Translate This Blog

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Another "Open" Secret: Shutos?

First, sorry for the lengthy absence. Much has changed in my personal life in the past 2 years but mostly for the better. That said, back to karate.

We've talked before about the "Hidden Secrets in Karate-Do" before and how they really aren’t all that hidden. Karate is NOT solely a physical art. In their development and progression, the student reaches a fork in that development. Unfortunately, that developmental fork is usually a subconscious decision and missed by many.

The fork itself is whether to pursue karate as a physical skill or to pursue karate as an art composed of both physical and meditative development with a goal of self-improvement both physically, spiritually and cognitively.

To that end I want to look more deeply at "chudan-soto shuto-uke".

Every Sensei I have worked with (at least up to Shihan Zapata and Renshi Sanchez) have insisted the perpendicular positioning of the extended hand as being the actual block. Before then I was corrected time and time again to bend my hand up perpendicularly and not let it drop.

It has never felt right to me physically or internally.

Over the years I have researched the anatomy and physiology of the hand wrist and the hand-wrist joint and, to that end, I have discussed it with a couple of physiologists and kinesiologists. (Teaching at a school with a Sports Medicine program helped). The consensus of opinion is that the position of the hand in traditional chudan-soto shuto-uke is extremely weak and would injure the executioner of the move against a much stronger force. The muscles and tendons in those areas simply cannot be strengthened past a certain point without decreasing general range-of-motion in those areas.

No doubt there are those out there who would argue with me however, physiology is physiology. So, to appease them the nay-sayers: I'm sure there are rare exceptions.

When I have watched Sensei's, other yudansha, and kyu ranks (you can learn a lot from "beginners") I noticed, in practice, the hand invariably falls naturally into a palm down, 45-degree position before being corrected by the instructor. The exception is when a yudansha is "sparing" with a lower kyu rank and there is a clear chasm between experience levels

So I began practicing with a large diameter wooden dowel.

Executing traditional chudan-soto shuto-uke is unstable and then required a repositioning before a same hand follow up move could be performed.

"Poorly" executing the chudan-soto shuto-uke utilizing the distal forearm in combination with the side of hand (aided by the change of the angle of execution), was a much stronger block and, without repositioning, left me ready to immediately grab the attacker's arm/shirt/gi and then execute a follow-up move.

I was amazed at the immediate release of tension in my arm and shoulder when executed in this manner.

Try it. assume a traditional neko-ashi dachi, chudan-soto shuto-uke stance. Become aware of the tensions in your upper body. Then simply turn your hand palm down and drop the position to a 45-degree angle. Decide for yourself.

So the obvious question then is, If I am correct should we suddenly change the position of chudan-soto shuto-uke in all the katas as a reflection of my BFO (Blinding Flash of the Oblivious)?

Simple answer: ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Kata is kata and real-world is real-world. Kata DOES however, apply to real-world.

As I said before, I have watched many, many, shutos executed during kumite. All drop the shuto. In kumite few perform flawless kata techniques. They utilize real-world strikes and blocks based on kata, call them "naturally lazy blocks" not because they are really "lazy" but because the body naturally drops the hand.

Too often we refer to "bunkai" as "application". That is not it's meaning. Bunkai best translates to mean "analysis" or perhaps more appropriately, "disassembly". By disassembling a technique we can better understand how the execution of the technique best delivers the best ROI (Return on Investment) by the practitioner.

To paraphrase Gennosuke Higaki, "Studying/practicing kata is not the same as understanding the art of Karate-do."

Again, my belief and only my belief: Only by training to the high standards imposed by kata do we begin to grow and understand true bunkai but only if we dissect both thoroughly. Contrary to a popular belief, kata does not represent the practitioner fighting off eight different opponents at once. That would be absurd. Kata represents a standardized, easily replicable manner of teaching, training and perfecting both basic and advanced techniques. However, the most advanced meanings of kata take place when one begins the disassembly of the movements and begins to analyze each one of them at a deeper level.

Bunkai is as much a mental discipline as it is a physical application. The individual technique; chudan-soto shuto-uke, illustrates those concepts superbly.


Cox Hakase


Bindal, V. D. (2018). Textbook of kinesiology, Jaypee Brothers Medical Pub

Higaki, G. (2005). Hidden karate: The true bunkai for the Heian katas and Naihanchi, CHAMP Co., Ltd.

McGinnis. (2021). Biomechanics of sport and exercise (4th ed.), Human Kinetics Publishers

Weinberg, R. & Gould, D. (2018). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (7th ed.). Human Kinetics.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Kata Counts??

The kata begins. Ich, ni, san, shi . . . and the count drones on. With each count the class executes another movement of the kata.

In another dojo, same kata, same count but in this dojo each count elicits a response of a series of movements.

Another dojo, same kata, same count, and yet a different sequence of techniques.

Why? I've always wondered how dojo to dojo the kata are the same but the count is different. Learn it one way and then a different count/sequence makes you feel like a white belt again.

