A “Cobra Kai” Type Of Guy?

The below is typical of a kind of letter I often receive from people who come across this blog. It’s more or less a letter criticizing my “alleged” teaching methodologies, from someone who has never met me. At first one might just attribute these comments to a naïve young Judoka, but when we checked out the background of the writer he turned out to be a seasoned veteran, with some fairly substantial Judo credentials. However, it’s clear he really doesn’t understand the difference between “Martial Sport” and “Martial Art.”

“Hi Gary;
Just cruisin internet at night; a bit sleepless in nz
Judo crazy person
Read your diatribe on blog about why judo not aikido principles
To me they are very similar arts especially on principles; (of maximum efficiency with minimal effort)
Just they have different rules.
That u have striking to hurt instead of looking after your opposition even in a brawl smacks of lack of compassion;
Are u real??
In judo we are taught to look after our opponent so we do not hurt them, even in a brawl, (and our strikes are few but lethal for that special occasion where life threatening needs outweigh compassion)
U sound like the bad yanky coach on karate kid movie, but grappling based,
Is that what u have to do in usa to survive??
Sad indeed
Hope u take my criticism as constructive, sorry if I offend u”

First off, I don’t find this letter offensive at all. In fact everyone in class got a serious laugh out of the fact I was compared to “Karate Kid’s” Sensei John Kreese of the Cobra Kai. Anyone who knows me and the way I teach will tell you nothing is further from the truth.

Secondly, while it is true that in Judo one is taught to look after their opponent’s welfare, I would like to point out that Judo is a sport. While some Judoka I know practice like it is life or death, the goal of a Judo match is to win a CONTEST. There are “RULES” and safety for the competitors is enforced.

I mean no offense to Judoka, especially old-school Judo practitioners, such as my good friend Victor Anderson, who will quickly point out that certain aspects of Judo can be used for self-defense. But in most cases, sport Judo techniques are not viable on the street. And yes, I know there are self-defense kata (forms) within the art of Judo. Unfortunately, many of these forms are impractical, and more importantly are rarely practiced in most Judo schools. The fact is, most Judo schools focus the majority of their time on the sporting aspect of the art.

Lastly, I don’t know how the above writer defines a brawl, but any violent physical altercation that I did not initiate is one that I consider a threat to my health and welfare (and If I did initiate it, I deserve to have my butt kicked for being that stupid). That means I will “do onto others” before they have a chance to “do onto me”. My opponent lacked the ability to show me compassion, by threatening me with physical injury, so he deserves no compassion in return.

That does not mean I have to knock-out, cripple ,and/or kill the attacker; but I’m going to make sure that whatever I do stops their aggressive actions as quickly and effectively as possible. This means stopping their aggressive acts by any, and I mean any, means necessary.

Simply put, I don’t look for opportunities to fight, never have, but I wont let anyone hurt my loved ones or me either.

My main grievances with the above letter–and others like it that I’ve received in the last year or so–is that they all come form people who practice a “martial sport,” and don’t understand that in the street, when one is forced to protect their life, there are no “RULES,” and no room for “Compassion.”

In addition, none of them have any idea how I teach. They just assume, like in this instance where I’ve been compared to Sensei Kreese, that I have a “Go For The Kill Mentality.” They think that I’m a violent type of guy that teaches fighting with no morality.

First of all, I have talked my way out of, walked away from, and ran away from more opportunities to fight than I can count. While some instructors, such as many of the Gracies, may boast how many “street type fights” they have won, I am equally proud to say how many I’ve avoided, simply because I saw no need to resort to physical violence.

Besides, fighting in my neighborhood is a no-win situation. In my neighborhood, winning a one-on-one fight today means having a two-on-one fight tomorrow. Worse yet, things may even escalate from there. With the abundance of easily obtainable weaponry, and a growing decline in reluctance to use such weaponry, things can get really ugly quickly.

Secondly, I do not teach my students to fight, nor do I advocate using violence to settle conflicts. However, when push comes to shove, I don’t teach my students to be victims.

The truth is that if one of my students gets in the unfortunate situation where their life or well-being is jeopardized, I want them to have all the tools necessary to defend themselves. How “lethal” they choose to be in any given situation is up to them. They need to weigh the circumstances of the situation, and their morals and beliefs. I won’t be there, and it’s not my place to second-guess anyone’s actions in such a situation. Clearly how I would react and how they may react can be worlds apart.

For example, if someone were to attack me I would most likely react one way. The amount of force I would use would be based on the situation and the how threatened I was. My defense would not be based on emotions, just necessity.

However, I wouldn’t stop defending myself until I was certain the threat was over. This could mean anything from severely injuring my opponent, to forcing him to retreat and run away. In either case the threat would be nullified before I stopped.

