2014-01-25 A big ooops

A big ooops…

It seems that there was some sort of cache file corruption on AppliedKarate.com that was showing visitors to the site that the most recent post was in mid-May 2013. In fact, there had been a number of posts since then that do not seem to have shown on the site.

If, however, you were logged in you would have seen these updates. Similarly, if you received the web feed (RSS) you would have received the updates.

I am of course embarrassed that this happened, and hopefully visitors will now enjoy the several articles showing below that had been published since that time frame.

Wallace Smedley’s Five Points on Self Defense

Wallace Smedley, author of the book Slapping Dragons has posted a great article regarding Five Things to Remember About Self Defense.

In this article, Wallace paints a realistic picture about the reality of self-defense, the role of awareness and avoidance, the importance of health and the potential legal and psychological consequences of acting in self defense.

Well worth a read.

DogHouseDiaries on social media’s simmering privacy policies

Social Media is an important way to interact with friends and colleagues, and in many cases, with colleagues, customers and suppliers. It can be a powerful tool, but it can also be an incredible productivity sinkhole.

It is also a fact that many of the major social media services have progressively and slowly evolved (eroded) their terms of service to decrease privacy.

Today’s DogHouseDiaries comic beautifully expresses this.

Personally I minimise my time on social networks, sticking mainly to Twitter and LinkedIn. I use Google+ and Facebook selectively, and then only in dedicated (read: sandboxed) apps, or in a browser that I only use for these sites. I don’t access Google or Facebook from my main browser.

Mario McKenna Sensei on Correct Practice

Mario McKenna on “Correct Practice”

Mario McKenna Sensei (guest on episode 13 of The Applied Karate Show podcast) on the importance of correct practice in karate and kobudo training:

So what is correct practice? Correct practice for beginners means focusing on fundamental exercises that create a strong base for more specific ones later on.

My former teacher, Masayuki Hisataka Sensei always emphasised that it wasn’t enough to turn up and train, but that you had to have:

  • Correct mind
  • Correct practice
  • Correct technique

Hisataka Sensei used always emphasise that the starting point was the correct mind. This mindset lead you to practice correctly, which was the only way to develop correct technique.

I liked that in McKenna Sensei’s post he emphasised that the three fundamental aspects of correct practice in Naha-te based systems like Gojuryu are junbi undo (preparatory exercises), kihon gata (fundamental kata) and hojo undo (supplementary exercises).

In the Shorinjiryu Koshinkai Karatedo practiced at the Kengokan Dojo junbi undo and kata are clearly common elements of our correct practice. The third element would undoubtedly be futari geiko (two person practice) exercises, including yakusoku kumite (pre-arranged drills) and bogu kumite (kumite utilising body armour).

It’s important to consider the foundations of your training. What are the fundamental aspects of your system?

The End of 24 Fighting Chickens?

24 Fighting Chickens is a long standing blog and forum that has served to challenge many of the common perceptions about karate’s methods, applications, practices and history. The publisher of the site, Rob Redmond kicked off the in 1995, at a time when the web was hardly known, and when karate related websites were few and far between.

Today marks the 18th anniversary of the site, and Rob has posted that the 24 Fighting Chickens is coming to an end.

I’m looking around, and I think we’re done here. Time to lower the flags of discontent, and move on to other projects.

I am saddened to see this, but wish to recognise Rob for his achievements in fighting the mainstream beliefs of karate. His efforts have caused many karateka, particularly those in mainstream Japanese styles, to analyse the roots and purpose of karate with more of an open-mind. I have agreed with many of Rob’s perspectives and opinions, and disagreed with others. I applaud his efforts to challenge people’s thinking.

Thanks Rob. Best wishes for your next endeavours.

The Rise of Karate Tourism

There has been a rise of what can be called karate tourism of recent times, driven by providers both on Okinawa and in the USA who arrange seminars, logistics, hotels, translators, etc. Former guests on The Applied Karate Show podcast Mike Clarke Kyoshi (interviewed in episode 4) and Mario McKenna Sensei (interviewed in episode 12) have both recently posted thoughtful articles on this trend.

Both of these gentlemen have done things the hard way – taken themselves out of their comfort zone and travelled to a foreign culture and sought and received admission to a dojo so they could train under a teacher who they saw provided value. They didn’t look for a third party to make the arrangements for them. In many respects the journey was as important as the goal.

Mario McKenna Sensei expresses his thoughts beautifully:

IMHO, if you’re using a company or service to arrange your travel, accommodations, and training on Okinawa or Japan, then you’re doing kanko (sightseeing).

There’s nothing wrong with sightseeing, but it is important that we don’t confuse it with true keiko (training). I’ve had the opportunity to undertake both in the past, and enjoyed different experiences in each.

