Martial Secrets: Dojo

Photoshop is a computer program used to change and edit pictures, and it is amazing what it can do. Photoshop removes bags from under celebrities eyes, crow’s feet also disappear, and skin tone changes. The changes that can be made in Photoshop to a picture are virtually unlimited. Posing a model under the perfect soft artificial light makes a world of difference. Then having a professional doing the set-up and pulling the trigger on the camera means they bring their professional eye and experience to the equation, and you have another level of illusion.

Here, is a minute and a half video showing the power of make-up and Photoshop

Oh and don’t forget plastic surgery.

All of these items contribute to the whole illusion, and that is what it is, an illusion. You and I can say, “I know it isn’t real” but your mind doesn’t know it. It will accept much without question. Your mind doesn’t audit the process initially it just makes an assessment, good, bad, threat, non-threat, that sort of thing. So when you see the illusion, you accept it with out critical assessment.

Go back and look at the :50 mark of the video, where the picture goes on a billboard. Look at her neck, it is elongated, but not so much as to be abnormal, just not real. Now you might also notice that you looked at the picture and you don’t analyze it, you accepted it even knowing that her neck had been changed.

“OK,” you say, “Where is this going?” Well let me extend the Photoshop metaphor. Violence is ugly, it rarely goes as planned, and an elegant dojo solution is not likely to withstand the pressure of effective and swift violence.

I would suggest to you that if not careful a dojo can turn into a form of martial arts Photoshop, a room with perfect light, governed by a professional, in the robes of authority, dictating and guiding the process.

Look, I am not dissing the dojo experience, good grief I run a dojo! It takes effort, and a keen eye to ensure that the dojo retains the metaphorical crows feet and bags under the eyes, call it an attempt to keep it real …while of course being safe.

The Internets

The other day I bought a record album off the Internet for the first time (look at me… “record album”!). It wasn’t too hard; within thirty seconds I had a fresh digitally downloaded copy of Johnny Adams sings Doc Pomus.

The other day I had a parent ask me, “How much longer until my kid gets a black belt?” These two instances are very different and yet identical. The commonality is immediacy. A generation ago that would have been unthinkable. Well, to be honest, in my youthful ignorance and impatient attitude I did ask once…, but, oooohh. I didn’t do that again. It was just not done.

But today I have to handle those sorts of , “When is my next test?” questions differently than my instructor did back then. The reason is that most people buy a song off the web just like I did the other day. They used a fast pass to pay the toll on the bridge, not stopping, just whizzing by. They used a bus pass they renewed off the web. Heck, nobody waits in line for concert tickets anymore. So in a world where many needs are almost met instantly, why would the martial arts be any different?

The difference is this. To buy a really good musical instrument, say, a guitar, you go shopping. You need to go feel it; you might do some research, but the purchase of an expensive musical instrument takes time and actual physical contact. It is something you can’t get on the web or with a fast pass for tolls. You have to spend time and feel the art. And just like a good musician meld with the great instrument. you need to meld yourself with the techniques of your art.

The one thing that can’t be compressed and e-mailed is the dojo floor.

Leaving the Dojo

Dojo ToolkitImage via Wikipedia

Well, the building that the West Seattle Karate Academy is located in has gone up for sale. That means that the dojo is moving…a whole three long blocks down the street.

The new space is a little bigger, a little nicer, and right next to my chiropractor, not bad. Standing in the dojo the other night, alone, I was taking account of what needed to be done to get the move going. And then the moment turned into a sentimental accounting.

Looking over to my right I saw the window that Ito threw Devin into and that spot is where Devin used duct tape and paper towels to stop the bleeding from the glass. “Oh yeah!”…I turned and looked at the other window Lawrence Kane broke. There is the cabinet that I kicked…”Mmm, never did replace that broken door. “ “Aahhh, the wall that Ito threw Tony into, man, that left a big hole.” I ran my hands over that back wall seeking any incongruence or bump; “Oh yeah that is where I punched through the wall.” My hand moved more; “Huh…I don’t remember that one…big, too.”

I stood up, nose to the air; I could smell the late-night cooking from the catering company next door. When we moved in almost a decade ago the catering company was a tattoo parlor, a tattoo parlor that sold weed out of the back. I remember having to close the back door on some summer nights to keep the ganja smoke from wafting into the dojo.

