Congratulations Sensei Nicky!!!


January 19, 2010 Leave a comment

If I haven’t mentioned that the TKRI blog is an excellent source of information about stretching, strength training and body dynamics that’s karate-centric and chock full o nice folks, I’ve been meaning to. Check the blog out here.

Oh, and Ikigai Way, which is also ridiculously fun and pan-martial-arts, belongs here too. I hang out so much at the site that sometimes I forget that not everyone knows about it. You can find it here. The excellent and thought provoking post about the use of force spawned by this video

is a good place to start.

Categories: Links and Resources, Video

Book Review: The Book of Martial Power

November 16, 2009 2 comments

In summertime I went on a book binge, and got me a few martial arts books at the Emily Carr library (that’s the one here)

Among the books I picked up was The Book of Martial Power which, I’m not going to lie, had a title that worried me a little. As it turns out, the author, Steven J Pearlman, is talking about power not in terms of physical muscle power, but in terms of physics, so the book is aptly named.

I enjoyed this book. I liked it for three big reasons. The first is that it opens with discussion of basic physics, the sort of stuff you get in grades 9 and 10 and promptly forget about except in rare occasions (of course, if you grew up to become a physicist, this may not have been your experience). We’re talking about levers, velocity and force. I love to see things explained, and this book is chock-a-block full of nice, physics based explanations for why a tiny person can kick a very big person’s tush. Common sense says, forget it, but physics says yes. I love it when physics says yes.

The second thing I liked about this book were the stickmen. Seriously, you can talk to me about movement and leverage all you want, but I’m a visual person. Stickmen. They’re what makes it all make sense.

The third thing I liked was also oddly something I didn’t care much for. No, this isn’t a Zen thing. The author’s very careful to avoid stepping on toes. He takes pains to explain that he’s not saying any one style is better or worse than another, just looking at the physics, guv. At first, it looks like due diligence. Then it looks like tush-covering (fair enough. Who wants 100 members of some martial art to show up at your door and say, “So you think our style sucks, huh?” Heck, who even wants to deal with that once?).

By the third or fourth time it happened, I started to wonder, Are martial artists all prissypants who feel so insecure about their styles that they’ll just assume that if they’re not explicitly described as just as worthwhile as another style, then people don’t like take them seriously? Really?

That’s a little depressing. I sort of thought we might not care about what other people think, because if it came down to it, if some dark-clad stranger strode into our dojo and said, “I think you all suck,” then we could bust it out. I’m just saying. Respect I’m down with. Soothing delicate egos not so much. Still, I didn’t write this (excellent) book, so I wouldn’t have to deal with people coming after me if they felt slighted. And as issues with an MA book go, they’re pretty darn minor.

Categories: Reviews

Long Time

November 16, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s been a long time since I added anything new to the blog (sorry!), but now life has slowed down a bit, and I’m back to training, and I’ve been mining the internet for various and sundry scrumptious martial arts morsels, so brace yerselves. We’re back. Er, in just a minute.

Categories: 1


Forgot your gi?
No prob. No really, it’s OK.

(via TKRI blog)

Categories: Video


Martial Media is a blog with interesting survey of common martial arts and may be found here.

The site makes for excellent reading, particularly if you’re wondering what’s the difference between hapkido and aikido, jujitsu and judo, karate and kung fu. It’s also a great place to start if you’re thinking about getting into martial arts but don’t know the difference between a kwoon and a dojo.

All in English, all succinct and well written. A really nice resource.

Categories: 1

Empty, Empty

March 29, 2009 3 comments

Gichin Funakoshi gave us modern karate. He also gave us modern karate, if you see what I mean.

Before Funakoshi systematized the karate from which many modern karate styles spring (and from which others take a huge amount, if not in terms of technique, in terms of method of teaching and training), he chose how to write the word “karate”.

Karate could have been written two ways. One set of characters meant Chinese hand, and the other set meant empty hand. For a multitude of reasons, he picked empty over Chinese and so when we talking about what the word karate means, we talk about fighting with an empty hand. This is fine. It’s great. It’s grand. If my body is the only weapon I need, I can practice all the time. I’ll never forget where I put, say, my left hand. Fantastic. This simplicity is part of what I like about empty hand training. I don’t have to wonder, where, in the real world, am I ever going to find a pair of sai should the need arise.

