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


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 (this applies to this and other blogs by me as well; if you follow the idea's, advice or information you are on your own, don't come crying to me, it is all on you do do the work to make sure it works for you!)

“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 (note: you are on your own, make sure you get expert hands-on guidance in all things martial and self-defense)

“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

I am not a leading authority on any one discipline that I write about and teach, it is my hope and wish that with all the subjects I have studied it provides me an advantage point that I offer in as clear and cohesive writings as possible in introducing the matters in my materials. I hope to serve as one who inspires direction in the practitioner so they can go on to discover greater teachers and professionals that will build on this fundamental foundation. Find the authorities and synthesize a wholehearted and holistic concept, perception and belief that will not drive your practices but rather inspire them to evolve, grow and prosper. My efforts are born of those who are more experienced and knowledgable than I. I hope you find that path! See the bibliography I provide for an initial list of experts, professionals and masters of the subjects.

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Teaching Principles

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

In my efforts to learn, assess and present teaching in the dojo, especially for self-protections and defenses, I decided to list the articles I have/had written on the subject. You probably already know and are asking the question, “What are your credentials that warrant your recommendation and expertise?” 

Well, I was a Marine Corps Instructor for almost ten years of my career. I had received all manner of training, civilian and military, on the art of instruction and teaching as well as salesmanship, etc. I also taught for most of my Martial Career spanning in excess of forty years with this caveat that most of what I present herein was studied and learned after I stopped actively teaching in my own dojo. 

Most of my career involved my abilities to communicate and pass on data, facts, information and a lot of “how-to” stuff to my staff, students and practitioners both in the professional world and in the dojo. Here is a list of my lifetime resume where teaching, mentoring and guidance were an intricate part of what I did. 

Lifetime Resume

Construction Worker: Drywall
Food Services: Produce Stocking

USMC/Military (9 years 11 months):
  • Motor Transport Chief NCO/SNCO (Non Commissioned Officer/Staff Non-commissioned Officer)
  • Licensing & Training SNCO
  • Recruiter
  • Career Planner
  • Martial Arts Instructor Special Services
NWSC Civil Service (15+ years):
  • Motor Vehicle Operator Mail Services
  • Warehouse Manager/Forklift Operator
  • Materials Expeditor MAERU World Replenishment Manager
  • Communications Security Manager
  • Radiation Control Technician
  • Special Weapons Technician
  • UNION Chief Steward AFGE
  • Container Repair Technician
  • Physical Security Manager/Specialist GS-11
UC Berkeley (18 years):
  • Mail Room College of Engineering
  • Programmer Analyst I/II
  • QA/Release Management Analyst III
I have always provided a service, paid and pro-bono types of effort, to others and I received in like ways non-paid, paid and pro-bono [Latin phrase for professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment. Unlike traditional volunteerism, it is service that uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to (others as in this case within and without the dojo) those who are unable to afford them.] types of teachings in return. Some of the teaching stuff I present in the following had to rub off on me and had to accumulate through efforts in studies as well as experiences. 

One professional expert in violence said that the first and best defense against aggressions and violences is, “People Skills,” whereby active listening tops the principles of those skills along with the ability to communicate using compliance skills, influence principles and other methodologies necessary to first listen, then understand, followed by empathy and followed by appropriate types of communications that influences others into doing or not doing something resulting in aggressive/violent tendencies. 

I hope that what I present provides value and a service to you, the student; the practitioner; the businessman; the sensei; the senpai and so on inspiring research, analysis and synthesis as well as seeking out professionals and experts and others to exchange, learn and develop your teaching, mentoring and instruction methods to get maximum conditioning and concept creation and mental retention of all that makes up this “wide world of martial practices!” 

Let the journey of a single step begin here:

For reference and sources and professionals go here: 
Bibliography (Click the link)

OC in the Dojo

Extracts of article, "Skinner - Operant Conditioning" by Saul McLeod dtd 2018 w/commenting and minor changes to fit the articles theme and subject.

