Please take a look at my bibliography if you do not see a proper reference to a post.

My Martial Art - Explained

I practice martial arts. That seems to those who read this blog and my posts as a redundant statement but I am about to clarify what it is that I practice to ensure clarity to many aspects of the posts herein this blog or blogs.

First, I practice a physical, traditional, developmental, health and philosophical discipline called Okinawan Isshinryu Karate-jutsu-do. I do NOT do sport. I don’t practice it for self-defense (mainly because this is a fighting/combative discipline in nature as it would apply toward its practice and application on Okinawa during the period starting early 1600’s through to its conversion to an educational discipline in the late 1800’s. If all I wanted to do was to damage another human regardless of the reasons this system would supply that capability but in truth it would have to be modified a good deal toward a more modern combative losing its traditional roots. 

My focus can be said to point toward a more spiritual and health or fitness direction with a lot of philosophical drive behind what is called the body, mind and spirit development through the disciplines of martial systems. So I focus on the spiritual, health, traditional disciplines of Okinawan martial system called Isshinryu. 

At one time I thought I was actually teaching, as a part of this system, self-defense. I have since found that what I was teaching was how to fight - on a limited scale. The fighting I taught, first and foremost, is illegal in today’s modern world. Also, that fighting would lend more toward a more sportive perspective than self-defense or true fighting because it lacked many components that make for legal and socially accepted self-defense. I was one of those guys who overstepped the true boundaries of what I practiced, training and taught. It was not intentional because I was, like many, passing on what I had been taught until now. 

I write a lot about self-defense because I have spent a good deal of time and effort researching that subject through sources I feel strongly have the knowledge, ability and experience actually applying self-defense in the real world. What I will try to teach in martial arts, if that is a practitioners reasoning for taking lessons or guidance from me, is avoidance. I also will write about and teach all that I personally understand about self-defense without the physical applications because I find those parts that are physical are out of my expertise as I state here. 

Know this, if I had to defend myself I would do so without hesitation. I can say this due to some modicum of experience in this in my early years but also because I have learned a lot, academically speaking, in the last five or more years. I also attribute my ability to defend myself in the more esoteric meaning of reality due to my training and experience in the military with a caveat that I know and understand the differences between fighting/combatives of the military and the self-defenses of civilian life. 

I wanted everyone to know who reads my materials that this is where I stand as to knowledge, understanding, experience and the reality of life so there are no misunderstandings as to what I provide. My most strong desire when it comes to self-defense is that I convey the absolute necessity for anyone who takes up that discipline has exposure to the full and complete realm of self-defense. There is so much out there that is good material and my sources are provided through my library listings and the below bibliography that is far from extensive or complete. There are literally volumes of solid material that one who seeks self-defense training or instruction must find, read, learn and understand before trying to apply it on the street.

I remind everyone that what I present is based on about 5% experience and 95% knowledge through studies as I present here. I have extensive experience and expertise in my model or discipline of martial arts. I have spent thirty-seven + years in practice and study. One of the reasons I wanted to explain in more detail what it is I actually study, practice and train.  I don’t want anyone misunderstanding my credentials in the posts that speak of fighting, combatives and most importantly self-defense realms. Here is where I first practice “avoidance” as I wish to avoid misunderstandings by those who read my stuff. It is important if I am to gain any semblance of respect in my writing. 

So, I am a martial artists of a traditional nature and a knowledgeable academically motivated self-defense source. When it comes to the parts that require application in real life I can recommend without question and doubt a person contact some of the authors below for seminars and instruction. They all have a level of experience and capability that makes me look, as I truly am, a novice - a rookie. 

Sport, Fighting, Combat and Self-Defenses

These are four distinctly different things. There is one thing that is common to all four. The one thing transcends things like systems, styles and techniques. What is the “one” thing?

Weeelllll, the answer is quite simple once you hear it. When you think about it then you usually have this “oh shit” moment. Have you gotten it yet? Wellll, the “one thing” is “martial principles” or what I have referred to as “fundamental principles of martial systems.” In reality they are actually just “principles” but I put the long name on them to associate them to martial arts - in general. 

When I start differentiating between martial sport, martial fighting, martial combat and martial self-defense then it is about the techniques derived from those categories that come from the application of the fundamental principles of martial systems. It is what spans or inter-connects commonality between vastly different things. 

It is about providing a holistic application of many different atomistic derivatives depending on how one applies things like sport, fighting or self-defense. In a nutshell, for civilians outside the purview of both professionals as civilians or professionals as military you really want to stay with self-defense unless you are totally sure and committed to the sport versions with no crossovers. 

Principles drive technique. The application of principles manifesting into techniques all depend on the moment and the moments circumstances. Seems simple doesn’t it? Well, it is anything but complicated yet simple or simple yet complicated. When you dive into principles and master them then the system, style or technique becomes a product of the requirements of that one moment. 

Clarification on Content

Just so you all know, much of what I write on does come from research and that research is as follows where the emphasis is what I write concerning self-defense. I HIGHLY and STRONGLY recommend these titles for your self-defense training and practice. As to the practical applications of what you learn here you will have to find a solid, dependable and expert source such as an instructor of finding the seminars that many of these authors provide. I often write what I know but many times forget or fail to provide a proper bibliography. I am trying to rectify this and the following will be added to future postings just to make sure everyone knows about these sources. 

MacYoung, Marc. "In the Name of Self-Defense: What It Costs. When It’s Worth It." Marc MacYoung. 2014.
Goleman, Daniel. "Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition [Kindle Edition]." Bantam. January 11, 2012.
Miller, Rory. "ConCom: Conflict Communications A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication." Amazon Digital Services, Inc. 2014. 
Miller, Rory. "Violence: A Writer's Guide." Pacific Northwest. Wyrd Goat Press. 2012.
Cain, Susan. "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking." Broadway. New York. 2013. 
Bown, Tim and Miller Rory. "Leading the Way: Maximize Your Potential as a Martial Arts Instructor." Rachelle Bown. Kindle. 2012
Overland, Clint; Anderson, Drew Dr.; Kane, Lawrence; Trahan, Terry; Burrese, Alain; Demeere, Wim; Eisler, Barry; MacYoung, Marc; Miller, Rory; Miller, Kamila. "Campfire Tales from Hell: Musing on Martial Arts, Survival, Bounding, and General Thug Stuff." CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 2012.
Miller, Rory and Kane, Lawrence A. "Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision-making under Threat of Violence." YMAA Publisher. New Hampshire. 2012
Miller, Rory. "Force Decisions: A Citizen's Guide." YMAA Publications. NH. 2012.
Bolton, Robert, Ph.D. "People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts." Simon & Schuster. New York. 1979, 1986.
Navarro, Joe. "What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People." Collins. New York. 2008.
Kane, Lawrence & Wilder, Kris. "How to Win a Fight: A Guide to Avoiding and Surviving Violence." Gotham Books. New York. 2011.
Grossman, Dave LtCol. "On Killing: The Physiological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. Back Bay Books. New York. 2009.
Grossman, Dave Lt.Col. Christensen, Loren. "On Combat: The Physiology and Physiology of Deadly Colnflct in War and Peace." Warrior Science Publications. 2008.
DeMente, Boye LaFayette. "The Origins of Human Violence: Male Dominance, Ignorance, Religions and Willful Stupidity!" Phoenix Books. Kentucky. 2010.
MacYoung, Marc. "A Professional's Guide to Ending Violence Quickly: How Bouncers, Bodyguards, and Other Security Professionals Handle Ugly Situations." Paladin Press. Boulder, Colorado. 1996.
Newberg, Andrew MD and Waldman, Mark Robert. "Why We Believe What We Believe: Uncovering Our Biological Need for Meaning, Spirituality, and Truth." Free Press. New York. 2006
Sutrisno, Tristan, MacYoung, Marc and Gordon, Dianna. "Becoming a Complete Martial Artist: Error Detection in Self Defense and the Martial Arts." Lyons Press. Connecticut. 2005.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Meditations of Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence" YMAA Publishing. 2008.
Miller, Rory Sgt. "Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected." YMAA Publishing. 2011.
Pearlman, Steven J. "The Book of Martial Power." Overlook Press. N.Y. 2006.
Elgin, Suzette Haden, Ph.D. "More on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense." Prentice Hall. New Jersey. 1983.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Self-Defense at Work." New York. Prentice Hall Press. 2000.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1993.
Elgin, Suzette. "The Gentle Art of Written Self-Defense" MJF Books. 1997
Elgin, Suzette. "The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" Barnes & Noble. 1995
Elgin, Suzette. "Staying Well with the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense." MJF Books. 1990.

