Sunday, August 30, 2009

Underground Zen Combat: Be Like a Spring

Bruce Lee said we are to be like water...well, he is right....but we should also be like a spring. Not the watery type, but the bed spring fact more like a ball point pen spring.

In my last post I spoke of Fa-jing and short explosive power. Sanchin helps develop this and the best way to describe this type of power is a spring. When coiled it contains tremendous energy just waiting to explode.

When you open Sanchin with a palms pushing towards the ground this is when you establish your 'root' and set your coil of the spring. When you do this properly you should feel the energy swirling in your legs...if you don't, don't worry. With practice and visualizing of this type of energy it will eventually arrive. Just be patient. Remember to grip the ground with your toes, keep your hips forward to eliminate the 's' curve in your lower back and draw your energy in and down your centerline.

Fa-jing is a springy energy and if you think of each joint you have in your body as a ball point pen spring, flexible yet kinetic, you are well on your way of increasing your power. Each joint is a reservoir of energy and a turning point that can explode with power. The toes, ankles, knees, hips, waist, vertebrae, shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers all can be used in a coiled-like spring action.

In a self-defense situation your opponent actually helps you 'set' the springs when he pushes or pulls or strikes at you. His energy coils your a shock absorber absorbs a bump in the road...and then when his energy has been aborbed you are in perfect position to release the energy.

Sanchin testing helps you to develop this energy as well. That is why you start with soft hits and eventually get hit with harder and harder develops your ability to absorb like a spring and send the shockways into your joints and if need be into the ground. Just think of all those joints we have that can absorb energy...and give it out.

Sanchin dachi is a perfect stance for developing fa-jing. A good visualization is to just stand in Sanchin Dachi and see in your imagination all of joints as flexible springs....loose, flexible and able to receive any type of pressure. We practice Sanchin with hands open. So, stand for a few moments and feel the energy...and then visualize compressing the springs while doing a reverse breath. Begin with compressing the toes and work your way up the body until you can get your whole body to compress (does this make sense to you?)

After you get good at compressing then do Sanchin Kata. Compress your springs on the inhale and then let the appropriate one let loose...I hope you will able to feel the difference. Fa-jing is loose, relaxed and explosive. It is not muscular power...hell, if it was I would be in trouble. I am a small guy and will lose going toe to toe with someone bigger than me.

Combine this with adapting a ferocious animal mentality and you have a great combination for superior strength. The animal mentality is extremely important and one point on this is that you should remember your opponent is going to have a lot of adrenaline going (or jacked up on crack) and has a high tolerance for pain. You must get your energy to match and exceed his...and do it instantaneously. Only practice will do.

Take Care and hopes this helps with your training,

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cat Fa-jing

Have you ever watched a cat pounce? If you haven't I recommend watching. Cats display Fa-jing, or explosive power. It is fast, relaxed and very deceptively powerful.

This is what is needed in a life and death self-defense struggle...fa-jing. Quick explosive power that knocks your opponent on his butt. Watch how a cat will wiggle and crouch as he prepares to pounce...then let's go with speed and power. It's inspiring.

This is the kind of power that is developed from the practice of Sanchin Kata. It is quick, relaxed and explosive...and more importantly is easily delivered in close range. Real fights only exist in close range. I have never seen or been in a street fight that was mid or long range. It was always in your face NOW! There is no time to think and you have someone in your face.

This is the time to be like an animal. Not to look like one...but to be one. Many martial art styles have animal names and will move like them, but what I feel is really needed is to BE one! Be an animal whose sole purpose is survival...and will fight to the end to make it happen. When being a cat, like a tiger or leopard, adapt their mentality. Be fierce. When doing Sanchin make your eyes ferocious looking just like an animal's.

The secret to developing fa-jing is attitude. It begins in the mind. Develop it in the mind and the body will follow.

Hands palm to palm,

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Monty Python Karate

Every summer the Broken Bokken Dojo moves to the great outdoors and we have a 'Samurai Summer'. We typically work on Bokken, but this summer focused on the Bo. As I have posted before, we are a relaxed dojo and have a lot of fun. Well, for some reason, however, when I looked at my students swinging wood one evening they reminded me of the movie, Monty Python and The Search for the Holy Grail.

During the summer we tend to not wear full gi's or wrap obi's around our waists. We usually just wear gi pants and/or shorts, depending on how hot it is. To me we look like a bunch of misfits and tend to get a look of bewilderment from passerbys.

I am not sure if I should be scared or proud, but when I asked my students, most of them in their late teens and early twenties, if they ever saw the above-mentioned Monty Python movie, you should have felt the buzz of excitement. Jennie (age 17) claimed it was her most favorite movie of all time...and then Ross (17) and Jake (13) run to their gi bag and pull out two coconut halves and begin using them for the horses hoof noise like in the movie.

