Let’s agree on one thing right away – Christmas is way too over-commercialized. I don’t watch a ton of TV, but every time I turn it on from October through December I am subjected to generic versions of Santa giving away cars, toys, jewelry…you name it. If I have to see one more teary eyed engagement ring commercial (Ohh my god! Yes! This proposal is so surprising and spontaneous!) I’m going to cut my TV in half with a single clean katana stroke.
Despite our persistent cultural momentum of ruining things that are nice, the actual spirit of gift-giving remains pure. Showing thoughtfulness and insight in a gift remains just as valuable as monetary cost, despite marketing efforts to prick our egos into believing otherwise.
It’s with that spirit in mind that I would like to present some martial arts gift ideas for this holiday season. Books on Bruce lee and famous quotes from Chinese philosophers are too easy and obvious. I want to go a little deeper and provide some unique options that the martial artist in your life may have never considered (or even heard of). These gifts come from a variety of resources and websites that I have worked with both presently and in the past.
Enjoy, and happy holidays to you and yours!
Cool Martial Art Book Gifts
|_||Okinawa No Bushi No Te– Ronald Lindsey||_||This book represents decades of study and research by Ronald Lindsey Sensei, a senior practitioner of Matsumura Seito Karatedo. In addition to deeper historical studies on karate, Lindsey Sensei provides unique insight into the world of White Crane and how it relates to karate. He also explores theories on fighting strategy and tactics gleaned from the teachers of karate before the intregration of sport and school system alterations.|
|Tai Chi Chin Na– Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming||For individuals looking for step-by-step technique advice, this book by noted expert Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming is for you. Tai Chi Chin Na takes aspects of the popular and restorative art of Tai Chi and explores some of the grappling and off-balancing nuances of it. If you’re interested in the grappling aspects of softer Chinese arts – here you go.|
|Research of Martial Arts– Jonathan Bluestein||This book is rich with information. I haven’t personally made it all the way through yet. I include it on this list though because I think it is a good all-around gift for someone who isn’t a style-specific practitioner. There are plenty of short “wisdom tidbits” as well as deep research to keep most martial artists happy.|
|The Art of the Japanese Sword– Kapp / Yoshihara||I wanted to include this book because it is beautiful in its own right. This is definitely a coffee table book, filled with beautiful images and skillful layout that will impress anyone leafing through it. Besides the aesthetics, it has deep and valuable information on the construction and appreciation of the Japanese Katana.|
Cool Martial Art DVD Gifts
|_||Meridian Qigong– Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming||_||I’m really happy to include this item on the list because it is healing in nature. We spend a lot of time on destruction in the martial arts but we sometimes neglect how to repair others and ourselves. This DVD includes a routine of yoga stretches, qigong movements, and acupressure technique to create a daily restorative and healing practice. The best part is most of is done sitting or lying down!|
|Facing Violence– Rory Miller||Rory Miller is my go-to thought leader for modern violence and the law. I consider his books and DVDs complimentary to one another, although I really like hearing him speak and explain things in his videos. He has a way of outlining complex theories on violence in a retainable way, which is key for potentially high stress situations.|
Cool Gear and Mementos
|_||Hanko Signature Seals||_||I’m tempted to get one of these for myself. These are personalized Hanko stamp seals that can be used on certificates, letters, promotion certifications, etc.|
|Stocking Stuffers||This is a catch-all if you need a bunch of little martial arts items to give to kids on your classes or as giveaways at a party. Neat little trinkets!|
|Spiral Kubotan||A fantastic and cost-effective gift. This is a small self defense implement that packs a mean punch. Avoid getting on airplanes with it, but otherwise have it on your keys where you go.|
|Dit Da Jow||If you or someone you know has an interest in body toughening as part of martial arts training, Dit Da Jow has to become a staple of that training. Good Jow can not only speed recovery from impacts and injuries, it can also help ease problems like arhtritis. Plum Dragon Herbs is where I go for my Jow, but more importantly I know a few people who are way smarter than me that use Plum Dragon too. Check out the links to the left for their special buy 2 get 1 one free offer.|
I hope these ideas have helped in your Christmas shopping. If you have any great gift ideas that might help other readers, be sure to include them in the comments below!
(This is a fictional story with fabricated characters and events. Resemblance to real life individuals or incidences is purely coincidental.)
Coby’s black belt was beginning to show the first signs of frayed, white strands around the edges. He was by no means a master, but had become a regular at Yahara Sensei’s dojo. He fell in love with karate at a young age and never found a reason to stop. That is, until his work moved him hours away from his old home. He faced a choice – quit training, or find a new teacher for the first time since he started his martial arts journey.
Luck was with Coby as he was browsing schools online. Konishi Tsuyoshi, a nearby instructor, taught the same style as Yahara Sensei. Coby visited the Konishi school and was asked to sit and watch a class. Coby observed Konishi Sensei take command of the room, gliding across the floor in a stern and disciplined manner. Konishi lead the students through a brief etiquette ceremony, and then began the class. The training was hard and heavy. Konishi expected focus and effort from the students; anything less was met with a disapproving glare.
Coby shifted in his seat nervously, feeling a combination of fear and admiration for the Sensei. When it came time to sign up for class, Coby agreed. It was such a sharp contrast from his days with Yahara Sensei. He recalled his old teacher fondly; certainly Yahara made his students work and sweat, but he always had a grin on his face and music to his step. This would be a change of pace for certain.
