Saturday, September 26, 2009

Kusanku Bunkai

This summer we practiced Kusanku, or Kanku, in the park. With and without a bo. Here is some empty handed Bunkai for you to observe. Look familiar?

We will continue our study of this kata throughout the winter as well.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dim Mak with Montaigue

Enjoy...Gall Bladder 2 is being discussed. Do not play with this by direct contact, please. This is for educational/entertainment purposes. Take care...

Lessons from my Zafu: Ground Zero

Dr. Yozan (Dirk) Mosig, a Shuri-te practitioner and Zen priest, often would remind us that Karate was 95% mental and 5% physical. This saying has always stuck with me...and as I have my own sitting practice I am becoming more and more aware of how correct his statement is.

As I have mentioned before, Buddha spoke about how all we are is a result of our thoughts...with our thoughts we create our world and shape our reality. This is so true...and is even backed up by Quantum Physics, but I am not going to go into that right now.

What I am referencing today is Ground Zero....bringing your mind to that still point of just before you inhale and just before you have your next thought. Ground Zero is the place you have to decide upon how you are going to shape your world. Buddha spoke of being mindful of mind. Be aware of your thoughts as if they are a cobra ready to strike...bring your awareness to that level on and off your zafu.

I call that point of total awareness or stillness of mind Ground Zero...just like sitting on your Zafu...on the ground...this is Ground Zero....stay there and when your mind does wander be aware of the curious about the wandering and then gently return to Ground Zero.

This is also the mindset when doing Kata. Kata is also a place for Ground aware of your thoughts before, during and after Kata. Are you 'in' the kata or wandering around in your mind. Stay at Ground Zero....Did you know Kata also means 'how you behave'? So a Kata is also how you brush your teeth, do your job, take a piss, and talk to your children or friends. Are you at Ground Zero? Are you aware or are you running on Autopilot?

Ground Zero...being Here and Now...being with the events of life as they unfold moment by moment, but also being with your thoughts and judgements about the events of life as they unfold. If you do not like your thoughts or judgements, again, just be curious about them and gently return to Ground you have the chance to change your world.

This is part of our Budo training...95% mental.

Hope my morning rambling has made sense...

In Gassho,

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lessons from my Zafu: Who's in Charge?

This morning while I was sitting (zazen) the thought went through my head, "Who's in Charge?"
I have often spoken of how your mind is your I have a few questions for you. In your real life physical Dojo, would you just let transient people walk through and dirty up the place? Would you let someone disrupt your class with disrespect and negative energy? Would you let someone insult your students and attack them? Of course you wouldn't.
So, who is in charge of your inner dojo? Who is in charge of your mind? A little koan for you...and me.
In Gassho,

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Importance of Gyoji

As we get older it is important to stay in shape and stick to our good habits (gyoji)...

....or we end up like this.

Dim Mak

Dim Mak, otherwise known as 'the Death Touch,' is talked about alot in martial art systems. Some of the stuff you read about is questionable, however, the book I like the most on the subject is by Erle Montaigue and Wally Simpson.

They wrote, "The Encyclopedia of Dim-Mak". Mr. Montaigue is a Tai Chi practitioner with a very straightforward personality and approach. I find it refreshing.

What I like about this book is that it goes through the main meridians and describes how to use pressure points for self-defense, but also for healing. He also emphasizes the importance of being very careful with Dim-Mak because you can kill someone with this stuff.

My philosophy on practicing Dim-Mak, or Kyusho Jitsu, is that we do not practice 'knockouts' to see if this stuff works. I do not believe in insulting the energy/neurological/brain systems just for show or demonstrations. I know I am an old 'fuddy duddy' on this stuff, but I don't want students to get hurt...and if don't know what you are doing you could inadvertantly damage someone for quite some time.

I like this book for the healing aspects as well. Mr. Simpson goes through and explains the TCM behind the healing after striking certain points, just in case you do hurt someone.

If you wish to see Mr. Montaigue teaching just go do a Dim Mak video search and he will show up. He has some 'teasers' to entice you to purchase his videos.

