Showing posts with label Martial Arts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Martial Arts. Show all posts

Martial Arts for Dummies

Martial art "masters" are writing books that may be considered to be in the "Martial Arts for Dummies" category of writing. Many of these books are illogical, lack any type of empirical proof, rely upon unproven claims of some mysterious forces at work, and often are just outright lies. One may ask "Who would believe this mumbo jumbo?" That's an easy question to answer. Just consider who the books are written for.

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Segal Invented a New Front Kick

In UFC 126 on 2/5/11, Anderson Silva knocked out Vitor Belfort in the first round with a front kick to the chin. Silva credited actor Steven Segal with teaching him the kick. In an after fight interview, Segal said he worked for years to develop the kick. 

He did what! The first kick every Taekwondo or karate student learns is the front kick. It is then used and perfected over the years the student trains. And yet here is an arrogant actor claiming to have developed a new way to front kick an opponent on the chin.

Segal is the Al Gore of the martial arts. It was Gore who said in a March 1999 interview with Wolf Blitzer that, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."

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As a martial instructor, I don't want students who try. Trying doesn't show commitment. When you try, you are telling yourself that you may not be able to do it so you do not fully commit yourself and you hold something back in case of failure.

When I know that a student is capable of doing something, I expect the student to do it, and I expect the student to believe he or she can do it. The student may do it, or fail to do it. If the student does it, he or she will know that commitment leads to success and will feel the satisfaction of success. If the student fails to do it, it means the student either did not fully commit to doing it, or I was wrong in thinking the student could do it. If the student failed to commit, the student needs to work harder and gain more confidence so he or she will do it next time. If I was wrong in thinking the student could do it, then I will have to work harder to ensure the student does do it next time.

I don't want a surgeon who says he or she will try to remove all the tumor, I want a surgeon who says he or she will remove all the tumor. A surgeon who tries doesn't have confidence in his or her abilities, so he or she accepts failure as a possible outcome.

Although failure is a possible outcome, it is not an option.

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Dishonor in the ranks

Recently, in Winston-Salem, NC, Phillip James Every, 58, the owner the Karate USA karate school for over 30 years, was sentenced to four years of probation after he pleaded guilty to violating the state's sex-offender registry laws by working at business at which he was responsible for coaching minors. Every stopped teaching at the school after he was convicted in 2001 of indecent liberties with a child, for talking lewdly on the phone with a minor student of his while masturbating, and for assault on a female, for rubbing a student's buttocks, but he returned to teaching karate after he finished probation. At the time, this wasn’t a crime, but in 2006, the state's laws changed to ban sex offenders from coaching or supervising children. The State Bureau of Investigation sent letters to all sex offenders notifying them of the change, but Every kept teaching karate. Karate USA is now closed.


Why are martial artists so intrigued with Zen sayings when there is just as much wisdom in our own homegrown sayings? How is a Zen master’s wisdom any better than that of a country farmer? Both are stating the obvious; both are merely using common sense. So, why do martial artists tend to consider a Zen saying profound while considering a country saying quaint? Here are a few country sayings that are just as profound as any Zen sayings.

  • Never name a pig you plan to eat.
  • Life ain't about how fast you run, or how high you climb. It's about how good you bounce.
  • Keep skunks and gossipers at a distance.
  • Life is simpler when you plow around the stumps.
  • Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled.
  • Meanness don't happen overnight.
  • Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads.
  • Don't sell your mule to buy a plow.
  • Don't corner something meaner than you.
  • It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge.
  • You can't unsay a cruel remark.
  • Every path has some puddles.
  • Don't wrestle with pigs. You'll get all muddy, and the pigs'll love it.
  • The best sermons are lived, not preached.
  • Most of the stuff people worry about never happens.
  • Never miss a good chance to shut up.
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.
  • If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
  • There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
  • If you're riding' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.
  • You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.
  • One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.
  • Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisors
  • Quit griping about your school; if it was perfect, they wouldn’t let you attend
  • God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.
  • You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage him.

My Martial Art is Best!!

You hear martial artists say, “My martial art is the best!” and others condemn them for saying it. What would you expect a martial artist to say, “That other martial art is better than mine. I am just training in my lesser martial art because I am stupid!”


