Monday, August 31, 2015

Aiki Do.

I am not formally ranked in the art of Aikido in any way, shape, or form, but it is very much a part of my practice and has been since the age of sixteen when I was first introduced to it through Bud Cook's group at the Evergreen Learning Center with whom I did some cross training on the weekends and had the opportunity to train with on many other occasions.
I have also had the opportunity to train under and become very great friends with a man that comes from a family that practiced both Aikido and a form of Jujitsu, with roots in the Military, thus, having trained in Japan at Hombu Dojo.

Aikido is not a form, it is not a combat sport, it is not to be considered as a Martial Science at all, but is more of an essence, thus, I do not believe it can truly be contained as one thing, in one shape.
The essence of Aikido is in the study and application of Aiki, which is harmony and not in just technique, but in all things, to live harmoniously, to live in accord with ourselves and others, not to fight, but to invite.
O-Sensei utilized techniques such as Ikkyo, Nikkyo, Sankyo, Heaven and Earth Throw, Four Corners Throw, Pins, to demonstrate deeper principles than mere techniques.
The true power of Aikido lay in that deeper realm that exists beyond words, that O-Sensei fumbled around with in order to open the gate within the mind's-eye so that we might catch a glimpse, to which, I believe, may have been missed on the majority in practice, and teaching, today.

Some see it as only one thing and one thing only without looking any deeper, clinging to these techniques, to the outer appearance of an 'art' or 'style' as if this is what O-Sensei had passed on and intended.
I can easily teach Aiki through Goju Ryu Kata, or through Dance Steps in Salsa or West Coast Swing, or in Sketching, or in just about anything else, it does not really matter, too much emphasis is placed on the outer appearance rather than the inner essence which has more to do with us than we might, at first, know.

I was thinking about all this today as I was going through some of the Aikido Warm-Ups like Happo-Undo, thinking about my Tanden after watching a Documentary that went into detail on the Tanden, how a Karateka had his first experience with Aikido and because he was not using his Tanden correctly was only able to rely on brute force.
This says A LOT about the state of things, not only about what an individual may have to work on both physically and mentally, but also that most tend to focus on the wrong thing entirely.

If I got through a movement what am I focusing on? The hands? The feet? Both? Or is my mind settled where it should be, in the Tanden? Does my Tanden stay level as I move or does it drop in some places and raise in others? Does it twist? Move sideways? Straight forward and back? Why? How does this work in tandem with the movement in order to make it effective?
When someone pushes in am I meeting that with a return push of my own, which really does nothing? Am I allowing the movement through and simply directing it in a way that is beneficial to me in order to overcome the opponent with their own momentum and energy? How is my center factoring into all this, or is it just arms and muscle again?
How does this apply to other areas of life??


Recently I have really been thinking a lot about the direction of my practice and what it actually means, but more importantly, who I am in the midst of it all, does it shape, or do I shape it, or is it something in between??
What does it provide deep inside? Some sense of identity? Of belonging? If that is the case then it is not really something worth holding onto because it only serves as yet another mask, another story, an identity rather than THE identity.
Perhaps this is why my own Sensei gave up his Karate Practice, so that he could pursue the deeper aspects of himself, which is supposed to be what Budo is all about anyway.

The fact remains that I enjoy it. Not that I really get much else out of it or that it provides me with something profound, but that I enjoy it and it is truly a part of me, like breathing, walking, sitting, or lying down... There are days that I don't quite enjoy it as much, but even still, it is a challenge.
Lately I have been looking at Kata Sanseru, ever since the last time I practiced the IOGKF Version with my friend Nyles Seaton at his place, but I have not been looking at the IOGKF Version, which is the original version I learned despite my being from the lineage of Seikichi Toguchi/John Roseberry.
Similarities and differences abound... No, I have been really studying the Seiko Higa version, which I seem to have really connected with as it makes total sense to me.

Some might say 'why pursue that one if it is not the way you originally learned it,' and to them I say 'Why not??' It is MY practice and I will do with it as I please, if something speaks to me then I am certainly going to pursue it and see where it leads.
I have also recently taken up the practice of Kakuha, Gekiha 1 and 2, and Gekesai Dai San again as well, having initially stuck to the twelve Goju Ryu Kata, but these are things that I feel are very important to me and need to be included, for myself.

