Please take a look at Articles on self-defense/conflict/violence for introductions to the references found in the bibliography page.

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

Please take a look at my Notable Quotes

Hey, Attention on Deck!

Hey, NOTHING here is PERSONAL, get over it - Teach Me and I will Learn!


When you begin to feel like you are a tough guy, a warrior, a master of the martial arts or that you have lived a tough life, just take a moment and get some perspective with the following:


I've stopped knives that were coming to disembowel me

I've clawed for my gun while bullets ripped past me

I've dodged as someone tried to put an ax in my skull

I've fought screaming steel and left rubber on the road to avoid death

I've clawed broken glass out of my body after their opening attack failed

I've spit blood and body parts and broke strangle holds before gouging eyes

I've charged into fires, fought through blizzards and run from tornados

I've survived being hunted by gangs, killers and contract killers

The streets were my home, I hunted in the night and was hunted in turn


Please don't brag to me that you're a survivor because someone hit you. And don't tell me how 'tough' you are because of your training. As much as I've been through I know people who have survived much, much worse. - Marc MacYoung

WARNING, CAVEAT AND NOTE

The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books. Please make note that this article/post is my personal analysis of the subject and the information used was chosen or picked by me. It is not an analysis piece because it lacks complete and comprehensive research, it was not adequately and completely investigated and it is not balanced, i.e., it is my personal view without the views of others including subject experts, etc. Look at this as “Infotainment rather then expert research.” This is an opinion/editorial article/post meant to persuade the reader to think, decide and accept or reject my premise. It is an attempt to cause change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs and values as they apply to martial arts and/or self-defense. It is merely a commentary on the subject in the particular article presented.


Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.



“What you are reading right now is a blog. It’s written and posted by me, because I want to. I get no financial remuneration for writing it. I don’t have to meet anyone’s criteria in order to post it. Not only I don’t have an employer or publisher, but I’m not even constrained by having to please an audience. If people won’t like it, they won’t read it, but I won’t lose anything by it. Provided I don’t break any laws (libel, incitement to violence, etc.), I can post whatever I want. This means that I can write openly and honestly, however controversial my opinions may be. It also means that I could write total bullshit; there is no quality control. I could be biased. I could be insane. I could be trolling. … not all sources are equivalent, and all sources have their pros and cons. These needs to be taken into account when evaluating information, and all information should be evaluated. - God’s Bastard, Sourcing Sources



“You should prepare yourself to dedicate at least five or six years to your training and practice to understand the philosophy and physiokinetics of martial arts and karate so that you can understand the true spirit of everything and dedicate your mind, body and spirit to the discipline of the art.” - cejames



“All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of advice. I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.” - Montaigne

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The Rule of Thumb

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

I write a lot, I do have opinions and ideas and theories and beliefs but in all that you may have perceived my pension to lean toward fundamentals and principles or in one view, “Fundamental Principles.” There is a reason I have gone this route and until I read the next quote in an article, you should click the link and read that article for clarity, it never occurred to me that his good rule of thumb really does explain fundamentals well enough to inspire interest and, hopefully, continued study, research and understanding. 

“A good rule of thumb is: A fundamental is something everyone -- regardless on their perspective on a subject -- can agree upon.” - Marc MacYoung, Breaking the Spin Cycle

When I read this, my hope became more, I hoped that in martial arts and karate communities although in separate tribes or clans called styles would see the very fundamentals that are style-less, holistic and embrace all styles regardless but what I fear is a thing called cognizant dissonance and conformation bias, to name the two primary ones, will obscure and block this fact and leave them in the current state of, “My style mentality.” 

I did not come to this conclusion quickly, it took time, effort and study to begin this paradigm shift. I don’t say or believe that we need to get rid of styles because we don’t, they are a most excellent human tool toward survival and they serve a purpose, i.e., “All bottles are good, they all serve a purpose.” Styles create social entities called dojo, tribes or clans as you wish and they provide a natural human conditioned survival reflex to collect into small groups conducive to learning, practicing and understanding of those like minded people that promote evolutionary improvement and change for progress. 

If only we can accept this rule of thumb, then apply it to everything martial arts and karate in all forms, and then see their value to our styles we can start to come together in a socially constructive way that would allow us to create cross-over fundamentals that would allow each style recognition, progress and to evolve - as a style with strong fundamentals and fundamental principles. 

