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What Are We Doing To Ourselves?

September 6, 2016 Leave a comment

karate-black-belt-fzoxbuh

 

Some time ago I read an article about a 10 year old martial arts student who had just earned her THIRD Black Belt…her THIRD. I had to sit back and ask myself “How does this happen?”
Have you ever walked into a martial arts school and saw all the black belts roaming around? They are everywhere and they range in age from 6 up (at least I hope they are at least 6). I was in a dojo one time and a very polite, very well mannered young man walked up to me and asked if he could help me. Around his waist was a black belt with several stripes on it of various colors. I smiled and bowed slightly. I told him that I was only there to watch. He smiled courteously at me and said if I had any questions to please feel free to ask. He then added that he was one of the Assistant Instructors. He might have been 12.
Perhaps you are reading this and know very little about the martial arts. Perhaps you are a parent and your child has been going to the same studio with the same instructor in the same art for a couple of years. All you know of what your child is studying is what you have been told by her instructor. Basically all you know about the martial arts is what you have learned from your child’s training. I’m going to pass on some information to you that you may not know.
In the vast majority of martial arts it takes at least four years of constant, hard, repetitive training to master the basics in order to even be considered for testing for a First Degree Black Belt, or Shodan in Japanese. Four years is being very generous. Some people train for up to six years to test. The four years would be someone who literally lives their art and train every time the dojo door is open. When it’s not, they train at home.
That’s the physical part of the process. However any teacher who is worth their merit knows that the physical aspects are only the surface. A student has to have a certain mental and emotional maturity as well. It’s not enough to be able to execute a nearly flawless side thrust kick one has to know when, why, and why not to throw that kick. What most people seem to have forgotten is the “martial” part of martial arts. Karate, Jujitsu, Kung Fu, and the majority of other styles were created for self defense purposes in times when a conflict could very easily turn into a live or die situation. Warriors trained to make war. Warriors trained to defend themselves from an attacker who had the sole intention of killing them. There is great power and great responsibility in the art that we teach. In feudal Japan a person well skilled in a form of martial art was as powerful (and dangerous) as a person with a firearm in modern times. The training was deadly serious and the skills were deadly serious. Yet, with seemingly no regard for any of that, there are schools out there that award six year olds with the rank of black belt. Would you give a six year old a firearm?
Why are we doing this?
In America the answer is blatantly and painfully obvious:  money. Trust me, there is big money in it. For example I know a school right now that charges $600 for the opportunity to test for a black belt. The under black belt tests are pretty costly as well.
But Little Johnny has trained for two years and has promoted all the way up through the ranks.
And that is the way you, as good paying customers, have been conditioned to think. It seems like every month there is another test. There are only eight belt colors in the system your child is studying yet she went through 32 rank tests to get to black belt. Every time you turned around you were shelling out $100.00, sometimes for a piece of different colored tape on your child’s belt. Here’s some info for you: Martial Arts didn’t even have a belt ranking system until Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo created one.
An instructor promotes an eight year old to black belt. It’s great for self esteem. He has made a ton of money off this kid. But come on, what does it tell the public? It tell them that this is The Best you have. Or even worse, the training being offered there is kids stuff. A certain level of maturity and competence is expected with a black belt. A level that no eight year old could possibly have. I have a couple of rather large men in my dojo and my first question is: Does this kid really have the training, skill, and mental discipline to fight off an attacker of that size?
We are what the public sees us as. In my system, here in America, the youngest one can be awarded the rank of Shodan is 16. The rule varies slightly in Japan. It pains me sometimes to see a six year old child walk into the dojo and want to take classes because I know the odds of that child training under me for ten years are next to impossible. I will take students as young as 6 and I will do my best. Most of them burn out or move on to other things well before they are ready to test for a black belt. When they leave, it is my hope that I have instilled in them some of the basic lessons that karate has to offer.
Don’t misunderstand me. Martial Arts are great for kids. It does teach them valuable skills which makes it easier for them to be better student, better athletes, and better people in general. But have we so badly lost sight of what a black belt means that we promote children to that high of a level of proficiency when in our hearts we know it isn’t right? And it’s not right. If you believe it is then your training was flawed somewhere down the line. Or perhaps you look at it from the point of view that it’s your business and that’s the way you run it. It being a “business” to you is part of the problem. We need to bring back some of the pride that has been lost in what we do. We need to bring back some of the honor that has been lost in the never ending quest to have a successful business. If you make your black belt ranks mean something, it makes your style mean something. If your style means something, you mean something. So by all means, teach kids. Have kids classes. Have a kids program. But let’s not take the very thing that should have the most meaning and the most honor in our systems and make it a children’s game.
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New Video

