Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How to Pick A Martial Arts School in Arizona

Think of martial arts as a life-long path or goal. If practiced correctly, it should lead to life-long
health & self-confidence. Gichin Funakoshi, a master of Shorin-Ryu karate from Okinawa,
& father of modern karate, probably summed it up best, "The purpose of karate lies not in victory
or defeat, but in perfection of its participants".
The day has come to learn martial arts. You, your son, daughter, wife, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother or friend are stressed out because of a bully, or a friend was mugged while jogging in the park, or you want to be part of the next generation of Ninja Turtles. So how do you pick a martial arts school?

First, you need to know what is martial art? There are many schools that teach MMA and kick boxing,  but believe it or not, kickboxing and MMA are not martial arts. But if you like to punch, wrestle and choke people, MMA is probably for you. 

But I'm talking about martial arts. There are many different styles and systems of martial arts - there is karate, kobudo, aikido, judo, jujutsu, toide, kempo, taekwondo, kungfu, iaido, ninjutsu, tai chi, tai ki, kendo, kenjutsu, sojutsu, kyudo, muay thai, hapkido, etc. So where do you start looking?

Here are my suggestions to find a martial arts school - and you must BE SELECTIVE as there are many questionable schools and instructors: Phoenix is filled with McDojos - so be careful you are not persuaded by all of the brightly colored uniforms. Whether you live in Phoenix, New York, Denver, Los Angeles, or Atlantic City, Wyoming get on your computer and search for a martial arts school in your area. Personally, I've found Bing leads to better results because Google is filled with ads when it comes to martial arts schools. For other things, Google is a good search engine such as searching instructor names, lineages, etc. After you find a school that sounds interesting, follow the  following 12 steps.

  1. Write down the name of the martial arts instructor - Google and Bing his or hers name. If they are a pervert, it will show up.
  2. Write down the name of the martial arts school - You've got the idea, Google and Bing the name of the School.
  3. Write down the martial arts association and/or style of martial art and hit the internet again. Hopefully after you've done these first three steps, you've found many positive things about the instructor, school and style.
  4. Now check to see how long the school has been in business
  5. Decide if want to train for tournaments? If yes, find a Chinese, Japanese or Korean martial arts school - then you should be off to winning trophies. You don't need a Chinese, Japanese or Korean instructor, there are many excellent instructors who are not oriental - take a look at Chuck Norris, Rod Sacharnoski, and the late Ed Parker, for example.
  6. Do you want to learn martial arts for self-defense and avoid tournaments? Pick an Okinawan school. When karate was invented on Okinawa centuries ago, it was considered a deadly weapon - not sport - and in most traditional Okinawan schools, it still is. In the early 20th century, karate was introduced to mainland Japan, and the Japanese converted karate to sport in the mid 20th century, so most Japanese schools teach sport, and most traditional Okinawan schools teach karate as a weapon and do not compete. 
  7. If this is for kids, does the school have a good affordable kids program without contracts. Contracts don't bother some parents, but remember, you will be paying for your kids to take martial arts classes while they are out playing basketball. Martial arts for kids provide good social benefits, particularly if the school is safety conscience. Kids are fragile: it is questionable if they should even be in classes that emphasize join manipulation - such as aikido, hapkido, judo and jujutsu.
  8. If you want to train with other adults, be sure to search for an adult classotherwise you will have to defend against 5-year olds. I know one lady who signed up for classes in taekwondo and ended up being the only adult. She was often required to teach the class because of her age. At the end of the class, she had to stand with all of her classmates and pay respect to martial arts by chanting the following dojo kun: "I will obey my mommy and my daddy". 
  9. Does the instructor have legitimate rank? This is not easy to figure out if you are not well versed in martial arts. Even so, search the internet for information about the instructor, his or hers rank, his or hers instructor, and search the lineage of the instructor. Lineage is very important in martial arts and typically one of the few ways we have to trace a person's legitimacy.
  10. Watch a class before you sign up - but don't think the school is obliged to let you attend a free class. Hopefully you can pick out positive attributes and any potential problems by watching a class. After the class is over, talk to some students. If anything seems out of the ordinary, check the internet. If you see things like a little, pimple-faced kid teaching a kid's class, I would look elsewhere. Black belt (yudansha) implies man (or adult). So if you have a 12-year old yudansha teaching a class while the owner is leaning against a wall drinking a coke wearing shoes and sunglasses, you are in a McDojo. If the uniform is multi-colored, you are in a McDojo. If the obi (belt) has dozens of colored tabs so that it looks like a Buddhist prayer flag, you're in a McDojo
  11. There are many good instructors out there and just as many who are not qualified. One person we know who has been teaching for decades suggests 85% of martial arts instructors in the West are not qualified. This may be a bit high. If the owner offers your kid a contract for a 1st or 2nd degree black belt, this is a McDojo because you cannot pay for a rank, it's something that must be earned. It typically takes highly motivated people 3 years to earn a black belt, while others may take as much as 7 to 10 years. We've found the best instructors charge the least amount and do not have contracts. If they are teaching because they love to teach - money is usually not important. Even so, there are some good instructors who charge high prices because they not only love to teach, but they also have to make a living.
  12. If you are interested in martial arts weapons, check out the weapons. If they are brightly colored, made out of plastic with sparkles, or light up at night, you are looking at the tools of a McDojo. Watch a weapons class. If the students use the weapons like high school cheer leaders with batons, that's what you are going to learn. There are many Okinawan weapons, so do more internet searching of the school you are interested in. This also applies to samurai arts.