Bibliography (Click the link)



Baby Steps: About Training

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

Training begins for everyone in pretty much the same place and that place must receive the appropriate type of intent and content so one can make, “Baby steps” up the ladder to achieve expertise and some day mastery. The first thing to understand is this concept with a modicum of acceptance then to understand that each rung of that ladder increases the data input appropriately to the individual and toward human capabilities. 

Next, accept the fact that nothing of value comes without a price, paying the price determines value and value often determines its ability to function in the environment and circumstances as high as violent conflicts requiring self-fense - in this instance of example. You cannot take shortcuts and assuming teachings are absolute and sacrosanct is the doorway to disaster, sooner or later. 

This is a lead up to what one author calls, “Four Fundamental Requirements of Martial Arts,” where I would add in parens, “karate, sport, fighting, combatives and philosophical ways.” Here are what the author feels is four fundamentals:

  1. Good Posture
  2. Good Structural Alignment
  3. Good Body Mechanics
  4. Good Practical Functionality

Are these actually appropriate and relevant and exact fundamental martial art and karate requirements? If not, what would requirements be for martial arts and karate?

In truth, if and when you read the article that inspired this one you will find a lot of what I propose to be addresses under his four headings and it may be, in my perceptions and distinctions, more about appropriate headings to better convey the concepts to which the author writes. There seems, to my view and mind and perception of reading, to be a mixed use of principles and technique-based traits and concepts used to demonstrate the four principles used in the article, shown above in the bullets. I also believe that many of the less than consistent concepts, traits, ideas, values and other uses to be inconsistent leaving possible confusion and misconception in its wake but truthfully in a good dojo with good sensei and inspired practitioners/students that convolution can be resolved over time and often is overcome. 

But, alas, I still have this article not to disparage the authors work but to provide a shift in perceptions toward another analysis and synthesis of the individual toward a possible understanding where change is not expected but possible. 

Let me begin by expressing thoughts on the four requirements:

  • Good Posture
    • I don’t see posture as a requirement because each human body according to genes, environment, physical differences and social conditions and conditioning make that a challenge, i.e., to have good posture before taking up the training and practice. I may be missing the boat but it is more than that.
    • Posture is something you have already that may or may not be correct and in training and practice adjusting that posture is achieved in training and practice, isn’t it?
  • Good Structural Alignment
    • I would simply repeat with minor adjustments the same two bullet points in the first requirement. 
  • Good Body Mechanics
    • First and foremost, even if the distinction is made apparent, body mechanics in incorrect and inappropriate unless someone goes into great detail to convey a consistent, viable and accepted set of principles that would be accepted, incorrectly, as body mechanics. It just does not exist except in the minds of those who use that term or phrase often assuming the student/practitioner understands what sensei means by using it.
  • Good Practical Functionality
    • I can’t begin to fathom how one can come into the martial arts and karate with good practical functionality unless they are graduates of other martial arts and karate dojo. Remember, the terms and phrases are classified as, “Requirements.” 
    • Requirements, if being used correctly, means, “Is a thing that is needed or wanted, a thing that is compulsory; a necessary condition,” upon which one may be assessed toward entry into a dojo. This makes the terms and phrases compulsory to which I would assume is not the path the author meant in using them.

In that light I might make requirements as follows:

  1. Attitude and maturity:
  2. Physical fitness and health:
  3. Desire and Milestones:
  4. Ability:

Now, this is just an exercise so don’t assume or take or consider these as correct, relevant or even necessary. In truth, I find these requirements a necessity to, hopefully, determine if and why one can or would benefit from entering the dojo. Lets discuss them to see how they may pan out.

Attitude and maturity: If a person is lacking in an attitude that conveyed a desire to enter into and stick with a program regardless of its ability to provide a certain level of gratifications means one is going to at very minimum try hard before making decisions as to why or whether they will continue that effort. 

Maturity for martial arts and karate are often dangerous endevor and people get hurt. I don’t train and teach children because their development is still ongoing and their brains developing, growing and changing all the way up past those teen years and that matters to me in teaching the self-fense in karate and martial arts. Maturity is one of those traits hard to assess and determine so it may require a bit of non-contact time to assess because many humans, both young and older, hide that trait will but time always tells. 

Physical fitness and health: I would advocate that anyone taking up any type of contact discipline get a physician’s bill of good health and ability to enter into such rigorous training and practice. To bypass, ignore or simply gloss over this requirement is irresponsible and open to socially moral and legal ramifications. 

