The Karate Car
When designing a fancy car the companies bring in their experts in their individual fields. Each one of these experts feels that it's because of their design that the vehicle is superb. The person who created the wheel design believes that the vehicle will not move or handle well on the roads if it wasn't for their creativity. The person who designed the engine will immediately pop the hood of any vehicle to compare their design to that vehicles inferior design. The man who created the body of the vehicle will believe that that is why the people will buy that vehicle to begin with. In reality none of this is true. Each of them is looking at the vehicle in separate components when truly the vehicle is made up of all components running together and working together at one time. But without one key component that vehicle will do nothing but sit and collect dust. That key component; The driver.
The driver is why the vehicle moves. The driver is why the vehicle will be seen by others. If the driver does not pay attention and miss handles the vehicle the driver is the one that crashes the vehicle. If the driver knows what they are doing, they will experience an incredible smooth journey of that superior vehicle.
I always have said that there are 3 reasons why we practice the martial arts: A want, a need, and a passion. We start because we WANT to see what's is all about. We stay because it becomes our passion. We dedicate our life's to it because we need to, we know no other way.
As a young warrior in training, I was told that every martial arts class should also begin and end with respect. This is true, but it only displays a simple understanding of what is needed and many “martial artist” believe this to be the full truth. What they lack in their understanding is Mokuso (黙 想), or silence contemplation.
The basic layout is that the student starts and ends each training session in a meditation. This act helps to focus the warrior’s mind on the training and not the stress that happened before that moment. Everything that happened before entering the dojo is left at the dojo door. The warrior can now give more towards their training and help retain more of the lesson.
When the lesson is over, you preform Mokuso again, but this time you reflect on your training. You remember what went well and what made it that way. More importantly, you reflect what you need to improve upon and the path to get you there.
This is a little deeper than the “beginning and ending with respect” concept. Respect is still needed. It relates to those that are in front of you. Mokuso is for that which is inside of you.
The Old Ways
The main idea is that if you are trying to practice one martial art and others keep "creeping" in, that's a good thing. We (martial artist) should not study only one style. Our minds learn that there are gaps of imperfections that are found in all styles. By learning other ways of doing the same movements from other styles, we begin to fill in those gaps, thus improving our style.
When I was in Okinawa (this was before my feeding crane training) I was learning from Takayoshi Nagamine Sensei. He talked about how to improve your power by relaxing your body until the moment of impact. He also gave a demo that showed that true power came from the speed and snap (like water hand) of the strike rather than the brute force. He showed this by taking a pair of chopsticks and having the hold them together. He then took the paper wrapper that they came in, folded it, and with one quick motion cut through the chopsticks. It was the best demo of what I later would learn as water hand. I was even lucky enough to have this event on
video. I think that I will show it in class in a few weeks to talk about it.
What he (Nagamine) told us is that many of today's karatekas have forgotten the old ways. This we know now as the white crane style of the martial arts that gave birth to modern day karate. That is why I say that you should not separate your style and learn how to blend them instead.
A Punch for Peace
It is hard for people to understand that training in the martial arts helps that person become more peaceful. Most non-martial artist believes that this would be a contradiction in terms. So much so that there are groups and organizations that will not support martial arts training to youth because it “teaches violence”. Even though true martial artist know this to be wrong, we must understand and educate ourselves on why so that we can pass on that knowledge and help educate others. When studying the martial arts, the person's intent on its usage is based on many different factors; their past, their instructors, and their style to name a few of them. This article is not to single out any one group and is more aimed at the whole. It is hard to explain to those that do not practice, but there is a certain “calm” that is takes over your body and mind when you first enter the dojo. This magical power that the dojo seems to have lifts the clouds from your mind and helps you see and understand things more clearly. This is because students feel more comfortable inside of their dojos. To them, this is home and the people within it are family. Here they are better understood and whatever stress has happened outside does not (or should not) follow them in there. This leads to a calmer demeanor that is reflected in a peaceful life. Another thing is that the martial arts builds up a person’s confidence level, making them less fearful and helps maintain a clear mind when in high stress situations.
