Friday, January 29, 2010

My Precious

People still surprise me. I have had in the past month 3 occasions when people vehemently asked me to remove videos I had posted on YouTube or this blog, pretending they OWNED the video or the copyright to the Video, or that they were acting on behalf of the real owner...

In one case, apparently the person does not really own any copyright. In the other case, they may own it. I have no evidence of that, and they did not provide it. I decided however, to believe them, as I have no interest in arguing...

What I found disturbing however, is that although these video promote a Martial Art Master who had been their master, by showing what this man was able to do, they would rather the video not been shown than have it promoted by someone else. 

I actually received several comments from various Karate Black Belt pleased to see these very educative tapes.

It sounds a little bit like “Well I have this  treasure, I do not use it, I do not show it, but I do not want anyone to be able to profit from it. It is MINE, my PRECIOUS... “

A little sad, and a loss to the community.

We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Katsuoh Yamamoto - Defense against grabbing

Another video from the 70's of our Grand Master Katsuoh Yamamoto demonstrating defense moves against grabbing opponents. Some of the techniques are the same his instructor Dr Chitose was using, which you can see in one video on one of my previous posts.

These tapes being pretty old the quality is far from good. These are however interesting moves. I was practicing most of these in a slightly different form when I was studying Ju Jitsu with Sensei Rolland Hernaez in France.

I will soon post on You Tube an other video of defense against atemi (Punch and kicks). Stay tuned...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sai tai Bo Video - Yamamoto Sensei.

For everybody's enjoyment, an old video footage of our Yoshukai Karate Grand Master Katsuoh YAMAMOTO performing Sai tai Bo in the 2 roles, first with the Bo, then with the Sais.

For those of you familiar with the Kata, some waza are a little different than the way we perform them today, also they are not performed in the same order. However, look at the speed and accuracy. Rikki Hitatsu - Strive for excellence...

Thanks to Mike Culbreth Sensei - WYKKO Kukaicho  - for letting me scan some of his videos archives and find these clips. I will soon post more original Yoshukai Karate Videos, some of them featuring our Grand Master again, prepare to be amazed !


Friday, January 22, 2010

Tai Chi Yang Form

The 24 postures simplified form of Yang style Tai Chi was the result of an effort by the Chinese Sports Committee which, in 1956, brought together four eminent tai chi teachers to create a simplified form of tai chi as exercise for the masses. (A little in the same way the Nihon Kendo Kata was designed in Japan by asking masters of several Kenjutsu school to design a modern exercize)

The creators truncated the traditional Yang family hand form generally composed of 108 postures) to 24 postures. It is difficult to see the Martial application of these moves. They are however extremely efficient when it comes to stretching muscles, joints and tendons.

Here is a very gracious demonstration of that form.

The 24 postures form is likely the Tai Chi form with the most practitioners in China and the world over.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Truth of Suffering and Modern Psychology

The first Noble Truth taught by the historical Buddha after his enlightenment is about Suffering. "Life is Suffering"
It is sometimes difficult to swallow. After all, there are times when our life is pleasant.
It seems however, that a branch of today's psychology "Relational Frame Theory" agrees with Buddha, and has demonstrated that our Intelligence is set up to memorize dangers and painful stuff rather than pleasant things.
Here is a a translation of an article "L'intelligence verbale" published in French at

I will post more later. This is my own translation, and it is probably not perfect. Still, I found this extremely interesting. Once again, the advances of modern science validate Buddhist insights.

Just as are the speed of the Horse or the length of the Giraffe's neck, Human intelligence is the result of evolution. It has been selected as a survival mechanism that allows visualization of dangers that are not immediately present, the implementation of strategies of anticipation as well as a social organization based on rules which can be orally transmitted.

Intelligence is a tool for survival, not a tool of well being. While it provides the human being with a power unknown to any other living creature, it also afflicts him with a lucidity that can sometimes be very heavy to carry : No matter the advantages and qualities of the place where I presently stand, my intelligence will automatically figure out what its drawbacks are, and suggest the grass is probably greener on the other side of the road.

No matter how good my present situation is, my intelligence is going to establish the list of all the losses I can expect, and the catastrophes that might occur. It operates in this way as a formidable machine designed to spoil the here and now.