Martial arts and karate, by their very nature, require one be fit and healthy but not just physically. This means psychologically too and that comes back around to both attitude and maturity. 

Desire and Milestones: Martial arts and karate are not club like activities where you can just get a social fix and have fun. Fun and social connections are important to learning a martial art and karate but should not be the main focus. This is a requirement where sensei should assess a students viability by seeking out reasons why the want to enter into the dojo life and what they hope to achieve. Because my friends are doing it and so I can get a black belt may trigger some concerns and this is why this may be a good requirement. 

Ability: One can have a great attitude along with appropriate levels of maturity; one can be fit and healthy; and one can have a desire with solid milestones but ability is that something inherent in mind, body and spirit - at a fundamental level - that says to the experienced martial art/karate sensei that this persons has the ability go get-r-done. Yes, subjective and not absolute but a means of removing the chaff from the wheat. Not foolproof but with any requirement it is about balance and economy and other such things subjective to the sensei, the students and potentiality of future students and the ability to teach, learn and apply the discipline. 

You see, there are not cut and dry answers in such complexities and disciplines. It is an art to decide who shall be allowed entry into one’s dojo. The dojo culture and beliefs along with their milestones and intent also contribute and determine requirements and acceptance, etc. It even takes into consideration the unspoken requirements not just on perspective students and practitioners but on those set by sensei such as commercial concerns like income, etc. 

I think we can take away from this effort that although all things are good, they all serve a purpose that requirements are those flexible chaotic ever-changing things we must deal with day-to-day, individual-to-individual and dojo-to-dojo as necessary. 

Now, since the article used the principles of posture, structure, mechanics and ability as requirements I want to refer to principles that should, would and are the very foundation of all martial arts and karate and such disciplines regardless of labels, styles or perceptions that actually encompass these four, not stand-along, principles.

The fundamental principles of multiple methodologies, etc., are as follows and are what I advocate and teach.

Principles w/sub-principles: 

PRINCIPLE ONE: PRINCIPLES OF THEORY (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.)

PRINCIPLE TWO: PHYSIOKINETIC PRINCIPLES (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 and sequential relaxation, peripheral vision, tactile sensitivity, rooting, attack hubs, attack posture, possibly the chemical cocktail, Multiple Methodologies [actual tactics and attack methodologies of impacts, drives (pushes), pulls, twists, takedowns/throws and compression, etc. are best for stopping a threat]???see below)

PRINCIPLE THREE: PRINCIPLES OF TECHNIQUE (techniques vs. technique, equal rights, compliment, economical motion, active movement, positioning, angling, leading control, complex force, indirect pressure, live energy and dead energy, torsion and pinning, speed, timing, rhythm, balance, reactive control, natural and unnatural motion, weak link, non-telegraphing, extension and penetration, Uke. Multiple Methodologies [actual tactics and attack methodologies of impacts, drives (pushes), pulls, twists, takedowns/throws and compression, are best for stopping a threat] AND (Pre-Violence) initiative, move first, free will, permission, action over reaction, avoidance and deescalation, etc.)

PRINCIPLE FOUR: PRINCIPLES OF PHILOSOPHY (Mind [mind-set, mind-state, etc.], mushin, kime, non-intention, yin-yang, oneness, zanshin and being, non-action, character, the empty cup, inner peace.)

Additional Principles w/sub-principles for self-fense:

PRINCIPLE FIVE: PRINCIPLES OF SELF-DEFENSE (“Conflict communications; Emotional Intelligence; Lines/square/circle of SD, Three brains (human, monkey, lizard), JAM/AOJ and five stages, Adrenal stress (stress induced reality based), Violence (Social and Asocial), Pre-Attack indicators, Weapons, Predator process and predator resource, Force levels, Repercussions (medical, legal, civil, personal), Go-NoGo, Win-Loss Ratio, etc. (still working on the core sub-principles for this one)”Attitude, Socio-emotional, Diplomacy, Speed [get-er done fast], Redirected aggression, Dual Time Clocks, Awareness, Initiative, Permission, multiple attack/defense methodologies (i.e., Multiple Methodologies [actual tactics and attack methodologies of impacts, drives (pushes), pulls, twists, takedowns/throws and compression, are best for stopping a threat] AND (Pre-Violence) initiative, move first, free will, permission, action over reaction, avoidance and deescalation, etc.)