I just watched a video on the Internet of a “master” teaching a clinic on intricacies of knife fighting to a group of young children; so much for ethics and intelligence in the martial arts.

Sixth Sense

You hear martial art masters claim they can sense people behind them, when the people are going to attack, from what direction they are going to attack, and in what manner they are going to attack. Rubbish? These masters cannot tell you what you thinking when you are standing in front of them starring them in the face, but they want us to believe they can sense and read the mind of a person behind them. Rubbish?

People with disabilities or deformities say they can sense when people around them are staring at them and are feeling disgust at them. When I call my mother, she says she sensed that I was going to call. How do we know they are correct in their assumptions—we know it because they say they are correct. Everyone claims to sense things, and yet, when it matters, such as when a drunk driver runs a stop sign in front of them or when a tree falls on their house, they never have even slightest indication that it was about to occur.

People claim to have predicted events after they happen, but they have a problem predicting things before they happen. After things happen, psychics and the like find things they previously said that they say shows they had predicted the events. However, the predictions were vague statements with no definite details. In addition, psychics predict hundreds of things every year, most which everyone knows have a good chance of occurring, and, when one of the predations occurs, they claim success—neglecting the hundreds of predictions they got wrong. No one predicted the World Trade Center Attacks or the Iraq War. I remember in 1997, when Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, two of the best known women in the world, both died within a month of each other—no one predicted either death.

Think about your own experiences. For every time you have sensed something and been correct, you will have sensed something else and been incorrect. That means you were correct 50 percent of the time; the number expected in random chance. Even if your success rate exceeds 50 percent for a short time, it is still random chance. No one has been proven to be able to predict or sense anything consistently or significantly.

While being aware of your surroundings and the circumstances will help you avoid being in a position to be attacked, no amount of training will enable anyone to sense an attack. People believe what they want to believe, regardless of facts to the contrary.


There are limits and requirements in life. When it comes to their beliefs and behaviors in respect to a limit or requirement that may affect them, people fall into one of five categories:

  • Category 1: Those who agree with it and obey it.
  • Category 2: Those who agree with it but do not obey it.
  • Category 3: Those who do not agree with it but still obey it.
  • Category 4: Those who do not agree with it and do not obey it.
  • Category 5: Those who agree with it but think that it is arbitrary and does not always apply to them, so they do not always obey it.
This topic deals with people in the fifth category: those who think limits and requirements should be flexible and change according to the needs or desires of the people to which they apply. For example, these are the people who believe there should be a speed limit in their neighborhood and it should be used to catch speeders from other areas who use their neighborhood streets as a shortcut when going to work. However, these same people will scream and complain if they are caught speeding on the same streets; they always have reasons why they should be exempt from the speed limit.

These people see a limit or requirement as merely a base mark from which decisions may be made as to whether the limit or requirement should be obeyed under the circumstances, or who should obey it. For example, while most people would agree that 32 degrees Fahrenheit is the established freezing temperature of water, category five people would argue that if pure water is cooled without being disturbed, it will not freeze until much lower temperature, so therefore, contrary to it being everyone else’s limit, to them, 32 degrees is not the freezing point of water.

There are limits and requirements in the martial arts. There are limit on the age a student may be to enter a certain program, test for a certain rank, or participate in a certain event; or there may be limit on the size students may have to be to compete in certain divisions in a tournament. Some limits and requirements were established at the beginning of a martial arts existence and traditionally have been observed since that time, such as the minimum requirements for attaining a black belt. However, even that sacred requirement has been changed in the last few years to make it easier for students to make rank so more students will be retained and a steady supply of income will be maintained.

Category five people, while agreeing that there should be limits and requirements on certain things, think that the limits and requirements should not apply to them, or to certain groups of people, because of their special circumstances. Many times, after these people are given an exception to a limit or requirement, they will then argue that the exception should not be given for others under the same circumstances. A perfect example of this is people who are trying to build a house in area where the homeowners are attempting to prevent new construction due to overcrowding. These people will hold protests and fight in court until they are allowed to build, then they will join the homeowners in efforts to keep anyone else from building in the area. In the martial arts, we see people who think black belt requirements should be lower, and then after they make black belt, they argue that the requirements are too low and should be raised.