December 29, 2015 Leave a comment

Well….It’s really a couple of years old. I’ve had it on the FB page for a while. Please feel free to check it out under the Videos tab here. It’s called Delta Tournament. Enlarge to full screen, turn the volume up (there’s a couple of nice tunes in it) , and enjoy.

ULTIMATE Defeat the Darkness


Ultimate Defeat the Darkness

Shame On You


shame-on-you-facebook-cover_4609

In a lot of ways this is difficult, even painful, for me to write, I have never liked “throwing anyone under the bus” but if you know me, you know I can NOT stand McDojos or snake oil salesmen. I was actually writing an article on the history of the obi, the karate belt, and got tired of thinking and started surfing the web for films of self-defense techniques. At one point I went to Google and typed in “fight like a girl self -defense techniques”. This link came up about third down the line.

What I saw in this deeply disturbed me. Here we have a black belt in Gracie Brazilian Jujitsu teaching children self-defense using his daughters to perform the techniques. I had heard that these same sort of techniques were being taught here around town in some of the schools and it bothered me just hearing parents and kids describe them to me.

I honestly don’t know if these techniques are authorized Fight Like a Girl moves or not but they are certainly using the name on the video. Here’s the newsflash for you:

THEY DON’T WORK!

With the exception of one technique where the guy picks the child up from behind and she starts kicking him, they are worthless. The ending of that technique is fundamentally wrong as well. Whoever created these moves has absolutely no understanding of either body mechanics or insight as to how a predator attacks. I know. I, wanting to at least give it a chance, went to the dojo and worked with several students of different ages, sizes, and degrees of body strength. Not even adults could get the first couple to work. I can’t understand for the life of me why a black belt in a grappling art would waste his time putting these out there.

Let’s walk through the video and I will explain.

0:19

I will start here because this is basically a repeat of the first 18 or so seconds at a different angle.
First of all, pause at 0:22 seconds. Notice the position of the attacker’s body. His arms are outstretched and locked. His hands around the girl’s neck. This shows the attack has just begun. The attacker is attempting to subdue the victim. THAT is what his attention is on. Now, note his body position. He is between the girl’s legs. In most cases a sexual predator will NOT move into this position until he has already gotten his prey under control. (Although, believe it or not, it does make the escape easier). He will straddle his victim to further control their body.

0:23

The girl moves her arms across the attacker’s arms, pulls down, and breaks the choke hold. Notice also at exactly 0:24 he opens his hands thus releasing the hold. NOT! If you are on top of someone attempting to choke them your arms are locked and the majority of your body weight is pushing down. A weaker smaller person will not be able to break the hold in such a manner as depicted on the film. After at least 10 attempts to mimic this move in our dojo with unsuspecting victims, none of them worked. Quite simply the child is trying to use muscle instead of any kind of technique to break the hold. Coming from under the attacker’s arms with both hands to the elbows would probably work better. Then again, turning her head and biting a hunk out of his hand would be more efficient.

Back to the attacker releasing the hold: once someone has you in a position like this, maintaining the hold they already have on you is imperative to them. That is why deceptive moves like going for the eyes or groin will augment a technique and cause it to work…it takes the attackers mind OFF of the primary hold. In this case, the attacker simply releases his hold without attempting in any way whatsoever to regain it, thus regaining control.

0:24

The girl simply wiggles her way out. The attacker doesn’t attempt to regain any kind of control whatsoever. (Dad just lets her go). She kicks him a few times in the chest (no effect if the attacker is a large person). The only redeeming factor is that she finally kicks him in the face, rolls away, and escapes (although with no sense of urgency at all).

