Martial Secrets: Karate

The Old Guys

You know what I like, I like the old guys, the old karate-ka, the old judo-ka. Nothing to prove, smile easily, and just all around pleasant.

Let me tell you this story to illustrate my point. I was at a tournament and the guy running the show was in his eighties, looked sixty and smiled easily. He made decisions easily, no drama if something happened that was out of the ordinary, well he just fixed it. He didn’t deal with it, he fixed it, a big difference in my book.

Then of course there was the other guy that glowered sternly at everybody with his best sensei eyes. This guy would do a Lee Majors imitation by lifting one eyebrow in the direction he looked and pause with that, “I am sizing you up, baby” look.

At the end of the day, the old guy went around and shook hands, thanked people for their participation, smiled a lot, smiled some more, and said, “Hope to see you next time.” The other guy, cornered me (I was just the guy in proximity) reached into the back pocket of his gi and pulled a photo out of his wallet.

“You know who that is?” “Uh, that is you right.” I guessed. “Yeah but, next to me, who’s that.” I looked for a moment at the bent picture, “I, gotta say, I don’t know.” His finger pointed to the picture again. “That is me, me and Joe Lewis.” To make this more awkward, we have seen each other around but never really spoken, he just bushwhacks me on the way out the door to show me his picture of him and Joe Lewis, like I said proximity.

One guy, with nothing to prove, the other guy still needed to add more to who he was.

I like the old guys, easy, smiling, nothing to prove.

And thanks for taking the time to read this little observational ramble, I know I feel better.

Yeah I think that martial artists of yesteryear hid their art. Teachers hid it from others so that they would have an advantage, one up, on a potential attacker.

The American Military has on occasion blown up it’s own downed aircraft. They make sure the pilot(s) are clear of the wreckage, they lock in on the aircraft, swoop in and, boom! disintegrated. This ensures that the technology doesn’t fall into the enemies hands. The technology is the edge that makes the difference. That technology means the we win, you lose.

However, the American Military didn’t hide how to use the aircraft from the pilot. I am confident that this conversation between the engineers and the instructors never took place. “Hey Chet, let’s make this Stealth Fighter hard to fly and then hide some of the skills needed to fly it from the pilot! No, no, no, wait, wait, aaaaannd we’ll teach some of the skills backward, yeah! That’s it, brilliant, done and done.”

It makes no sense at all. So if we take this real-world example to the world of kata it makes no sense to hide, obfuscate, or try to bury a technique to be found out after years of hard study.

I would go on to point out that way back in yester-lore, people didn’t have as much free time, so the time allotted to martial arts was the purview of the military, the rich, and those few dedicated people that fall into the remaining categories of society.

So not much free time means I want to be able to apply my self-defense skills as fast as possible and do it well, hiding my skill from the bad guy until I need to show it, yeah that makes sense. Taking time away from making food and shelter and spending on some mind game…not so much.

So hiding from the bad guys, yes absolutely. Hiding from the end user, no, not at all.

Ok, yeah sounds all nice, fuzzy and easy to say. For somebody that teaches martial arts, it is not as easy as just showing up and gently shoving in the general direction of somebodies expressed goal. That is not successful over the long run. Success, here, is defined as a long and enjoyable training in the martial arts.

Aiding somebody in reaching their goals is a wild mix of the students needs, wants, and desires, plus your agenda as a teacher. Now let’s complicate it by making it a moving target. Did your goals change as you progresses through he ranks, did you as a person morph, change and grow? Of course the answer is yes. The question is who is responsible for that transformation? Are you, the teacher responsible for the transformation, the other people in the school, a combination?

So helping others reach their goals is not a static target and yet we would hope that our discipline as a teacher will provide the laser like focus, the target that is needed to reach the goal. I would suggest to you that as an instructor that the target is not a target, but a path (although students still see it as a target). For students, know this, you will start with a target, but you and the target are going to change. Your goal will become a path if you stay long enough.

So let me get all Philosophy 101 here. For the students, the target forms the path and often you don’t know you are on the path for focus on the target. