Origin of the Blood Oath
September 18, 2023
And there it was. It’s not only my injuries that wake me in the night. In the vulnerability of the dark, I wonder if the point of Yamashita’s art is not about skill or technique but simply about pursuing an unshakeable willingness to surrender the self in the pursuit of something higher.
August 14, 2023
The following is an excerpt from John Donohue's upcoming martial arts thriller, Keppan: The Blood Oath, coming to YMAA Publication Center in September 2023. This is the sixth installment of Donohue's gripping martial arts thriller series about martial artist Connor Burke. Fusing the way of the pen and the way of the sword, Donohue has trained in the martial disciplines of aikido, iaido, judo, karatedo, kendo, and taiji. He has dan (black belt) ranks in both karatedo and kendo. A nationally known expert on the culture and practice of the martial arts, Donohue infuses his thrillers with genuine cultural and martial aspects that every reader will enjoy.
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.
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.
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.
Dukkha Hungry Ghosts - December 28, 2015
As Mai and the crowd watch in frozen horror, the Lexus slowly rolls again until it's on its top; the front-end still nose down into the water. After a moment, only the rear back tires are still above the surface. Then they too slip beneath the bay.
Dukkha: Hungry Ghosts - A Sam Reeves Martial Arts Thriller - November 16, 2015
The following is an excerpt from Dukkha: Hungry Ghosts. Sam Reeves and his girlfriend Mai are enjoying a morning at Saturday Market, a sprawling weekend bazaar along Portland's waterfront. From the top of a bridge at the market, a crazed man, "Tonto," announces that he will be the crowds designated shooter.
Dukkha: Hungry Ghosts - A Sam Reeves Martial Arts Thriller - October 26, 2015
Prologue from the book: His legless torso swings back and forth between his arms, as he hand-walks along the dim but ornately lit cobblestone path that meanders about the lavish yard through tall bamboo, past large stone Asian lanterns, around half a dozen towering palm trees, and encircles a large pond. Twelve-foot high brick walls border the large yard on three sides.
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.
Never Hit A Girl…Unless She's Armed - September 29, 2014
Sun Tzu and Miyamoto Musashi made no distinctions regarding gender. To them all adversaries were defined as combatants. In today's world, distinctions of gender are made by friends, family, police, and the courts. The role of combatant is, oftentimes, secondary. While experienced bouncers, bodyguards, law enforcement officers, soldiers, jail guards, and martial artists know that women can be just as dangerous, or possibly even more so than men, (such as instinctively going for the eyes during an attack) the courts don't often see it that way.
Modern Trends: Reality-based Martial Arts - September 15, 2014
The rise in recent years of so-called ‘reality’ based martial arts reminds me of other great scams committed against the general public, like bottled water, and who can forget the panic that gripped the world in the 1990s over the Y2K dilemma that was supposedly going to see aeroplanes fall from the sky and shut down every computer on the entire planet.
Enzan The Far Mountain - A Connor Burke Martial Arts Thriller - August 11, 2014
The following is an excerpt from John Donohue's latest martial arts thriller, Enzan The Far Mountain. Chie Miyazaki is a wild, spoiled, pampered child of a cadet line of the Imperial House of Japan. When she disappears in the United States accompanied by a slick Korean boyfriend who may be taking orders from Pyongyang, it sets alarms off in Japan's security apparatus as well in the U.S. intelligence.
The Art in Martial Arts - July 28, 2014
For many practitioners, the phrase “martial arts” doesn’t do a particularly good job of encompassing the complexity of the systems we study. There is also a certain oxymoronic tension between things martial and things arty and serious trainees often prefer to emphasize the physical efficacy of these systems.
Dukkha Unloaded-A Sam Reeves Martial Arts Thriller - June 26, 2014
A rush of wind sent debris skittering along the empty sidewalks, filthy gutters, and streets long in need of repair. Though few vehicles passed through the darkened skid row intersection of Northwest Third and Couch at three a.m., its lone traffic signal, swaying in the wind, continued to cycle its colors, casting hues off the sides of old buildings and the cracked windshield of a decaying station wagon propped up on four rusted wheels.