MacYoung, Marc. "Violence, Blunders, and Fractured Jaws: Advanced Awareness Techniques and Street Etiquette." Paladin Press. Boulder, Colorado. 1992. 

These that follow are other bibliographies on martial arts, etc.

Additional Books:
Additional Bibliographies:
Additional Bibliographies:

Violence - some thoughts

The I Ching of Life :-)
I have been reading Marc MacYoung’s book, “In the Name of Self-Defense,” when it occurred to me that possibly, possibly, we as a society have actually provided for more violence over less by taking the tact that to “ignore” it that it will go away all on its own. I have the feeling that society thinks if it ignores violence and the fact that humans are by nature violent creatures it exposes us to those common things that lead to violence. 

Maybe I am not that clear here. As I read Marc MacYoung’s book I find that because I am learning a lot more about the subject than I previously understood and assumed I knew it became clearer to me that knowing this stuff would give me the background necessary to use the tools to avoid my nature of being a violent human being. 

Just knowing about how the process of violence works I can grasp what it takes to avoid it myself, i.e. as in my anger leading to conflict and violence. I think this concept is important that putting our heads in the sand and ignoring nature will always get us into trouble.

In addition, our society has to deal with the population explosion it is experiencing meaning that there are more of us, more differeing cultural groups with their own unique belief systems, etc. that create more friction when in contact with one another not to forget even within the group not understanding the rules of violence and its process leaves a greater opportunity for misunderstandings, lousy communications, not knowing the rules and in the end through confusion, perceptions, perspectives, stress, assumptions, speculations, resentments, etc. you find that the human violent tendencies come to the surface.

It is also like communications where simply learning about them and understanding how it can lead to conflict and violence, i.e. like learning about it in Mr. MacYoung’s books along with the gentle art of verbal self-defense, etc., leads to an understanding along with the tools to first see it all in yourself thus providing the opportunity to see it in others then avoid violence by how you handle it all. If everyone were afforded the opportunity to understand all this then maybe violence would diminish to a minimum.

Remember, as I started to state above, with the closeness of the variety of humans becoming overcrowded, etc. nature tends to create greater stress, etc. that create situations and scenarios that will open the door to our monkey brains who tend to like connecting to our human nature of conflict and violence. 

This blog post may seem convoluted but that is because all of this is complex, very complex. I could see the human condition improving if we just embraced our nature and learned all the tools to combat that nature, i.e., like taking the materials from INOSD, Meditations on Violence by Rory Miller, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and more and put that into our educational system, our homes to teach our children so that we could combat violence by putting it on a choker leash so we can keep that junk yard dog restrained to our benefit rather than our detriment.

I may be taking this to the extreme but I wish I had this knowledge and learning when I was a teenager. I could envision a far better life than what I had (and that life was pretty darn good too but ….. you know that old hindsight thing :-). 

Ok, anyway, off the soap box. 

p.s. if anything, all this stuff could and would make a huge difference in the self-defense and martial art culture and belief system. It might even be a better seller commercially. Hmmm …. Oh, I think some ancient sage in the business of war, etc. said you should keep your friends close but your enemies closer so it that is true, I believe it to be so, then we should really keep our violent natures close, not hidden in the sand but right there on our left with our friends on our right. 

Drills or Kumite

The fundamental purpose of drills, i.e. paired practice using kata, etc., is to learn the fundamental principles of martial systems so when the time comes to actually apply technique in self-defense the practitioner will have encoded the principles as applied in karate. This is why this type of training is fundamental or basic to martial arts, i.e. it is a primer to learn said principles so they will be available to the lizard brain when a less basic training and practice are started. The kumite drills help to teach the student about control, natural action, reflexive action, breathing (breathing is often just assumed when it should be a stronger focus in martial arts), posture, spinal alignment, axis - both major and minor, structure. heaviness and relaxation, wave energy, centeredness, triangulation points, body-mind cohesion, etc., void as it applies in a physical sense, centripetal and centrifugal force, sequential locking and relaxation (this is a beginning of the chinkuchi effect), peripheral vision, tactile sensitivity, and rooting. 

There are more principles involved but many of those are incorporated once the fundamentals or basics of martial systems are ingrained and encoded into the mind-state, i.e. where the instinct allows the lizard brain to draw from them to apply as needed in self-defense. 

There are some assumptions as well that while learning through basics, kata and kumite (includes drills) that one has gained the knowledge in proper application of martial arts if studied for self-defense. As a combative art form it is understood that combative is a step above fighting and both are illegal in our modern society. There are specifics that must be understood so that when studying a martial art as a means of self-defense that are complicated and often convoluted. The Sensei will recommend materials that must be studied so when the time arrives later it can be applied in proper training and practice.

Drills, kumite and kata must also be understood are NOT means to self-defense directly but tools to get a martial artist to that end goal. There are avenues that must be taken in order to make it work in reality as martial arts training alone will always fail unless the other connections are made and encoded. An example is training to handle the stress induced adrenal chemical effects that violence, etc. will cause. Another example is understanding force decisions, the legal ramifications and the emotional and economic results of self-defense and fighting (when SD crosses the line into fighting, etc).

Remember that kumite or drills are merely that stepping stone one steps across to move from inexperience toward actual self-defense and its applications. As an art form outside of SD, etc., it is still a stepping stone from the model of “shu-ha-ri and/or shin-gi-tai” concepts that all martial artists must learn regardless. 

FaceBook Too

Hey Everyone, apparently a good deal of the martial arts authors are moving to Facebook. Bet you guys already knew this huh? Well, I am staying with my blogs BUT often I do share articles on my “Okinawan Isshinryu” FB wall and on occasion I do put separate and different posts on FB alone. So, if you wish to view some of the stuff I put there please don’t hesitate to visit Okinawan Isshinryu at Facebook.  There is a convenient link on the right side of this page as well. 


