Obi Tying

I find we spend a fair amount of time teaching students to tie their obi and hakama correctly. (And admittedly, I don’t tie my hakama quite correctly myself). If you are going to practice in the traditional costume, it’s worth understanding all the knots.

This is by far the clearest set of directions I’ve seen. It’s all in Japanese, but the pictures are very good: http://kimonoo.net/kituke.html. FYI, hit the green button at the bottom of each page to see the next steps.

If you can stand butchered pidgin, here’s Google’s translation

We teach students the “mountain knot” (page 2; p1 transl; p2 transl.) This is relatively easy to tie, and has the advantage for jujutsu that it is flat and thus doesn’t hurt when you fall on it. (Note, this is the 2nd obi knot pictured)

I myself prefer the“clamshell knot” (transl.), which is a little tighter of a knot and is still pretty flat if you tie it correctly. Note that the beginning steps are the same as for the mountain knot. (Note, this is the 1st obi knot pictured)

For tying hakama, we teach the “jumonji” (cross-shaped) knot (p2. p3. p4. p5.; trans 1 trans 2 trans 3 trans 4 trans 5) It’s like a bowtie for your hara.

I’ve seen clearer instructions for hakama folding that these, but the kimono folding instuctions are pretty good

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Martial Arts Ad – Yubiwaza (1968)


I just love some of the old classic style ads, and this one is just so amusing. “Yubiwaza,” what’s that?

The word “yubi” translates to the word “finger” and “waza” means “technique.” While the art I teach has numerous “yubiwaza” some of which will drop a large man, I would never even dream of making any claim similar to the ones listed above.
The funny thing about this ad is that this system is actually based on a jujutsu art called Sosiushi Ryu.

According to the 16th inheritor of Sosiushi Ryu, Master Manzo Shitama, a samurai named Masanori Fugatami Hannosuke, a master of Takenouchi-ryu, founded Sosiushi Ryu in 1650. Masanori Hannosuke then taught his martial art system to another samurai named Shitama Matahichi, whose family have been the inheritors of Sosuishi Ryu ever since.

The lady pictured in the ad is Yoshie Imananmi who was the wife of Mr. Nelson Fleming, a Sosuishi Ryu instructor in New Jersey.

It seems Mr. Fleming was talked into writing a book on jujutsu finger techniques, and what was suppose to be a 100 page book turned out to be the fourteen page pamphlet offered in the ad above.

Reportedly, Mr. Fleming stated he had no input on the advertisement of this product. However, I couldn’t find any information (even on the official Sosuishi Ryu website) stating that he ever denounced the preposterous claims of this advertisement, or was upset with the publisher for producing this publication instead of his intended work.

I’ve never seen this pamphlet, but I think it would be interesting. All I can say for now is that I hope my wife never gets a copy of it.

E-mail from a Reader: Why No Names?

I’m not sure why I’m addressing this topic, but I received an e-mail asking me why I don’t mention names, when I discuss various topics, such as my article on “Martial Art Belts” (referring to the teacher with a 15 colored belt system), “Hall of Fames,” and those that questioned my martial arts validity on E-budo.com, (see entry titled “Koryu Purists”).

You know I never thought that was an issue. The basic answer is naming names is not necessary in those articles.

First of all, in the case of E-budo.com, and other sites like them that questioned and discussed the validity of my martial arts background, naming names would just make the article personal, and sound like I’m attacking particular individuals who expressed their opinions. Opinions they have a right to, but could have been expressed more graciously.

Besides, I didn’t spend much time on E-budo reading all the posts, and I definitely didn’t take the time to write down whom each person was, or what they said. Even when I finally did address their questions in their forum, I didn’t respond directly to any one individual.

To be honest I didn’t care who these individuals were since I have never met any of them face to face. However, Spencer, my student who responded on behalf of the school, did take the time to look up these individuals, and their backgrounds were interesting. Surprisingly few were Koryu stylists.

My article, “Koryu Purists” was written as a generalized response to their attack on my credibility. Not only for those that wrote on E-budo, but for those that read the thread (several 1000 from what I heard), and for those who share the same beliefs that if you are Koryu you must look down upon others you perceive are not. This is a sad snobbery disseminated by a few very well known Koryu practitioners.

That article was written in order to vent my feelings, and because I’m not the first, or the last person, these people will do this sort of thing to.

As for the teacher described in my article “Martial Art Belts,” he is a friend. Though we have debated his belt system numerous times, there is no need to mention his name. Not that he would care, but it’s his business what he does. It’s not my place to judge his business decisions, and naming him wouldn’t have changed the gist of what I was trying to say.

Besides, if readers look around they can find numerous other teachers just like him. He is but one example of a growing trend.

As for the “Hall Of Fame” article whose name should I use? The letter I quoted is interchangeable. Sure they may word things slightly differently, but except the prices, they all say basically the same thing.