The area above the door where we store the mats, yeah, those mats cover the .22 caliber bullet hole in the window. Heading for the front door to leave I stopped to look at the floor; the wood floor we laid down almost nine years ago had held up well. I then started to recall the occasional throw-up and the getting down on the floor to bleach and scrub up the blood from lips, noses and cuts.

When I review what I have written it sounds like a horrible place, a place populated by irresponsible, macho jerks. But no, no it is not. If that were true then the dojo would be closed because nobody would train at the West Seattle Karate Academy. I would say instead that these stories are just a result of focused training and the, oh, let’s call it the “uneven character of the neighborhood.”

Well ,the new dojo is going to be great – a great facility and a great place for focused training. And, as always, if you are in Seattle, bring your dogi, you are always welcome.

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It is rare that you have a conversation with somebody that has been in the martial arts for any length of time and not in some way have them relate to you that they are better for having trained in the arts.

It really doesn’t make that much difference, I have found, what form they have trained in, good instructors, clear systems, and dedication are the corner stone’s to a quality experience.

However there is another side of this formula that often is not the most prominent, that is how the instructors are changed, and it makes sense when you think about the formula. A student sees one instructor; the instructor sees twenty, or whatever the class number is, students. In my instance I have been changed by almost every student I have ever had the opportunity to instruct.

I like what Carl Jung said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” As for me, I have had students die from terminal illnesses, have dysfunctional hip sockets, and even severe scoliosis, mentally I have looked into the eyes of the autistic, painfully bashful, dyslexic, and functional illiterate. These people, they are the ones that have left, and continue to leave, the biggest impressions. Oh do not take me wrong everybody usually has something to contribute in this realm. However the contrast between these folk’s maladies and their effort is most striking and often the gift they leave is far more profound than that of the natural athlete, the gifted martial artist, or flexibility of youth, has the capability to leave.

Last Friday I jumped on a plane in Seattle at midnight and by 8 a.m. was in Independence, Missouri. Meeting up with Eric Parsons, the head instructor of the Blue River Martial Arts Club, we found ourselves at the business end of a couple of months of preparation.

Earlier in the year I had said that I felt the need to help others and offered to do a fundraising seminar to raise money for a good cause.

So Eric saw an opportunity and decided to respond to my offer. The college where he teaches math, Metropolitan Community College (MCC) has a “Single Parent Book Loan Program” designed to help single parents defer the cost of expensive books needed for their courses. This is truly a case of teaching somebody to fish rather than just giving them fish; or, more simply, helping people who are helping themselves. In a world rife with reasons not to do something, MCC saw the value to their students and cleared the way.

A few months earlier I had talked to my publisher YMAA about my idea and before I could finish the pitch of what I had in mind, David Ripianzi, YMAA’s owner, was saying, “Great, great, how do we get involved?” YMAA brought their publicist into the mix, the really fun and delightful Barbara, and sent several DVDs to be given out as door prizes. The event was also promoted on their website and through emails, and Barbara contacted local newspapers as well.

Saturday was a day of fun karate and fun people, and all directed towards helping others. I felt pretty good and blessed being associated with all these folks.

This was an easy thing to do for everyone. We all know someone that is in need, or a small, local organization that could use a little help and all it takes is a few friends sharing their talents and time to do something of real value. I invite you to think of you how you might share your own talents or time in a similar way.

Ever have something that you wanted to work out, not work out and in looking back you realize that the way it turned out wasn’t such a bad thing?

In November of 2008 I was contacted by MTV about the possibility of doing their TV show MADE (see the older post here). MTV chose to go another way, and at the time I shrugged it off and said to myself, “Well, it would have been nice.”

Shawn Kovacich, author of the “The Achieving Kicking Excellence” book series, commented on me not being selected with these words:

“Just my opinion here, but I think you are probably fortunate that you didn’t get picked. I know this may sound harsh, but the way they are going with those “reality” shows, you never really know how they are going to portray you.”

So now the follow-up here is a quote from an article that appeared in the Seattle P-I from reporter Monica Guzman:

MTV did take serious liberties. At one point during their training, Jenna and Sabrina got lost on their way to meet Brown at a rock wall and showed up over an hour late. Rather than give the true story, editors took footage from another day to make it look like the girls ditched Brown to go shopping.”

You can read the article by Guzman here: Maple Valley teens get more than they bargained for on MTV’s ‘MADE’

Shawn Kovacich was right.

And so was Wushu Sifu Restita DeJesus when she said, “I’m kind of leery about those reality shows…”

Whew; I guess I dodged a bullet.