Caveat/Note: Most of what follows are either direct quotes or extracts modified to fit this presentation meant for one to study and meant to inspire further research for analysis, synthesis and application in the dojo as both sensei and senpai. 

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

“Operant conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an individual makes an association between a particular behavior and a consequence (Skinner, 1938).”

Thorndike's Law of Effect: “According to this principle, behavior that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated, and behavior followed by unpleasant consequences is less likely to be repeated.”

Skinner's Law of Effect: “Law of Effect - Reinforcement. Behavior which is reinforced tends to be repeated (i.e., strengthened); behavior which is not reinforced tends to die out-or be extinguished (i.e., weakened).”

Skinner, three types of response:
  1. Neutral operants: responses from the environment that neither increase nor decrease the probability of a behavior being repeated.
  2. Reinforcers: Responses from the environment that increase the probability of a behavior being repeated. Reinforcers can be either positive or negative.
  3. Punishers: Responses from the environment that decrease the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. Punishment weakens behavior.
Note: behavior are affected by reinforcers and punishers.

Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement strengthens a behavior by providing a consequence an individual finds rewarding.

Negative Reinforcement: The removal of an unpleasant reinforcer can also strengthen behavior. This is known as negative reinforcement because it is the removal of an adverse stimulus which is ‘rewarding’ to the animal or person. Negative reinforcement strengthens behavior because it stops or removes an unpleasant experience.

Learned Responses: Escape Learning and Avoidance Learning. 

Punishment (weakens behavior)

Punishment is the opposite of reinforcement since it is designed to weaken or eliminate a response. An aversive event that decreases the behavior that it follows.

Punishment can work either directly applying an unpleasant stimulus or by removing a potentially rewarding stimulus.

Problems using Punishment:
  1. Punished behavior is not forgotten, it's suppressed - behavior returns when punishment is no longer present.
  2. Causes increased aggression - shows that aggression is a way to cope with problems.
  3. Creates fear that can generalize to undesirable behaviors, e.g., fear of school.
  4. Does not necessarily guide toward desired behavior - reinforcement tells you what to do, punishment only tells you what not to do.
Different patterns (or schedules) of reinforcement had different effects on the speed of learning and extinction.
  1. The Response Rate - The rate at how hard practitioner worked.
  2. The Extinction Rate - The rate at which stimulus dies out (i.e., how soon one gives up).
The type of reinforcement which produces the slowest rate of extinction (i.e., people will go on repeating the behavior for the longest time without reinforcement) is variable-ratio reinforcement. The type of reinforcement which has the quickest rate of extinction is continuous reinforcement.
  1. Continuous Reinforcement: positively reinforced every time a specific behavior occurs.
  2. Fixed Ratio Reinforcement: Behavior is reinforced only after the behavior occurs a specified number of times.
  3. Fixed Interval Reinforcement: One reinforcement is given after a fixed time interval providing at least one correct response has been made.
  4. Variable Ratio Reinforcement: Behavior is reinforced after an unpredictable number of times. Response rate is FAST; Extinction rate is SLOW (very hard to extinguish because of unpredictability.
  5. Variable Interval Reinforcement: one correct response has been made, reinforcement is given after an unpredictable amount of time has passed. Response rate is FAST; Extinction rate is SLOW.
Behavior modification is a set of therapies / techniques based on operant conditioning (Skinner, 1938, 1953). The main principle comprises changing environmental events that are related to a person's behavior. For example, the reinforcement of desired behaviors and ignoring or punishing undesired ones. 

Always reinforcing desired behavior, for example, is basically bribery.

Types of Positive Reinforcements: Primary reinforcement is when a reward strengths a behavior by itself. Secondary reinforcement is when something strengthens a behavior because it leads to a primary reinforcer.

Behavior Shaping: the principles of operant conditioning can be used to produce extremely complex behavior if rewards and punishments are delivered in such a way as to encourage move an organism closer and closer to the desired behavior each time. 

