Friday, August 29, 2014


At our last Yoshukai Karate Tournament of Panama City FL, I was asked to judge the Grand Champion Black Belt kata competition. The winners of 5 divisions - open hand or kobudo were competing against each other for the Big Trophy...

Among them was a talented young man who performed a remarkable open hand kata. I do not remember whether he won the price or not. All I know is that he should not have, and that I had know this from the first 2 seconds of his kata. 

How can I decide such thing so early in the kata ? Very simple, when this competitor bowed before beginning his otherwise brilliant kata, his toes went up from the mat. 

This is enough, if your toes go up, your weight is on your heels, a 5 years old child can push you backwards, and you will either fall down or have to step back. 

From the moment you begin your kata, you should be totally focussed, and not let any opening for a potential opponent. When your toes go up, you are totally vulnerable. This demonstrates your lack of awareness and fighting spirit. No Zanshin. Poor Budo. 

For your information and pleasure, look a this picture of Choki Motobu, performing a block found in our Yoshukai and Chito Ryu Nijusichi no kata.

Notice the Kibadachi stance, and how the joints of his toes are white. He is very strongly gripping the floor with his toes. Choki Motobu's idea of a good training session was to go down to Naha's entertainment district and pick fights. He was a born fighter and his karate was based on actual fighting. If anyone knew the importance of proper stance and posture, he was this one...

It does not matter how good you are with your arms. If your balance is poor, you won't have any power and you are only generating wind. Weak stances do weak Karate. Grab the ground.

Oh, and while I am at it, I believe this also applies to Zazen. Stay Grounded.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Henri Plée Hanshi

The Father of European Karate Henri Plée Hanshi left us on August 19, 2014.

Henri Plée Hanshi was one of the rare Westerners to hold the rank of 10th dan karate masters. 

Born in Arras, France on 24 May 1923, he started his martial career with French Savate, Ju Jutsu, and Fencing. His studies were interrupted by World War II in 1940.

After the war, he learned Judo in Paris under Mikonosuke Kawaishi. He was the 96th French black belt and is now ranked 5th dan at Judo.

In 1946, he returned to French Savate, also known as French kickboxing, and trained and sparred with some of the best French fighters such as Rigal, Pierre Plasait, Cayron, and Pierre Baruzy. Despite quality of this training he was still feeling the need to go stronger and deeper, and was looking for something else.

In 1953, he discovered aikido, karate and kobudo with Minoru Mochizuki. This was the start of his karate career.

Minoru Mochizuki Hanshi

In 1955 he founded his dojo where he taught the four pillars of Japanese Martial Arts : Karate, Judo, Aikido, and Kendo. Henri Plée Hanshi instructed many black belts who, at a later stage, became the foundation of the European karate institutions, and are today some of the highest ranking karate masters in Europe. 

From 200 karate practitioners in 1961, Henry Plée's efforts have led today to more than 200,000 practitioners in France. The French government considers him as one of the greatest international experts in Martial Arts, and knighted him with the French Ordre national du Mérite in 2008.




  • 5th dan, Judo.



  • 1st dan, Kendo, by Minoru Mochizuki.


  • 1st dan, Bo-Jutsu, by Minoru Mochizuki.
Henri Plée Hanshi 1923 - 2014.   

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Handcrafted Kobudo Weapons

Just a word to inform you of a new source for quality kobudo Weapons. 

Mr Sean O'Toole - who is teaching Kaicho Toyama's class while he is recovering from his illness - is now offering remarkably well done BO and NUNCHAKU.

Mr O'Toole's weapons are available in different kinds of woods : Oak, Mahogany, Cypress, Hickory.

These weapons are extremely well done. They are very beautiful and have a very nice feeling.  his BO have different sections : Round, Octagonal, Hexagonal, Octagonal to Square... 

The NUNCHAKU are corded with parachute cord and he can also make them to your specifications.

In a near future, he is going to make TONFA and BOKEN.

Mr O'Toole can be reached at

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I finally did it !

This morning I completed  a goal I had set about a year ago : Practice each waza of our KNBK curriculum 150 times each.

Well actually, I only practiced the waza I know. Advanced techniques such as Okuden Suwariwaza I never really studied enough to feel comfortable with them.
Also, these are just the solo practice waza : Batto - Ho (12 waza), Shoden seiza (11 waza), Chuden tatehiza (10 waza) and Okuden Tachiwaza (11 waza). Katachi are not included. 
I also had to limit myself to  the standing version of Chuden Waza as my right knee is not ready yet for Tatehiza.

