I once saw a cartoon in a magazine that depicted a scene of hell. In it the devil was showing one hell’s new occupants a room with all of the devil’s greatest weapons. All around the room were terrible weapons of torture and destruction. The caption under the cartoon was a quote from the devil asking the person if they would like to see his most powerful weapon. Alone in the middle of the room was a pedestal with a small object on it. On the pedestal was a small wedge of wood shaped like a doorstopper and on it was written “Self Doubt”.
Self-doubt knows no boundaries, rich, poor, old, young, highly intelligent or ignorant, all are susceptible. The problem with self-doubt is that it is so easily justified in our heads. We look at our history of failures and assume that there has to be something wrong with us. As soon as our mind hears the question “what’s wrong with me?” self-doubt dutifully gives you the answer, telling you everything your...
At a recent To-Shin Do Ninja Festival I taught a session on Saturday morning. For me, the session was very fun and humbling because of how much effort everyone put in to learning the ideas. We looked at arm positions which allow you to move and strike with great power while expending very little effort.
The underlying idea was to not use muscular force to strike with but to use your body movement and these natural arm positions instead. When you did this it became difficult for you opponent to perceive the strikes because you were basically doing nothing.
For those of you who could not be there it is difficult to convey this concept in text but I found a couple of quotes that I often share with my students because, to me, they very succinctly and a little humorously explain these aspects of ninpo taijutsu (ninja body movements). Both quotes deal with nothing but explain quite a lot. The first one from Edward Dahlberg is:
“It takes a long time to understand nothing.”
To say that manners are a lost art in our society today would be an understatement. Rudeness runs rampant but do we still need manners?
Most martial arts still practice some form of manners but the reasons for it may surprise you. Manners were a form of self-defense.
In feudal Japan there was no law except might makes right. A samurai could, if offended (real or just perceived), pull out his sword and cut down the unfortunate person with impunity. Out of this reality grew a codified system of manners in order to not offend and prevent danger.
In the European cultures a handshake is considered a polite way of greeting someone. I’m sure you’ve all seen some time period movie where the two warriors meet and greet each other by clasping forearms (a predecessor to the handshake). This offering of an arm without a weapon was meant to put the person at ease and to communicate your peaceful intentions.
In today’s society you can’t just haul off and smack someone who...
When practicing kata or techniques very often students rush “to do” the technique without understanding why the kata or technique exists. Kata in our system are reenactments of battles or are they are drills created to pass on principles of survival. They provide answers to situations that teach lessons to us. They are not things that can be done independently of the situation or the attacker.
To understand these answers you have to understand the danger involved. There is a cause and effect relationship between the attack and defense that was used to survive a battle. This relationship holds the principles of our art.
One of the ways to do this is to lose the simulated fight in order to learn how to win the fight. When you practice a kata try letting the attacker win at first. See what the attack looks like and what the results would be if they succeeded. Obviously you need to do this at a safe speed and have a cooperative training partner so no one gets hurt.
Mr. Hayes often reminds us at training seminars that we should have a personal training question we are trying to answer. I have found many people have a difficult time with this idea. They ask things like, “Can you show me this kamae?” or “I want to learn about this historical ryu.” or “How do I throw a jab?”. While these are legitimate questions they are very general. Your questions should reflect your training.
To come up with a question that will take your training to a new level you need to do some homework and answer some questions.
Answer these questions for yourself then you can format a question for your teacher, the online community, or if you’re lucky enough Mr. or Mrs. Hayes.
If your results are negative and you’re having problems the format would be:
“I have been working on ______________....