Our ability to imagine future or faraway virtual realities as if they were real protects us against dangers we never directly experienced and helps us figure out solutions to complicated problems without having to proceed through multiple trial and error cycles.

Unfortunately we do not have the option to temporarily turn it off just as one can unplug their phone when they want peace. Relational Frame Theory which proposes a scientific approach of the working of human intelligence helps us better understand how.

to be continued

Saturday, January 16, 2010


An inscription by Nobuhide Ohama on Gichin Funakoshi's memorial erected by the Shotokai at Engaku-ji, a Zen temple in Kamakura reads:

Funakoshi Gichin Sensei, of karate-do, was born on June 10, 1870, in Shuri Okinawa. From about eleven years old he began to study to-te jutsu under Azato Anko and Itosu Anko. He practiced diligently and in 1912 became the president of the Okinawan Shobukai.

In May of 1922, he relocated to Tokyo and became a professional teacher of karate-do. He devoted his entire life to the development of karate-do.

He lived out his eighty-eight years of life and left this world on April 26, 1957. Reinterpreting to-te jutsu, the Sensei promulgated karate-do while not losing its original philosophy. Like bugei (classical martial arts), so too is the pinnacle of karate “mu” (enlightenment): to purify and make one empty through the transformation from “jutsu” to “do”.

Through his famous words “Karate ni sente nashi” (There is no first attack in Karate) and “Karate wa kunshi no bugei” (Karate is the martial art of intelligent people), Sensei helped us to better understand the term “jutsu.” 

In an effort to commemorate his virtue and great contributions to modern karate-do as a pioneer, we, his loyal students, organized the Shotokai and erected this monument at the Enkakuji.

“Kenzen ichi” (“The Fist and Zen are one”)

The above is the English translation of the Japanese text.

Because some of the Japanese words or expressions do not have an accurate translation in English, and are (or should be) well known by practitionners of traditional Japanese arts, (DO, JUTSU) the translator chose to not translate them. But when it came to MU, he did however between parenthesis his own interpretation : "enlightenment".

Why did he chose "enlightenment" when Mu is generally translated as "Emptiness" ?

Enlightenment : to make oneself empty through the transformation of Jutsu into Do...

How can I transform Jutsu into Do ?

Friday, January 15, 2010

More Happo Giri Videos

Here are 2 more videos about Happo Giri - the 8 directions cuts of Kenjutsu. Apparently there are other training exercises named Happo Giri by other martial arts schools. Actually, Aikido seems to have one that in fact uses the same Kirioroshi cut (Vertical to the head) in 8 directions around the swordsman.  This Happo Giri is the one Long Sensei taught us in Pensacola in 2008, it is also an excellent warming-up exercise.

This one is a front view of the kata performed by Cody - I thought he was too close to me when taping it, but it turned out pretty cool !

This one is of myself, it is far from perfect : I wish I would better aim my kissaki to the front at the end of the DO cuts; and my arms need to be more relaxed when I go back to Seigan.

The goal of these videos is not to demonstrate perfect moves, but to show potential students what they could practice in our dojo. If we'd wait until we are perfect to post something, we would never do it !

They are also a very good way to help us realize our imperfections, which should (hopefully) help us improve our practice...

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Happo Giri - 8 directions cuts of Kenjutsu, is an exercise related to Eiji Happo : the eight brush strokes of Japanese brush calligraphy (shodo). 


The basic EI or YONG character is to calligraphy what the practice of Do Re Mi is to music.

Although not executed in the same order, the eight strokes needed to brush the EI  (Eternity) Kanji are the same as the eight cuts of the Happo Giri exercise.

In this video, a group performance of Happo Giri during our Kendo - Kenjutsu Class at the YOSHUKAI DOJO in Dothan, AL 

Buddhist Warrior Monks - the Ikko Ikki

Throughout history, religious fanaticism has been found in varying degrees and for various causes. Many fanatics often used religion and politics to build up sects of loyal followers in order to fulfill their aims. One such group was the Ikko-Ikki rebels of medieval Japan.

The Ikko-Ikki was a massive group of Buddhist fanatics, whose main goal was to topple the feudalist government that controlled Japan and spread the teachings of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. Being united by religion allowed the Ikko-Ikki to be more organized than other rebel group at that time.