Like “situational awareness,” avoidance is a lot more than merely avoiding a fight, an attack or the need for physical self-defense. Avoidance involves situational awareness and that subject, like avoidance and the whole of self-defense, is a lot more involved than one might think. I also doubt many SD models address this much like they fail to address the full spectrum of SD, situational awareness and avoidance, etc. I say this because I once taught a martial art as if it were self-defense, NOT. 

The same knowledge that the author, of the book below, provides so that one can truly begin to have and understand situational awareness also goes for avoidance (in my view anyway). You cannot have SA without the knowledge that allows you to be aware of what constitutes such things as so goes avoidance. How can you avoid danger, etc., unless you have the knowledge to “know what to avoid.” 

To avoid even a verbal conflict takes a lot more than knowing how to dump a person to the ground, restraining them to limit their ability to do damage and then either leave quickly or hold them in abeyance until authorities arrive to handle things. Recognizing what you say and what the other person is saying and how to handle those is also knowledge necessary for avoidance. 


MacYoung, Marc. “In the Name of Self-Defense: What It Costs. When It’s Worth It.” Marc MacYoung. 2014.

The Crescent Moon Step

An acquaintance in Isshinryu mentioned to me that some advanced practitioners when performing and/or demonstrating a kata and drill failed to perform the crescent moon step. The crescent moon step has a purpose and is a teaching tool much like the kata itself, i.e. the various techniques and combinations. In a nutshell it moves you off the adversaries center line and at the same time removes your centerline from the adversaries direction of attack. There are more lessons gained from using the crescent moon step in kata, this is just the one that comes to my mind each time I am asked about the crescent moon step. 

Now, when I first studied my system, Isshinryu, my sensei did not teach the crescent moon step in our kata. I later learned that the kata I was originally taught were not the same as others who practiced Isshinryu. Honestly, I didn’t feel it made any difference in my karate. Simply, anything that may have been intended but missed is simply a tool I was not exposed to in those first years. With the amount of stuff you can gleam from a simpler study of the kata, etc., you can extract a great deal as you progress. Because I wanted to have all the available tools I implemented those things I found missing or misunderstood. 

Personally, I feel that just because you might not have the same tools in your tool box that it means nothing overall and fundamentally in the practice of a martial art. Yes, it would be great to learn the entire/complete system but even those who learned the crescent mood step originally in their studies and practice in some cases have stopped that practice or simply forgotten for the need of expedience when doing drills or even sparring. 

As to the use of the crescent moon step from kata to real applications as possible in the limited practice of sparring it is not used except for the lesson it teaches, i.e. to always move off center and out of the way of an attack so you can apply your center to their off center forcing them to stop, turn and redirect their attack. It that moment you have beaten their OODA loop, i.e. they return from action to the observe, orient and decide while you are acting with your techniques. 

This is not rocket science here, many things in kata and drills don’t actually translate directly to street self defense or even combatives for fighting and/or combat hand-to-hand. How often do you actually witness anyone fighting who uses traditional martial arts as taught originally in kata, etc.? Not many, if any. It is possible but most don’t, they go for the kickboxing type combinations to win the tournament, etc. 

Remember, being exacting is critical as a kyu through san-dan levels but even there when trying to translate what you learn to application such as for self-defense is not exacting. The idea here is to learn all the fundamental principles of martial systems, i.e. as follows:

Universality, Control, Efficiency, Lengthen Our Line, Percentage Principle, Std of Infinite Measure, Power Paradox, Ratio, Simplicity, Natural Action, Michelangelo Principle, Reciprocity, Opponents as Illusions, Reflexive Action, Training Truth, Imperception and Deception.

Breathing, Posture, Triangle Guard, Centerline, Primary Gate, Spinal Alignment, Axis, Minor Axis, Structure, Heaviness, Relaxation, Wave Energy, Convergence, Centeredness, Triangulation Point, The Dynamic Sphere, Body-Mind, Void, Centripetal Force, Centrifugal Force, Sequential Locking & Sequential Relaxation, Peripheral Vision, Tactile Sensitivity, Rooting.

Techniques vs. Technique, Equal Rights, Compliment, Kobo Ichi, Economical Motion, Active Movement, Positioning, Angling, Leading Control, Complex Forces, Indirect Pressure, Live Energy & Dead Energy, Torsion & Pinning, Speed, Timing, Rhythm, Balance, Reactive Control, Natural & Unnatural Motion, Weak Link, Non-Telegraphing, Extension and Penetration.

Mind, Mushin, Kime, Non-intention, Yin-Yang, Oneness, Zanshin & Being, Non-action, Character, The Empty Cup.

These principles bring about a philosophy that transcends those created within any specific system or style. This philosophy was derived from the work of Stephen J. Pearlman, i.e. his bai liu ha yi or one hundred styles flow into one. The philosophy applied to Okinawan and all martial systems is "Hitotsu ni oku no nagare." This philosophy means, "The flow of many into one." It is redacted from Pearlman Sensei's philosophy into one that relates to the philosophy taught through Tatsuo-san of Isshinryu's ken-po goku-i. His was formulated from his studies of the Ancient Chinese Classics such as the I-Ching and the Tao-te-ching, etc.

p.s. underlined in physiokinetic principle are the more obvious principles taught through kata such as the crescent moon step, etc.

Comments - Anyone?

“It is not how I want the world to be, but yes there is a time and place for violence - even extreme violence.” ~ Marc MacYoung, “In the Name of Self Defense.”

MacYoung, Marc. “In the Name of Self-Defense: What It Costs. When It’s Worth It.” Marc MacYoung. 2014.

High Kicks

High kicks for some unfathomable reason are used to symbolize any and all forms of karate. High kicks have even been adopted by those systems/styles so they can compete in karate tournaments and contests. High kicks are even taught as a main tool of self-defense. I still cannot understand why it is so but it is so. 

Take a look, do a google search for karate images. I would bet that most are depicted with forms doing high kicks. Kicks so high that in most cases those same kicks would fly over the heads of an opponent, mostly. 

Why do you think high kicks are such a symbolic representation of any and all empty hand martial arts? 

Our Brains on Self-Defense

Our brains are some kind of complex system aren’t they? In order to simplify things in understanding how our brains work regarding self-defense some very knowledgable, intelligent and gifted persons have described the parts involved in SD as the “Thinking brain,” the “Monkey brain,” and the “Lizard brain.” 

Please note this is my post and those intelligent, knowledgable and gifted professionals I mentioned have nothing to do with this except their work was used for “MY PERSONAL” interpretations as follows. So, the onus is on me for this one.

Ok, back to the discussion. I use two of the descriptions and one of my own. Why? Because I am more comfortable with mine in place of the “Thinking brain.” My symbolic naming is “Vulcan brain.” Vulcan because that is depicted easy enough as the most logical non-emotional brain that would attempt to control both the monkey brain and the lizard brain from stupid and ignorant stuff we humans tend to do when either or both get involved. 