In 1991 I moved to Japan for two years where I trained with the hereditary head of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo, Hisataka Masayuki Hanshi. I had already been training in Shorinjiryu for 8 years by that stage, and had previously met Hisataka Sensei on several occasions. Nonetheless, I made my own arrangements (travel, work and accomodation), and armed myself with letters of introduction from our then chief instructors in Australia. Although I had sent a letter to Hisataka Sensei in advance, I made my own way to the dojo on my first day in Tokyo, and started my personal experience.

For the next two years, I had many wonderful experiences in budo. I was very fortunate to have others guide and include me in those, including people like Hisataka Sensei and Patrick McCarthy Hanshi (who I had met early in my stay), as well as other friends and colleagues I met in the dojo and at various events. This is the way of budo – it is not a solo journey, but one that you must undertake yourself in the company of teachers, seniors, peers and, eventually perhaps, students.

These two years were a personal journey, and involved many challenging events. For each challenge faced there was a corresponding personal victory. As another of my former teachers, Watanabe Shunji Hanshi likes to say.

Karate shugyo wa ningen shugyo. Ningen shugyo wa karate shugyo

Although hard to translate, shugyo can mean the “warriors quest or pilgrammage”, but I like the definition from the Shugyo Center that describes it as “dedicated and authentic physical and spiritual training”. So Watanabe Sensei’s quote means that something like “the dedicated and authentic physical and spiritual training of karate is the dedicated and authentic physical and spiritual training of being a human, and vice versa”.

In 2006, my wife and I had the opportunity to spend a few days on Okinawa. Although I had lived in Japan for two years and had researched the history and practice of Okinawan karate and bukiho (weaponry, a.k.a kobudo) for many years, this was to be my first visit to the island. I made the decision that there would be insufficient time to train in any meaningful way, and thus decided to be a tourist.

Of course, I would be more of a karate tourist, visiting historic sites and dojo that were meaningful in karate history, absorbing the culture and perhaps meeting a few key masters.

We didn’t consider having anyone else organise this for us. We arrived on Okinawa and checked in to our hotel. Then each day we visited various locations. Of course, we visited the Shuri Castle and surrounding areas, the Okinawan Prefectural Museum, the markets, Tomari waterfront, various grave sites and monuments and Kudaka Island (my former teacher, Hisataka Sensei’s name is pronounced Kudaka in the Okinawan language, and his ancestors were feudal lords of this island). We visited Hokama Tetsuhiro Sensei’s Karate Museum and dojo, and visited many dojo to pay respects. A highlight was meeting the late Nakazato Joen Sensei at his Kyudokan Dojo.

From a research perspective, this was a wonderful trip, and there was a mental/spiritual element of shugyo to it. But it was not a training experience – I made a conscious decision to have a tourist experience on that occasion. On my next visit to Okinawa, however, I will be looking at a trip that is predominately training. I will still do some tourist things (there are still many sights unseen for me on Okinawa).

Mike Clarke Sensei has a wonderful view on the nature of (Okinawan) budo:

Okinawan karate and kobudo are very special activities, and in my opinion, neither should be given away lightly

Karate tourism provides a “50,000 foot view”, but real karate happens on solid ground. Tourism has it’s place, but don’t confuse it with training. A true teacher will only give superficial instruction to tourists.

I agree wholeheartedly that karate tourism should not be seen as karate training. But it does have a place, and perhaps the big part is that perhaps a small percentage of those who undertake karate tourism will have their eyes opened, and will go back to one day explore more deeply.

Beef Jerky Recipe

My personal approach to eating is based on the Paleo philosophy, mixed with 5:2 intermittent fasting. I enjoy the Paleo philosophy of eating as little processed food as possible – a program I finally got on board with after talking with Sempai Joe Berne in episode 15 of The Applied Karate Show.

Whilst I would not call myself pure Paleo, I follow the principle that one of the best things we can do for our body is to give it as much natural nutrition as we can. After doing the 30 day challenge that Joe sempai discussed, I experimented and found that small amounts of rice and yoghurt work for me, but generally avoid pasta, breads (except the occasional wrap), pastries and most dairy.

One of my favourite Paleo “snacks” is beef jerky. But you have to be careful to look at the ingredients (salt), so following the inspiration of Angelo Coppola from the Humans are Not Broken blog and the associated Latest in Paleo podcast, I started making my own jerky. I purchased a food dehydrator, and started out with Angelo’s beef jerky recipe. I modified this to suit locally available ingredients and my own taste (which may be spicier than most).

As a couple of people have asked, I thought I’d post my current beef jerky recipe. Enjoy, and I’d love feedback.

Ingredients:

1 kg Grass Feed Beef
2/3 cup Tamari Sauce, Or coconut aminos
1/3 cup Hot water
24 drops Tabasco sauce
0.5 tablespoon Smokey paprika
2 cloves Garlic
Shichimi flakes

Directions:

  1. Slice the meat to about 5mm thickness, or to medium thickness on a mandolin. Freezing for 1–1.5 hours beforehand makes slicing easier. Put meat aside in a glass container.

