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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Cannabis and Karate-Do

Cannabis and Karate: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know.

The question: Should karate practitioners smoke cannabis (i.e. marijuana) generates as many arguments in martial arts as does the discussion "What style of karate is 'best'?"

I cannot answer this question unequivocally to the satisfaction of the hundreds of individuals who read these posts. So, I won't try. The purpose of this post is to educate you about cannabis and identify potential applications associated with it's use other than the psychotropic effects, i.e. getting high.

Disclaimer: I do not ingest chemicals. Not because I fear the effects, but because my grasp on reality is tenuous at best, I do not need chemicals threatening to further lessen my grasp on that reality.

That said, I have taught, and continue to teach, graduate courses in psychopharmacology, drug education and rehabilitation as well as having being a critical care/emergency/flight nurse for, well for more years than I care to share with you.

Lets look at cannabis.

An Abbreviated History of Cannbis:

- Cannabis (Marijuana) grows easily in every continent in the world except Antarctica.

- There is written documentation of the medicinal use of cannabis from China dating back to 2737 BCE. More than one Egyptian mummy have been found to have traces of 9-THC, the active psychotropic compound found in cannabis.

- Use, sale and possession of cannabis in the United States was completely legal until the 1930's.

- The Bureau of Narcotics (predecessor of the Drug Enforcement Agency) used the term "gateway drug" to describe cannabis when they were seeking to have the drug outlawed nationally also in the 1930's. A "gateway drug" means the use of cannabis invariably lead to the use of "harder" drugs such as LSD, heroin, methamphetamine, etc.. Peer reviewed research has failed to prove any drug is a true "gateway drug" (some will argue the point).

- The AIDS epidemic in the 1980's brought a resurgence in interest in the medical applications of cannabis (e.g. anti-nausea, appetite stimulant, immune system booster, etc.)

- In the 1970's the majority of Americans were against legalization of cannabis for any reason. Today cannabis is "legal" for medical uses or recreationally in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

Legality:

- Cannabis is NOT completely legal in any state or territory of the United States. I'm sure you're saying "You're wrong! In Colorado, Washington state, the District of Columbia, etc. 'recreational cannabis' is legal and for sale."

This statement is both correct and incorrect. While 29 states have "legalized" one form of cannabis or another, it remains illegal under federal law in every inch of the United States. You could imbibe in cannabis in Colorado while a county Sherriff watches you but cannot arrest you. However the DEA, or any federal Law Enforcement officer can arrest you for cannabis use, possession, cultivation or sale anywhere in the United States.

Cannabis Chemistry:

- Cannabis is actually two different types of chemical producing plants; cannabis sativa and cannabis indicia. All of the current "strains" of cannabis (n = >1000) are actually cannabis with differing percentages of c. sativa and c. indicia.

- Cannabis sativa is a stimulating drug whereas cannabis indica is more of a sedative.

- The actual psychotropic chemical found in cannabis (i.e the chemical that gets users "high") is Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or delta 9-THC, more commonly simply referred to "THC"

- Today's cannabis can be much, much more potent than the cannabis available in the 1980's. In the 80's cannabis had 3-7% THC. Today cannabis can have THC levels in the 20-28% range.

- Hashish is basically purified cannabis, same chemicals just in higher percentages. Hashish can vary in potency from 25% THC to greater than 90% THC (i.e. Butane Hash Oil)

- More importantly than delta 9-THC (at least in medical cannabis) is a vast family of chemicals found in cannabis known as the cannabioids. There are > 400 separate types of cannabioids.

-- Cannabioids do NOT have psychotropic effects, i.e. they are not intoxicating.

-- Cannabioids are further broken down into six major chemical subcategories: CBD, CBDV, delta 9-THCA, CBC, CBG, & delta 9-THCV. The categories are further broken down into subcategories representing the medical effects they produce.

--- Application examples include (but are not limited to):

  • 1) CBD - neuro-protective, antiemetic, analgesic, and more.
  • 2) CBDV - bone growth stimulant, and more.
  • 3) delta 9-THCA - antispasmodic, and more.
  • 4) CBC - anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and more.
  • 5) CBG - anti-bacterial, and more.
  • 6) delta 9-THCV - anti-seizures, bone growth stimulant, and more.
  • Purported Medical Uses:

    One must be cautious. Purported medical uses of cannabis are primarily confined to anecdotal stories. This is not due to the paucity of evidence but rather to the lack of controlled research studies. When the DEA and FDA designated cannabis as a Schedule 1 Narcotic, research was prohibited. Remember Schedule 1 drugs are designated "No medical use, high potential for abuse." In spite of this designation, in the 1980's the U.S. government provided 23 individuals free government cannabis specifically for the treatments of medical ailments (12 remain alive and continue to receive free government cannabis every month.)