Take Care,

Monday, September 21, 2009


A big 'Thank You' for all the attendees at the 4th Annual Zen and Healing Arts Seminar!!
I am already planning for next year and am excited about the topics...but you'll have to wait till next summer to find out what we are going to do.
After the seminar many of us were discussing dim mak and kyusho jitsu...the pros and cons of doing knockouts, etc. I was asked to put on my blog any suggested reading materials I had found helpful. So, I will gather up some of my resources, and put together a reading list...maybe centered around certain subjects, like dim mak, or zen or energy work.
So, that's all for today's post...I have to get back to work.
Again, thank you to the participants at this years seminar and for raising money to support our domestic violence shelter, Safe Haven.
In Gassho,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Remember the 19th!!!

Just a reminder for those in the area:

September 19th...that's this the 4th Annual Zen and Healing Arts Seminar.

For those who have had zazen instruction and can make it, an early bird zen sitting time is at 7 am.

For those needing instruction, the seminar starts at 9 am.

Lunch is provided.

The afternoon will be filled with relaxing mind-body techniques presented by Sensei Dan Lutsey of Shorei Kempo and Sensei Tyler Albertson of Zen Goshindo Karate.

The seminar ends when we get done...usually around 3 or 4 pm.

The cost is only $20 and all proceeds go to support Safe Haven, our Domestic Violence Shelter.
If you have any questions email me at

Hope to see ya...

Monday, September 14, 2009

If You Wish to Understand...

During one of Nonin's Dharma talks at a Sesshin he said, "If you wish to understand your past, look at your present: If you wish to understand your future, look at your present."

For some reason this stuck in my head as it had a ring of truth to it. I did not give it much thought until just recently. I was thinking about what Buddha had said about how all we are is a result of our thinking. All that we are arises with our thoughts. So, I inserted 'thinking' into Nonin's quote and it reads like this:

"If you wish to understand your past, look at your present thinking: If you wish to understand your future, look at your present thinking."

As a mental health professional many of the people I see are lost and confused and want to know why their life 'sucks' and what they can do about it. They want to explore the past and find a cause or an excuse or someone to blame for their problems. Now, this does have some therapeutic value, however, if you really examine why life sucks now, take a look at what you are thinking now.

If your thinking is full of negativity, bias, jealousy, aversion, greed your life will be full of negativity, bias, jealousy, etc. Everything in your life right now is a result of your thoughts. Your life right now is a total culmination and manifestation of all that you have thought! When you examine your present thoughts you are seeing your well as your future.

So, if you want to have a better future, start thinking better thoughts. Notice how all great spiritual traditions and teachers focus on positivity, joy, love, compassion. Why? Because we become what we think about and we get what we think about. In therapy, I have my clients begin with counting their blessings and see how there life does have some great things going on...and to focus on gratitude moment by moment. For some clients, I teach them how to Gassho with thanksgiving to everything in their lives...and you know what? Their lives do begin to change.

Entering into a Dojo and recieving formal training in a traditional martial art has lots of bowing and showing signs of respect. This is why a Dojo and your martial art is also a healing art. You are healing yourself (and others) just by coming in and following the martial way. You become transformed through these actions of respect and gratitude. Notice how a Dojo usually has lots of smiling and laughing going on? It is really a happy place.

Buddha spoke of three things really. A summation of his teachings boils down to this:
1. Do good things.
2. Avoid bad things.
3. Discipline your mind.

This third thing, when it happens, helps you manage the first two. The process of disciplining the mind involves Zazen. This is the perfect vehicle for examining the self. Dogen-zenji, the founder of Soto Zen in Japan, spoke of how Zen is the process of examining the self...and is enlightenment itself.

Well, this post is getting long...maybe I will continue again on this subject. It was just running through my head so now you can have it.

Hands palm to palm,

Friday, September 11, 2009

My first attempt at video with Sanchin

I am just playing with my camera in hopes of downloading more video in the future.
This video contains two versions of Sanchin...a short one and a longer one. Front and side views available. At least that is what I hope has downloaded. I am an old dog learning new tricks.

I already see where I need to make a few changes in my form.

Enjoy...and I hope to get more video fairly soon. I tend to blow up technology so we'll see what happens.

In Gassho,

Death is a Hunter!

One more teaching from don Juan, the Yaqui Sorcerer (Warrior).

Again, for those who are students of Zen and the Way of the Samurai you will find similar teachings. This is one lesson that inspired my ongoing practice of Budo when I was a younger man.

