Sunday, May 29, 2016


Of the karateka that I know of who are worth anything, they all have one thing in common, they can think. It's a rare attribute, and it's something telling about the nature of karate practice in general that this is the exception rather than the rule.

I don't think karate has anything to do with it. I think these are just exceptional people, but what does it say about traditional karate when we have to go to a seminar to learn karate when we are usually already paying a sensei to teach us karate?

There are a lot of things that I've been wanting to write about on the blog. It won't fit in the blog format though. It's too much information and it needs to be polished into something that is a little more accessible than it is right now. It has to do with thinking. There is a complete cognitive side to karate, which can make it intuitive, instinctual and automatic without memorizing technique. A way to make applying karate kata as easy as having a conversation with a friend. Right now I'm just searching for the right words. This is what I'm working on right now. I don't know when it's going to get done, and it might never, but I think its something that needs to be shared. Mostly because I think karate should be open to everyone. Kata offers a wonderful platform for self learning, and individual practice that is just not available in other arts. It provides a way for a person to take karate as far as they want to.

Until then this is now the end of the blog.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Study is Not Use

I like to study karate in the context of sudden violence, or predatory ambush. On the receiving end of these things. This doesn't mean we need to apply it in this fashion.

Statistically the attack from an ambush predator as it applies to me is very low. Six foot, two hundred pounds and aware of myself. I'm usually the person smaller people watch, and not likely to be harassed too much. I'm much more likely to engage in a monkey dance, but since I'm out of my twenties I don't care enough about other people's opinions to engage in one. Violence for me is pretty low on the probability scale until I get much older. Karate doesn't do me much use in this department. The books I've read on the subject usually point out that prevention is the best medicine and the type of fighting skill that is taught in most dojo just doesn't apply. Mostly because you're usually trying to run away.

So what do I use karate for? I use it to relax, work my brain, to stay healthy and moving. The health benefits from karate will have a larger impact on your life than the fighting stuff. Diabetes and heart disease are more likely to kill you than a sudden street attack. We don't technically use karate for anything. We study karate and studying isn't exactly using. This is okay though. Sometimes we take karate a little to seriously. I take karate seriously as well, but its just a hobby, like 99% of all karate practitioners.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Do You Really Know Your Kata?

Here's the question.

How much do you really know about your kata?

Many people simply practice the pattern of performance, but is this really "knowing" the kata. If I write my ABCs out a hundred times a day do I know the alphabet?

Do you know how to transition without wasted movement between different non adjacent parts of the kata?

Do you know how to use a single movement continuously?

Can you practice the kata with one hand?

Do you know the point at which the structural integrity of a movement breaks down?

Do you know how to use a movement wrong?

Can you use kata movement spontaneously and creatively during partner practice?

Have you absorbed kata to the point that you don't even think kata, you only think move?

Monday, May 16, 2016


I like Michael Clarke's style that is his flare for karate. I like his uncompromising spirit. I like the fact that he advertises on his blog that karate is a self learned art. What I don't like is his ambiguity.

I don't believe that anyone can actually pay for karate. I don't pay for karate. I haven't paid for karate since 2006. Do I have a "black belt" sure I have one that holds my pistol up. Oh wait, it's made of leather, not cotton. No I don't have a black belt. This whole blog is about not paying for karate. I don't think you should pay for it.

The problem with "learn this on your own," or "the equipment will teach you the lesson" is that people are not you. The self learner can read books, do research, contemplate karate, but the person who needs permission will not. The person who doesn't want to go against the grain, go against convention by not spending money, by not seeking out the expert, by not putting on white pajamas will look at ambiguity and say that it is too hard. They are untrained. They don't know what they are looking for or at or what they want, and all too often the difference between the legitimate dojo and the illegitimate dojo is that after black belt one teaches them something and the other teaches them nothing. By this time it's too late. $10,000 or more invested and a whole lot of time and people will not be willing to say they made a mistake by going to the wrong dojo.

People are all to willing to pay for what you can't pay for, success, love, happiness. You can't pay for these things, but modern advertising thrives on these ideas. If you say you need a dojo, people will find the first dojo that meets their expectations, usually based on television and movies. If you say they don't need the dojo, but don't offer alternatives than they will be driven to the bad dojo anyway. If you say that you can't buy something but don't show people how not to buy something than people will try and find a way.