PRINCIPLE SIX: CHEMICAL COCKTAIL: (Attacked Mind, Train It, Breath It Away, Visualize It Away, Sparring vs. Fighting, Degradation of Technique/skills, Peripheral Vision Loss, Tunnel Vision, Depth Perception Loss/Altered, Auditory Exclusion, Weakened legs/arms, Loss of Extremity Feeling, Loss of Fine Motor Skills, Distorted Memory/perceptions, Tachypsychia (time slows), Freeze, Perception of Slow Motion, Irrelevant Thought Intrusion, Behavioral Looping, Pain Blocked, Male vs. Female Adrenaline Curve, Victim vs. Predator, The Professional, Levels of Hormonal Stimulation, ???)

Both of these are requirements to teach, not necessarily about requirements for martial art and karate entry, etc., if one is in the discipline for conflict, violence and self-fense reasons. Discovery of why one enters the dojo, no pun intended, is one of those things you want to assess as they apply, i.e., part of the requirements I suggested above. 

Bibliography (Click the link)



Primal Conditioned Reflexes and Responses (click , whirr, actions)

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

Dependent more on education from sensory input along with cultural, emotional and environmental influences. This is especially and critically important in those years when humans are imprinted, i.e., the brain absorbs the information and begins to understand to create a mind capable of primal conditioned reflexes and responses. It sets the stage and foundation of the mind, the brain, so future studies, practices and other stimuli allow the mind, the brain, to assimilate, analyze and synthesize those tapes or code that can be pulled from PCR into actions and events to promote species survival. 

I quote, “In it not the brain’s output of aggression or the specific areas of the brain associated with aggression that require investigation, as much as the interactional effects of the environmental inputs into the brain which serve to organize and activate those areas into trigger-ready systems that are primed to fire upon the slightest provocations. We shall give less import to the genetic past and a larger role to sensory inputs and cultural information which, especially at an early age, are decisive for the determination of many anatomical, chemical, electrical, and functional properties of the cerebral neurons. We shall recognize that we, modern society, do not feel appropriate sensory information or provide suitable social and emotional settings at the crucial ages for imprinting. Remember, the basis for human hostility is mainly cultural or environmental, aggressive tendencies may be decisively modified by education. Recognize that environmental stimuli may radically affect the physical and chemical development of every organ including the brain.” - Montagu, The Nature of Human Aggression (pg. 217/8)

Bibliography (Click the link)



The Most Dangerous Karate-ka

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

It is a bit like the story of the two year old being the most dangerous if only they had the strength to hold and shoot a firearm, the most dangerous karate-ka is the newbie.

In my early teaching days no one new to karate and the dojo was allowed to spar with anyone except me. It wasn't about ego but safety because newbie's have no concept of power so in their anxious effort to learn and progress they tend to let loose with no control and no restrictions on the power and force they can inadvertently apply so others yet to prepare and defend against such raw power often get injured.

Sensei: “He or she becomes a prisoner of responsibility, saddled with duties and decisions that bind them to those who depend on them.”

Bibliography (Click the link)



Train More

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

How often have we in the dojo heard sensei say, “You need to train more,” and although you do train more progress is still seemingly stagnated to the point you are considering taking up crocheting. Well, sensei is forgetting to make a distinction, the distinction is the difference from mindless repetitive training and practice to “Mindful repetitive training and practice.” The one word is important because if the effort is not mindful then the product will be mindless, no substance, no foundation and no reality, etc. 

Then there is the other adage, “Train Hard!” While this sounds good, inspiring and sage-like without more to create proper distinctions on how training hard benefits you simply get stronger and healthier, not bad benefits but in self-fense, fighting and/or combatives, no so much. I, personally, have seen big guys who are very strong and powerful and who look the part but have been taken apart by others who give you the impression they are librarians, not predators. Often when hearing one must train hard the practitioner simply assumes they must put more effort into their training and that is not training smart or hard, in the hard we are really talking about here. Even now, my mind meanders along while considering the right phrasing, etc., to explain what is really meant by saying, “Train Hard.”

To train hard is to place the appropriate mind set toward a realistic form of training best suited to your system of training be it for sport or for self-fense. To train hard is to apply the fundamental principles in a consistent, dedicated and diligent way so they can build to a proficiency of expertise and even mastery. To train hard is to embrace all facets of the discipline like self-defense, i.e., “In short, not just the physical techniques to physical defend but to span the entire spectrum of self-fense from the before to the during and especially the after because the short version bypasses all that could have kept you from relying on the short version, the illegal fighting part and/or the illegal self-defense part.” 