It took all I could to contain myself. We then had to play Monty Python...swing our swords or bo's in the air and run across the park screaming like we were being chased by the killer rabbit. Staunch traditionalists would be shaking their heads in disgust, but for us, Karate is a Monty Python adventure. Surreal and Fun. Many of my students are very artistic and creative in many ways. Somehow I attracted these fun and wonderfully colorful people that make up the Broken Bokken.

They keep this old guy feeling pretty young...and I am really proud they love the classics and live their lives 'outside the box'. This will serve them well as they progress through the ranks of Karate. I encourage thinking outside of the norm and I am proud we practiced Monty Python Karate this least for a little while.

In Gassho...

Another Simple Sanchin Bunkai

Sanchin Kata contains a lot of stun techniques to get the attacker to move....mostly perhaps to get his mind to move and say, "oops". I will show you one of my favorite techniques to use that can be utilized in a variety of scenarios, but for today we will use it against a standing double hand choke to the throat...perhaps with your back against the wall. It requires the striking motion of a single hand technique.

The technique requires you to use your index and middle finger. Put them together next to each other and curl your others together with your thumb. You will use these two fingers to poke and push into the suprasternal notch. (in the photo below you see one finger...use two). The suprasternal notch is just above the sternum. Push in and down and you will create a choking feeling in your opponent.

From here you take advantage of whatever motion he gives you. Typically his head will drop and his body caves in a bit. Play with it, but be careful...and do not push up during practice as you could damage the trachea. Only push in and down.

Again, play with the different 'looks' you get from doing this technique and see the variety of defenses you have. If you care to share any on this blog, please do so. One of my favorites is to push the notch with my right hand and use my left hand to grab his right hand on my throat. When his grip relaxes from the notch strike, I use a simple outside wrist turn with a little extra pressue on TW-3 and take him down.

Hands palm to palm,

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sanchin Bunkai: Simplicity at its best.

Back in 1981, Sanchin saved me from a left hook being delivered by a very angry man. I had just pulled this man off of my boss who was getting the snot (plus a few teeth) knocked out of him. Using a full nelson I pulled the attacker off and being bigger than me he broke the hold, turned and swung a haymaker of a left hook at the right side of my jaw.

As most of you know, Sanchin is one of Karate's oldest katas. It has a plethora of uses. Well, I used one of the simplest and easiest bunkai, or self-defense, applications. As his left fist was circling towards my jaw I simply turned my head to go with the punch. He simply grazed my skin. From there I was in control

A simple head turn. It works...and it is in the versions of Sanchin where you turn. Practice this technique so your eyes can pick up on the punch and just go with it. It sure helped me.

In Gassho...


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Got Taygay?

If you were to come and train with us at the Broken Bokken Dojo you would find a relatively calm and relaxed atmosphere. Visitors with a background in more 'traditional' Japanese Martial Arts are often surprised if not even slightly offended that we are so loose.

I tell them I teach the Okinawan way, not the Japanese way. I teach in a family way, not a military way. Prior to WWII the teaching of Okinawan 'te' was personalized, taught in small groups and was more loose and relaxed...but not soft or lacking in physical rigor. Afterwards, when Karate become commercialized and taught in large groups a military way was easier to teach and to keep 'kids' in place. Plus, Americans learning Karate at that time were military...and so teaching was militarized. (My opinions)

The Japanese are known for their precision, adherence to time and schedules, everything has its place and there is a certain sense of orderliness. Japan is also famous for its meticulous attention to detail in all that they do. If you visit a formal Japanese Dojo it will be very orderly, neat and clean. Students will be very polite, gi's nice and clean as well as the Dojo. I studied Zen in a very formal Japanese style at the Nebraska Zen Center and Kyokushinkai Karate while in College under a very strict teacher. Promptness, eye for detail and adherence to protocol was highly emphasized. I learned a lot from this type of way and it has its place.

Unlike the Japanese, the Okinawans are laid back, easygoing and much more relaxed. Meetings don't start 'on-time' fact, not much starts on time. The Okinawans call themselves a Taygay people. Taygay is a term that means 'relaxed and easygoing'. In Okinawa, activities tend to run on what they call Okinawan Time. Meetings start when everyone shows up and ends when it is done. Adherence to a clock or time is seen as more of guideline than a rule. (A good resource for this information is the book: The Okinawa Program by Wilcox, Wilcox and Suzuki. I highly recommend it.)