The Vulcan mind is one that uses our ability to “think” logically and with out allowing the intrusion of either/or the monkey brain or lizard brain we both know tend to muck things up. 

We want to use our Vulcan mind to train our monkey’s to remain caged and out of the way except when certain controlled emotions will benefit the situation at any given moment. The Lizard is also necessary for survival but what it knows and will use regardless of the Vulcan and Monkey can also take over so it is important to train our Vulcan and Monkey to change slightly what the lizard will use in SD situations. Hopefully long before the need to step into the SD circle became imminent. 

The Vulcan mind has already been influenced by our modern society through the media be it television or movies. Most of this stuff is just plain wrong. Nothing actually happens in the real world according to what the entertainment industry decides will draw the greatest crowd willing to spend money to be “entertained :-)” So, we have to retrain the Vulcan mind so that it can train and retrain our monkey and lizard. Remember, in many potentially violent conflicts your thinking mind doesn’t have the time to “think” so do that “thinking” in the time “BEFORE” you need it, it is called training and practice.

One excellent step is to seek out that knowledge necessary to navigate the complexities of the world that is “Self-Defense.” Where I recommend one start is to expose themselves to the material that will set the stage to finding a true SD model that will work, if ever needed or if ever inadvertently exposed to such types of conflict (note: some of those professional, knowledgable and gifted folks will tell you that in all likelihood you will mostly never “inadvertently” be exposed to such conflicts and the reasons why will come with my recommendation to follow.) and that material can now be found in one expert source, Marc MacYoung’s book, “In The Name of Self-Defense.” 

If you want your Vulcan mind to have the tools necessary to find and achieve true SD then start there. It is not a book about the actual physical techniques you would use but you will find these tools to be superior to any technique or common SD course you could take. You want to know this stuff before you seek out SD and you should know this as well, you will possibly find that you really don’t need SD training because what you learn from Mr. MacYoung’s efforts is - how to avoid it. 

Back to the three minds of our brains. The key point to understand with our Vulcan, Monkey and Lizard brains is they are not separate and exclusive to one another. They are intertwined and inter-connected to where you cannot find clear and distinctive separations when they are triggered. Our minds tend to work all three as one at every moment of every day. The degree of one over the others depends greatly on the stimuli you are exposed to every single moment of every single day of your entire lives. 

The stronger two of the three can be the monkey and lizard. The goal here is to allow the Vulcan mind to learn and train the entire mind to control how the other two are implemented when stimuli hits our senses influencing our perceptions along with our beliefs, etc.

There is a reason why our brains work they way they do and it is too bad that knowledge is limited because our brains are a wonderful, interesting and complex organ that still mystifies our learned experts and will continue to do so until time ends. 

In closing there are other great reads that will help in the world of SD understanding and knowledge but this one has, in my opinion, the primer to all the others. If noting else it means you become an informed person. It means you become someone who understands how the complex world of self-defense works and that will go a long way to help you avoid and other such things before getting caught in the web that is SD. 

Go get the book. Read it, read it again. Then, seek out training and practice as necessary for you!

Tameshiwari [試し割り]

The characters/ideograms mean, “Breaking bricks, etc., (martial arts).” The first character means, “test; try; attempt; experiment; ordeal,” the second character means, “proportion; comparatively; divide; cut; separate; split.” 

Apparently this training model was popularized by Sensei Masutatsu Oyama of the Japanese system of Kyokushin Karate. It requires one train with “karada-kitae” or “body hardening techniques.” This model is not a part of traditional karate. At least not the karate from the 1600’s to the late 1800’s of Okinawa, the birth place of karate. At least not as far as one can determine by the spotty documentation and historical information that is available. 

The use of tameshiwari is questionable. It is a form or demonstration of how well a karate-ka has developed the body, mind and spirit through not just karate practice but karada-kitae, body hardening. It does provide feedback as to application of fundamental principles of martial systems as the failure to adhere to those principles can result in failed breaks as well as injuries. Principles like structure, alignment, speed, power, sequential locking and unlocking, etc. that result in proper form, focus, breathing, etc., that are also principles. 

It is important to understand that karada-kitae and karate knowledge are not the only requirements a karate-ka must know, understand and gain proficiency in so that tameshiwari will work. The hardening of the body is one, the understanding and application of principles is second but the rest is as important as the first two, i.e. the materials to be used and choosing those materials along with how the physics work with the materials you choose to break. 

You just don’t go out and purchase just any type of wood. When you have the right wood then you have to choose wood with the right grain for breaking. Even a 1/2” piece of wood will be harder to break or unbreakable if the grain is not right. Then there is density, moisture and other environmental type factors that affect the materials chosen. 

Bricks depend on the material they are made of, the firing process and the mixture of materials that provide for varying levels of hardness, etc. must come into play when choosing that for tameshiwari. 

Some might say that tameshiwari is indicative of mastery of a martial art. I contend that this is a false assumption. I have trained the uninitiated in breaking wood and bricks. When I gave demonstrations, unlike many other karate-ka who would break at demo’s, I would allow a gathering after the demo to provide them the “how it is done” aspects so that they don’t go away with the misconception that tameshiwari is indicative of proficiency and mastery in martial arts and/or self-defense. 

Tameshiwari has its purpose but I believe it came into its acceptance from the introduction of karate into the Okinawan and Japanese educational systems just before the World War II. Tameshiwari is impressive especially to the uninitiated as a means to entice enrollment for schools who depend on enrollment and fees. 

Please don’t misunderstand, like professional WWE wrestling it still takes skill, dedication and a body, mind and spirit way above what would be normal to achieve proficiency in tameshiwari especially those who take it to extremes. Even knowing and understanding all the processes that make this an “art form” it still requires discipline, dedication and diligence in training and practice to achieve mastery. It is a outward manifestation of a mind-state or mind-set that builds on confidence, etc. that makes a martial artist a martial artist. 

Remember, choose your materials and breaks carefully. More important, “know when to hold-em, know when to fold-em and know when to walk away.”

Kinkotsu [筋骨] (Chinkuchi [チンクチ])

The characters/ideograms mean, “Muscles (sinews) and bones; structure.” The first character means, “Muscle; sinew; tendon; fiber; plot; plan; descent,” the second character means, “skeleton; bone; remains; frame.”

The term, “kinkotsu-ryuryu [筋骨隆々],” means, “muscular; strong-muscled.” The first character means, “Muscle; sinew; tendon; fiber; plot; plan; descent,” the second character means, “skeleton; bone; remains; frame.” the third character means, “hump; high; noble; prosperity.” 

Both theres terms are related to the Okinawan term, in Uchinaguchi or hogen dialect, “Chinkuchi [チンクチ].” Mr. Ryan Parker provided the following definition that relates better to the simple definition of bones, sinews, tendons, etc. Even the definition in its simplest form does not relate exactly to the definitions found by my research, i.e. tendons, muscles and bones.” Structure is somewhat limited as a variety of fundamental principles of martial system apply to the concept of chinkuchi or kinkotsu. Still the way Mr. Parker describes is really a good way to explain this concept to a student, i.e. “It refers to the last instant before contact is made when the skeletal structure becomes correctly aligned, all the agonistic muscles are very suddenly and sharply contracted, and the muscles which stabilize the relevant joints are engaged to an appropriate degree. It differs from kime in that it doesn't involve all muscles equally and depends on structural alignment and stability from connective tissues.

