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Passion "Discover You. Find Your Passion, Life Purpose And Take Action" - unknown

What a great video. Everyone should find and follow their passions.  The martial arts is nothing but watching and copying someone else to improve one's life. Watch this video nothing more needs to be said.

Fear is the true enemy

face-offAt some point in time, somewhere along the Way we all must all confront ourselves.  For each person the what and when are different. This confrontation is an inner battle where we face our own fears and demons. Those things that we fear are the keys that unlock the doors to our inner most sanctum where true peace lies.

If we do not open these doors then sometimes we set off on a darker path that some Star Wars fans might call the "dark side." In this place, we turn our gaze away from our true opponent (ourselves) and we might mistakenly believe that some thing or some other person is our true enemy. It is so much easier to pin our suffering on others rather than accept responsibility and ownership of our selves.

Gandhi said, "The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is really fear." Fear is the gateway to change, but we have to have the courage to face it. When we dig deeper and see what is behind the hatred or anger, it is really fear and we can then realize our own part in our suffering which is that we allow that fear to control us.

skywalkerYoda said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." One only has to look at Anakin Skywalker's evolution to see this to be true.  Anakin Skywalker is the prototypical archetype of one who gives into his fears and allows it to follow the dark side and develop into anger, hatred and suffering.

Today more than ever, martial artist must be a cut above. Don't give into the fear no matter who you support. Move past that fear and conquer your demons and find true peace for yourself. They are not the enemy; fear is. Don't give into that fear.

Can you read the air?

sweepJust because you can doesn't mean you should. The funny thing that happens on the way to mastery is that sometimes people lose their common sense.  Teachers are always getting after students because the students are losing their focus and thus step out of line.

Martial artists are supposed to be able to read the situation and act accordingly.  In Japanese, to be able to read the situation is called kuki wo yomeru (空気を読める) or "to be able to read the air."

We have to remember that every martial art is context driven and set up in a common sense way of thinking.  This common sense way of thinking means that the techniques are setup into "if this then that" type scenarios.

The interesting thing about common sense is as Voltaire said, "Common sense is not so common" and we can see that from the gif clip above.

From the clip we can see a larger Judoka being interviewed and, obviously from the clip, they are showing this much smaller interviewer how Judo works.  Does the interviewer need to be slammed to the ground?  From the look of her reaction, she probably didn't know what was coming and what she was getting into.

The context is then misread by the Judoka who does osoto-gari (outside leg sweep) and we can see this misread by the Judoka's reaction as the interviewer writhes in pain on the ground and nobody tries to help her.

As we train, we must remember that what we are learning is supposed to be applied to a similar context.  Nothing will ever be perfect, but our neural pathways have the tendency to group things together.  That is why when we drive a different car we tend to get into accidents because we are still driving it like our car.  If we are then "well trained" then we will "read the air" correctly and thus act accordingly.  To be able to "read the air" takes a lot of training and only comes with a lot of experience.




Training in Budo is about change







Training in the martial arts is about change.  We begin training as one person and we begin to see another person emerge as we put more time in to our training.  A while back I read this article about the original Karate Kid movie that kind of stayed with me and I thought I'd share it with you.

I think by now most of us have seen the original Karate Kid movie with Ralph Macchio and, like most, think of it as a "coming of age" story about how Daniel-san found his teacher, gained courage and found himself.  On face value for 99% of this movie that is true.  But, this article deftly illustrates that most of us, me included, missed an important and the underlying story line of the villains journey of realization and redemption.

Throughout the movie Johnny and his friends terrorize Daniel-san, but if we look closely we see them start to soften and realize their wrong path as their teacher becomes more and more radical.  In the last 10 to 15 minutes or so if we look past Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-san we see the redemption in some of the Cobra-kai students.  We see Bobby follow through with his teacher's terrible command to attack Daniel's leg only to beg for forgiveness and Johnny's look of horror as the sensei tells him to "Sweep the leg."  Johnny's full redemption is shown as he displays true sportsmanship by demanding to give Daniel-san the trophy and saying, "You're alright Laruso."

The martial arts are all about change.  Daniel-san found himself and changed.  Mr. Miyagi found the love of teaching again and changed.  Bobby and Johnny realized they were following the wrong master and were acting unscrupulously and changed.  A more developed ending that displayed this idea of realization, change and redemption would have seen Daniel-san, Johnny and the other students from the Cobra-kai training in Mr. Miyagi's backyard as the movie faded black to the credits.

In the martial arts, everyone seemingly good and bad has the opportunity to change.  There is no time limit or statue of limitations.  Change is a function of realization and action, but most of all it requires some level of sacrifice.  We must let go of something in order to grab hold of something else.  Every person is capable of change.  If Johnny can do it and Darth Vader can too at the end of Return of the Jedi then we can too.