I am not a Karateka that is bound by an Organization that tells me what to practice... I may not have the rank with fancy certificates that say 'Godan' hanging on the wall of Dojo, but my practice is authentic in the way that it has nothing to do with any of that.
Keeping one point in all this means being authentic to yourself, it means listening to yourself... Why do you do what you do? Is it just another escape? Just another story your tell yourself as you look in the mirror? Does it provide some bit of identity that you could otherwise discover by simply looking inward? What is the point of your practice? When this is discovered then you will have discovered true authenticity and 'keeping one point' will prove less difficult in the end.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Knowing Nothing.

I am not a Master and the more I see people playing at being a 'Master' or 'Founder' or 'Soke' or what have you the more I realize it is probably best to sit on the sidelines.
Half the time I realize that I know absolutely nothing and really should not even claim to be 'Teacher' of anyone, what is there to possibly Teach anyway?

I am a Student of Budo, not Karate, not Aikido, but Budo as a whole, and will always explore it from various angles, yet will likely never come close to grasping much of anything.
While people out there go to Gasshuku, Taikai, or some other fancy name I am simply going over a single movement out of Seipai for hours in the park, or in a room, for weeks on end trying to make heads or tails of what could possibly be going on in that stupid thing... On other days I am playing around with Nikkyo from Irimi, then Tenkan, looking only at the feet or feet in conjunction with everything else, whatever strikes me as needing focus at the time.

Picking things apart, breaking things down, an hour looking at Gamaku, two hours on Chinkuchi, Five months on Atifa in order to get it right.... There are no promotion requirements, there are no belt gradinings or curricula, there is only this, right here, right now, that needs work, always needs work.
Focus down, now up, forward and up, back and down, down and forward, back and up, left and right, twist and turn, sweep with the body, not the leg, to a specific point on the opponents' foot/leg, ahhh, still needs a lot of work.

Maybe now to focus on Kiso Kumite, or specific pieces within the movements of Kiso Kumite Godan or Judan, whichever, fancy numbers, pick and choose depending on what needs work.
It is not a race and not a game, train not to lose, but do not worry about winning... It is always about moving up in rank and stature with some groups, always about the ritual structure with most, but on the floor, in the park, in the room, with this attitude, nothing else matters but the fact that I do not 'get it,' but must never cease.

This is not Goju Ryu Karate, nor Ki Society Aikido, this is just Budo, just Sabaki-Jutsu, it is about the Principles of movement, not learning some move, there is a huge difference there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Concepts, in my view, are a better approach than treating things as though they are written in stone and Sensei did often talk about the 'Formless Form' that came with deeper understanding.
The term 'Kuzushi' means to imbalance and can be an art unto itself, simply studying how to imbalance an opponent in various ways seems to be the basis for Arts such as Judo, Aikido, and Jujutsu, but people tend to focus solely on the physical aspects of imbalance.
When we train we must understand how the mind can be knocked off balance and work to defend against these things, not just in the Dojo, or on the Street, but in everything we do.

We used to play a game at the old Bremerton Dojo where we would look for openings and 'cut' the other person in an effort to teach a lesson about not leaving oneself open in that way.
These were meant to teach us attention to detail and never to become lazy in our actions, to always focus, to always be ready for whatever may come and to never... Ever... EVER lose our One Point.

Of course there are some great physical drills for this sort of training, one should spend a lot of time doing Kakie in various forms along with other Kuzushi drills and apply Kuzushi from Kata to seek a deeper understanding.
These are traditional, another way is to get a partner and simply practice pushing and pulling in various ways with a mind to feel and develop sensitivity... Not just to merely push or pull an opponent, but with a mind to feel their center in conjunction with your own in order to displace it, which is far more effective than merely pushing or pulling without such a focus.
From there one can move to a less static drill, having the opponent actively come at you or pull you as you counter the movement based on said sensitivity.
As you go on you will be able to see how a simple thing like talking or lightly touching the wrist can disrupt the opponents' mind as though you have moved a Mountain with your Pinkey Finger.

Apply this to stressful situation you may encounter throughout the day or the week as you go to work or even in your off time and the sensitivity works wonders at helping you to maintain that One Point, effectively countering any attempted mental disruptions and stress with ease.
Leave no openings and do not be lazy in your stance, but anchor in your center in all things...

The Secret Sword.

