Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Transition from Hot to Cold to Luke-warm

My dojo where I trained has been closed for a year. As a result of that (and my sloth in finding a new dojo), I have personally verified Funikoshi's saying, "Karate is just like hot water. If you do not give heat constantly, it will again become cold water!"

We live and enjoy (or not) the consequences of our decisions. As a result of ignoring training, I've now gone rusty on some kata, gained 20 pounds, become inflexible, and lost a group of decade-old friends.

We also can choose to live intentionally. As I reflected on that, I determined to find a dojo where I could again train, build my body, my mind, and my friends.

The dojo is 900 miles out of town, but I do travel frequently and will report on my progress.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007


In reading Seth Godin's blog, I came across this entry on how to be successful. (It's really titled "how to make a million dollars" and even though I'm not trying to make money, I am trying to make an impact.)

I've applied the advice to my earlier entry on the Martial Arts Book of Knowledge or MABOK. The advice is to focus your topic to a group that cares enough to engage. If you visit you will now see that the MABOK has been restricted to the KBOK - the Karate Book of Knowledge. This has allowed me and others to make forward progress on defining something needed by the karate community.

If you're into karate and know something about it, please contribute to the pages. If you're seeking to learn more, please participate in the community.

Live with Passion and Ignore the Critics

The dojo kun is a set of five principles that guide the practice of karate. The first of the dojo kun's precepts is to "seek perfection of character." While this precept has many and deep meanings, one of the ways I've adopted to improve my character is to try to
  • live with passion and to inspire it in others.
When I come across items that particularly relate to this topic, I will blog about them here. One writer to whom I regularly turn is Seth Godin, somewhat of a marketing guru, but who believes in excellence. He has written a book called "The Dip" that is a NY Times bestseller on persevering through adversity and also knowing when to try something else. In his blog dedicated to the book, he has a entry that is remarkable for its ability to touch one's heart and inspire us to follow our passions.

Obesity & Stress

I'm doing much better at researching why I'm not losing the weight I want than I am actually losing it. The latest addition is this piece on how chronic stress and junk food stimulate the body to create biochemical messengers that cause fat to grow in all the wrong places. NPR has a good piece on it.

My modified goal is to exercise 12.5% more (which I've been doing), eating 12.5% less (which I'm not succeeding at but am inching toward), and now to find piece amidst my stressful life (which I'm also pretty much succeeding at). This will be my triple threat against being overweight, out of shape, and an unnecessarily shortened life (see previous post).

Part of calorie control, emphasized by this article on the role of junk food, is the elimination of junk food from the diet. That's an amazing "duh," I know. This research just serves as a reminder.

I've approached stress management in the past using relaxation and karate. I found that wasn't enough. The most significant change has been to adopt a bushido attitude. The bushido attitude says, I will not let others cause stress in me. The spirit is one of being indomitable in peace of mind; the application is situational. It comes down to asking, "Am I going to let this person in that situation cause me to feel that way? Why would I give them that power?" And then finding the spirit to shut out their malicious influence.

I'm on my way! Cheer me on!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

More energy, more brain cells, more life (I hope)

In the last blog, I wrote about using calorie restriction (dieting) and increased exercise to rejuvenate my cells, and ideally, live a happier longer life. This time, I'm writing about another part of my program to feel better, live longer, and, now, ta da, be smarter, too. I'll also give an update on my progress (or lack of it).

Again, from Science News, comes a report on how your brain cells actually regenerate (or not) depending on how you live. See Brain Gain: Constant sprouting of neurons attracts scientists, drugmakers, by Brian Vastag, and published in Science News, Week of June 16, 2007; Vol. 171, No. 24 , p. 376.

In the article, brain cells growth responds to certain conditions and is repressed by others. From the article: "Exercise, estrogen, antidepressants, marijuana-like compounds, stimulating environments, and high social status, along with strokes and other injuries, all rev up production of new brain cells. Aging, stress, sleep deprivation, barren environments, and methylphenidate (Ritalin) damp it down."

So, I like my program of 12.5% less calories, 12.5% more exercise (measured as calories burned), with the addition of sleep, stress reduction, and interesting environments. I'll pass on the marijuana, estrogen, Ritalin, and strokes, thank you. Aging, too, please. Karate should help with the stress, as should more sleep.

Disclaimer. I'm choosing to do things that are moderate changes and that I feel are safe. I don't have any real evidence that I'll get the effect I want, particularly that I'll live longer or be smarter. Still, since I don't think it can hurt, I'm trying it. Follow at your own risk.

Update on my plan. So far, the days start well and end poorly. By the afternoon, I'm scrounging for food. Thursday, it was chocolate. Yesterday a bagel. I'm going to start bringing some good snacks to work to counter the afternoon lows. I've got to stay away from the big carbohydrate loads that I think after an initial sugar spike, drop my blood sugar even lower and send me into a downward death-by-sugar spiral.