One martial art set of requirements that draws much controversy are the requirements for attaining ranks. Each rank in a martial art has certain age limit and requirements that must be met before a person may be awarded that rank. As long as people have no problem meeting these requirements, they think the requirements are fair. However, when they have a problem meeting the requirements, or they see some “limited” person who is not able to meet the requirements, they demand the requirements be changed, waived, or a special exception given.

Regrettably, many martial art organizations, schools, and instructors have given into these demands. Now there are so many exceptions to rank requirements that they are considered guidelines that may or many not apply depending on the person and the circumstances. The following are a few examples of these expected exceptions:

  • During testing, a student makes a mistake on the pattern or did not break the board, but he has done it properly in class many times, so he should not be punished for not doing it this one time because: a) he was sick, b) his grandfather just died, c) his parent overslept and caused him to have to rush to get to the testing, or d) a friend gave him the wrong advice on how to do it.
  • The student is mentally or physically disabled and is doing the best he or she will ever be able to do, so he or she should be promoted.
  • My child may be young but she deserves a black belt now because otherwise she will have to wait years until she is old enough.
  • My son may have failed the test, but he came to class everyday, is a very good student, and he is well liked by everyone, so he should be promoted,
  • My daughter is small for her age so she should not have to break the same number of boards as others her age.
  • My student is good at sparring, but is only able to spar one round instead of the required five rounds due to a heart condition.
  • If a child can perform the pattern movements correctly, spar effectively with children of the same age, and break a smaller or lesser number of boards that adults are required to break, the child should be awarded a black belt regardless of his or her age. Physical, mental, and emotional maturity should not be a factor.
  • Aged students should be promoted just because they are doing more than others of the age are capable of doing, or are doing.
  • The student is a community leader and could do much to further the acceptance of the martial arts within the community, so she should be promoted.
  • The student is wealthy and, if promoted, will continue to train and pay testing fees for many years.
  • The student comes from a minority or an underprivileged group and, if not promoted, it will damage his self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • The student has volunteered his time to assist at every event and is a staunch supporter of the school, so she deserves to be promoted.
  • Although the person is not nor has never been a student of the martial arts, he is a celebrity or a politician, so giving the person an “honorary” black belt will be beneficial to the school and increase the school’s image.
  • The person is a master in the XX style so he or she should not have to complete our style’s normal rank progression; he or she should be awarded a master rank in our style based on rank in another style.
No matter what the level of a given limit or requirement, category five people will argue, why is this the limit when it is nearly as good. Following their logic that the next lower limit is just a good, if you lower the limit to that level, they will make the same argument again, etc. etc. until there is no limit remaining. This is what has been happening to the traditional requirements on rank promotion.

As a result of all these exceptions to traditional limits and requirements, martial art rank now means little to nothing outside of the school or organization that issues it, and, in many circumstances, it mean little within the organization or school. Nowadays, martial art rank merely indicates the length of time a person has been a paid up student of good standing within an organization or school.

When limits and requirements are not enforced, they cease to be limits or requirements and they become meaningless.

Evolution of the Martial Arts

In the beginning, martial arts were promoted as the way of life, bushido, the way of the warrior. However, there were few people who wanted to be warriors and even fewer who were willing to do what it took to become a warrior. This was not a problem until modern times when martial art schools become businesses. To be profitable, the martial art businesses needed to attract more students.

Since there was not much demand for schools that taught warriors, martial art schools, in an effort to attract students, started promoting themselves as “secret” fighting arts that were known only to a few masters. They promoted themselves as manly fighting arts that boys could use to builEdit Postsd themselves physically so they could stop bullies from bothering them or their girl friends. When meditation and yoga became popular, martial arts promoted their relaxation aspects and how they promoted peace though personal fulfillment. The “kung-phooey” movie craze led to martial art schools concentrating on oriental weapons and fancy useless techniques. When aerobics became popular, martial art schools promoted their aerobic benefits and offered such things as kickboxing and boxer-cize. The Teenage Mutant Turtles got more children interested in the martial arts, so schools concentrated on teaching children. They began watering down the martial arts to please parents who did not want to teach their children violence. For example, students no longer learned fighting stances; they learned sparring stances.