    Best available science indicates probable medical uses of cannabis with the following disorders: ADHD, anxiety, arthritis, back pain, cancer, Chron’s disease, depression, epilepsy/seizures, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-D & IBS-C), Meniere's disease, multiple sclerosis, nausea/vomiting, neuropathic pain, Parkinson’s disease, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, rheumatism, sleep disorders, and more.

    As scientific research progresses hopefully so will this list of uses.

    Myths Associated With Cannabis:

    - Cannabis is addicting. - An on going argument; cannabis is not addicting. The chemicals in cannabis does not produce a characteristic withdrawal syndrome. However, that said, cannabis CAN be psychologically habituating but so can Cinnabons, bagels, television, etc. So you can develop a dependency on the drug but not an addiction.

    - Use of cannabis leads to addiction of "harder drugs" - The gateway drug myth again.

    - Cannabis is used more by people of color than whites. - Whites actually use cannabis more, on a per capita basis, than people of color but due to the inequities associated with "the drug war", people of color tend to be incarcerated more than whites.

    - Cannabis isn't really a drug. - Sort of true, cannabis is a plant, the THC, CBD, etc. are the actual drugs. Sort of like tobacco is not a drug but the nicotine in it is.

    Application to Martial Arts?

    If cannabis is a neuro-protective, i.e. protects the brain from trauma, then it should protect the brain from damage and aid recovery following a concussion. Currently studies are in place at multiple sites in the U.S. focusing on post-concussion recovery in football and hockey. The neurobiology of concussion trauma would be the same whether football or karate.

    As a bone growth stimulant cannabis should aid healing fractures.

    The analgesic properties should help deal with pain from any source but without the side effects associated with prescription opioid narcotics.

    The chemicals in cannabis can be used to improve the quality of sleep. Sleep allows the body to regenerate and recover from work-outs, kumite, injury, etc. The higher the quality of sleep, the higher the quality of the recovery and healing process.

    It is said the mouth of a dog is cleaner than a human mouth. That should tell you how nasty even the cleanest student is. All of us have caught colds from a student trying to prove their manhood by coming to class sick or pushed there by well meaning but misguided instructors. The anti-viral, antibiotic, antifungal, anti-infective properties of cannabis are particularly attractive to all us "germ-a-phobs".

    Guidelines for Use of Cannabis in the Martial Arts:

    Disclaimer: This section is not encouraging anyone to use cannabis, it is merely meant to present the safest manner of utilizing cannabis.

    1) If cannabis is not legal is some form where you live do not use the drug. This is not due to the danger of the drug (i.e. no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose, ever). I say do not use the drug because it is illegal. A drug conviction can have a dramatic negative impact on your life. A drug conviction means you can never receive a Federal Student Loan. That's "NEVER" and there is not provision for a waiver of this rule.

    2) Never ingest THC laden cannabis prior to training. delta 9-THC can result in unnecessary injury in the dojo or when driving to or from the dojo.

    That said, ingesting high CBD cannabis with minimal levels of delta 9-THC or derived from hemp (i.e. not containing delta 9-THC) may serve as a neuro-protective especially when headgear is not worn.

    3) Smoking is bad. Not because of the drug but because of the particulates inhaled via smoking along with other chemicals, e.g. pesticides, contaminants etc.

    Individuals preferring to smoke cannabis should utilize a vaporizer designed specifically for cannabis inhalation. A vaporizer heats the plant material without combusting it. The chemicals, i.e. delta 9-THC, CBDs, etc., are vaporized and allowed to be inhaled without the smoke of products of combustion. It's similar to the principle of an electronic cigarette.

    When using a vaporizer do your research. Google "temperature guides in vaporization of cannabis". When vaporizing at one temperature setting will liberate a specific chemical, e.g. CBG but raising the temperature 10 degrees with free up a different chemical, e.g. CBDV while lowering it will affect another.

    4) Consuming (i.e. eating) the drug avoids all the potential harms associated with combusting it. However, edibles (food items with delta 9-THC, CBDs etc) may contain much higher levels so they must be obtained from a legal source where chemical analysis is required before purchase. Another huge issue with edibles is while smoking can get the chemicals into your system in minutes, eating them may take ups to two hours to get the effects. One must be careful not to wait 15 minutes, then say to one's self: "I don't feel anything I must need more" and then prematurely re-dose only to be overwhelmed 2 hours later with the "sudden" effects of 4 or 5 doses.