Educational Applications (Dojo Collective/Group Training): A simple way to shape behavior is to provide feedback on learner performance, e.g., compliments, approval, encouragement, and affirmation. A variable-ratio produces the highest response rate for students learning a new task, whereby initially reinforcement (e.g., praise) occurs at frequent intervals, and as the performance improves reinforcement occurs less frequently, until eventually only exceptional outcomes are reinforced.
  • Praise them for every attempt (regardless of whether their answer is correct).
  • Gradually the teacher will only praise when their answer is correct, and over time only exceptional answers will be praised.
  • Unwanted behaviors, such as dominating class discussion can be extinguished through being ignored by the teacher. 
  • Knowledge of success is also important as it motivates future learning.
  • It is important to vary the type of reinforcement given so that the behavior is maintained.
The major influence on human behavior is learning from our environment. Operant conditioning fails to take into account the role of inherited and cognitive factors in learning, and thus is an incomplete explanation of the learning process in humans and animals. In my assessment of analysis of the OC process I came to the conclusion that a combination of OC and Social Learning Theories can provide a better/different and more complete form of teaching in an educational type of environment like the dojo. 

Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977) suggests that humans can learn automatically through observation rather than through personal experience.

Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977)

Individuals that are observed are called models. In society/dojo environment, humans are surrounded by many influential models, such as parents within the family, friends within their peer group and sensei/teachers at school/dojo. These models provide examples of behavior to observe and imitate, e.g., masculine and feminine, pro and anti-social, etc.

Students/Practitioners will pay attention to some of these people (models) and encode their behavior.  At a later time they may imitate (i.e., copy) the behavior they have observed. A mainstay of dojo conditioning is about the focus/concentration, ability to analyze and synthesize and then to imitate the lesson from observation followed by sensei/teachers observation toward the type of conditioning that best encodes the concepts into their minds and bodies. 

Factors to note in this process, "First, the student/practitioner is more likely to attend to and imitate those people it perceives as similar to itself. Consequently, it is more likely to imitate behavior modeled by people of the same like mind or who are noted as authority figures in the process being conditioned."

Then another important process, "Second, the people around the student/practitioner will respond to the behavior it imitates with either reinforcement or punishment.  If a student/practitioner imitates a model’s behavior and the consequences are rewarding, the child is likely to continue performing the behavior."

"Reinforcement can be external or internal and can be positive or negative.  If a student/practitioner wants approval from peers, this approval is an external reinforcement, but feeling happy about being approved of is an internal reinforcement.  A student/practitioner will behave in a way which it believes will earn approval because it desires approval."

"Positive (or negative) reinforcement will have little impact if the reinforcement offered externally does not match with an individual's needs.  Reinforcement can be positive or negative, but the important factor is that it will usually lead to a change in a person's behavior."

"Third, the student/practitioner will also take into account of what happens to other people when deciding whether or not to copy someone’s actions.  A person learns by observing the consequences of another person’s (i.e., models) behavior, e.g., a younger student/practitioner observing an older student/practitioner being rewarded for a particular behavior is more likely to repeat that behavior themselves.  This is known as vicarious reinforcement."

"The motivation to identify with a particular model is that they have a quality which the individual would like to possess."

"Identification occurs with another person (the model) and involves taking on (or adopting) observed behaviors, values, beliefs and attitudes of the person with whom you are identifying. Identification is different to imitation as it may involve a number of behaviors being adopted, whereas imitation usually involves copying a single behavior."

This presentation/article makes us of a creative copy of the entire article linked below in the bibliography source. Any errors that appear due to this process and effort are mine. As to the original article the errors and/or omissions are that author’s. 


For reference and sources and professionals go here: 
Bibliography (Click the link)

Koi in Martial Arts

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

When I was exposed to one of the meanings of the koi watching a program it inspired me to seek out more information for I found, as you can imagine, many symbolism and myths that represent many of the traits and concepts we aspire to achieve and absorb through the practice of our disciplines in martial arts and karate. 