Training hard also includes putting forth more effort and dedicating more time to mindful practice and training but remember, it is not the end all of training hard. To train hard you need to create your own system that accomplishes that mission, that way of training hard that includes all the things we have discussed so far. 

A caveat, to train hard is NOT about becoming obsessed with training and practice because part of attaining balance in the martial disciplines is not just in the system itself but your entire life ways where you achieve balance outside the dojo as well. This is all part of the yin of the yang in martial discipline, yin being the philosophical aspects that help us guide ourselves in proper applications of martial disciplines in all its distinctive forms, i.e., sport, combative and self-defense to name a few. 

Last, and not least, it was once said that one should train hard and to accomplish that one must set aside the teaching of martial disciplines. I find that to be a good piece of advice for the novice. Novice being all the kyu grades and include the dan grades of at least sho-dan and ni-dan. You have to build a solid foundation of the martial system and then let that foundation cure, solidify and become what supports you in training and practice so at that time then my advice is to include, if that is your desire, your teaching others as a part of your training hard.

You see, to me training hard is to take advantage in a proper way and for proper learning any and all possibilities that teach you as well as teach others because to train hard is to assimilate knowledge and understanding through the exchange of idea’s, theories and your synthesized understanding from your own analysis of the disciplines, this is hard training. 

You see, training hard is assumed to be the physical but true hard training and practice are about the mind; the mental of study, analysis-hypothesis-synthesis, understanding and experience in training and practice but there is the mental as well - along with the spiritual. Mind, body and spirit are the triad of martial disciplines that requires balance to achieve expertise, mastery and enlightenment (with emphasis on morally righteous applications toward survival, etc.). 

So, when told to train more, do so as appropriate; as I mention above and embrace all that is possible through the disciplines of, “Training Hard.” 

Don’t, at the novice levels, allow your practitioners to make assumptions or create distinctions that may not be appropriate to the way they follow. This may be the one critically important philosophical belief you have if and when you decide to take up the sword of mentorship, the teaching and instruction necessary to lead those who would follow. 

Bibliography (Click the link)



The Value of Seminars

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

In short, seminars are not teaching venue’s but rather introductions to things you should seek out in full-time teachings under the guidance of qualified experts. Seminars as introductions do a good job as long as participants do some fact checking afterward. It is easy to inadvertently mislead an idea into a full blown concept to be taught for seminars are created and presented in the best light with the most dramatic performances the presenters can create simply because gaining one’s attention and then influencing them to take action is a goal, the actions being enrollment in the presenters dojo. 

Often karate-ka and martial artists see seminars as full blown teaching models and just as often the black belts take it all back and try to teach it to their students. That is another mistake made because what one takes back to the dojo form seminars is that the information has value and further research, analysis and instruction are required. Introductions, as with any discipline or any education and so on is just a piece of information to convey generalities that may interest one into seeking out additional information. If it does not, the person exposed to that introduction does not expend any more time than necessary to come to that conclusion - a good thing. 

Our human species likes things to be short, sweet and simple - at least to start. Our species has evolved and developed a solid means of assessing things quickly with little information so actions can be taken to, “Survive.” This is natural and in time we all build up stored experiences our brains can use when exposed to simplistic and fast data flow to make better and better decisions and no where is this more critical then in self-fense situations. 

In essence, seminars are a conference or other meeting for discussion or training; a class at a college or university in which a topic is discussed by a teacher and a small group of students; A seminar is a form of academic instruction, either at an academic institution or offered by a commercial or professional organization.

Seminars are great in that they bring together smaller groups for recurring teaching activities with all participating to learn, to be introduced to, many exciting and beneficial aspects of karate and martial arts. It secondary benefit is its collective small grouped dynamic that allows more room to discuss things, to ask questions and to debate the material. Unlike full blown classes over time, most seminars are given as introductions and a Q-n-A venue so the attendants can go back, research, analyze, seek out professional guidance on the various subjects and either add that into their teachings or seek out a qualified teacher to come in and continue the lessons. The very nature of seminars does not allow for in-depth teaching, understanding and experience building, it opens the door to that. 