Since their inceptions, the martial arts have gone from being fighting systems that taught you how to kill with your empty hands to the point that they now are being promoted as being nonviolent children sports. Why have these changes taken place? Has it been a logical growth path for fighting systems? I say—no! It has been because some people with an interest in the martial arts wanted to make money from the martial arts, so they kept reinventing them to fit the prevailing mores so they could attract more students, not to teach them true martial arts, but to make more money.

Nowadays, most of the martial arts have little or nothing to do with fighting or self-defense, they are martial art related sports for children designed to attract socially conscious parents. They only have adult programs to accommodate the children when they get older and to attract adults who want to stay fit using the latest “in” system. ]

Nowadays, you will have to search long and hard to find a modern martial art that is anywhere near being a real martial art. While there is still little demand for warriors, there is a need a need for people with warrior spirits and there are basically only two places to get that—the military and the martial arts.


In drag racing, two vehicles in different classes (different size, shape, horsepower, etc.) may race against each other on relatively equal footing by the use brackets. In this type of racing, to make the race more equal, the more powerful car starts a few milliseconds after the slower car, thus giving the slower car a head start. Why can’t we do the same thing for senior citizens in martial art competitions? For example, for every year older a competitor is than the opponent, the competitor is spotted ½ a point; i.e. if the competitor is 10 years older than the opponent, the competitor starts the match with 5 points. No matter the fitness or skill levels of competitors, age is a major factor in how well a competitor will perform.


How many people in your martial arts school have ever had to use their skills in real life, other than in the performance of their job, such as a police officer or a bouncer? If there are more than a few, or if a few have had to use their skills more than once, then you are probably in the wrong school, unless you are one of the few yourself, then you probably don't care. In in today's supposed violent society, most people will never have to defend themselves or others from an unsolicited attack. If you are the type of person that seems to always have a reason to defend him or herself, then you have a problem. There have been numerous masters of traditional martial arts who died of old age never having had to defend themselves. Does this mean their life in the martial arts was a waste of time?

Women, Warriors, and a Warrior Society

Ask women what type of men they want and they will say they a man who is caring, kind, and has a good sense of humor, and who would make a good father. Then look around. What type men do you see women gravitate to? It is the rough, tough, crude men. Why is this?

Like it or not, women are the nurturers; they are the mothers who raise children to further the species. They are smaller and less strong than men and, at various times, such as while pregnant or with small children, they need protection. This means that women are instinctively drawn toward men who appear to offer the most protection, the warriors. Instinctively, they feel this type of men will make the best fathers.

This paradox is why men stay confused. Women say they want good guys, so men try to be good; then the women are attracted to the bad guys. Even when women do choose the good guys, when the good guys are not tough enough when the trouble arises, the women leave in search of tougher men.

Western society views warriors in much the same way. People say they want peace, and they criticize and look down upon warriors as a type of low-class throw back to uncivilized times. However, as long as there are humans on the planet, there will never be peace, so there will always be a need for warriors. And when that need arises, the peace lovers look to the warriors to protect them, for, in their quest for peace, they have lost the ability to protect themselves.

To be effective, warriors must kill, sometimes ruthlessly. Nice people can become warriors, but nice people do not usually train to be warriors, so even in times of desperation, they will not be able to do what is necessary effectively. Warriors are not nice people. They can pretend to be nice and may outwardly appear to be nice, but when the time comes they can be ruthless killers. Warriors can pretend to be nice and fit into a peaceful society, however, even when nice people try to be warriors, they can never fit into a warrior society.

Peace lovers hate warriors, but warriors do not hate peace. Warriors do not seek wars, but they realize that war is inevitable and are prepared for it. Peace lovers have been preaching their beliefs for thousands of years and mankind is no closer to peace than it was in the beginning. Peace is not a natural state, so it always tenuous. Warriors realize this and so they stay prepared. They know that any peace is short-lived so they cannot become complacent.
Humans act civilized by choice, sometimes personal, sometimes forced upon them, and by exercising self-control. When a group of sports fans erupts into violence, it is not because they were there to cause trouble. When a group of shoppers fights to be first at grand opening sale, it is not because they came with the intention of fighting. When people do not behave badly, it is not because they are “good” people, and that the people who behave badly are “bad” people; it is because they have better self-control than the bad people. When their self-control relaxes, their bad side emerges. Good people are better at controlling their bad side.