In the next section I present both excerpts from the source, see bibliography at the end, along with my comments in red on how I am able to connect these symbolism to our training making it possible to teach, practice and apply certain virtues necessary to balance out, as you already know, our disciplines between the spiritual/philosophical/psychological and the physical. 

SECTION ONE —————————————————————————————————————————

Mythology of Koi

According to Chinese and Japanese myth, there was once a giant school made up of thousands of koi fish swimming up the Yellow River in China. As they swam, they gained strength by pushing against the current. However, on the Yellow River, there is a waterfall. Once the fish reached the waterfall, most turned back and just went with the current because it became too hard. The ones who remained continued to try to reach the top of the waterfall. These koi kept trying for one hundred years. At last, one koi successfully leaped to the top of the waterfall. To reward this dedicated koi, the gods turned it into a beautiful golden dragon.

My Comment/Theory: my first thought was all the symbolic meanings that do, can and would apply to at least my core karate practice through Isshinryu where the creator of the system used the dragon along with having a nickname that symbolizes and means dragon. It presents other symbolic meanings that could be the impetus behind his using it and creating Isshinryu from it along with suing it in his Isshinryu-no-megami. It doesn’t stop there because as you will read as you continue there are other philosophical aspects to the symbolism of the koi that do and would represent the moral humble aspects along with other concepts that make up the fundamental principles of all disciplines. 

The falls have become known as the "Dragon's Gate.” And legend has it that to this day, any koi that has the strength and perseverance to complete to journey up Dragon's Gate will become a heavenly dragon.

My Comment/Theory: This reminded me to go back and open the book recommended to me many years ago, “Opening the Dragon’s Gate,” with new perspectives, perceptions and concepts that have changed and evolved over the many years of study, practice and applications. When I consider how our efforts are about strength, of body and mind and character, and perseverance, necessary to not just win but to survive the spears and arrows of the self-defense defense, I see how it can remind us through understanding the koi symbolism and upon viewing it along with others how we can achieve our goals and objectives in both the dojo and life. 

Since the legend states that the koi became a dragon at the end of its long, difficult journey, the two together can represent a transformation.

My Comment/Theory: Transformation is how we use our practices to change ourselves such as change and growth from the practice of “mokuso” or what is a form of Zen Buddhism meditation breathing done at the start and finish of dojo activities. It symbolizes all the obstacles, obstructions and other lessons we will encounter in and out of the dojo that build our character and create personalities best fit for social reality and our very survival. 

The dragon koi symbolizes overcoming difficulties, alluding to the koi’s climbing of the Dragon Gate. The dragon koi shows strength and will, the will to go against all odds to reach its destiny. A dragon is also a representation of power and ferocity, along with mystery. It represents a re-birth, new start, or beginning. It indicates the ability to move on and begin with a clean slate.

My Comment/Theory: Where else has one heard things like overcoming difficulties through will power and our psychological/philosophical and physical strengths against often odds never before experiences keeping our true power and a ferocity of determination so as to move on safe, secure and within the boundaries of social and legal realities to keep our slate clean and free. This is the very essence of why we take on such disciplines as karate and martial arts, to create a sound mind and body that connects with character to ourselves, our families and our social constructs. The following describes some of the reasonings symbolic to what it is we do and why: 

SECTION TWO —————————————————————————————————————————

Koi Swimming Direction


You are currently in a battle or struggle and are still fighting obstacles but won’t give up.
You have overcome obstacles and have now gained the strength you need to continue against the current.


You don't yet possess the strength to make it against the obstacles and move towards success.
You have already achieved your goals and overcome your obstacles, and you are no longer fighting the current.

It is also said that if a koi is caught, it will await the cut of the knife without a quiver with the bravery of a Samurai warrior facing the sword in battle. This clearly portrays the cultural beliefs in the strength and courage of the koi.