What's the difference?

Reading Time

Reading a book on Propaganda. It's not a how-to manual, but I'm guessing it could be used that way. I'd also need a newspaper, a radio station, canvassers, a television show and posters to be effective, so I doubt I'll be able to implement any of it effectively, so you can relax. It's just recreational reading.

I can't help but see parallels between the modern traditional paradigm of training and some of the methods the book talks about. Bushido was a concept invented with the facade of budo to try and sway the Japanese people towards a more militaristic nature. The fantasy of the Samurai Spirit applied to everything. This is my limited understanding of it at least.

It has been theorized that karate was shaped to prepare people for the Japanese draft. In fact almost all Japanese martial arts under went some sort of transformation and were controlled by a governing body that said what was and what wasn't a Japanese martial art. It's not much of a leap to think that the very nature of practice was changed to promote the propaganda of bushido. It all seems very militaristic in nature. I would know I was/ am a Marine. People standing in rank and file, bowing to a commander, following orders without question, a strict rank structure and hierarchy and a subservience to "tradition." Sounds almost like boot camp to me. In fact besides the bowing almost exactly like boot camp. Hmmmm...maybe something fishy.

This of course could be my complete imagination, but it would explain a few things. The church like qualities of the dojo. People question, but they still follow. How many times have you heard that rank doesn't matter, but your sensei still shows up to the dojo in his cool uniform with the special belt. It's some things to think about.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Correction

In a past post, I improperly used the word kigu. I was thinking of the kongoken. Two different things, kind of. Kongoken is a part of kigu, but kigu is not specifically kongoken. Kind of a square and rectangle thing. I'm letting the error stand on the post, as a monument of my linguistic folly.

Side Note: I'm rereading Michael Clarke's The Art of Hojo Undo for a second time. I respect his karate practice though it would be pretty obvious to anyone reading my blog that I don't agree with him on a few things. This might just be linguistic as well. I'm currently re-evaluating some of the exercises in the book and coming at them from a different angle. Mostly that the exercises are to teach you to do work with your body, not to work your body. A subtle difference, but a large difference. Modern aesthetic weightlifting is aimed at stressing a muscle as much as possible usually through very inefficient movement. The movements in kata however are about using your body to do work in a very efficient manner. I find the hojo undo exercises to be much easier if I just treat them as if I were applying my kata. Basically just by using my mass and mechanics to move the weights instead of trying to lift them like a dumbbell.

Friday, May 13, 2016


I realize I get over excited at times. Hostile even. It's only because I believe that many modern karate practices to be deeply unethical. I find traditional karate to be very unethical at times. This is usually rationalized with the excuse of tradition. How many people study for years in the dojo and learn nothing? Instructors cycle through, no planned training, no explanation of a dozen kata, all the while the students pay for the classes, pay for the testing, follow directions, conform to ritual and bow to someone who is teaching them nothing. If anyone taught anything else in the same fashion, you'd want your money back.

Explain this to me

If a person has to examine other martial arts to understand kata than doesn't that mean that your karate dojo isn't teaching you karate? Why are you still paying to go to a dojo?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Money

I've heard an argument twice now that really bothers me. It's basically that one can only teach martial arts if they earn money from martial arts that if they didn't earn money it would be impossible for them to teach. What? It's usually  put forth by people who own facilities, so I can see their stake in the matter, but they're still wrong. It's as if the world owed them money for teaching. Well, the world doesn't owe you anything. Besides this, if you will only teach for the money than how much do you really love what you do?

I know plenty of people who would love to earn money by doing what they love to do. Play music, write, teach, draw and any number of things, but they don't. They actually spend money doing what they love. These people still do these things. People teach, tutor, coach and guide for free on a daily basis, while working a full-time job and don't ask for compensation. Why does the world owe these other people a living?

Don't get me wrong. I'm a capitalist. You make money by exploiting inefficiencies. People are too lazy to crack open a book, learn and then push themselves, so they go somewhere where someone does it for them. They're too lazy to do something, so you invent a gadget that does it for them. It's all good stuff. It doesn't mean that because you have to do it for money that others aren't just as glad to do it for nothing.