No matter how intellectual humans may think they are, they still are instinctual animals. We may try to suppress our instincts and pretend they do not exist, but the instincts are still there and they govern our day-to-day interactions. If someone tells you not think about pink elephants, you will think about pink elephants no matter how hard you try not to think about them. During the process of trying not think about them, you will have to think about them. Instincts behave in much the same manner. They will rise to the surface no matter how much you try to suppress them.

If you are a warrior, you will be criticized, ridiculed, and looked down upon as being crude and uncivilized, but do not be discouraged. Know that when things go bad, you will be in demand and sought out by all the “civilized” intellectuals who will demand that you protect them. Maybe the best thing to do is let them fend for themselves. Then their breed will die out and warriors will again have their place in society.


People make decisions based upon the information they have at the moment. Sometimes these decisions are instantaneous life or death decisions.

If you pretend to be a “gangsta” by acting and dressing as a tough guy, you will be assumed to be one and will be treated as one. If you confront me while dressed as a thug and presenting the mannerisms of a thug, I will assume you are a thug and will take action as appropriate for dealing with a thug. If you want to pretend to be something you are not to gain some perceived benefit, then you must also be prepared to deal with the negative consequences of your posing.

As related to posing, you may:

  • Be tough, and act and dress tough. You will probably be able to handle of most confrontations, but you will attract many of them and chances are you will lose some of them and may even lose your life.
  • Not be tough, but act and dress tough. You will attract many confrontations, but not be able to handle them and you will lose most of then them and may even lose your life.
  • Be tough, but not act and dress tough. You will not attract confrontations, but when they rarely occur you should be able to handle them. Since there are so few confrontations, you will rarely lose and there is little chance that you will loose your life.

If you present a threat to people, they will eliminate the threat. If you were only posing—too bad.


People make decisions based upon the information they have at the moment. Sometimes these decisions are instantaneous life or death decisions.

If you pretend to be a “gangsta” by acting and dressing as a tough guy, you will be assumed to be one and will be treated as one. If you confront me while dressed as a thug and presenting the mannerisms of a thug, I will assume you are a thug and will take action as appropriate for dealing with a thug. If you want to pretend to be something you are not to gain some perceived benefit, then you must also be prepared to deal with the negative consequences of your posing.

As related to posing, you may:

  • Be tough, and act and dress tough. You will probably be able to handle of most confrontations, but you will attract many of them and chances are you will lose some of them and may even lose your life.
  • Not be tough, but act and dress tough. You will attract many confrontations, but not be able to handle them and you will lose most of then them and may even lose your life.
  • Be tough, but not act and dress tough. You will not attract confrontations, but when they rarely occur you should be able to handle them. Since there are so few confrontations, you will rarely lose and there is little chance that you will loose your life.
If you present a threat to people, they will eliminate the threat. If you were only posing—too bad.

Shito-ryu Evaluation

As described on the previous post, I recently attended a Shito-ryu black belt testing. This is my evaluation of Shito-ryu and the differences I saw between Shito-ryu and Taekwondo. Granted I only saw a portion of the students from just one school, but the school was taught by a master of the art and the testing had senior color belts and other senior black belts participating.

Hand Techniques

Of course, the most obvious difference between Taekwondo and any style of karate is karate’s emphasis on hand techniques. Shito-ryu is no exception. Shito-ryu teaches and uses kicks but stress hand attacks; just as traditional Taekwondo teaches and uses hand techniques but stresses kicks. There is nothing wrong with either method; it is simply a matter of style preference. However, as I have stated in, while kicks are deadly, hands can kill you in numerous ways. Therefore, the most effective fighter is one who defends well against kicks, uses kicks when opportunities present themselves, but primarily uses hand blocks and attacks.


That said, the Shito-ryu kicks I saw used by all the fighters, regardless of age or rank, were weak when compared to Taekwondo kicks. The karate side snap kick is an annoyance, similar to a jab. It keeps the opponent at bay and too busy to set up an attack, but it is not a threat to an opponent unless you get in a lucky shot or you hand a lot of them in the same location. A sliding side kick performed by stepping the trailing foot across in front of the leading foot is a useless movement, and yet, from what I saw, this is the preferred way to perform a sliding side snap kick in Shito-ryu. This movement is similar to executing a reverse punch behind your lead arm guard instead of in front; it ties up body movement and slows and weakens the technique. A sliding side snap kick would much more power by stepping behind the leading leg instead of in front.