Remember, there are no government agencies that certify rank (thank God!) - so you'll have to do a little digging.  I recommend to search for information about the organization that issued any certificates and look to see if it is written in English. If it is completely in English, be cautious. If it looks more like a comic book, it probably is.

Look to see if the diploma has Chinese characters (kanji)? Most legitimate certificates will be completely written in kanji (Chinese characters). But then there are many legitimate diplomas outside of China, Japan and Korea that are written half English and half in kanji. Also look to see if there is a couple of red hanko on the diploma. These stamps are personal seals of an instructor and a certifying organization.

A few years ago, I was issued a 10th dan (judan) certificate in jujutsu from a German martial arts organization. The certificate looked more like a comic book, had no kanji, and no hanko. As far as I was concerned, the certificate was about as valid as getting a Congressman to tell the truth about anything. I hung it on my wall to show my students an example of what to look out for.

All the best in finding a martial arts school. And remember, martial arts are for life, not for a month, or year. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Self-Defense? Or Just a Trophy?

After training in Okinawa/Japanese karate, kobudo, self-defense, samurai arts, and jujutsu for a half of a century, it never ceases to amaze me that there are martial arts schools handing out black belts to people who have little idea of how to defend themselves. I don't know if this is just a mis-understanding by their instructors, or if there are that many martial arts schools teaching bad curriculum. Anyway, after stopping for breakfast at a cafe near Home Depot in Mesa just west of Country Club and north of Baseline this past September (2015), my wife and I dropped in a nearby store to look at tile. The lady in the store noticed I was wearing a martial arts shirt and told me about her kids. Her and her husband sent them to a martial arts school where then learned sport karate, won some trophies and earned 2nd degree black belts before being bullied in school and finding they had no idea how to defend themselves. I was shocked to hear this, but I've heard the same story over and over again. In fact, I was just talking to another at Lifetime Fitness in Gilbert who had a similar story. She had signed up with her two kids to take Taekwondo and paid their fees for 2nd degree black belts, and she indicated she too, never learned self-defense.

Gun defense training at the Arizona Hombu Dojo in Mesa
I grew up in martial arts, and never heard of such thing as paying in advanced for a martial arts rank - this is a new marketing ploy by many sport martial arts schools. Most people never reach the yudansha (black belt) level: it's not that they can't attain a black belt, its just that few people have commitment. When people start a martial arts program, they need to understand this is a lifelong endeavor and they need to plan to train for the rest of their lives, teach martial arts, and continue to be active. Possibly, this whole problem with a lack of ability to defend oneself, or having a doubts, goes back to the Japanization of Okinawa karate.

Several years ago, I taught an all-day self-defense clinic to a group of Taekwondo martial arts instructors and school owners from western Wyoming and Eastern Idaho who ranked from 1st degree black belt to 5th degree black belt and it was the first time any of them had been introduced to self-defense! Yes, they could all compete for trophies, had great kicks, but they were unsure of themselves when it came to someone grabbing them, sticking them with a knife, holding them up with a gun, etc. Over the years, I've had many black belts come in to learn karate after being in other systems. Most do not come with an open mind and it takes time to change their sport karate bias (if they last long enough). But I've had black belts from taekwondo and kempo karate stay in our system and become successful and positive martial artists: one is now writing books about martial arts and another received a shihan license from me a few years ago.

About 3 to 4 years ago, I had two 1st degree black belts from a Mesa taekwondo school sign up for our traditional karate classes because they wanted to learn how to use their hands, even though they had great kicks. I never studied taekwondo, so, I honestly do not know that much about the martial art, but this was one of the more unusual requests I had received.

We also heard from another individual from Dallas who indicated he was frustrated at the schools in the area. They all required contracts (none were cheap) and each contract guaranteed their kids would earn a certain belt by a certain point in the contract. In my experience, each person is different and takes a different amount of time to reach certain levels that cannot be guaranteed, but so much for that.

We often hear stories like this and its because some people teaching do not have credentials, others have a diploma from the Kick, Punch and Block karate association or something similar, and many others have little experience, but are good as selling used cars and contracts for martial arts students. About 80 to 90% of the instructors teaching karate, MMA, etc., have few of any qualifications. So beware!

So, when you are looking to start classes at any school, ask to see the instructors diplomas and find out if they have really trained in martial arts and whether they either purchased a diploma or self-promoted themselves. 

And for a very simple method to check out the instructor and school - just do a 'BING' and a 'GOOGLE' search on the instructor, the school, the type of martial art and the martial arts association. If it still sounds good to you, sign up.

Otherwise, you may be the next 2nd degree black belt who can't defend themselves on campus or on the street.

