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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.
Yamashita’s Dojo
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.
The Fight
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.
A Few Fighting Techniques Found in the Dukkha Series - June 16, 2014
Many kind reviewers for Dukkha: The Suffering, Dukkha: Reverb, and Dukkha: Unloaded have commented on the realistic violence, in particular the fight scenes. This is always nice to hear because I work hard to infuse the scenes with authenticity and truth. After spending 30 years around man's inhumanity to man, first as a Military Policeman in Vietnam and then as a street cop for 25 years in Portland, Oregon, I find many authors' and movie directors' depiction of violence to be sadly lacking or simply off base.
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.
On Writing Dukkha Reverb - October 28, 2013
Dukkha Reverb is the second book in the Dukkha thriller series, published by YMAA Publications. The first is Dukkha: The Suffering.
Dukkha Reverb - September 9, 2013
The following is an excerpt from Dukkha Reverb, a Sam Reeves martial arts thriller.  After six weeks of being intensely investigated for the accidental killing of a young boy, Portland police detective and martial arts instructor, Sam Reeves, travels to Saigon, Vietnam to visit his newly found family. 
Sport versus Combat - May 27, 2013
It was the first time I’d ever made it to the finals. Win and I’d take home the first place trophy; lose and it’d still be a pretty cool piece of hardware. I’d come in third a couple of times, but the little statues weren’t nearly as prestigious as the big ones. And I really, really wanted to earn one of the big ones.
The Ground. The Dirty, Filthy, Dangerous Ground - April 29, 2013
The Raiders fan had biceps that could put Hulk Hogan to shame and a physique that was nothing short of awesome. He stood out in a bar full of average guys, not only because he was ripped, but also because he was the only person cheering for the other team, the only one doing it vociferously anyway.
The Three Golden Rules - December 24, 2012
The three golden rules, first written by Dep. Paul McRedmond of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, must be the basis of all officer training. The fact that they exist, that they are explicitly taught, and that they needed to be stated so clearly says something about the profession.
Excerpt from DUKKHA—The Suffering, A Sam Reeves Martial Arts Thriller - November 26, 2012
Dukkha: a Pali term that corresponds to such English words as pain, discontent, unhappiness, sorrow, affliction, anxiety, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration.
A Police Officer’s View of Scaling Force - September 3, 2012
Fights are dynamic and chaotic situations. A simple escort hold, walking a drunk off the premises can turn into a knife fight or a struggle for your weapon in an instant. Or you and several other officers could be fighting against a large, vicious threat who is acting completely inhuman and have him suddenly go limp.
An Introduction to Force Decisions - April 30, 2012
This book (Force Decisions) is a gift, a peace offering. It is an attempt to communicate across a vast gulf in culture and experience, the gulf that exists between the Law Enforcement community and those whom they protect.
How to Evaluate a Force Decision - April 16, 2012
Fighting is ugly. Killing is ugly. Getting involved in any force incident is dangerous and it hurts. Violence affects humans at a very deep emotional level, and when we see or hear of an act of violence most people are sickened or outraged. And our default assumption is that anything that sickens or angers us so much must be wrong.
Four Chokes and Cranks for Street Use - February 27, 2012
The type of chokes and cranks discussed here are designed for the street. Several of them have been banned from judo competition because they are too dangerous for sport.
On Writing Dukkha - The Suffering - January 16, 2012
As a Portland, Oregon police officer, my partner and I once responded to the 12th floor of a high rise where a deranged man had just fired seven rounds from a shotgun into the face and chest of his psychiatrist.
In-Group, Out-Group: Two Sides of a Hot Issue - December 5, 2011
As both a military policeman during the Vietnam War and as a civilian police officer for 25 years, I was involved in dozens of demonstrations and all-out riots.
Counter Assault: Surviving Attacks - September 12, 2011
Talking to a friend in a public place, her eyes suddenly focused over my shoulder and went wide. I turned fast, elbow up, spinning and drop-stepping towards the Threat. Didn’t feel the solid contact of a head, but felt an arm brush away and continued.
Counter Assault: Attack from the Front - September 5, 2011
When a threat attacks you, he has a plan and his is counting on your surprise. He is expecting you to freeze in fear and leave him free to do whatever dastardly things he has planned. He expects your own adrenaline to ensure that he wins. An operant conditioned response will kick in before the adrenaline surge that might trigger freeze rather than fight or flight.
Kage-The Shadow - August 8, 2011
This is the fourth book in the Connor Burke martial arts thriller series. Burke lives in Brooklyn, New York where his warrior-teacher Yamashita has his dojo. But the story begins in the unforgiving landscape of the American Southwest. A notorious best-selling author Elliot Westmann is killed.
Facing Violence: The Unconscious Stuff-Finding Your Glitches - August 1, 2011
In my own experience, almost everyone hesitates before doing a dangerous or uncomfortable thing. Whether jumping out of an airplane or diving into cold water or singing karaoke in public, very few people can just go for it without hesitation the first time.
More About Violence Dynamics - May 23, 2011
Social violence can roughly be delineated as the Monkey Dance (MD), the Group Monkey Dance (GMD), the Educational Beat-Down (EBD) and the Status-Seeking Show (SSS).  The MD and GMD were discussed in <a href="/articles/violence-dynamics">part one</a> of this article. We will continue starting with the Educational Beat-Down.