Enhancing Your Skills
The great question of all time that is asked to all martial artists is "what is the best martial art to practice?" Martial artists (budokas) have been trained, almost brainwashed into responding with "there is no one best martial arts, only great martial artist". When people ask this question, they are searching for a quick fix and not want to waste their time with learning a style that will not benefit them against something that is stronger. When you are buying a car and you ask for something that is fast, there are cars out there that go faster than others. That does not mean that you will drive that car at its full potential speed, only that the ability to do so it there. The same thing for the martial arts. The martial arts are taught in two forms; sport and street. How effective those teachers are within those areas is a different story. The way people practice the martial arts can be broken into three different types; the weekend warrior, the love and dropper, and the warrior in training. The Weekend Warrior are those people that only practice when there is class and do very little practicing outside of it. They may be blessed with natural skills that will enable them to move forward in the martial arts but the true understanding of their skills will never be met. The Love and Droppers are those students who are come into the martial arts and make it their lives...for a short time. Everything that they do is martial art this and karate that. Their instructor will see great things for them in the future and hopes to have them open up their own school one day. Then, they're gone. The instructor reaches out to them and they will say that they have baseball or school is getting in the way. They make promises of returning, but rarely do. The Warrior in Training are those students who do jump into the martial art pool feet first. The move in slowly and get use to the waters. They let their bodies become adapted to the temperatures of the water and soon finding themselves never wanting to leave it. These students build their lives around the martial arts and start to look at the world through a new set of eyes. For them to leave the martial arts is unheard of and after a while, life before the martial arts will be forgotten. But how does this relate to learning the best style out there? In the USA, about 18 million (or 5% of the population) train in the martial arts. This number includes all ages and styles. If you take each one and "test" them on their style's basic front punch, you will get 18 million different ways of doing it. Why? Because each person has different areas that have to be addressed when doing something as simple as a front punch even within their own style. Each mix of these areas will be different for each person. These areas include (but not limited to): body size, body type, muscles tone, lung capacity, person backgrounds, their focus when striking, their instructor's views of the martial arts, and so much more. So what is the better style? Each person creates their own style so to answer the question, you would have to test each and every person who studies the martial arts, after you do that, and you will have your answer. Don't try to do the martial arts the way that your instructor does it. That way worked for him/her. You need to develop your own way. That is the best style out there for you to learn.
True mastery is not found in its "fancy" techniques but in its true understanding of the techniques. This doesn't matter in what path this mastery is found in. Take the story of Giotto di Bondone (1267 – 1337).
Pope Boniface VIII wanted to commission some paintings for St. Peter’s and so he sent a courtier around to find the best painter in Italy. The courtier asked all the artists to give him a sample of their work to send to the Pope. He came to Giotto’s workshop, explained his mission, and asked him for a drawing which would give the Pope some idea of his competence and style. Giotto laid down a sheet of paper, reached for a brush dipped in red paint, closed his arm to his side to make a sort of compass of it, and in one even movement drew a perfect circle. “There you are,” he told the courtier, handing it to him with a smile.
“That’s your drawing?” asked the courtier, who didn’t know whether Giotto was pulling his leg. “Is that all you’re going to send His Holiness?”
“That’s more than enough,” said Giotto.
At first the Pope was mad but soon he understood how incredible this simple drawing was. It was a display of true mastery. This display was also a test. Giotto worked for only himself and would only sell items to people who would both understand and appreciate his skills. If the Pope could not see it, then he would not work for him.
As a martial artist, many people ask me to "show them a move" or "what is your best strike"? When this is asked people don't want to see your "true" power but want to see something fancy that they would have seen while watching some martial arts movie. Also, if you did show off some skills, you run the risk of attracting unwanted attention. So, what do I do when this situation comes up? Give them what they asked for.
My power and my best strike are the same thing. My power is in the simplicity of the technique and my "best strike" is found in my years of training. So when asked to show them something, I show them rei (礼).
Giotto would be proud.
As our skills grow in the martial arts so must our discipline, respect, and many other warrior concepts shall grow. These were taught to us on our very first days at training. Our skills will become better just by pure repetition. Even the simplest of movements that normally would do no harm will be transformed into lethal techniques with time. Think of a crack in the wall that is holding back water which has been left unattended. Even a small crack leaves the wall less stable than it was before. Over time, that wall will crash no matter how small the crack is unless it is repaired and fortified. This is the same for your warriors skills and mindset.
You must re-exam your warrior concepts (like self-discipline, respect, physical and metal control) and make sure that their ideals are still strong within your life. If any of them have lessened at all, then you now have a crack within your wall that must be repaired. If not, all of the water, in this case your physical skills which are very dangerous, will come crashing through. These people are more than a ticking time bombs, they are future murderers. This can never happen to us. We are above that controlled animal thought. We are warriors that have control and set the levels of values for all others.
It is important to understand that a person cannot simply train in the martial arts unless they give themselves to it completely. Nothing can be held back. To become a master you must take all the benefits and all the consequences of training. Too often students of the martial arts simply look how training can make themselves a better person whether it is by weight loss, self-defense, and other such means. True mastery must come from a symbiotic relationship where the martial arts equally are benefited from the practitioner as the practitioner gains benefits from the martial arts.
The benefits for the practitioner are very easy to understand. They would become healthier and have skills at most not practitioners would not have. Not so understood is the benefits that the martial arts gain from the practitioner. The style itself gross and if the practitioner contributes a worth Wild dedication then the art will take on new meaning and new techniques with each generation.
