Prof. Rick Clark Seminar Review

I just returned from taking Prof. Clark to the airport, and I thought I would write down some thoughts about this weekend’s seminar.

Saturday July 28th 2007

Saturday’s seminar was held in San Francisco, with fifteen attendees. Since the class was largely composed of people familiar with Mr. Clark and what he teaches, Mr. Clark bypassed his normal introduction and proceeded right to the techniques.

These techniques ranged from striking specific points to several forms of joint locks. However, they all shared one thing in common; they were all painful.

The most notable one–which will require a lot of practice to become proficient in–was a method of locking up the thumb. While difficult to do, this technique is clearly utilized in several Aiki and Jujutsu techniques. However, while this method is most likely widely applied to some degree or another, I don’t think many practitioners who utilize it are even aware of the fact.

Another interesting technique Prof. Clark taught was a specific point located on the back of the hand. Not only was it painful, but when properly done one’s opponent can not make a fist. Or, if one’s opponent is holding a weapon, this point can be struck to make them release it.

Now I realize that anyone reading this will say there is nothing really interesting or ground breaking about striking or pressing a point on the back of the hand, but chances are this point isn’t the one most martial art practitioners are familiar with. Even Prof. Clark stated this was something new he was investigating.

Overall, I think those that attended this seminar had a good time, and left with several new concepts and techniques to mull over–not to mention a few bruises to recover from.

I know I had a good time on Saturday. Not only because I enjoy learning new things, but also because several old friends I haven’t see in a long time were in attendance.

I also want to thank my student Chad for allowing us to use his office to host this seminar. I know a couple of people had a little problem finding the place, but it worked out really well.

Sunday July 29th 2007

On Sunday we traveled to Dixon, California where Jim Ernest, the owner of Ramtown Karate, hosted the seminar. Fourteen people attended this seminar that focused on various applications found within karate kata (forms).

I don’t practice karate, so I rarely have a clue when Prof. Clark discusses various katas karate practitioners do. But I enjoy watching and learning his interpretations of the various kata movements.

The most interesting thing I’ve observed is how similar many of the movements in kata are to those movements practiced in Aiki and Jujutsu arts. For me, the more similarities I see within different martial arts, the more I really believe that in some point in our training, we all end up doing the same things. Only the approach, and the specialty a particular style focus on initially is different.

What I really like about seeing Prof. Clark’s interpretations of kata movements is that he makes sense of some movements I’ve often questioned, such as double upper blocks. I for one have never believed the most common explanation, which often says the movement is designed to block two attackers who simultaneously paunch to your head. My main reason is that the chances of such an attack occurring would be so extremely rare.

Certainly, there would be karate practitioners who would debate Prof. Clark’s interpretation; however, the technique he showed for that particular movement makes a lot more sense. If nothing else, it shows a deeper examination of a commonly practiced movement.

I think Prof Clark’s approach of “thinking outside of the box” to explain commonly done techniques is why I continue to invite him to the San Francisco.

Another element that was interesting during this seminar was that there was attendee who didn’t feel or react to any stimulus intended to cause pain. I mean nothing worked on him at all

I have always taught my students that pain is never a goal of martial art techniques, just a pleasant by product when and if it happens. That no one should wait for a person to react to a painful stimulus, since they may be very disappointed when it doesn’t happen, and worst yet by waiting put their safety in jeopardy.

Prof. Clark agrees with this theory, and makes it clear that the techniques he teaches are a supplement to all ready viable techniques. He makes it clear no one should rely on these techniques alone. This is unlike some other instructors who teach seminars such as these.

I think Sunday was another successful day, and that everyone in attendance left with a lot of information to process and play with.

I want to thank Sensei Ernest for co-hosting Prof. Clark, and for allowing us to use his school. He has a great school, and his students were a pleasure to meet and work with.


A Review of the 2006 San Francisco/Sacramento Rick Clark Seminar

On Oct. 20, 2006 Rick Clark arrived in San Francisco. Since was arriving early Friday afternoon he had agreed to do a private class for my students at my school.

The class started with a lecture where Prof. Clark discussed the pros and cons of using vital point striking in an actual life and death altercation. He discussed the controversy over whether or not vitals were possible to hit on a moving target. While Prof. Clark readily admits it takes a lot of accuracy to hit vital points on a moving target, his rebuttal is that not every part of attacker’s body is moving during every phase of an attack. For example, when a person is grabbed the attacking arm is static and a fairly easy target for vital point striking. Or, when a person is kicking with one leg, the other leg is static.

He then told us about a new concept he has been using to describe the advantages of utilizing vital points in various techniques. He has started using the term “force multiplier.” Basically, this is a military term that he uses to explain how vital points can enhance other techniques: if an arm lock is effective, applying that arm-lock with the addition of vital points increases the force and lethality of the technique. The way he described things made a lot of sense.