On the other hand, if someone were to attack my wife or my children, then I most likely would react excessively, and leave it up to the courts to determine whether I crossed the line. In this case, as much as I’ve trained to detach myself emotionally from a confrontation, my emotions would most likely get the best of me.

I, for one, fully understood the rage that drove a father to kill the man accused of molesting his son during the molester’s trail several years ago in Nevada. I’m not saying his actions were right, I just understand his motivation. I would never see myself doing the same thing, but I’m sure I would feel like I wanted to.

And, of course, if I caught someone in the act of hurting my loved ones, that’s another story. After all, anger and outrage can make a barbaric beast of even the most virtuous and forgiving of men.

Recently, I faced a situation where a man trespassing in the building I manage almost took a swing at me while I was holding my 6-month-old baby in my arms. If he had swung, I can assure everyone I would have gone for the kill. Or, maybe I should say my first counter-strike would have been enough to make sure there was no need for more. I don’t care how that sounds, but he was putting my child at risk (just to note, I didn’t approach/provoke him, he hostilely approached me because he knew I managed the place).

Now, I’m not saying that if I ever severely hurt or killed someone while protecting my family, or myself I wouldn’t feel remorse for my any actions. However there is a difference between remorse, and being justified, especially in terms of the judicial system.

It’s basically the same resolve I had as a police officer. As an officer, I knew there was always the possibility that one day I might have to use deadly force. While I hoped it would never happen, I knew that as long as I was justified I could live with my actions.

The truth of the matter, and my main disagreement with attitudes such as those expressed by the author of the above letter, is that one cannot approach life protection skills with a martial sports mind-set. They are totally different things.

If I am in a sporting contest, I have elected to place myself in such a situation. I know the risks. I also know there are rules, and referees which will end the contest if things get out of hand. I can afford to hold back and be less lethal. It’s a contest of skill.

Of course, ask boxers like Mike Tyson how much they held back with competing. Most boxers will tell you that during a match you hit as hard as you can with the intent to inflict as much damage as possible. In reality, there really isn’t that much “compassion” between two pugilists. The same can be said for Thai Boxing and a lot of the MMA that is popular today.

However, as aggressive as these fighting sports are, there is still a difference when it comes to life-protection skills. First and foremost, there are rules that govern what can and cannot be done. There are no rules in the real world: there are no referees, and in many cases the fight is against multiple assailants, or a weapon-wielding thug.

Secondly, in the real world, when I’m attacked, I didn’t initiate the conflict. I may have placed myself in a bad situation by being careless of my whereabouts/surroundings, but I should be able to walk the streets with out being accosted. I should be able to go to a bar and not have some loud mouth drunk get in my face.

To say that I should react with compassion in such a situation is ludicrous. I’m the victim here, and was the one attacked. I can’t help it if the attacker chooses the wrong person to mess with.

In my opinion, the attacker gave up all “Rights” to be treated humanely, when he decided to try and cause me, or my family, bodily harm.

It’s also ludicrous to say I should act compassionately in such an instant, because I may only have one chance to be successful with my defense. Any hesitation, anything but 100% focused purpose, might be just enough to give the attacker the upper hand.

Lastly, from a legal perspective, if I don’t feel my life and welfare are truly jeopardized I shouldn’t defend myself with physical force anyway, no matter what degree of force I chose to use. That’s a situation I should just walk away from.

Let me makes this perfectly clear, if I can’t justify my actions when resorting to use violence to defend myself/my family, later in a court of law to a “REASONABLE” degree then no matter what I did will be wrong. Even if I should choose to act “compassionately.”

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For more context, see these previous essays:


* * *

Just as I was putting the finishing touch on the above essay, two very vivid examples of extremely violent altercations took place a block away form my house within 24 hours. One involved a stabbing and simultaneous shooting, and the other another shooting in retaliation for the first attack.

“Three Wounded in Attack in Mission”, San Francisco Chronicle; July 11th, 2008

“Second Attack is Fatal at 20th and Mission”, San Francisco Chronicle; July 12th, 2008

All these events occurred in broad daylight, on a very busy intersection, with numerous pedestrians and motorists around the event (those in law enforcement call these people innocent bystanders).

Now I’m not mentioning these incidents just to show how dangerous an area I live in. I’m mentioning it because it illustrates my point that when faced with serious life threatening situations one cannot afford to act compassionately. Or if they do they could end up dead, or seriously wounded, like the victims in this case.

While the above violence is gang related, these gang members put many innocent people in harm’s way. Anyone in the area could have been hurt, just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Clearly, these combatants could not care less for anyone’s welfare, and deserved any violent act one could commit on them in order to prevent/stop them from their aggressive acts.