Here are some videos I recommend watching - particularly women who are looking for self-defense training:

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Nunchuks and Boxing Gloves

My wife and I were shopping for floor tile in Mesa Arizona when we discovered the owner of the shop had taken karate in the past. So we began talking about karate and he mentioned in the conversation his experience in kobudo. Although he had swung a bo only a few times, the weapon he really trained with was nunchaku and I heard something from him I had never heard before. When he was taught to use nunchuks, all of the students wore boxing gloves. Hopefully, they didn't also have to sign contracts wearing boxing gloves. Now, I never heard that one before and not sure what the purpose of the gloves were other than he indicated he thought it was to protect their hands from the nunchuku

When I learned to use the nunchaku back in about 1967, we had to make our own chuks and we trained hard and learned one of the important lessons of nunchakujutsu. You have to keep an eye on that weapon at all times in the beginning until you domesticate the weapon, otherwise it will sneak up on you and bite you.

Nunchaku is like a snake - mistreat it & it will bite” - Soke Hausel

I still have fond memories of training with nunchaku at the University of Utah and later at the University of Wyoming and listening to my students periodically imprint a lifelong memory when swinging the nunchaku and accidentally hitting themselves in the shin, knee, elbow, or other not so friendly spot. There was a distinct sound of wood hitting bone (we did not have foam rubber in those days), followed by "ouch" and a few choice words only an engineer would understand. Why would any karate ka want to miss out on such wonderful memories - we all went through the same lessons. 

We had more discussions about nunchuku and I was again surprised he did not know who Tadashi Yamashita was. This is not the first person not to know who sensei Yamashita is or what he is known for. Osensei Yamashita is known for his kobudo, and in particular for nunchaku. He is an extraordinary martial artist and without him, few people in the western world would know much about the popular weapon. His techniques and applications with the nunchuku provide great showmanship and most techniques by Yamashita are practical. Then there is the kobudo of Dai-Soke Sacharnoski that continues to provide us with extremely practical and devastating techniques. In addition to nunchuku, Dai-Soke Sacharnoski also teaches many other kobudo weapons as well as karate, aikido, jujutsu, judo, toide and extreme body hardening.

In closing, leave the boxing gloves at home.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Should Women Take Karate?

"Japanese Bridge" original sketch - copyright by D. Hausel

Yes, all women should take karate! Why?

Well watch these videos -
Girl defends against mugger.
Woman stops thief.
Nuns Kick the Habit
Self-Defense in the Old Days

Some people attend local gyms to access aerobic kick boxing classes. These are nothing more than aerobic classes that don't provide much insight into self-defense - they burn a few calories, but not much more. While teaching at Gold's Gym in Mesa, Arizona, one karate instructor was asked to take over a kick boxing class, which he did out of curiosity. After talking to the women in the class, they were surprised to find they could not defend themselves with that kind of training.

For aerobic value, examine a table of calories burned verses types of martial arts activities: it is interesting that kick boxing not only does not come close to self-defense effectiveness of karate, but it also burns less than half the calories. If you need a calculator for calories & exercise, we found one on the Internet. This gives a general idea of the energy burned during martial arts training, but is so generalized that the calculator does not differentiate between different types of martial arts. For example, if you train in tai chi, you stretch your muscles slowly, but don't expect to burn many calories. Tai Chi is nothing like the 'hard' systems of martial arts such as karate or judo. But when it comes down to self-defense, karate in many cases is the best choice for a woman who wants to learn self-defense and burn calories.

Why would anyone learn karate? Karate has many health benefits and provides a person with personal self-defense. For example, translated from Japanese, "Kara te" means "Empty hand"and one interpretation of empty hand is a method of self-defense using no weapons - in other words, this is a personal form of self-defense. 

Why not just carry pepper spray? This is not a bad idea, but what happens when you are attacked on the beach wearing a bathing suit, or attacked without warning and can't get to your bottle of spray fast enough. Most serious attacks occur without warning!

White crane kung fu (copyright sketch by D. Hausel)
Recently, Grandmaster Hausel at the Arizona Hombu taught a self-defense clinic for a group of women organized by one of his female engineering students. Amanda was concerned for her friends' safety. In particular, one of her best friends jogs at night after work and was recently mugged while jogging. She had a bottle of pepper spray, but never took it jogging with her because she indicated that it got in the way! The nice thing about karate is that you always take it with you!

White Crane martial arts (copyright sketch
by D. Hausel).
All women should take karate and kobudo and all public schools should be required to teach karate and kobudo! These are traditional martial arts that teach discipline, honor, physical fitness and self-defense. Wouldn't it be nice to see kids today with manners?

Kobudo can be a valuable as karate as it teaches how to use tools at hand as weapons - such as car keys, coins, rocks, etc. Recently, a clinic taught a group of librarians in Chandler, Arizona how to use hands, feet, elbows, knees, staplers, paper weights, credit cards, coins and even books for self-defense! Unfortunately, only a few karate instructors are educated in kobudo even though kobudo was created before karate and eventually became part of every karate system until after World War II. Only in the last 50 to 70 years has most Japanese, American and European karate schools avoided kobudo probably because of complexities - but it is nothing more than an extension of karate and uses the same stances, blocks, strikes, etc.

If we were all equally armed, there would likely be fewer attacks on the street. I am reminded of a couple of thugs who recently tried to rob an Internet cafe in Florida. One thug carried a gun, the other a baseball bat when they ran into a 71-year old senior citizen who ruined their day.

