Wednesday, 26 August 2015

501 - Intermission....

Kyu Do Mu Gen - Investigating the Way is Endless
I've 'borrowed' the image above from a book published some years ago by Eiichi Miyazato sensei, I'm sure he wouldn't mind me doing this...he was a stern, but forgiving teacher.

This is a time of change for me, 'Kanreki', a time for my wife and me to take on new challenges and look in new directions; as the saying goes, 'Researching the way is endless' . But, exactly what is the 'Way'? For me, it's how I live my life, not only my karate practise. Karate/kobudo, although hugely important to me, are not all that I am.

As a recent post has indicated, there are a lot of 'karate' blogs on the net that are far better than this one, a number of them are listed on the left; please, if you haven't already, take the time to read what these budoka have to say, because the points they raise are important.

I'm going off line for a while, I have important choices to make and big changes to organise. My personal training will continue as usual, as will my investigations in to karate and kobudo...I just won't be discussing it here. I'm leaving the blog up as a resource, and will post again when the choices have been made, and the changes put in place.

I began posting six years ago, and want to thank you for supporting the blog in such numbers (10.000 plus, page views each month) from very early on; I'm grateful and humbled by your interest and will end by wishing you all the best for your own training.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Post 500...

The Shinseidokan dojo kun - things that I believe in
This is post number five hundred, a little milestone that has crept up on me without notice. Now that I have noticed, I've been giving some thought to what to do about it; stop, or carry on? Certainly, there are enough readers of the blog each month to make me a very wealthy man if it cost a dollar every time you stopped by...and having contemplated resorting to 'AdSense' to earn some money from the blog, I'm inclined not to take that idea any further.

Still...it's interesting, the way the use of the Internet has lead to a sense of entitlement for many who spend their lives on it. Miyazato Eiichi sensei told me a story once, actually a couple of times, about two fighting cocks he once owned in his younger days. Back then, pitting animals against each other was a common pastime in Okinawa. Today only the bull fights remain, but I recall being invited to the once popular 'snake -v- mongoose' contests a number of times during my early visits to the island; thankfully I always managed to get out of going.

Here's a short version of my sensei's story:

Miyazato sensei once owned a number of fighting cocks, and of them, two in particular showed great promise. He decided to 'train' each one differently. The first he fed only the best corn and feed he could find, and made sure it never went hungry or wanted for anything. The second, he fed only when he felt it needed feeding; he gave it no special attention, and pretty much left it to fend for itself.

The fist bird grew big, with powerful leg muscles, a broad back and chest, and strong, sharp, talons. The second bird was lean and mean looking, had no shine to it's feathers, but a murderous look in it's eyes. One time Miyazato sensei had to go to Japan on business, he was gone for a week. On his return he was informed that one of his prize fighting birds had died. when he went to look he discovered the dead bird wasn't the one he was expecting.

The bird that died was the one he fed regularly, not the one he kept lean and mean. It was a big lesson for Miyazato sensei, and he would often speak to me about having to fend for myself; "If I give answer, you go home and forget; better you learn for yourself through training." The bird that lived had only ever fended for itself, that's all it knew how to do, while the first bird had grown dependent on another to keep it alive.

The parallels are clear, to me at least, of how so many karateka rely on others to 'feed' them, while only a few are prepared to look after themselves. With this, my five-hundredth post, allow me to ask that you stop depending on others for everything; or just like the bird that died, your karate too is heading for the same fate...

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Vanishing Point...when what you do becomes who you are.

Me, in the days when fighting was a joy!
I've had a week of fighting, well, not me really, but my wife. As some of you already know, my wife suffers with MS (Multiple Sclerosis), it's a degenerative auto-immune disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord. For a lot of the time we manage quite well, but sometimes our 'unwelcome guest' stops by and moves in, and we have no choice but to accommodate it. It's a fight I know we can't win, but that hasn't stopped  us fighting. It has taken a while, but we're getting better at minimising the impact MS has in our life.