The very etymology of the work gives us the meaning of, “seed plot,” which also references, “seedbed.” A seed bed is a bed of fine soil which seedlings are germinated. This is such a telling definition that speaks to the very nature of seminars, a seed bed or seed plot where experts till the soil, add growth food to that soil then through seminar introduction plant a seed that when one goes back to their dojo they water, weed and cultivate until it grows into a fine sapling that continues to be properly cultivated until we have a great oak tree of knowledge where subjects of many seminars make up the branches that hold principles, methodologies and philosophies of the system of karate and martial arts. 

Note: Etymology; the word seminar is derived from the Latin word seminarium, meaning "seed plot".

Bibliography (Click the link)



On teaching!

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

I read a really wonderful and enlightening article this morning, i.e., 08:44 hours on 10 March 2017, from Mr. Rory Miller at his blog, “Chiron.” A link is provided below and you should read it in its entirety along with understanding that what I write in the following are my ideas about what he wrote as to how to be a good, solid and dependable Sensei. Here is the list I extracted from my reading as to my understanding at this moment of writing (for I reserve the rights to change as I study things a bit more and gain some experiences and better understandings).
  • “A good teacher doesn't tell you what to think, but shows you how to think.”
  • “It's about the student, not the instructor.”
  • “Provide a minimal example and demonstrate it so you can start, then practitioners can go play.” 
  • “The ability of the instructor is irrelevant, the training and practice is all about increasing the ability of the student.”
  • “At the instructor level, knowledge is insufficient. You need understanding.”
  • “When instructors have just memorized technique, they don't have the tools to explain and are left with mere dogma. With understanding you can pass on the rules, and the exceptions, (Very little about right/wrong. Lots about better) to the students.”
  • “There are lots of good teaching reasons to stay away from criticism.”
  • “ … there is no appeal to authority.”
  • “Extraordinary instructors are cool with not trying to force the statistical average onto the outliers.”
  • “Just as there is a natural movement for a human body, there is also a natural learning. Humans, like all animals, learn best through play (even better is when humans play in groups). … playing, ideally in the real environment, is what locks in a skill.”
  • “ … some of the things closest to our evolutionary path are complex problems that require simple solutions. Play is the way we cut that Gordion knot.”
Now, as a means of possibly learning something toward a better understanding I may make some comments after each extracted quote given above and that has absolutely noting to do with what Mr. Miller wrote, ergo read the article and draw your own conclusions useful to you. This is an exercise in learning and as he indicates should be tempered, like tempering fine steel, with experiences toward understanding. 

Some background: I have some experience and expertise as an, “Instructor,” and some as a, “teacher,” but I now begin to understand that what I did in those days was limited, stunted and missing some very important traits that would have made me a better one. I did continue to study such things but, except in one case, never received a formalized training on how to teach, train and mentor. I was left to my own devices and learned by “OJT” and through observation of those leaders I worked with and for. 

I formally taught a basic job specialty course to newly minted Marine boots at Camp Lejeune for the first four years of service. I then changed into a special job that trained me extensively in methods of recruiting along with several civilian courses meant to sales and public speaking, etc. I then followed in a job speciality where teaching was a good part of that work while outside that realm I learned and taught Marines, later military and dependents, the more combative and self-defense aspects of karate from Okinawa. 

I later took up providing the services of a IT tech service support person who also used skills to teach workstation users how to use, maintain and secure IT devices. I also taught formally physical security requirements, processes and actions for staff working in a secure and classified environment. 

In short, I do have some background and experience yet the following still rang my bell in one way or form or another because it simply takes me out of the paradigm of past understanding directing me toward a better and improved way of, “Teaching, mentoring and leading.” In short, it adds a lot to my current, varied, skill set. So, with that said, “here we go.” 

Extracted Quote: “A good teacher doesn't tell you what to think, but shows you how to think.”

Comments: In a society where many ‘expect’ someone else to provide certain things for them along with the assumption that certain perceived rights means other things are provided especially when those perceived rights are thought to have been violated still confuses me because it means they have pretty much stopped learning and therefor tend to fail in understanding things in order to make their own decisions. 