Pondering some things that Sifu Pete Starr wrote recently, one of which really drove home a very important lesson.
I have read and re-read a book called 'Heiho Kadensho' by Yagyu Munenori and he talks about focusing on the 'Secret Sword' of the opponent while Sifu Starr talks about focusing on the opponent, reading the opponents' intention, but not focusing on WHAT they are doing exactly, in other words, getting hung up.

Sifu Starr talks about the disadvantage an opponent has in their attacks because their mind is only focused on one thing at a time while the advantage is found in, again, not focusing on what the opponent is doing (ie their fist coming at your head) but on the opponent... Not only ON the opponent, but through them, and not on 'this response' to 'that attack,' but on stopping them.

I was the most junior Student during Saturday Morning Sparring Classes at the old Bremerton Dojo, eleven years old, just barely learning Hookiyu Kata Dai Ichi, and I had no idea what Bunkai was and I was most certainly focused on the belt color of the person I was facing.
Sensei would have one person stand in the middle of the floor with a line of people ready to attack, the person could only defend and had to go through until the last person had a chance to attack, then would switch with next person.
When it was my time to face the line I was extremely nervous, I took note of the belt color, green, brown, another green belt, and would often zero in on the attacks, which meant I got hit... A LOT...

These days people focus on 'X' responses to 'Y' attacks and get hung up on these things, when it comes time to perform they zero in on these things and wonder why their basic training is not working out as well in Sparring.
Because they are TRYING to apply what they know and forget to focus on the 'Secret Sword,' hence, the other person, they lose their one point... Sensei always used to say 'You think too much, don't think, just do.'
That is something that cannot be repeated enough... When going through Kata it is okay to make corrections, to think about mechanics and proper angles in Embusen, but one cannot become hung up on these things and there must be a point, in Kata, where you focus on the 'Secret Sword' in order for it to be useful as more than just a training tool for correction.
It is meant to promote muscle memory and does not require much of the conscious mind, other than focus.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mind, Body, and Spirit.

To this day it is hard to remember the full sequence for Kata Kakuha Dai Ni, it takes a bit of a memory jog in order to get through it as it is, essentially, Kakuha Dai Ichi and an opposite/backwards Seisan mixed together to form a single Kata.
No video of this Kata exists online, so being able to recall it by memory is a blessing, although sometimes I wonder if I am actually recalling it correctly... When there are so many people doing the exact same thing it does not lend to appreciating the rare things because nothing, in that instance, is rare.

I can proudly say that I am the only one in the City of Spokane that practices the Toguchi/Roseberry lineage of Goju Ryu which includes Hookiyu/Kihon Kata Dai Ichi and Dai Ni, Kata Gekesai Dai San, Gekiha Dai Ichi, Gekiha Dai Ni, Kakuha Dai Ichi, Kakuha Dai Ni, Gakusei No Kata, and the Golden Crane Kata created by Roseberry Shihan.
Dascenzo Sensei once showed me Hakatsuru No Mai of the Shorei Kan lineage, but it was only once, and nothing was really retained except for a few fuzzy portions of broken sequences, however, all of this being rare in this City makes me appreciate these finer points that much more.

There are also the various Kiso Kumite which are a great workout along with the various Renzoku Bunkai for each Kata which can be truly appreciated as flow drills meant to train for specific things.
Most times people simply look at these things as something to 'mark off' in order to be able to test, but for me they have deep meaning and I do not have the luxury of testing again anytime soon, so there is much more behind the reasoning of keeping these things fresh.
There is much more than just going through the motions... When moving, do we simply act as if we are at a spa or gym, talking and carrying on while our movements are nothing more than a formality?? No! Anything loses meaning when it lacks real spirit or focus, when it does not come alive.

Physical aspects of training depend exclusively on the internal aspects of Mind, Body, and Spirit... If these things are out of sync they must be balanced for proper all-inclusive training.
Training is nothing if it does not involve ALL aspects and there is always a reason for drills and Kata, whether they be in the Shorei Kan lineage, the IOGKF, the Jundokan, Meibukan, Chi-I-Do, whatever the case may be, there is no difference in spirit.
The appreciation comes when one starts to penetrate the surface and dig deeper into what they are doing... The form might matter depending on what aspects of training you wish to focus on, as well as the context, but in each, if the mind is not present, the spirit is not present, and the body is simply going through the motions then there is NO training taking place.

Reflecting Deeper.