Once a student realizes that the style itself is a living breathing creature that rests inside of our very spirit we then can create a balanced relationship with mutual understanding. This is a true Warrior's mind. The only mind that a practitioner of the martial arts should have.
When dealing with the power found in a technique there are multiple principles and must be applied. Would you already of these principles take place all at the same time and within a microsecond. 95% of all of these principle are taught to the student during their initial year of trading, only to be understood over the next 9 years. However the last 5% is something that cannot be taught, only explained.
During those times of lecture the student will be instructed on the importance of mental focus. Majority of the time the students believe that mental focus means to be in deep concentration. This is not entirely true. To be in deep concentration most the time the student can not move in fear of breaking said concentration. True Focus is obtained only by blocking everything else out of the world, concentrating on a single object or moment, but still able to perform normally. This is an understanding of Zen, to be focused on the one moment and everything else around you at the same time.
The big difference in power obtained through original 95% and the power obtained during that last 5% can be thought of as the difference between shooting somebody with a bullet and shooting them with a laser.
With training anybody can fire a bullet and be accurate. Without training anybody can still fire that bullet however their accuracy will more than likely be off. However once that bullet is fired it cannot be changed or altered in any manner. With a laser when fired from the source, has pinpoint accuracy and can be adjusted anytime during usage. Accuracy, just like the bullet, is important as well. But the actual preciseness is different. This laser firing technique can only be obtained through intense and true mental focus. Think of the expression of laser type precision. This should be a goal, not the ultimate goal but one of great importance, that should be sought after by all students of the martial arts.
From the very first day majority of beginning martial arts teach their students to perform some very basic, rudimentary techniques. Some of these basic techniques is a system or concept of blocking an attacker's strike. No matter how your individual style performs a block the concept is still the same, stop whatever is being trusted at you that would cause damage. In our style we have the five basic blocks most of them done exactly the same way just in different directions. Those five blocks are the high block, to Middle blocks consisting of a inside and outside, the downward block, and the Open Hand grabbing block. When blocking most of the techniques that are done with a closed hand and thrown in a certain direction to hit the other person's extremity. But blocks performed like this rarely actually work in true combat situations. Evil 4 a student to evolve in the martial arts you must understand the difference between practicing a technique in performing true combat application with that same technique. The blocks is a perfect example.
Instead of trusting your arm out and hitting your extremity against their extremity Kama which this may cause damage to both parties if the student of the martial arts is not properly trained in body conditioning, I suggest using this only as a means of touching them. What I mean by touching them is exactly that, putting out your hand making contact with them and then not trying to stop their technique but simply to deflect it. Once you touch and make contact you then can let them continue on their projected path but now you understand where that Target is where only before you had a rough estimate. Now that you know where that technique would land you can have control over that particular person's technique. You turn the block into a crab and make sure that you place your fingers into some sort of nerve cluster. Obviously the study of human anatomy would be required. As a side note I believe that students of the martial arts must study human anatomy and physiology to be able to understand not only how to strike an attacker but to understand what kind of damage could be done with your Technique. This gives you more respect and control over your new found skills.
How do you turn that block into a graph and now have applied pressure at a nerve cluster you now control at least a portion of your attacker. You can get them to bend, twist, raise up or drop down basically controlling him like a puppet. You can maneuver them into any position that you want in preparation for a strike. However this entire technique cannot last any longer than a half a second. Because this has to be done in such a quick manner this requires a constant vigilance to training, such as everything in the martial arts for proper execution of technique.
For a student to understand and progress in the martial arts they must understand that there is two approaches to the martial arts. The first approach is teaching your body how to move using rudimentary Concepts such as those caught during your first year of training. The second concept is to take those techniques and apply them to True combat situations where the attacker is not controlled by your instructor giving directions on where to hit and when to hit.
There are many ways of viewing and categorizing the practitioners of martial arts. Everybody has their own way of judging others. I am no different. However, I like to view people in one of four categories. These categories are taught to us at an early age but we never view them quite this way. I like to use the Sanchin, or the three battles method.
What we already know of the three battles forms is that everybody has their own opinion of what it truly means. The most popular meaning is that the three battles are mind body and spirit. I do not wish to debate the true meaning the three battle Form, I simply would like to use the mind-body-spirit format for this discussion.
When it comes to the different people in the martial arts the people who look at the physical side of it see a primary version. These people focus on the movements that work the best. They strength in their bodies through repetition and believe they achieve a beautiful mind and body connection in reality they are not. They are simply working on the physical aspect. There is nothing wrong with working on the physical aspect of the martial arts. It is a hundred percent necessary but there is always more to it.
Next we look at the mental aspect. The mental aspect is when somebody says looking at more the science of the martial arts. What body parts do we use comma how can we make it better, and why do we do the things that we do.
The people that look at the martial arts through a mental mentality can be at a higher plateau then the general public. However, there is still more.