0:35

This is so ridiculous I’m not going to even waste a lot of time on it. Sure enough, last time I saw a larger person attack a smaller weaker one they got right down on their knees and tried to choke them. I think the thing that bothers me the most is that it seems to be a re-occurring theme in a lot of these techniques for the child to LAY DOWN on the floor and start kicking. Gee, that puts them right back in the situation we saw at 0:19, aka…JUST where a sexual predator wants you!

0:50

Probably the best idea of the bunch. The attacker grabs from behind and the girl starts kicking him until he lets go of her. This is a good sound move UNTIL the attacker releases her and we, instead of getting away immediately, go right back to laying down on the floor and kicking.

1:21

Another one I can’t figure out why a Jujitsu guy would even entertain teaching. I am a Nidan in Japanese jusitsu. An adage my Sensei pounded into my head over and over again was “If they push, you pull. If they pull, you push”. By following this you take away the attackers strength and basically turn his power against him. I teach my students in such an attack to either move into their attacker with an offensive move or attack his hand as he pulls you. Once again, we find our young heroine on her back on the floor kicking.

Anyone who is out there teaching these things, especially if you have training and know better, should be ashamed. Why are you passing on to children of all people, worthless techniques that don’t work, make no sense, and place them in more danger?

Here are some tips if you are really attacked.

Do NOT lie down! Prone on your back is the LAST place you want to be.

The face is almost ALWAYS open. Punch it, scratch it, hurt it going for the eyes.

There is NO SUCH THING as a “fair fight” when you are attacked. Bottom line: you walk away or you get carried away.

When you get the chance…RUN! Don’t “pretend” to run. Don’t half-way run. R-U-N!! Get away. Get to help!

Fight Like A…oh I dunno “Warrior” maybe

December 30, 2012 6 comments

chloe_bruce

I’ve touched on this subject before. OK, I’ve done a tad bit more than “touch” on it. The thing nags at me to no end and I can’t help but comment on it again.

There seems to be a mindset going around these days that women are not suited for traditional karate. The idea is that women are smaller and weaker than men and therefore many of the moves and techniques in traditional karate cannot and will not possibly work for them. I’m not sure how things have gotten so blurred with this subject. I think a large part of it comes from our modern view of karate and the martial arts in general. We have watered them down so much that they are meaningless to anyone who is serious about self-defense. People, and I mean a majority of those who teach and promote martial arts, have lost the true meaning of “traditional” karate. People who know little or nothing of karate see competitions and watch “forms” which are beautifully choreographed sequences of movements. They are very pretty, very graceful, and lack one shred of anything that would be useful to defend yourself if you had to rely on them.

On the other side of the coin we are bombarded with images of MMA fighters. Many, not all but many, of these athletes are huge muscle-bound fighters. They are intimidating to the average person. I have trained for many years and I have to admit that I would have reservations about ticking one of them off.

So, we have been exposed to two different views of what martial arts are about. The meaning of much of traditional karate has been lost. In that meaning lies the very reason that it is not only suitable for women but, for many reasons, women can excel in it much more than their male counterparts.

There are many women of all ages who practice traditional karate. I have listed in the past a short list of some very famous female martial artists including Cynthia Rotheric and Chloe Bruce. Guess what? Despite this new mindset that traditional martial arts aren’t suitable for women, women practicing them is not a new phenomenon. In the infancy of martial arts Shaolin nuns were very formidable in Kung Fu.

I have no idea where the “Masters” of this art or that art or the creators of many of the newer self-defense programs for women are getting their ideas but here are two of the main reasons many of them are citing as to why that you ladies just can’t do it.

• You are smaller in stature than a man
• You are not as physically strong as a man

Ok. Duh. I’m not being disrespectful but honestly these are simply biological facts. Here’s the secret that these people simply do not get: these things are NOT disadvantages in karate. In fact, women have many advantages over men.

Got your interest?

Karate was designed to provide an effective way to defend yourself from an aggressor who is larger and more powerful than you. Though not designed specifically with women in mind, Karate is a martial art that relies very heavily on skill to overcome brute force. Most men will rely on their physical presence to overpower their victim(s), but a well placed blow at the correct time will stop anyone.

Any idiot can make a fist and lash out wildly using weight and brute strength. Karate teaches precision, timing and accuracy to land a single blow which “stops” your attacker.

