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

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CFA Articles - Interesting Stuff II: Zenpo Shimabuku Sensei Speaks

I found this particular article interview of the son to Tatsuo Sensei's brother validating and enlightening. It seemed to open the door to the mistakes taken in those early years that lead to the dysfunctional teaching of old man style Isshinryu. It also elucidates to the reason why so many variations of how kata, etc. are practiced and taught.

I have extracted excerpts I felt spoke to me for my comments, my views and my perceptions according to my perceptive filters.

ZShimabukuro: What they mean is that they know a sequence of movements, which of course, is only a small part of the scheme of things. The point of studying kata, (as opposed to just performing it) is to learn what the applications of the techniques are, and how to use them.

The standard understanding of kata, a sequence of movements. Even in the last ten years I have witnessed a total lack of the meaning of kata in Isshinryu. I participated in belt testing for Sho-dan where the test focused on the movements and the so-called perfection of the form of said movements. Not once did I hear questions or comments as to the kata bunkai or any other fundamental principle of the martial systems.

I won't even go into what I witnessed as to what the applicant felt was proper technique and how to use it in fighting. Almost every single one discussed during the test was of such complicated intent that it would never be achievable in a adrenaline induced state of fear and panic to apply it sufficiently to escape the threat - shameful.

ZShimabukuro: In the real world, high level kicks and jumps create tremendous vulnerability so we are taught to avoid them.

I still see these used in self-defense training with belief that it will work when the time comes. Again I say, it is just dumb luck and good luck that 99.9 percent of those taking such training will never encounter a violent threat that comes or gets physical. Thank goodness.

ZShimabukuro: In the world of sport karate however, kicks and jumps get higher and higher, unnecessary and illogical movements are added to the kata, and competitors vie with each other to bring new extremes to the competition floor to win, for them, that all important trophy or medal.

Just do a search of kata competitions in Youtube, amazing to see.

ZShimabukuro: Karate kata, the DNA of karate if you like.

Well said metaphor.

ZShimabukuro: Some instructors are to easy going and tell students that they are doing fine, when they are not. This indicates to me a lack of commitment to their students.

It is so interesting that the Okinawan Sensei already have grasped our most egregious fault in teaching karate. This from across the deep blue ocean called the Pacific. No one wants to offend and lose students - money, money, money and commercialism, commercialism, commercialism - where oh where have all those Sensei and Dojo that teach for teaching sake?

ZShimabukuro: In the old days in Okinawa a teacher would have just a few students, and might teach them differently according to their ability, body type, etc.

This may explain why Tatsuo Sensei not only performed kata different every so often but also why we are seeing such a disparity between tribes who teach from their first generation student of Tatsuo Sensei way. Long vs. Mitchum vs. Advincula vs. Nagle versions are different and it may be that Tatsuo lived up to this form of teaching as mentioned by Zenpo Sensei.

It makes sense as each person has such unique differences that tend to get lost in larger classroom style teaching environments. Face it, when you go for quantity for commercialism you tend to lose on the other end of the scale - result, unbalanced system of teaching. 

Dan Smith: The Okinawan teachers who had contracts with the U.S. Government to teach military personnel, believing that the foreigners would not continue training if they taught them as they did their Okinawan students, modified their curriculum to avoid losing them, and the much needed income they generated. This is perfectly understandable  as life in Okinawa in those days was precarious to say the least.

I hypothesized about this aspect a while back in a post. I truly believe more now that Tatsuo Sensei, with all the best intentions, fell into this mode of teaching military. It was a matter of survival, economics and food. I don't fault him for following this path and actually admire his efforts to balance between this mind-set and keeping a more classical aspect to his new system. If folks, other than a few, actually returned to train they also may have actually received real karate, not school child oriented, training.

ZShimabukuro: Most of them (e.g. military personnel) only trained for eighteen months in Okinawa. Their instructor would give them a high rank to make them happy, and send them off home. It's when these individuals began teaching that problems started.