The origins of the Ikko-Ikki can be found in the 1400’s, where small groups who followed the Jodo-Shinshu or “Pure Land” sect of Buddhism had united as one. They followed the belief that only wholehearted devotion to Amida Buddha would bring salvation. This single union permeated throughout their ranks, even in their name, which means “single minded league”

Their role as a military force reached its peak when they gained control of the entire province of Kaga in 1488, a territory they managed to hold for 100 years. In 1528, the Ikko-Ikki were so sure of their might they decided to attack the capital of Japan : Kyoto.

For the next 50 years the Ikko-Ikki grew in strength and numbers, recruiting many peasants who shared the groups views. The rebels soon became troubling to the various samurai Daimyo, among them was Oda Nobunaga, the first of the three unifiers of Japan. Nobunaga would commit a good portion of his military career to destroying the Buddhist fanatics.

The Ikko-Ikki had been very troubling to him. Through force they restricted his movements, not allowing him to gain control of Japan as he wanted. The rebels also used economical warfare to battle Nobunaga, such as withholding tax and rent.

They had also turned their temples into self-sufficient towns, concentrating them in all the places Nobunaga needed to control. Nobunaga infuriated by the Ikko-Ikki vowed to fight them "Yama yama, tani tani" : on every mountain and in every valley.

In 1570 after 11 years of battling with the Ikko-Ikki, Oda Nobunga took the fight straight to their temple fortresses. Although his first few attempts at crushing the rebels were disastrous, Nobunaga managed to first isolate the Ikko-Ikki and destroy their allies. Nobunaga was not tender. After restricting the inhabitants of Nagashima fortress to the inner buildings he ordered the whole thing to be set on fire. 20,000 men, women and children perished

In 1580 the Ikko-Ikki faced Nobunaga for the last time. Nobunaga managed to push the Ikko-Ikki back into the innermost part of their fortress. The samurai army waited, letting the rebels run out of ammunition and food. Eventually the abbot of Hongan-Ji surrendered. The terms of the surrender were bloodless. After 100 years of violence the Buddhist fanaticism that lead the Ikko-Ikki was no more.

Fanatical militant groups can be found in every culture and religion. And a group with a whole-hearted devotion to their religion and cause can be just as powerful as any army with a general, which makes this type of religious and political fanaticism a frightening phenomena.

From a lecture by Mike Maikeru Baker on Samurai Archives.Com

Thursday, January 7, 2010


The Big Green Drum Dojo in Pensacola will be celebrating its 2010 Kagami Biraki this coming Sunday January 10 at 1:30 p.m.

In the past, Samurai households would at New Years make an offering to the gods of a stack of mochi to represent the kagami. The mochi or “soft round rice cakes” were cut up into pieces to represent the biraki, or “opening,” and eaten on January 11. Even today, most households and offices observe this custom, placing kagami-mochi on their kamidana (a small Shinto altar usually set on a shelf over a lintel) at New Years.

Kagami-biraki is also a ceremony performed at celebratory events in which the lid of a sake barrel is broken open by a wooden mallet and the sake served to everyone present. Kagami refers to the lid of the sake barrel and biraki means “to open” so kagami-biraki literally means “opening the lid.” Because of the lid's round shape, the kagami is a symbol of harmony. The kagami-biraki, therefore, represents an opening to harmony and good fortune.

Both types of kagami-biraki - the breaking open of the barrel of sake at Shinto blessings and celebrations, and the cutting up of kagami-mochi - are a means of asking the gods to grant good health and fortune at junctures in time, such as the New Year or the start of a new departure in life or business.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Samurai song

Zen Master HAKUIN (1686 - 1769) one day brushed the Chinese Character "DEATH" on a scroll, and under it wrote a poem :

O young people, if death is hateful, die now !
Dying this once, you will never die again.

The sorrow and bitterness of this world will become happiness.

You are called samurai.
Should you not be ready to die ?

Despite brave words the samurai who has not died this once,

When the crisis come will flee away or hide.

The feudal lord gives you silk clothes and white rice
So that he can rely on you in that hour.

Even a blade by a master swordsmith, if the samurai does not realize he has it,
Is of as little use as if girded on a midwife.