When I was younger, I enjoyed a good fight. I took pleasure engaging others and seeing what happened. Of course, such violent stupidity lead to a lot of time in police cells and, eventually, in prison too. But I grew up, I discovered karate...and that's when a whole new fight began. I had an article published in the UK recently talking about coming to terms with the disparity between fighting and learning karate; here's a sample............

"When I became a karateka, in January 1974, I stepped into a world I knew nothing about. I knew a lot about fighting, winning, losing, hurting people, and being hurt in return: of dealing with post-fight adrenaline dumps, awareness, and even the concept of sen-no-sen...all be it under a different name. However, I knew nothing much about self-discipline; nor did I appreciate the human attributes of  patience, consistency, and humility. The dojo was a strange place to be back then, because I was being challenged to put my 'self' to one side and adopt ideas and a code of behaviour I wasn't at all sure would serve me well in a fight. My freedom to engage who I liked, how I liked; to take the first hit if it allowed me to grab the guy and shove his head through a shop window or throw him into oncoming traffic, was stifled by learning to stand, move, and block (defend myself) in ways that filled me with no confidence at all.

I quickly discovered that karate was wrapped in morality, and it's ethical borders presented me with many problems; 'Karate ni sente...what!!!....you have to be kidding me: right? And who the hell came up with the idea of 'Bowing to your enemy'? From my limited perspective on karate back then, such ideas were a total nonsense. Morality gets in the way of fighting, I believed it then and I believe it now; but that's the point, for karate without morality leads to boorish behaviour, and if left unchecked: brutality. If your karate training is authentic, then morality is not only present during training, it dominates everything you do in, and out of the dojo."

Fighting in the street, and sparring in the dojo, are are not the same thing, and even the highly trained fighters in a cage or ring have rules and safety measure in place to prevent serious injury. Real fighting, the kind I once enjoyed, comes wrapped in belligerence and spite. It stems from a willingness to go the distance without concern for the consequences; it has no sense of fairness attached to it, no morals.

I'm sixty-years old, I've been a karateka for forty-two of them...these days I face a different foe than in my youth; the kind that can be held at bay but not beaten. Confronting life, and all that it brings, I've discovered through karate a smarter way to fight, and a better way to live...

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Like grains of sand through an hourglass, so too...yadda, yadda, yadda!

Perth skyline on a winter's day - July 2015
I posted recently about my departure from 'mainstream karate' some years ago, the email I received out of the blue yesterday (below) will give you a good idea of why I've left most of the karate world behind. I'm pretty sure I've made my opinion clear on the state of karate in the world these days, and why I have little interest in what 'others' are doing, but just to make myself crystal clear once again; please understand that there are only a very small number of karateka/budoka on the planet who interest me.

I'm sure there are thousands of wonderful budoka around the world that I don't know about, but of all the people I have met, come into contact with through my work, or come to know of through their writing over the past four decades....only a very small number of them have captured my interest and gained my respect. Perhaps this sounds a little harsh...but it's the truth!

So....to the (unsolicited, unwanted, and unedited) email I received yesterday:

Hello Michael,

You may remember we emailed a bit back and forth some years ago when you wrote a scathing article in Blitz about fake martial arts 'masters' in Blitz magazine.

Many of us were fairly certain that the person you were writing about was Mr Tony Jackson.

Mr Jackson has recently released a book:

http://www.amazon.com.au/Journey-Karate-Student-Anthony- Jackson- OAM-ebook/dp/B0138YIDSU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1439510758&sr=1-1 

It defames and slanders so many decent people. Even Silvio Morelli.

I have written to Amazon and the publisher, Xlibris, to have it banned. But, so far, with no success. Amazon has since been heavily promoting this garbage on Facebook. People have been downloading it and buying the physical version. I know some people who have it.

Mr Jackson writes a FANTASY version about his so-called teachers and masters in Okinawa and Japan. Many of us have Googled these names and they just do not exist. Some, with contacts on Okinawa, have asked the locals and nobody in Okinawa knows any of Mr Jackson's masters either.

Lots of people have been defamed including a guy in Adelaide who Mr Jackson names and accuses of having 'inappropriate' dealings with underage boys and girls. he makes it very obvious. They are truly disgusting and false statements designed to hurt that person in the worst way possible.

