Thursday, February 28, 2013

The teacher’s paradox

Teachers have a love of knowledge and uplifting people and explaining things.  Masters -of art, of science – have a love of novelty, discovery, understanding, connections and application.  Seldom do these two personalities unite well within a person.  This is the paradox.  People who teach things are rarely masters of the things they teach.  People who are masters of things rarely see teaching what they know as important as pushing the boundaries of what they know.  There are exceptions.  Such people are…exceptional.

The martial arts are no different.  The people who are the most capable in the most situations have often gotten their experience the hardest way of all – through actual combat – and these people usually have a difficult time explaining what they do and an even harder time explaining how they do it.  Hence most of the eastern martial tradition is recorded in terms of metaphor, allegory and imagery rather than straightforward instruction.  On the contrary, those most eager to impart their wisdom usually 1) speak in absolutes and certainties (of which there are few) that 2) hint at their superficial understanding of the vagaries of combat.

The true martial artist must remain forever a dispassionate skeptic.  You have failed this first lesson if mere words impress you, if its source impresses you or if training causes you to be impressed with yourself.  If you are ever to be regarded by others as having some skill - if you are ever to be justified in thinking that you have something worth teaching - you must hold the spirit of skeptical exploration in you always, building your physical capacity and mental understanding while always on the lookout for illusion and deception.  The martial arts, as well as life, is meant to be examine with a questioning eye, examine your teachers with a questioning eye and have no expectation of a human being’s infallibility or invincibility.  We are fallible.  We all bleed.  Learn that lesson the easiest way possible – in training, not in combat.

February 10 of 10

So my first month didn't go so well.  Sessions 8-10 were null, cancelled by my errands, running around and my new job.  Thus all told my mark for February:

1+2: 20%
3: 5.8 %
4: 7.1%
5: 7.5%
6: 2.9%
7: 8.0%
8-10: 0

51.3% = D!

Disappointing, but not totally unexpected.  A strong morning and afternoon routine is required - one that I haven't had due to my recent lack of employment.  But now that I have a real schedule again, I expect dramatic improvements in the month of March.  Starting in 5 hours!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Karate is ever-changing

With the introduction of karate into the public school systems of Okinawa and then Japan in the early 20th century, the method of teaching karate was radically and dramatically changed.  No longer taught one-on-one in a holistic, kinaesthetic method; the demands of the industrialization of karate training required that a specific curriculum of movements be determined, the techniques codified and named and expertise and rank established based as much upon knowledge of techniques as upon ability with the techniques.  These techniques, the kihon-waza [基本技, basic technique] which serve as fundamental pillars of the modern karate of today were actually developed in the 1920's and 30's.  Prior to this, kata was the main form of training.  The curriculum as taught today was pulled from the kata that formed the backbone of the previous, holistic and direct teaching methods. 

The wisdom of teaching karate as combined, compound patterns of motion (kata) is clear:  that is how the techniques of karate would be invariably employed in any real encounter.  One of the most important principles of kata, and of fighting is that the same position or motion in a different context can mean different things and be applied in different ways.  This is why it is more helpful to learn position and motion (kata) rather than individual application (kihon).

As karate has been ‘pulled apart’ and deconstructed, as it were, to facilitate large scale training, it is necessary that any dedicated disciple of karate have a keen awareness of the need to weave the different aspects of their training together.  To return to the place of origin where karate is most itself and effective requires that a karateka work tirelessly to unite kihon, kata, kumite and bunkai into a seamless entity – a schema of self-protection.  Karate must return from a place of names of techniques to a place of unconscious embodiment of techniques.  Keep this notion of embodiment in mind as you journey deeper into the Way.

February 6 of 10

Roadwork (jogging/biking) - 40/1:00
Footwork (sabaki/bunkai/shadowboxing) - 0/1:00
Groundwork (ukemi/tumbling) - 20/30 min
Handwork (makiwara/ude gitae/chinai) - 30/30 min
Lengthwork (stretching/yoga/core) - 0/45 min
Strengthwork (reps/plyo) - 0/45 min
Katawork (form) - 15/1:30

Total - 1:45/6:00 = 105/360 minutes = 2.9/10%

Pulled a muscle in my neck...took all the wind out of my sails the last few days.  I wonder if my lack of stretching is in any way related.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 5 of 10

Roadwork (jogging/biking) - 1:00/1:00
Footwork (sabaki/bunkai/shadowboxing) - 1:00/1:00
Groundwork (ukemi/tumbling) - 30/30 min
Handwork (makiwara/ude gitae/chinai) - 30/30 min
Lengthwork (stretching/yoga/core) - 0/45 min
Strengthwork (reps/plyo) - 0/45 min
Katawork (form) - 1:30/1:30

Total - 4:30/6:00 = 270/360 minutes = 7.5/10%

More progress!  Getting there, keep pushing...