Then we look at the spiritual aspect. This is a dangerous road. People who find themselves in the martial arts spirit are walking a fine line. This line can leave them to a very strong disciplined who spirit burns brighter than any force I cheat on earth else wise. The other side is that these people can achieve too much for bottle and believe they themselves are more any God like status. I am sad to say, but I have seen this. But when trained properly the martial art spirit allows the person to start thinking less of them being a practitioner of the martial arts and more of being martial arts themselves.
But it is funny that I told you that there is four aspects of the martial arts yet I used the three battle concept of mind body and spirit. The fourth aspect is the form itself. When we do the three battle forum we do not do it only physically or spiritually or mentally. We do it all three together thus creating a fourth aspect. The fourth aspect is in the name of itself. This fourth plateau is a person who is already achieved the physical already understands the mental and has the spirit. Once this person has achieved all three and can successfully use all three together at precisely the same time at the same technique that person has achieved the fourth aspect. What I mean by having all three done at precisely the same time I mean at precisely the same heartbeat.
What you do in training will reflect upon your actions in real life. An old Samurai Maxim States that a master reveals is true Mastery in every action. This is 100% true. I remember when I was in fire science 1 training, call it firefighters boot camp. I was doing a simulated emergency escape. There was no fire and no real danger however we were in full turnout gear including mask and on air. This particular day I was not feeling well and half way during the training I ended up vomiting in my mask. As you can guess there was nowhere for the vomit to go and it filled up my mask all the way to my eyeballs. Gross. I did not panic, I continued on with the exercise and got myself out of our training structure as soon as I could. I control my breathing and did everything I was supposed to. Once I was outside I ripped off the mask as quick as I could giving myself fresh air and of course throwing up again. Gross. I did not panic and did exactly what I needed to do during training. In a real-life situation if I was in a structure fire I would not be able to pull off my mask. The numerous times that I have been in a structure fire I have remained calmed in situations that I had no control over. I was able to keep a clear mind and thankfully myself and all my crew members have been able to make it home safe. This is because I treated my training as realistic as possible. It does not matter what happens in your training you must treat it as if it was a real life situation. You remain calm in situations that you cannot control. The more we sweat in the dojo the less we bleed in the streets
All dojos within BKMA will always have the 3 T’s
We come to the dojo to train. Sometimes this training is found in the form of learning a new technique. Other times it is help someone else. No matter how you view it, training is a simple fact that you want to leave the dojo better than how you entered it.
Our training can be hard, rough, and sometimes painful. Having complete trust in your instructor and your partner is a must. Without that trust, your training in the martial arts is poisoned and you will never be able to give yourself fully to the art.
Tea is the one that most people will joke about however I think it’s the most important. Our members in the dojo are family. We grow together in sometimes the harshest conditions in which help us maintain a strong bond. After class when we drink tea together, this is a social bonding to help us feel more like family. To understand that we are all equals and when we pour a cup of tea for our friend next to us we are showing them love and respect.
Without these three things I feel that we lose the special uniqueness that is found within BKMA; that special force that keeps us together and why we feel so much better when we enter our dojo homes.
And besides, I like tea.
After many years of painful training, time taken away from friends and family, you are now standing before your instructor and your fellow classmates about to receive your black belt. This is a great day and one you will not forget. It is, by no means, the end of your training. As my instructor said to each one of his black belts “now the real training begins”. He was more right than anybody could see at that time. We understood what he meant but we did not know how right he truly was.
As a black belt you begin to train all over again but this time you approach it from a new angle. The black belt does not show how great your technique is only how much you have already given. In our system a black belt can only advance in degrees if he or she contributes to both the martial arts and their system. You can think of it as honorary ranking if you would like however to give back to the martial arts and to contribute in the growth and the strength of a person's association is just as important as any technique. This person is a leader, a role model who will help create the path for others in the future. But once you are a black belt only one person can take that belt away, that person is you weather that is by misrepresentation, lack of continuing effort, or a lack in mental attitude can that rank fall off. They say a moving rock gathers no moss and that is exactly what happens here. If you allow the belt to look as brand new as a day you received it then you yourself have a taken away. In many ways achieving degrees after your initial black belt is much more difficult than receiving the first degree because people want more from you. It is a double bladed sword but one that I am proud to have.
This is your belt. It is a rock for you and the many others that you inspire. Do not allow your great achievement to grow mold. Allow it to fall off due to wear and tear. With it, continue your achievements by being a leader and an appropriate role model for all of those white belts who eyes are upon you now. Remember that when they look at you they are secretly wishing to become you in the future. What role are you setting for them?
There is a phenomena happening throughout the martial arts that has people scared. It is the belief that the martial arts are being stained by newfangled ideas and concepts; that only traditional martial arts have any value. Is it okay to break tradition? Is it unnatural to adapt a fighting system?
