Applied Karate update

It would appear as if Applied Karate has been neglected, and in fact if you’ve visited in the past week or two you would have found a dead site. Short story is that there was a change of back end systems, and the Applied Karate site failed in the cutover. It took me a while to restore the site from back ups and old notes, but I think it is all done now. Please let me know if something is missing…

Posting has also been light on because of my duties with the Australian Navy. I was deployed on a big international deployment, visiting some 14 ports in 11 countries on four continents, returning to Sydney in August.

I’ve taken up a new posting since returning, and have moved up to Darwin in Australia’s tropical Top End. Interesting new job in an interesting, if not humid, new location.

My own training and research into Shorinjiryu Koshinkai Karatedo and Ryukyu buki-ho (weapons methods) continues in my new home. I am working on couple of research projects, and look forward to sharing more about them as time progresses.

I do plan to write more here, and look forward to feedback and discussion. I have no current plans to resume the podcast, as it is a project that needs time dedicated to it, and I would rather focus on the research and writing at this time. But one day it will come back in some form.

So I hope you’ll keep reading and conversing with me through the comments, the Applied Karate Twitter feed and the Applied Karate Facebook page.

Keep up to date with the Applied Karate RSS feed.

Books I am excited about

There are a couple of new books out on the Kindle Store that I am quite excited about, and wanted to provide an update on.

Fresh out today is Tales from the Western Generation: Untold Stories and Firsthand History from Karate’s Golden Age by Matt Aspokardu of Ikigai Way fame. This book looks to be the most comprehensive treatment of the Western masters who have been instrumental in the development of karate as we know it today. Matt is one of the new generation of karateka who are working hard to balance the the traditions and the ongoing development of karate.

The second volume is A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History by Andreas Quast. A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History is based upon Mr Quast’s previous research and publications, particularly the scholarly Karate 1.0. A Stroll is perhaps written to be more accessible for those not academically inclined, or as a complementary volume for those who wish to have a companion version at hand for quick reference.

With my current schedule of international travels, I have been able to access both books in Kindle format, and have downloaded to my iPad for reading on the go. Both are welcome additions, and I look forward to getting into them.

Congratulations to Messrs Apsokardu and Quast on their publications – both of which are clearly built on the back of thousands of hours of research and writing.

Essential Jo

The jo (four foot staff) is a weapon that I have enjoyed the study of for many years, but have always lamented that the published material available about it centres around either the Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu style, or the Aikijo practices in many Aikido schools.

The school of karate I practice is based on an Okinawan/Japanese style which has always practiced the bo (6 foot staff) and sai (iron truncheon).

While living in Japan and training at the hombu dojo between 1991 and 1993 I was fascinated to discover that the jo was one the third wepon originally emphasised by the founder, Kaiso Kori Hisataka (1907–88). Unfortunately the practice of the jo lay dormant in the mainline school and the descendent schools.

In the intervening years I made it my mission to research the jo, a process that ultimately led to the introduction of the kata Ufuchiku no jo to our organisation. Subsequently Kaicho Shunji Watanabe of the Shorinjiryu Kenyukai Watanabe-Ha school (with which we were affiliated for several years) also reintroduced the practice of another kata (alternatively called Shishiryu no Jo or Kudaka no Jo).

In my research I began to realise that the practice of the jo was important among the bushi of the Shuri Court, and can be found in several styles of Udundi (palace hand) and Ti extant today.

With this background I am pleased to see that others have also seen the importance of the jo for karate practitioners, as it is a versatile weapon that has real relevance today. Poles and rods in the 3—4 foot range are common and can be used as makeshift weapons of defence.

The first book that I am aware of to take an indepth look at the Jo from a non-Aikijo persective has been written by Dan Djurdjevic.

Essential Jo promises to be “the most comprehensive text on the subject to date”, and is said to be well-illustrated with over 900 photographs.

I have ordered a copy, and look forward to providing a review soon.

Book Review

I’ll admit straight out that I am a little late to the party with my review of Goran Powell’s new book Chojun: A Novel.

This is at least in part because I have been busy with new endeavours, and this book has been one of several that has been patiently waiting for me to get around to reading it.

Get the Kindle edition of Chojun: A Novel at Amazon.

Get the paperback edition of Chojun: A Novel at

2014-01-25 A big ooops

A big ooops…

It seems that there was some sort of cache file corruption on 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.