    5) Adolescent martial arts students should NEVER ingest cannabis before, during or after training. This is not because of the evils of the drug but because the brain is not fully mature until after adolescence. The effects of cannabis on the underdeveloped adolescent brain are also not fully understood due to the limitations of research. Why take the chance?

    6) If you are going to use cannabis, ingesting delta9-THC / CBDs post-training is probably the "best" use of these drugs, where legal, but DO YOUR RESEARCH before you ingest this or any drug.

    When using cannabis (or any other drug) your mantra should be "JUST SAY KNOW!"

    TFYQA!


    Cox Hakase



    References:

    Block, A. (2000). Waiting to inhale - The politics of medical marijuana, Newport Beach, CA: Seven Locks Press

    Booth, M. (2005). Cannabis: A history, New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.

    Mack, A. & Joy, J. (2000). Marijuana as medicine: The science beyond the controversy, Washington D. C., National Academies Press.

    Mathre, M. L. (1997). Cannabis in medical practice: A legal, historical and pharmacological overview of the therapeutic use of marijuana, Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Company Inc.

    Rosenthal, E., Gieringer, D., & Carter, G. T. (2008). Marijuana medical handbook: Practical guide to therapeutic uses of Marijuana, Oakland, CA: Quick American Publishing.

    Russo, E. & Grotenhermen, F. (2006). The handbook of cannabis therapeutics: From bench to bedside, Binghampton, NY: Haworth Press, Inc.

    Weil, A. & Backes, M. (2014). Cannabis pharmacy: The practical guide to medical Marijuana, New York, NY: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishing.

    Wolf, L. & Wolf, M. (2016). The medical marijuana dispensary: Understanding, medicating, and cooking with cannabis, Berkley, CA: Althea Press.

    Saturday, March 11, 2017

    Wax On, Wax Off, Knife Fighting and Karate-Do

    Although I teach Matsubayashi-Ryu, we have enhanced the curriculum by adding skills training outside of traditional karate do. Let me be clear, Matsubayashi-Ryu remains unchanged. The additions I refer to enhancements, nothing more, to account for the realities of our changing world and include skills sets like, firearm marksmanship, edged weapons, stick fighting, urban SERE (survival, escape, resistance & evasion), and improvised weapons of opportunity to name a few.

    Last week I was presenting a very basic ROK SEAL MUSAT (Multi UDT SEAL Assaulting Tactics) knife drill very similar to a kata of sorts (no I wasn't in the Navy, wasn't a SEAL, wasn't in Sec Ops, etc. In fact I swim like a large rock) but I do have friends in low places. A single man drill prepares one for the two man "kata" they have developed. Actually it's fairly similar to a SPETSNAZ drill I have seen. While we used rubber blades the ROKs use live blades.

    After class, as we always do, we debriefed. As one thing led to another we somehow landed on "The Karate Kid" (the original, not the Jaden Smith abomination).

    It seems no one can talk "Karate Kid" for more than 10 seconds before someone says "Wax on, Wax off"!

    Everyone laughed and off we went but, at some level, it lingered inside me. Eventually it percolated into awareness and insight.

    People laugh at the Karate Kid's, "Wax on, Wax off" because they see it as an over simplification of what the martial arts really are. After some thought, it occurs there is little that represents the true nature of karate more than "Wax on, Wax off", if you expand your thinking.

    For the 3 of you who have never see the movie: the Caucasian kid (Daniel) asks the Japanese-American war hero (CMH) - Mr. Miyagi, to teach him karate.

    Mr. Miyagi agrees and then proceed to teach Daniel how to wax Migayi's car by applying the wax with his left hand in a counterclockwise motion and then buffing the wax off using his right hand in a clockwise motion.

    When Daniel has had enough and confronts Miyagi about not really teaching him karate, Miyagi punches Daniel who, utilizing the right and left arm movements, intuitively blocks all punches.

    These basic skills quickly morph into yudansha quality tournament skills and Daniel (spoiler alert!) wins the big tournament.

    But the "secret" of karate has been unwittingly exposed!

    When someone starts karate because "I want to learn to defend myself" I encourage them to buy a handgun and get some training. It's faster, cheaper and proficiency can be achieved in a matter of weeks. A good karate student is not proficient in basic self-defense for at least 3 -5 years after beginning training. Sure your develop "islands of skill" before that but generalized skills really do take years.

    If you are going to a dojo and become a yudansha in less than 3-5 years (without significant previous training) you are dangerous only to yourself. You're dangerous because you may actually believe you have real skills when, in fact they are still developing.

    Renshi Sam Palmer used to ask "Do you know what they call a 2 year Blackbelt who gets into a street fight? . . . the answer was "A trauma patient."