In the real world is a common mantra. So is In an actual situation. I hear it a lot. “Sure,” say some, “You can practice in the dojo, but in the real world, what would you do if…” and the event that follows the “if” in that sentence is just as unrelated to reality as training in the dojo supposedly is. Ask me what I’d do if someone grabbed me from behind in the wee hours of the morning while I was fumbling with the lock of my door, and my answer will come from a calm mind, rational, and unfuddled by adrenaline. Actually grab me on a Tuesday morning at three a.m. and you might lose an eye, or your life, and likewise me. Every hypothetical situation is exactly that. The dojo, the mind, a conversation. All of these things are analyzable, controllable and fundamentally not-terrifying and therefore, none of them “real world situations”.

Incidentally, I didn’t want to learn weapons. Really, I didn’t. There’s something about weapons that seems to me to take martial arts away from what I think of it as. I think of karate as the kindest way I can prevent someone from harming me. Throw a weapon into the mix and all of a sudden it’s the quickest way I can prevent someone from ever harming anyone. Period. Weapons change the dynamics of a fight. If it’s fisticuffs, who knows? Maybe it’s a mutual punch-up like a barroom brawl. If it’s weapons, the fight is serious and someone is likely to die*.

In an actual situation, if someone throws a punch at me, I might respond in kind or I might run away or I might gently set the person on the ground (having only been in one scrap, I can’t say how I’d react, but I imagine I’d take one of those three options). If someone pulled a knife on me, I would almost certainly do some sort of irreparable damage to them, because there’s no question that they’re trying to do the same to me. Weapons change the game. But not just for the person facing one.

The first time I held my sai, I tangled up my feet. Just like the first time I tried to show a kata to a friend, I got it all screwed up. My technique is there, I’ve used it unconsciously, but I’m easily distracted away from it. I’m powerfully influenced by the setting*, my surroundings and by distractions. When you first pick them up, weapons in hand are a huge distraction. In my case, they prevented me from clearing my mind and just doing the moves because I actually spend most of my time trying not to stick myself in my side, or brain myself (sometimes I look at the other students and wonder how the heck they’ve become so comfortable with their weapons while I still feel like a pig on roller-skates) and I’m only just beginning to understand what I saw when Andrew came and did a sword demonstration for our class: If the mind can’t relax, or be focused, a weapon is more cumbersome than useful. This applies to empty hand just as much as a hand holding the smelly grip of a weapon. And this takes us back to the real world scenario that people talk about. “What would you do in the real world?” is shorthand for “What would you do if you were distracted?”.

Well, I’m spending a lot of time being distracted these days. Learning weapons seems to me just another way to distract myself, and another way to learn to overcome distraction, or even use it to my advantage. Yes, I know that in the real world, I’m not going to have a pair of sai to hand. Yes, I know I’m likely to be wearing my little red shoes and have a courier bag full of books over my shoulder, and maybe I’ll be holding a cup of coffee. These distractions are the sort of distractions people talk about when they give the “real world” scenario. Yes, I know it’s extraordinarily unlikely I’ll be in my gi with my bo in one hand and my sai tucked in my belt. The coffee, book bag and cute little shoes are far more likely. That fact that I’m dressed differently and encumbered differently should not mean I will be unable to protect myself.

Before I picked up weapons I wouldn’t have even thought about this. It wasn’t until I saw how easily my brain tried to override my body when faced with a new set of circumstances that I realized distractions of the type that are likely to occur in the real world are going to have an effect on how I perform. I’m learning to shut my brain off even though I’m not confident.

Picking up weapons has improved my awareness of what’s around me, and taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve learned: Even with weapons, karate is all about emptiness. Empty hand, empty mind. Funakoshi picked empty for a reason.



*Usually the person carrying the knife. Studies conducted in the UK show people who carry knives are most likely to die by them. By their own knives, that is. So much for carrying a knife to “feel safer”. For more on this see: Fear and Fashion: The use of knives and other weapons by young people. 2004. The Bridge House Trust and Brookman et al. 2003. Reducing Homicide: A summary review of the possibilities. Home Office.

*We all are: studies show students who can study in the environment where they will be tested typically do better than those who can’t.

Categories: Drop in the Bucket

March 27, 2009 2 comments

On age, philosophy, and the training of the mind and body. Also, pretty neat application stuff.

Categories: Video