My Comment/Theory: This seems to symbolize what we as karate-ka already know and imagine in practice and training, it is about developing the kind of strength and courage of mind then body that contributes to our evolution in life to better character, personality and abilities in peace and conflict. Hallmark concepts to develop and create that which speaks to the Way or Path of karate and martial arts. 

SECTION THREE ———————————————————————————————————————

The Strength of Koi

Koi fish are capable of adapting to many different climates and water conditions and can symbolize strength. It is inherent in a koi's nature to swim upstream. Through the koi fish legend, you can see that they show great determination, dedication, perseverance, and success. Here are some of the things that they can symbolize:

My Comment/Theory: 

Overcoming obstacles and reaching a goal
Completing a transformation in life
Worldly aspiration and advancement
Prosperity, good luck, and a long life
Passionate love

My Comment/Theory: Koi symbols along with the others found in martial practices are all most excellent tools for the sensei/senpai as can be seen above and most of us already know to help mentor and guide those who follow to achieve shifts and growth in their already considerable traits and concepts. We in our training and practice enhance the traits so that when extreme obstacles and goal arise we have the intestinal fortitude and mental strength to transform and overcome. This is the corner stone that drives our species and our social constructs. 

SECTION FOUR ————————————————————————————————————————

Black Koi

The black koi is associated with successfully overcoming an obstacle. This symbol is great for those who have gone through a tough battle in life and have finally made it to a place of strength

Blue Koi

The blue koi is often very masculine and can be associated with reproduction. Blue and white koi are symbols of the son of a family. As with anything blue, it also represents peace, tranquility, and calmness.

My Comment/Theory: In my considerable understanding and studies I find that a combination of the blue and black koi, as represented in one yin/yang symbol, represent the duality and balance we strive to achieve every day as we follow the path we chose through our imagination to foster the way we travel the “Way or Path called Do.” 

Koi fish are often paired with the yin-yang symbol. The sides of black and white are said to resemble a female and a male koi swimming together, representing the harmony of two opposite energies coming together as one, creating a perfect balance. In Taoism, yin and yang further symbolize the dueling sides of all things and the perfect balance and harmony of them. The circular movement of the fish represents the belief that all things in life are connected.

My Comment/Theory: black and white represents one thing and the blue and black koi are closer to the symbolism we seek out and train for in karate and martial arts. Regardless, as demonstrated above the symbolism benefits the practitioner as a reminder and guide in their efforts to transcend into a greater mastery of themselves and their disciplines. 

CLOSING ——————————————————————————————————-———————— 

Including both fire and water with koi fish can further exemplify the balance and harmony in life, much as the yin-yang does. It symbolizes opposite powers coming together.


For reference and sources and professionals go here: 
Bibliography (Click the link)

Karate Zen [空手禅]

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

The characters, pictographs, ideograms translate to English to mean: “Empty Hand; Karate; Zen; Dhyana (profound meditation); Zen (Buddhism).”

The term Zen, especially in modern karate and martial discipline circles/communities, tend to be an over reaction to the exaggerations that have been amplified and embellished to “sell” the systems or arts to the masses thus fostering a more business oriented culture called “martial arts.” 

The term, in martial communities even in Asia, has become meaningless due to the overuse and abuse. Much comes from both dissonance and biases with confirmation bias a strong proponent of the misuse, misunderstanding and total lack of knowledge of the practice that is Zen. Practitioners, like many others throughout history, tend to dwell on their own interest and benefit and can thereby misrepresent the reality they seek to describe. How unfortunate and still expected because it speaks to the very nature of the human species and condition. 

Look at Zen, Karate Zen, as being expressed fundamentally through the discipline and practices of martial disciplines and karate. Just enough to give it a feel of realism and reality while in truth barely addressing the whole and complete discipline that is Zen or Zen Buddhism. This in and of itself has led to the misrepresentation and understanding of what mushin, zanshin, fudoshin, and isshin, etc., are and how they are contributors to the completeness and philosophy of martial arts and karate. 