A woman’s muscles are shorter than a man’s, so they contract and expand quicker. This means that a woman has a natural speed advantage.

The mechanical make up of a woman’s body gives them more fluid and flexible hips, and most of the power in Karate techniques comes from the hips. Women are much better at using their hips to generate power in their punches and kicks (ever look at the average guy trying to dance at a night club? Then you know how hard it is for men to use their hips efficiently!)

Any type of physical training can be rough on women. Physical training can be tough on ANYONE but in Karate you are taught how to train properly. How to move, hit, punch, kick, fall and avoid an opponent. The heart of Karate is learning how not to get hurt.

Statistics tell us that one in three women world-wide will be assaulted at least once in their lives. Karate won’t stop you from being assaulted but it can certainly help change the expected outcome of the assault.

When a woman learns Karate, she also learns self-defense, self-confidence and self-esteem which allows her to be able to go out in life with less fear and with a warmer and more open attitude.

So to all of you “self-defense gurus” and “women’s self-defense masters” out there that are promoting the line of crap that women are too weak to learn and practice traditional karate, to all of you out there with your programs or your films on YouTube who are saying that some of the techniques of traditional karate are too difficult for women to perform, please stop.

You need to seriously take a long look in the mirror. There may be legitimate reasons that karate didn’t work for you. The two that come to mind quickest are:

• Your instructor wasn’t much of an instructor. I am a Sensei, a teacher, it is my JOB to teach my students. Let me re-phrase that. It is my RESPONSIBILITY to teach my students. If I have student who is struggling with a technique it is my duty as that student’s teacher to work with them until they can make it work. If the moves are too difficult it is up to me to modify those moves to the point the student, male or female, can execute them successfully.

• You simply didn’t try hard enough. I know before you start whining to me that was such a cruel statement. How dare I say such a thing. The very nerve of me to even suggest that it could have possibly been your fault. We do kihon (basics) every single class in my dojo. Each class I tell my students that if they have to use karate to defend themselves in real life that they are going to react in the real world exactly as they do in the dojo. (To be honest that isn’t entirely true. In a real attack you will lose much of your learned motor skills due to adrenalin dump and several other factors in that moment.) You have to practice with all seriousness. If you do not, you will lose. Plain and simple. After you lose you will come to me and probably quit saying that karate doesn’t work. In truth, the karate worked; you didn’t.

For you ladies out there that are reading this; stop believing every bit of hype that you hear or read on the internet. If you’re listening to someone who’s telling you that you are too small or too weak for karate (or anythng else for that matter) politely tell them to go sell their BS to someone else. That is what they are doing you know. They are attempting to sell you a line of goods to convince you of something that isn’t true in order for you to buy into their program or mindframe. Don’t allow yourself to be suckered in. If you are in a martial arts program and find some of the techniques to difficult, go to your instructor and tell him / her that you are having problems. A Sensei worth their salt will do everything they can to help you succeed.

New Class


Starting Tuesday October 9th we will be offering Adult classes for ages 16 and up. These classes will be very intense and focused on self-defense, kata, sparring, and basics. There will be more real-life applications in these classes as well. They are a great opportunity to get in shape, lose weight, build up your cardio, relieve stress, and feel all-around healthier.

Class Times

Tuesday: 7:00 – 8:00 pm

Wednesday: 7:00 – 8:00 pm

Friday: 6:00 – 7:00 pm

Good Article

July 23, 2012 2 comments

I read this on another blog and thought I would post it here. There is some very good info in it. Somehow cutting and pasting it made

my font bold. For that I apologize. Enjoy

 

 

The #1 Reason Why Every Serious Karate-ka

Needs to Travel to Okinawa Right Now

Some people might find this strange:

But my strongest memories from living in Okinawa (the birthplace of Karate) are not from the actual Karate training.

Sure, training Karate in Okinawa (or anywhere else in Japan) is a pretty intense and mind-blowing experience, for sure. Especially the first time. The sheer amount of cultural, physical, mental and spiritual input is overwhelming to say the least, and more than enough to etch life-lasting memories in anyone for sure.

That’s a given.

Nevertheless, my most memorable moments from Okinawa are not from the training.

They’re from the people.

More specifically, the numerous sensei.

