Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Shot at Chitose Sensei's abilities.

Although its quality is far from fantastic, this old video features short shots of Tsuyoshi Chitose Sensei - Founder of Chito Ryu Karate with his student Kaicho Yamamoto - Founder of Yoshukai Karate demonstrating in the late 60's.

Appreciate the Power of Chitose Sensei. You have here a good example of what Chi (KI in Japanese) is about...

I wish we would still practice and teach throws in this way. Emphasis on tournaments, and the rules edicted to protect fighters against potentially serious injuries has taken its toll on the original Okinawan Karate. Which is probably why we have seen for the last 10 years such an interest in Mixed Martial Arts.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


"KOUN" is Okinawan for the Japanese "BO" - Long Staff
In these videos a Sensei of the International Okinawa Kobudo Association demonstrates the Kata
Choun No Koun

There obviously are common moves between this version and our Yoshukai version.

The next video is the Bunkai - explanation of the various moves of the Kata.

It is interesting here also to compare the moves between the 2 versions.
In the Yoshukai version, we perform huge circular moves twice during the kata, which are done to sweep the legs of the opponent. Here they are used to push the opponent's bo away.

You will also find in this video some of the origin of our Bo tai Bo kata.
Which makes me wonder, considering that in this version of Choun no Koun there is a jump as we have in our Bo tai Bo # 3, could it be that we lost the jump in Choun no Koun ?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Commitment to the Group.

Once upon a time there was a famine  in Southern India, and in one particular village the poor had it very bad. 

The local Brahmin placed a small tank in the middle of the village and covered it with a piece of  wet fabric to keep it cool. He asked all the rich people of the village to bring a pot of milk during the day and pour it into the tank. In the evening he would call all the poor together and share the content of the tank between them. This would ensure that every one would have at least a little milk to drink.

All agreed to this. But in the evening, when the Brahmin called the poor and uncovered the tank, he found nothing in there but water. Each rich folk had thought : "The other rich folk will put in milk, so my pot of water won't make any difference" There was no milk given at all.

It is very easy  in a group to rely on others... 

If I am part of a Club, of a Martial Art Organization (Kai)  or of a Sangha, it is my responsibility to support it. When a tournament, a seminar, a class, a sesshin is organized, it is my responsibility to attend.

It is very easy to think that all the others will attend, and that because there are lots of them my being here or not won't make any difference. If everyone thinks and acts this way, the group goes down the drain.

YOSHUKAI Karate  - November 2008 - American, Japanese, German and French members attend a class presided by our Grand Master Kaicho Yamamoto (Center with Red Tie)

EVERY member of the group is fully responsible to put in his FULL quota of milk.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bodhidarma's Exercizes

In a previous post I was writing :

Proper meditation practice should incorporate exercises promoting Blood and Chi circulation, while at the same time harmonizing the Shen. (Japanese Shin / Heart-Mind)

Conversely, proper Martial Art practice should incorporate Spiritual discipline to avoid mindless emphasis on Physical accomplishment - but this is an other story...

Is is said that after Bodhidharma died, a traveler met him in the mountains, and informed the monks of the Shaolin Monastery about this.

When they opened his tomb, they did not find him, but instead found a sealed box containing 2 sutras : Yi Jin Jing, and Xi Sui Jing.
Jing, sometimes written Ching, is a book on a subject of great cultural of importance, a classic, Buddhist Sutra qualify as Jing. The great Chinese classics are the I Ching and Tao Te Ching.

Yi Jin Jing is about strengthening tendons and muscles;
Xi Sui Jing aims at cleaning up the bone marrow - and brain.

These exercises correspond to the 2 complementary goals above.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Master and the Angry Dog - Part One

The following happened in 1987 in Seattle. Nakamura Taizaburo Sensei, founder of Nakamura Ryu of Batto-ho, and Head of the Toyama Ryu Federation, had been invited to participate in the Cherry Blossom Festival, and on this occasion had gotten in touch with the local Kendo organization and spent most of his spare time with them.

This story, and other ones were posted on a website at the occasion of the death of Nakamura Sensei in 2003. You can read the other posts by clicking here

Nakamura Sensei’s direct words to us were that he had had an enlightenment experience, and renounced the use of swords to hurt others. He said that’s why he had named his system “Happogiri Batto- Do” and not “Batto-Jutsu”.... because he intended that it should only be used to cultivate the “Katsujin-Ken” and never again the “Satsujin- Ken” as in his previous, deeply mistaken, period.

Once when we pulled up near the door of the Seattle Center House to unload all our makiwara, etc, Nakamura Sensei climbed down from Murosako Sensei’s van right into the face of a tiny, snarling and terrified high strung little dog who had been locked by himself in another vehicle right next to us. The window was open enough that the little dog could get his nose --AND TEETH-- right out there, and boy was he barking, yipping, growling, and carrying on, defending his territory!