Zen in karate-zen has had a significant influence on the discipline as it has on the practitioners and since, in most cases, that has led to a positive set of virtuous traits to balance out its destructive nature that is still a good thing. It is not wrong, exactly; yet it is not the full monty of what Zen is and how it should be practiced, trained and applied. 

Know this, many elements of the discipline of martial practices are expressions, at one level or another, of Zen. 

Jikishin: true-mind.
Ginmi: to know through practice and experience.

Many of the current and previous masters and experts of Zen all feel that regardless of the level, intent or content of Zen training or Zen-like expression in their respective art or system what is being practiced is Zen. Therefore karate-zen regardless of how, when, why, etc., may not be the compete and comprehensive Zen, it is still … Zen (fragments of Zen are still … Zen). 

“One can be an adherent of Zen without undertaking the whole of what Zen has to offer.” - Jeffrey K. Mann

Zen or Zen-like, that is the question?

Za-zen [座禅]: seated Zen meditation, usu. in a cross-legged position. Where in one has to find a true definition, explanation and understanding of the method of Zen meditation. In certain professional karate and martial disciplines one method of Zen is referred to by experts as, "the koan method." 

Zen Koans as they originate from Zen masters testing or challenging Zen students with parables, i.e., simple stories used to trigger a sudden realization in the student of a moral nature. Martial (Zen-like) Koan (or parable like quotes) studies are taking the practice of Zen Koan’s to trigger on-going realizations in the study of martial quotes that will lead toward martial enlightenment - toward a spiritual state of mind that allows for change. It is through such changes that both the discipline and the student can achieve higher levels of understanding through acquired knowledge and experience. Welcome to the “Martial (Zen-like) Koan Studies!”

“Koans, or parables (a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson).”

You probably already know that my next concept is the use of koan’s in karate to perform Zen-like Koan quotes, meme’s, aphorisms, etc., to pass forward teachings that provide the student study materials to exercise the mind while contributing to the practitioners understanding of karate and martial arts/disciplines. 

Go to: Martial (Zen-like) Koan Studies to experience an effort to demonstrate a Zen-like lesson similar and not true lesson by a proverbial koan. 

Another method used in karate and martial systems to promote a feeling of a Zen-like effort is sitting Za-zen, a method of sitting meditation. This is often referred to as, “Mokuso [黙想]: meditation; silent contemplation.” This sitting in a meditative state in most dojo is merely lip service using a mystic oriented concept to stimulate the minds and motivations of the practitioners and in truth very few are actually taught a Zen-like method of sitting meditation. You will find many of the platitudes provided as quotations as example in the martial koan studies blog linked above. It is an enlightening experience!

If you do more research on Zen in its forms, then you come to realize that what we did is pull out those aspects and concepts that merely fit our needs, called confirmation bias, and manufactured a Zen-like concept and practice it becomes glaringly apparent that Zen in Karate does not exist because what is there is merely a Zen-like watered down version to fit a specific model and perception of karate and martial arts of the American Way. 


Harmony and the Martial Arts

Harmony, a concept hard to feel and to live by but easy to define, at least academically. Harmony is the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole. In the Asian practices such as “Chado (tea ceremony),” “Shodo (calligraphy),” and especially, for this article and for us as karate-ka and martial artists, “Karate-do, Budo, etc.,” the philosophy of Zen influences the practitioners and the arts into a spiritual discipline (not religious but religious in a kind of non-religious way) that is focused on calmness, simplicity, and self-growth. 

In the more physical violence part of these disciplines harmony is a model of conditioning that drastically reduces and conditions the practitioner toward the reduction of effects from adrenal stress-conditions inherent in fear, anger, and other emotions triggered by facing grave harm, extreme violence and possible death. 

Practicing a way of martial art and karate toward a harmonious way of not just applications in the various forms from sport to fighting to self-defense provides us a dualistic complementary way of training, practice, study, understanding, applications and experience that is, harmonious in that it creates a one singular wholehearted way. 