Karate...again prior to WWII...was taught behind closed doors and in back yards, typically only to family members or close personal friends. Oh, Gi's. They weren't incorporated in Karate until Karate became formalized in Japan and needed to become a more official Japanese Budo.

In the summer you will find us in a park. Some of us wear our Gi's...some don't. Some wear their obi's...some don't. It is a very relaxed atmosphere...yet mindfulness is practiced with attention to detail of technique. It is simply taught without, what I call, a military atmosphere, but with a more relaxed family atmosphere. We are laid back, flexible and have a very easy going practice of our art. We smile and laugh a lot...usually at ourselves.

We have an open door policy and love to have guests visit. Don't worry about showing up on time or having to wear the 'right' type of clothes. Come as you are, be relaxed and just let time be.

This is Taygay.

In Gassho,

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why Then & Why Now?

Question: Why did you start studying the martial arts? And if you have been studying for over three years...why do you study now?

For myself the answer is easy. My first reason was self-defense. Nothing more than that. At the age of 14 I was one of the skinniest and smallest kids in Junior High, easily intimidated and felt very insecure. I wanted to be able to take care of myself and never feel inadequate in the face of someone bigger than me.

It is still my belief that first and foremost, your art should be about defending yourself, quickly and easily. If it doesn't...then find another one if you can. My confidence soared after even a few months of Karate lessons...and almost by magic much of my fears dissipated. Self-defense, the knowledge you can defend yourself, leads to greater confidence...and for myself encouraged me to continue to practice...despite the pain.

And now...why do I still practice? Cause I am nuts! Well, only partially true. Now...and as most is an inner exploration of ourselves. It is dealing with a greater enemy than one we would face in a back alley behind a bar. It is facing ourselves and our own inner demons of anger, greed and delusion. The three poisons of which Buddha spoke of. For myself this is the real 'Three Battles' of Sanchin Kata.

I also study now because of the bond I feel with other martial artists. It is the sense of belonging to a neat group of people who are just as insane about being flown through the air and enduring the variety of vigorous physical rigors.

So, how about you? I am always curious as to why people wish to start the arts...and why they continue. Please share if you are inclined. I know other readers who are just starting would like to know why most of us old-timers keep doing this stuff.

In Gassho,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Farming and Budo

Farming and Budo go hand in hand. From the gardens of Shaolin to the rice fields of Okinawa and Japan, farming has been intricately linked to Budo. Many of the early Budo-ka were Farmers...hence the classical Okinawan weapons of Kama, Sai, Bo and Tonfa. These are farm tools transformed into tools of self-defense.

I am not a farmer, but I do have a garden. There is nothing like going and playing in the dirt...and it's amazing how the neighborhood kids (ages 2-13) love to come and watch the garden and tour the garden as it grows. They also like to tour by picking peas, beans and an occasional cherry tomato. This is as close to farming as I am going to get, besides marrying a farmer's daughter (yep, I did).

Farming and Budo have a lot in common. In farming the soil needs tilling and preparation before the seeds can be planted. In the dojo this is our learning of the exercises and kihon waza to prepare our mind and body for the rigors that lie ahead. Without preparing the soil properly, the seeds will have difficulty growing once planted. The same goes for Budo. Without a proper foundation of physical conditioning, the seeds from Kata, Kumite, Meditation will have difficulty sprouting.

Yes, the planting of the seeds must also be done correctly. Not too close...not too far. Kata or Waza must be taught...not too fast, not too slow.

Then comes the watering and the praying for adequate sunshine and rainfall. In Budo, this is the encouragement to continue. The comraderie we feel from being with others who love the way of the warrior. Then we practice and wait as we grow.

Weeding is also necessary or the plants can get choked out and hinder their growth. This is when Sensei corrects your form or technique...or tells you to be quiet or pay attention when you are goofing off too much. Weeding is very important or the plants will not grow tall and strong. This is especially crucial when the plant flowers and is getting ready to produce their fruit.

And, then comes the harvesting. The plant is in full bloom and the cucumbers, zuchinni, tomatoes, peas and beans all arrive for the enjoyment of the gardener (and the neighborhood kids) For the Budoka this is the culmination of your training when you become free from the mother plant and begin to produce your own 'seeds'. You become the teacher...the Sensei.

I love gardening.

Hands palm to palm,

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Humor & Karate

The Buddhist Blog recently posted an article on Humor and Buddhism. I recommend you read it...which got me thinking about Humor and Karate. If you practice Karate, or any martial art for that matter, you will have moments that are hilarious for a variety of reasons.