Back in the day it was all about where one stood in line, all about moving from the left end of the line to the right end, and then up to the front of the class.
Testing was what drove everything back then, perfecting everything one knew in order to pass the next exam and there was even a thing known as 'challenging the test,' which I had done several times since I had begun training at the Olympic Martial Arts Center on Callow in Downtown Bremerton.
I was even part of the AAU Tournament Team and part of that 'inner circle' of 'Senior Students' that always hung out together, always trained together, brothers and sisters of the Dojo, that sort of thing... They are my friends to this day and there is not a whole lot I would not do for any one of them.

I had met Shihan Roseberry several times as a kid, even trained with him at his 'Research Center' in Lincoln Nebraska and spent the night at his house after swimming at the pool where he worked as a lifeguard with the rest of the Tournament Team as we made our way to Chicago Nationals.
Skipping forward a bit I had slowed down, I realized the value in focusing on just one thing in order to understand it rather than to simply know what I needed to know in order to pass my next exam, which lead me down a path of inner searching... I ended up being Shihan Roseberry's Otomo during his visit to Olympia... A very stressful job and, to top it off, I was very ill, though not with the flu, something else entirely, but I managed to step onto the floor and stay at Shihan's side for as long as possible.

In the beginning it was all about position, later it was simply about staying the course, never giving in and never giving up.
What is more it is about appreciation that leads to deeper understanding... I had wondered very deeply about the usefulness of Kata, why did we perform these things? What purpose did it serve to do different Kata? Were they just exercises or was there something more going on?
Shihan knew, my Sensei knew, but I did not... I was just barely starting to look into these things and Kata was just barely starting to register on my radar beyond simple movement patterns they we practiced simply because they were part of our way... Or simply because they were meditation.

For quite a while afterwards I focused solely on Hookiyu/Kihon Kata (the one created by Seikichi Toguchi) and sought some understanding of each movement or sequence and ran them by my Sensei in various E-Mails and face to face questioning.
I would get up in the morning and spend hours on just the opening (which is the same as Gekesai Kata) keeping an eye towards what was going on 'between' what are accepted as the 'main' movements of the Kata.

It is extremely important to question everything, but also extremely important to realize when your mind is playing too big a role in your training.
I have researched Kata with the best of them, and on my own, and have seen many variations to realize where things have been changed for the purposes of 'making the art safer' along the lines of Kano's Judo as this shows a progressive change between what was practiced prior to WWII and after WWII... It provides an appreciation, but the journey is far from over and I still understand VERY little.
So it is amusing when someone claims to have so much knowledge as to make it obvious when 'rank' is going to their heads.

Introducing The Greatest Teachers - Difficulty and Doubt.

Sensei used to talk about those who loved the IDEA of training, but when it came time to train they would make themselves scarce, often only showing up to stand round in Karate Gi leaving one to wonder just how they managed to earn the right to wear the darker piece of cloth around their waists.
Shihan said, on more than one occasion, that these people were very good at Kuchi Waza, or Mouth-Flapping-Drills, and knew very little of any sort of experience on the floor.

There are a lot of really nice training facilities out there, really big Organizations, really high ranking Yudansha with some very neatly framed fancy certificates.
I do not have any of these things, I often train with a friend on the weekends where we go through Kata and do some basic drills along with some light Hojo Undo... I do not have a Dojo of my own, I have a Gi and a Belt that my Sensei gave me as he was getting rid of all the Karate related stuff from his home... My Shodan certificate and most of my rank certificates were burned up in a fire... The last person to see my certificate in a frame was Kris Wilder.
So for all intents and purposes, all I have are the clothes on my back, the belt around my waist, and what knowledge I maintain in my head... I used to have some old videos that my Sensei had also given me in the purge, but, again, all I have is my training.

The point being that often people tend to focus more on the Belt of a person than they actually do on improving themselves.
The Belt may be an ideal, but the better way to go is not to be focused on the Belt at all, but to allow yourself to become what the ideal stands for, then the Belt Color ceases to matter because the true ideal for which you have worked shines through in the way you are, the way you train, the skill that comes out in your practice AND your everyday life.
In myself, I still have a very long way to go in many respects... A lot of people idolize getting a fifth or sixth degree Black Belt while I simply want to be better than I was yesterday.

It certainly is hard to continue sometimes, but sometimes the doubt itself is an excellent motivator. One Pointed focus is more than a frame of mind, it is a way of being.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Emulation to Insight - Shu, Ha, Ri, and Ku.

