since all eight are meant to be one whole that kind of makes that questionable. There is no way to know for sure since almost all information in this regard is lost because of a total lack of documentation, any significance that could be attributed to it for martial arts died with the creators and finally word of mouth is not an acceptable means of conveying historical facts, etc., simply because human memory is just no reliable over time.

NOTES: Review of the eight trigrams it can be see to represent some inferences in the gokui for soft wood, the sun’s brightness, eyes and heart, the moon but overall only a few connections can be seen to the gokui but I have not looked for interpretations beyond one or two sources that may change dependent on translations and the translators. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

p.s. Heck, bet I can relate the ken-po goku-i to the Firefly, Serenity and Whedon-verse fiction too but that don’t make it so. :-)

Click for large view.

Click for large view.

Is it the aim of karate to achieve perfection of character?

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

The old saying, source is always questionable but … , goes that traditionalist of Okinawan karate believe that “Kata” is the soul of karate.” Guess what, I am going to question these things in this article - surprise! surprise! :-)

First, what is the aim of karate? From my chair it ain’t the perfection of character although that goal is considered a part of the fourth fundamental principle of martial disciplines, the philosophy. Ultimately, the aim of karate is self-defense. Don’t assume the definition in this article is the one I tend to articulate through these articles as a modern form of self-defense. It is the aim of karate to provide humans a means to defending the self, i.e., the body and the mind since both are affected in violence, without weapons.

Consider this, since time began with human existence we humans have always sought out the use of weapons be it a stick or a modern missile launcher to do our battles with but on rare occasions the use of our bodies are needed. In some cultures they mandate individuals learn and apply such empty handed models as a pre-requisite to learning and using weapons. It may explain why karate, a solely empty handed model if you go by the naming convention, that also includes, at least as far as modern thinking, weapons such as the Bo, the Sai and the Kama, etc. as used on Okinawa.

Now, as to the perfection of character, it is NOT the aim of karate - that has been determined and articulated by the terse written word above - but rather a more philosophical addition brought about through the forced peace of Asia after World War II, etc. when the Japanese needed to find some other means to justify the continuance of Budo, a modern term itself, where the practice of a deadly system of combat could be accepted and still practiced to overcome an effort to force Japanese to discard any and all combative forms as perceived by the conquering Americans and the World at large. 

The essence and aim of karate as with any martial art is defense in a combative scenario with a preference for weapons as extensions of the human body. It is about brutal applications of physical techniques as guided by fundamental combat principles resulting in an adversary suffering grave bodily harm and even death to meet the goals of the practitioner and applicator of karate, etc.

The philosophical principles as appended to karate and other combat systems simply provides two things, first is a means to practice something considered deadly for other purposes more acceptable to a modern society averse to conflict and violence of that level while second, as a means of character development so if and when such expertise is applied in defense of self, family and tribe it remains a socially accepted means and level of force necessary to stop the threat and maintain safety, security and socially driven conditions toward group survival dynamics, etc. 

Finally, “Kata is the Soul of Karate,” is one of those maxims or meme’s that sounds really good and gives undefined reasons readily accepted to most in the study and practice of such a violent and dangerous discipline. It allows one to change the aim of karate toward a more recreationally driven sport oriented study and practice where one does not require exposure to conflict and violence except in the controlled safety oriented competitive model that has become sport karate. 

If kata is the soul of karate then it meets the requirement that its practice makes for the very essence or embodiment of a specified quality that is karate. In that narrow and precise view I would agree that kata along with other distinctive practices such as basics, hojo undo and kumite make a triad of disciplinary practices that do embody the very essence that makes karate, karate, regardless of whether for spiritual growth, physical and mental health and well-being or self-defense. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

What is it to “Be A Man?”

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

When I started to contemplate this was after reading the article posted or shared on Marc MacYoung’s FBWall, “Our Kids Don’t Need Gun Control Laws, They Need Fathers.” In one of the comments that followed Mark Burns mentioned, “be a man.” This reminds me of the constant discussion and disagreement as to what is considered “Traditional Martial Arts.” Emphasis on the definition of traditional. 

Being a man seems to be a very subjective phrase that results in as many different thoughts than does the discussion of traditional martial arts what ever that really means. I began to contemplate as to what it takes to “be a man.” 