Here don Juan is talking to Carlos Castaneda after totally screwing up a task he was assigned:
"If you really want to learn, you have to remodel most of your behavior. You take yourself too seriously. You are too damn important in your own mind. That must be changed!

You are so goddamn important that you feel justified to be annoyed with everything. You're so damn important that you can afford to leave if things don't go your way. I suppose you think that shows you have character. That's nonsense! You're weak, and conceited! In the course of your life you have not ever finished anything because of that sense of disproportionate importance that you attach to yourself.

Self-importance is another thing that must be dropped, just like personal history. The world around us is very mysterious. It doesn't yield its secrets easily. Now we are concerned with losing self-importance. As long as you feel that you are the most important thing in the world you cannot really appreciate the world around you. You are like a horse with blinders, all you see is yourself apart from everything else.

To help you lose self-importance talk to little plants. It doesn't matter what you say to a plant, what's important is the feeling of liking it, and treating it as an equal. A man who gathers plants must apologize every time for taking them and must assure them that someday his own body will serve as food for them. So, all in all, the plants and ourselves are even. Neither we nor they are more or less important. From now on talk to the little plants, talk until you lose all sense of importance. Talk to them until you can do it in front of others. You must talk to them in a loud and clear voice if you want them to answer you.

The world around us is a mystery, and men are no better than anything else. If a little plant is generous with us we must thank her, or perhaps she will not let us go. You have to be aware of the uselessness of your self-importance and of your personal history.

Your death can give you a little warning, it always comes as a chill. Death is our eternal companion, it is always to our left, at an arm's length. How can anyone feel so important when we know that death is stalking us. The thing to do when you're impatient is to turn to your left and ask advice from your death. An immense amount of pettiness is dropped if your death makes a gesture to you, or if you catch a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion is there watching you.

The issue of our death is never pressed far enough. Death is the only wise adviser that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you're about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you're wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, "I haven't touched you yet."

One of us here has to change, and fast. One of us here has to learn again that death is the hunter, and that it is always to one's left. One of us here has to ask deaths advice and drop the cursed pettiness that belongs to men that live their lives as if death will never tap them. Think of your death now. It is at arm's length. It may tap you any moment, so really you have no time for crappy thoughts and moods. None of us have time for that. The only thing that counts is action, acting instead of talking."

Hands palm to palm,

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How to be a Warrior.

Continuing with the teachings of don Juan from the writings of Carlos Castaneda, don Juan is instructing Carlos in the way of the warrior. For those who study Zen or the way of the Samurai you will be able to see the corollaries.

"Thus to be a warrior a man has to be, first of all, and rightfully so, keenly aware of his own death. But to be concerned with death would force any one of us to focus on the self and that would be debilitating. So the next thing one needs to be a warrior is detachment. The idea of imminent death, instead of becoming an obsession, becomes an indifference.

Now you must detach yourself; detach yourself from everything. Only the idea of death makes a man sufficiently detached so he is incapable of abandoning himself to anything. Only the idea of death makes a man sufficiently detached so he can't deny himself anything. A man of that sort, however, does not crave, for he has acquired a silent lust for life and for all things of life. He knows his death is stalking him and won't give him time to cling to anything, so he tries, without craving, all of everything.

A detached man, who knows he has no possibility of fencing off his death, has only one thing to back himself with: the power of his decisions. He has to be, so to speak, the master of his choices. He must fully understand that his choice is his responsibility and once he makes it there is no longer time for regrets or recriminations. His decisions are final, simply because his death does not permit him time to cling to anything.

And thus with an awareness of his death, with his detachment, and with the power of his decisions a warrior sets his life in a strategical manner. The knowledge of his death guides him and makes him detached and silently lusty; the power of his final decisions makes him able to choose without regrets and what he chooses is always strategically the best; and so he performs everything he has to with gusto and lusty efficiency.

When a man behaves in such a manner one may rightfully say that he is a warrior and has acquired patience. When a warrior has acquired patience he is on his way to will . He knows how to wait. His death sits with him on his mat, they are friends. His death advises him, in mysterious ways, how to choose, how to live strategically. And the warrior waits! I would say that the warrior learns without any hurry because he knows he is waiting for his will ; and one day he succeeds in performing something ordinarily quite impossible to accomplish. He may not even notice his extraordinary deed. But as he keeps on performing impossible acts, or as impossible things keep on happening to him, he becomes aware that a sort of power is emerging.