If we look at the history of martial arts all of our questions are answered. We can see that the martial arts has adapted based on the practitioner’s beliefs, their environment, their personal background, and so much more. When people understand that they are different than their instructor in the martial arts then their art is changed, maybe on such a small level that is hardly noticed but it is there.
After generation to generation the art that they claim is in the traditional fashion looks nothing like the art from its creator. So yes, altering or changing a martial art from its traditional form is perfectly acceptable and happens whether we want it to or not. When we look at the martial arts from many years ago such as that from ancient Greece we can see this even more clearly.
A location where the men would train and perform exercises is what we now call a gymnasium. The word gymnasium comes from a Greek word that actually means a location for naked men (Ancient Greek term gymnós meaning "naked"). When the ancient Greeks would train they would remove all their clothes and train in the nude so that they can show other people exactly which muscle groups they were exercising and defining with particular movements. This is the traditional form of working out which has now been altered, probably for good reasons. Now removing your clothes at the public gym is not accepted. Again traditions have been altered and changed. We see the same things in the martial arts; a movement that my instructor loved may not be a movement that I like because of my certain body structure.
When it comes to traditions in the martial arts there is a balance. We must understand what the traditions are and where they came from but we should not be a slave to them. We look at the martial arts as an honored gift that has been given to each of us, but we place it where we want to within our own homes.
Let me tell you about the warrior spirit. When I was in Okinawa I heard from many of the great masters talking about budo (warrior) spirit and how it is essential part of your training in the martial arts. A student can have excellent technique and great knowledge but if they do not have the trifecta (which would include the warrior spirit) then they are not a true warrior. I never truly understood what the need for it was until I looked back at how many times I have used it. I use it every day and many of those times I did not even know that I have, but during particular times it would flourished and burn brighter than the sun ever could.
There is an old Japanese saying that if you fall down seven times you stand up eight. How true is that statement? There has been many times when life, both physical and metaphorical, has brought me down to my knees. At one time my wife and I had no money for food, no money for gas, and bills piling up around us. Even when everything seems to be stacked up against us I refuse to give up. I did what I have to do to meet my obligations knowing I will pull myself out of the other side, and I did. It was not easy and caused emotional scarring, but I did it. When I was in the army and the odds stacked against me knowing that I had to keep moving because others counted on me, I did. Those few, very unfortunate times that I had to protect myself in a street combat fight I knew there was a chance I would not survive. I did what I had to do and make sure that every technique that I made would count, and because of that I survived. Again, that he sent left both physical and emotional scars on me. Follow those instances are examples of the warrior spirit.
The warrior spirit is more than just willpower. It's more than just discipline and dedication that we preach about so much in the martial arts. It is your everything. Every situation that you are in and every technique that you perform must have budo spirit behind it otherwise it means nothing. When it comes to a situation and you do not have the budo spirits you will find yourself at the lowest part of life that you could possibly be at and you probably will not resurface from it. When you perform a technique and you have no spirit behind it that technique may look pretty but will not do the job. A technique that is thrust at your opponent without spirit behind it can be used against you. This is why the warrior spirit is so important. It becomes your ally, your tool, your very breath.
I make sure that my warrior spirit is always burning and burns hotter and brighter with a white flame whenever I need it most. I make sure that all those are around me, friend or foe; can feel that fire from my spirit. That is the warrior spirit.
When I want to kill some time I like to read online martial art blogs about a whole array of topics. The ones that I laugh at the most are normally done by someone that has “many years of true martial arts training” and them gives their statements on this or that. Here is the fact; you never have years of true martial arts training. You only have seconds of true training. You may have years of martial arts preparation, by that I mean going to classes, training at home, reading and applying your martial art skills to your daily tasks. This should not be through of as true training. This is prep work for your true training, which is found in street combat. If you are able to walk away from that life or death situation then you will be better prepared for the next one (if it ever happens). The process of teaching or the improvement of a skill through repetition is the very definition of training.
When it comes to the martial arts, what you learn in the dojo is different than that used in the street. Then why don’t we (instructors) just teach that which is used directly in the street? Because; the martial arts is used for more than just street combat. That is only one part of a huge curriculum found in the martial arts. It would take a lifetime to master any one part, so we teach a small amount from each part. The parts taught in the dojo can be thought of as teaching your body how to move, how to create a martial artist body.
So what to do? DO NOT go running out looking for fights. That is a good way to get yourself killed. What you should do instead is create the warrior’s mindset. You treat your dojo time as if it was your street combat. You keep preparing yourself as much as possible for that moment when you will need it. You keep doing it and never become rusty at it but hope never to use it. And if that time comes when you will have to use your skills, you keep it simple, quick, and do only what you have to do to get away. Then begin the prep work again for the next time but this time around you have a better understanding of what it is like.