It is interesting to see young Karateka progress and come to certain realizations, and when it is easy to tell whether or not they are simply paying lip service to something they have heard or when they are really talking about something they have learned from their own experience and insight.
Back in the day it was easy to agree with Dascenzo Sensei, but did I really understand anything? Not in the slightest I would say and quite a bit of what I did back then was nothing more than emulation, repeating movements, repeating teachings, none of it was my own, none of it was insight.

Insight comes slowly and, sometimes, feels like a bag of bricks smacking you upside the head saying, 'Pay attention to this dumbass, there is more to it than you know.'
I was very good at paying attention, still am, and I was very good at picking things up, but again, it was easy to agree with Sensei and not to question because Sensei was there, although he did not give answers directly all the time, he would often give you a piece of the puzzle and expect you to find the rest on your own.
Still, even with only a piece, coupled with a good attention span, it was easy to agree with Sensei, to emulate, which is a natural part of the learning process in the beginning (the beginning being the first ten to fifteen years... This meaning there is only a hint of even superficial understanding on the part of the Student).

It is easy to say 'Yes Sensei, I understand,' perform the principle a couple of times in training, but only a couple of times as you start to wear out and give in to the little voice in your head that says, 'Okay, now I want to just give up, you can slouch and have semi-bad form for the last fifteen minutes,' of course Sensei always noticed and made it obvious without even saying a word.
Keeping One Point, Keeping Weight Underside, and Extending Ki all seem like simplistic, even outdated principles at first glance, and one might even think they understand them, but it has been twenty five years and these principles are the deepest, encapsulating every other aspect of Karate, indeed, beyond Karate itself... If a person has eyes to see, and half a brain... Which at the time, I did not (sometimes I wonder even now).

Sensei said that the Teacher never truly leaves the Student, the Student always leaves the Teacher, and this is necessary for the growth process.
I have had the opportunity to train with many great Teachers who come from many varied backgrounds who have graciously offered up what they have come to understand, from IOGKF USA Chief Instructor Gene Villa to Author and West Seattle Karate Instructor, Kris Wilder, and a brief, yet deep, encounter with Hiroo Ito Sensei, each offering up something different, yet something relevant, from which I continue to learn to this day.
 When I say learn it is no longer about emulation, it is about thinking deeply, applying, testing these things out, adjusting, and testing again, seeing how it fits for me as an individual and, from there, carrying forward with said insights to contribute as much as possible to the art a s a whole... Not that I truly get any of it, but I have had my moments and I am sure Sensei would still stop me and shake his head just to keep me on the straight and narrow.

When I began Karate I had come fresh from an after school Tae Kwon Do Program that had been closed down along with my Soccer Program, which I liked better, but decided I liked training in Martial Arts too because it kept my Soccer skills sharp.
I was a competitor and I got involved with competitive Karate almost from day one, my first tournament I performed Hookiyu Kata Dai Ichi as a 10th Kyu in front of this bald Asian Guy who was center judge that I would later find out was Teruo Chinen from Spokane.
That same tournament I had cut my foot on a stray piece of metal just before my division was to begin Kumite, I had it taped up and went in anyway.
I blasted through the ranks, learning each Kata, each set of drills, but one thing I really relished were the two person Kiso Kumite drills, and my goal was to learn my favorite Kata, Seiyunchin, before my thirteenth birthday... I achieved this at two and a half years at 4th Kyu and then slowed down.

I was awarded my 2nd Kyu by Charles Todd Sensei, a Student of Dascenzo Sensei who would constantly visit the Bremerton Dojo in his free time from EWU.
I had moved to Spokane with my family and gotten in touch with Todd Sensei who was teaching a small group out of the rec-room at his dorm and there I became his Dai Sempai and helped out with a seminar.
Did I really know anything? I was really into the positions, the titles, the belts, collecting Kata, but always practicing the highest Kata I knew, but eventually Todd Sensei had to move, so I was on my own, I kept training as a 2nd Kyu, I even received Sensei's blessing to maintain my own small group, so I began teaching out of my basement.
It was all well and fine, but eventually everything started to seem less important and I stopped wearing my belt and my Gi, I simply trained, and the more I trained I would focus more on Kihon and the more basic Kata and, eventually spent several weeks on end training a single Kata, one Kata for each month.