After the lecture, Prof. Clark then showed us various techniques, which utilized vital points to make techniques more effective.

Among the techniques he taught were several variations of thumb locks. Unlike the straightforward method where one grabs his opponent’s thumb and bends it backwards, these thumb locks were done by rotating the wrist is specific directions such that the thumb was in a position where the slightest pressure would cause discomfort/pain.

Now, these thumb locks were nothing new to me, but it’s the first time I actually understood—consciously became aware of—what I’ve been doing all these years. In this case, Prof. Clark made me more conscious of how my techniques work, which in the long run will help me to execute and teach them better.

The most interesting technique of the evening was a counter to the technique called Ni-kyu. Now, in my 30 plus years of doing martial arts I have been taught and/or discovered about 67 different ways to apply/counter ni-kyu. However, this variation was a new one for me, and so easy I can’t believe I hadn’t discovered it long ago.

Not only was this counter to ni-kyu simple, but within moments I came up with three new variations I can apply from it. That brings my total to over 70 ways to apply/counter ni-kyu.

Now before I go on, I should mention that I was very worried about how this weekend would go. Not because I was worried about what Prof. Clark would teach, he always teaches an excellent seminar, but because so few people had pre-registered. I told Spencer several times that I was worried I would lose money on this venture. This fact kept bugging me until Spencer said I wasn’t doing this seminar for others, I was just bringing Prof. Clark here because I wanted to learn form him.

You know that is so true. I firmly believe that if one can walk away from a seminar with one or two new techniques, concepts, or theories, then one’s time and money was well spent.

So, worry as I might about breaking even financially, I clearly got my money’s worth on day one.

Saturday October 21, 2006 – San Francisco

(Photos of S.F. Seminar courtesy of "Many V")

Approximately 15 people showed up for Saturday’s class. The group was small, but this worked out well since it allowed for a lot of individual instruction and time for specific questions to be addressed.

One of the things I like, and really respect, about Prof. Clark is his openness to answering questions. He shares information clearly, openly, and often with a sense of humor that tends to keep things very relaxed.

Prof. Clark is also open to discussing new ideas and discovering what other people have to offer on the topics brought up during the seminar. In other words, if someone can answer a question better than he can, he has no problem letting him or her take the floor. This “lack of ego” is refreshing in the martial arts, and once again I proved my belief that one can learn from just about anyone no matter what their skill level may be. I mean isn’t there a saying…’Out of the mouth of babes come the darndest things?”

Saturday’s seminar started basically the same as the private class Prof. Clark had done for my students. After that basic introduction came the techniques and the daylong application of painful locks and pressure points.

The techniques we worked on ranged from the various thumbs locks we had worked on the previous night to vital point location and activation. We also practiced various defensive vital point striking techniques that can be used to set up and enhance the joint locks already done in most martial art systems.

Saturday was a day full of pain, laughter, hard work, and some very interesting techniques and concepts. There was a lot of material to think over and work on for some time to come.

Sunday October 22, 2006 – Sacramento

About 12 people showed for the Sacramento seminar. Like Saturday this small group led to a lot of one on one instruction, as well as addressing questions brought up during various techniques.

While Prof. Clark covered the same basic information he covered on Saturday, we ended up doing a lot more variations. This made the class very interesting for those of us now on our third day of training and let the other people in attendance see just how vast and varied these techniques can be.

Even my wife, Shirly, joined in. She took a lot of pleasure trying the techniques out on me. A warning to all you martial artists out there: beware of training with your wife/girlfriend, especially if she doesn’t normally practice martial arts. Like the saying goes, “A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” My poor wrist will never be the same.

Of course, my wife’s participation just shows that Prof. Clark has something to offer anyone no matter what his or her experience level happens to be.

It’s been four days since Prof. Clark left, and my body is just returning to normal. The bruises are almost gone—or at least they are now a lesser shade of pale green.

The consensus among my students and other attendees who offered feedback was that Prof. Clark’s seminar was very valuable. It helped them understand what vital point striking was all about, and how to apply it in their respective martial arts.

As for me, I learned, relearned, and came away with new ideas and concepts to explore. More importantly, I had the chance to spend a lot of time with Prof. Clark and really get to know him. We share a lot of things in common, especially our views regarding martial arts training, and seeking out new information that will make us better practitioners.

I’m planning on bring Prof. Clark out again in June or July of 2006, and I hope at that time to learn a lot more. I’m also hopeful that many of those who attended this past weekend will tell their friends about their experience and that we have a lot more people come and train with us.