For anyone to have the mind-set that a violent individual deserves any compassion when committing an act of violence is simply insane. Here in the real world, there are no second chances, no second round/match. Points are not awarded for great technique, nor is the goal to pin one’s opponent or make him tap out. There are no referees, except for whatever Deity you may believe in.

In the real world you live or die, and violence only leads to debilitating injury and/or death. It’s just your choice whether you are on the receiving end or not.

As the old adage says, “It’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.”

MUSA the Kendo Robot

I’m sure this may be old news for a lot of our readers, but who can pass up making a few comments about a robot that does Kendo? I for one can’t wait to put one of these on my Christmas list.

MUSA, a 163cm tall, 70kg robot, was developed by the Manufacturing and Mechatronics Lab of Seoul National University. It was designed to help Kendokas become more proficient with their techniques.

According to Prof.Young-Bong Bang, who led this project, Musa uses sensors to defend and attack his opponents using traditional Kendo techniques. It is the goal of MUSA’s developers to one-day program MUSA to a third Dan level.

As I watched the below video I have to say this project is pretty interesting, though Musa seems to lack a little spontaneity. However, I can clearly see how such a robot could help one with their forms, and who knows what such a robot will be able to do in the future.

After watching MUSA wield what appears to be a katana, I couldn’t help think about Yul Brynner’s deranged robot gunslinger in the movie “Westworld.” I certainly wouldn’t want the liability of a sword-wielding robot in my dojo, even if the developers guarantee MUSA is programmed not to actually strike/injure his opponents.

Okay, a Kendo fighting robot may not be my first choice since I don’t practice Kendo, but until there is a robot that does Kenjutsu or Aiki and has great ukemei (falling) abilities, this robot will have to suffice. Of course ,I’m still hoping that some type of holodeck, as seen in Star Trek, is developed in my lifetime, but that might be just too much wishful thinking.

Until technology catches up with my desire, I guess I’ll just have to do things the old fashion way and use white belts. After all, many of them do move robotically.

K-9 Self-Defense

In the February 2008 issue of Black Belt Magazine there is an article titled, “Karate Vs Canines,” written by Loren W. Christensen. I’m sure many readers, such as I, initially chuckled at the thought of such an article, but this is a topic rarely discussed and worth reading about.

My initial reaction to this article was based more on the title itself, and the image it evokes of a karate-ka sparring with a dog. Fortunately, this article is a serious presentation on the topic, and offers the reader some actual techniques intended to teach people how to defend against/survive a dog attack. While Mr. Christensen’s article is only six photo-heavy pages of basic information, I believe the article is worth reading, especially for someone without any knowledge on the topic.

It’s is especially worth reading when one considers the following statistics:

  1. There are currently 74.8 million dogs in the USA.
  2. A survey by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta concluded that dogs bite nearly 2% of the U.S. population, which equals more than 4.7 million people annually.
    • 61% of bites occur around the home (reported cases)
    • 77% of bites involve a family member or family friend (reported cases)
  3. Almost 800,000 bites per year — one out of every 6 — are serious enough to require medical attention.
  4. Between 2001 and 2006, 144 deaths were attributed to dog attacks (National Canine Research Foundation).

Mr. Christensen’s article is fairly basic, something unfortunately prevalent with articles throughout the pages of Black Belt Magazine. I am sure that he has a far greater knowledge of the subject since he claims to have been a US Army Dog handler for 14 months, and I would have to believe he learned a lot more about dog attacks and how to protect himself from them. After all, it’s not unusual for a K-9 handler to be bitten by their own dog–something Mr. Christensen readily admits happened to him–other service dogs, or the random civilian canine they are requested to deal with due to their supposed expertise with canines.

In addition, my assertion that Mr. Christensen’s article provides only basic information is based on my limited exposure to police canines and police canine training (about a year). One of the first things I was taught was how to deal with an aggressive dog. Information I know was not covered in Mr. Christensen’s article. Furthermore, I was also given several long safety lectures, with specific self-defense methods, before donning the padded suit one wears when they help train attack dogs. I’ll be the first to state that these methods are almost impossible to execute during a dog attack, though they are effective in theory.

The dog attacks I experienced were extremely brutal and swift. All I ever saw were charging teeth, and the dogs (German Shepherds, Bouvier Des Flanders, and Belgian Malinois) hit with so much force that there was no way to maintain my balance and/or counter their attack with any sufficient force. Add the pain factor of the jaw pressure, and the fact that the dog is constantly moving in ways people don’t, and the whole ordeal is quite dumbfounding.