With a big chuckle of delight, Nakamura Sensei walked right up and stuck his hand right in the top of the window and started scratching and petting that dog’s head! The dog instantly began sobbing and squeaking and LICKING Nakamura Sensei’s hand! I’m not making this up... I was climbing out of the van right behind him, and saw the whole thing!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Seiuchin Kata

The origin of Seiuchin Kata is lost in time. One story credits Kanryo Higaonna (1853-1915) who traveled from Okinawa to China and studied Chinese Kempo for its creation. Others credit Chojun Miyagi (1887-1953), founder of Goju Ryu, for its creation.

Seiuchin translates as the “War Kata” or “Calm Within the Storm." Here is a powerful performance by Yoshukai Karate Shihan Mike Leverett.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Zanshin, Fudoshin, Heijoshin, Mushin are words used to describe several states of mind significant in Martial Arts because of their value in developing actual combat effectiveness.

The common denominator to these words is SHIN. In Chinese Medicine, the Heart is the location of the Mind. I suppose this is the reason why the two most common translations for Shin are Mind and Heart.

Mushin is a state of mind also described in Zen. It is in fact often described as the goal (or the mean) of Zen. As I indicated in an earlier post, I intend in this blog for to spend time studying Mushin in the contexts of Budo and Zen.

In this first post, I would like to describe my own experience or understanding of these states in relation to Martial Arts. This is only my own experience, and as such it is questionable and should be questioned.

ZANSHIN : the remaining or continuous mind - an all-encompassing awareness, in which the practitioner is ready for anything, at any time. Zanshin is the easier part. A great practitioner always displays it – Awareness. The more you train, the more you learn how to focus and detect potential threats. At the end of a Iai waza, you return to the place you started from in a Zanshin state of mind. All your senses are alert, nothing is focused, you thrive to be aware of everything around you. Zanshin does not mean tunnel vision focus.
I was once competing in a tournament demonstrating Sho no Koun Bo (Long Staff) kata. The kata included a long and powerful jab before a 180 degrees turn. As I was going to jab, a, child from the crowd of spectators ran across the ring. I saw the child without having to look in his direction and stopped my Bo a few inches from him.This is Zanshin.

There is nothing special about Zanshin, anyone may train his Zanshin, the more you train, the better you become, unless maybe you've got ADD, (which I believe is only a sorry excuse)

FUDOSHIN : immovable mind - a state of equanimity or imperturbability. I believe this is also what Shimabukuro Sensei calls HEIJOSHIN in his book Flashing Steel : Heijoshin (or peace of mind) is the by-product of a person’s complete inner being. It can only be achieved by refining the whole inner essence and this can only be accomplished if one’s intellect, emotions, and character are developed in balance. Heijoshin literally translated means constant stable spirit. Such a translation hardly does it justice...

To achieve heijoshin as a martial artist requires a lifestyle of discipline, effort, sacrifice and commitment. Such a commitment to developing excellence of character is what sets the martial artist apart from most people in a confused and unhappy society. As we discover, the true nature of martial arts training leads us to a fuller understanding of the nature of life itself. With this understanding comes peace of mind and true and lasting happiness.

Only circumstances will let us know how good our Fudoshin is, once again it depends on training, but Fudoshin requires a higher level of training than Zanshin, I believe it requires, on top of intellectual and emotional concentration, developing one's acceptance of others and of circumstances.

It could also be that a key is to become aware of a deeper level of connection between oneself and others .

MUSHIN :literally "no mind" – sometimes defined as the spontaneity which allows immediate action without conscious thought.
I only experienced Mushin very few times. I actually used my martial abilities very few times in my life. Once I was walking in Paris with my younger sister. A group of obnoxious teenagers surrounded us. One of them was more vocal and threatening than the others. As he tried to reach for my sister's head, I kicked him. He was not hurt, but realized we might not be such easy targets as he had expected. But the kick happened without even thinking about it. It was almost as if I did not kick him, but as if the kick just came through me. This is Mushin.

I also experienced Mushin practicing a Ju Jitsu Kata with a partner I had been practicing for a long time with. We performed the kata, without trying harder than usual, and when it was over we thought "WOW, that was cool "; we could not believe how well it had been.Somehow, it was perfect (at least that's what we felt like)

Mushin is something you are not aware of at the time. You cannot speak about it when it happens, only after the fact do you realize that something close to perfect and bigger than you happened through you. When you realize how great it was, it's over, you are not in Mushin anymore.

One can experience Mushin in other areas such as playing music, painting, or dancing. It is a sort of trance-like situation: while you practice, you are not aware of yourself. "IT" just flows through you. Once you become aware of it, it is gone.

In order to experience Mushin in a way or an other, is is probably much better to be very fluent in that way. If one is gifted (but where does the gift come from ? ...), it might be possible to experience Mushin with little training, unfortunately, this is not my case.

The danger with Mushin is to let everything and anything happen as it flows through you. Terrible things can be committed by individuals who later explain and believe that they were not really responsible as they were in a trance like sort of state of mind when they acted...

This has to be considered...