Restraint and humility

kanai iaido proverb  





"Yaki-tachi wo saya ni osamete, masumasu masurao no kokoro wo togari keri." "Keep your tempered sword in its scabbard, first, polish a heart of courage."

According to Japanese culture, restraint and humility are the hallmarks of a true master of the marital arts.  Those two traits are more important than strength, speed, ability or accomplishment.  Anyone can cause harm or hurt other people, but only a true person of character can exercise restraint and practice humility in the face adversity.  It takes courage to be a person of character.

In learning, one comes to understand that man is ignorant.  That ignorance isn't stupidity but the lack of knowledge about humanity.  A universal truth is that every person suffers and is going through their own stuff and thus sometimes lashes out.  This lashing out is really them hurting themselves.  This ignorance is what drives them - it drives us all.  By studying a martial art, one realizes this idea of universal suffering.  We come to understand that circuitously that it is not this person's fault and that they act in a harmful way because they are ignorant of their actions and are suffering.  Knowing this we come to understand our own ignorance and realize that to destroy them will only hurts us.  It takes courage to go against our fears and egos and demonstrate restraint to show compassion.  In understanding their ignorance we are able to find the humility and strength to confront our own suffering and thus we are made better by this person's actions.  This is the circle of life - we exist to help each another.  Only with study can we come to not only understanding this, but to embrace it as well and thus we exercise restraint.

"You're too sharp. That's your trouble. You're like a drawn sword. Sharp, naked without a sheath. You cut well. But good swords are kept in their sheaths."

There is a scene from Akira Kurosawa's Sanjuro where Toshiro Mifune's character Sanjuro is trying to rescue Lady Mutsuta and her daughter who are being held hostage.  He is angry over his inexperienced cohorts actions which alerted their captors to their escape.  In trying to motivate his cohorts, Sanjuro suggests that he has to go and kill the henchmen because of their mistake.  Lady Mutsuta over hears his chiding and says playfully, "You're too sharp. That's your trouble. You're like a drawn sword. Sharp, naked without a sheath. You cut well. But good swords are kept in their sheaths."  Sanjuro acquiesces and instead offers to be used as a step stool so that they can escape out a window.  She says, "Oh no I cannot, it would be improper."  Sanjuro says, "Hurry before I have to go and kill more people" to which Lady Mutsuta gives in and they all flee to freedom.

Lady Mutsuta's high manners and demeanor made Sanjuro have to be a better martial artist.  He was forced to become more like her and had to think and find a way to escape without killing.  In that one moment with that one exchange, Lady Mutsuta made him not only a better martial artist but a better person too.

Ip Man 3

For those of you who liked Ip Man and Ip Man 2 with Donnie Yen, you will be happy to know that the next sequel in the trilogy will be out in January. Donnie Yen is one of the few actors who is actually a practicing martial artists.  He comes with quite a bit of provenance in that his mother is also the famous Tai-chi and internal martial arts teacher named Bow-sim Mark.

Furuya Sensei knew Donnie Yen and met him many times when was working at Inside Kung Fu Magazine.

Here is the trailer:

I put up a video from a Chinese site with some interesting footage of Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson, who is in the movie too where you can see just how good Tyson's boxing still is today.  Unfortunately, the video was taken down by Youtube, but there was this scene where Donnie Yen is fighting Mike Tyson and Tyson almost takes his head off.  The look on Donnie Yen's face was priceless.

Aikido is becoming more popular in Hollywood

manAikido makes another appearance on a TV show called The Man in the High Castle.  The show is based on a novel by Philip Dick with the same name and can only be viewed on Amazon PrimeThe Man in the High Castle is a "what if" story about what life would be like if the nazis won the war and the United States become occupied by Japan and Germany. The story takes place in 1962 and follows two characters Julianna Crane played by Alexa Davalos and Joe Blake played by Luke Kleintank.  Julianna is an experienced Aikido practitioner who is given a movie reel from her sister just before she is murdered and decides to embark on her sister's secret journey to Canon City.  Joe Blake is a new recruit working for the American underground who is also traveling to Canon City.

I only watched the first few episodes, but thought the show was good.  I think the acting was superb despite the fact that it is an Amazon show and the 1960s detail is great.  I only wish they would do a better job with the Aikido.  Alexa Davalos is fine, but the ukemi and the Aikido "philosophical" parts are lacking.

All in all, I think The Man in the High Castle is worth checking out.  There was only one book by Philip Dick so we will see where Amazon takes it.