He who has once died in the depth of the navel -
The spear of the master spearman cannot touch him.
He who dying while yet alive carries out his duties -
The arrow of the master archer is nothing to him.

The samurai who has passed away deep in the navel circle
Finds no enemy in all the world.

Throw away all, die and see -
The god of death and his demons stand bewildered.
In the field of the elixir at the navel, meditate on the Lord of the mind and see -
At once all is perfection, living paradise.

Though one know how to rest firm in virtue,

If he cannot meditate, he has not yet attained.
Meditation is the inmost secret of the knightly way;

While yet you live, practice meditation.

Do not meditate only hidden in a dark corner,
But meditate always, standing, sitting, moving and resting.

When your meditation continues throughout waking and sleeping,

Wherever you are is heaven itself.

After practicing thirty or forty years

We can know that we have meditated a little.

Though one boast : "I have died," if he shows selfishness he is yet unenlightened;
Loyalty to superiors, love and reverence to parents.

Though one boast : "I am enlightened," if he is heartless to living beings,
He falls to the demon world - so says the holly word of Kasuga.

HAGAKURE is a practical and spiritual guide for the Samurai warrior, compiled from 1709 to 1716 from a collection of commentaries by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, former retainer to Nabeshima Mitsushige.

The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult.

Both texts date from the beginning of the 18th century. In 1600, Ieyasu Tokugawa had ended at the battle of Sekigahara the terrible civil wars which had plagued Japan during the 16th century. the 17th century had been a period peace of great prosperity for the Japanese civil society, Samurais did not have much opportunity to die in combat anymore and Tsunetomo's longing for actual death had become somewhat anachronistic, while Hakuin calls for a death - deep in the navel circle (the Tanden) - to the worries and fears of this world of dust.

Both texts have been used in a morbid interpretation of the Bushido Code, specially during World War II, to justify, among other terrible things, the "sacrifice" of young soldiers we would today label as terrorists (What is a Kamikaze pilot if not a suicide bomber ?)

In all religions or philosophies, sad and bad things happen when people take literally the teachings of the founders. Zen and Bushido surely are no ways of death. The death we should aim at is not our biological death - this one will come on its time, no need to rush it - but a death to the worries attached to our rooting in this world of dust.

Budo (Martial ways) are not about becoming a better fighter but a better human being. They are about dying to ourselves. I know, this has been written, said and heard times and times. Nothing original here. But the main point is for each one of us to actually realize it.

There is only one way... TRAIN.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Satsujinken - Katsujinken

The sword that kills is the sword that gives life

剣                           Ken, also pronounced To, is the sword.
殺人剣                   Satsu Jin Ken : the sword that kills
活人剣                   Katsu Jin Ken : the sword that gives life.

殺人剣 活人剣      The sword that kills is the sword that gives life.

The formula applies to various situations opposing two parties, from a conflict between two groups of people : a war or a battle, to an inner battle within the individual.

Originally there is no rule.  A sword is designed to kill. Winning is good, losing is bad. "Vae Victis" - "Woe to the conquered" exclaimed Brenus in 387 BC, throwing his sword into the balance used to weigh the ransom of Rome, forcing the Romans to bring even more gold.

The sword that kills is the sword that kills...

Zen Buddhism was re-introduced in Japan by Eisai in 1191 and Dogen in 1227 and it played a great part in bringing a spiritual element into the traditional training of the Samurai. At about the same time something similar was happening in Europe with the romanticisation of Arthurian legend which partially succeeded in refining and ennobling people who were originally little more than gangsters to transform them into knights.(Chretien de Troyes was writing about the Grail around 1185)
The proponents of Chivalry in Europe and Bushido in Japan claimed a proper use for the sword : That it should only kill to protect the innocent
There are people today who are killing defenseless people. The use of a sword (or of any other weapon) to kill them is legitimate. Killing the bad guys to protect the good guys makes sense. And so the sword that kills the bad guys gives life to the good ones.
At times it seems that violence can only and should be stopped by violence.
  • But when 100 bad guys threaten to kill 10 innocents, should we kill the 100 to save the 10 ? 
  • And then, what if in order to save 100 innocents, one has to sacrifice 10 innocents, is this acceptable ? (such a situation is described in the movie “Swordfish”).
This again brings back the question of using violence to stop violence. Violence cannot end violence; it will always generate more violence. Later. Always. It will...
The sword that kills may momentarily give life, but eventually, killings will resume.