    - The secret of proficiency in karate is two fold: Repetition and basics.

    - The secret of proficiency in fighting with edged weapons is also two fold: Repetition and basics.

    - The secret of proficiency in kobu-do is two fold: Repetition and basics.

    - The secret of proficiency in the use of firearms two fold: Repetition and basics.

    - The secret of proficiency in MMA, judo, gung-fu, even bowling? Repetition and basics.

    In a fight if you start thinking "I'm gonna do a ni-dan geri then drop into a cobra coil and deliver..." You're tagged!

    Basics, remember "mizo no kokoro" (mind like water)? If you're "fighting" you'll lose; in the dojo or in the street. Remember "Enter the Dragon": "What's your style?" "I call it the art of fighting without fighting."

    In sparing, in fighting, one must be proficient enough to "flow" with your opponent. That does not mean simply responding, but rather reading the waves of the flow of the encounter, letting go. The "empty mind" of the beginner must become the "empty mind" of the seasoned karate-ka. In fact, in Buddhism, we call it "beginner's mind".

    One does not look for openings in a battle, the seasoned karate-ka is aware without being aware.

    O'Sensei Nagmine said "Zen and the Fist are one". Many misinterpret this slogan. It means (to me) that the same principles, of empty mind, awareness without effort and the absence of "wanting" which are key to Zen are also the keys to karate. No tournament karate but true, spiritual karate.

    Thankfully the vast majority of karate students never use their fighting skills in a real real encounter. However, on those occasions when they do find themselves in a confrontation they do NOT utilize neko-ashi dachi, chudan soto shuto uke, a ni-dan geri, or plain old flying side kicks. Instead (and the literature supports me) they fall back to basics and use chest blocks, straight punches and front kicks - most of them not delivered in textbook form.

    I'm sure you ask why? Why does an 8th degree blackbelt, jumped on the street, execute a chudan uke followed by a simple chudan zuki then finished with a mae-geri to the kogan before walking away from the encounter?

    Simple, because he (or she) has done those techniques so many thousands of times that they are delivered without thinking. The opening is sensed, the technique delivered and it's over.

    If you have enough time to spot your target then think about where and how you are going to block or strike you opponent, hopefully you're sparring in the dojo. If this occurs when you're on the street you will never hear muzzle report of the bullet that is about to hit you.


    https://youtu.be/WM-hiVoQugs

    But back to knife fighting. Knife fighting seminars are extremely dangerous. Not techniques in the seminar but attending the seminar. Taking a seminar on knife fighting can be enlightening, entertaining and down right fun but it doesn't prepare you to defend against a knife nor fight with one. It's the 1,000 repetitions of the techniques you learn at the seminar that helps you begin to get prepared for an edged weapon assault.

    Repetition and Basics - ALWAYS!


    TFYQA!


    Cox Hakase


    P.S.

    If you are going to practice with edged weapons you should follow these guidelines.

    1) Learn from someone who knows

    2) Start with a rubber blade (consider buying a Shocknife )

    3) See one, do one, teach one, repeat.

    4) When the "good idea fairy" says "You know, it can't be that hard with a live blade" - don't listen to him!

    5) If you have not had a tetanus shot in 5 years, get one from your family physician.

    6) Repetition is the key so buy Band-Aids.

    7) First, First Aid, step for bleeding is ALWAYS direct pressure.

    8) NEVER be the guy who brings a knife to a gunfight!

    Saturday, November 26, 2016

    Motivation and Retention of Students in the Martial Arts

    Palmer Renshi receiving instruction from Nagamine Hanshi (undated)

    Note: Before writing this piece I did some research on available literature on the subject, there is a reference list attached at the bottom of this post if you are interested.

    Many highly skilled martial arts instructors fail miserably when they open their own dojo. Not because they are bad teachers, not because they are poorly skilled practitioners, but because they believe being skilled in karate somehow equates to be skilled in teaching and that personality is all you need to motivate students. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Students do not remain in training because of the instructor's skill, the size of the dojo, how great a guy the instructor is or how fast they get promoted. They stay because they are motivated to do so.

    Now here is the part nobody's Sensei taught them: as a Sensei, Renshi, Shihan or Hanshi you CANNOT motivate a student. Motivation must come from within the student themselves. You can provide a caring nurturing training environment but still the motivation comes from, and must come from, within the student not from us.

    However, instructors CAN de-motivate a student and do so very, very quickly.

    When we think "motivation" we really need to think on "retention", i.e. "what can I do to retain this individual as a student even as their motivation vacillates over time?"

    Well the first attitude I have to "fix" is my own. My personal motivation in no way equates to what motivates my students, every student is different.