Fortunately the dogs I worked with were all highly trained, and only attacked specific body parts (normally the forearm), which made protecting one’s other body parts easier. That is, I didn’t have to worry about being bitten in the face, neck, or other more damageable parts of the body, which is a real concern when being attacked by an aggressive canine intent on hurting you.

The canine attacks I experienced were extremely controlled drills, but they clearly illustrated the lethal potential a dog could inflict if a dog had the intent to hurt someone. Unlike many humans, when these dogs attacked, they were rarely distracted by any actions one made to fend them off, and their intent to bite and pull their opponent to the ground never wavered. The attack was straight on, full force, unrelenting, with no remorse.

The truth is, once the dog was done and had been commanded to stop, they pranced off wagging their tail like nothing out of the ordinary ever took place. In fact they looked pretty proud of themselves.

The police force was not my first exposure to K-9 self-defense either. My first
K-9 self-defense came, from my uncle who used to raise hunting dogs (Bluetick Coonhounds). My uncle needed these skills since he was often dealing with the “pack mentality.” He was fully aware that if one dog attacked the others would join in.

Since being attacked by the pack would most likely be deadly, he knew several places to hit a dog that would instantly incapacitate them. I’m not proud to admit it, but I’ve tried a few of them–light force only–and they work. Just ask any of the three German Shepherds that I’ve owned.

Of course at this point, I most likely find myself in the same situation Mr. Christensen found himself in. That position being that if we share such techniques publicly every dog lover and/or animal rights activist will be up in arms and condemning us for doing so.

For now. I don’t feel the desire or necessity to share such information publicly, so I’ll close this blog entry by referring to an e-book Mr. Christensen offers for sale on the Internet; “Self-Defense Against A Dog Attack,” by Loren W. Christensen at http://www.lwcbooks.com/books/ebookdog.html While I have not read this book so cannot endorse its contents, hopefully the information contained in it will be a little more in depth.

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Loren Christensen, is a 42-year veteran of the martial arts. He has learned the hard way that real fights are far more explosive and violent than karate sparring matches, a lesson proven over and over during his 25-year career as a police officer in Portland, Oregon and a military policeman in Saigon, Vietnam . He has earned a total of 10 black belts – seven in karate, two in jujitsu and one in arnis – and penned 34 books, 6 DVDs and dozens of magazine articles on the topics of the martial arts, street gangs, police-involved shootings, exercise, prostitution and various street subcultures.

James Williams’s Perspective on Martial Arts

James Williams of Nami Ryu Aiki Heiho and Bugei Trading Company has written an essay worth a glance as a response to a message-board argument with neo-traditional martial purists (but skip the comments). It is available at http://www.e-budo.com/forum/showthread.php?t=38601.

In many ways, the content of what he has written is much less interesting than the language he has used. It is based on the language of Western honor, that would once have been familiar to any fighter in our culture, but now seems reactionary. For example:

‘[Writing on the Internet] gives you the feeling that you have a “right” to express your opinion with no consequence. This of course removes the foundations of courtesy and respect. It becomes about how you “feel”.’

In the end, this is not an argument about our culture, not about anything Japanese. I really believe that Mr. Williams is representing traditional Western martial values of honor and individuality, and is using his experience with Japanese culture to better understand that. While what he is arguing against is very modern (or possibly, though I hate the word, postmodern) values of cultural sensitivity and nostalgia.

Black Belt Magazine Article Review -“Deadly Weapons”

I have been a subscriber to Black Belt Magazine for over 20 years. Through those years I’ve seen the magazine evolve, and change along with the various “flavors of the month.”

For the most part, I approach Black Belt Magazine as if it were a Hollywood gossip magazine. There are lots of articles and photos, but little or nothing of substance. It’s basically throne room reading, if you get my gist.

More often than not, articles are poorly written, show bias, and really offer nothing new content-wise. In fact, if you look at many of the authors or who they are writing about, they are often the same people who purchase major ad space in the magazine. But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

What really irritates me, even often perplexes the hell out of me, is how often Black Belt Magazine asserts something new and revolutionary has been discovered or created by so-and-so-bigwig. Ninety-nine percent of the time, these articles turn out to be nothing new or innovative at all. For a publication specializing in martial arts, they should just know better.

However for all the magazine’s faults, every now and then they do produce something of value and worth reading.

In this instance it’s a two-part article titled, “Deadly Weapons,” by Scott Marrs and Andy McGill, which appears in the August and September 2007 issues.

Basically, the articles are written to inform people how the law really views the martial arts, the liability of combatants, self-defense issues, and how hands and feet are viewed as deadly weapons.

While I feel the articles are too short to do full justice to the topic, the authors did a good job answering a lot of questions martial artists may have about the law. Certainly, this is one of the few occasions where I’ve seen these questions–man of which I’m asked in class–covered to any extent. It’s also nice to see someone actually addressing known fallacies, and setting the record straight.