Question: Have you ever been in the presence of another human being who can – purely by his/her manners, body language, attitude, character and charisma – enchant you to such a degree that you even forget about those damn cicadas screeching in the jungle just outside the dojo?

I have.

The raw pizzazz some of these Karate masters in Okinawa have (without even having to speak) is so inspiring that I still remember specific moments when I simply went “Holy shit, I want to be like him when I grow up!” secretly in my mind.

Now, to most of you, this might sound alien.

“Jesse-san, how can you be impressed by somebody who doesn’t publicly boast n’ brag? Who doesn’t show off?!”

Believe me, it’s easy.

When you meet a true Karate master, and I really mean a true one (one whom the ancient Okinawans would traditionally refer to as a “bushi”, a title often translated as “honorable warrior”) in every definition of the word, you will be not only inspired – but awe-inspired.

However, we, as Westerners, have been instructed since day one to continually pay attention to the ones who scream the loudest. The ones who wave their arms the highest and get in front of our noses the fastest.

It’s like that famous marketing slogan: “If nobody sees you; you don’t exist.”

And hey, “to exist” must surely be the first law of nature, right? I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to exist!? The thing, however, is that Karate wasn’t meant for making you get seen or heard. It wasn’t meant for gaining attention or boosting anybody’s ego. Heck, it wasn’t *even* made for winning tournaments!

It was originally made for self-defense.

Sure.

We know that.

But more importantly, as people gradually realized the incredible power inherited in these lethal techniques, an element of philosophy was subsequently added to the stew. (And the same holds true for almost any authentic martial art on earth for that matter, let’s stop pretending Karate is unique in this respect.)

This element of rational philosophy was critical in order to gain balance between the two extremes of any fighting tradition:

  1. Life…
  2. …and death.

The inevitable outcome of struggle between men.

You see, if self-defense – in this case disguised as Karate – was ever to become more than a brute form of survival; then morality, ethics, virtue and other universal human ideals had to be taken into account by the proponents/pioneers of what was eventually to become an art form (you do practise a martial art, right?).

This, then, is the basis for the philosophy of Karate.

Which, as in any other moderately sophisticated martial art on earth, is often embodied best by the most experienced masters of the art (like the kind of grandmasters I hand-picked for The Karate Code book).

And that’s why I always want to go back to Okinawa.

  • Not for the sun.
  • Not for the beaches.
  • Not for the amazing culture.
  • Not for the awesome training/friends I’ve made over the years.
  • And no, not even for the irrationally delicious Okinawa soba (noodle soup)!

But for that unique chance of one day maybe re-experiencing the humble presence of a true Karate master once again.

One of those who make you go: “Damn, I want to be like him when I grow up!”

And it’s not because of their high ranks, belts, titles or amazing skills in the physical part of Karate. Oh no. Sure, their knuckles might be huge, their abs might be rock hard and their punches will most likely send you to the back of the moon – which is incredibly impressive too, please don’t get me wrong – but none of that matters much outside of the dojo.

Because those skills are rarely transferable.

Not to real life.

Character is.

And that’s what really impresses me about a true Karate master. It’s exactly like the late Nagamine Shoshin sensei (1907-1997), founder of Matsubayashi-ryu Karate, once said when confronted about what defines a good Karate-ka:

“Devil’s fist. Saint’s heart.”

Instead of what you usually see with these McDojo sensei nowadays:

“Devil’s mouth. Puppy’s fist.”

Right?

At the end of the day, I believe there will be a) people who truly inspire you, and b) people who desperately try to inspire you.

More often than not, the people in the first category are rarely the same people as in the second category. Sadly, however, the people in the second category frequently overshadow the people in the first category – not only because of their massive abundance, but more so because of our own lack of knowledge and perception partly due to the cultural landscape we were brought up in.

Tough shit.

And that’s precisely why you need to go to Okinawa, or Japan.

Not so much for for training Karate.

But more for seeing where we went wrong.

“Tishimi suguritin, chi nu za suguritin, chimu do chimu sada me, shike nu nare ya.”

(“No matter how you may excel in the art of fighting, and in your scholastic endeavors, nothing is more important than your behavior and humanity as observed in your daily life.”)

– Tei Junsoku (1663-1734)

~copied from karatebyjesse.com~