When practiced with Zen principles in mind, practice and training can be a peaceful journey through the chaos of a blunt, physically demanding and emotionally challenging discipline where self-cultivation leads to harmony in conflict, where calmness leads to a positive state of relaxation that reduces drastically those mental obstacles that rise under stressors, the serenity of mind to make decisions quickly speeding up the OODA loop while maintaining a mind-set and mind-state that pulls appropriate legal and socially acceptable actions toward safety and security let alone toward a mind, body and spirit that builds character and personality toward social connectivity building a tribe, clan and group dynamic that is a contributor to the social fabric of our society and culture. 

Then there is the need for “Concentration” that all this practice, training, experience and applications teach us to handle life challenges even with stress inducing conflict along with associated violence of both psychological and physical. 

Zen harmony practices focus on the mind, body and spirit unity, the one whole that is harmonious to nature, to the self and to others in your community. It creates an attitude whereby the benefit is a harmonious nature and feeling while creating a means to act in the moment and in the no-mind state of primal conditioned response created by training in karate, martial arts and Zen-Buddha-Harmony for balance in mind, body, and spirit. 

Harmony is an attitude, a mind-state, while harmony leads to proper attitude, a mutually beneficial way that is represented in the symbol of the, “Yin-Yang.” 

Zen-harmony of the martial arts and karate-do provide pathways toward other benefits that create a sense of aesthetic balanced harmonious presentations, actions and deeds by teaching us to appreciate moderation, asymmetry, perfection of imperfection, rusticity, and a naturalness along with a Zen connection with nature that is demonstrated in Japan by the value found in Shintoism. 

Zen teaches respect of nature by not managing or controlling nature but finding that connection with nature where one establishes and maintains a spiritual bond with nature as can be observed in various Japanese art forms such as chado or the tea ceremony or when admiring the Japanese Zen garden. 

For the martial artist and karate-ka Zen was morphed into its practices from the very culture of Japan and Okinawa because in MA and Karate one emphasizes self-composure, vigilance, and tranquility for life and for the purpose of facing grave harm or death in Self-defense. In its practice toward detachment the practitioner learns to detach the mind in the present moment from distractions of the past and possible future and from the material things that would lead the mind astray toward things not needed in the moment. 

Zen’s connection to the martial arts and karate-do provide a road to a philosophy, a fundamental principle of the discipline, so that the practitioner can better understand that martial philosophy. A philosophy that transcends the mere physical toward the full spectrum of self-defense of theory, physiokinetic’s, technique, philosophy, self-defense, the chemical cocktail - all principles that govern all forms of conflict along with the psychological and physical violence associated. 

Harmony is something that is often undetectable and unobservable in a direct conscious way when you meet others who have character and personality that just connects with others both in and out of that persons tribe, clan or group. They reflect leadership, brotherhood and a strong sense of honor. 

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Bitoku rinri [美徳倫理]

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I just wanted to introduce you to a phrase, terms, that the author of When Buddhists Attack provided that puts a name on the more spiritual/moral, if you will, aspects of karate and martial disciplines. Without this, these disciplines simply teach us how to use our bodies, sometimes tools or weapons, to cause grave harm to others. As you probably already know and can imagine when we enter the dojo we assume great responsibilities because of the fundamental nature of martial disciplines. How we apply those skills, both philosophical and physical, matters especially in modern social realities concerning aggression and violence. 

Bitoku rinri or virtue ethics is a great placeholder for practitioners to begin assigning certain social and moral traits necessary to govern and create balance in how we not only train and practice but especially in applying those dual skills in the dojo as well as in every day living. 

You can tell I kind of like the material and writing of this author, so much so when I finished the Kindle version I bought the hard cover for my martial library. 

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Hiboryoku [非暴力]

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Pictogram, Ideogram and characters are defined in English as, “non-violence or non-harm.” 

How then can we have hiboryoku/ahimsa in Buddhist beliefs especially when associated with martial disciplines? Because, to know, understand and appreciate the capabilities of violence as a tool makes us completely and utterly aware of the repercussions of that violence so we create an attitude that avoiding violence is the best “Way or Path” that we, as martial practitioners, can take while maintaining the attitude, understanding and ability to met out violence in protection/defense when no other path is available. 

