Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Line in the Sand

We live in the Now, always. Yesterday a memory. Tomorrow a hope.

We also draw a line and stop and start a new year (whether calendar year or birth year or other event). The new year a mnemonic device to give some meaning to the endless progression of Now.

One year ends and we take stock in new life and death, accomplishments and delays, success and failures. Then the new year begins and once past we're back in the ever present Now.

Teaching a free program, the economic times leave almost nothing available for excess (whatever that was I haven't seen it in a decade). They have an impact on students though as it takes money t drive to attend even free training, but we've been pretty stable on that level.

One friend in another area of the country had to close his program after at least several decades of training. There wasn't one cause but the unsettled economic times greatly contributed to his student decline.

The death of a dojo I find as saddening as any thought. I've been fortunate not having any family losses this year, but friends haven't been so lucky.

In fact I've reached the age where I pay attention to news stories about younger individuals deaths too.

The year's been good for my karate. Fighting age's deterioration I find my decades in tai chi very much the way I MUST warm up for training. When I can't do so injury frequently occurs, small nagging pulls and strains, but I fight the fight as best I can.

My ongoing study into the application potential of karate technique continues with many new training ideas.

I was also privileged to train once again with John Kerker and his in depth knowledge of Isshinryu application. A few short hours once a year, but always driving into my studies.

My programs, youth and adult, have moved forward this year too. People come and go, but we're working towards a new approach to sharing the youth program and I look forward to seeing how it takes.

Likewise the adult program has moved from a brown belt level into sho-dan level training. The group is so small, everyone having to shoulder adult responsibilities training occurs when possible, but they don't stop and progression remains constant. In fact two new Ni-Dans this year, their moving into personal adult focus at a Dan level for life.

The instructors continue to make solid progress too.

So as the year ends, YouTube tells me I've viewed about 40,000 videos the past several years, absolutely nothing martial has escaped my view.

Translations such as Mario McKenna's new translation of Nakasone's "Karate-do Taikan" are more impressive becuause it actually fits our studies too.

So the line in the sand is drawn (or will be) and then the sand shifts, the wind blows, the rains come, the tide moves in and out and line or not remaining it continues to be NOW.

May all enjoy the Now of their New Year with great sucess for 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Art of Attack - an Inquriry

Last evening I saw in the news the Pope had been attacked and knocked down as he was going to deliver Christmas Eve Mass. Recently a couple attended a White House dinner without invitations. Ex-President Regan was attacked in 1992 while receiving an award. It is likely very few people in the world have security as that of the President of the United States, or the Pope in the Vatican. But these few instances show that even effective security can be breached.

There are underlying principles behind those occurrences that can work be used to craft a more effective attack as well as be used for a more effective defense. A consideration in our martial studies should be the study of strategy and tactics in both offensive and defensive situations. They’re really flip sides of the same coin.

Article 13: The Eight Precepts of ChaunFa from the Okinawan Bubishi (1) states: 7. See what is unseeable and 8. Expect what is unexpected. I would restate it for this discussion as: what you don’t see or expect can get you. Offensively you want to find a way to be unseen, to set up your attack so it can’t be countered, Defensively you want to extend your awareness to see the attack coming and drive through it to end the threat.

Considering the assault on ex-President Regan April 13, 1992 when an anti-nuclear weapons protester accosted the former president

I remember reading about this when it occurred. It was discussed that the attacker moved through the auditorium and across the stage to first grab the award from it’s perch and throw it to the floor and then step forward to dislodge the President as the video shows.

I think what happened is he never paid any attention to the President, such focus would have drawn the attention of the President’s guards. If he was just keeping his focus on the award, nobody was guarding it and slow measured movement would have been unconsciously ignored. Then reaching the award the rest comes into play.

The couple slipping into an un-invited White House event is another example. They were known, some plausibility for their presence must be assumed, as they looked the part of attendees, and in the end they got close enough to shake the President’s hand.

Take a look at last night’s assault on the Pope where A woman jumped the barriers in St. Peter's Basilica and knocked down Pope Benedict XVI as he walked down the main aisle to begin Christmas Eve Mass on Thursday.

Surely everyone in attendance was reviewed as to their carrying obvious weapons, and of course her being a woman was probably a threat discount in some of their eyes too.

On the plus side none of the above carried out serious violence in those incidents. But the potential was clearly there.

Now it’s time to go to work, what are the underlying reasons their entry into each situation worked, how could it have been stopped, how was it unavoidable?

When facing an attacker if we assume they’ve been properly trained and prepared, it is likely we will be unable to respond. If they are improperly trained and prepared, that doesn’t make them less dangerous, but they’ve entered our event horizon so that we can choose to respond. Can we turn the table and not raise our hands to begin ‘fighting’ but find a way to be a target and use that opening when they attack to in turn make our response below their perception horizon?

So how do we use this?

More to come.....


(1) Bubishi – the Classical Manual of Combat – translated by Patrick McCarthy page 187

This also became the Isshinryu Code of Karate adopted by Shimabuku Tatsuo.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Christmas Trip to Okinawa on Me

It's the season for sharing and if you are like me, and no trip to Okinawa is on your horizon, allow me to give you a free excursion to Okinawa, by using Okinawa BBTV .

It is not a newspaper, or a news feed, but a site that shares a great deal of informaition on Contemporary Okinawa. Some of their article links are there forever, others are posted and in a month or two disappear to be replaced by something else.

The site allows you to explore Okinawa's flora and fauna, its sea life and birds, its shores, young women bikini interviews, their festivals, competitions, food, geography, music (Okinawan classical and Okinawan Contemporary - including one time a great rock band Stinky Hole), it's dance, bull fighting, sumo competition and even karate.

While most of it is written in Japanese, there is even a section for English speakers and even includes instruction on how to speak Okinawan hogan dialect.

They have an interesting selection on Okinawan Karate at

I even see a current section on Kyudokan Practice with Syoute-Tsuki and Group Prctice videos shown at

The site is literally filled with links that you can explore and visit many of Okinawa's wonders.

You find a people who love to get together in festivals, very akin to our country fairs, as well as perform exhibitions on many arts with presentation groups similar to the Mummer groups of Philadelphia Penna, who compete and demonstrate each New Years day in parade.

They even share footage of the invasion and occupation of Okinawa during WWII, a most pivotal event in their contemporary history.

If you're like me and want to try and understand Okinawa's roots of Karate trying to cultivate a greater appreciation of this beautiful island and its most interesting people, to understand how their past shaped their present and future, this can only assist your journey.

This site is prepared by the Okinwans for the Okinawans themselves, but they are also sharing it with all of us too.

May your browsing OkinawaBBTV bring you much happiness this Christmas Season.

Merry Christmas!