Helping Others

This last year I became concerned about those that need a helping hand during these hard economic times, so I reached out to the members of the Martial Minute with the idea that I would do a seminar at their school and the proceeds would benefit an organization in need. My plan was to do one event, but it grew into two.

One of these seminars raises money for diapers for families in need; the other is for a book loan program for single parent college students.

The specifics are below.

Saturday, June 6, 2009, from noon to 2 p.m., I’ll teach based on my book, “The Application of Power” at Karate West, Sammamish, Washington, which will benefit the Eastside Baby Corner. This organization collects and distributes children’s items to needy families. There is currently a waiting list for this event, however I suggest you contact Karate West contact link for availability.

On Saturday, June 13, 2009, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. I’ll be sponsored by The Blue River Martial Arts Club in Missouri at the Metropolitan Community College-Blue River campus. The seminar takes place at the Arts & Sciences Building – Room 100 (gymnasium) 20301 E. 78 Highway, Independence, Missouri. Proceeds will benefit the “Single Parent Book Loan Program at Metropolitan Community College-Blue River”. This program provides free books to single parents at the college. The fee is $40 if registered by May 30th and $50 after and at the door. For more information contact head instructor Eric Parson at:

If you make any of these events you’ll get the inside track on improving your art and do a good thing for others as well, not a bad deal.

P.S. if you have not listened to my podcast give it a try at MartialSecrets I look to hear your comments. E-mail me at;

Years ago I was in Florida doing some martial arts training and on the wall of the school in huge, I mean three feet high, huge words yelling; “My Goal is to be a Black Belt.” I internally mocked that statement. “Geez,” I thought, “You would think that they would be pushing something else, something that has real value.” You know, skills, morals, values, wisdom, that kind of thing. The big letters really hit me in the wrong way. It smacked faux dedication, affection, a marketing ploy, and I was having none of it. Now many years later I really think there is a deep value to having such a declarative statement painted on the wall. Focus, affirmation, and a shared commitment. I don’t have anything that huge on the wall of my dojo, but I do have something similar, smaller and in kanji – perfection. This suits my school better than the big words painted on the wall however the idea is still the same and best said by the following quote.

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”
– Japanese Proverb

Looking back, I can see the wisdom of those big words, and feel a little foolish in my quick dismissal some twenty years ago.

Martial Artists are different. I have said it before and will say it many more times. We expect more from ourselves so be nice, treat people well, don’t be a bully, and if you see that maybe that is your true nature, well, good for you for seeing a less-than-flattering aspect of yourself.

Me? It took a long time for me to see that often I didn’t listen very well back in the day. Sometimes I had the kooky idea that what was said didn’t mean anything, or that a new policy was for other people. So being the far-from-perfect individual I am, it took several smacks to get the point through my head.

Then I decided to change my behavior. Yup, just like that, I sought out articles on “How to Listen,” read a book or two, and applied what they said.

What? Really, just like that, you can change. Yes, just change. What we think about, we do, what we do becomes habit, and what becomes habit becomes us, is how the old phrase goes.

So if you have something that you would like to change, apply that Martial Artist difference we possess: that drive that makes us keep coming back to the dojo, reading everything we can, going to seminars, squeezing the last bit of information we can from any source we can get out hands on. Repetition, and, well, repetition. Take that desire and intensity and spread it around into other aspects of your life.

Time and Time Management

Here is a little trick I picked up from where I don’t know and then changed it a little bit to suit my needs. Each year, sometime in November, I write down my goals for the coming year. They are broken down into three categories: Mental, Physical and Spiritual. Then I put three things, sometimes less, but never more than three, in each category. Put it on a three-by-five card and stick it in my desk. I have been doing this for a long time. I remember at work showing the list to a co-worker and she was amazed that I did such a thing (this was around 1989) and still brings it up today when we meet for a lunch or such.

I would strongly suggest you give it a go as well. I try to make the three items specific, but I don’t restrict myself. Sometimes a general statement is fine, but you should move down through the general statement to find the core of the general statement, and create an action item you can wrap you hands around. To use an example of mine, I started with “Be More Patient,” and then moved to the question, “How is this demonstrated?” I went with, “Keep you mouth shut; the world is not going to stop turning if (insert subject).” So my card says, “Patience; be more quiet.” This list might also include something simple like, “Submit “The Little Black Book of Violence” to the publisher by September 1st 2008.”