Again, kudo's to Tatsuo Sensei for attempting to let the leaving students know that it would not be valid until they achieved a minimum of fifteen years of practice and training. He just didn't understand the American way of thinking. Then those same folks started teaching and the rest is history. I don't begrudge them this tactic and strategy because I understand what Tatsuo did not. The reality gap between American and Okinawa culture and perceptions/perceptive filters was huge.

Dan Smith: Yes, because people who had even a small amount of training in Okinawa were viewed as experts when they returned to the United State, and they became authorities on Okinawan karate overnight. ... When Okinawan with many more years of training, much more experience, and grater ability visited the U.S., they were viewed as competition, often resented, and their advice on karate methods frequently ignored.

The victor always writes the history and that history is always slanted toward the victors. Consider the opportunities those fledgling black belts encountered upon their return. Bruce Lee was arriving and the demand grew exponentially in a very short period. So, why not, it was more than the public would get otherwise and after all our country relies on "supply and demand."

Dan Smith: Shotokan began to seem rigid and lacking in mobility - a dogmatic and regimented approach to training rather than the personal transmission of knowledge from teacher to student as is the case in Okinawa.

I attribute this to the other discussions that precede this quote. Since those who proclaimed their expertise considered their knowledge and ability as "expertise" you can see that they came from a level one basic training where they simply did not know about the intermediate and advanced levels yet to come.

Think of their dilemma, they had a chance to do what they loved and make a bit of cash - the American way.  They mostly came from a military background and naturally added in a military rigidity where mobility was closely monitored and controlled. Not conducive to level two and three of the three pillars of application. You can also understand that the dogmatic and regimented approach to training took on the role it did, not actual guidance from Tatsuo Sensei, he is on Okinawa and I am here.

ZShimabukuro: Instructors in Okinawa were in the habit of sending students back to the U.S. with a "going away" present of high dan grade, never thinking for a moment that they planned to continue their karate training, let alone become instructors.

In defense of Americans and to adhere to Tatsuo's desire we Americans learn the customs and such of Okinawans they too had an obligation to learn about the customs and such of Americans. If this balance had been achieved then misunderstandings and misinterpretations would not have occurred. In my humble opinion those who came before should not have received higher than Go-kyu upon leaving the island. In defense then we would never have had the joy of learning and practicing Isshinryu for Americans wanted black belts and they were determined to get it one way or another - regardless - so the die was cast and here we are today.

Dan Smith: We also need to understand the mind set of the Okinawan instructors who gave away high dan grades. They did not think that inexperienced students would teach others, or that they would ever see or hear from them again.

See last comment to last quote - applies here too.

ZShimabukuro: Foreigners made Okinawan karate famous!

True, true, true to the ninth degree. But then again I would say that it could have been Shotokan and Japan that took the credit for karate if not for Marines and their training for those short 12 - 18 month tours.

ZShimabukuro: We must not blame others for our failings, but correct them and move forward, so that Okinawan karate is preserved and eventually recognized as the primary source of the art, worldwide.

I feel they are at this point now. I believe most already know the contributions of Okinawa as to karate. It can never be the primary source of the art as many other Asian nations have their versions that are just as important - all bottles are good, they all serve a purpose ;-)

CFA Staff and Smith, Dan. "Interview with Zenpo Shimabukuro." Classical Fighting Arts, October 2011: pg 15.


Zacky Chan said...

Great post. Karate is not my particular emphasis, and so I don't have much of an opinion on the validity of kata or specific techniques, but I'm very concerned about the motivations for practicing and what that translates to. It really is the "American Way" to want to do what you love and make a little cash ... I'm American and 25 years old, so this thought process couldn't be more relevant, but for the purposes of learning, practicing, and passing on a tradition, it can get bastardized real quick. What I think it totally comes down to is some difficult to define concept of integrity and honesty with an objective and well educated view. Very rare, but good teachers are aren't they.

Charles James said...

Hi, Zacky Chan: Nice statement, "difficult to define concept of integrity and honesty with an objective and well educated view."

Well said in all departments, thanks for the feedback :-)