One of several ways to use car keys for protection. Note the
leather strap attached to the keys - this is also used in a variety
of ways for self-defense - such as a Japanese weapon known
as kubotan or kusari fundo. It can also be used like an
Okinawan nunchaku if you are experienced.
So what happens when you take your first karate class? Karate classes are as different as gyms. Each instructor (known as a sensei in Japanese, or sifu in Chinese) has their own idea on how to teach, but most important is experience. Look for someone with evidence of good credentials (look at their diplomas on the wall of the school) and search the Internet for evidence of a resume. It is likely more than 50% of martial arts instructors with commercial schools have no certification, no history, and are self-appointed. We've heard from some legitimate martial arts associations that as many as 80% are not certified. SO INVESTIGATE the INSTRUCTOR.

When you first start karate, you will likely learn how to tie your belt (obi in Japanese) and put on a karate uniform (known as gi in Japanese). Then you will learn how to stand and move. Then your instructor will start you on blocking, punching and kicking. If it is a traditional (an original form) martial art, you will likely learn to bow, when to bow, etc., and then you will start learning kata. If you are shy, first watch a class at a local dojo (karate school), take a friend, your mother, daughter or grandmother and decide if it's for you. And when you start, try to begin an affirmation that you will train for the rest of your life - for health and self-defense. Often, people start, set a minor goal, and then quit. To keep karate effective, one must always practice, no matter what rank you earn.

Kata are liken to Asian dance forms in that they have set patterns designed to teach muscle memory. And if you have a good instructor, you will learn to use every single movement in kata for self-defense (these are known as bunkai in Japanese).

White Crane karate can be beautiful as well as deadly. The
rare art mimics movements of the white crane. Dr. Teule
and Sensei Martin train in White Crane at the University of
As you search for a school, look for either (1) Sport Karate or (2) Traditional Karate. Sport karate focuses on tournaments while traditional karate focuses on the individual and self-defense. Some schools declare themselves as traditional, but take part in tournaments. A true, traditional karate school will not because tournaments are a recent invention. 

There is a long history of women in martial arts. One of the more powerful forms of Chinese kung fu was developed by a lady who watched the movements of white cranes. Her style became known as Fujian kung fu. This style was later picked up by some Okinawan students who converted it to Hakutsuru karate (White Crane Karate) which has been incorporated into many Shorin-Ryu styles of karate.
Professor of Martial Artrs, Soke Hausel, Hall-of Fame Grandmaster of Shorin-Ryu Karate teaches White Crane Karate at the University of Wyoming. Professor Hausel also taught similar arts at Arizona State University, University of New Mexico and University of Utah, and now teaches at the Arizona Hombu in Mesa, Arizona.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Martial Arts Weapons (kobudo)

When it comes to martial arts weapons, one school stands above all others. The Arizona Hombu (aka Arizona School of Traditional Karate) at the 60 W. Baseline Center in Mesa. The school offers one entire night of training in martial arts weapons each week.  The first class, kobudo, provides adults and families an unique opportunity to learn many traditional Okinawan weapons. To our way of thinking, this is a super way to energize martial arts training which at times can get a little mundane. At the Arizona Hombu, martial arts students have the opportunity to stay interested with all of the weapons and kobudo kata (weapons forms) that are taught. No where in Arizona have we seen such a wide variety of martial arts weapons taught in one school.

Kobudo and Karate training go hand in hand in the martial arts. In Okinawa,
the birth place of karate, students learn both arts as they enhance one another
and also are part of one another. Outside of Okinawa, kobudo has often been
ignored by martial arts instructors.
The Arizona Samurai class has no match we are aware of in the Western US. Students in this class learn all about the samurai arts - not just swords, but also sojutsu, naginatajutsu, jujutsu, hanbojutsu, hojojutsu and more. It is a class any 17th century Japanese samurai would have loved to attend.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

When is Karate Karate?

There are many forms and styles of martial arts. I've been asked many times, what is martial art? What is karate? First of all, to be a martial art, there must be some esoteric and redeeming value - just like art. Any school kid can kick and punch and mimic ninja turtles, but does that mean they are karate practitioners? Take MMA for instance. I'm no authority on MMA (mixed martial arts), but from what I've seen, most are wrestlers or street fighters who add a kicks and punches. So how can this be martial art?
Kata training at a traditional martial arts school in Mesa, Arizona 
When karate was created on Okinawa centuries ago, it had lineage that progressed through time. It was originally taught to body guards of Okinawan royalty and later to peasants and kept secret from outsiders. Karate evolved from these Okinawan martial artists who traveled back and forth to China to learn Chinese arts and modified them to produce a more pragmatic combat system for the royal body guards. Probably early on, karate was blended with Zen which gave it esoteric value. The Okinawan people used karate to teach their offspring to be positive, self-confident, humble and respectful, which is still the main purpose of traditional karate today. Remember the scene in the Karate Kid?

Daniel San “All right, so what are the rules here?”
Mr. Miyagi “Don't know. First time you, first time me”.
Daniel San “Well, I figured you knew about this stuff. I figured you went to these before. Oh great, I'm dead. I am dead. You told me you fought a lot”.
Mr. Miyagi “For life, not for points”.

Karate was developed as a traditional art for self-defense and self-improvement. Those who trained in traditional karate could do unbelievable things.

Karate was not intended for sport. And just like Miyagi's statement, it was used to defend a person's life, not score points.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Okinawa began to open up and karate was introduced in the public schools on Okinawa. Some karate practitioners also offered demonstrations of the martial art to mainland Japanese. By mid-20th century, the Japanese began to change karate to sport at the objection to their Okinawan instructors, such that today, we have two types of karate: Sport Karate and Traditional Karate. Both are good martial arts as long as the instructors are legitimate.

