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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Being Sensei (Teaching, Instructing, Mentoring - Oh my!)

Reprinted into one post

Teaching/Instructing Karate

Caveat: This post is mine and mine alone. I the author of this blog assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this post. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding.)

The first important detail is knowledge of the style or system they will be teaching. This is natural and a gimme for any teaching profession. The issue that concerns most practitioners, beginners or advanced, is how do we determine the knowledge, experience, and proficiency of a karate instructor. In the end, and until some standardized format is achieved for all instructors, it will remain an individualized subjective decision.

Outside the normal need for knowledge, experience, and proficiency the instructor who teaches karate must have a set of "interpersonal skills" so they may interact with practitioners in a manner that is beneficial to both parties, instructor and practitioner. They are:

- Use of technical skills.
- Communication Skills.
- Effective Body Language.
- Empathy.
- Positive Motivation.
- Feedback.
- Silence.
- Good sense of humor.
- Be reflective.
- Don't distort or filter what they hear, etc.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Understand and then be understood.
- Self-disclosure.


Interpersonal communication is the manner in which information is shared or exchanged between a small number of people, whether they are same or different from each other. These can be healthy as well as harsh. Healthy Interpersonal Skills lead to creative & effective approaches to solving problems and getting work done.

To the fullest extent possible, the task of the instructor is to provide the practitioner with a level of support & guidance. All practitioners have strengths and through better Interpersonal skills instructors can utilize these strengths to enhance learning.

Use of Technical Skills: The latest method used to improve interpersonal skills is the use of technical skills, i.e. the ability to work with latest teaching aids like hojo undo equipment, makiwara or other karate equipment. The ability to demonstrate both physically and mentally those attributes that must be a part of karate training and practice. An intimate knowledge of all the skills necessary to utilize both the physical acts as well as all supplemental training methods and devices to achieve the best outcome to practice as humanly possible. This particular skill is most important as it encompasses all other skills in one teaching skill most useful in guiding practitioners on the correct path of practice as well as life. This one is best said to be teaching by example, how an instructor comports themselves with others determines the success or failure of his/her practitioners.

Communication Skills: Communication skills are most important when we talk about winning their hearts. The tone, volume, rhythm and emotions of the communicator play a vital role while dealing with practitioners. The verbal, physical, and written acts of communication must be such that confusion is limited or eliminated. Through this skill, along with others, the instructor promotes the atmosphere of trust and understanding where practitioners feel comfortable with posing questions and receiving concise and accurate answers. Instructors must adhere to the rule of, "If you don't know it, don't know the answer, say so and find the answer for later."

Effective Body Language: Body language is a quiet, secret, and a powerful tool to maintain healthy interpersonal skills. Good verbal skills combined with effective body language create interest, long-lasting impression on the minds of practitioners, and of course their involvement in the discussion. It is a very delicate balance between leading and controlling in teaching. As a knowledgeable person conveying knowledge to others it is easy to slip into a superior attitude that does not promote free exchange of information. The instructor must remain diligent in keeping a balance where their language, i.e. body and verbal, must promote a relationship of trust and ease of communication, both directions. How one stands, holds their hands, moves, facial expressions, etc. all relay a type of communication that is not always conscious to the recipient. Speaking one way while communicating something totally different by your body language promotes confusion so it is vitally important that instructors master the discipline of body language.

Empathy: Instructor’ messages must convey empathy i.e. the ability to communicate care and concern along with an understanding of the practitioners problem that is, the ability to place oneself in a position to view the problem from the practitioners perspective. In old schools this would come across as "NOT" but in reality creating the type of trusting relationship is critical since this particular type of practice involves sometimes close physical, somewhat violent, contact. We need to convey accurate response to mental, physical and sometimes emotional roadblocks much like in violent attacks where emotions along with an adrenaline dump causes all three to kick in for a freak out survival mode of performance.

Positive Motivation: Good motivation usually produces learning outcomes. Some practitioners do not know why they should perform or study a particular technique/subject. We can show applications of that technique/subject in the areas in which practitioners are interested. Thus they get motivated and take interest while practicing/studying that technique/subject. If a practitioner cannot readily see, after verbal and physical instruction/demonstration, the need and purpose that benefits them then they may gloss over important aspects. Basics or fundamentals are a good example. Most want to just get them over with so they can move on to the more exciting aspects and must understand that the fundamentals are the foundation to the best and most exciting aspects of performance and application. 