  2. Mix other ingredients (except shichimi) in a microwave safe container, and microwave for 1 minute. Pour the mixture over the meat, ensuring that you coat all the pieces of the meat. (Can shake it if in a glass snap ware type container).

  3. Refrigerate overnight. After removing, place meat in a colander, and rinse with warm water.

  4. Lay meat on dehydrator trays, ensuring that pieces don’t overlap. As you finish each tray, sprinkle some shichimi flakes over the pieces. Dehydrate on high for around 4 hours.

  5. Jerky is done when the outside cracks when you bend it. Let it cool to room temperature. Put in an airtight container on paper towel, and refrigerate.

Remaining Podcast Episodes Back Online

As previously posted, I have been working through the process of bringing old episodes of The Applied Karate Show podcast back online. Previoulsy episodes 1 through 4 and episodes 9 through 15 were restored, and I am pleased to advise that the remaining episodes (5 through 8) are now online.

These episodes comprise the following interviews, including some of my alltime favourites:

The next phase of my project is to start to setup new interviews for future new episodes. Please stay tuned!

Chiishi, Kettlebells and Strength Training

Following my earlier post discussing Joe Berne sempai’s article about the importance of strength training comes a thoughtful piece from Mario McKenna sensei [guest in episode 12 of The Applied Karate Show podcast) about the value of the chi-ishi for strength development in traditional karateka.

Chi-ishi on the right. Image by Dormis

Mario sensei compares the relative advantages of the chiishi versus tools like the kettlebell and Indian clubs, stating that chiishi are

heavier than Indian Clubs and allow the development of strength, but lighter than Kettle bells to allow more variation in the exercises that can be done. Chiishi design is similar to the Indian club which allows a greater range of motion. So to me I find Chiishi the “best of both worlds” as they say.

Mario sensei explains his own approach to strength training:

I alternate between modern weight lifting (barbell, dumbbells, & machines), body weight exercises and traditional weight lifting using Chiishi, etc.

I agree that body weight exercises are a staple exercise for the karateka, and in an ideal world I would alternate body weight exercises with traditional hojo undo equipment. I set out to do just that a decade back or so, and found that there was virtually no supply of products (in Australia), a very ill-defined training regime (outside select Gojuryu schools), a scarcity of instructors and a scarcity of books or videos on the topic. I wish that Mike Clarke sensei’s book The Art of Hojo Undo: Power Training for Traditional Karate was available then!

In my own search I came across the Russian Kettlebell. With an excellent training regime based on the approach from the pioneer of kettlebell training in the west, Pavel Tsatsouline (guest in episode 10 of The Applied Karate Show podcast), his books and videos and a ready supply of kettlebell products, I “got into the swing”. I undertook training (and later a kettlebell instructor course) with Don Stevenson.

I think that the kettlebell continues to be an awesome tool for a martial artists. The grip development, the off-centre centre-of-gravity, the range of compound exercises and the development of explosive power from the core make it suited to the needs of a karateka. These reasons are, as Mario sensei outlined, similar with hojo undo tools like the chiishi. But for me, the availability of product and the availability of quality instruction and instructional resources make the kettlebell my preference for strength training.

Joe Berne on Training Prioritisation

Joe Berne sempai (guest in Episode 15 of The Applied Karate Show podcast) has posted a thought provoking article about how you should prioritise your workouts when time is limited.

Joe makes several great points, and the whole article is well worth a read. But I particularly enjoyed the following:

I’d say you probably shouldn’t spend any time on actual karate unless you have more than an hour a week to train. That is, your first hour of exercise (I don’t mean the first hour on Sunday, I mean the first hour we’re counting) should be dedicated strength training. Keep your muscle and bones healthy. If you have 2 hours a week, still spend 1 hour of it strength training, but add in dynamic stretching and skill training sessions for the second hour. And, if you have it, the third.

It should be no surprise that I am a big fan of strength and conditioning training, particularly using kettlebells, and I suspect that my approach is similar to (but perhaps not as well develoepd as) Joe’s. The point Joe makes is that strength training should be the foundation – strong bones and muscles will help us prevent injury as we age. And then being able to move dynamically is the next piece of the puzzle.

I also like a key point in Joe’s article:

Try this conditioning trick: stand on a soft-ish surface, maybe a yoga mat or a wrestling mat or even an old futon. Fall to the ground – break it as well as you can. Then stand back up. Alternate falling to your left and to your right. Repeat for 2 minutes. You want to live long and be healthy? Be strong and learn how to fall without getting hurt. Don’t think it matters? Visit a local nursing home and walk around for 15 minutes. Then come back and we’ll talk.

Learning ukemi waza (breakfalling techniques) is not just a lesson for martial arts, but a lesson for life. Kind of goes with one of my favourite kotowaza (proverbs): nana korobi ya oki – fall down seven times, stand up eight.