Being a Man: First, do a search on being a man and at the top of the google search I used it gave the stats of about 1,680,000,000 results in only about .65 seconds. Second, amazing time to achieve that many results in so short a time, thanks google search engine. Third, this simply means that defining what it is to be a man is subjective and dependent on each individual, that individuals perceptions and distinctions according to the various influences such as their fathers, their families, the social structure of that family in its local social tribe and so on. Don’t forget that for all of these it does include the cultural belief systems at each and every level. It also comes from the longer line of ancestry involved because ancestry has a lot to do with how that cultural belief system evolved over a long period of time, say at a minimum of three hundred years. 

Every man must become the man that his social community requires as to that groups survival. Think of survival as what each generation teaches the one that follows so that it maximizes that groups chance of survival. If any one generation fails to transmit that social cultural belief system, including what it is to be the man in that group along with other beliefs, then they have allowed a weak link to effect that groups chance of survival. If the group actually has its shit together that weak link will be readily detectable and therefore the group will either correct it or remove it but in modern times this part may not be available now. 

Being a man has a lot more involved than merely acting in a macho manner. There are all kinds of descriptive terms and phrases that would give some modicum of information toward what it is to be a man but to remind you, that changes according to the social construct and the survival instinct of that same social entity. There is a huge amount of diversity in that thought and it also provides me a theory as to why humans should have remained in those ancient groups or tribes. Such descriptive terms as, “Selflessness, consistency, humility, integrity, respect, courage, honor, compassion, honesty and sincerity as well as duty and loyalty.” All of these then therefore depend heavily on how that particular person, family and social community defines them and then that definition is instinctually modeled toward the tribe or groups survival. 

Then there are how such definitions are affected by group dynamics such as where a person, a man in this case, sits within the groups hierarchy, their status at that level within the tribe and finally their duty and responsibility to the tribe or group with emphasis on its survival. 

Now, I would add in how the effects of the society at its current standing effects being a man. Modern society compared to a more simplistic social standing such as Medieval times would create what it is to be a man to self, the group and the social tribes involved. Modern times seems to me to have put a socially conditioned different spin on what it is to be a man.

For instance, being a man to me means having the intestinal fortitude to solve your own issues, problems and obstacles but modern man as of this time seems to be conditioning men to seek others in solving issues, problems and obstacles. Modern society is actually distancing everyone, men especially, from the natural human instincts that provided for survival of the tribe making for men who no longer have the knowledge, understanding or tools to cope and resolve conflicts along with the sometimes resulting violence. We are forgetting our ancestry and roots especially those aspects that have not been removed by nature through evolution. 

A complete lack of knowledge, understanding and the resulting tools to cope with conflict and violence, a very natural state of human existence that is not going anywhere any time soon, means when the natural human conflict arises we either try to force its resolution onto others so we don’t have to deal with its stresses or we try to ignore it until frustrations rise to a level causing anger, escalation and violence, more violence than what we originally wanted to rid ourselves of to begin with by sticking our collective heads in the sands of ignorance. 

In that light lets say that to be a man is to learn and understand what it is to be human, collect adequate tools and knowledge and especially understanding so each man can deal with human conflict and violence, at all levels. A man does rely on others to assist but deflecting the entire situation to others is simply cowardice. A man then through knowledge, understanding and awareness knows how to properly apply the coping skills to avoid, deescalate and resolve said obstacles, issues, problems and obstacles. A man knows when to “hold-em, fold-em and when to walk away” as Kenny Rogers song, The Gambler, would say. 

Being a man is accepting the world for what it is, having the courage to deal with the world and then finding ways to make for a better world using the tools the world has and works under. Hiding and othering and ignoring and forcing others to take on and handle our responsibilities is cowardice, stupidity and just plain wrong. 

Maybe being a man is as simple and as complex as understanding we have a responsibility to ourselves, our families and our tribes to do the best we can for our survival. Maybe those are the underlying principles of being a man while all the others such as being “Selfless, consistent, with humility, with integrity, with respect, with courage, with honor, with compassion, with honesty and sincerity as well as with duty and loyalty,” will help each man to understand what it takes to be a “Man.” 

Bibliography (Click the link)