But all together that makes quite a few waza, quite a few Nukitsuke, Kirioroshi, Chiburi and Noto ! With a total of 44 waza, that makes a total of 6600 waza.

Does it make me an expert ? certainly not, but it has helped me improve. I strongly believe that only the consecutive repetition of the same waza, times and times, allows you to become acutely aware of body positions, the muscles you actually use, the way you bend your joints... Develop muscle memory - And is the only way to get better by researching and fine-tuning your moves. In my personal case, I think I have to practice a move at least 12 times in a row to be able to really feel the details of how my body relates to it.

Most of us have heard the saying that every move should be repeated 10,000 times to be perfected executed. Where does this number actually comes from ? Is it accurate ?

Well, it comes from Chinese Taoism and it is not to be taken literally. In Taoism the "ten thousand things" means the Complete Universe, all that exists. So when you are told to practice each waza 10,000 times, what you are told really, is to keep practicing them for ever...

Nevertheless, I believe in progressing step by step, and in recording your progress. Every time I practice one waza 10 times, I draw a little line on a recording sheet. It is easy to do, and I invite you to follow me.

If all goes well, I will visit my friends Francis and Jean Luc, also my Kendo and Ju Jitsu Instructors in France next week. More to learn and enjoy. 

For those of you who cannot practice from Seiza or Tatehiza positions, the standing versions of the Shoden and Chuden waza are beautifully described in the Advanced Samurai Swordsmanship set of DVD by Masayuki Shimabukuro Hanshi and Carl Long Kyoshi.

In a next post I will elaborate on the healing aspect of this kind of practice on the joints.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Raising from Seiza

A friend of mine had a Math teacher, a long time ago, who would individually comment on the test results of each student. The guy was a great motivator, one of his classical saying was :

"Mr Smith,  there were to ways to solve this problem: The right way, ... and yours"

As we get older, it becomes increasingly important to save our energy and optimize its use.

Basically: apply the littlest effort to achieve the maximum effect.

Last February I hurt (again) my right knee: I was performing a classical Jujitsu move when my knee unexpectedly collapsed at an unusual and painful angle. 

Since then, I have avoided walking as much as as I used to (and I used to walk a lot). This considerably weakened the quadriceps of both my legs, and the my right calf. I am presently trying to slowly rebuild them by gently practicing my Iai from Seiza and Tatehiza positions. And here is a little trick I practice, which you might want to try.

At the end of each waza, you stand up from a half kneeling position : one knee is up with its foot flat on the ground, the other knee is on the floor.

Your position in this stance is important, you can do it the hard way or the smart way.

If instead of using a short stance to lift your torso vertically using mostly your quadriceps, you adopt a slightly longer stance and push forward with your back foot, you will be surprised how easier it becomes. You will raise almost effortlessly with more stability.

To do this, I take a stance about 6" longer than usual. You need to figure out what is good for you. 

Of course, if you are tough, you still can do it the hard way !

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Our Mundane World

This "Mundane World" is an expression we often hear, an other name for the "World of life and death" or Samsara. A world we should try to avoid because of its shallowness...

It is interesting to note that originally "mundane" means "of the world". So that really, the mundane world is the world of the world, or the worldly world...

Are we really meant to avoid the world of the world ?

Sitting in Zazen to experience nirvana, possibly reach great levels of spiritual accomplishments and why not save the world may seem like a worthy enterprise.

But in the end, we are rooted in this mundane world, there is no other world and this is where we are meant to daily operate.

"To return to the root is to find the meaning" (1). The mundane world, the worldly world, this is where the root is, and if we look for it in a different, non mundane world, we act just like a man trying to find his eyeglasses when they sit on his nose.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Nothing Lacking, Nothing in Excess

The Shin Jin Mei  (Chinese  信心銘  - Xin Xin Ming or Hsin Hsin Ming), Faith in mind, is a poem attributed to the Third Chinese Chan (Zen) Patriarch Kanchi Sozan (Chinese Jianzhi Sengcan  or Chien-chih Seng-ts'an)

One of the earliest Zen document we have, it is a beautiful and syncretic text, in which Indian Mahayana Buddhism is already deeply influenced by Chinese Taoism.

Multiple translations are available, but one of its stanza has been rendered as :

The Way is perfect like Vast Space, with nothing lacking, and nothing in Excess.

Here is a video of Masayaki Shimabukuro Hanshi, which I believe perfectly illustrate Nothing Lacking, Nothing in Excess...

Enjoy, Be inspired, Practice...