    Some students start because they want to learn how to kick someone's ass. Usually those students last 6 months or less.

    Some students start because they want to be able to say "I study karate". Those students usually last 6 months to a year or two.

    Students who start training so they can learn "self-defense" usually face a crisis when, at some point, they realize self-defense proficiency takes 3-5 years (no one in the street ever remembers that "cool" technique they learned at the seminar.) You fight like you train so you have blocks, punches and straight kicks for a very long time. No one leaves a $400 seminar with even one new muscle memory. It doesn't happen like that - you may not like that but neurophysiology is neurophysiology.

    Who is more motivated, the student who trains 5 days a week solid for five years or the student who trains once a week for 15 years? Certainly the retention of the 1st student appears to be better, especially during those 5 years and thus more motivated - but is it really.

    Consider these examples:

    Example 1: There's an old John Wayne movie called "The Green Berets". In it, when selecting members for a new A Team, Wayne chooses a new team member. The SgtMajor questions his choice by saying "Are you sure you want Sgt Smith? The jumpmaster says they have to kick him out of the aircraft every time he makes a parachute jump." Wayne responds "That's exactly why I want him: he keeps going back up."

    Example 2: Bill Hendrix was a "star" in the dojo from the day he walked onto the floor. His reflexes were like a cat. His speed and accuracy rival the best yudansha. When shown a kata once or twice in one class he returns the next class capable of teaching the moves. Basically everything comes easy for Bill. Karate is fun, ranks comes quickly, Sensei uses Bill as the example to other students, and always spends a few extra moments in every class focusing on Bill and his techniques.

    Once promoted to Shodan Bill stops being a idiot-savant and simply becomes another yudansha, albeit a good yudansha. 6 Months later Bill discovers skydiving and leaves karate behind.

    So, who do you feel is more motivated? Bill or Sgt. Smith? Looks a bit different when viewed in these terms, doesn't it?

    So back to the question, what motivates them. Do they "want to be like Sensei"? That's not motivation, that's an unresolved Daddy issue. An instructor who wants students to match the instructor's level of motivation is looking for sycophants not students.

    For me to try to motivate a student by pointing out how motivated another student is only runs the risk of alienating the very student I want to motivate. No matter how you phrase it they still hear "Why can't you be more like your Frank?"

    Some instructors think that only pearls of wisdom flow from their mouth or, worse yet, the have no one else to talk to. Students make the perfect captive audience. Unfortunately both techniques server only to alienate students.

    Having a black belt or the title "Sensei" does not mystically embue the bearer with the skills and training they need to be an effective instructor. Unfortunately those exact skills sets needed to become proficient as an instructor are rarely taught in a dojo.

    So, as an Instructor what can I do to provide a training environment that encourages retention and gives students a reason to motivate themselves to train?

    Suggestions to Instructors on How to "Retain" Students:

    1) Individualized instruction (even with yudansha students) the mudansha still need that 1:1 attention from Sensei.

    2) Every student progresses at their own speed, don't be a speed bump. Nothing demotivates a student as quickly as being held back. Holding back a student is almost as bad as promoting a student too quickly.

    3) Yudansha who are not good teachers should not teach UNLESS they are being directly supervised and their teaching is part of THEIR professional growth. How do you know who is a good teacher? Assume everyone is a bad teacher until proven differently.

    4) Set clear individualized expectations for students collaboratively. I know that's not the way they did it in Okinawa but WE are not in Okinawa. The millennial student of today, and our dojos, would not survive under that training model nor should they have to, this is the 21st century not the medieval Ryukyu Kingdom. To retain students, the first person that has to adjust, who has to learn to be flexible, is the instructor, i.e. US!.

    5) Care about your students, legitimately care about them. I'm not talking about making them a member of your family, we're talking about what Carl Rogers referred to as "non-possessive caring".

    6) There is no place for ego in the dojo, least of all from the instructor. That's not what teaching martial arts are about.

    7) If you have a "favorite" student, shut-up about it. One favorite student equals ten demotivated, "done quit" students. Its like being a parent: Parents lie all the time and say "Oh I love all my children equally" your children know better and, in the dojo, your students know better as well.

    If your best friend(s) are your students you have your own issues. Students are students not peers or friends. This is not to degrade them but to ensure there exists professional distancing between student and Sensei - this is called a psychological and professional boundary. There has to be boundaries and you, the instructor, must set them. If you worry students will not like you if you are not their friend then you have other issues. In the dojo you are "Sensei" ALL the time and should be addressed as such before, during and after class.

    Outside of class the salutation "Sensei" is inappropriate. If a student chooses to address you as "Sensei" at church fine, don't shut them down but don't insist on it.