I eventually moved back and actually stayed at Dascenzo Sensei's house for a time in Olympia, I was about fifteen or sixteen, and the Bremerton Dojo had closed, but Sensei was now teaching out of the Evergreen Learning Center.
I had no inkling to test or to even achieve my Black Belt because I felt I still had a long way to go, which is probably why Sensei made me test.
Did I understand anything? Do I understand anything even now? I know what I know and I know that it will probably be wrong in a few days, a week, a month, a year, but I press on, I continue to train and learn from what I have, knowing full well I may never achieve any sort of importance within any kind of Karate hierarchy, but is that really important and does that really mean anything? Does it even equate to understanding on any level? In some cases, yes, it certainly does, but in other cases it certainly does not.

Keeping one point is more than just a principle, it is a way of life that says you continue on regardless of the situation, and even then, forget about the unimportant things, cut things down to the bare essentials and let others think about the other things until they realize for themselves what it is really all about.

Nori Nami.

Working footwork from various Kata tonight with a focus especially on Shisochin, not necessarily on getting the stances right or making everything look correct, but focusing more on directions of movement, angles, Embusen of the Kata.
If the correct floor plan is followed then everything else seems to fall into place, but there is always far more to it than that as it is pretty easy just to go through the angles enough times that it becomes second nature.

I remember quite a long time ago I was sitting on a Testing Board at the Evergreen Learning Center and there was this guy testing for his second or third strip on his Green Belt, he was rather small, rather timid, a lot like I was at one time.
Dascenzo Sensei always had a way of taking people out of their comfort zones and this one time was no exception as he had me go out and check this guy's techniques, his posture during Kata, but more than that, it seemed Sensei wanted to test his Spirit, put it through some fire and draw it out.
"David," he said, "we are going to break with Tradition a little bit." Interesting, I thought, I wondered where this was going and who, exactly, was Sensei going to test? This guy? Me? Both? "Jyu Kumite." was all he said and I nodded in understanding as my entire mind seemed to drop and steady with eyes refocused on the guy in front of me... Bare knuckles and all-out... Poor guy, I thought, but I held back a little bit... Gave a loud Kiai to frighten him as I rushed in.

Eventually he did start to push back as I goaded him, which was fine, that is what Sensei wanted, to see him come out of his shell and, what is more, to see him stop focusing on the belt and start focusing on what was right in front of him... To bring his mind, body, and spirit to one razor sharp point.
With each blow he was going harder, faster, and stronger, but I had been practicing Saifa each day about fifteen to twenty times a day as a special focus for myself and it seemed to just take over, no thought, my body followed the footwork, got me out of the way and sent elbows into his back as his momentum carried him forward to the places in which I had been standing.

Afterwards I was approached by a Russian man from a group of people that had been watching the test saying, "I really like how you moved, how did you do that??" I honestly was not even thinking about it, just said thank you, and lots' of practice.
In the beginning I had simply trusted my training, and in that moment I had given over to my training and allowed it to come out, my mind was one pointed, weight dropped through my whole body with each strike, as it does in the Kata, so weight was kept underside.

It is so easy to get caught up in what something may or may not mean that we simply forget to trust our training and we lose sight of what we are actually doing.
It is great to drill things out of Kata so that they might sink in better, but one thing Sensei always told me, "You think too much!" and "The only Zen on the Mountain is the Zen you take with you," which basically means that I think too much.

So back to the footwork... Focusing less on 'stances' and more on the Embusen, that is one way we can word it, but to go even deeper and say that it is better to focus on the shifting back and forth, the feel of the whole thing in constant motion, from quick, to slow, to quick again.
There are no real stops, it is like the tide on a beach, it breaks the shore, moves back out, and breaks the shore again... Wilder Sensei says not to be a returning wave and to understand the strategy of 'Nori Nami' or the returning wave... It is right there in Kata if we just stop thinking too much for even a single minute and focus on what we are doing, that is, if what we are doing is correct.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Kiai of a Moment.

The ability to maintain 'One Point' does not end with the ending of a Kata or after however many breaths, it continues and should be present in ALL motion AND stillness.
A continuous Kiai that goes beyond the audible 'shout' at set points within the Kata or on the count of ten during line-training, but pure and raw when all aspects are present and honed to 'One Pointed' power which cannot be mistaken, let alone faked.

There have only been a handful of times in which I have felt this type of 'Kiai' from another person and even becoming aware of this feeling I can say that I do not truly understand it in any really meaningful way.
You can see it on the calm face of a fighter about to step in the ring and KNOW in that instant who is going to win the match, but you can also feel it in silence, in an empty room that just resonates so deeply it changes you to the very core.
These words do not even come close to doing this thing justice.