Naming individuals in this case would just be asking for problems. I would clearly insult someone, or someone who knows someone.

Believe it or not there are many people who value these Hall of Fames, and think they have a lot of merit. The one I attended had over 60 inductees, all of which paid $200.00 plus for the honor. Tell some of those guys their award is meaningless and see what happens.

With all that said, the real answer to this question is this:
#1 – When I write I have no intention of disrespecting anyone, or starting a conflict with any individual or their supporters. That’s easier to accomplish by leaving their names out.
#2 – When the need arises I will name names. Sometimes that can’t be helped. However, I will never ever write something about anyone I wouldn’t say, or haven’t said to his or her face. That’s not my style, and I believe in treating others, as I want them to treat me.
#3 – Sometimes in order to tell a story one must generalize, and use a composite of many individuals as an example. In this case there would be no name to use.
#4 – My memory isn’t what it use to be, and sometimes try as hard as I might I just can’t remember names. To many hits to the head I guess.

So Joseph, (the name of the guy who posed the question)–see I used your name–I first of all want to thank you from reading the articles on my “blog,” Nice to see somebody other than my mother is.

Secondly, like I wrote you back, I would really be interested in what compelled you to ask me this question in the first place. I must have really hit a nerve with one of the three listed articles.

You’re not the head of the Galactic Martial Arts Federation by chance? If so, I meant no disrespect.

Lastly, relax Joseph. You take my opinions/rants way too seriously. In addition, you were wrong: I did address your concern on my “blog” after all. Well, sort of! The rest is best left for another time.

Quote on Instruction

“In ancient times, there were no martial arts schools as we now know them. Instruction took place wherever and whenever a teacher decided to practice or to share his wisdom — whether in an open field or deep within a fog-shrouded mountain. Some martial arts masters claimed that the only school was on the battlefield.”

KENSHO FURUYA, KODO: Ancient Ways

Martial Art Hall Of Fames

It happens at least two to three times a year. I go to my mailbox and inside there is some official looking packet, from some martial arts association, informing me that I have been “nominated” for induction into their Hall Of Fame.

You can just imagine my surprise. Me nominated for such a prestigious award. Why, I’m so flattered. I never ever expected this to happen. It makes all those hard years of work all worth it. When and where do I have to go to pick up my award!

Wait, what’s that small print? It’s going to cost me $189.00 for this honor!? In addition I have to pay my own airfare to the event, and the hotel, and other travel expenses.

Excuse me, I thought this was award! I thought I was the 2006 Master Instructor of the year.

Okay, if you couldn’t tell I was being sarcastic. The truth is most of these so called Hall of Fames are meaningless. They are nothing more than a way to inflate egos, generate business, or line the pockets of those organizing these events.

Now I’m not saying it’s wrong to honor martial artists within ones organization, but the term, “Hall of Fame,” implies something more meaningful. Especially to the general public, who are used to such hall of fames dedicated to baseball, football, and basketball.

In other words claiming that such an event is a “Hall of Fame” is misleading: an overstatement of the actual merit of the event.

First of all, there is no physical “hall,” such as those that exist for the sports of football, basketball, and baseball.

Secondly, there is no national, fully accepted, governing body, which oversees the martial arts. Put ten martial artist who have never met before, and I bet they will have ten different opinions of who is worthy of such an honor, and who isn’t. Sure, given time they could find many worthy candidates, but no matter who they picked, there would be others who would question their choices.

Further more, I doubt they would select someone like me who runs a very tiny school, is basically unknown, and so far hasn’t contributed anything so amazing or outstanding to the martial arts world. (I’m not debasing myself; I’m just being realistic.)

Lastly, in order to validate a “Hall of Fame” those inducted have to have certain credentials. They must have done something above and beyond the abilities/norms of most of us who practice/teach the martial arts. They must be the best of the best.

For example: pioneers like Gichin Funakoshi, Jigoro Kano, and Morihei Ueshiba, instructors such as Wally Jay, Gogen Yamaguchi (The Cat), and Judo Gene LaBell, fighters like Joe Lewis, Benny the Jet Urquidez, and Super Foot Bill Wallace, and actors like Bruce Lee, Stephen Segal, and Jet Li.

All of these men set a certain standard, which many of us look up to, and try to emulate today. Many paved the way as well as aided in the popularity and propagation of the martial arts. These are contributions that are worthy of being honored.

Of course when one reads the letters that come with the nomination forms for most of these Hall of Fames, those with the above credentials are not their target audience.

A recent letter I received states:

“Most of you know of “Black Belt” magazines “Hall of Fame”; giving top honors to our famous types we all read about and see on the Big Screen. Many/most of us will never achieve this Honor! If you do…”hats off & congratulations”! However, the average Instructor(s) are our focus… and always have been & will continue to be our reason behind this project.