Once, long ago, another black belt in a dojo where I was assisting in teaching said to me, “You explain too much, you should just demonstrate one time then let them go at it all on their own.” I thought about that for a few moments because I learned that I tend to jump in such situations and then I said something like, “Well, for them to learn and discover for themselves I do need to provide them with information that supports the actions demonstrated so they can think on their own how that all works - for them - and how that might work - in reality - then allow for the synthesis of questions and comments the entire dojo can address so we all learn to analyze as individuals while in a group we all take the analysis to higher levels so the group can synthesize something that benefits both the individual and group.”

I believe that what he was taught is that in Japan, the sensei doesn’t say much and expects the students through observation to learn. While that works for the Japanese due to their culture and beliefs that doesn’t work so well with Americans. The form of ‘shi-kata’ was established over many generations in Japan where kata are how they do everything, mostly, and since all things tend to be covered by patterned kata it is culturally understood that through observation one can learn, practice and come to understand how things are done without resorting to that harmony disturbing asking of questions we Americans need, want and require to learn. 

Because of shi-kata, Japanese learn by observation while we Americans learn by not just observation but through the use of our senses, if we are lucky, and through an exchange of communications and demonstrative effort by sensei, deshi, sempai and kohai relationships.  A bit of study of human anthropological studies explains how humans evolved where group exchanges and efforts lead to survival then we begin to understand how teaching, learning and understanding work with only changes and diversions brought about by the process itself according to the environment, group or tribal dynamics and cultural beliefs. 

Extracted Quote: “It's about the student, not the instructor.”

Comments: In my mind, humans get caught up in status, ego and perceptions from others all relating to that same status, ego and such other traits all related to tribal group dynamics of, at a primal level, survival. This is especially difficult for those not exposed to brotherhood like connections found in a lot of the violence professions so they have to learn through social conditions and conditioning - assuming the social group has that knowledge and understanding. 

As teachers or instructors or mentors our most difficult trait is to stop looking at ourselves through the old monkey dancing egoistic brain and look outward to how we can service and provide knowledge and understanding to, “Those who follow.” If we are truly one of those who came before, Sensei, then we need to focus our attentions and efforts on that student who with doe like eyes of admiration and awe of a black belt looks to us for guidance, teaching and ability. 

If you teach, truly teach as a service to your students, then focus outward on them, not on how you look; how many students you can collect; not on how many accolades, awards and trophies you can get. Focus on them and adhere to proper, expert and authenticate teaching principles. 

Extracted Quote: “Provide a minimal example and demonstrate it so you can start, then practitioners can go play.” 

Comments: I can’t add to much here for me because I only recently realized just how critically important play is in this learning process. In my old life a certain serious stoic manner was the name of the game. My recent studies of the last decade have just begun to allow me to understand that such things are natural to our species toward our very survival. I avoided such things because I was an inward stoic person and that the connections in the dojo, much like tribal, were about a collective effort to learn things toward survival of that group including competitions such as done today for sport along with a collective communicative exchange that fosters our growth toward something evolving, if you will. 

Extracted Quote: “The ability of the instructor is irrelevant, the training and practice is all about increasing the ability of the student.”

Comments: In this I feel that because martial arts and karate are as physical, tactile, as it is most assume that one who teaches must be able to do as well as teach. Most of the schools I have known of look to see if the sensei has trophies and other trappings they feel indicate expertise and we who have a modicum of understanding know that more often than not those who have that may not be the best teachers. Sometimes, a good teacher who can communicate a concept, theory and principle can be ‘average’ in their own applications but understand that the student often can take it way beyond any level the teacher may have or done. 

I no longer get on the dojo floor, I have issues - no excuses. I did the dojo floor actively teaching for over two decades but now lean heavily, as to karate and martial arts, to the keyboard or as advisor in a dojo, without being deeply actively involved physically, to provide what services I can to assist students in their own discovery of their own way. Ergo, all my blogs and my participation in the current social media effort to pass on teachings, etc. 

Extracted Quote: “At the instructor level, knowledge is insufficient. You need understanding.”

Comments: Not just academic, but a visceral level of understanding that seems sometimes mystical, or better yet, “Primal.” I am taking my knowledge, past experiences or what I call my systems, and understandings, especially in the tactile world of karate and martial arts, to another mental-physical discipline to keep my faculties sharp (I am sixty-+ years along) that is much less tasking physically just so I can keep my mind sharp and actually use new knowledge to analyze, hypothesize and then synthesize skills toward teaching. 