I, for one, feel it is extremely important to teach my students the law as it relates to using martial art skills, even in a life and death situation. This is especially important given the fact that any civil suit filed regarding possible excessive force has the potential to include me, as the teacher of those skills.

Unfortunately, very few schools discuss martial arts and the law. As a result there is a lot of misinformation out there. I can’t start to tell you how many times I’ve been asked if my hands are really registered as deadly weapons.

I know I will encourage my students to read this article. Not because we haven’t covered most of this material in class already, but just so they can get another perspective on the material.

I also recommend anyone involved in the martial arts should also read it. However, like the authors state, “Don’t’ rely on this article as legal advice. The jurisdiction in which you live may have different laws and standards than discussed here.”

View the article in PDF format: Part 1, Part 2.

In The Company of “Thieves”

“Talent borrows, Genius Steals”

Unknown

Several months ago I was publicly accused of “stealing” martial art techniques/concepts from Don Angier. Per the “Martial Arts Police, Koryu Division,” my case is still pending, though they did as much as they could to convict me in the court of public appeal.

Clearly, old news is old news. But ever since these public accusations were made, I been considering things in the light of the old Biblical proverb which states, “Let he who’s without sin cast the first stone.”

What I mean by that is that almost every martial artist before me, most of my contemporaries, and yes even those that made accusations against me are all guilty of such a crime to some extent or another. We all are the sum of many parts. We all take bits and pieces away from the various teachers we have had the ability to train with. Whether that training was long term, or just a few seminars doesn’t matter.

Now, I’m a firm believer that no one individual, no matter how gifted, knows everything. Because I believe this so strongly, I have taken every opportunity to expose myself to numerous martial art systems and teachers. I have especially tried find teachers who have the ability to make me understand the art that I do better, and make me an overall better teacher and practitioner.

But back to my point.
.

A Chain of Yoshidas

Since I’ve been accused of “stealing principles” from Don Angier, I’d like to use the same absurd logic to see whom else I’ve stolen from. While we are at it, let’s go another step and see whom they “stole” their knowledge from.

Let’s start with Don Angier.

Now, I have already stated numerous times how big an influence Mr. Angier has had on me, and what I do as a martial artist. I’ve clearly admitted to adopting a lot of his terminology, and adjusting/correcting some of my techniques based on his corrections. Maybe too much in some people’s opinions. However, that is not a crime that is called “good judgment.” His skills and knowledge is clearly superior to mine.

But where did Mr. Angier get his information.

While I don’t have specific details about his life and training, according to his very own autobiography he writes:

“Bill (William Hepler) worked graveyard shift at the main Los Angeles Post Office. For almost nine years he came into the dojo three hours before class. Together we worked on categorizing the basics of the art and how to make them as precise as possible. We worked out pragmatic counters to all of the forms and counters to the counters. It was only with his help that I was able to systematize the art and start listing its scientific principles.”

Mr. Angier further states:

“Slowly, he (Ark-Yuey Wong) began showing me some of his skills. It would be very easy to underestimate this mild-looking, elderly man. He was indeed a wonderful man and artist, and I must admit that some of the things he showed me helped me understand my own art more fully.”

Now it’s my understanding, and forgive me if I am wrong, that Mr. Angier also studied martial arts with other instructors in Japan and Los Angeles. If this is true, and his own statements about his life are factual (which I’m sure they are), then Mr. Angier’s art is a sum of various sources. He did not get all of the art he now teaches, or at least all the insights into that art, from one source. In fact he clearly states, “We worked out pragmatic counters to all of the forms and counters to the counters. It was only with his help that I was able to systematize the art and start listing its scientific principles,” which shows a progression and departure from what he was originally taught.

Like many of us, Mr. Angier sought out others who could help him better understand the core information he had. As I have, he used the information he gathered to make himself better.

However, I don’t hear anyone accusing him of thievery. I don’t see anyone questioning where he obtained the sum of his knowledge. But maybe he is just an exception, or perhaps he is just above reproach.

Of course, Mr. Angier’s approach to improving himself via other sources isn’t unique, even within the particular martial art style he teaches. Yoshida Kotaro (1883-1966), the father of Mr. Angier’s teacher, Yoshida Kenji (1903-1954), was skilled in more than one style of martial arts. Not only did he teach Daito Ryu to the public, he was also known to have denso (transmission scrolls) in several different arts. He possessed technical skills in Kito Ryu Jujutsu and Onno-ha Itto Ryu Kenjutsu, which I’ve read were evident in his public teachings.