Sport karate has two parts: kata which focuses solely on outward appearances and kumite which is about winning and losing”. Sport practitioners attend tournaments, wear protective gear, and fight for trophies.

Traditional Karate is different. There is no competition but instead classes focus on positive attitude and respect. In traditional karate, students typically train daily in kata, interpretation of kata known as bunkai (pragmatic applications), body hardening known as shitai kori, the basics known as kihon, exercises known as undo, and weapons known as kobudo. One learns to focus technique and power in traditional karate unlike sport karate where competitors are often penalized for power. In sport karate, contestants are disqualified when they hit too hard - not something you want to learn if you ever need karate for self-defense.

We can gain more insight into traditional karate from statements by various masters and grandmasters from Okinawa.

The father of modern karate, Gichin Funakoshi from Okinawa wrote: “The purpose of karate lies not in defeat or victory, but in the perfection of its participants.”

Grandmaster Shoshin Nagamine from Okinawa wrote: "Kata is the origin of karate. If there is no kata, there is no karate! Without kata, there is no martial art; instead it becomes nothing more than primitive street fighting."

And the late Chojun Miyagi, who was known to tear bark from trees and kick holes in gas cans with his big toe was quoted as saying, “Karate has the ability to train one's body to the point whereby you can overcome an opponent with one technique without the need for weapons.”

So when you pick a type of karate to learn in Arizona, you can pick either sport or traditional school. If the school has trophies in the window, it is sport karate. If the school has no trophies, and classes are hidden from the public, it is likely a traditional karate school. But just because a school advertises itself as traditional, does not mean it is traditional. Check the Internet for either Traditional Karate Classes or Sport Karate Classes depending on your interest.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Arizona McDojo

Walk into a McDojo: brightly colored uniforms covered with patches that will make any NASCAR driver jealous, obi (rank belts) that look like Tibetan Prayer Flags with many color tabs, martial arts weapons that glow in the dark and are as light as balsa wood but with no strength, colorful certificates with cartoons and no kanji (Chinese calligraphy) revealing a lack of lineage, hundreds of trophies professing the owner to be a world champion, or a 20-year old, pimple-faced self-proclaimed arrogant grandmaster. When you see these tell tale signs, hang on to your wallet!

Next, a former used car salesman walks up in a colorful uniform with a contract and clipboard that guarantees if you sign his contract, you will be a black belt in a year. Yes, they've found their way into Arizona from California - McDojos with 'John Wayne' instructors that are as legitimate and honest as any politician kissing babies.

So, what does this sketch have to do with martial arts?
Nothing, but McDojos also have nothing to do with
martial arts. They are all about your money.
I ran into a father at the 24-Hour Fitness in Phoenix last week. He told me his 8-year old son received a second degree black belt after nearly two years of training in taekwondo. Wow! I was impressed.

"Your son must be very talented. How can he find the time to work so hard, does he have a family, or a job that gives him enough free time to train many hours each day?" I asked.

"No, he trains at the school sometimes twice a week and just turned 8!"

"Oooooh" I said. "You must be proud."

"Yes, we just sat down to talk about his career in taekwondo and I signed him up for his 3rd degree black belt. He'll have it when he turns 9".

"Wow, how much did that cost?" I asked.

He responded, "We got a deal, it was under $5,000".

Personally, I don't know how the McDojo owner and instructor could keep a straight face putting out that kind of contract, or offering rank for a fee. But this happens all the time and gives all martial arts a 'black eye'. Arizona and California are two of the more popular places for McDojos, but they are popping up all over the country and in Europe.

One of my instructors has a grandchild who attends a McDojo in Queen Creek. I asked how that happened? He indicated he didn't any say, it was his daughter's choice.

One afternoon, he went to pick up his grandchild. The Owner walked into the McDojo and disrupted the class being taught by a teenage black belt. The Owner walked in wearing tennis shoes, gi pants with racing stripes down the pant legs, an incorrectly tied black belt, and a street jacket and sunglasses. He popped open a can of coke, leaned against the wall as he talked to the kids. That must have made a very nice impression on the kids and parents.

Last year, we had the opportunity to see a Gilbert McDojo in action. The Gilbert instructor was an old Korean who had more than a dozen teenage and preteen black belts who were part of an elite drill team. The drill team did forms, kicks, and then broke boards. I didn't realize boards could be cut that thin. It was terrible - the kind no one should ever have to witness with breaking wood that would snap in a gust of wind over 10 mph, a nunchaku demonstration that looked more like a group of cheerleaders twirling  batons, etc. But it was impressive to the kids who watched. Anyway, you have a general idea of what a McDojo is. And they are everywhere in the Phoenix valley.

Its been suggested by some legitimate Okinawan/Japanese/US martial arts associations that as many as 85% of instructors have no evidence of legitimacy - and this is from a very good authority who receives applications for membership from schools and instructors from around the world.. So, be careful when you decide to sign up for classes in Arizona or California.