Fist Chamber

As I have stated in, patterns are an expression of the art part of a martial art and have little relevance to the martial part of a martial art. Shito-ryu, as has Taekwondo, has its share of techniques used in patterns that are aesthetically pleasing but practically useless in applications. However, even though most of the techniques used in a pattern are not used in sparring or self-defense, the techniques should still be natural. When chambering the non attacking hand, it should pull back naturally to the waist or hip just under the rib cage, depending on a person’s body structure. It appears that Shito-ryu uses the high chamber, where the fist is chambered high next to the upper ribs. It takes a conscious effort to pull the fist up to this location and keep it there. Teaching a student to chamber naturally at the waist is much easier than teaching them to chamber high, and the high chamber has no significant advantage over a low chamber.


Shito-ryu students kiai when executing each techniques in their patterns. I love this! It shows determination and focus. They use breathing sounds and facial expressions to acknowledge the imaginary opponents they are fighting. Pattern performance gets high marks in my evaluation of Shito-ryu. However, I do not remember a single kiai used by anyone while sparring. Hey guys, there is a reason the Indians yelled while attacking the quiet cowboys.

Hip Action

As stated above, Shito-ryu emphasizes hand techniques; however, I saw no hip movement in their techniques. Hand speed was quick, but there was no power behind the punches, it was all arm action, with no body rotation, hip snap, or even body dropping. The kicks did not use hip thrust, hip roll over, or high tight chambers so the only power generated was from the leg itself. All the kicks I saw from all ranks were unimpressive.


Shito-ryu teaches traditional weapons. This is a matter of style and taste. If you want to learn a weapon, that is fine, it is a part of the art of a martial art. My only problem with learning impractical weapons is that they use up a lot of your valuable training time that could better be used in perfecting the practical aspects of your martial art.


Shitoryu sparring is similar to traditional Taekwondo sparring. As usual, no matter the style, when it comes to sparring, people revert to what works, basic kicking and punching, Shito-ryu is no exception.

This was a black belt testing I was watching, so the testee had to spar all ranks and exhibit appropriate control for the rank and ability of each person being fought. Since it was a testing, opponents were supposed to challenge the testee’s ability, but they were also to remember it was the testee’s day to shine, not theirs. Students who spar a testee at a testing are there to bring out the best, or expose the worst, in the testee’s sparring abilities, not to show off their own abilities All the color belts and lower black belts at this testing did this. They made their matches tough on the testee but they did not try to show off and one-up the testee. When the testee sparred his sensei, the sensei was relentless, but his techniques were well focused and he did not try to take advantage of or embarrass a tired student who had been testing for two hours.

However, there was one exception. As a spectator at a testing, I saw the usual group of dedicated black belts who were at the testing to participate in the testing process and to welcome another student into the black belt ranks. However, amongst all the black belts, a sixth degree black belt stood out because of his size.

After the testee had tested for two hours and sparred ten different people, he sparred this sixth degree, who was a foot taller, 70 pounds heavier, and had a much longer arm and leg reach than the testee who was obviously at the limits of his energy reserves. One would expect the sixth degree to spar appropriately to the circumstance, and I expected to see Shito-ryu techniques performed at their best. However, this was not the case.

Instead of exhibiting humility, the sixth degree strutted around as if he were the king of the mat. On the command to fight, he attacked with a frenzy of swinging punches and kicks reminiscent of a wild kid in a playground fight. There was no control, no focus, and no precision of technique; just a big man trying to whip up on a much smaller, tired opponent. The out of shape sixth degree burned out very quickly and was gasping for air, so the frenzy of attacks stopped. Then he just strutted around, posturing as if he was the biggest and baddest kid on the playground, while using his extreme reach advantage to stay away from any attacks from the testee, which, even though weak and slow due to fatigue, were still getting in.

I did not see a sixth degree sparring a student to test the student’s abilities; I saw an egotistical jerk out to impress the spectators for his own glorification. I not only was unimpressed with his techniques; I was ashamed, not just for his behavior but also ashamed for the testee, for the school, and for the art of Shito-ryu.

