Why your teacher is not God - The infallibility illusion in traditional martial arts
December 18, 2023
It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing our martial arts masters as infallible or near-invincible in skill. However, this mindset is not just erroneous, but downright dangerous too. The following article will explain why.
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.
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.
Working Together: Teaching Online
March 26, 2021
Online teaching has been trending throughout the pandemic. YMAA instructors Jonathan Chang and Michelle Lin share their experiences providing virtual teaching pre-pandemic until now, as well as hosting a global Martial Arts Virtual Camp. I sat down with them recently (virtually of course) to discuss all this and what they are planning for the future.
Chinese Early Sword Development - March 22, 2021
The Chinese word for weapon, Bingqi originated as the word for a group of weapons including the lance, spear, halberd, pronged spear, sword, and saber. Chinese people certainly used more primitive weapons than these before the advent of the language to describe them. The prehistoric Chinese, like other societies, probably utilized the sticks and stones that lay about.
Bam Commandments: Spiritual Principles - February 15, 2021
It’s the first of the month in the tough ghetto neighborhood. It’s payday for the poor. The welfare check has arrived, and the drug dealers can’t wait. It’s also their payday, and they can easily estimate $20,000-$50,000 in income. This might seem exaggerated, but it’s not. This dealing goes on every day, and with this business comes violence, guns, and murder for those in top positions of power.
Know the Land, Know the Martial Arts History of Vietnam - September 28, 2020
Vietnam has a land mass close to 332,000 square kilometers, it borders China to the north, mainland Southeast Asia to the west and has hundreds of kilometers of coastline. As a result, the region has long been seen as a strategically and economically valuable resource. The modern incarnation of Vietnam was first amalgamated by military expansion southwards throughout the seventeenth century, giving the country its distinct "S" shape. Meanwhile, the northern borders have had very little modification since the withdrawal of the Song Dynasty in 1070.
Vietnamese Martial Arts and Their Role in the Modern World - July 24, 2020
The land we now know as Vietnam has been defined by centuries of conflict. Within the modern-day borders of the country, countless battles for dominance, resources and survival have taken place, thus ensuring the development of many unique fighting styles. Although there has been a long and intertwined history between China and Vietnam (the name Vietnam even stems from the Chinese "Nan Yue" which means "Southern Dwellers",) various geographical, cultural and physical differences have all coalesced to create combat systems that are distinctly different from their northern counterparts.
A Brief History of Stick Fighting and Why Learn It - March 9, 2020
There are many practical reasons to learn how to fight with sticks. Stick fighting is a healthy, competitive activity that has real world applications. Stick fighting skills are very practical for self-defense, while stick fighting also serves as a sport, offering both entertainment and fitness. It appeals to all types of people, of all ages and ability levels.
Essential Stick Fighting: Crossing the Gap - February 24, 2020
The human mind can be very predictable. Our brains have a natural tendency to look for patterns, and you can use this knowledge to trick your opponent into doing what you want him to do. This is called programming. Programming is an exceptional method of setting up your techniques, maximizing the probability of eluding your opponent’s defenses in order to land a decisive, disabling strike.
The Way of Wushudo - December 2, 2019
The highest level of martial arts training is to be able to perform beyond all boundaries, systems, styles, and techniques with total freedom of self-expression. You can achieve this only after you have developed a strong foundation in a particular style or system.
Sambo-Not for the Faint of Heart - November 25, 2019
The young newspaper reporter was looking for an angle on his story about the national sambo tournament I was hosting sometime back around 1985 in Kansas City, Missouri. I had given him the necessary background information on the sport; the rules, history, who was competing that day and the other bits of information that would give the reporter more than enough information to provide an interesting story to his readers.
Steps to Winning - November 11, 2019
Many people study martial arts because they want to develop their fighting skills, then have a chance to go one-on-one with other martial artists. It seems more refined and socially acceptable to them than going outside and picking a fight with someone on the street. Of course you don't get the same possible dire consequences, because there is always a measure of controlled fighting in the ring.
Structured Training in the Martial Arts - October 14, 2019
Structured training is not only necessary, it is essential and central to success in any field of endeavor, and especially so in the fighting sports that comprise the martial arts. A person has to train hard, but just as important, that martial arts athlete has to train smart. In most martial arts, there is a rational approach to skill development.
How to be a Complete Martial Artist and Discover the Champion Within - October 7, 2019
It took a 6-foot-wide and 8-foot-high jail cell for me to realize that I had the qualities of a complete martial artist. I struggled with the thought of the inside being like a tunnel and losing my breath from being claustrophobic.
Encountering a Bully - September 23, 2019
When you come across a bully, it is important to understand that there are several defensive tools you can use to escape a fight. To avoid these situations altogether, it helps to know what types of bullies there are and what weapons they will use to try to put you down.
The Pursuit of Do - August 12, 2019
There is a formula in Western civilization that many people follow, hoping for inner peace and happiness—a good education, plus a good job, plus lots of money and material possessions, plus family and friends equal inner peace and happiness.
Judo Isn't Gentle - February 18, 2019
Is judo really the "gentle way?" In the popular meaning of the word, judo certainly isn't anything close to being gentle. To paraphrase the great martial arts writer Donn Draeger; "Judo isn't gentle." And while judo isn't gentle in the more common use of the word, it's certainly efficient; and because it's efficient, it's effective
Fighting Physics: The Mechanics of the Staff - February 13, 2017
Physics is one broad brushstroke of a topic! If we got technical, we could talk about how the atoms of the staff and the arrangement of the wood fibers along its length give the staff its unique characteristics, capabilities and combat effectiveness.
Easy Training Equipment for Staff Fun - December 5, 2016
Here is your opportunity to become the "Lord of the Rings" (sorry, I just couldn't help myself!). Training rings allow you to develop accurate, penetrating thrusts as well as circular techniques used in manipulation of an opponent's weapon. They are useful for training both staff and spear.
Combat with the Staff: The Moment of Truth - November 25, 2016
It is not unusual for sparring with the staff to feel awkward at first. There is a big difference between doing drills with a partner, and the chaos of combat against a non-compliant opponent who is trying his best to hit you. Stick with it.
What is Staff Fighting? - October 17, 2016
The staff has been a common weapon among the many cultures of Earth since ancient times. Over the ages, humans have used this basic weapon for self-defense and for contest.
The Art and Science of Staff Fighting - September 19, 2016
The staff, or bo, is one of the most common weapons in the martial arts. Many karate schools include bo forms in their curriculum. I am here with Master Joe Varady, martial artist and weapons specialist, to talk about the staff.
Sai Design and Fighting Theory - January 27, 2016
The correct length and weight of the sai varies from individual to individual. Of course, as with any weapon, the longer and heavier it can be without compromising the handling, the better it is in a combat situation. As the proverb goes, "One inch longer, one inch stronger" (一寸長, 一寸強, Yī cùn cháng, yī cùn qiáng).