Before you join a martial arts school, ask questions. And be assured there are good martial arts instructors, as well as bad ones. The parent must decide if the school will be good for their kids. And if they are having a good time and not getting hurt, I guess there is no harm done, other than when the instructors mislead the parents about their legitimacy, rank and background.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Women's Self-Defense Clinics

We attended a self-defense clinic at the Chandler Public Library.  Few people (including martial artists) would have ever thought that so many things could be used for self-defense - magazines, books, credit cards, PCs, cell phones, car keys, spare change, pens, belts, staplers, chairs, cups, tote bags, purses, brief cases and even reading glasses. The instructor kept pointing out that we are surrounded by weapons in libraries, homes, restaurants, schools, etc. We just need to learn to use them. Any object of just about any size and mass can be quickly made into a martial arts weapon. 

(C) by Soke Hausel
The clinic focused on weapons because the instructor noted that few people taking such clinics will show the initiative or interest to sign up for a martial arts class, so by learning to use weapons, the librarians will have a better chance of survival from an attack on the street or in the library. In karate, one learns mushin, the art of muscle memory. This is one of the methods that gives martial artists such a great advantage over those who do not train. It is a form of repetition and training reflexes. So for those librarians not interested in learning karate, they can achieve a lower state of mushin by learning how to use the tools around them for self-defense, and then keep reminding themselves every time when they walk into the library, that they are surrounded by weapons. They should try to visualize how they used that magazine and car keys in the self-defense clinic. So if they are every attacked, their mind will not go blank with panic, but it will search for a nearby weapon of self-defense. The clinic also focused on teaching the librarians how to use their God-given weapons such as their elbows, knees, fingers and palms - things that require little skill to learn.

Color pencil sketch by Soke Hausel (C)
It is the same for women's self-defense clinics. These clinics are taught all over the Phoenix valley at martial arts schools, police stations, fitness clubs, universities and community colleges, but the only good any of these are to the students is that they may attract one or two women to sign up for karate classes. According to Grandmaster Hausel, who taught martial arts classes and clinics in karate, kobudo, iaido, jujutsu, samurai arts, self-defense, women's self-defense, martial arts history, etc for 3 decades at the University of Wyoming and has 5 decades of martial arts experience, a person cannot expect to achieve the self-defense abilities and awareness in a single self-defense clinic that a person who has been training for 5 or more years has. It takes considerable time to learn to react and block, develop focus, timing and power. But in todays society, many people want a quick fix, but it is just not out there - at least not until science comes up with a self-defense pill. So for now, if a person wants to learn self-defense - either sign up for karate, or learn how to use a gun. There are several indoor gun ranges around the valley that have a Free Ladies Day and will assist women in gun training.

Grandmaster Hausel demonstrates how to use
a library book for self-defense at the Chandler
Public Library
Both men and women who sign up for karate classes should look for schools that focus on adults, not kids. Adults will have a better time and also learn to defend against adults instead of 6-year old kids. Shy women should find a friend and join a class together - the classes will help them become more positive over time - its one of the side benefits of karate classes.

The purpose of the clinics is to provide attendees with a general introduction to self-defense and modern kobudo. One clinic attendee, an engineer from Boeing named Amanda exclaimed, "Wow, I'll never be able to look at another magazine or towel without thinking I'm holding a self-defense weapon - who would have guessed?"

Few self-defense clinic attendees will continue in martial arts education, so martial arts instructors have to be creative with clinics. So goes for a Master of Karate, Dr. Neal, who is also a professor at Grand Canyon University. He showed other martial artists how one can use protractors, rulers, pens, pants, glasses, suspenders, straw hats, corn-cob pipes, and even corn cobs as weapons. Other off-the-wall weapons include picture frames, flashlights, batteries, memory sticks, markers, and Duck Commander style duck calls.

Self-defense clinic attendees at the Unversity of Wyoming.
The World Health Organization reported recently that 420,000 murders occurred in the US. Sounds like a lot, but we have a very large population (>311 million). The report goes on to state 109 countries which have 100% gun bans (most with considerably smaller populations than the US), had a high of 9.16 million murders to a low of 420,000 murders during the same time frame. Imagine that, 109 gunless counties with murder rates higher than the US!

One country was a distinct anomaly – Switzerland. During this same period, Switzerland reported ‘zero’ murders. What makes Switzerland different is most adults in Switzerland are required by law to own a gun and required train and qualify as marksmen. So, would tighter gun control laws or banning guns altogether in the US lower the murder rate? Based on historical data, our murder rate would skyrocket. Sorry about the detour, the US Constitution is fine and guarantees Americans to have access to guns for self-defense. After all, this does not seem to be the problem.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Arizona Martial Arts Instructors

"No such thing as bad student. Only bad teacher." -Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid)

Just like any profession (except politics - where honesty seems to elude all), there are good instructors and there are bad; there are honest instructors and there are con-men. so before you sign up for classes at a local martial arts school, learn about the martial art and about the instructor.

Schedule a meeting with the owner of a martial arts school and meet the instructor or instructors and find out what qualifications (if any) they have. What is the instructor like - are you going to be able to get along with this person? How well does he or she teach? Ask to watch a class or two to see what goes on in the class and then ask to talk to some students to get their perception.