A power that comes out of his body as he progresses on the path of knowledge. He notices that he can actually touch anything he wants with a feeling that comes out of his body from a spot right below or right above his navel. That feeling is the will , and when he is capable of grabbing with it, one can rightfully say that the warrior is a sorcerer, and that he has acquired will .

A warrior is never idle and never in a hurry."

Hands palm to palm,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Does Your Path Have Heart?

Back in 1960's and 70's I was heavily influenced by the writings of Carlos Castaneda and his books about the Yaqui Sorcerer, Don Juan. This post I just want to share some of his teachings. Don Juan's way is the Way of the Warrior and he speaks of this often. One of his most famous teachings is about having a path with heart and is worth considering as you walk your warrior's path.

"Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path: if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave the path must be free from fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times at you think necessary.

This question is one that only a very old man asks. Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use. Both paths lead to nowhere; but one has heart, the other doesn't. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you....

...A path without heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it."

Just some words to consider as you look at the myriad of paths that come our way each and everyday, especially the path of Budo. Does your path have heart?

In Gassho,

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bunkai or Oyo?

As you are aware in Karate we have Kata. Kata contains the 'information' of self-defense. It is a codified form of 'dance' so to speak There are two ways of looking at Kata. The following is from's glossary of Karate terms. I recommend reading it for those new and old to the arts.

Bunkai:The term 'bunkai' refers to the taking apart or analysis of the techniques learned in a karate kata, as an application for self-defense. Bunkai is sometimes a set form of interpreting moves, usually governed by particular application of karate contained within kata. Techniques in a kata can have various interpretations applications, and levels of understanding, as can the bunkai which is to correspond to particular moves within a karate form.

The practice of bunkai, using applications for kata movement, may have been introduced to Okinawan Karate as early as the 1700's, and evolved in different ways. Techniques learned in the practice of bunkai include blocks, punches, grabs, kicks, throws, locks and others.

Practices in karate called 'kumai jutsu' or 'ippon kumite' (one point fighting) are used in learning bunkai and oyo. This seems to have a long tradition in Okinawan karate, thought to have been handed down from Ku Shanku, a Chinese Master. Bunkai has different levels of understanding. Various advanced, and complex techniques are practiced from interpretations of different kata, including weapons. Bunkai can be practiced with a partner, or alone.

Oyo: Oyo is a term meaning application or putting to a particular use (Kodansha's Furigana Japanese Dictionary, 1999) Oyo, like bunkai is another term used to qualify moves garnered from kata, but this refers to another level of interpretation which does not always correlate with specific or generally known applications of a kata technique. Oyo can be techniques implicated according to a given condition.

Oyo, is best practiced with partners. There are levels of oyo like there are levels of bunkai. Oyo can range from the simple execution of karate application, to applying complex theories of kata, not necessarily related to particular moves within kata. Oyo stresses utility, while bunkai stresses analysis.

At the Broken Bokken Dojo, we incorporate both Bunkai and Oyo to our Kata, especially Sanchin Kata. Sanchin is so 'simple' in movement I like to think of it as a Universal Kata. As we study Kusanku Kata and Sanchin throughout the winter months we will analyze Bunkai and Oyo and point out the difference.

In Gassho...


Sunday, September 6, 2009

The ONE Self-defense Secret Every Martial Artist Needs to Know.

In my last post I spoke of pit bulls and guns...and the ability to bring out the toughness in ourselves to handle a life and death struggle. As most of you are aware this is the most base of self-defense strategies and the easiest for our minds to grasp. When most people think of self-defense they think of having to do violent activity to survive...and at times they are correct.

However, most of us, and I am thankful for this, live in a fairly peaceful society. And here in lies the One Secret to Self-defense. Why do you think in the practice of Budo we bow in and out, have rules of etiquette for respect and politeness and most importantly meditate before and after each Karate class? What does this have to do with defending ourselves? Everything.

Buddha spoke of how important our thoughts are...he spoke of how we create the world with our thought. All that is and will be has arisen with our thinking, manifested through our thoughts. Look around you right now. You are most likely sitting in a chair...and reading this on a computer, which is either on your lap or on a desk. Your chair, desk and computer...and yes your lap too, are manifestations of a thought. Everything around you right now is created from thinking...from thoughts placed out into the vast realm of Ku: Our friend Emptiness.