All of life is found in the universal way, more commonly known as Tao or yin yang. Even the best laid plans must be changed and altered because of circumstances that are beyond our control. Once a person understands this they are able to move throughout life with less drama and achieve a greater state of happiness. I do not need to tell you that once you are happier learning is much easier. Therefore students of the martial arts needs to be in a certain mental state to be able to understand and fully appreciate the martial arts. Think of it this way, you must learn the martial arts in the same manner that you live your life. You must be flexible and understanding and know that not everything is in your control and you must find ways to overcome problems. Some problems will never be fully achieved. This cannot be thought of as a failure but as a circumstance that we cannot control.
Many of the instructors that I have worked with talk about martial arts and true love. When they explain true love it is easier concept for most people just think of it as total or complete dedication. I do not think of it simply as dedication. I see true love as another word for life. When you are experiencing life keep in mind the first portion of this paper that I said, that life is yin yang. If life is giving you a hard time and you respond with harsh actions you will never achieve anything. To be able to properly achieve your ultimate goal you must respond in a way that would work. If life is giving you a harsh reality then responding with harsh actions would simply clash. However when life is giving you a harsh reality and you respond with soft actions and make minor adjustments then you will be able to achieve the ultimate goal. With this in mind true love (and true understanding of Way) is only achieve through patience and not pressure.
There is no easy way to tell you this; you only have a 33% chance to survive a battle on the street. The odds are not in your favor.
Here is my thinking:
When faced with a life or death situation there are only 3 possible outcomes. You survive the combat, you die and your attacker survives, or both you and your attacker die. That’s it. Even if you survive the battle for a few days but die of your injuries later on, you still fit into the last category. So, out of the 3 possible outcomes for this fight, you only live through one of them. 1 out of 3 is bad odds, especially when you think that there is over 66% against your survival.
Why do I tell you this? I have a saying that I tell my students. “Don’t training like your life depends on it. Train because your life depends on it.” Your average Joe T. Normalguy faces these same odds but I am sure that they will not make the beautiful 33% as easily as a well-trained martial artist would. (Not saying that it’s easy to survive a life or death situation. Only that trained fighter will come to it easier)
When I train, I am thinking that I am doing this because someone will stand before me wanting to take my life. I think and prepare for every type of fight; standing, ground, multiple attackers, against weapons, against dogs, sitting in a car, etc. If that fight comes, for most people it’s terrifying. For me, it’s a normal Tuesday. I want to be in that 33% that walk (or run) away from this battle. Even more so, I want my students to be in that same category. This is why I tell you this.
Numbers help put things in prospective.
Rooting. Its everything.
Everything has roots. Does not matter if that object is alive or not, it all started at some point of existence also known as its root. When a tree is first created it starts by achieving a root system. This root system gives the plant its nutrients and establishes its health for the rest of its existence. With a poor root system the tree cannot survive. As the tree matures, the trunk and its branches reach out and grow stronger and so does the root system. At some point the tree will fall and die, like all living things must do, but not before producing offspring to carry on the tree’s existence.
We see the same thing with a warrior. At the beginning the warrior fundamental training becomes its root system. As the warrior matures in life, it reaches out to all parts of the world but always maintains stable and strong roots. Those warriors soon lead others by either setting an example, teaching others, or both. This is the warrior’s offspring. Then one day the warrior shall die, whether it is in battle or by nature, and then its offspring carry on the warrior’s name with every technique preformed and with every weapon wielded.
From this we learn that it is important for a warrior to be disciplined and dedicated for advancement in the ways of combat but equally important is leadership to carry on those traditions that was established by the warrior. For without leadership the ways of budo will die with the warrior. This is even more significant than being a teacher. If you call yourself a teacher then you only show people what to do but not necessarily do them yourself. A leader must do both; represent and show the way of budo. By being a leader you strengthen your own root system and provide the nutrients to others so that they too can have a strong root system.
The Warrior Family
How do you know if you are true to the martial arts? Ask yourself "What kind of a person are you?".
Do you train because to do so is just as important as taking your next breathe? Do you teach others so that your thoughts and skills are not lost to time?
Do you view yourself as a combative descendant from people like Yue Fei, Miyamoto Musashi, and Leonidas?
Then you are among other brothers and sisters in a special class; the warrior class. We fight for what we believe in, we get the job done, and we don’t wait for someone else to do it for us. We pave the path for others to follow and carry more than our weapons upon our shoulders. What we don’t like we change or die trying. We are leaders for many and servants to our masters. We are warriors.
There is a growing cancer in the martial arts. This is something that started a long time ago but has become dominant only in the last two decades from what I have seen. Instructors are afraid of the repercussions of training the students in the “old ways”.
We now have a society includes 12 year old black belts, some of which have become too big for their britches. We also have the 30 year old black belts claiming to be masters but have yet to actually apply a physical block to a physical punch. I believe it is not the fault of the students, but the fault of the instructors.