The question is simple; Why the differences?

There are several good answers: behavioral conditioning, classical conditioning, even "that's the way we've always done it." However these answers are all only partially correct at best.

In nearly every school the count initiates a combination (i.e. block-strike or strike-block) sequence. They do this not because they have thought it through but because it "seems" right or "it just makes sense, you would block then stop before striking!"

Well, yes you would.

But I digress.

I just finished reading this month's edition of "Classical Fighting Arts" (if you're not subscribing you REALLY should be). Graham Noble, in his article "Chosin Chibana's Shorin Ryu" quoted Shinpan Shiroma Sensei as saying "Each movement found in a karate do kata contains both the means of attack and defence." He then explained "until this is understood kata will appear as a pointless dance. When the purpose of kata is understood, that it contains the technique of attack, and defence, one will be deeply moved and excited by a kata performance" (Shinpan Shiroma, as cited in Noble, 2018).

Therein lies the answer of count and sequence.

If we practice true traditional Okinawan Karate-Do, i.e. "One Strike, One kill", if we practice true karate no point karate then the whole world is contained in just one count. Blocks ARE strikes and strikes ARE blocks.

If a chudan-uke is delivered with sufficient force it is both block and strike. Think of the yakusoku kumites. We so often practice the dance but without really focusing on the point of the sequence.

You can go as far as to say "karate ni sente nashi" is really saying "There is no first strike in karate because, in self -defense, the block is sufficient to disable your attacker so a strike, as such, is not needed."

O'Sensei said "Ken Zen Ichi Nyo" (Zen and the fist are one) - they are. The study of karate without the study of Buddhism (you don’t have to convert) leaves it incomplete.

Zen icons such as D. T. Suzuki advocate approaching everything, regardless of the repetition. Remember O'Sensei? Remember "Shoshin"? Translated it means "beginner's mind".

If every technique, in every kata, is delivered with the solid intent to kill, then a "one-count" is sufficient.

Yes, I know the one strike , one kil may sound antiquated and inappropriate in today's millenial, emo, politically correct, vegetarian approach to life, but we are talking about the 1500's on a little island 320 miles south of the Japanese mainland constantly subject to pirates, Samaurai abuse, and other such politically incorrect niceties of the day.

One count, one technique equals One technique, one kill.

The basics work best, lets go back and stick with them.


Cox Hakase


Noble, G.(2018). Chosin Chibana's Shorin Ryu: His Legacy and Students, Classical Fight Arts, 56, (29-46).

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Rank for Sale?

I recently had a very interesting, albeit unusual, experience. An acquaintance basically asked if I would "sell" him a shodan and nidan rank (with certificates). In addition to the rank, I would have to agree to serve as a reference as to their martial arts prowess including serving as a job reference. (The job he was applying for required a martial arts background/competence.)

The rank would have to have been backdated to 2005. The idea was even floated for me to misrepresent myself as a rokudan and award him a godan ranking. This also involved changing the website to reflect my various, but non-existent, "promotions".

I will say the amount of money discussed was significant.

As a background to all this, my wife and I would really to move to Roan Mountain, Tennessee, so the timing of the offer was interesting.

Many people believe if you have "Dr" in front of your name you are rowing in money. Let me assure you, as a teacher, nothing could be further from the truth. In point of fact, I make far less with a Doctorate than I did as a nurse with an Associate's degree. (plus still paying school loans).

So, the proffered money would have been very welcome and timely.

I am happy to say I never once seriously considered the offer. I do not think I could have lived with myself if I had.

I discussed the offer with him in great detail, specifically why it was so wrong and why I could not, would not agree to it.

At the end of a long drawn-out discussion, he agreed the whole idea was extremely inappropriate and he thanked me for refusing. However, he then asked that I not tell anyone which makes me suspect he will simply approach someone else. I suspect out-of-state, with the same, or similar, deal.

So what's the point of this page out of my life? It's back to basics, again. Karate is more than kata, sparing, respecting your peers, your Sensei, your style, etc. The values we learn in karate apply to our lives, not just the time we spend in the dojo.

Rank is a reflection of one's dedication. Not just to karate but to the spirit of the art, the spirit of budo itself. I think we could go so far as to say: "There is no "I" in karate".

Selling rank is prostitution of the worse sort. The seller of rank is not just shaming themselves. They are representing, and shaming, everyone who trained before them.

It's even more complicated than that. You can actually sell rank to yourself; the process is called self-promotion. However, the price for self-promotion is your own dignity and your sense of self-worth. Of course, if you suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder (or merely antisocial leanings), it's sort of a moot point. I cannot imagine buying rank and then sincerely feeling "I deserved that!". That's like the people who purchase graduate and doctorate degrees, Then again, that's me. I guess not everyone feels that way.

So, bottom line: no easy money. I guess I'll go back to filling out my VA Home Loan application.

I wonder if "GoFundMe" would work????

Cox Hakase

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.

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!


Cox Hakase


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 ( .

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.


Cox Hakase


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 . 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.