When you look to the fundamental principles you also find the following related or inter-connected to this more terse definition especially since they describe the totality of the actions required to achieve chinkuchi. 

When you refer to the primary principle of theory you can see that “control” is one because it is control of the body, mind and spirit with emphasis on the physiokinetic and technique principles that result in its proper application. Then (these should be self-explanatory) there is the efficiency sub-principle, power paradox, simplicity, natural action to start. 

When you look to the primary main principle of physiokinetics you then get the following sub-principles that are necessary, at the least, to achieve true chinkuchi, i.e. breathing, posture, centerline, spinal alignment, axis, structure, heaviness/relaxation, wave energy, convergence, centeredness, body-mind, centripetal and centrifugal forces, sequential locking and relaxation, and rooting. This is not to say the other sub-principles are not important as it is well known to achieve a total proficiency of chinkuchi it takes a inter-connectedness and wholehearted application of all principles but these stand out when it comes to the chinkuchi concept.

Also, taking a look at the main principle of technique we can see how economical motion, active movement, positioning, angling, complex foces, live and dead energy, speed, timing, rhythm, balance, natural and unnatural motion as well as extension and penetration also contribute to that which is called chinkuchi. 

As to philosophy and its sub-principles there are several that speak out louder when studying the practice of chinkuchi (come on folks, you don’t think I am going to provide all the answers. Even so, these are not compete either and should prompt further research and study).

As can be readily perceived the fundamental principles play an important role in explaining the concept beyond the limited definitions provided by the Japanese terms and characters/ideogram provided. This is another reason why it is important to find a sensei who can understand all the concepts, principles and applications that contribute to one another as an inter-connected wholehearted whole that are martial arts. 

Additional Reading on Chinkuchi:

Read also:

Side Straddle Hops (for Little Folks)

Ahhh, another exercise to add to the martial arts bunny hops. Think of side straddle hops but take them down to a squat position. Keep that squat position and do as many side straddle hops as possible. The same leg warnings for safety and health apply as the bunny hops in the previous post. This one you may or may not witness in civilian dojo but we used it a lot. My first introduction to it was at Parris Island. 

In the first week at the barracks the Drill Instructors wanted to demonstrate the exercises for the entire platoon. Sooooo, they chose those who looked to be fit and strong. Lucky me, I was at 6’ 1” height and weighed in at 205lbs. I was into body building before I enlisted in the Marines. Needless to say I did the demo for the bunny hops, the side straddle hops for little folk and the squat walk holding a full foot locker over my head. Actually, the hardest exercise was the towel fold. Yes, the towel fold where you hold a towel out in front of you with your arms fully extended. You held it by two corners and you simply folded it till your hands met in the middle then unfolded it and folded it and unfolded it and folded it while maintaining your arms at full length held horizontally at should height, etc. 

The Marines had this knack of creating some interesting exercises and they would impose them upon the platoon or the individual at the oddest times such as 0200 hours when you were at your deepest sleep laying at attention in the rack (bunk or bed to civilians) with your M-14 held at order arms position at the right side, etc. Ever do the manual of arms while at attention in the rack at 2am?

Before the Spartan Race there was, and possibly still is, the “motivation platoon run.” You get muddy, dirty, sweaty and stressed to the extreme at this one. It is a platoon they send a person to who the Drill Instructors feel need some additional “motivation.” Well, lucky me again, I was the platoon fourth squad leader so I marched behind the platoon guide. One day the DI’s decided to assign the shortest person in the platoon as guide. It just happened this recruit was actually under the minimal height standard for joining the Marines. He and his recruiter managed to get a waiver to get him in the Corps. 

Well, when this short recruit took the guide-arm and took up the position in front of me I couldn’t help but smirk. Lo-n-behold the sharp eyes of the DI who was supposedly behind my position came up and into my fact to tell me I lost my job and to report the next morning to the motivation platoon for the entire day, i.e. from reveille to taps. 

I can say that we spent the entire day doing PT (Physical Training) that included interesting and challenging obstacles courses along with full field transport packs and training M-14 rifles. Leaping across natural terrain and into muddy holes, rivers and ravines along with walls, ropes, nets and a lot more to traverse while running in full combat gear with that rifle seems to my memory to be a lot like the Spartan Runs. You older Marines take a look at the Spartan Race site and tell me if you remember the Motivation Platoon runs as similar. They took all day to run with a five minute short lunch break and lots of water to stay hydrated, etc. 

So, as you can see, we were trained to do PT with some unusual exercises like bunny hops and side straddle hops for little folk. Kind of reminds me of the Spartan exercise used called the “Beerpies.”  

OhRahhh, Semper Fi, Do our Die, OhRahhh! (Note: I understand the Spartan folks actually adopted the Marine growl and shout of OhRahhhhhhh - Grrrrrr).

Bunny Hops

My recent foray into the world of the Spartan Race got me to thinking about my training. One of the early training exercises to strengthen the legs for martial arts was the “bunny hop.” I have begun to use them once again to augment my current martial arts training and practice. I must say, it has been a while and my legs wobble when I am done then I move right into basics and kata. 

It must be noted and you must be warned that doing them correctly is critical, critical to your ankles and knees in particular. Make sure you start using them under the guidance of a qualified sport exercise instructor. I say this because not many martial arts instructors are best qualified to teach proper calisthenics. Note that I am not qualified so when I provide advice on doing this exercise take that advice to the professional to validate it “BEFORE” you begin using the bunny hops. 

Feet are about shoulder width apart. The feet should position themselves at a 45 degree angle, see snapshot (shallow-shiko-dachi.png  

Make sure you are comfortable. The reason I use the shiko dachi stance is because, for me, that puts my hips and knees in alignment when I do the exercise reducing the strain to an acceptable one for an exercise. Wearing comfortable baggy sweat pants and a t-shirt are conducive to free movement and the karate-gi is also adequate if your doing it in the dojo.

Special Note for the Dojo: In the dojo you are likely to do the bunny hop barefoot. It is imperative that when you return to the floor the balls of your feet should touch first allowing you to roll down comfortably so as to reduce any chances of injuries to your feet and ankles. If you prefer you can do this one with proper athletic type shoes that most of us wear daily anyway. The lack of extra support with shoes means you strengthen the ankles a bit more so “be very careful and start out low and slow!” Low and slow means don’t hop up very high and do them slowly until you build strength and your repetitive practice gets your feet, ankles, shins, knees, thighs and hips conditioned enough.

When lowering your body down into a squat position you should have your hands on your hips or out to the sides for balance. Do not use the hands on the legs to help you do this exercise. If you have to use them then stop because the idea here is to build strength and endurance in our legs along with other benefits especially for martial artists. 

When you lower down to the squat position your buttocks should be slightly lower on a horizontal plane as your knees (at the same level as in the jump-squat or bunnyhops.jpg snapshot). Your upper body will naturally lean slightly forward to balance the entire body properly. For weight lifters doing the squat the movement is the same (see weight-lift-squat.gif snapshot

except, of course, you have some weights held across your shoulders while holding the bar with your hands, etc.