Master Gichin Funakoshi, Shorin-Ryu Instructor from
Okinawa, considered the father or Modern Karate (sketch
by Soke Hausel)
Ask about the instructor's lineage. This may be the most revealing information you will find. If you get a response like 'Lineage?" you might think about checking elsewhere. Ask the individual where he or she taught in the past and how long they have been training in martial arts and how long they have been teaching. If you are going to be taught by a child, remember this is going to be very awkward. We had one of our Japanese-American karate instructors who told us about her horror story learning taekwondo many years ago in Arizona. She was the only adult in the class and at the end of each class, the school would vocalize the schools philosophy. She would stand in a line with about 2 dozen 3 to 10 year olds and say together - "I will obey my mommy and daddy".

Ask about the martial arts style? Where did it originate? Ask about tournament requirements if any? Are there extra fees for training with weapons? Take notes to be sure that the information matches what you find on the Internet. And something that should be considered for most women is the type of martial art. I do not recommend judo, jujutsu or aikido for most women, as this requires using a lot of upper body strength. Look for karate, taekwondo, kung fu, tai chi and similar classes. But remember, tai chi is very good for your health, but of little value for self-defense., 

Tournaments are new to the martial arts - this is something that began in the mid 20th century. Many traditional martial arts instructors feel tournaments breed the wrong attitude and lessen a person's ability to defend. But at the same time, supporters of tournaments feel these provide good competition among students and also helps students to build good reflexes, especially if they are full contact tournaments.

And weapons? Weapons have been part of the martial arts training regimen for centuries. Only recently have some martial artists divorced themselves from weapons, or have found a way to require more fees to learn the weapons. Many traditional Okinawan martial arts schools start teaching weapons the first week beginners sign up for classes.
Shaolin Temple Guardian. Sketch by Soke Hausel.
Look closely at instructor certificates posted on the walls of the dojo. This could be a very important hint as to the qualifications of an instructor. Do the certificates have Chinese, Japanese or Korea symbols?  Find out what martial arts associations the instructor is listed with and check the Internet for information about the associations as well as do a search for the instructor's name and school. Ask to see old photos of the instructor. Write down the names of the individuals who signed the diploma and search them on the Internet.

Today, there is a problem. More than 4 decades ago, everyone knew everyone else in the martial arts in the US, and there were only a few legitimate martial arts associations. Today, there are all kinds of MMA (Mixed martial arts), Kickboxing, Sport Karate that have little evidence of legitimacy, but if you are interested in learning these, check out some classes and see if that is what you want to learn. Since most are not martial arts and there is little to go on - just like boxing schools. Many will teach you how to fight, but most will not teach you how not to fight.

Now that sounds pretty strange. But think about it and look back to the Karate Kid:

Daniel San: So, karate's fighting. You train to fight.
Miyagi: That what you think?
Daniel: No.
Miyagi: Then why train?
Daniel: So I won't have to fight?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Self-Defense Classes and Clinics In Arizona

Self-defense classes and clinics can offer an attendee some insight. For example, not only do we have hands, feet, knees and elbows as weapons, we also have many tools that can be used for weapons. Pepper spray may be a good solution, but you have to have it with you at all times and be able to get to it at a moments notice. Think about it. If you have pepper spray on you, how long does it take to get it out of your pocket, from your purse, your glove compartment. Do you take it to the shower with you, swimming pool, church, etc.
Don't have a weapon handy? Yes I do - have a close look at
 my elbows!
Pepper spray is a good weapon but one must realize there are all kinds of weapons around us. Next time you go to a restaurant, etc. with a friend, play a game. Look around you and see what kind of weapons are available and see who can come up with the most potential weapons and how they can be used.

In a restaurant, you have a fork, spoon, knife, salt and pepper, purse, cell phone, coins, strap attached to a purse, car keys, belt, ring, etc. Now how would you use these and other things that might be present? Or what happens if you are a farmer or a nerd? We witnessed a couple of demonstrations where a martial arts instructor in Mesa used pens, belts, glasses, suspenders, and even corn cobs for self-defense weapons.

Just like the Okinawan martial artists of old who had to adapt using their
farming and fishing tools for self-defense weapons (kobudo), Dr. Neal Adam
(6th dan black belt) demonstrates how a Nebraskan farmer might
 defend himself in a pinch. Here he demonstrates the use of corn cobs, rope,
 corn cob pipe, straw hat and his suspenders as weapons of self-defense.
At a clinic taught at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate on the border of Mesa and Gilbert, a group of ladies recently learned to use purses, lipstick cases, magazines and car keys for self-defense. Other groups, such as girl scouts, learned to use contents of their back packs, while EMT, military, teacher and university faculty and staff members learned to use a variety of weapons including their elbows for self-defense.

"The limit of self-defense techniques and self-defense weapons is only limited by your imagination" according to Soke Hausel (Meijin wa jutsu) at the Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai Hombu in Mesa. "Because of so much rote needed to be an effective martial artist, an instructor must be creative in teaching the same techniques many different ways otherwise the Western student will quickly bore of martial arts".

Imagine you are a computer geek or nerd and you need to defend yourself. Dr. Neal
Adam from Phoenix demonstrates at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate in Mesa
some of the common self-defense weapons geeks have with them including a pen, belt
shoes, glasses and even tablet and cell phones.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Arizona Martial Arts Schools

Looking for a martial arts school in Arizona? There are major differences in training from dojo to dojo (martial arts training center) and you will find (1) Traditional Martial Arts Schools (those with philosophy similar to the Karate Kid movie that include true and tried methods of teaching martial arts used for centuries on Okinawa and include history, philosophy, traditions, devastating self-defense, and self-improvement), (2) Sport Martial Arts Schools (competition martial arts created in the 20th century that often lacks in self-defense), and (3) Mixed martial arts schools which are not martial arts, but instead a form of controlled street fighting.