The good news is I have upped the exercise. I'm adding hiking about 2 miles to the daily routine and I got in my first weight lifting in a long while. The shoulder's sore, but I'll do some light work on the weekend. Also, I'll put in more miles hiking, along with karate. The goal is to go just over the comfort line, but not so far as to be demotivating.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Calorie Restriction for Karate Training?

I recently read an article from Science News titled Living Long on Less? Mouse and Human Cells Respond to Slim Diet (Week of March 10, 2007; Vol. 171, No. 10 , p. 147). The article explains that it's unknown if calorie restriction actually leads to longer human life, but that a person's cells do show the same change as those seen in mice who have been shown to have longer lives as a result of calorie restriction.

What are some of those changes and how do they relate to Karate? Most important from my point of view was the observed rejuvenation of mitochondrial cells, the energy producers. I'm older and starting to feel my age. I've put on a little weight and don't have the pep. What if I could restrict some calories and get the boost in energy from my mitochondria? How much would I have to do?

Here's the really great news from the article. Human studies show that whether you restrict calories 25% or only 12.5% plus increase your exercise to expend 12.5% more calories, you get the same effect. I'm a little leary from a health perspective to restrict calories 25% and it's absolutely important to get complete nutrition as part of the approach. However, I think I can restrict 12.5% and increase my exercise enough to meet the study limits and also get a nutritionally complete diet. Normally, its very dangerous to take a research study out of context and apply it to life. In this case, I've done this before and I felt great (at age 32). Now I'm age 47, and ready to try it again. My other stats are 255 pounds and the scale showing 28% body fat.

For another connection to Karate, the Okinawans, who eat 8/10 full, invented Karate, also are renown as the longest lived of human societies (see
The Okinawa Program : How the World's Longest-Lived People Achieve Everlasting Health--And How You Can Too by Bradley J. Willcox, D. Craig Willcox, and Makoto Suzuki (Paperback - Mar 12, 2002).

I'll let you know how it goes, but without the ability to test my cells!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Kelsey Smith, Abduction, and Self-defense

As a parent, it is unimaginably painful to contemplate the case of Kelsey Smith, whose body was recently discovered after being abducted. But also as a parent, I feel more commited than ever to ensure my karate training is not wasted by forgetting to train my children in the essentials of self-defense.

Please make no mistake, I am not claiming that Kelsey Smith could have prevented her abduction if only she had known karate. Such a claim is cruel to the family, dishonors her memory, and pretends omniscience. The bitter truth is that our world is inhabited by ugly people who commit horrible atrocities. What I am claiming, is that as parents, we have an obligation to our children to arm them as best we can against the many worst possible situations that they may face, work to change our society where we can, and then pray every day for their safety.

The most imprtant rule of self-defense is avoid trouble. I think being in a mall, Kelsey was no more in trouble than any other public place. Being with friends might have improved her chances of not being selected for this horrible crime, but there are times when that's not possible. Awareness is also part of avoiding trouble. Be aware of tricks that attackers use to put their victims unaware and use innate politeness against them. Scenario training can make someone more comfortable resisting such situations without feeling stupid about over-reacting.

The second rule of self defense is to act quickly and fight like hell to protect yourself when trouble threatens. Teens in such situations need to scream, kick, gouge, and refuse to comply. Once you're in the back of a van, you are often well on your way to being dead. Please see this short video on karateforge. If you're reading this and are a self-defense expert, please contribute to the information on the site.

My heart goes out to the parents of Kelsey and all parents with children. Please suggest ways we can solve the bigger problem of bad people and vulnerable children. For example, is anyone aware of a fund for the reduction of violence against children and teens?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Korean Dancing and Chi

I'm going to try this post, even thought the interface is in Korean.

My goal was to do some posting on Korean martial Arts. Instead, I went to a traditional Korean dance last night at the Korea House in Seoul. At the beginning of the evening there was a dancer performing movements remeniscent of kata.

The dancer made sweeping foot movements similar to unsu and bassai sho. These are often interpreted as bunkai for fighting in the dark, sending out your foot slowly from a strong position and then attacking when contact is made.

Her hand movements were reminiscent also of Tai Chi or other slower kata movements. And it was the hand movements that struck me most.

I was standing about 30 feet away. As she did the hand movements, long slow, sweeping gestrues, I could feel chi stirring in my body that was timed to her hand movements. It was not an eerie feeling, but one of connection. I am also not certain whether I was having sympathetic chi reaction, or a legitimate detection of her energy flowing at a distance. My scientific mind suspects it was my own chi flowing, but my romantic mind (is that a contradiction in terms?) wants to believe she was that powerful in her chi.

I have felt chi projections before, but never from so far away, and never so unexpectedly. We often do an exercise in our dojo where we close our eyes, stand in a circle of potential attackers, and one attacker is chosen by the sensei to project an attack, from chi only. I have been able to easily discriminate the one attacker, with eyes closed, from eight different possibilities. I have been able to do it repeatedly, and for the strongest, it is like being flooded with warmth.

