Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Zen Goshindo: Basic Fighting Strategy

In teaching Karate over the years my philosophy on teaching has always been what Shihan Dean instilled in me year after year: Keep It Simple. Complicated gets you killed on the street. It doesn't mean we never practiced complicated or showy/flashy techniques (they are just fun to play with), but Shihan Dean would always emphasize the difference. I do too.

In 1988 I started Zen Mountain Karate Academy out of the basement of my house in Lincoln, Nebraska and eventually had a 3000 square foot dojo with a Zendo. As I was learning how to teach better I began to realize the difficulty many of my students had in practicing all of the kata we had in the system. I then could hear Shihan Dean and Nonin speaking in my head about simplicity.

So, I asked myself, "If I could only teach 5 or 3 or even one kata, what would that be?" The one kata was an easy choice...Sanchin. Then I picked Naihanchi. After learning Sanchin and Naihanchi I would assign then a new kata, such as Seisan or Seiuchin, dependent upon the makeup of the student.

So, what about Fighting Strategy? As I was finding my way through the ups and downs of reworking my expression of the hit me. I decided to look at my Kata and Self-Defense applications in terms of ..'what would I teach my daughters?' What do they need to learn to be able to defend themselves? This became the central core of what I would teach and how I even began to see Kata Bunkai. As I changed the 'lens' by which I viewed Kata, it all changed.

Here is my lens: I try to make sure that all of what we do is designed to defend against three attackers and all techniques must be swift, efficient and easy to do for a small person. (this helps me too because I am 5'8" and weight in at 155 lbs)

With this central theme, Zen Goshindo was developed around simplicity and a father's fear of his daughters not being able to care for themselves. Nothing mystical or esoteric. Just functional. We also have fun and like most Martial Artists, appreciate receiving a good bloody nose from a well-executed technique...or maybe a not so-well executed defense. (I tell my students we switched to black gi's because it hides the blood stains)

So, that's it for a little history and fighting strategy of Zen Goshindo.

Take Care,


  1. The strategy based on a girl or woman is very good. I had occasion to practice with female black belts who would turn their "limitation" into my problem, like, for example, a very short female that would go so low in her shiko dachi that she'd render my attack worthless.

  2. Since when we do we enjoy getting s bloody nos- Oh, wait. Riiight. yes, of course we enjoy it. Cause we're crazy.

  3. Crazy is a prerequisite do be in our dojo, don't-cha-know.