One of my most memorable and funny, if not awkward moments, happened when I was a young Brown Belt. The year was about 1974 and one of Sensei Dean's Black Belts, David Rumpf, was doing a Karate demonstration in a town 45 minutes away. He was planning on opening a Dojo there. He invited me to come along and help.

Now, back in the 70's, the gear for martial artists wasn't exactly designed for our use. To use a protective cup, like the one in the photo, all you could do was slide it behind your jock strap. Nowadays there are pockets for them to slip into. Why would I mention this?

Well, to get to the moment. Sensei Rumpf and I were demonstrating how we do Kumite. Sensei Rumpf kicked me in the groin with a loud 'whump'. I stopped the action, shook my right leg, and my cup came sliding down my pant leg, making a grand appearance upon the gym floor. It was the loudest applause we got all night!

The next biggest applause was after I had to turn my back to the audience, undo my gi pants (traditional draw string) and replace the cup in its respective place. I turned and bowed. I believe Sensei Rumpf attracted a lot of students after that, but for probably all the wrong reasons.

How about you? We all have had some fun, and or awkward moments. I would love to hear about them, if you would care to share. Oh, yeah, never do a front snap kick standing on a small throw rug placed on a linoleum floor. They don't call them 'throw rugs' for a reason.

Love to hear from you,

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Who can wait quietly while the mind settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?
Lao Tzu

Trust. Lao Tzu believed that the ancient masters were characterized by their ability to trust and remain patient. They would remain unmoving until the right action became apparent. How about you?

As you know, Martial Arts requires good timing. A block arriving too late or too early is ineffective. Timing is ruined when the Karate-ka pushes too hard to make a technique work. Trust is important here. As you learn to trust, not only your training, but trust the moment itself, timing arrives naturally, organically, almost appearing mystical in nature.

When a technique develops organically, the next action inevitably suggest itself. It arises and happens as naturally as an apple falling from a tree. Does the apple let go or does the tree?
When confusion about what to do, cultivating the patience to allow the confusion to settle down is paramount.

Nonin would often talk about our mind being like a jar of water and sand. When the water is stirred it becomes muddy. The mind is confused and cannot see what to do next...but when you trust and stop stirring, allowing the sand/mud to settle, what needs to happen suddenly becomes clear.

Trust is essential. Without it your training becomes mechanical and eventually listless. Nonin gave me the Dharma name of Shinzen. Shin means Trust. My Dharma name means to Trust Zen. Nonin recognized in me the need to develop more trust in my life. I tend to be rather cerebral and Nonin was pointing me in the direction I needed to move by giving me this name. (which by the way I didn't like when he presented me with it...boy, was I was the best name he could have given to me).

So, trust your martial training. Practice over and over the simple moves of Sanchin, Tensho, Seisan, Kusanku or any Kata for that matter. Trust the training and trust they will take care of you if and when the time to use them occurs. Trusting has made a big difference in my Martial Arts progress. I believe it has helped move me from being an analytical paint-by-numbers (or kick-by numbers) artist to one who can just simply draw free-form and produce wonderful works of art. I truly believe Trusting leads to transcendence of the technical and gives truer freedom to the practice of the Martial Arts.

The more I have trusted my training I find that no matters what an opponent throws at me there is always something there for me to take advantage happens naturally and free of pre-meditative thought. It happens from Trust.

In Gassho,

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Healing Arts and Martial Arts

As most Martial Artists are aware, Healing Arts and Martial Arts have traveled hand in hand throughout the centuries. It goes back to that old saying, "if you know how to break it, you must know how to fix it."

One of my most favorite Healing Arts is called, The Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT for short. It was developed by Gary Craig who studied Thought Field Therapy with Dr. Roger Callahan. Thought Field Therapy is a healing art that combines Traditional Chinese Medicine and modern Psychology. A series of Pressure Points are 'tapped' with the fingers while focusing on the problem. Amazingly the problem reduces or disappears altogether. Thought Field Therapy has different algorithms or series of pressure points to tap for different problems. For instance, their are different algorithms for anxiety, grief, pain and anger. Gary Craig developed a universal algorithm that works for almost all situations...and named it the Emotional Freedom Technique.

As a Martial Artist, I have used EFT for my own headaches, anxiety and anger. It really does work. The website for you to explore is You can learn all about EFT via videos and you can download the entire EFT manual for Free! EFT is considered an Energy Medicine as it works with the subtle energies we as Martial Artists understand and use.

I encourage you to try it out. I use EFT in my clinical practice with wonderful results. I have seen migraines disappear, hip pain disappear, anxiety reduce and panic obliterated. It simply works. Give it try and if you have any questions just ask me.

In the future I will go over other healing arts I use and provide links to their websites.

Hands palm to palm,