On Learning On Learning

Any good instructor can show students What. Here you'll find How's and Why's to get more from your study.

Mastery in 500 Words or Less

Picture the Yin Yang symbol. You begin your training, innocent and ignorant, at the point where the white (belt) tail begins to grow, and progress to where the black (belt) tail begins. At that point in your experience and expertise, you “become” karate – iyour character and behavior are framed by the art. That is, you (ideally) are the very epitome of technical and factual excellence.


This is Shodan - First Degree Black Belt. This is “ready to learn”. But ready to learn what is the pivotal question.



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Say What? Masters, Students and You

Of the three major conceptual influences on the Eastern martial arts, Zen Buddhism. is perhaps the most notable and profound. Its lessons, a primary element in budo training, are often transmitted in stories.


Here’s one that I’ve always enjoyed which doesn’t involve emptying teacups. Provided he makes and wins an argument about Buddhism with those who live there, any wandering monk can remain in a Zen temple. If he’s defeated, he has to move on.



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What are our training principles?


Every proper dojo has a list of principles that act as a moral and mental compass for its members. They can be few in number or many. Some old; some made up. In some dojo, they are recited before each class.


We call our list the ‘Codes of Karate’, but it’s actual name is Kempo Gokui (meaning Fist Law), and is taken from an ancient Chinese military text. Isshin-ryu founder, Master Tatsuo Shimabuku, would give new black belts a copy of it written on silk instead of a rank certificate.


Unlike the often more motivational sounding codes, ours are very practical – and have a hidden meaning. On the surface these eight principles relate to effective combat, however, a second interpretation guides us to success in living life.




Kempo Gokui


A person’s heart is the same as heaven and earth.

The blood circulating is similar to the moon and sun.


The manner of breathing is either hard or soft.

A person’s unbalance is the same as a weight.


The body should be able to change direction at any time.

The time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself.


The eyes must see all sides.

The ears must listen in all directions.





Thump… Thump… Thump…

Like most things we do, makiwara practice, when it isn’t being misinterpreted, is usually being misunderstood instead. Some people believe that the object of this kind of practice is to strike the target as hard as possible. This will, according to them, develop power, strengthen the wrists, and condition the knuckles. This is close to true. It’s also true that ‘close’, notoriously, only counts in throwing horseshoes and hand grenades. If you practice makiwara incorrectly, you can get hurt. What’s worse, to those who know better, you’ll look foolish while you’re at it.




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