My favorite action movie stars are usually ones that are martial artists, but I am amazed by how some actors work so hard to transform themselves into martial artists for their roles.  I like to watch the "making of" section of action movie DVDs to see how the actors trained to portray martial artists in movies.  One of my favorite behind the scenes was for the movie Ninja Assassin, which was a mediocre movie, but the training and transformation that the pop star Rain underwent was amazing.  I find it amazing when an actor with no formalized training trains so hard that they look as if they are trained.  For instance, did you know that the actors in the movie the Karate Kid only trained for three months?  Quite impressive.  One of my favorite action stars is Toshiro Mifune.  Mifune had no formalized sword training, but worked assiduously with the fight choreographer Yoshio Sugino, who was a student of O Sensei's, to make himself look as if he was formally trained in the sword.  Many don't know that Mifune was an expert in Yabusame or horseback archery as well.  One of my favorite scenes throughout all his movies comes from the movie Hidden Fortress directed by Akira Kurosawa.  In the scene (below) he fights with a yari or spear with a rival leader.  Sensei once told us that the spear duel in this scene was part of an old spear kata and it has something like 108 movements.  Watching Mifune wield the yari one can see that he must have put in countless hours to make his technique appear at an experts level.  They have to have.  If you watch their footwork closely, it is balanced and they don't wield the yari with their upper bodies which both are indicative of being "trained."  That is why this scene is one of my favorites. How did these actors become experts?  What was the punchline to the old Carnegie Hall joke, "practice"?  To become an expert at anything, one needs to practice.

Will robots be able to learn Aikido in the future?

b-pirate-6-4I recently read an interesting story about a robot that has been developed that can adapt to being injured.  It made me wonder if a robot could someday learn Aikido. Here is an excerpt from that article on

A new study published today in Nature explains how robots can use a sort of "evolutionary algorithm" to learn new ways of operating after being injured, according to the MIT Technology Review. Take out one of its legs, and the robot uses rapid-fire calculations to figure out how to keep moving.

The MIT Technology Review lays it out in horrifying detail, reminiscent of a certain Toy Story character:

In a video accompanying the paper, researchers show a spider-like robot that suffers an injury to one of its six legs. The creature starts trying new ways of moving, and in about 40 seconds regains 96 percent of its speed, looking less like a broken toy and more like a wounded animal crawling away.

The amount of speed that the robot recovers is staggering and incomparable to humans who could never regain that much just after being injured.  The robot can do so because it does not feel pain.  Which brings me to the point as to why a robot like this cannot learn Aikido.  Don't get me wrong a robot can learn Aikido or any martial art at a technical level where the moves are nothing more than perfunctory.  But, true Aikido requires one to have a kokoro or spirit (心)  and ki (氣).  These two elements make up this idea of "consciousness" in human beings.  Yoda in Star Wars deftly describes when he said, "Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship."  The force he is referring to is ki (氣) and the luminousness is spirit (心).  To be aware of oneself is not only how we are able to feel pain but also what makes us able to connect with other human beings.  A robot cannot make a true connection because it has not spirit or consciousness.  This connection is what makes Aikido "work."  As Yoda would say, "It is not this crude matter" when referring to our bodies.  It is our minds or our consciousness that makes it work.  Therefore in a circuitous way - no robots cannot truly learn Aikido.

Read the full article here:


Why do you train?

Just the other day I was asked, "Why do  you train?"  There is no easy answer.  Below is a video which succinctly illustrates the point - mastery of the sword is mastery of the self.

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown"

Last night I saw this piece Al Jazeera about the iemoto (hereditary succession) that was really done well.  The story follows a 30 year old  young man who is in college in Canada and who is in line to become the next head priest of his family's temple.  He is line to become the 24th generation head priest of an 800 year old Buddhist temple in Kyoto.  The story deftly illustrates what it must be like for some to inherit such a huge responsibility (something I know a bit about).  I was struck by how supportive his siblings were toward his plight and how two of them were ready to step in if he ended up turning down the position.  The position of head priest or hereditary grandmaster comes with a heavy price.  A line from Shakespeare's Henry the IV adequately describes this young man's struggle, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."  I totally get it. Watch the 25 minute documentary by following this link:

Interesting film

I saw a trailer for a documentary about Kyudo or Japanese archery called One Shot, One Life that I very much want to see.  The chapter that intrigues me the most is about Takeuchi Masakuni who is a 7th dan kyudoka who is preparing to take the 8th dan exam for the 16th time.  In the trailer alone, I was amazed by his approach to taking the test.  His perseverance and good attitude in the face of adversity is typical of a Japanese person of a generation that has long since gone by. There is something about the Japanese spirit of the people of the WWII era that is a bit lost today.  It is something that I saw in my grandparents or other Japanese who were from that era.  When faced with adversity they would just shrug with a "whatever" look on their face and say stuff like, shoganai or to do your best, gambatte means to do your best and gaman or perseverance.  These might be phrases but they are more attitudes than anything.  Whenever something untoward would happen my mother or grandparents would say, "It's shoganai" and just shrug it off, but not in an apathetic way.  They would just go back to getting it done just as Takeuchi Masakuni is doing.  It was odd to me that they would not dwell on what is happening to them or the adversity they were facing.  It was almost like they accepted it and moved on from it which completely infuriated me by the way.