People work two or three jobs at a time and raise kids, but these people wouldn't be able to teach martial arts if they didn't make a living at it? What a load of shit.

Easy karate

Karate is easy. People make it complicated, so they can sell you something.

Monday, May 9, 2016


He practices karate.
So he's a karateka.
No, he's a man who practices karate.

I love karate, and it definitely eats up a large portion of my thoughts, but it is not my life. My wife, my work and my family are my life. Karate is just something I do. If you walked into my house right now there would be no markers of my karate practice. No kanji on the walls, posters, sayings, no dirty uniforms. There would just be a mostly bare room with some weights and a bag of beans. My outside practice area could be confused for the future spot of a child's playground. The only markers I have of practice are continuously bruised arms, which no one seems to notice. Either that or they think I'm the victim of spousal abuse.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Buying the Martial Lifestyle

There is definitely a certain amount of tribalism in the martial arts. Well, a whole bunch of tribalism. The ego driven crap, which really pervades all aspects of the martial arts. People want to be part of a club, they want to advertise that club and want everyone to know that their club is better than all the other clubs. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Harry Browne author of How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World promotes the idea that one should put their views and values out into the world, so that one may find like minded individuals. There is definitely something to this. One should be proud of their accomplishments. On the other hand, I worry about "branding." Consumer branding where we judge people based on what clothes they decide to buy or what soft drink they purchase. I see this same type of thing in the martial arts and it worries me. There are all types of clubs in the karate world. Sport, McDojo, Traditional, Practical, Combat, hybrid, etc. Whatever you want to call them. People are fervent in their support of one or the other and show their support by displaying or not displaying certain things. Rank, special gi, workout equipment, sayings and the like. Pick your ideology and there is a list of what you need to buy to show your allegiance. It's more troubling when a person with the super special dojo or style preaches the spiritual aspects of karate and how its supposed to help us defeat our ego.

People seem to get caught up in the aesthetics of it all. The dojo must look like we are transported to Okinawa or Japan, name your flavor. The makiwara must look like this, its function is to look like this. We be tying our belt like this, they be tying their belt like that. If we don't look like we're practicing karate than we aren't practicing karate. How can we show off our karate if we don't do this?

The internal aspects of karate. The parts that really count are not easily observable to the outside world. Part of shedding the ego is fighting the urge to come up with superficial markers of karate practice. It's not that people shouldn't know, they just can't know without stepping into your head or through their own dedicated practice. We can't show it off even if we tried. Instead maybe karate practice should become a collaborative effort instead of sensei and students. Free exchange of ideas without rank bound only by the practice of karate kata and nothing more.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wrench and Tear

I've been working on my grip lately. The wrist roller, a spring thing (not sure what it's called), and a bag of beans, which I toss and catch.

Each movement has multiple uses. Gouging, tearing and grabbing is something that can be done at almost any time. A strong grip cannot be achieved with just structure. It's one of the few things, which actually takes strength. It's probably the reason that hojo undo includes a huge focus on grip strength.

It won't put down a person, but it can hurt. Digging your fingers like iron claws into a throat, arm or just anything is a bonus, which can off balance a person. I heard a story recently of Chokotu Kyan where he faced a judoka. He grabbed the judoka by the cheek with a clawed hand, kicked out his feet and followed the poor sap down to the ground with an elbow. He definitely wasn't playing around and who would have expected someone tearing out their cheek with a hand.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


It's always more fun to practice with someone else. To spar, or work things out, practice some unscripted drills. It's important, but this doesn't present itself all the time, and it's easy to make the excuse that training without a partner is worthless. It's not fun. Practice, however, is practice. It might not be a live resisting person, but it will help. The more familiar you are with yourself, your capabilities and your karate the better you will be.

I used to be roommates with a member of the Marine Corps Boxing Team. This was his job. He spent most of his time doing roadwork, shadow boxing, hitting the bag, skipping rope and pad work. The basics. In comparison, sparring made up a very small portion of training.

The basics can be trained at any time and pretty much any place. There is always an avenue of karate that you can practice and improve. Besides, didn't you want to be a martial artist. This is what they do. Hone their craft. End of story.