Mr Jackson has misquoted others to make himself appear legitimate.

He has also been up to his old tricks - appending names and signatures of senseis Yogi and Gakiya to high-rank certificates. you may remember he went to court over forging Denis Purvis's signature around 40 years ago. Gakiya and Yogi were shown one of the certificates and both deny that they signed any certificates. I also contacted an acquaintance on Okinawa who is a cryptologist in the US navy. He stated within seconds that the certificate I copied to him via Facebook text that it was a complete forgery.

Anyway, Just letting you know that Raindee, Hanshi, Kancho, Professor Tony Jackson OBE is hurting a lot or reputations with his idiotic book. So you were 100% correct with what you said in your Blitz article. You should have named and shamed him.

Regards

Gary Simpson
Perth

PS: Mr Jackson is also claiming he is a General in some sort of Filipino army. And, just in case you are interested, I've attached a small selection of his pages.
...................................................................................

Okay, so here are my thoughts. I could care less what Mr Jackson is up to, I could care less about Gary Simpson's opinion of Mr Jackson, and I certainly couldn't give a flying fig about an ebook that retails for less than $3.00. I'm not a member of the "Budo Police" okay! So if you have a disagreement with someone...sort it out, don't look to me for support or endorsement.

I'll let you decide about the content of the email (above) and the book in question; you can come to your own conclusion about the people involved, take sides, or simply move on and invest your time and effort into something that brings you a bit of joy and contentment. I get stuff like this a lot, from all over the place...stop it, you're worse than an Nigerian email scam! If this kind of rubbish forms a part of your karate...you really do need to ask yourself why?

Hey! Maybe you like this kind of crap?


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Structure of Karate.....

School kids practising kata at Shurijo
A couple of weeks ago I was asked how much kata was "structured" in to my classes? I have to admit, it was about then that my interest in continuing the conversation took a turn for the worse, and being the grumpy old man that I am (just ask anyone who knows me), our 'chat' ended very soon afterwards.

Why? You may well ask. Well, for some years now I've had a problem with 'mainstream' karate and the people who live there, and rather than try to change 'that' world, I made a conscious decision to leave it behind. It took a while to separate myself from the kind of 'thinking' that I'd been educated in, but eventually I managed to make the break.

There is no formal structure to my training, I do what I have in mind to do; that said, studying my kata is always at the heart of it. Working with the various kigu too forms a big part of my time in the dojo, and I never go more than a day or two without connecting with kobudo....I believe it's important to have the weapons in my hands often.

As for helping the students, I only help them to help themselves...

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Better blogs than this one....

Karate captured on film stepping out from the shadows
Looking at the statistics for this blog recently, I wondered how it compared with the blogs (not all concerned with karate or budo) I enjoy reading. It's not a competition of course, and none of the blogs I follow are written by folk who are hunting for customers or inviting people to make a donation. I don't always agree with the points being made in the various posts I read, but I do cherish the opportunity to think about the things I've read, and discover where those thoughts take me.

Would I visit this blog if I wasn't the person writing it? I'm not sure....I can be a real pain in the watzits at times, a little preachy, and way too serious for the fun loving generations of karateka that have followed my own; but still, I have a voice, and most of the time it's not so far out of whack that people turn away in droves. So maybe I would stop by from time to time, just to check out what's going on beyond the rim of karate's commercial solar system.

There are blogs being written by teachers and sensei that really are worth reading. They offer insight, and dare you to think differently, to take another view of something you already 'know for sure'. They don't get bogged down in the spirit-killing minutiae of karate technique, or how one method is better than another; inspiration (not gossip) being your reward for returning time and time again.

I could provide you with a list...but what good would that do?


Saturday, 8 August 2015

So very,very, small......

The road past my dojo, leads to the rest of the world
Following my last post, a number of 'karateka' (?) felt the need to write and let me know that I hadn't been a student of any of my sensei for very long, therefore I could not have learnt much from them. The emails highlighted the confusion out there surrounding the notion of being a student, as opposed to being a member of a particular organization.