Prof. Rick Clark Seminar

On Saturday October 21 and Sunday October 22, my school, with the assistance of the U.C. Davis Hapkido Club, will be hosting a vital point striking seminar with Prof. Rick Clark.

This will be the second time that I’ve hosted Prof. Clark for a seminar in the Bay Area, and the first time, I believe, he has ever taught in the Sacramento area. In my opinion, out of the handful of instructors who travel around the world teaching the art vital point striking, Prof. Clark is one of the very best.

While Prof. Clark’s comprehensive and technical knowledge on the topic of vital point striking is unquestionable, it is his practical, no-nonsense,
non-esoteric approach to teaching the material I really respect. Unlike many vital point practitioners who explain the art by comparing/contrasting vital point striking to the Chinese medical practice of acupuncture, or the relation between vital points and internal energy such as chi, Prof. Clark simply shows the practical application of vital point striking techniques.

Of course to categorize his seminars as just “vital point-striking” wouldn’t be accurate. He teaches so much more. Clearly, Prof. Clark does teach specific points of the body to strike, many which can cause tremendous pain. However, he does not stop there. Prof. Clark also teaches joint manipulations, takedowns, groundwork (grappling), and pins—all of which, of course, focus on using proper anatomical weaknesses of the body.

By teaching the various forms of vital point striking—pressure points (nerve plexus), blood-gate, and joint manipulations—Prof. Clark’s system compliments any style of martial arts. Many of the techniques he teaches can be found within the forms practiced in the arts of Tae Kwon Do, Jujutsu, Karate, and Kung Fu.

However, while the techniques may be the same, Prof. Clark teaches them on a deeper level, a level many practitioners are never exposed to. He teaches a level of adeptness which, when learned properly, often makes these techniques of self-defense more effective, efficient, and easier to utilize in the real world.

As a vital point instructor myself, I have heard the controversy over whether vital points work or not, especially in reference to death strikes and “delayed death strikes.” I’ll be the first to say there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding in regards to these topics. The same can be said for no-touch knockouts.

Nevertheless, vital points do exist, and they are effective. The problem is most people never learn to use them properly in a systematic manner. Just poking someone in a specific place isn’t going to work.

In addition one must learn the proper methodology of attacking specific points, especially when it comes to applying them on a person who is attacking at full speed.

No one seminar can teach a person to fully utilize vital point striking, but attending a seminar such as the one taught by Prof. Clark can start one on the road to examining the potential of the techniques they already know. Clearly, Prof. Clark’s seminars are designed to expose one to the original intent inherent in the old fighting methods.

My martial art philosophy is that THERE ARE NO SECRETS, there is just information one hasn’t been told, been exposed to, or discovered yet. No one teacher, no matter who they are, what rank they hold, or how many systems they have studied, has all the answers. Those who wish to discover the deeper meanings within the martial arts, the true essence of what martial arts were intended to be will eventually seek out this information.

For those on the path of searching for these deeper meanings, and the old life-protection skills often overlooked or lost in many systems, now you have the opportunity to train with someone who will openly share this information.

I truly believe anyone attending Prof. Clark’s seminar will gain valuable insights into the nature of traditional martial arts, and leave with a renewed desire to search for even deeper understanding of the arts they practice.

Of course my students, and fellow martial artists who know me not only come for the valuable information, but also to witness Prof. Clark demonstrate his techniques on me. OUCH!! I hate finger locks.

For biographical information of Prof. Clark, or information on Ao Denkou Jutsu go to

Vital Point Striking Seminars with Rick Clark 10/21 and 10/22

Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei and U.C. Davis Hapkido Club

Prof. Rick Clark
Ao Denkou Jutsu: Vital-Point Striking

Saturday, October 21 and Sunday, October 22, 2006

Professor Clark’s Ao Denko Jutsu, based on the use of vital points, enhances striking and grappling techniques of any given system or style to achieve maximum effect. Many of his techniques are developed through analysis of traditional forms, uncovering effective applications hidden within them.

This world-class instructor has taught martial artists all over the world how to increase the effectiveness of their techniques and gain a better understanding of traditional forms they practice.

Saturday 10/21
10:00 – 3:00
998 Geneva Ave
San Francisco, CA 94112
Sunday 10/22
11:00 – 4:00
1501 North C Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
* Space is limited at San Francisco seminar.
Cost: Pre-registered – 1 day $55.00 / both days $85.00
Day of event – 1 day $65.00 / both days $100.00
To pre-register: Checks should be payable to: Spencer Burns
Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei
Attention: School Treasurer
3440 20th Street, #101
San Francisco, CA 94110
For more information contact:
Gary Moro, Kyoshi Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei (415) 821-1902 /
Bob Sarason, U.C. Davis Hapkido Club (530) 752-3737 /
Or visit