Lower belts look up to senior belts for guidance and inspiration. They want to be black belts, so they think that if they emulate a black belt, it will aid them in their quest. God help any student who emulates this black belt. He exemplifies all that we teach students not to be: arrogate, egotistical, and a bully.


Shito-ryu is one of the many styles of karate and, overall, does not appear to be unique; it is just another version of karate. This particular school has very good students, probably attributable to having an outstanding sensei, Bill Daniels. If I were seeking a karate school in the Forsyth County/Davidson County area of North Carolina, I would probably choose—Bill Daniels Karate.

Remembering My Roots

I first trained in traditional Shorei-ryu Karate before switching to traditional Taekwondo where I stayed for 25 years except for some short excursions into other traditional martial art styles. For the last few years I have been involved with the commercial side Taekwondo where the traditional curriculum has been weakened by the need for schools to survive as businesses. As a result, I have neglected my traditional roots. I have not forgotten my traditional roots, but I had forgotten the position of honor the black belt holds within the traditional martial arts community.

Commercial martial arts strive to please the masses and not offend anyone in anyway, so parents will keep bringing their children to classes. Whereas, the traditional martial arts tell the masses, “This is the way it is! Take it or leave it!” Instead of weakening their standards to accommodate the weak, they strengthen their standards to weed out the weak.

Commercial martial arts strive to test large numbers of students. To accomplish this in a reasonable amount of time, the time to complete individual student tests must be short. This means the rank testing requirements must be few and able to be completed quickly. Technique demonstrations, pattern performance, step-sparring, and free-sparring are performed in groups. Breaking is not required or requirements are few. Individual students are only on the mat for a few minutes. Students, including black belt testees, tend to view their rank tests as just another rank test.

Commercial martial art testings spectators tend to be mostly family members of testees. Non testing students rarely attend testings or award ceremonies. The whole testing process is a business, similar to that of an academic school. You attend class, behave properly, listen to the teacher, barely pass the test, and you are promoted to the next grade.

Today, November 19, 2005, I attended a black belt testing conducted by Bill Daniels Karate where my cousin, Chris Wilson, was testing for his first degree black belt in Shito-ryu. I was expecting a standard commercial style testing—I was wrong—this was a traditional testing!
The testing was conducted just for Chris. Each student testing for black belt has his or her own testing day. There was large group of spectators, less than ten were relatives; the rest were there to support the school and to show their respect for the testing process. There was a large group of students there to watch, participate, and help in the testing. There were numerous senior black belts there to judge, participate, and to honor the testing process. All this for just one student!

Chris was on the floor constantly testing for over two hours with only short breaks for water. He had to perform every stance, every hand technique, and every kick required of each color belt, occasionally being required to explain the technique and it usage. He had to perform all one-step sequences and all kata required of each color belt. He had to perform bo and sai kata. He had to perform all the board breaks required of each color belt.

He had to spar a round with one student of each color belt rank and display an appropriative level of force for the rank, age, and sex of each student. Then he had to spar a round against two simultaneous brown belt attackers and another round against three simultaneous brown belt attackers. Then he had to spar rounds against three individual black belt students. He then had to spar a round against a sixth degree black belt who was a foot taller and sixty pounds heavier. Then, finally, he had to spar a round with his sixth degree instructor (video clip [26MB], this was Chris’ last round of sparring after two hours of testing so he was tired, but then Sensei Daniels is 70 years old, so it seemed a fair match up). Then, as a surprise, Chris had to perform a palm break of five cement blocks (video clip [4MB]).

After he finished the test, Chris was covered in scratches and cuts, had two black eyes, a swollen cheek, a swollen ear, cut knuckles, and a dislocated nose. It was a tough two hours, with no pity shown, and not expected.

For Chris, to receive a black belt from his mentor would be the greatest honor, so he had trained very hard and was committed to doing his absolute best at the testing. When he bowed in at the beginning of the test, he appeared to be an intense, determined man who was ready to take on anything, and, when he bowed out at the end of the ordeal, he still appeared to be an intense, determined man who was ready to take on anything. From his behavior, you would never know he was tired or injured. As a warrior, during the testing, he never acknowledged his injuries or the hits that caused the injuries. Every technique he performed was crisp and powerful and performed with a spirited kiai, showing no sign of weakness. After the testing came the time to rest and lick his wounds.