Feedback: A good instructor is genuinely interested in the practitioner’ thoughts, feelings and opinions. Feedback is one way that a instructor can tell how you are absorbing and integrating the materials. This feedback calls upon the relationship you have developed with the practitioner. Communication is always a two way street. Active listening techniques are paramount to being a good teacher. Only when you listen actively can you provide accurate, concise, relevant and genuine feedback, etc.

Silence: The ability of a instructor to use silence is usually effective. Silence here means giving a few more seconds to practitioners to respond to a query. Silence can help the practitioners as:

• Correctness of their response increase
• The number of “I don’t know" decreases.
• More number of answers
• Better performance by practitioners.

What you "do not say" can be even more important than what you say. In reality silence is enhanced by the body language, i.e. body, hands, and especially the facial, will convey volumes even when no words come out of your mouth. Silence is also an important communication skill.

Good Sense of humor: A instructor needs to have a keen sense of humor in order to keep practitioners learning & motivated. A instructor who can’t take a joke or give one, who can’t lighten up, who is too serious will not survive. Leave the strict military atmosphere in the military. Just because karate was brought to this country by military, who incorporated military discipline into their teachings, does not make it effective to a civilian oriented audience. Humor must be balanced against the need to remain in an instructor status or leadership role but still must be a trait that allows others to see that the instructor is human and foible. You cannot become their best buddy but you shouldn't become this person placed on a pedestal and worshipped or worse yet "feared."

Be reflective: Remember the party game where a story is started with one person and passed along to others with often humorous distortion? We all filter and distort what we hear. This concept helps a instructor to "pay attention" and often helps the speaker stop and think about what is being said. It's also helpful sometimes to ask your listeners to paraphrase what they think you have said. This concept helps the instructor to keep the attention of the practitioner and keep them participating in discussion. This is in truth symbiotic in nature with active listening. These techniques are used by active listeners to truly hear and understand what others say in lieu of jumping in the middle to say what you think they are alluding to only to find out you are mistaken resulting in a loss of respect and hurting the trust in the relationship.

Ask open-ended questions: Make it a goal to find out what your practitioners think, not just what they know. Ask for information using open-ended questions that begin with "How...," "What...," "When...," "Where...," and "Why." This strategy allows instructors to help clarify a given question for both the practitioner and itself. Use this technique to get them to talk and explain until you actively hear all and are able to respond in clarification to truly understand their needs and desires. Only then attempt to respond, answer, etc.

Understand and then be understood: Most practitioners don't like being told what to do 

[Spending time to think and formulate an appropriate response is vital to communication and clarity]. 

They often want a chance to have a say in what goes on in the training facility 

[Yes, you are the instructor but teaching and learning are a two-way street and to allow their full involvement in all aspects promotes trust and they like it] 

and a chance to prove it will work. In solving dojo problems, it is better to [actively] listen than to direct. 

[Sometimes allowing for silence and active listening brings clarity, don't assume just because you are the instructor you are all knowing: you are not, so listen and then inspire action] 

Teams can be formed to figure out solutions to problems and instructor can empower them to carry out the solutions. Practitioners who identify what should be done take on greater and greater responsibility for getting it done. Thus a instructor seeks to understand the problem from the point of view of the problem solvers [a good instructor leaves their ego at home and always remembers and reminds themselves that this is important; utilize their point of view to resolve, teach, and inspire] rather than force his own perspective on a solution to be understood. This helps to improve interpersonal skills among practitioners as well as between instructor and practitioners.

Self-disclosure: Often sharing a relevant story of your own experiences in similar situations can prove helpful in opening meaningful dialogue. Be careful here and don't allow yourself to be too wordy. Keep stories relevant, short, concise and to the point. If you are just spouting out stories with out this in mind then you are allowing your ego to run wild. If you have a self-esteem issue you should not be teaching/instructing.

The uses of such technical skills bind the interest of practitioners in their lesson and also keep both the instructor as well as practitioners up to date.

In addition there are some philosophical aspects that Instructors should also have: A proper attitude in life, be and remain attentive, be and remain vigilant, be a positive thinking/thinker, be an active listener, always speaks kindly, always treat others with decency, treat others as guests should be treated, always thinks twice before speaking, takes responsibility for their actions and deeds, etc., has courage, creates goodwill, conducts self properly, remains truthful and honest, remains loyal, develops self first to influence others, looks inward first before looking at others, has tolerance and remains balanced in all things.

If we look back on these skill sets we can see that teaching/instructing any subject/endeavor is a complicated but also unique way. A good teacher/instructor should encompass as many of these skills as possible while always "trying" to acquire and live as many as they can on a continuing basis. Teaching and Instructing require continued effort, practice, learning, and performing to achieve a level of mastery, much like karate!

