Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Picking a Martial Arts School in the Phoenix Valley

Horror stories are often heard about some martial arts schools in the Phoenix valley, and also about a lack of understanding by parents and other adults of what constitutes a martial arts school and instructor. One of the largest traditional American-Okinawan-Japanese martial arts associations in the country, which has ties and lineage traced to Okinawa and Japan, notes that more than 85% of the martial arts instructors and schools that apply for membership to them, have no proof of lineage, and many instructors have diplomas purchased on line from diploma mills. So, you can be almost guaranteed, you will run into this problem in the Phoenix Valley when searching for a school for your kids or for yourself. 

So, why doesn't government control the licensing of martial arts instructors?

Heaven forbid if that ever happens!

Government is just as ignorant of martial arts as the general public. And on top of that, you get taxed for their misinformation.

One of our associated schools in France teaches out of a Catholic School, simply because the French government does not recognize Shorin-Ryu karate, and instead only liscences Shotokan karate.  This is insane, particularly if one has any knowledge of martial arts history.

Shorin-Ryu karate is one of the primary forms of karate developed on Okinawa hundreds of years ago, the home of karate. Karate was invented on Okinawa! So, in this sense, France is outlawing the most most legitimate commercial karate schools, simply because the government is ignorant of history.

'Martial arts aerial photograph', original sketch couresty of
Soke Hausel

In 1922, a master of karate from Okinawa by the name of Gichin Funakoshi traveled to mainland Japan and taught Okinawan Shorin-Ryu at Jigoro Kano's dojo in Tokyo. Kano is known for many things including the creation of judo from jujutsu, a modern yudansha-mudansha ranking system for martial artists, and the introduction of judo and kendo to the school curriculum in Japan, which later opened the door to karate clubs in Japan's schools. After teaching the Japanese Shorin-Ryu karate for decades, the Japanese members of his dojo decided to rename the simplified Shorin-Ryu after Funakoshi. Funakoshi wrote some articles and books under the pen name of Shoto, so his students called their karate Shotokan in his honor. Even though it is called Shotokan, it is actually Shorin-Ryu karate without kobudo. So, you should now understand how ignorant the French government is about karate. And based on what we have seen in the past with government in general, it is not something we would like government to get involved in. After all, it was just last year (2019) that Arizona finally made it legal for Shorin-Ryu martial artists to carry and train with nunchaku in public, and the Arizona legislature had no idea why the Okinawan farmers' tool had even been outlawed. 

'Eye of the tiger' original sketch by Soke Hausel
We know of a husband and wife combination of legitimate martial arts instructors from Gilbert Arizona, with proper credentials and the wife was even of Japanese samurai lineage. They both taught periodically in a Mesa karate dojo, and mentioned that their grand-children were taking classes from a martial arts school in the East Valley that had no evidence of lineage or proper certification. The owner of the dojo (a dojo is a place for training in the traditional martial arts as well as a place to practice sane meditation. Dojos are places for dao, and typically include arts that end with the suffix - 'do', meaning a 'path' or the 'way'), periodically would walk into and interrupt classes and lean against the wall wearing a jacket over his gi, and talk to the students while sipping on a can of coca-cola. His instructors were teenage black belts. The grandparents were appalled at their daughter's choice.

In another case, another mother took her two kids to two popular dojos in Gilbert, Arizona. One was described on its own website to be mixed martial arts (note - there is no such thing as mixed martial arts). After leaving that school, she moved to another school near the Gilbert town hall. This one taught the kids how to do forward rolls, run around in circles, do push-ups, while a lady screamed on top of her lungs (and wearing street clothes) different orders. She had two large teens wearing yellow and white belts as her assistant instructors as they taught the kids everything but karate - yet this was listed as a martial arts school and the class was listed as a beginners kid's class.

So, learn what you can about martial arts, history of martial arts, what it requires to be an instructor, what a diploma looks like, and search the internet about the schools before you waste thousands of dollars on a bogus contract.

There are many things one can look for in searching martial arts schools - here are a few:
(1) Is the instructor's diploma available to view - is it written mostly in kanji?
(2) Is the school affiliated with a international martial arts association?
(3) Is the school a mixed martial arts school?
(4) Does the school have a kamidama? Do they recognize the shoman of the dojo?
(5) Check the internet and search the name of the dojo, the name of the association, and the name of the instructor.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How to Pick A Martial Arts School

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! You, your son, daughter, wife, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother or friend are stressed out because of a road rage incident. Or a friend was mugged while jogging in the park, so you want to be part of the next generation of Ninja Turtles.

Maybe you are a senior citizen and you want to learn self-defense but don't want to end up in a class with teenagers or pre-school kids because your shins already hurt from years of misuse. So how do you pick a martial arts school?

You first need to know what a  martial art is, as it is more than apparent that few, including the media, have little understanding of martial arts or what a martial art is. According to media outlets, essentially anyone who kicks, is a martial artist - so does this include horses and kangaroos? If you kick at the wall in your room, are you magically transformed into a martial artist? Martial arts requires considerably more than what is taught in your aerobic kick boxing class down the street at the gym, and it requires a lot more than schools that advertise classes in MMA. According to Soke Hausel, former professor of martial arts at the University of Wyoming, martial art requires much more than just kicking and punching, and MMA and kickboxing do not meet the necessary criteria. But if you like to punch, wrestle and choke, MMA may be for you. 
There are many different styles and systems of martial arts that include karate, kobudo, aikido, judo, jujutsu, toide, kenpo, taekwondo, kungfu, iaido, ninjutsu, taichi, tai ki, kendo, kenjutsu, sojutsu, kyudo, hapkido, kijutsu, karatejutsu, hojojutsu, etc. Then on top of all of this, each martial art has many associations and even styles known as Ryu (i.e., Shorin-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, Shito Ryu and so on). So where do you start looking?

