Hey everyone, I have an announcement that I’m really pumped about. Recently I started working on my first e-book for the site.
The title is “The Student’s Guide to Surviving a Traditional Dojo” and here is a sneak peak at the cover:
Why Write This E-Book (What is it About)?
Over my years of teaching and being a student I have noticed commonalities regarding martial artists, the questions they ask, and the trials they face.
Similarly, I have had to tackle the hurdles and tribulations of my own long-term training. Benefiting from both an internal and external perspective, I’ve come to understand some of the ups-and-downs, causes-and-effects that can either prevent martial arts disaster or invite it.
Unfortunately, as a teacher, it can be difficult answering questions people are afraid to ask. Even worse, it’s hard to correct psychological pitfalls that people aren’t aware they are falling into. This book serves as a set of guideposts to avoid those traps and help practitioners survive to become true artists.
I’ve noticed that there are few simple, straight-forward guides for this sort of thing out there. You can go to Barnes and Noble and get 100 books about technique, but when it comes to taking the leap into martial arts and making the most out of your day-to-day training you’d be hard pressed to find anything worthwhile.
Who is the Book Aimed At?
This book has a pretty broad scope both in age and experience level. Student’s of most traditional styles (karate, taekwondo, aikido, judo, jujitsu) will find the advice contained inside pertinent.
One demographic that will definitely benefit is beginning students. Whether trying to decide if they should start a martial art, or struggling to find a reason to continue, beginners will find a lot of things to quell their anxieties. Furthermore, there are specific sections in many of the chapters designed with intermediate and advanced students in mind (one of the things I definitely wanted to address is the black belt cliff – wherein students get to black belt and struggle to maintain motivation).
A Little More Info On the Chapters?
The chapters range from straight-up practical to philosophical. Some sections are basic and contain advice on subjects like how to wear your gi and obi properly (a surprisingly consistent cause of angst amongst new students). Other sections include ways to stay safe through stretching and listening to your body, which is often breezed over for the sake of more technique. Still other chapters include thoughts on how to obtain and maintain a beginner’s mindset so as to train (and keep training) for the right reasons.
For intermediate/advanced students I have analysis on topics like hierarchy, little-known pieces of dojo etiquette, how to properly handle rank and promotions, and figuring out when to stay and when to quit.
There are tough battles to face when trying to fit into the ‘exotic’ world of martial arts. For western thinkers, there can be definite pains in the process and I want to address them.
I Want You to Be In It!
One goal of this book is to be useful for students of all styles. You should be able to easily send it to a nephew, niece, cousin, sibling, or anyone else you know starting in their art (or trying to make it to the next level).
In keeping with that all-encompassing nature, I would like thoughts from other martial artists. I intend to create a ‘words of wisdom’ section at the end of the book that will include valuable tidbits from practitioners like you. Here is the prompt I need you to answer:
What is your best piece of advice for long-term survival in the martial arts?
Write your answer in the comments section to this blog post. Your answer can be anywhere between one sentence and two paragraphs. Include your real name and style, and a link to your website (if you have one). Everyone selected for inclusion will get their name,style, and a hyperlink back to their website (remember it’s an e-book so this is a great way to increase exposure). You needn’t be a black belt to respond, but you should definitely have a few years of experience under your belt and be at least around the brown belt range.
I Want To Answer Your Questions!
If you could pick up a book that contained all the secrets to martial arts success, what would you want to see in it? What questions have been nagging at you about your training that you feel too silly to ask your instructor?
This is the perfect venue to get those questions answered, and, in the process, help everyone else who probably has the same question!
Include in the comments section below anything you’ve been wondering about when it comes to the martial arts – be it how rank works, why dojo are setup in a certain way, why we bow all the time, etc etc.
It’s Going To Be Free.
The goal of this book is not for profit. It is instead a tool for education that can improve the lives of traditional martial artists. In a society where commercial dojo are springing up more and more and traditional dojo are becoming less and less understood, this book can help guide students onto a path of long term character development and success.
This book will be shareable, sendable, and giftable. You will be free to print it out for students and I will provide an easy-access hyperlink to the finished copy for download.
I’ll be keeping you updated on my progress (I want to finish asap), and I hope to see your thoughts in the comments below!
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This week we approach modern times when the American Green Beret meets the Russian Spetsnaz.
I’m excited about this matchup because it is a return to real warriors. Last week’s Mafia vs Yakuza dipped into thug territory and it was hard to root for either. Now we have professionals on our hands.
A Little Bit About Em
The Green Beret and Spetsnaz (sometimes seen as spetznaz or spetnaz) were the finest fighting forces during the Cold War. Still around today, these elite squads are feared and respected for their mastery of modern combat.
Green Berets received their nickname due to their iconic headgear, but are actually United States Army Special Forces. Their main objectives tend to be “unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counter-terrorism”. – wikipedia.
In pop culture, John Rambo of the Rambo trilogy epitomized the rugged, effective, and lethal methods of Green Beret survival during the Vietnam war.