Instructors have to remember that the martial arts are used for combat. It is preparing for a test that lasts only for a few heartbeats, but failing could mean the end for a student’s life. Students need to be pushed to the very edge. The respect, discipline, and many other wonderful things that a martial art teaches is second to combat.
Students have to stand proud when they earn their black belts without a single doubt in your mind. They have to understand that no matter what challenges are faced before them that not only will they be meet the challenge head on but will overcome it, learn from it, and then teach it to others.
When a student stands in front of a board of directors to earn their brown belt, the only thing they should be afraid of is their own abilities. They should be afraid of the skills they now possess. They should be afraid of the deadly force they have now learned and keep within their own minds. However, when it’s time for that student to stand in front of that same board of directors to earn their black belt, there is no more fear. They understand those same skills that they were afraid of before are now their under control and can be used as a tool. Where before those skills controlled their emotions, their emotions now control the skills.
They have obtained a great peace that can only be found with the correct preparation and instruction from a good instructor. This is why instructors push their students; not because they dislike them but they have true love for them. And with that true love we will cure the cancer even if it’s one student at a time. Without taking the necessary steps forward, a person can never walk a journey that lies out before them. They can only stand and look at the view.
When faced with combat, whether it is with weapons or without weapons, you must not fear death. If you fear death you are too far and are not balanced. However, if you welcome death you are too far on the other side. You must learn not to care, to accept death if it comes. Every action you make, if it is your last one, cannot be a regrettable one. You must remain balanced.
True spirit can be found in your form (kata) by focus. You know it has been done correctly when the other people in the room not only a chill but feel a sudden drop in the room’s temperature. The only source of heat that can be found in that room will come from the person preforming the kata. That is true focus.
No matter how much you think that the martial arts is for “peace”, deep down the martial arts is for combat. Plain and simple. For someone to join a martial arts class and believe that it will teach them a peaceful way is in for a big shock. Many of the movements taught can be interpreted as eye gouges, throat grabs, and “monkey steals the peach”. So where did this art of peace come from?
What I stated is that budo (martial arts) does not teach peace, but a side effect of learning the martial arts can be an understanding of one’s own skills and the possible destruction that it can do to another human being’s body. This of this as a student walking a long road that eventually leads to a fork in that road. One side will take that student down the road of wanting not to harm other people with their new skills. The other side will be a wanting to do harm. Both roads is a means of understand but to a different level. These roads also will run parallel to each other and sometime the students may jump from one road to the other.
It is up to a good instructor to show the student BOTH of these roads so that the student is less likely to go from the road of peace to the road of harm. Think of it as a parent never wanting to talk to their child about drugs or alcohol and hiding it from all parts of their life. When the child is old enough and these things are presented to them, they have a bigger chance of going overboard on them.
A good instructor of combat should show both sides of the martial arts and teach the student why we don’t use our skills to do harm. There are many other ways of protecting yourself without resulting to physical violence, but sometimes those other ways are exhausted and your are only left with one option; combat.
A modern day warrior needs to learn to use a sword just like those great warriors of the past. Even though the sword has become an obsolete weapon because of guns and other firearms, the philosophy and ideas taught by kenjitsu (sword techniques) cannot be replaced by other means.
The very first idea taught in kenjitsu is how to hold the sword on your hip; the blade is facing up. The reason for this is so that the weapon can be immediately used to cut an attacker from the very first moment that it leaves the scabbard. To not understand this very kihon (basic principle) will wait time in combat and leave a person open for a kill shot.
The same idea should be practiced when in a modern day battle. You do not waist time by stretching out, jumping into a low stance, or anything else that can cost you precious time. You should not waist the time by blocking every one of an attacker’s strikes. Only block those that need blocking. Your very first movement should be that of attack but not just any strike will do. Your first attack should be a killing strike. Even if you do not really intend to kill your attacker, the same Budō seishin (martial art spirit) should be placed behind the movement. The only difference is that you control it the first last half inch before impact. Other than that, no difference.
I don’t talk about my very first sensei too often. His name is Hamato Yoshi and I first met him in 1987 when I was 6 years old. He taught me respect, dedication to training, and many other good qualities that a martial artist needs to learn throughout their training. At least once a week (although I tried to see him as often as I could), I would sit down and watch him and absorbed whatever lessons he was willing to teach me that week. He set me on a wonderful path that I still walk today, a path of the deepest respect to the martial arts and an unquenchable thrust to learn as much as I can. To his 4 sons, he was father. To many of us, he was Sensei. To millions of kids around the world he was Master Splinter from the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Martial arts can be learned in many different forms, from the dojo to the books that you read. I am not kidding when I say that I learned some wonderful knowledge that I have applied to my skills from watching martial art based cartoons like TMNT. If you don’t think about these life lessons coming to you from a man-size rat, they are exactly what a student needs to learn early on in their training.