    9) Here's a novel idea: Actually learn how to teach. Learn how to develop your personal pedagogy for teaching. Your local Community College offers educational courses year round - take advantage of it, become a professional teacher not just another guy who knows karate and teaches.

    10) This one is very important: Don't be afraid to say "I don't know". If a student asks you a question you do not have the answer to, tell them "I don't know". You then have two choices for follow-up:

    a) "I don't know but I'll find out by the next class." Then do so.

    b) "I don't know. Why don't you find out the answer and let us all know by next class?" Then make sure YOU do find out the correct answer before next class in case the student does not or in case they find the wrong answer.

    Great Ways to Lose Students:

    1) War stories; the dreaded "No crap there I was...." Your spouse is tired of your stories, your yudansha are tired of your stories and so are your mudansha. Students are in the dojo to train, not to hear your philosophy of life, political viewpoints, world traveling adventures, etc. etc. If you suffer from an external locus of evaluate and, as a result, you have a need to have people listen to you in order for your to validate your sense of self worth, join Toastmasters (http://www.toastmasters.org) .

    2) Exclude from your training statements such as: "...then tear off his arm and beat him to death!" or "Once he's out, kick him to make sure!". Sounds great in the movies but in real life it just guarantees you will be in the "plaintiff boat" in court. The plaintiff boat is when, in court, your ex-student recounts the story of how you taught them to continue beating the victim after the danger had been neutralized. The student will lose in court and you will share the blame for teaching them. There is an old saying: "Never say anything in the dojo you could not justify saying in court."

    3) Homophobia, genderism, and ageism have no place in the dojo - ever. If you cannot or will not teach the female student the homosexual student or even the older student, not only are you breaking the law, setting a horribly poor example and missing a profitable income stream. If you are homophobic but feel sure you can "hide your true feelings" in the dojo you're an idiot. A student will see through you in about 30 seconds. A Sensei teaches, period. Prejudice (of any flavor) converts an instructor into a liar; to themselves and to their students and, in the process, they sully the name of their art.

    4) There can only be one "instructor" in a class at a time. Martial arts training is not a consensus of opinion. This goes back to boundaries. No one every said to Nagamine Hanshi during a class, "hold on Hanshi, I think twisting it this way works better" or worse yet "I studied another style before this and we did it a different and more effective way." Sensei is always right. period, end of story, no further questions your honor.

    I once had a green belt (with no teaching experience) come up to me after a class, in front of other students, and say "Would you like some feedback on your teaching?. My answer was, of course "No". For a student to display that degree of arrogance is, in itself, a harbinger of issues to come. As a Sensei do not be afraid to maintain a healthy professional distance with your students. When you have a student you work with or run into on a constant basis in other life ventures this known as a dual relationship". When a dual or multiple relationship exists, the student's ability to observe boundaries becomes paramount.

    5) Don't bad mouth other styles. No style is "pure" and no style fits everyone. Despite that, all styles have something we can all learn from.

    There is an old saying: "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." It is not encouraging violence. It is saying be your own person. Whoever, whatever your instructor was, don't become a "Minnie Me". Bring your personality into your teaching

    Teaching is hard. Good teaching is even harder but highly rewarding.


    T.F.Y.Q.A.!



    Cox Hakase


    References:


    Allen, B. (2015). Striking Beauty: A Philosophical Look at the Asian Martial Arts, New York, NY: Columbia University.

    Anshel, M. H. & Payne, J. M. (2006). Application Of Sport Psychology For Optimal Performance In Martial Arts, in Joaquin Dosil (Ed.), The Sports Psychologist's Handbook: A Guide for Sport Specific Performance Enhancement, (pp 353-374), Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

    Dosil, J. (2006). The Psychology Of Athletics, in Joaquin Dosil (Ed.), The Sports Psychologist's Handbook: A Guide for Sport Specific Performance Enhancement, (pp 265-284), Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

    Freire, P. (1921/1985). The Politics of Education, Westport, CN: Bergin & Garvey Publishing.

    Kunen, S. M. I. (2011). Superhuman In The Octagon, Imperfect In The Courtroom; Assessing The Culpability Of Martial Artists Who Kill During Street Fights. Emory Law Journal, 60(6), pp 1389-1435.

    Lantz, J. (2002). Family Development And The Martial Arts: A Phenomenological Study, Contemporary Family Therapy 24(4), (pp 565-580).