You will notice on the snapshots as well as other graphics you will find on the Internet that there are a variety of ways to hold and use the arms as well as the stance you take. The key to this one is to find the one that will work best for you, your body type and the structure of your body or skeletal, muscular, etc. system. (see additional snapshots or graphics below)

In the dojo where I began this exercise was a regular and we bunny hopped across the dojo floor, back and forth until our legs were shaky, wobbly and ready to fall off. Please note that I tell you this for example and also know that in the dojo, 1979 Okinawa, we all were active duty Marines so we were in pretty good shape to begin with anyway. 

I like to separate kata practice with a couple of sets of bunny hops to really take the legs to a wobbly state so that when I do kata I can focus on making the legs overcome their fatigued state and perform adequately as if I were stressed and affected by the adrenaline rush so my body learns to compensate as much as possible. 

The following video shows an excellent way to do the bunny hops. The hips and buttocks don’t go down as far as I like to create stronger hips, etc. but the overall method is really nice.

Self-Defense: The Line; The Point

“The Line” is that line we don’t want to cross in self-defense that means you are not actually defending yourself but rather you are either fighting or committing acts of violence against another human being. When I say, “The Line,” I mean the one that keeps you within the guidelines of societies self-defense law. It  means you avoid the need for it and if you cannot for any reason you use it judiciously enough so that you don’t suffer the consequences.

Now, we all know that in self-defense, much like in combat, you have to decide on whether you will do what is “necessary” to live. This means you have to give yourself permission to do what is necessary, needed and just plain required to achieve your ultimate goal - to win, to avoid, to be safe and secure and to remove or at least limit damage to yourself, your loved ones and to others who don’t have your abilities. 

“The Line” is a moving entity and it moves according to each and every single individual moment. No one can provide you that one line you cannot cross and this is one of the complexities of the law. The law tries to define that line and the murky water it tries to mark means that a clever person or persons can perceive the line where ever they can as long as they can make their case to those who judge these things. 

If you cross “The Line” then you had better understand all that is involved so you can articulate your position so others who are hell bent on making their case are convinced your case is true, correct and within the “spirit” of their intent regarding self-defense. 

Martial Arts that teach self-defense need to teach you all of this and they must achieve success if you are to have and use self-defense. Marking “The Line” is not as important as teaching students to see the line. Teachings are not meant to induce fear and obstacles of the mind that would cause a freeze. It is more about teaching you that the line exists and you should want to remain behind it but when you do cross it you have the tools to control others perceptions so that they also feel you are behind the line. 

“The Line” is a teaching tool itself. Much like the complexities of self-defense the line is that something you are aware of and that lives in your lizard mind so that when you approach it you can naturally and instinctively decide if you need to cross it or if you do just how far you can go before you reach that “point of no return.”

The point of no return is that point where nothing you do, say or believe will deter the others from making you suffer the consequences for crossing “The Line.” 

The Line and the Point of No Return are both fluid. They change, shift and flux according to many factors that are controllable and uncontrollable. You have to learn how to shift, slide and change your actions so that you control both rather than either/or one or the other controls you. This is extremely difficult and many who teach self-defense/martial arts cannot achieve that level of teachings. 

Know the line, know the point of no return, and train to achieve a state of expertise that allows you to stay behind the line and the point. Know that if you cannot that you have the knowledge, ability and expertise to persuade the perceptions of others so that you move the line and point to your advantage. 

USMC MWR or Special Services for 1950's through the end of the 60"

First generation students. We hear about a hand full but we seldom hear about all those military folks who attended Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei's dojo from the mid-fifties to the end of the sixties.

I often wonder if that sign up listing is still obtainable. It would list all the military who signed up under the military contract with Tatsuo-san.

There must have been hundreds, at least, who spent time in the honbu dojo after signing up with special services or what is today called MWR (Moral, Welfare and Recreation).

If anyone reading this can produce that list and allow it to be available on the Internet would be much appreciated.

I, for one, would be interested and curious as to the names on that list. Even if they didn't become famous or even continue to train in karate.

Anyone? I have tried to find some source or such but failed so maybe someone else out there will have better luck.

We all tend to focus on those few who took Isshinryu to the next level upon return to the States but it is that "unsung hero" that sometimes matters. After all, would we have the Viet Nam wall if we didn't want to know "all the servicepersons" who sacrificed themselves in that war?

Note: Not saying that this list of karate-ka is on par with the Viet Nam memorial list (it isn't of course) but it is important to give recognition to everyone involved.

Do I Still Need Shugyo

I am sixty years of age. I have practiced karate wholeheartedly since 1976, i.e., about thirty-eight years. I am a Marine and managed to successfully complete ten years starting in 1972 at Parris Island Marine Recruit training. I look at boot as my first real challenging shugyo. 

Although I don’t perform training and shugyo at the same intensity as I did when much younger I still give myself some challenges to keep a hand in but I don’t expend the energies I once did and that seems normal. After all, as we age we must adjust things accordingly. 

Recently I suggested to those who read my blogging that a form of shugyo that they may want to experience is the “Spartan Race.” I had never heard of this challenge until my nephew and his father spoke of it when they came to visit recently. The race they ran while here was in Monterey California. 

I have to say that when I observed a small portion of the race I was intrigued. I guess after a ten year stint on active duty as a Marine I was once again inspired by the challenge found in that race. I spent some additional time researching how this Spartan thing is run along with the levels and the obstacles found in the race. 

You see, it is a race of miles with a lot of obstacles and challenges provided as you run the course. It is a variety of physical and mental challenges that are derived from the military except this one is a collection of those challenges and obstacles combined to put a lot of physical and mental stress and strain on the runner. 

Then as I understood those challenges and the unknown aspects of each race, i.e. you never know when, where and what obstacles will be placed on the route along with environmental challenges such as steep hills, etc. Unlike the military tho these races are one day events while the military challenges the individual, in boot camp, for nine weeks or more. The military will continue throughout your tour(s) of duty provide challenges not to forget the ultimate challenge of combat - if you are selected to participate in combat during your time (I was not selected for combat during my time). 

As a subset of those challenging days in my life, i.e. from 1972 till I retired from civil service and teaching karate in 1999 (I came back to teach for a year in the early 2000’s) where ten years of it as an active Marine I taught and practiced martial arts with its own subset of challenges and shugyo’s. It was a great time but now I have to ask myself why I am intrigued by possibly taking the Spartan challenge.

Is it because it is “loosely” connected to the symbol of the greatest fighting force in history, the Spartans? The Marines are considered the worlds greatest fighting force in modern times (excluding any special forces types, etc.) but still the Spartans have this mystique about them in history. 

Is it because I can sense the down grades and changes as I age and I want to try to reclaim some of that youth through a Spartan challenge? Is it because family are involved and my instinctual need to relate and be a part of that family endeavor sparks a desire to take the Spartan challenge? Is this one of those second childhood things you hear about from men who are aging? 