In his book, “When Buddhists Attack,” Jeffrey K. Mann speaks to the practices of Zen Buddhism in the Budo world because of the plethora of misinformation on it exists and is promulgated through modern training utilizing certain, like Zazen mokuso, disciplines within the dojo. The author does a wonderful job of illuminating the very core of why one does certain practices in the martial disciplines and once that is presented then practitioners, as you can imagine, start to make connections that often are left to assumptions and personal speculations…without an effort to seek out and study what many don’t know they don’t know. 

Hiboryoku, from Buddhism studies the term is Ahimsa, teaches us about non-violence as a meant of solving certain issues that entail aggressive behavior often leading to physical, and psychological, violence. The author helps us to understand why such seemingly counterintuitive beliefs are actually beneficial weights that balance out the martial violences to a moral and socially mandated handling of violences. 

Non-violence is non-harm, physical and psychological and social, that through the understanding and appreciation of the devastating repercussions of applying marital skills against another human leads us to the full understanding that self-protection and defense comes first from knowledge/understanding so that our abilities will allow us to recognize and choose wisely to, “Avoid or escape ’n’ evade or deescalate.” 

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Martial/Karate Associations

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

I believe in the collective even when I find it stressful and draining (I'm an Introvert). The collective is about certain human traits all geared toward survival. Now, as you probably already know survival is not just the life or death thing, it is about survival from the simple argument you may have with a loved one all the way to the board room fight to get things done. 

Nothing in human nature, as you can imagine, really gets done by the lone wolf. Although the lone wolf has its benefits and even the lone wolf needs to associate with others all in the hidden name of survival. 

Now, you can see how karate-ka and budo-ka and martial practitioners can naturally gravitate to first the dojo group then up and on to embrace all those others outside your dojo as a collective leading to the natural evolution of associations. 

Where things tend to diverge is hard to peg down and yet one of them is first, "Control." Then we move on to how they maintain that control, i.e., through rules and through fees and so on because to run a large organization requires a lot of logistics of which is funding. 

I once decided, since my dojo and membership over the years never exceeded about eight practitioners, that maybe it would benefit me and the dojo to associate myself with an association. Naturally, being an Isshinryu practitioner meant I would look to the collective groups of Isshinryu-ists. The two main ones were IWKA on Okinawa headed up by the founders first born son, Kichiro Sensei while the other was run by two individuals, Long and Wheeler, in the IIKA. 

All I will say now, for me, that association didn't pan out like I had hoped and because of the proverbial political issues and the more business oriented efforts though the many requirements and fees (Note: I never did charge my practitioners except in the special services system on the military bases as a Marine and later as a civil servant). 

Then, as time passed and my studies and practices matured I find that for many the associations meet and exceed their mandates and I also find, from a personal perception and perspective, that for many others the associations are more of an obstacle to evolutionary progressions in their studies and practices. 

Needless to say, I let my membership lapse and never looked back. Many would say I had little success in my endeavors and others would say I had a lot of success that all depends on one's beliefs, perceptions and concepts as to their intent in training, practice and the application of their skills out there, in the world. 

In short, when it comes to associations when I make suggestions compared to how I did it long ago, my answer to a practitioner who asks is this, “It depends!” What does it depend on? That is a topic for another article that may or may not come in the near future. 

Example: What I find as a more beneficial collective of like-minded and like-practitioner collectives are those blogs, forums, and some social media forms where there are few rules and the goal of the system is to inform, exchange and analyze the many perspectives and perceptions and experiences of the many who join up. Seldom, except in rare cases does funding or fees or restrictive rules come into play except, in most cases, those rules of decorum, think reishiki, necessary to keep it civil and socially acceptable. It is the exchange of decent data that is important for that exchange is how we survive as martial artists and karate-ka!

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