As I have written in previous posts, Ku is Pure Raw Potential waiting to materialize. All it needs is a thought. Remember Ku and Kara have the same root. An Empty Hand (Karate) when given the thought of 'fist' shapes into a fist. Think or intend 'knife hand' it takes the shape of a knife hand and so on. It takes the shape of your intentions or thought.

Well, your life is like this as well. A Dojo is a place where we practice our Martial Art, but it is sandwiched and infused with politeness and respect. This is to counterbalance any negative energy put out into Ku. Classes begin and end with Zazen to cultivate Peace...and to send out those 'vibes' so peace will reign in our lives and we never have to use the techniques of violence. These positive vibes are stronger than any of the 'violent vibes' created during class.

Zazen is the cultivation, practice and manifestation of Peace. The ultimate in self-defense! The Ultimate Kata!!!

An important concept to understand when working with thoughts is that a thought placed out into Ku, whether it is something you want or don't want...will manifest. Even if you don't want to be attacked, if this is on your mind all the time, you will eventually invite an have manifested it into your life.

So, when all you focus on is self-defense you are manifesting a need to defend yourself. You are invoking violence, although inadvertently. The opposite of self-defense, I guess, would be 'other offense'. The best defense is a good offense. This is why Zazen is so important. Zazen is such an offense. It sends out the vibe of peace to the whole world. Nonin often told us that when we sit zen we sit with the whole world and the whole world benefits.

This is why I conduct a Zen and Healing Arts Seminar every year. This year (Sept 19th) we are raising money for our local Domestic Violence Shelter...Safe Haven. We sit Zen to create peace. The women at the shelter have been violently abused and lives turned upside down. As martial artists, sitting zen, is the best way we can help them...we are also raising money as well...but this is not so important as the manifestation of peace.

This is again the One Secret every martial artist should know. The practice of Zazen and the cultivation of peace via our practices of respect, politeness, integrity, loyalty, honor create the ultimate in self-defense. A society where hopefully we will no longer need Safe Havens or even Police. A big thought...but I put it out there.

Hands palm to palm,

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Gun and a Pit-Bull

In a few weeks I am teaching a women's self-defense course for our Community Education Services. It will be three Wednesday evenings for 90 minutes each.

As I was preparing my curriculum...actually daydreaming...those of you who really know me know I just tend to make things up as I go along. It's a going-with-the-flow-of-life thing I practice.

Well, back on course, while I was thinking of this self-defense course, a part of me (the part that thinks really odd things) got to thinking I should just tell them to get a gun and a pit-bull. Then learn how to shoot the gun well and train your dog for protection. Nothing more is needed and then leave. I think they would want their money least I would.

There is a part of me that would actually tell them that...but mostly to help them realize that self-defense...real self-defense is not pretty. It never is...and if it can be avoided it should be. However when needed it must be as if you have a gun and a pit bull. The thought just went through my head that the 'guns' must be our hands and the 'pit-bull' our attitude. Sounds good...I guess I will leave it in here without editing.

You can probably gather by now I am just rambling a bit...but hell...I've got gray hair now...I've earned the right to just ramble and tell stories and tell people to just get a gun and pit-bull and forget all this self-defense business. But I won't really do that...or maybe I will. The point is if you ever teach a class on self-defense, make sure it is real and not a bunch of fluffy nonsense that is going to get people hurt.

Are your techniques as fearsome and effective as a gun? Are your strategies as sharp as the teeth of pit-bull? Is the attitude you teach in a life and death situation tough, animalistic (we are animals you know) and dangerous? If not then re-examine them. Now I don't want you think I go around and preach brutality, because I don't. But if brutality is coming after my wife, daughter, niece or mother I want them to know how to turn on the switch to be that pit-bull tearing flesh and that gun firing bullets of fear at the attacker.

Self-defense is serious business. Teaching it is a tremendous responsibility and honor. People come to you to learn something valuable...They don't know what really works on the street to keep themselves safe...make sure you don't give them lollipop martial arts...give them a gun and a pit-bull. I know I should have my head examined...oh yeah...I do have a mirror in my office where I do lots of reflection (it's an old therapy joke...sorry).

Well, thanks for reading as I prepare my thoughts for the classes coming up in a few weeks. If you have anything to add please do so.

In Gassho...