When only 2 individuals are involved in a conflictual situation (The swords are already drawn), if one is sufficiently trained, he might be able to neutralize an opponent without injuring or killing him. This is the philosophy of my Ju Jitsu Master Rolland Hernaez: Train enough so you can disarm your opponent without harming him (too much). Such an attitude is less likely to generate later violence. There is however no guarantee of that.

At a more personal level, literally practicing the way of the sword (Ken-Do ) to help us cut illusions and ego may actually help us develop equanimity and prevent us from using violence to solve a situation that could be taken care otherwise, if we were able to not be angry. No sword is drawn. 

The sword that kills is the sword that gives life .

Deeper inside, the practice of Zazen... 
In the Zazenron, when he is asked  how quietly meditating and doing nothing might well help anyone acquire merit, Daikoku answers : "To practice all the dharmas without looking for any profit, this is the profound Prajna. Prajna is wisdom, and it is the sharp sword to cut the roots of life-and-death..."

Prajna is the sword that gives light and life. By cutting (killing) the root of life-and-death, that sword gives us back to life.

The sword that kills is the sword that gives life .

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The WAY things are - Mysticism and Institutions.

It would seem that Communism and Buddhism do not really fit together well. Or is it that Dictature and Buddhism do not fit together well ?  
In Hanoi, Vietnam last week a group of young monks and nuns devotees of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, had to leave the Pagoda where they had taken refuge for the past 3 month following government efforts to disband their community.

Also last week, in the town of Kangding, Tibet, the Tibetan Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in jail on charges of illegally occupying government land and possession of weapons.
This is not just about Buddhism, Communism or Dictature, but a general trend. The WAY the world evolves... Chaos follows order, which turns into Chaos again... 

Introspection  - the search for truth by an individual inside himself rather than outside - is a threat to institutions. 
Most Religions were originally "launched" by individuals : Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohamed... These individuals, having been raised in a traditional religion and not being satisfied with it, through introspection reached a different level of "knowledge" or experience of Reality, and had the audacity to start teaching to others what they had experienced. All of them got in trouble with local authorities, because they were threatening their stability.

This seems to always be the problem. One guy gets a great idea to help people . He starts teaching. His teachings threaten the established orders, he gets in trouble, might even get killed. But then his followers grow and grow and grow in number and strength, till the people in charge realize that if they want to control what is going on, they better work with the movement than against it. And so they do. (This is what Roman Emperor Constantine did in 313). 
A new institution is created, which needs Organization, Structures, Laws, Rules, Holly Scriptures... And here we go again, quickly the original vision of the founder (who was not looking to found anything) is lost under red tape, bureaucracy, and personal interest of dignitaries. 
Interestingly enough, this is not limited to religion... We can see the same thing happen in Martial Arts. When the Okinawan Masters (Gichin Funakoshi, Tsuyoshi Chitose, Chojun Miyagi, Choki Motobu, Kenwa Mabuni...) brought Karate to mainland Japan, the new Art was recuperated by the Dai Nippon Butokukai.
From an obscure "Chinese Hand" collection of (extremely efficient) fighting techniques, practiced without specific uniform, belt or rank system, Karate became Karate-Do - the way of EMPTY Hand, a mainstream Budo, soon recognized wordly. 
Whichever creativity involved in the beginning of Karate when students would travel to China so study under various masters and when back tn Okinawa would synthesize or modify what they had learn to adapt it to new conditions was pretty much lost. 
Nowadays, most Schools ans Styles emphasize the extreme importance to stick to the FORM (Kata) without deviating at all from the way they should be performed. Because this is the way it was always done. 
Comes a new idea, it is used and contaminates society. Little by little it becomes stronger and stronger until it prevails and society gets reorganized according to it. Strength brings Rigidity : the inability to adapt. Conditions change, the now old order is not adapted anymore, comes a new idea...
A baby is born, so flexible, in body as well as in spirit, it becomes stronger and stronger, he grows up, develops an ego and a strong sense of himself...
There is no point fighting the Tao.