* * * * * * * * * *
Coby trained diligently with Konishi Sensei. At first he found the dojo challenging, but soon came to welcome the rigorous workouts. It wasn’t until a full year had passed that Coby actually sat down with his teacher in a more informal setting, chatting and getting to know the man as more than just a Sensei.
While relaxing with Konishi Sensei at lunch Coby pulled out a small laptop. “Look Sensei,” Coby said. “I found an interesting video online. This appears to be some form of Jujitsu. They spend a lot of time closing distance and going to the ground. What do you think?”
Konishi Sensei eyed the video, then shook his head disapprovingly. “Too much time on the ground,” he said. “That’s exactly where you don’t want to be in a fight. While you’re down there, that close, you can get kicked by other people or stabbed if the opponent has a hidden knife. We always train to prevent going to the ground.” Coby nodded his head, accepting the obvious wisdom of the statement.
Later that week Coby returned to his hometown to visit family. While there, he stopped in to see Yahara Sensei. They sipped tea together and Coby recalled the Jujitsu video. “Yahara Sensei, there is a video online I would like you to watch.” “Ohh?” Yahara remarked, “Ok.” Coby showed the clip of Jujitsu practitioners throwing and grappling. Yahara Sensei stroked his short beard and eventually said, “I had a friend once who was tackled from behind while walking down the street at night. I bet he could have used some of these techniques to recover from the disadvantage, or, at least, escape the ground more easily.”
Coby hadn’t considered that possibility.
* * * * * * * * * *
Two weeks later Coby found himself enjoying more down time with Konishi. “Sensei,” he said.”I’ve got another video for you. This time it’s karate.” Coby showed a clip of two practitioners in flamboyant uniforms performing jumps, kicks, and rolls throughout their kata. Konishi Sensei shook his head in dismay. “How can this pass for karate?” he asked. “This resembles nothing of the art from my homeland. We work so hard to preserve the culture, kata, and art of karate. Yet here we have people propagating something completely wrong.” Konishi’s disappointment was palpable, and Coby wondered how the practitioners in the video could excuse their wayward performance.
Remembering his previous experience with Yahara Sensei, Coby decided to show the video to his old Sensei the next time he visited home. Yahara watched the video thoughtfully. After the performance concluded, Coby remarked, “What do you think Sensei? Certainly this doesn’t resemble the karate we do.”
“True,” Yahara Sensei said. “But you can see the passion with which they perform. We should appreciate their commitment to a craft.”
Coby found himself less-than-convinced. What if people continued to post videos of fake, watered down karate? It could increase in popularity and the real art could be lost forever.
* * * * * * * * * *
Coby continued to train diligently. He focused less on the internet and more on the dojo, until one day he stumbled upon a video of the very same style of karate he studied. Surprised and excited to see someone who’s kata and techniques resembled that of his instructors, he decided to approach Konishi once again. “Sensei,” he said. “I know our style isn’t the most widespread in the world, but I found someone else performing our art online. Take a look!” Konishi Sensei viewed the video, then pressed his lips thinly together while shaking his head. “This is not good Coby-san. I know the man in the video. He lacks our understanding of kata and application. You can see it all the way down to his foundation and his stances. Of all people to post videos online, it should not be him. This speaks to his arrogance.”
Coby understood Konishi Sensei’s point. It was definitely audacious of the man in the video to think he was the best representative for the style.
When last Coby and Yahara Sensei spoke, Yahara provided thin answers to Coby’s concerns. Nevertheless, Coby still respected the man’s opinion. He visited home a few weeks later and arranged to speak to Yahara once again. “Sensei,” he said. “I found a video of our style online. Would you take a look?” Coby showed the video to Yahara, waiting tensely and attempting to read the old man’s face as he watched. After the video concluded, Yahara nodded and scratched the small hairs of his beard.
“What do you think Sensei? Should this be posted online?” Yahara Sensei looked up in surprise. “That is not for me to say Coby! I do not control the actions of others. However, if it raises awareness of our style’s history and methods, I don’t see the harm in it.”
“But Sensei,” Coby replied. “Don’t you think this man is lacking foundation? Doesn’t he seem arrogant in his own knowledge, despite how much he lacks?” Yahara Sensei sighed, then said, “If we are all overly humble and choose not to share, the art will die with our humility. Even if this gentleman is not the best, perhaps it will inspire students to seek out the more senior teachers of the style.”
Coby considered the matter closed, but Yahara Sensei continued, “Coby-san, your critiques have merit. But be careful. The spirit of karate is not one of judgment, but of acceptance. One of support and protection, not of aggression. When watching others we may not see what we think karate should be, but our aim is to help them, not to steal their passion from them.”
“Sensei,” Coby replied. “isn’t it our job to protect our art and see it preserved properly? Aren’t we doing a disservice to others by not correcting videos like these?”
“I admire your sense of duty,” Yahara said. “But if you wish to make others richer, do not begin by stealing what they already have. Find what is valuable in what they do, and do your best to build on it. If they truly aim to achieve their best, they will likewise find the wisdom in your teaching and correct their path. I don’t dismiss the faults you observed in your videos…but I hope you see the importance of the mindset in which you judge.”
Coby thanked his instructor, and bid him farewell…until the next meeting for tea.