Here are some suggestions to help you find a martial arts school - but BE SELECTIVE as there are many questionable schools and many more questionable instructors known as McDojo and McSensei: Phoenix is filled with McDojos - so be careful you are not persuaded by all of the brightly colored uniforms and belts that look like Tibetan prayer flags.

Whether you live in Phoenix, New York, Denver, Los Angeles, or Atlantic City, Wyoming, get on your computer and search for martial arts schools in your area. After you find a school that sounds interesting, consider the steps below.
  1. Write down the name of the martial arts instructor - Google and Bing his or hers name. If there is something suspicious, it may show up on the Internet.
  2. Write down the name of the martial arts school - You've got the idea, Google it.
  3. Write down the martial arts association and/or style of martial art and search again. After you've done these first three steps, hopefully you've found positive things about the instructor.
  4. How long has the school been in business
Now decide if want to train for tournaments? If yes, find a Chinese, Japanese or Korean martial arts school with a good instructor - then you may be off to winning trophies. You don't need a Chinese, Japanese or Korean instructor. 

If you want good communication between you and your sensei, find someone who speaks your language. There are many excellent instructors who are not oriental - such as Chuck Norris, Rod Sacharnoski, and the late Ed Parker. But if you want that Mr. Miyagi experience, look for a good oriental instructor - such as Tadashi Yamashita

It should be obvious, but look for the best rated schools and
instructors to see if any of them appear to be a good fit for
you and your family.
If you want to learn martial arts for self-defense and have no interest in tournaments, pick a traditional Okinawan school. When karate was created on Okinawa centuries ago, it was considered a deadly weapon - not sport - and in many traditional Okinawan schools, it still is. In the early 20th century, karate was introduced to mainland Japan, and the Japanese converted karate to sport, so most Japanese schools teach sport, and most traditional Okinawan schools teach karate as self-defense. 
If you are looking for a school for your kids, does the school have an affordable kids program without contracts. Contracts don't bother some, but remember, you will be paying for your kids to take martial arts classes after they quit in a week and star playing soccer. Martial arts for kids provide good social benefits, particularly if the school is safety conscience. Kids are fragile: and it is questionable if they should even be in classes that emphasize join manipulation - such as aikido, hapkido, judo and jujutsu.

If you want to train with other adults, search for an adult classotherwise you will be defending against 5-year olds. We 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, and even though she was at the time, only a white belt, she was teaching 4 and 5-year old black belts. At the end class, she had to stand with all of her classmates and chant the following dojo kun: "I will obey my mommy and my daddy". 
Does the instructor have legitimate rank? This is not easy to determine if you are not well versed in martial arts. Even so, search the Internet for information about the instructor, and search for lineage. Lineage is very important in martial arts and one of the few ways we have to trace a person's legitimacy.
Watch a class. Hopefully you can pick out positive attributes and any potential problems by watching. 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 class - 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
Be careful of contracts! One person we know who trained in Okinawan and Japanese schools and has been teaching for decades reports 85% of martial arts instructors operating commercial martial arts schools in the West are not qualified - and most are self-promoted. If you are offered 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 takes highly motivated people 3 years to earn a black belt, while others may take 4 to 10 years for many others. It is also a known fact in martial arts the best instructors charge the least amount and do not require contracts. If they are teaching because they love to teach - money is not important. But it is unfortunate that many if these outstanding instructors go out of business because they cannot pay for their leases, unless they are teaching at a community college, university, etc.  But be aware - we've seen questionable instructors at some universities.
If you are interested in martial arts weapons, known as kobudocheck 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. If the students use the weapons like high school cheer leaders, that's what you will learn. This also applies to samurai arts and training with the Japanese sword and similar weapons.

Remember, there are no government agencies that certify rank (thank God!).

Check the instructors rank certificate on the wall.  If it looks like a comic book, it probably is. Look for Chinese characters (kanji)? Most legitimate certificates will be completely written in kanji (Chinese characters). But there are also many legitimate diplomas outside of China, Japan and Korea. These are typically are half English and half 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.

All the best in finding a martial arts school. And remember, martial arts are for life, not for a month, a year, they are for life, even after you retire - keep kicking!

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 into a nearby store. The owner noticed I was wearing a martial arts shirt and told me about her kids. She and her husband sent them to a martial arts school where then learned sport karate, won 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 similar stories. In fact, I was just talking to a member at Lifetime Fitness. This person had signed up with her two kids to take Taekwondo and paid fees for 2nd degree black belts, and she indicated she too, had little idea of how to defend herself. She said they were never taught what to do if a mugger walks up and grabs them, puts a knife to their throat, or a gun to their head. This is not unusual in the sport martial arts.

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 martial arts schools. Most never reach the yudansha (black belt) level: it's not that they can't attain a black belt, its just that few people have the necessary commitment. When people start in martial arts, they need to understand it is a lifelong endeavor and they need to train for the rest of their lives, teach martial arts, and 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, 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 students 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 from Dallas who indicated he was frustrated at the schools in the area. They all required contracts (none were cheap) and each guaranteed their kids would earn a certain black belt within a specific time frame. 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?

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.

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?