How do we develop this within ourselves? Do we need to stand for hours without moving or thinking beyond our point of focus? Do we need to aggressively pursue Hojo Undo or Taisho Daruma? Do we need to hone our each and every technique to a point of laser precision? All of these above??
Are these things just by-products of the thing itself, or does it really have nothing to do with any of these??

We used to talk a lot about the 'Kiai' of a place or the 'Kiai' of a person, Dascenzo Sensei and I, which really brought the meaning of 'Kiai' into focus, beyond a simple exercise of yelling really loud.
What does it mean when you walk into a place and just feel grounded, or when you see the movement of a person that just seems to resonate with something far greater and seems to carry more 'mass' than is at first apparent??
Have you ever felt such a thing linger??

Again, most might dismiss this as nothing more than silly Mysticism, and that is fine, they may or may not utilize different words and ideas to describe the exact same thing... The words are as unimportant as the notions they also carry.
For me there is no denying, but I cannot truly convey in words, nor do I believe words of any kind can truly convey such a thing and there is still a long way to go before I am even capable of demonstrating this sort of thing myself.

Maybe one step is for each of us to take some time to stop and appreciate the space we are in, maybe we can get a taste of it, or maybe this is a completely backwards approach??
Another way may be to stop, watch, and listen to our Teachers, to feel what it is they are doing rather than merely seeing it, to hear what they are saying so there is some point of reference, and then to rework this experience into our own movements and see what happens??
This would necessarily require that we cease overthinking, that we stop trying to put in anything extra, that we seek to truly understand without trying to 'have our say' as the ego tends to have a lot to say and does not listen well.
Through this it may be possible to experience this thing and if the Teacher really is 'Present' it will be felt without question, there will be no mistaking it.

Maybe we have learned something from this and can allow it to sink in? Then again, what do I really know about it to begin with?? Ask your Sensei and try it for yourself, I know I will.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Fudo Shin Question.

The majority of Karateka in our time focus outward, very external, and lack any sort of insight or direction when it comes to the internal, myself included.
What does it truly mean to 'Keep One Point' as Shihan Roseberry and my own Teacher were fond of saying? Does it mean to maintain a constant center, ever mindful and vigilant in the face of whatever may come our way?
This is, perhaps, something I have missed, yet it has been on my mind day and night for more than twenty years.

I can remember the sign, a small list of guidelines, that hung on the wall to the right of the Shomen at the Evergreen Learning Center in Olympia Washington that read;

-Keep One Point.
-Keep Weight Under Side.
-Extend Ki.

Yes, it sounds like some mystical mumbo-jumbo and one might just as easily dismiss them outright as such, but what do these things truly mean and did they sink in then, or now? Obviously there was some sort of lasting impression.

There are many aspects to Budo and many ways to apply what is learned that have tremendous value and, yet, have nothing at all to do with 'fighting,' 'combatives,' or 'self-defense,' but remain every bit as practical in every sense of the word.
Who cannot say that the application of 'Fudo Shin' or Immoveable Mind to day-to-day life is not just as important, if not more so, than these other aspects of training?
The ability to face down those things inside that might otherwise take charge and drag us down, working towards maintaining that 'One Pointedness' at all times, regardless of situation or circumstance? Keeping a cool, calm, and collected outlook in the face of extreme stress??
Not even certain that begins to scratch the surface, but it certainly is a start for a twenty five year Novice such as myself.
Budo is never short on beginnings as each step presents something old in a completely new light and nothing is ever really the same as it was before... Food for thought.

Opening The Gate.

Welcome to 'Keeping One Point,' the new direction of what was once known as 'The Dojo Floor' which is the result of several realizations after listening to an Interview with Shihan John Roseberry and thinking really deeply about the direction of my Practice and my life.
The answers, as always, are on the Dojo Floor, but here you will find reflections of that journey, renewed and re-awakened from the perspective of an eternal beginner.

There is quite a bit of soul-searching each of us should do, every single day is a test, and how we live and grow depends on how we take each step on the path before us.
Karate is certainly about more than just punching and kicking and in order to find the true Spirit of it we have to dig a little deeper into ourselves.

My Teacher Michael Dascenzo used to end his personal messages in a very specific way...

In Gassho,