Your training should come from a wide variety of sources. Many of them will teach you the same lessons (whether it be a physical technique or philosophical) but in different ways. The more you expose yourself to the martial arts, the greater the mind set you will become. So it’s ok to watch and learn from Master Splinter or Avatar Aang, but make sure that you balance it out with other means of training like reading a book from Funakoshi or Oyama and learning proper techniques from your “real” sensei.
Why do we push ourselves as hard as we doing in training? That is an easy question. Because we don’t know what kind of trouble we will get in. The future is filled with unknown challenges that will test is in every way imaginable. Set up your training to be the worst case, the impossible situations.
Train in the impossible to prepare for the improbable
Train hard, my friends.
Without meaning to, society places martial arts in a higher level than the “normal” person. The reasons for this is because we put ourselves through so much that we there is very little that can surprise us. Look at what we do just to earn rank. We train for hours every week, study the ways the current and past masters, and look at everything that we do as a means of improving ourselves. This challenge, both physical and mental, gives us the means to overcome an attacker in a fight. So when someone sees what we have done, they feel that there is nothing that is placed in front of us that we cannot do. This is not always true, but it’s the attitude that we give.
So, let’s not disappoint our public and show them what a warrior is made of. When something needs to be done, we don’t look for someone else to do it. We roll up our sleeves and get working. If we are willing to push ourselves to the edge of our abilities for the martial arts, apply that same disciple to everything; home, work, and school. Be careful, however, not to brag about doing it. Approach each challenge humbly and, when it is finished, stand by your work with honor knowing that it was done with the best that you can offer.
Meet and absorb. This is the true way that a person should block a strike. You should never “stop” a strike because then you are taking the strike fully on. You don’t know what the power will do to your body, your balance, or your mind. Sometime you take a hit and it disrupts you so much that you cannot ever recover, costing you your life. Meet the strike with your “blocking” limb and move in the same direction as the strike but move it away from your center point. As you do this, move your center to the opposite way. These two together will be your block. Don’t forget that as you do this; use your other hand as a strike. This fight, from first to last strike, should only last 2-3 seconds.
When you train, you make mistakes. You learn from them and move on. In battle or on the street you cannot make a mistake. Making a mistake anywhere beside in the dojo can cost you your life. That is why we train, and why we should train everyday. Dedication is a key element in the martial arts. Without it, we are dead on the streets.
Holding the Sword Just a Little Weaker
The teacher walks in front of his class. He stands there and eyes all the students up and down, looking for some kind of imperfection. There, on a student’s uniform, there is a smear of blood that was not properly cleaned from the last class. He just found his volunteer. He calls that student out to the front. The student responds without a moment of hesitation. The teacher talks about the technique that he is teaching, the name and who thought it up. He then asks the student-volunteer to attack him. He does this again without hesitation. Maybe because it’s his one chance to knock the teacher out. Before the student understands what happen however, he is lying on the ground, face up, and his right wrist is locked in the iron grasp of the teacher’s hands.
From the class, someone is so amazed by what just happened in front of him that he gasps. The teacher makes a bee-line for this student, leaving the other one on the ground. When he is standing in front of that student, he “reminds” him of why there is no talking in the class (making any little noise gives away a person’s location). The teacher tells this student that he just got himself killed if this would have been a real combat situation. Then, he asks for the student’s right hand. When the student holds out his hand, the teacher pulls out his short knife and cuts off the first digit of the student’s pinky finger. The teacher turns and goes back to the lesson.
This is one class that I would not want to be in. The story, of course, is made up. The cutting off a part of the student’s pinky finger because of his action is a very true thing.
During the days of the samurais, students would go through a type of “boot camp” training. There, they would learn many different things including sword training, horseback fighting, and military tactics. When you did something wrong, a digit of your finger was removed, starting with the pinky. This was used to help motivate the want-to-be student samurais.
The reason why they started with their pinky fingers is because when you are holding/using the sword the last three fingers are the ones that do the grasping. Losing a part of those fingers will make your grasp weaker and, in turn, making your combat skills weaker. This may ultimately lead to your death. This knowledge was implanted into every samurai; Take your training seriously or it will cost you your life.
The tough teacher attitude is normally not used to this fullness in today’s dojos. Teachers cannot hit and beat their students like they use to. However, the attitude needs to still be there. If a student because too relaxed in their dojo, all they are doing is an exercise drill instead of martial arts. So the teacher fixes this by assigning push-ups to help motivate the student into focusing on what they need to do.
A teacher needs to be hard but with love. This is for more the students’ benefit than anything else. The teacher in today’s dojo needs to find the metaphoric “cutting of a student’s finger” to truly keep the students focused on what they need to train on.
It’s a hard job being a teacher. You are shaping these students into the warriors of tomorrow. Are you helping shape their future of warrior-ship or are you just jeopardizing it?