The Spetsnaz, which essentially stands for Russian Special Purposes Regiment, was the soviet equivalent of the Green Beret. Surfacing around the same time (cold war era), Spetsnaz operates under the guidance of the GDU – the main russian military intelligence agency.
The Spetsnaz have been involved in many middle eastern conflicts and “have trained the Republican Guard of Syria, Iraq and Iran. They have been involved in training other special forces units across the world”. – wikipedia.
Talkin ‘Bout Weaponry
The fighters of these two groups not only have skill and know-how, but also lethal firepower. The most important and looked-forward-to matchup is going to be the AK-47 vs the M4.
As you can see, the Green Beret utilized the M4 while the Spetsnaz used the even more famous AK47. These guns have caused a lot of debate amongst firearm afficionados and the results are sure to cause a lot of controversy one way or the other.
My suspicion is that the AK47 will win on sheer reliability and well-roundedness on the battlefield.
As for other weapons, I can’t be sure what they will use. I predict that we’ll see something explosive (as in a comparison of U.S. vs Russian grenades). There will also be a short range knife battle. I’m hoping the Green Berets get a Rambo style Bowie knife just because I think they are cool.
Final Thoughts and Verdicts
Like with Mafia vs Yakuza, I could definitely use your input! Any gun experts that happen by please feel free to jot your thoughts in the comments section for the rest of us to learn from.
But, with my limited knowledge, I think I’m ready to make my guess. I have to go with the Green Berets. Even though I’ve heard that the Spetsnaz training is harsher and the results more dramatic, I have to believe that American weaponry, intelligence, and know-how will win the day. The success of the Green Berets on the battlefield and behind enemy lines speaks for itself.
What do you think?
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In general, bunkai is seen as a definition. By that I mean, kata represents a word which can then be defined by bunkai. For example:
Hypotenuse: the longest side of a right triangle, the side opposite the right angle
Block Left: A punch is coming in with the opponent’s right hand and I block with my left arm
See the similarity? Using this framework, people often develop a step-by-step dictionary of what they think their kata means. Through rote memorization, they can perform their bunkai on command when necessary. Unfortunately, when utilized as the sole method of bunkai learning, this method tends to get stuck and can be restrictive to learning.
Memorization is good until……..sorry…..I lost my train of thought.
The problem with memorization is that it is prone to failure. Time, distractions, creativity…they all get in the way of memorized techniques. Furthermore, locking in explanations for techniques prohibits the mind from exploring new options.
The concept of shuhari suggests that we must follow, transcend, and break away. Of course, this isn’t a step-wise process and is in fact circular, as we constantly learn new things, understand them, and then internalize them.
By thinking of bunkai as sheer memorization, we are limiting ourselves to shu (follow).
The First Phase of Learning Bunkai
The first phase of bunkai is almost always shu. Can it truly be any other way? We all have to learn the basics of our systems. Through the practice of kihon, drills, kata, and self defense skits we learn how to introduce our bodies to the art of fighting.
Unfortunately, getting stuck in the first phase is all too common. It is warm and comfortable in the first phase. “He strikes like *so* and I block like *so*. See? Nothing to it.”
It is also tempting as a teacher to simply hand bunkai to students, saying “here! do this!” But once again this is the path of least resistance; one that leads to little investigation of the core concepts traditional styles are trying to teach.
The Hard, Messy, Frustrating Way to Learn Bunkai
To turn bunkai into ti chi ki (or “what the hand is doing”) you have to engage in building and rebuilding. By that I mean slowly (very slowly) analyzing what your techniques are doing and what opponents could be doing. Instead of a single solution to a single problem, concepts like distance, timing, and scenario are factored into the equation. You also must look at where exactly you could be striking, grabbing, twisting, or throwing. As you can imagine, there are a lot of possibilities.
Going slowly and methodically like this leads to memory overload. In fact, it is not unusual for a practitioner to forget what they did at the beginning of a kata by the time they get to the end. The reason for this is the extreme concentration the person is putting on every single technique. At first it seems like you might be running into the same memorization problem as before, but in fact its due to an excess of learning as opposed to simply forgetting what you generally do.
With this messy version of bunkai, progress always seems slow. What you discover one week can be gone the next. To make matters worse, there might be different bunkai partners who offer various height, weight, and intensity challenges.
If learning bunkai and ti chi ki like this is so unpleasant, then why do it? The answer is long-term payoff. By examining techniques individually and presenting yourself with constantly shifting situations, you are forced to analyze all aspects of the technique. For example, sometimes a block can be a block, but other times it can be a strike. Other times it can be a joint lock. When, where, and how is for you to discover through trial and error.
Eventually, through this practice, techniques and situations will become ‘familiar’. Pieces of kata will start to remind you of other pieces in other kata and connections between the techniques can be made. Instead of “if person A does this person B does this”, you can begin to see “here is how my body will naturally react with an appropriate technique.”
Taking time to fail and try new things is the best way to really learn a kata. It is also one of the most effective ways to shift kata from a mechanized workout to a live, ever-changing platform to explore technique.
Remember – a technique is more than just how it looks at the end. There is space, time, and events occuring between stances and punches. Find out what’s going on!
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