I am aging really well and I am just entering my winter years, i.e. the years after the age of sixty. My health and age according to the “Real Age Makeover” system indicates that my true age is late forties or early fifties while my chronological age is sixty and that is pretty good. 

I do have some physical challenges in my winter years starting with the aches and pains from the abuses I endured in my earlier years. I have some injuries such as both shoulders have either torn cartilage or the rotator cuff injury I got roller blading. I feel the effects of aging with a history of polio, i.e. I had polio or so I was told by my mother when I was but a couple of years old. I have the shattered elbow from when I was just approaching my teen years. Then there is the aches and pains and restrictions due to stress fractures endured in Marine Boot Camp in the early to mid seventies. Oh and I can’t forget about two years ago falling to the vertigo issue that plagues me even today. They refer to it as meniere’s. 

So, as you can see I have to really contemplate and consider the why’s of taking the Spartan challenge. I should make sure the reasons are not ego driven along with the pride building I might feel due to my aging. Challenges are a good thing. You should challenge yourself daily but the intensity and degree of that challenge should also depend on your free will and the condition of your body and mind at the moment, i.e. at age sixty and over - the winter years. 

Yes, the few described physical challenges are not really all that limiting and with any challenge you have to weigh the good with the bad and then decide whether to take the challenge or not. 

I am training all the time but training for the Spartan challenge or any physical and mental demanding event should be tempered with consideration and prudence. 

I suspect that if I did take the challenge that I would be able to complete it. This is what Marines do after all but even a Marine must evaluate the strategic and tactical obstacles and take a course or direction that will endure success and victory. 

What would be the reason for taking the Spartan challenge and what would be the short and long term effects of that challenge? Many, many questions must be answered and while I take on a bit higher training just in case I go for it those answers should be logical and beneficial for me without ego and pride driven reasoning.

To take the challenge or not to take the challenge, that is my question?

Chinkuchi Pushups: Addendum

As I have noted in previous postings on this subject, these are not easy pushups to do. Regardless of the validity toward the concept of “chinkuchi” being necessary for this to work there are anomalies I would question in the two performing the demonstration. 

First, as stated in other postings the feet are wide for balance. I am not sure why this is so because most pushups I have done including the ones in the military the feet are not spread wide but are touching close together. 

Second, take notice in both snap shots of the hands. The hand position may just be a fluke but for both it seems to be a position that boosts the ability to do the pushups. The hands on both performers is pushed up close to the front of the “chinkuchi pushup bars.” I wonder if that provides additional support so they can actually do the pushups. Please note, if I had a pair I am not sure I could do them either. I do believe, if I had a pair, I would be able to do them after a short period of training time and I firmly believe that would come from repetitive practice and not necessarily because of some ability with chinkuchi. Then again, it depends on your definition of chinkuchi.

In my definition it relates to certain physiokinetic principles such as structure and alignment. Even so, without some time training with the pushup bars it would be difficult for most to do. In addition, it takes more hand and wrist strength then mere structure and alignment. I am pretty strong and do pushups every day but it would still take some time and practice to get it to work and I would be working diligently to keep the feet together during the exercise. 

Third, the second snapshot actually shows the first finger and thumb wrapping around the front of the push up bar. This, in my eyes, provides more support and I also wonder if they actually both placed their hands exactly in the center of the handles and kept the supporting bars that run to the ground free from body parts if they could do it as well as it showed in the demonstration. 

I don’t do this to disparage the person or persons but do so to “question the teaching” that this is indicative of good chinkuchi. I also got the impression from my practice that chinkuchi is a more transient ability, i.e. sequential locking and unlocking process from the feet, up the body and into the arms, etc. where this seems more static. 

Then again, I am not the expert that these folks are and bow to their greater knowledge and experiences in the hopes that one day, one day soon, clarity in explanation will enlighten me to the chinkuchi push up bar as it relates to chinkuchi. 

I suspect that like most things this is about doing something others have no experience with and explaining it in a manner that seems logical but cannot be proven one way or the other. In other words a means to impress others as to ability and knowledge when in the end there is no real proof either way. 

I am using logic as one who has studied physical fitness and tried to learn how to do exercises correctly for maximum benefit, etc. I apologize if this angers some folks but hey, explain it completely and then do the pushups without spread legs and the hands positioned in the exact middle of the handles while doing the pushups. Then, provide the novice a chance then let them work on it for a while and in all likelihood they will do just as well with them and no where will they actually detect a change other than strength and technique. 

Knowing technique is ok but knowing its purpose and how it is applied and under what conditions is superior. This seems, to me, as inadequate in both technique and the knowing of it relating to chinkuchi. Just because I say it ain’t so does not make it not so and the one saying it is so does not make it so. 

Just trying to understand!

p.s. also, why do it on grass? Is it because the bars tend to sink in giving additional support? If this is truly a "chinkuchi pushup" system then why not do the pushups on a hard surface so that true chinkuchi or principles can be used to do the exercise?

Necessary Violence

The line between necessary and unnecessary is very fine and it moves, a lot. It moves with each moment and each scenario. It is never the same and that is a huge defining line between violence and competition or sport. It is also a huge division between self-defense, fighting and combatives. It is that which most sane individuals hope they will never have to endure. The use of necessary violence has its baggage and that bag is not big enough. 

Regardless of all this there will be times when necessary violence will be required. The goal of any martial way is to find that line and then train and practice to keep the line within sight when necessary. It is about never crossing the line. You will want to get as close to that line as you can and that is tricky as hell but don’t cross it.

To learn this takes more than the mere physical of most martial systems. It is that hard to peg type of training that many just don’t know or get. It is where the fool remains foolish while the professional faces it with humility and fearlessness. 

Kokoro is about training the mind, heart and body through the rigors of martial arts to achieve a mind-state of mental toughness while maintaining a humility that keeps you from crossing that line. The line changes from one discipline to the next. Seeing the differences and maintaining the integrity of each is difficult but doable. 

Please note, this mental toughness training (Kokoro) is not complete. In order to be complete, this is where martial artists tend to drop the ball, it requires some means to train the mind to deal with violence, the adrenaline dump and its effects, and realism toward violence, etc. This is just one means by which a person can train to toughen the mind. Remember that sport is sport, self-defense is self-defense and combatives are combatives. 

Also remember that necessary violence is NOT because you think the guy needs a good ass whooping but rather the necessary violence required for your security, safety and health as it falls under the laws of society regarding self-defense, etc. You may think the violence you give is necessary but others may think otherwise and that “otherwise” can get you into trouble. 

Mental Toughness

Physical toughness is not that hard to achieve. There are ways of physical development to achieve a body that is healthy, fit and tough. In martial arts there is a body toughening system called “karada kitae” that when taught and practice properly develops a hardened/tough body. A side effect of that training is a form of mental toughness that cannot be achieved any other way. It is like training, practicing and playing through certain types of pain encountered in a tough game, like football. 

This type of mental toughness is a good thing but is it sufficient when in a life or death encounter, a fight or in a self-defense encounter? Mental toughness beyond the sport version or even the version in competitive martial competitions does not really take you to that place where success relies completely on your mental abilities. How do you achieve such mental toughness?