I wish that I had this Japanese spirit in my own life where of instead of monku-ing (complaining), I could just mutter, "shoganai" and keep on going without allowing the burden of adversity to keep me down.  You see this indomitable Japanese spirit in the few minutes of interview with Takeuchi Masakuni in the trailer for One Shot, One Life.

Kuro obi - Black Belt DVD review

Kuro Obi - Black Belt DVD Review: Kuro Obi - Black Belt

Most martial arts movies today are filled with incredible stunts that are performed by actors with little to no martial arts training.  This is wonderful and great for the genre of martial arts movies, but I always wish that the quality of the martial arts techniques in those movies was a little bit better.  Occasionally I come across a movie that really impresses me.  Kuro Obi is one such movie.  The scenery is stunning and it has a great story, but the real kicker was that half way through the story I realized that the two main characters were real martial artists.  I stopped the movie and Googled the actors and sure enough both were not only trained martial artist but teachers as well.

The movie takes place in the 1930s and is about three students named Choei, Giryu and Taikan who are the students of a Karate master who dies as the Japanese army attempts to take over their dojo.  The story follows the three students as they follow two diametrically opposing paths as they compete to be worthy enough to inherit their teacher's belt.  Choei and Taikan join the military where Taikan follows a more corrupt path as he brutally beats every opponent as he fights his way to the belt.  Giryu, who is injured, finds himself on a soul searching journey where he struggles to understand his teacher's last teaching where he forbade him from using Karate to attack.  The story's final chapter has Taikan and Giryu finally fighting each other for their teacher's belt.

The martial arts is excellent in this movie.  The scenery itself is reason to see this movie but the Karate is spectacular.  Taikan is played by Tatsuya Naka who is a 7th degree black belt and teacher at the JKA Shotokan in Tokyo.  Giryu is played by Akihito Yagi and he is a 7th degree black belt in Goju-ryu Karate and a 3rd generation teacher.

You can see the end credits of the movie here where Tatsuya Naka and Akihito Yagi are demonstrating their Karate katas:

What's your favorite martial arts movie?

The other day someone asked me what my favorite martial arts movie was.  This is a hard question to answer.  It might be even better to answer by genre.  The answer is that I don't have just one favorite, but rather that I am a fan of the entire martial art genre.  Maybe someday I will go through and write about why I like these movies, but that is probably an essay for each.  Nonetheless, here are some of my favorite martial arts movies that aren't in any order. Chinese The Iron Monkey starring Yu Rongguang and Donnie Yen Once Upon A Time in China series starring Jet Li The Grandmaster by Wong Kar-wai and starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi. Hero starring Jet Li Twin Warriors aka Tai Chi Master starring Jet Li Come Drink with Me starring Cheng Pei-pei Ip Man starring Donnie Yen The 36th Chamber of Shaolin aka Shaolin Master Killer starring Gordon Liu The One Armed Swordsman starring Jimmy Wang Kung-Fu Panda with Jack Black Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon starring Chow Yun-fat Fist of Legend starring Jet Li

Japanese Sanshiro Sugata 1 & 2 by Akira Kurosawa Sanjuro by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune Twilight Samurai starring Hiroyuki Sanada Kuro-obi (Black Belt) starring Tatsuya Naka Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune Yojimbo by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune Killing Machine starring Sonny Chiba Samurai Trilogy starring Toshiro Mifune Shadow Warriors (TV series) starring Sonny Chiba Lone Wolf and Cub series starring Tomisaburō Wakayama Throne of Blood starring Toshiro Mifune Street Fighter series starring Sonny Chiba

Honorable mentions Dragon Tiger Gate starring Donnie Yen Blade starring Wesley Snipes Red Beard by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune Mito Komon (TV series) starring pretty much every well known aging Japanese actor Kung-fu Hustle starring Stephen Chow Brotherhood of the Wolf starring Mark Dacascos High Kick Girl starring Tatsuya Naka The Throwdown starring Louis Koo Above the Law starring Steven Seagal (probably the only one Steven Seagal movie I would ever recommend) Vanishing Son (TV series) starring Russell Wong Kung-fu (TV series) starring David Carradine Ong Bak starring Tony Jaa Red Sun starring Toshiro Mifune The Karate Kid starring Pat Morita