    Molanorouzi1, K., Khoo1, S., & Morris, T. (2015). Motives For Adult Participation In Physical Activity: Type Of Activity, Age, And Gender, BMC Public Health, DOI 10.1186/s12889-015-1429-7

    Nower, J. (2006). >Martial Arts & Feminist Awareness: A Plausible Explanation of Origins, Off Our Backs 37/(2/3), pp 28-31

    Robertson, D. (1991). Marital Arts for People with Disabilities, Souvenir Press, London, United Kingdom. Vertonghen, J. & Theeboom, M. (2010). The Social-Psychological Outcomes Of Martial Arts Practise Among Youth: A Review, Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 9, 528-537

    Yi, J. & Silver, D. (2015). God, Yoga, and Karate, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 54(3), p596-615.

    Ziv, G. & Lidor, R. (2013). Psychological Preparation of Competitive Judokas – A Review, Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 12, 371-380

    Sunday, June 26, 2016

    Spirituality and Karate-Do

    I've been studying, practicing, learning, and teaching Matsubayashi-Ryu karate-do since 1972, first on-base at Patrick AFB, FL and then in a small strip mall off A1A in Satellite Beach under Palmer Shihan. I've taken breaks, sometimes long breaks, but I always keep coming back.

    From day one I have been told karate has a core of spiritual development, not religious development but spiritual development. While this doesn't exclude religious development it is not a focus.

    In spite of this, in dojo after dojo, I have found very little emphasis on true spiritual development. This is most frequently due to the Sensei's above me also not having been trained in spiritual development.

    When we go back to the source, Osensei Nagamine, we see he did not separate spiritual development from physical development. Osensei said "Ken zen ichi nyo" roughly translated means "Zen and the fist are one". His karate practice paralleled his spiritual development via Zen Buddhism and Zazen meditation.

    Why spiritual development?

    Excellent question and one which lends itself to an answer via metaphor.

    Existence is like the ocean. We are all a part of the ocean of existence but occasionally we begin to develop into a wave. It is insanity for a wave to think it is somehow different, better, superior to the ocean it is a part of. Many times the wave can lose itself and believe it is more - it is not; we are not.

    Even as a wave we are still part of the ocean and, eventually, every wave returns to the ocean, returns to the source we never actually left.

    Every karate practitioner starts as a drop of water in the ocean, we grow, excell, become a wave and in that moment run the risk of losing ourselves in the insanity of the "superiority of the wave".

    Eventuality even the greatest karate practitioner slows down, time & age draws us back into the ocean like it does everyone.

    If we avoid the insanity that enticed us when we were the wave, we return to the ocean like going home. If we succumbed to the illusion presented by "wavehood", we return to the ocean fighting tooth and nail.

    Fight or not, we all return. The difference is how we return, how we embrace our existence, our life, our death.

    This is the spiritual lesson "hidden" in karate; do we visualize reality as a threatening enemy to be fought against or do we embrace the ocean of reality as the bed of existence we all come from and return to without every actually having left it?

    So how do you incorporate spiritual development into karate training?

    It's not easy because we, as Westerners, do not want to "waste" dojo training time on spiritual development.

    We have to present spiritual development as an integral part of karate training. To that end, why no start with what we already do?

    We do formal sitting at the start of every class; an ideal time to start.

    A Warning; If you are not trained in Zen do NOT try to teach Buddhist meditation. To do so would present a tremendous danger to your students. As a psychologist I will tell you it is very easy to find yourself in an abreaction which will NOT end well.

    However you can start with basic Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) exercises. Don't reinvent the wheel, you can download free self-help audio recordings of the exercises from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22 . If you like it; get certified as an instructor.

    A note of caution: Screen your students. Any student under a physician's care for hypertension, heart disease, lung disease or any other chronic physiological or psychological ailment(s) should be cleared by a physician before starting the training.

    Its a start. If it works for you, then find meditation instructors in the area who can help your dojo. A good source are your local Buddhist centers and/or Yoga centers - do your research.

    Return to the source! (TFYQA!)



    Cox Hakase

    Friday, November 27, 2015

    Happy Birthday!!

    If he were still alive today, 27 November, Bruce Lee would be 75 years old! Can you imagine? 75! To me he will always be 33.

    I remember the first time I "met" Bruce in 1972. I had just started school at Brevard Community College while living on-base at Patrick AFB, FL. I had a part-time job in the base theater but absolutely no interest in those crappy low-quality Chinese movies. My best friend, Wesley Golden, convinced me to stay and watch "Fists of Fury".

    I did.

    My life changed.

    Nunchakus, OMG NUNCHAKUS!!!

    I went home, sawed a broom in half, put a length of chain between them and proceeded to beat myself to death with the worst set of nunchakus ever made - nonetheless I was hooked!

    I saw the move again 6 times.