If you take a military route you will learn how to achieve the mental toughness that will take you way beyond physical toughness into a realm where you achieve great things. Great things that our ancestors achieved for modern folks through the sacrifices often only achievable in combat. You never truly know or understand what that means until you have experienced it. You can get an idea from those who have, if they lived to pass along that information.

The military understand this and work diligently to provide the realism necessary to introduce a person to what is achievable. Every thing is achievable and it relies more on that mental toughness then physical capabilities. In the sport world some actually get a glimpse of what true mental toughness is and how it can take you places you would never imagine till that moment. 

This type of mental toughness is a personal discovery for each person. It is that mental toughness that sees the body break then pushes it on regardless so to achieve victory in what ever endeavor you are pursuing be it combat, fighting or self-defense. 

The disciplines in the martial arts community introduce you to that mental and physical toughness. The system of karada kitae introduce you to that mental toughness. The system of “shugyo or austere” training and practice also teach the person mental toughness. Another way to experience the development of mental toughness can be achieved on a small scale as a civilian.

The Spartan races are one way to check your capabilities in the mental toughness arena. I have not experienced a Spartan race but witnessed it not long ago when my brother and his son ran the “beast” where I live. I got the chance to witness a good part of the race and that means the many varieties of people who experienced it as well. 

The first step in mental toughness is to see the unknown and then overcome that unknown. The unknown is very scary. When you don’t have a clue as to the course route and the obstacles they invented you have to have a mental toughness when you encounter that obstacle just to go on. The obstacles are similar to the military obstacles courses. There are a wide variety and differences between each obstacle. Then you add on steep hills, distances and other requirements you start to understand how one gets or develops a mental toughness. 

When you are exhausted, shaking from the strain, muscles quivering and you collapse at almost every step then you look up only to see more miles (at the largest race 26+ miles and some obstacle every few miles, etc.) knowing it is not over yet. Then you don’t know how long it will take or when you will get to the end you have to have the mental toughness to continue on relentlessly to finish. Only then do you get a sense of what mental toughness really is and you have to know that this race is nothing compared to the training and duties of our military along with other professionals such as Police, etc. 

Look at the mental toughness of combat prisoners from the Viet Nam era. To be imprisoned without any contact then subjected to torture for years only to get to the other end, released and then to assimilate back into normal life - that is true mental toughness. 

I enjoyed the exposure to the Spartan race and I witnessed a lot of mental toughness for those who raced the beast. I witnessed those with restrictions that many would think make the race impossible for those folks only to see them beat others with greater physical ability to complete the event. That is mental toughness. 

Mental toughness is something to seek out when in martial arts. It is that something that gives us the true warrior spirit and ability. That knowing you can do something even when confronted with apparently unsurmounted difficulties is unique and special with a feeling unlike any other normal folks experience. 

Nothing I can write or say will give a person an idea to what it is to have mental toughness. You are not born with it but you can achieve it if you want it. I look at mental toughness as a human condition that when man hunted the prairies of ancient time hunting and protecting the tribe as a survival instinct. It is about survival of the fittest. 

In civilian arenas it is about overcoming the predator to defend yourself. In civilian work it is achieving goals beyond imagination. In combat it is far, far more - it is survival of the man, survival of the team and survival of society. That is a huge responsibility and only the toughest of mental ability can achieve that goal. 

When you have achieve something difficult, find the next level and go for that, then the next level and the next level and the next level. The only limit is the one in your mind and the mind has no limits. 

Eye contact, karate vision, look at the eyes!

I don’t see the benefit of looking at ones eyes in a fight or in combat. It is a misunderstood concept due to sound bits in all probability promoted through the media of movies, i.e. the eye of the tiger song and reference in the Rocky movies and don’t shoot till you see the whites of their eyes  type thing. In reality, is it beneficial to look at the eyes in a fight or combat?

In a fight relating to civilian self-defense your eyes should be doing far more than merely looking at your adversaries eyes when fighting. Considering that most professionals relate that a real fight tends to be very close, personal and chaotic it would seem to me that tactile ability trumps trying to look at your adversaries eyes. 

The eyes are not going to tell you very much. Using your peripheral vision works far better. Some might suggest that keeping your direct vision at a location around the upper chest, neck, shoulder area will give your peripheral vision more to detect. It is also suggested that your peripheral vision allows a more direct connection to the mind where instincts react faster and without thought. 

Then again, if you are attacked there is a great chance it will not be frontal attack. Predators and criminals will want to give themselves the greatest advantage possible and a lot of times it was suggested that an adversary would tend to surprise attack you from behind and to overwhelm you with that attack to remove any possible chance of action in response from you, the victim.

I also believe that eye contact is best used when a social conflict is the dominant conflict mode. There are levels a social conflict will take to persons where eye contact and other aspects of self-defense can result in avoidance by deterrence. After all, in a civil fight one must make an effort if it is possible to avoid the violent aspects of conflict. Your eye contact along with verbal self-defense may be the best and most expeditious avoidance you can achieve before things go south. 

As to combat and the eyes. In my mind as a Marine (currently in inactive status) I don’t want to see my adversaries eyes and I don’t want to have him see my eyes. This means the enemy is too damn close. In my mind I want to achieve my strategic and tactic goals using my weapons from a distance. If I am forced to confront an enemy combatant up close then I want to, like the civilian predator, eliminate any chance the enemy has and make him pay the ultimate price for his country leaving no chance of his survival. That means to me that if I get into a situation where we make eye contact and can see into each others eyes even for the moment before one’s demise then I have failed and done something wrong or my training was lacking something. 

In combat, we don’t want to expose ourselves to any hand-to-hand or close quarter combat because that is just plain dangerous. It is not the best policy, strategy or combat small arms grunt tactics to allow for such a combat. Distance combat is our friend and as Marines we have the training and ability to achieve great victories using our expertise as marksmen as well as grunt ground tactics to achieve this goal, this strategy, necessary for victory, etc.

I also believe that such sound bites used in the karate community may stem from the practitioners and sensei’s inability to express such things in modern ways. We forget that the ancient ways were fine for those times and forget that in modern times self-defense and combatives were not required in those ancient times. It is best to use the ancient teachings to learn adaptation for modern times. Modern times where self-defense laws dominate and the rules of engagement in combat tend to be more convoluted and restricted.  

I also tend to interpret karate vision differently and would not associate it with eye contact or looking into ones eyes. This seems related solely to a more sport oriented competitive match system. Consider what we practice today stems from the conversion of combative style martial arts toward a more educationally oriented watered down version implemented in the late 1800’s into the school systems of Okinawa and Japan. 

Even then, the more ancient forms of karate of Okinawa were more a prerequisite to the arms training a military or security force used as a prep and fitness system for combatives with weaponry. The old stories of how the banning of weapons started the move toward karate and kobudo seems to be false. This warrants additional research and study (see Karate 1.0 by Andreas Quast). 

As responsible sensei and martial artists we must take care in what is passed down. At least when passing along such information do so by placing it into proper perspective, i.e. this quotation originates from ancient practices or from changes accorded and necessary for implementation in educational institutions, etc. 

I feel it is better to think before passing and allow for open discussions so clarity dominates history in the making.