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 4 of 10

Roadwork (jogging/biking) - 1:00/1:00
Footwork (sabaki/bunkai/shadowboxing) - 1:00/1:00
Groundwork (ukemi/tumbling) - 15/30 min
Handwork (makiwara/ude gitae/chinai) - 0/30 min
Lengthwork (stretching/yoga/core) - 15/45 min
Strengthwork (reps/plyo) - 45/45 min
Katawork (form) - 1:00/1:30

Total - 4:15/6:00 = 255/360 minutes = 7.1/10%

Progress!  Is it that hard to do one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon?  Get it together!

Amateurs and professionals

Bill “Superfoot” Wallace is fond of saying that in a fight for his life his front leg sidekick is one of the few techniques that he wouldn’t hesitate to rely on.  As it is his most versatile, most dependable and most practiced technique, he has found in this one movement, simply in theory, a wide variety of executions, targets and practical applications.  The trick to its effectiveness in fighting, he says, is that he never throws it the same way twice.  Implicit in that secret is the fact that he has probably thrown a front leg side kick more than a quarter of a million times in his 40 years of training.  He can deliver it with speed, force, accuracy, precision – anyway he likes really, because, like a blade, it has been sharpened to the razor’s edge.  One might say that he’s developed it at the expense of other tools he could have polished and you’d be right.  There is a saying that in warfare, amateurs study strategy and professionals logistics.  That beginners in war need to know how to win, and experienced warriors need to know where the resources to support the units have to be and what those units need to execute the strategy – strategy itself becomes an instinctual afterthought.  

The same can be said of learning in the combat arts.  It is fashionable to know terminology and techniques and methods but those too should be an afterthought.  They should be internalized to the point of no-thought.  Only when they reach this level can they be considered martial technique, waza.  This is the difference between knowing of karate and knowing karate, the difference between karateka and budoka.  A karateka may know every karate technique in existence but a budoka is more concerned with making one technique work as often as possible.  Amateurs accumulate kihon and professionals perfect waza.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

It's never too late. February 3 of 10

Have to start my days with these entries.

So how did I do?

February 3 of 10

Roadwork (jogging/biking) - 1:00/1:00
Footwork (sabaki/bunkai/shadowboxing) - 1:00/1:00
Groundwork (ukemi/tumbling) - 15/30 min
Handwork (makiwara/ude gitae/chinai) - 5/30 min
Lengthwork (stretching/yoga/core) - 25/45 min
Strengthwork (reps/plyo) - 15/45 min
Katawork (form) - 30/1:30

Total - 3:30/6:00 = 210/360 minutes = 5.8/10%

A "D" for my first grade?!?  Tsk, tsk.  Back to it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I'm realizing how important three days are.  Three days seem like such a small cycle.  But I was sitting down yesterday and it occurred to me: 3 days are 10% of a month.  6 days...the difference between an A and a B.  Just like in school.  If you take 3 days off, you start at 90%, you can't get any higher.  No matter what you do, you've been docked 10% for lateness.

I say this because it becomes clear that you have to accomplish a certain amount over that 10% if you want to get an A.  If my standard is an A, 80% over a month or a year, I have to get 8 out of those 10% each three days.  If I don't, then I have to get even more the next 3 days.  The only problem then is to determine what amount of work constitutes 10%.  How much should I do over a three day period?

So this is what I've come up with, at least for February/Seisan:

Roadwork (jogging/biking) - 1:00
Footwork (sabaki/bunkai/shadowboxing) - 1:00
Groundwork (ukemi/tumbling) - 30 min
Handwork (makiwara/ude gitae/chinai) - 30 min
Lengthwork (stretching/yoga/core) - 45 min
Strengthwork (reps/plyo) - 45 min
Katawork (form) - 1:30

Total - 6:00/360 minutes = 10%

I'll give myself 20% for starting ;-) Today is the fifth.  Let's check back on the seventh and see how I did.

12 moons

There are 12 major kata in Chito-ryu:

March/Sanchin (Naifaichin)
July/ Ryusan