There are questions if sport martial arts and mixed martial arts are actually martial arts. If they do not include a 'Way", or philosophy for self-improvement as a person, they are likely not martial arts based on definition.

A traditional Japanese martial arts school is typically referred to as Dojo (道場 dōjō).  Dojo means "place of Tao" in Japanese. For those not familiar with Tao (, Dào), this is a concept of Taoism and Confucianism. The kanji (Chinese graphics) used to write dojo translate as "way" or "path" and more loosely as "doctrine" or "principle." These are very important concepts in traditional martial arts.

Tao is expressed through in-yo (yin-yang) where every action creates a counter-action that is natural and unavoidable. This is a natural concept of physics. The karate (tsuki) punch is accomplished by withdrawing the none striking hand at an equal and opposite velocity to maintain power and balance.
At one time, martial arts dojo were adjunct to temples because of their importance in the Japanese culture. Many Westerners confuse Japanese, Okinawan, Chinese, Korean and sport street fighting facilities (MMA) as dojo, when the term dojo should be restricted to the traditional Japanese-Okinawan arts.

A traditional martial arts dojo, or karate school is special. It should be cared for by its practitioners as it is their facility, not one person's facility. It is important to conduct ritual cleaning of a dojo at the end of each training session called souji, which translates as "cleaning". Besides the obvious hygienic benefits of regular cleaning, it serves to reinforce the fact that a dojo is a sacred place supported and managed by the student body, not the school's faculty.
Another important characteristic of traditional dojo is dues are donated. In the US, dues at a traditional dojo are set at a minimum level even though the type and quality of instruction is often many orders higher than commercial sport schools. On Okinawa, it is traditional for members to support dojo by paying whatever they can for its operation. Try to imagine your life without your dojo.

When a dojo closes its doors, it is usually for good so think the next time you pay your fees. What can you afford about the minimal fee this month. Was the instruction good? 

Many traditional dojo built in the Orient, follow a prescribed layout. The structure will include entrances for students and for instructors. Students enter the lower-left of a dojo (in reference to the shomen) with instructors entering the upper right. Shomen typically have kamidana—a Shinto shrine. Upon entering, respect is paid to the dojo. When the head sensei (teacher) enters, all activities cease and the class is loudly called to attention by the senpai (class senior).
There are often displays throughout a traditional dojo, such as kanban (signs) that authorize the school to practice a particular style or strategy, and items such as taiko drums, armor (yoroi) and kobudo weapons. It is not uncommon to find the name of the dojo and dojo kun ("rules or philosophy") displayed prominently at the shomen. Weapons and other training gear will be found at the back wall - the sensei's weapons are often near the front.

A hombu dojo is the administrative headquarters for a particular martial arts style. Hombu are not necessarily large or ostentatious: most are small. Hombu is considered the head of a martial arts system and is the home of the Soke (Grandmaster). All members of a traditional ryu (style) support the hombu financially.
Hombu are considered very important: all training and certifications originate from a hombu and its soke. A hombu provides credibility for members. Most Soke of traditional martial arts styles are not businessmen and it is rare that any association receives excessive financial support. Rare exceptions included the late Mas Oyama and late Ed Parker, both of whom build international empires for their ryu. At various universities, we periodically brought in Okinawan instructors for special clinics and we were never asked by the instructor himself, for his fees. These were all arranged by their senpai, as it is considered an insult in the Okinawan culture for an instructor to have to ask for fees and dues.
Martial arts in the eastern culture are intimately concerned with matters of the spirit. Thus, while a dojo may resemble a gym, its historical inspiration is that of a temple or shrine. A dojo should be treated as a shrine. All of its practitioners should be missionaries or emissaries of a dojo.
A dojo teaches self-confidence, self-esteem, self-improvement, concern for others and provides benefits of health not available in any other kind of training – so why would we not want this for our friends and family? As a student of a traditional dojo, you should consider ways to attract people you care for to your dojo – a blog on the Internet about your experiences works wonders, a personal business card designed with pride can provide valuable information about you and your dojo: students are the success and voice of any dojo. After a dojo is well-established and the dojo population declines, there is something wrong that needs to be fixed. The student body should remain stable or grow.

In the past, traditional dojo architecture and associated reishiki (etiquette) had three functions: first, the placement of the sensei at the front, seniors on the right, and juniors on the left, this afforded the teacher maximum protection from an intruder. Second, the arrangement shielded the teacher's instruction from those who might peer through the entrance. Third, the arrangement reflected certain Buddhist rituals. The next time you enter a traditional dojo, look for the subtleties. They are all around you.

You can practice weight training, aerobics, sport karate, MMA in a gym, but not in a traditional dojo. Traditional dojo are reserved only for traditional martial arts - not sport. Traditional dojo are actually quite rare in Arizona. As you search for a martial arts school, keep many of these ideas in mind. Also check out the training uniforms (gi). Are they bland, or are they brightly colored? If they are brightly colored and there is music playing in the background, you are likely in a sport school.

There's nothing wrong with being in a sport school or a traditional school. It is your decision as to what is best for you.