This was a tough, serious, well-constructed, and well-run black belt testing that showed proper respect for the black belt and what an honor it is to be awarded one by a master who cherishes awarding it as much as the awardee cherishes earning it. Surprisingly, even with its tough, demanding, non compromising curriculum, the school is a financial success; probably because of Master Daniels’ dedication, not just to his students, but also to his art.

As a finishing touch to the testing, one of the master’s own black belts was ceremonially passed from student to senior student until the master received it and presented it to Chris. It was an emotional moment for Chris, Sensei Daniels, and the spectators. It was a moment Chris will always remember, and it was a moment I will always remember, not just because I got to see Chris earn his first black belt, but also because I got to see a real black belt testing again. I remember my roots again, and I miss them. A black belt is not just another belt!


When driving on the freeway, you never notice the number of PT Cruisers on the road until you buy one, then you notice one everywhere you look. You have never paid any attention to the mole on your arm until you see a television show about moles that are precursors to cancer, now you look at the mole on your arm many times every day. There is so much information around us that we tend to ignore all of it except that in which we have a piqued interest.

While in training, students of the martial arts are hammered with the same phrases, theories, claims, etc. repeatedly. Their minds tend to gloss over and they perform as zombies, regurgitating the standard gibberish as if it were the truth. To help them break out of this cycle, students need to have a seed doubt planted in their minds so they may begin looking around and seeing new things or seeing the routine things in a new light. As the students begin to question the status quo of their teachings, the seed of doubt may grow into a total rejection of the status quo or into a rejection of just a part of the status quo or it may grow into more support for the status quo. TKDTutor tries to implant these seeds of doubt.

Status quo is insidious; it infects your mind through constant exposure. Think about some of the names of popular locations or businesses in your city or town. You have heard the names all your life, but if you are similar to most people, you do not think about the actual names, where they came from, or what they mean; you just repeat the names without conscious thought. If you ever have cause to consider the names, many times they do not make sense.
After each class, martial arts students should stop and consider what they just learned, not just blindly accept it because the “master” said it. During their consideration, they should:

  • Consider the source. Look at the credentials of the source; for more information on this, read this link. Even if the information is coming from a credible source, do not blindly accept it. Many famous, important, and highly educated people have far-fetched ideas and beliefs that are so far out of the mainstream that they are borderline psychotic
  • Question the source to see if the information may be stated clearer or more proof offered.
  • Consider what other credible people have said about the same subject.
  • Consider whether the information is logical, reasonable, and makes common sense.
  • Consider the science surrounding the subject.
TKDTutor encourages students of any martial art who are told something that does not make common sense to stop and say “Huh!” and then research the subject.


Everyone has seen Einstein’s famous formula, E=MC². One aspect of the formula is that as an object approaches the speed of light, its mass increases enormously. A corollary of this increase in mass is that time slows as the object approaches the speed of light. Even at the relatively slow speed of the space station in relation to the speed of light, when astronauts return to earth from a long mission, they have aged a few milliseconds less than their counterparts on earth have aged.

So, how does this relate to Taekwondo, it means that if you punch and kick very fast, your hands and feet will have greater mass and thus hit harder—and you will have younger hands and feet.


Meditation involves sitting quietly and focusing upon breathing or an image, sometimes while thinking or saying an innocuous word such as "om." Sara Lazar of the Harvard Medical school used MRI to study the effects meditating may have upon the brain. She found a thickening of the pars of the brain involved with memory and attention, areas that shrink with age.
In another study, Bruce O’Hara of the University of Kentucky found that 40 minutes of meditation did better on attention tests compared with their own performance after reading for 40 minutes. In another study, Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin found meditation produced a jump in brain waves associated with vigilance and attention.
Research has show that meditation works, but it also shows that it works irrespective of any religious connections. All you have to do sit quietly, empty the mind, and focus on something meaningless so the mind does not begin thinking about the thing. All the religious beliefs are superfluous. As usual, people exploit a natural phenomenon and confuse the issue. Use your brain; do not let others use it.