Excerpt from Chojun—A Novel
January 10, 2022
Set in Okinawa during World War II, it’s a story of reverence, the coming of age, love, tragedy, war, and honor. A retired Okinawa karate instructor, Ota Kenichi Ota, writes memoirs of training with world-famous master, Chojun Miyagi.
January 18, 2021
Fights are not static. Things move. People move. Bear-hugs and headlocks and all that stuff happen sometimes in a fight, but they are transitional actions. You do not get bear-hugged just to be held (except by bouncers). A Threat wraps his big arms around you from behind either to pick you up and shake you (disorienting and intended as an intimidating show of strength) or to drive you into a wall. Maybe to throw you over a balcony. If you practice technique-based defense, will they work if the Threat refuses to stand there? If he is using that headlock to slam you from wall to wall?
The Lowest Level of Force
December 7, 2020
The Records area at Rusafa Prison Complex in Baghdad is enclosed by a chain-link fence and was almost always crowded. It’s a stressful place, with inmates being processed in and out, Iraqi military, police, corrections, advocates, politicos, and sometimes families of the convicts are present and a small handful of American advisors.
Fighting with Weapons
January 28, 2019
Weapons are simply an extension of the fighter. The Samurai even considered the sword to be an extension of their soul. The weapon assumes the character of whoever wields the weapon, as the weapon is simply a tool that extends the will of the fighter. The principles of fighting with empty hands apply to fighting with weapons. A fight is a fight. But there are some thoughts about these principles that should be noted.
Discipline: Keep Cool
May 7, 2018
One of my teachers frequently used the phrase, "Keep a cool tool." Samurai Miyamoto Mushashi expressed this a bit more eloquently centuries earlier, saying, "You must remain calm at all times; in this way you can control the attack."
Winning Fights is Based on Principles—Not Techniques - April 9, 2018
Technique is important. But techniques change, adapt, and evolve. Principles are timeless. Bruce Lee recognized this truth, and advised to “absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.” To Lee, there was no single superior style of fighting. He even referred to his methods as the “style of no style.”
Winning Fights - April 2, 2018
Everyone knows that any fighter can win or lose on any given day. There is even a saying among fighters that there is always someone bigger and better. No one can consistently predict the outcome of two fighters facing each other who possess equal skill. The Navy SEALS have the same problem. Men of all sizes, body types and different skill sets wish to enter SEAL training.
Simple Drills Worth Knowing - January 30, 2017
The following are important things, some little, some major, that lend themselves well to simple drills or exercises. Backing up is almost never the answer. Unless you are excellent at reading and remembering tactical terrain, you might not know what or who is behind you.
Evaluating Drills—Part 2 - October 31, 2016
I get especially annoyed with weapons. Unarmed defense against a weapon sucks. Never, ever, ever practice dying and do not train to be killed. The stakes are too high to blindly imprint a habit, even a habit as simple as handing a weapon back once you have disarmed someone.
Evaluating Drills—Part 1 - October 24, 2016
I'm not a big fan of most drills. There is a fine line, but conditioned reflexes are crucial in a fight and habits will get you killed. Conditioned reflexes are things you do without thinking about it. They are essentially trained flinch responses. If something suddenly comes at your eyes you WILL do something: block, move your head or, at the very minimum, blink.
DRILL: The One-Step - September 26, 2016
The one-step arose as a useful accident. Many years ago I was reading George Mattson's The Way of Karate and I completely misunderstood his description of ippon kumite.
Not Parlor Tricks - September 12, 2016
The following aren't actually tricks. They are exercises that you demonstrate once to show a deeper truth. Most will not work on people a second time. Some will learn to game it.
DRILL: The One-Step - August 29, 2016
The one-step arose as a useful accident. Many years ago I was reading George Mattson's The Way of Karate and I completely misunderstood his description of ippon kumite. I thought, "That's brilliant—unscripted but safe, just looking at this whole thing as a meat geometry problem…"
Training for Sudden Violence - August 15, 2016
I teach about violence. As I left “the life” I discovered that my niche wasn’t so much teaching cops as I had expected, or even teaching civilian self-defense. The material seemed to resonate most with experienced martial artists who were coming to discover how little they really knew about violence.
Self-Defense: A Unique Teaching Challenge - June 27, 2016
There are six very important distinctions that make self-defense different from almost every other subject we teach. Rarity. Emergencies are extremely rare, complex, and varied. Rarity means there is very limited experience available on how to deal with such an event.
The Donkey - March 7, 2016
I am not, nor have I ever been, the most physically competent martial artist. It takes me inordinately more classes to attain technical proficiency in many areas than it does others. I am tall and fairly agile, but I do not have much muscle mass. And then, over the past few years, two significant medical challenges have crossed my desk. Couple all this with the fact that I am now in my 60s, and a potentially bleak image begins to materialize.
Hooks in Violent and Non Violent Encounters - January 12, 2016
Dealing with people who routinely used violence to get what they want, they often sought a "hook." A hook is an excuse to act out or a rationalization that will allow them to excuse their actions later.
Boundary Setting—Society's Rules - August 3, 2015
One of the advantages of living in society with a set of rules and mores is that the boundaries are supposed to be set for you. In a homogenous society everyone has similar ideas of right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate. The rules say who you can and can't touch and how, what you can and can't say and to whom.
Don’t Take It Personally - June 15, 2015
What does that even mean? In Conflict Communications the meaning is very specific. It takes history to hate a person. There must be a history of wrongs or perceived wrongs in order to get a deep and personal emotional bond, positive or negative.
The Why and Wherefore of Conflict Communication - June 9, 2015
How often have you found yourself in an argument with your wife, husband, or significant other and thought, "Here we go again"? Have you ever found the answer to a real problem and had it ignored while the person you are trying to help wastes time and energy picking at you, trying to create a personal problem from a good thing?
The Practical Problem of Teaching Self-Defense - January 19, 2015
Self-defense is unlike anything else humans train for. Unlike engineering or architecture, you can't have any idea of the problem you need to solve. An engineer knows if he will be building a bridge or a tunnel. A self-defense student will never know if they might someday face a rape attempt, a kidnapping, a drive-by shooting, or a simple assault.
Political Turmoil in Taekwondo - August 18, 2014
On December 31, 2013, Grandmaster Kyu Hyung Lee, taekwondoist extraordinaire, formally resigned his post as president of the esteemed Kukkiwon after holding the position for a mere matter of months. Quickly replaced by Man Soon Jang, Lee claimed his startling decision was founded on irreconcilable differences between two leading factions; one consisting of officials whose behavior is largely motivated by politics, and a second group of martial artists, spearheaded by Lee, with the purity of taekwondo at heart.
The Heart of Taekwondo - July 7, 2014
When the heart of taekwondo beats, it gives life to the advancement of supreme discipline, the achievement of noble character, and the cultivation of an enlightened worldview. It breaks the bonds that bind us to the Earth and again, as adults, allows us to feel the wind beneath our feet rather than merely around them.
Common Sources of Knowledge About Violence - March 31, 2014
We are, all of us, both teachers and students. As teachers, we give our students information. As students, we learn from our teachers. The teachers give us knowledge. This knowledge came from somewhere, from one of four sources.
Teaching Joint Locks - February 3, 2014
About 2003, the training unit at my old agency got some pretty disturbing numbers. Assaults against staff and hospitalizations had increased dramatically. The programs taught at the academy and approved by our agency weren't cutting it. The Training Unit tasked a few of us to redesign the Defensive Tactics program from the ground up.