I have no idea if any one can say with any certainty what influences one martial arts style had upon any other for Yoshida Koatro, but his history shows a certain level of cross training and exploration. Clearly, he saw the value of training with various other instructors, who must have had something worthy to offer him.

Since Yoshida Kotaro took the time and effort to train with others, I think it would be very hard to believe that he didn’t embrace and incorporate new methodologies or concepts he felt were more effective and efficient than what he previously possessed.

Nor would it be beyond the realm of possibility that over the years he incorporated other methodologies into his core base as his abilities and comprehension of scientific principles improved.

However, I’m sure there is no one out there that would accuse Yoshida Kotaro of theft. Nor in my opinion should they.

Small Circles

So how about all the insights I gained from training with Wally Jay.

Prof. Jay was never my instructor, but I did attend numerous seminars he gave. I also have his books, and a video, which I’ve read and watched countless times.

I’m no Small-Circle Jujutsu expert, but I believe I understand the concepts Prof. Jay taught. I know for certain I employ some of them when doing certain techniques.

In many cases, the information Prof. Jay taught at these seminars helped to clarify things I already knew. Sometimes I was shown a subtlety that just made old techniques even more effective. In other cases I disagreed with his assertions, and although I will admit he is more of an expert than me, I never did techniques again after learning them at a seminar.

Basically, I thank Prof. Jay for enhancing what I already knew. I also thank him for exposing me to techniques and concepts that with practice and some trail and error eventually added new dimensions to old forms.

Most of all, I thank Prof. Jay for adding to my martial arts lexicon, and giving me the tools to break down and explain various techniques to my students in a much more concise manner.

The funny thing is that while Wally Jay is credited with developing “Small Circle Jujutsu,” his creation was nothing new or revolutionary. It was based on the martial arts he had learned from others, as well as his own research/trail and error. He may be the person responsible for propagating “small circle” methodology in modern times, but he didn’t create it all on his own.

This is not my just opinion, either. In the article “The Founder of Small Circle Ju Jitsu,” Michael Belzer states:

“In 1962 Jay attracted the attention of a 22-year old martial artist from Seattle named Bruce Lee. Lee was amazed how someone with little formal training in judo could go on to produce champions. However. from the many long hours that Lee spent at Jay’s dojo (training hall) with friend Jimmy Lee, the legendary martial artist saw the value of Jay’s broad background in the fighting arts. Jay had adopted various techniques from boxing, wrestling, judo, kung fu, weightlifting and jujitsu, and brought them together in what he called his Small Circle Theory Jujitsu. Like Jay and his innovative instructors before him, Bruce Lee knew that talent, technique, and style knew no traditional boundaries and that excellence carried no single banner or flag. The three martial artists spent many long hours exchanging theories, fighting principles, and techniques, and over the following years, a strong bond of trust and friendship developed. As their reputations grew, they remained friends, and while Bruce Lee went on to take Hollywood, Hong Kong, and the martial arts world by storm, Wally Jay established the ten principles that would set his mark in the world of jujitsu.”

The Founder of Small Circle Ju Jitsu” by Michael Belzer

Now, following the arguments the “Martial Arts Police” made in their allegations, it must be true that Prof. Jay was also a thief. After all, it’s clear that many concepts he taught and incorporated into his “small circle system” came from other sources.

In fact, I would argue that he is a better thief than I am, since he profited from what he “stole” more than I ever have, or will.

But maybe Prof. Jay is too famous to be publicly accused of “stealing.” Maybe, what he taught has been so widely accepted as being something he “created,” he is above incrimination.

So let’s move on.

Janet Gee

Another instructor I’ve gained valuable insights from is Sifu Janet Gee, Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan/Choy Li Fut. Once again, she has never been my instructor, but I’ve attended several seminars she has taught, and had the opportunity to talk with her several times about martial arts in general.

There is no question that her approach to martial arts is very different from mine. Yet as different as things may appear on the surface, the science that makes the techniques she teaches work is the same.

What I like most about Sifu Gee’s teaching method is her no nonsense approach when explaining the way things work. She also has a great talent for breaking down techniques and demonstrating the different nuances that can cause different results.

While I may lack the physical skills (speed and definitely the flexibility) to be able to do her martial art in the manner she can, I still always gain valuable insights on how things need to be done in order to be effective.

More importantly, she has definitely taught me to approach and examine things in a different manner, and to think outside of the box.

I’ve never been privy to Sifu Gee’s training history, but according to her bio, she started training in the martial arts in 1971. Her principle styles have been Choy Li Fut Kung Fu and Tai Chi Chuan, but over the years she has also studied Aikido, Tae Kwan Do, Jujitsu, Kempo Karate, Indonesian martial arts, and Judo.