I don't know why I bother sometimes...but here's how it works.

Being a member of a karate association is not the same thing as being a student of the sensei who heads the group. So, while some of those who wrote may have more time in say, the IOGKF, than I had, I doubt you ever got closer to Higaonna sensei than snatching a quick photo with him after a weekend seminar.

Being a student is different from being a member of a group in many ways, not least is the personal relationship you have with your teacher outside the dojo. You staying at their home, them staying at yours, eating together, baby-sitting for them, shopping with them, joking and sharing family stories....even taking a bath together: Japanese style of course!

I knew and trained with Tomiyama sensei long before becoming his student, I was training at the Higaonna dojo in Naha long before I became a member of his organization. And the only reason I no longer practice under Miyazato sensei is because he is no longer alive to guide me.

It never fails to make me smile when I receive emails like those that came in after my last post. Gentlemen, please....I could care less if you are alive or dead, let alone what your thoughts on karate are!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

A Good Teacher will insist.....

Vickers sensei -  my first karate teacher (6 years)
Connecting with someone who can actually point you in the right direction when you begin karate, is often a case of good luck rather than a good choice. For regardless of what you think you already know about karate before you begin, serious training will reveal that, in fact, you knew very little.

Tomiyama sensei - my second karate teacher (4 years)
Like a good many others, I made the mistake of thinking that all karate instructors were genuine, knew their art well and had been sanctioned by (who knows who?) Japanese 'masters'. That's why they were able to open a dojo, and that's why they were qualified to teach....I got that wrong!

Higaonna sensei - my third karate teacher (8 years)
Ok...hold your horses! I'm not calling into question the karate ability of the men I sought instruction from; I'm saying, that regardless of who is endorsed by who, what really matters is the character and integrity of the individual with whom you have entrusted your future direction.

Miyazato sensei -  my final teacher (8 years)
For the last 16 years I've been without a karate sensei, but I haven't been on my own. I continue to appreciate the support of a number of sempai. But mostly, I'm still trying to learn the things my last teacher taught me.All my teachers were (are) good men, good teachers, good karateka.

You'll know you are learning from a good teacher...when he insists you teach yourself.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Knowing what's what..!

With the kongoken - Higaonna dojo, Tokyo 1986
Even among so-called 'authentic' karateka, there's an awful lot of competition going on. Magazines, the Internet, and Social media, are full of karate instructors who say they don't teach sport, and yet they are heavily involved in competing against each other....through advertising and some very 'imaginative' biographies.

I particularly like those 'moody', back-lit, portraits they put on their web pages; and the endless list of the 'arts' they have studied and the 'masters' they once studied under. They never say for how long though, or if their 'master' ever thought well of them. I've yet to come across a 'master' who lists his ex-students in quite the same way so many ex-students do.

The rush to own what's 'right' and claim the authority to declare what's 'wrong' is rife among many so-called 'traditional' or 'authentic' karateka. It happens when karate is mistaken for a bunch of physical techniques; under such a misapprehension, it's easy to 'know' what's right and what's wrong. Keeping up with the fashion of the day is a common way to be right...or at least, avoid being wrong.

But, in all that knowing what's what, correct principles are often forgotten altogether!


Thursday, 30 July 2015

Not a word was said....

One of a number of chiishi at the Shinseidokan - weighs 23kg
Just when I thought Spring had sprung, Mother Nature said..."Yeah, right!" and sent an Antarctic blast my way; the wind this morning could bring a tear to a glass eye! So...I've got the door and the windows closed in the dojo, the wind is howling outside but inside it's peaceful; only the sound of the clock ticking on the wall, and the gentle lament of  Ryukyuan music playing very quietly in the changing room is breaking the silence.

An old photo of what I was up to
The clock ticks, and the beads of sweat begin to drop on the floor; infrequently at first, but then they come more often....where's that towel?  I've just remembered how cool the dojo was this morning; I'm reminded by the steam on the glass door that has rendered the otherwise clear glass opaque. It wasn't cold enough to see steam rising from my skin, but that happens too sometimes.

Throughout my training I didn't say a word, and neither did my training partner....