I use the example of ‘golf’ with its long game, short game and mind games necessary to master that discipline but not actually golf. In golf, that at one time many decades past, appeared to the uninitiated to be a simple sport found after a time that actually it was a very, very difficult discipline. This discipline I am working on is similar that appearances and perceptions tend to give it that, “Child’s game,” view of the uninitiated. Since I began not long ago I have found this discipline to be as difficult as golf and even karate. 

Extracted Quote: “When instructors have just memorized technique, they don't have the tools to explain and are left with mere dogma. With understanding you can pass on the rules, and the exceptions, (Very little about right/wrong. Lots about better) to the students.”

Comments: I can now go back to my previous example of a fellow dan-sha who thought I was talking too much. The ability to answer questions and to explain things seems critical. It must come from within regardless of its source of either hands-on OJT experience, academics or even more critically from experienced professionals who, thankfully, give back by writing and teaching this stuff. 

One of the most difficult traits a teacher must discard from their tool box is this ego driven knee jerk reaction when something is asked of us that we truly don’t have an answer for and end up regurgitating fantasies to look good and maintain that presentation of black belt sensei. A true teacher knows they don’t know what they don’t know so I advocate a response of, “I don’t know and I will find out and get back with you!”

As a karate-ka and martial artist I know that even the most elder, the most advanced, the highest level of martial arts master and karate master cannot know all the answers to every question - we are human and that is not how our brains work. One reason groups are a human primal need, a reason why service to the group is critical toward survival and why the group dynamic of cooperation are so important because without it the species of us humans would not have evolved to the present state of life. 

Extracted Quote: “There are lots of good teaching reasons to stay away from criticism.”

Comments: I can only say that when I was doing some research on human social connectivity that the three things most caustic to human relations is, “Criticism (chronic is absolutely the worst), contempt and disgust.” When one, two or a mixture of the three is present, the relationship of humans is 98% doomed! So, criticism is one of those things if used sparingly and in such a way using influence compliance principles is a good tool but when used extensively and often - is destructive, caustic and dangerous especially in conflict with potential violence. 

Extracted Quote: “ … there is no appeal to authority.”

Comments: This takes me back to my military days of being an instructor. That was an easy task from one narrow perspective because in those days being in the military you had levels of authoritative power most outside of those domains would not understand. Students had to be there, they had to sit and listen (even if it never was heard or sunk in) and you, as the instructor (why I use this term in lieu of teacher) you simply spewed forth the material and as military expected them to follow orders and learn this stuff. Thankfully, things have changed a considerable amount since the early days of my military career. 

Ordering one to just practice basics is counter productive to learning and especially understanding. Think about that one for a while, you will come to a better understanding with a little effort, right? 

Extracted Quote: “Extraordinary instructors are cool with not trying to force the statistical average onto the outliers.”

Comments: Actually, no comment because I need to contemplate this one and re-read Mr. Miller’s article a bit while waiting for a continuation on his presentation of the subject. 

Extracted Quote: “Just as there is a natural movement for a human body, there is also a natural learning. Humans, like all animals, learn best through play (even better is when humans play in groups). … playing, ideally in the real environment, is what locks in a skill.”

Comments: Hey, I am just going to play with this one a while, have some fun, do a bit of research and testing then I can better present a understandable comment. ;-)

Extracted Quote: “ … some of the things closest to our evolutionary path are complex problems that require simple solutions. Play is the way we cut that Gordion knot.”

Comments: We, if I understand the anthropological stuff on this, tend to drive toward simplistic answers and actions to get things done. We naturally take the complex and work hard to break it down into simply terms but where I feel we drop the ball is when it comes time to take the many simplistic things and make them whole again - holistic so to speak as a whole. This is why I found the idea of analysis, i.e., breaking down of complexities to study, hypothesis so that one can be creative and finally after having some fun synthesize all the separate distinct renderings back into one whole thing that can be used. 

In closing, I really appreciate the work of professionals like Rory Miller, I like the exchange of ideas and theories and possibilities and I like providing my thoughts and mindless meanderings because after so many stoic steadfast adherence to standard dogma I find this new way kind of enlightening and learning has become a joy rather than a task that must be done - isn’t that kind of having fun?

Take a look, think about it, discuss this in your dojo and then come back and give me some data to crunch, it would be most appreciated!

Bibliography (Click the link)
Miller, Rory. “Vic and Toby.” Chiron Blog. Thursday, March 09, 2017. http://chirontraining.blogspot.com/2017/03/vic-and-toby.html