“Average” instructor! Since when do we honor people for being average? Since when does any organization place ordinary individuals in a “Hall of Fame?” Doesn’t the word ”fame” alone imply more than average.

Of course the above quoted letter goes own to justify these types of induction by stating the following:

“Many Instructors work multiple jobs, many Instructors work more hours in their schools than regular jobs, and many Instructors behind the scenes put countless hours at home and weekends planning projects for their schools. They have sacrificed normal lifestyles in exchange for their love of the people and new people coming into their schools. They have gone through major financial distress to keep their schools going; 2nd mortgages, some it cost marriages/relationships, because their love of the arts! Most people don’t understand what it takes to be an instructor, a father image, big brother, counselor, teacher, mentor, best friend, & more! People count on us (Instructors) to make their worlds easier not even realizing what it takes out of us! But WE LOVE IT!!


Some instructors have enjoyed a great living from their schools & some do it for the love and volunteer teaching time! None the less, we’ve given an continue to give.


So…why not have a Most Elegant Day for those who are well deserving of this day! Lights! Cameras! “HONOR”!!”

Based on these justifications, many of which I have definitely faced, almost every martial art instructor on the planet should be inducted. Then again the same could be said for a lot of other occupations, which also meet these qualification, yet clearly have no Hall of Fame.

What is worst is that these Hall of Fames don’t stop with instructors. Looking over the list of possible categories for induction I counted at least 60 categories, ranging from master instructor of the year, to most improved student. There was also one for most martial arts spirit, competitor of the year (female and male), humanitarian of the year, and student contributor, what ever that means.

As for me I my latest nomination was for “Black Belt Excellence.” I’m not even sure what that means, or what the qualifications for such a title would entail.

Since I don’t wear a black belt, and my school does not have a belt system, it really makes me wonder who nominated me. A question I always ask myself, since none of the forms I’ve read stat who that individual was. I wish they did, because I would love to ask them what they were thinking.

My biggest problems with these “Hall Of Fames” are the awards they hand out. My recent packet promised the following:
1. One huge plaque (three times the size of the previous ones)
2. 11×17 Diploma/scroll suitable for framing
3. Hall of Fame induction patch
4. Hall of Fame inducted members lapel pin
5. An official press release that can be sent to one’s local media (This group actually offers to “bombard” one’s local media with stories about one’s accomplishments and induction into their Hall of Fame.)

Sounds quite impressive, and if the media thing were true, that alone would be worth the $189.00 fee. After all, advertising the school is very expensive. However, where I’m located, San Francisco, CA, I doubt the local media would take an interest. We already have our share of martial art celebrities.

Of course, the certificates and awards that accompany these inductions make great wall decorations, and impress most students/potential students who aren’t savvy enough to question their value. After all, who wouldn’t want to be taught by someone who is a member of the Hall of Fame–especially someone who has been inducted on numerous occasions for a myriad of reasons.

One instructor I read about on the Internet has over thirty of these awards, all of which are posted on his website. I don’t know the guy, so I won’t comment about his qualifications, but if I were a novice looking for a school, and saw all his awards, I would most probably be impressed enough to sign up for classes, compared to a school where the instructor had none.

Like I said before, I have no problem honoring the “average” martial artist like myself. Just call it something else. Don’t make the award sound more prestigious than it is.

If the award is limited to people in a specific organization that’s fine, but label the award properly. Instead of stating that the person is “The 2006 Hall of Fame Master Instructor of the Year,” title the award in some manner such as, “The 2006 Galactic Martial Arts Federation Master Instructor of the Year.”

Who knows, depending on the organization, and the services rendered by the individual to them the award could actually be legit. Maybe! After all, an award like that is at least based on the organizations requirements and nothing else.

By the way if an organization such as the Galactic Martial Arts Federation exists I apologize for using you as an example. I wasn’t aware of your existence. But if you do exist, I’ve taught enough Power Ranger, Klingon and Jedi wannabes to qualify for the Galactic Martial Arts Instructor of the Year award. Thanks in advance.

(Note: Before people start sending me e-mails reminding me of the fact that I was inducted into the USMA Hall of Fame several years ago, let me state once again for the record that I always thought the “honor” was silly. It was an excuse to travel, and meet others who have spent a lifetime practicing and propagating the martial arts.

Yes, the certificate once hung on the wall, but I’ve always been the first to tell others what it was really worth, especially those that have asked what I did to win such an award. (Basically, I was honest and said I didn’t know.)

And before you think my opinion of these types of the awards has changed recently, you would be wrong. I have always felt this way.

However sometimes its just fun to involve yourself with some silliness. After all who doesn’t like dressing up and being the center of attention: if only for a few moments.)