Is there anyone out there who doubts the fact that Sifu Gee incorporates concepts, principles, and techniques from numerous sources when she teaches? Of course she does. She studied other arts to improve her skills, and now passes on her combined knowledge to those fortunate enough to train with her.

Furthermore, Sifu Gee states that she has incorporated elements of the “Alexander Technique,” (a method that develops sophisticated conscious coordination designed to improve ease and freedom of movement as well as teach practitioners how to use appropriate amounts of energy for a particular activity), into her martial arts teaching. Now I’ll admit, I don’t know a lot about the “Alexander Technique,” but last time I checked, it’s not even a martial art.

But wait, wouldn’t all this cross training and incorporating new ideas make her a thief too? After all, she is combining and propagating information derived from other individuals. I mean, is she doing anything more or less than I’ve been accused of?

Vital Point

Another instructor who has had a direct impact on the way I teach is Prof. Rick Clark, Ao Denkou Kai. Like the other instructors I’ve listed already, Prof. Clark has never been my instructor, but I’ve attended several of his seminars and have hosted him to teach in the Bay Area several times.

While his knowledge of vital point striking is superior to mine, we often exchange concepts and principles. I would like to think I’ve offered him several ideas to contemplate and explore. At least, that is what he has told me several times.

Prof. Clark’s main contribution to my art was exposing me to the upper level of vital point usage, without wasting my time teaching me all the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo many instructors like to perpetuate.

More importantly, Prof. Clark clarified many of the things my teacher Hiroshi Yachigusa taught me, by explaining them to me in simple to understand English. Since there was nothing lost in translation, I have a better understanding of the material now. Nuances which I may have missed because of language barriers, or the poor comprehension skills of youth, were finally pointed out to me. As a result I’m more effective and efficient when performing techniques.

Prof. Clark also helped me a lot with terminology. Because of this, I am able to discuss vital point striking more professionally, and to a general audience.

Of course, even with all the help Prof. Clark has given me over the years, I now have to say he to is a thief. I mean, he originally trained in Korean systems and judo/jujutsu, and then Arnis. He even admits that what he teaches now is an accumulation of the knowledge he has gained over many years, from many sources.

Yes, it’s true that Prof. Clark has done an awful lot of research on his own, but not everything he teaches was self-taught. Not every principle, or scientific method he employs and teaches is his original work. It is an ACCUMULATION of many things, from many sources.

Once a Thief

Lets face it, I could keep going on and on, naming and discussing numerous teachers I’ve had the great fortune to train with in the last 35 years. There are many instructors who have had a long lasting impression on me, and on the methodologies I now employ. No matter who I would name, no matter what style they taught, they can all be accused of “stealing” information and/or techniques from someone else.

They can all be accused of “stealing,” because they are all individuals who cross-trained, searched out, or researched the martial arts in order to improve what they already knew. They all incorporated knew information they discovered to improve their skills, fill gaps in their primary training, or make themselves more efficient.

Basically they’ve all done what I’ve done.

Yes, I admit I was taught a lot of things by a lot of people, but I didn’t “steal” anything. If anything I took what I was shown, examined it, studied it, tried to figure out how it did or did not relate to what I already knew, and after trail and error either incorporated this information or discarded it.

Furthermore, I didn’t “steal” anything because the information I was given was shared with countless others in public forums. People present were under no restrictions, secret blood oaths, or threats not to disseminate what they were told.

The fact that I elected to share such information in a public forum, on this weblog, while others either do not share or do so more privately, isn’t my concern. Nor is it something I should be condemned for.

To accuse me of “stealing,” is ludicrous. If I am guilty, than so is everyone else past and present because since very ancient times no one has come with an original thought or method in regards to fighting methodologies (except perhaps firearms).

Sure things are explained and presented differently, depending on the style, but we martial artists all do the same things. THERE ARE NO SECRETS, AND SCIENCE IS SCIENCE.

Hiroshi Yachigusa taught me a lot, but he didn’t know everything, nor did he claim to. Looking back, I feel Hiroshi Yachigusa tried his best to teach me what he knew, but because of my age and maturity at the time, and the language barrier between us, that information wasn’t as thorough as it could have been.

I realized this long ago. As result, I have made it my business to seek out and train with others no matter what their rank, affiliation, or martial style. As a result I’m not a parrot who repeats the mantra of one sole individual, no matter how much respect I may have for them.

Nor am I the type of person who isn’t willing to change/alter techniques within the martial system I was taught. If I discover a better, more effective method I will adopt it. Fortunately, this is something Yachigusa Sensei would have approved of, he always felt that the essence of his art that was more important than any of the techniques themselves.

So if the above behavior constitutes “stealing” like I’ve been accused of, I’m guilty. Guilty as Hell!! But though I’m admitting my “guilt,” I’m not doing anything that centuries and centuries of martial artists of the past didn’t do.