You get the picture. I chose November to write down my yearly goals because that is when I first started; with what month are you starting?

“Hey, I was up in you neck of the woods,” said Big Jon Crain, an Isshin-Ryu karate practitioner from the other end of the phone. “I was up in the Okanogan and was looking for a dojo to work out at and I walked into one and who was running it but Dan Keith!”

Big Jon Crain taught me how to break rocks and Dan Keith I had trained with back in the early eighties, now these two connected. When Dan walked into the dojo he said, “Jon what are you doing here?” (They had met at Martial University, a now-defunct yearly seminar I used to run) and Dan had Jon teach a weapons form to his students.

Earlier that week I was having dinner with Matt Stone and a Vince Hardy (YiLi Chuan Kung Fu) and they had hooked up with Lawrence Kane, my co-author on several books, to do a fundraiser for a very ill teenage boy. A couple days before that I got one of my parents saying, “I train with Sifu Dejesus; I’m in your latest book!” Sure enough, he was right there in the pages from the shoot we did at Sifu Dejesus’ school.

What makes this work – Isshin-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, Tae Kwon Do, Gung-Fu – how is it all linked up? Jon will say it was Martial University, I say it is good people meeting good people. Each person mentioned is an open-minded seeker in the arts – that is good in my book. Not one of them has forsaken their base art, not one of them is threatened by another’s art, and not one of them has an agenda other than the art(s).

Here are the keys, in my opinion, to having a strong and open architecture:

1. Little ego. Everybody needs an ego to survive, but can you make it small enough and pleasant enough to be around?

2. Be quiet. Are you learning or broadcasting? If you mouth is open, other than to ask a question, you aren’t learning.

3. Good manners. If you would not behave that way at a dinner party then don’t do it.

4. Laughter. Each one of these people has a sense humor about themselves.

Every person mentioned in this post follows these basic guidelines and if asked they might have an addition or a change but frankly, I do not think they even know it because it is just part of them.

At the beginning of each year, it’s a western world tradition to set are New Year’s resolutions. Other cultures have similar New Year traditions as well. The New Year’s resolution is not just a personal thing at our dojo. It is also a time for a recommitment toward a goal. That goal takes on a different shape every year. One year it was all about speed, another was the year for stances. For one year, I was going to make sure that everyone’s stances were perfect. Now, I did not share that with every student. It was mostly an internal position for me to take as an instructor; however, as I look back on it I probably should have shared it with all of them. So this year I am going to do that. When I set the goal for the year for the dojo, I am going to not only post it but share it with the students as well. That way everybody is on the same path.

I suggest you take a moment and decide what your New Year’s resolution is going to be for your dojo. If you have a dojo, or if you are just training on your own, what is your New Year’s resolution for your training going to be? It should not just be, “I’m going to eat less butter this year” or “I’m going to hit the gym an extra day a week.” Instead, choose what the focus of training can be. “I am going to move more swiftly” or “Everything I do this year is going to be about generating power.” Whatever you decide, I recommend that these goals take place under the roof of your school as it helps you focus. Pick a goal, and work toward that goal all year. I will revisit this subject the same time next year and see if some of you can report back on how you are better because you set a goal and stuck with it. .

Be well.

Have a great new year!

Yes, fire them, send them packing. I know that sounds harsh but really, ask them to leave. If you are a business you have the right to refuse service carte blanche, no questions asked. If you work with a health club or such it is a little more tricky as they will complain about you, but just stick to your guns.

Now I am not suggesting being a jerk about it. However, to be frank, I have made the mistake of extending the courtesy that, “With a little more work this student is going to come around,” and that was not what happened. What did happen was I gave an inch (of courtesy) and they took the proverbial mile. You need not make a scene of the firing, but you can just pull them aside. I have stood outside the dojo on the sidewalk and fired students, and after hours in the dojo when other students have left. Here is the formula.

  • Be swift.
  • Use few words.
  • Explain why they are being asked to leave.
  • When done, shut up.

Here is an example.

I have spoken to you several times about injuring other students, I have worked with you on your control, and have given you time to correct your behavior, and that has not happened. I cannot place other students at risk. Here is the remainder of your dojo dues for the month. You cannot train here any more. I wish you well.”

Correcting a mistake is usually painful and difficult but it has to be done and done by, in this case, me as the instructor. You see, I made a series of bad decisions. I started training somebody I should not have, and then I let him or her hang around.