    After than Wesley convinced me to come join a group he had joined studying karate. That was how I met Palmer Renshi and was introduced to Matsubayashi-ryu.

    Bruce was my introduction to Shorin-Ryu. I, like so many others, owe him a debt I can never repay.

    Bruce, wherever you are, Thank You! (please tell Sam I said "Hello"!)


    Cox Hakase


    IMPORTANT NOTE: If anyone knows how to contact Wesley Golden, PLEASE have him contact me! Thanks.

    Sunday, December 28, 2014

    Mindfullness and Karate are NOT Paradoxical Statements!

    Mindfulness is the "secret" to mizo no kokoro; mind like water. Another way of conceptualizing this is the when the practitioner achieves the state of "no mind" or mushin. All external focus is dropped, the running internal mental dialog ceases or at least quiets significantly, and a state of mindfulness is attained however transiently.

    Calming the mind to mushin, or “no mind.” Removing internal chatter to allow the mind to function more efficiently.

    Nagamine Hanshi focused on achieving this state through the study and practice of Zazen and Zazen meditation.

    Other Okinawa styles have incorporate the kata Sanchin. Sanchin, literally translates as "three battles" which refers to the development of mind, body and spirit.

    Sanchin is a deceivingly simple kata, linear movements, basic block and punches incorporated into the sanchin dachi stance. The difficulty does not lie in the moves themselves but rather the single minded focus on tension and relaxation that accompanies the movements and centers on awareness of the breath.

    If you are looking to expand your practice by incorporating a traditional Okinawan kata while retaining the focus of mindfulness consider adding Sanchin to your repertoire.

    There are numerous resources for Sanchin with some variations from practitioner to practitioner. YouTube (below) has several clips.


    Goju-Ryu Sanchin Kata By Morio Higaonna


    Higaonna Sensei, Sanchin - Explanation and Training


    Sanchin kata by Goshi Yamaguchi


    Another excellent source is available from Tsunami Productions located at http://www.dragon-tsunami.org/Tsunami/Pages/go2rev.htm

    So, does Sanchin actually work as a vehicle to mindfulness? If done correctly; yes. More than one practitioner has experienced moments of enlightenment or "satori" while performing Sanchin. (Traditionally satori refers to the achievement of kenshō which is the experience of "seeing into one's true nature".)

    All of this is not to say the process is easy or even attainable for everyone but it is another avenue for more fully developing the holistic karate-ka and not just the punching-kicking mindless karate "master" so many occidentals view themselves as.

    T.F.Y.Q.A.!

    Cox Hakase

    Thursday, July 31, 2014

    Conservation of Energy
    "Things Are NOT as They Seem!"

    I was training a small group of visiting Wado-Ryu stylists in “Slow Zen – Mindfulness” training this weekend and we began taking about kata. Sigh. . . .

    They training in a version of Pinan III which has some variations not seen in Matsubayashi-Ryu. See Below:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPc-uVTBxwA

    Pinan Sandan – Wado-Ryu Performed by: Maicon Nonoyama

    Mawashi Hiji-Uke (Harai) or a “Sweeping Elbow Block” In Matsubayashi-Ryu traditionally this is referred to as a shoulder block.

    Seeing the move as a sweeping elbow block or a shoulder block cannot be, or should not be, the correct interpretation of the move.

    I tried block a straight punch with first my elbow and then my shoulder. Even knowing when the strike was coming it was nearly impossible to effectively block and left me in a vulnerable position with my back exposed to the attacker. Don’t believe me? Try it.

    I then experienced a “BFO” (Blinding Flash of the Obvious)!

    It is neither a elbow or a shoulder block, it’s a side step, upper body only.

    The strike is launched and you spin your upper body to avoid contact, but just barely. This placed you in a perfect position to execute a reverse back fist to the unprotected head of the attacker and positions you perfectly to trap their extended arm and take them to the ground or dislocate the shoulder, All in a fraction of seconds.

    Watch Hanshi Ota, Eihachi perform the same kata. The avoidance of the strike is clear as is the position for counter attacking it places you in:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9X4GpCMvbc

    Pinan Sandan – Matsubayashi-Ryu Performed by Hanshi Ota, Eihachi

    This is NOT a beginner technique, it is simplistically sophisticated! Not only that but it also adheres to Nagamine Shoshin’s doctrine incorporating his view of sidestepping to avoid contact while place yourself in an excellent position to counter strike.

    How is it I never saw this before?

    The old Okinawan saying is there are no secret techniques in karate. Apparently this is true, this was staring me in the face for 20+ years.

    Time to go back an look at the Fukyugatas!

    T.F.Y.Q.A.!



    Cox Hakase