For this experience, my eyes were open, and I was enjoying the show. A similar feeling of warmth, but not one of an attack, washed over me as the dancer moved her arms. It came unexpectedly. Not believing it, I waited, and it happened each time she manipulated chi with her hands and arms. I could have done a more scientific test, but didn't think to do that.

So far, that's the Korean report. I saw some kids running around in Tae Kwan Do uniforms, but other than the dancing, that's all.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Korea Trip

I won't make much of a post today. I'm off to Korea for some business. I'll have some down time while I'm there and will see if I can take some pictures of Tae Kwon Do or Hapkido classes or demonstrations.

I will post the pictures on

Remember, the site is an open community where all are welcome to contribute to the building of the MABOK - Martial Arts Book of Knowledge. I've added some youtube videos that are among the best of what youtube has to offer.

If you have a blog dedicated to martial arts, you can import your blog page there for greater exposure and feed it from an RSS that links back to your blog source. Let me know, and I'll give you some help. See my blog mirror at

Please join.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Karate vs. Bear

I was just walking in the woods with my wife. We love to get out in nature and train, so to speak, on the mountain paths. We've both been training about 8 years in Shotokan karate, but came on a situation and were untrained for the circumstances.

As we came around the corner, we came nearly face-to-face with a cinnamon bear (technically a black bear). We were within 10 feet and could see that he was huge, probably 300 pounds, beautiful, the morning sun was at a low angle and backlit his bushy fur, and his hunched shoulders made him look unopposedly powerful. And he seemed totally unafraid.

His lack of fear contrasted my reaction. I can't say I was afraid, but I could feel the adrenaline kicking up. I knew not to turn my back on any opponent - and I did consider him an opponent, but also knew not to engage to provoke a reaction. I kept talking to him, using a light command voice to create a boundary. He just stared back. I called to my wife to get closer to me and we made ourselves larger as a pair.

The bear just stared, and then apparently unimpressed, turned his back and wandered of in search of food. He looked back a few times, so we must have made some impression on him, but was largely unconcerned and sauntered rather than jogged away.

In my first draft of this story, I used the phrase "unprepared for the encounter", but as I typed, I realized that wasn't true. I changed the phrase to untrained meaning that we never explicitly trained for a bear encounter. I realized, however, that karate has prepared us, even for the unexpected, even if imperfectly.

Our training taught us how to react to situations. We had to control our adrenaline, to analyze a situation quickly, and to generate options. We also knew that while we felt some fear, we had to communicate total commitment to a possible showdown. I don't believe the bear was belligerent, but don't know if a fearful response on our part might have triggered an agressive response, either.

Should I run? Definitely not. Scream louder, maybe. Wave my arms? Maybe. Grab a stick? I should have. What I did do, depended on his reaction to us. I knew that many charges are bluffs, and was ready.

In the end, we both walked away, both unwilling (or at least uninterested) in tangling with the other. I'll claim it as a win. We reacted well, and won by not fighting.

The Karate Hobby

I was speaking to a group of senseis and we were talking about all the amazing things we'd seen from the masters. Sensei Tim described a story down in Phoenix of one of Funakoshi's students who is now a master in his own right.

The master was sparring a black belt student, dove between his legs and wound up behind him. Normally, this would be an insane move, but it was done so fluidly, that no one watching was quite sure how it happened.

Astounded, the student said, "that was awesome - how did you do that?" The answer was, "for you, karate is just a hobby."

We talked some more about that, figuring that this master was dedicated each day to karate, perhaps for the entire day. We then asked ourselves, are we willing to pay the price it would take to get that good at something? Is that what separates the masters from the rest of us hobbyists?

We all agreed to be amazed, and also that we were indeed, just hobbyists.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Karate,, and MABOK has been a boon to the internet world, but if you've spent any time on it, you know there's a problem: anybody can post anything.

How do you sort the good from the bad? User ratings may help, but it'd be even more helpful to have discussion pages, surrounding text, explanations, and the like.

In learning or training anything, and for the purposes of this blog, karate in particular, it's very important to train properly from the begining since it's harder to shed bad habits than to learn them.

At, where I do most of my web editing, we're building a website that expands on the good of youtube (widely available user-generated videos), and adds to it. Through wiki pages, forums we select the best videos, and add to them the context and discussion needed to understand the proper execution of karate techniques as well as injury prevention and discussion of application. This website is called MABOK, the martial arts book of knowledge, and we invite knowledgeable contributors.

Another weakness of videos in general is the problem of individual authorship or single point of view. This problem is that a single individual often does not have the same experience as a group of authors. A video is also difficult to contribute to without surrounding tools like forums, so collective authorship is not possible on

A social collaboration site, like Karateforge, addresses the single point of view problem by integrating multiple viewpoints with a higher probability of correctness in the result.

Improtant note: in any training, videos and even collective how-to, may be insufficient to guarantee safety. Quality innformation coupled with proper instruction is the best approach to learning without wasting time or risking injury.