I remember when something like this happened in the dojo when I was a green belt. My instructor handled it a different way. After several warnings, he took the guy to the back of the dojo and said, “You’re strong when you face lower ranks; I am tired of you injuring my students… defend yourself.” And then pow, pow, it was fast and when it was done my sensei reached down, took the brown belt off the student and said, “This is mine. Now, get out of my dojo.” Ah, the old days.

The Osmonds, yeah, I know I am older – I prove it by remembering that hit by that toothy, bubblegum band of brothers from the early seventies. However, a bad apple will spoil the whole bunch soon enough if it is not soon removed from the other apples. Yeah, a little lesson from the Osmonds and nature. Any person that has been involved in sports or business can tell you about the “Office Gossip” or the person that is “Locker Room Poison.”

Lou Piniella (a future member of the Baseball Hall of Fame) managed the Seattle Mariners baseball club from 1993 to 2003. There was a guy on the team during that time that became Locker Room Poison. This player, his name is not important, was good, not great. He added to the team on the field with his play but he talked out of turn to the press about what he saw as problems on the team…gossip, and it was not good. Think the press ran with those stories? You bet they did. Did it take Lou Piniella long to figure out who it was? No, no it did not take Sweet Lou long at all. Oh, he tried to fix the problem, but it was just this player’s nature; he kept talking to the press in negative ways about the games, and the players. Not a man to put up with much of this sort of thing, Piniella then began to search for a replacement, As soon as this player hit a bad patch, he was replaced on the field, and then quickly traded to get him off the bench and out of the baseball team’s organization.

Lou Piniella removed the rotten apple as soon as he could from the metaphorical bunch to stop the rotting process. So, as the song goes, “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl.” But if Lou Piniella wrote the next line it would be, “Yeah, but he is out of my locker room as soon as possible.” Skilled leaders recognize this bad apple phenomenon and address it quickly and with little mercy.

You know the story: Hollywood, or a large promotion at work, changes the person. You see it in real life and portrayed on film and the small screen. The story of the lost way is so ubiquitous that it is in myth and sacred documents alike from every culture on the planet. You know the tell-tale comments people often say that indicate the lost way: “Power changed them,” “Success has spoiled them,” or “I don’t know them anymore.”

I have to say that I don’t believe power changes people. Instead, power allows them to act the way they want to act. What you get to see is people behaving in ways that are consistent with their true nature, unrestricted by the gravity of the rules that once governed their universe.

True leaders take on acquired positions of power with humility, respect, and an eye toward responsibility because they know themselves and they know that with power comes greater responsibility, which then comes more opportunities for failure.

These true leaders’ outer trappings may change but internally they are the same person they were before their promotion to department head, Master Sergeant, or Black Belt.



A 60-year-old Rainier Beach man seriously injured in a dispute over a neighborhood traffic circle died Thursday night at Harborview Medical Center. James Paroline had been in a coma since being punched and hitting his head on the concrete during the altercation Wednesday.”

Marc “Animal” McYoung calls it Escalado; Rory Miller calls it The Monkey Dance. It is real and here is a real example of the Escalado / Monkey Dance.

  1. 60-year-old man, James Paroline, petitioned the city to put in traffic circle at high accident intersection.
  2. Paroline tends flowers in traffic circle and puts safety cones by his garden hose to keep people from driving over the hose – effectively blocking that side of the intersection.
  3. Three girls roll up; demand he move the cones, Paroline refuses.
  4. Name calling.
  5. Girls attempt to move cones.
  6. He shoots them with water from garden hose.
  7. Shoving ensues.
  8. Girls call Brian Keith Brown, a 28-year-old, two-time convicted felon.
  9. Brown drives to the scene, confronts Paroline and punches him in the face. Paroline hits head on pavement and dies in the hospital.

At any point between the numbers 3 to 9, this incident could have been avoided. Somebody could have broken up the dance, but – they – just – could – not – do – it.

Paroline is dead, Brown is charged with 2nd degree Murder (In the United States that is “Non pre-meditated killing.”), he surely is going to prison ( as he is a twice-convicted felon), and the young women who fanned the flames, well, they go home, and sleep in their own beds with no comprehension of what transpired.

Here is a little exercise. Take a look at those events in 3 through 9 and at each moment think how could you have defused it. Does that mean swallowing pride, maybe, will it be seen as weakness by the other, sure. If you give a little room with the other person in the dance, will you need to take more, yup. Will names be cast, count on it. Bottom line, somebody needs to be the adult.