Presentation Skills for Instructors:

Your success is and will be determined by your ability and skill in communicating your subject, i.e. karate skills. How you present those materials is complex and a craft of the teaching field. To be effective you have to express yourself in a manner that is conducive to learning by your students.

Consider the variations of your presentation strategy such as audibility, pace/pitch/tempo, articulation and pronunciation, emphasis, pause, energy and enthusiasm, eye contact, gestures and movement, stance and confidence.

Audibility: projection of your voice; to throw it so all can hear clearly and distinctly; good diction; good articulation; enunciation; variety to aid in sending the proper message; invite practitioners to speak up if they cannot hear or understand.

Pace/pitch/tempo: monitor the basic speed or pace at which you speak; not to quickly; change pace to suit the meaning of what is said; musical quality of your voice; variability in pitch; upward inflection when sense is indefinite and downward when sense is finished; pitch change can indicate start of new thought; inflection supports meaning and for emphasis.

Articulation and pronunciation: pronounce words correctly - proper sounds, emphasis and sequence; form vowels and consonants correctly

Emphasis: for important concepts; changes to create varied and interesting presentation; verbal markers to signal things of importance that are difficult to grasp.

Pause: allow time to think; avoid vocal pauses - "hum", "you know", "like", etc.

Energy and enthusiasm: inject physical and mental energy into what is said through voice, gestures, and general commitment to what you do: active words motivate.

Eye contact: maintain it with practitioners: don't focus on one spot: allow eyes to roam the audience and look into practitioners eyes: move eyes from person to person.

Gestures and movement: using as non-verbal behaviors equal power: use naturally to assist in conveying the meaning: use to complement, not contradict, verbal communications: avoid repetitive gestures and mannerisms: move around the space: move in purposeful manner to enhance the presentation: keep movements simple unless demonstrating technique, etc.: don't be afraid to smile.

Stance and confidence: good posture: stand tall: appear in body language, dress, actions, etc. confidence

Sensei, teaching-mentoring-instructing martial systems - Three Core Traits

Teaching, instructing or mentoring requires communications and these three core traits are a must for anyone teaching-mentoring-instructing anything including martial systems. Having the communication skills is not enough, one must be genuine, one must have and display respect-acceptance-positive regard, and one must have empathy.

Genuineness: Being what one is without a front or facade. This means and requires self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-expression.

Respect (Acceptance-Positive Regard): You need to accept the person you are teaching-mentoring-instructing with out qualifications or restrictions. You must display respect for self and the other person in the way you listen, the way you look at them, the tone of your voice, the words you select and the reasoning you use. The regard you put forward in the actions and deeds you use when communicating with a person.

Empathy: This is the trait where you as Sensei demonstrate the ability to see, hear and feel another person and understand his/her from his/her perspective. 

Communications or teaching-mentoring-instructing flows with the connections one creates using these fundamental attitudes along side those specific methods and techniques for teaching-mentoring-instructing.

Teaching Ability

Teaching a person is an awesome responsibility one should not take without full understanding and comprehension as to what that entails. When you have influence over others that responsibility is daunting and important. Your influence as a teacher, i.e. sensei, means the person you influence will take to heart what you provide and allow it to change them mentally/psychologically, spiritually and physically that reaches to every facet of that persons life. 

The stone you drop in their lives will have a ripple effect on everything the do, encounter and interact with. That thought alone is daunting and can only stand second to the responsibility of a parent to a child. 

This can be explained from an Asian perspective by the many characters/ideograms that make up the word/title/term sensei. 

先生 - teacher; master; doctor; with names of teachers, etc. as an honorific
宣誓 - oath; abjuration; pledge
先聖 - ancient sage; Confucius
専制 - despotism; autocracy

When we fist put on the black belt, i.e. kuro-obi, we start to think of running our own training hall to teach what we have learned to others. This is often begun at sho-dan before one can begin/finish being mentored in the teaching methods/abilities of a senior experienced person. 

Take a look at the characters/ideograms above and take notice of words such as master, oath, pledge, sage  and honorific title/names. When such a title is awarded it should speak to the full and complete education, understanding and proficiency of the individual to take on the awesome responsibility and tasks that say sensei. 

No more is this important when teaching, training and practicing a physical combative form or system that is a martial art regardless of whether Asian, Western or European in heritage. It all begins with a sensei with kyoiku noryoku or teaching ability. 

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