Clearly, martial artists such as Musashi, Mitose, Ueshiba, Kano, Funakoshi, Chow, Parker, and even Bruce Lee also sought out better ways to improve their abilities, from any source available to them. They too incorporated and embraced new knowledge. And eventually, they taught their accumulated knowledge to others. Often they did this without giving credit to their various sources.

Their direct students continued these progressions, as did future generations of students after them. To make the claim that your style of martial arts has gone unchanged for centuries is ridiculous. Every instructor, no matter how traditional, makes changes or omissions, based on their ability and comprehension. That’s the human factor.

To make the claim that your system, style, or teacher has exclusive rights to some technical information is insanity. Is anyone so delusional to really believe their way is the best, absolute method, and that their aren’t others doing the same things elsewhere? How conceited, arrogant, and self-righteous can someone be?

To those individuals who accused me of theft, and those that thought there was merit to their accusations, I say you should examine what you do, and really explore how “pure and untainted” your martial art style is. I’m sure you’ll discover that your teacher… Ahem… “Stole” things too.

Maybe worse yet, you’ll discover that you are also the sum of many parts. Perhaps you will find that consciously or unconsciously, you’re as big, or even a bigger thief than I. At least I publicly admit what I do.

Coda:

Just in case you didn’t get it–if one of the instructors I’ve named above happens to be your teacher, and you now find yourself fuming that I had the audacity to accuse them of being a thief, you missed the point. None of the above, including myself, “STOLE” anything. That’s the absurdity of the whole accusation, since we are all the sum of many parts.

The fact is I have nothing but the utmost respect for the instructors I’ve listed above.

No angry E-mails please.

Who Says Women Can’t Fight

When I started teaching fifteen years ago, my school was mainly comprised of teenage girls. In fact, six of my very first seven students were female, (see blog essay “A Brief School History Part 1 – The First Seven,” June 2006).

Since one of my main training partners when I was a student myself was a woman (my teacher’s daughter), I had no reservations about teaching these young ladies. I certainly did not have any concerns about whether women belonged in the martial arts or not. The fact is, I welcomed the opportunity to teach them, especially because I feel women have more of a need to learn life-protection skills than most men do.

Over the years, I’ve read numerous articles debating whether women belong in the martial arts, whether they can compete with men, and the pros and cons of men training with women. I assume that those that believe women have no place training in the martial arts don’t realize that there have been many notable women warriors throughout history. Even the creation of the art of Wing Chun is credited to a woman named Yim Wing Chun (Beautiful Springtime).

I, for one, have never understood these debates. So when I teach women, I teach them exactly like I teach the men. I give them no preferential treatment, and I expect them to perform techniques just like the men do. No “Dojo Bunnies” are allowed.

While the argument that men are physically stronger on average is true, my experience has shown me that women compensate by becoming more technically oriented. This doesn’t mean that any woman could go toe to toe with any man in a fight, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance either. All factors being equal, I don’t see why a woman can’t beat a man.

In fact, I know a few women martial artists I wouldn’t want to fight with, and that I would be extremely happy to see coming to my aid in a real a street fight. To be perfectly honest, I was once saved from being thrown off the top of a water tower by my female police partner: she grabbed the suspect’s testicles and pinned him to the ground without ever losing her grip. Now that is technique over brawn. I bet the bad guy is still singing soprano to this day.

Well, for anyone who thinks women can’t fight, or shouldn’t be martial artists, I’m posting this video clip featuring Mixed Martial Arts fighter Satoko Shinashi.

This is one tuff looking little powerhouse. That’s not a sexist statement either. Satoko Shinashi is 4-11 and about 105 pounds. That’s pretty tiny. However, though small in stature this Sambo/Jujutsu stylist has amassed quite a fighting record.

Bronze Medal – 2000 World Sambo Championships (-48kg)

Silver Medal – 2001 Asia Sambo Championship

Gold Medal – All Japan Brazilian Jujutsu Championships

MMA record – 13-1-1

Semi-professional MMA record – 11-0-0

What’s really impressive in this video happens during the last few second, when she makes a much larger male opponent tap out by using an arm bar. It’s clearly a David versus Goliath match, and while I haven’t been able to find out why the fight took place or what specific rules they fought under, it shows a woman can, at times, beat a man.

Now, I’m not saying that Satoko Shinashi is the best woman fighter out there. I’m certain there are plenty of others. What I liked about the video is her technical ability, and the power she demonstrates executing her techniques. Clearly, she is a martial artist.

Certainly, this video shows that women can fight, and I’m sure as female MMA matches gain more acceptance, it wont be long until we witness a number of cross-gender fights.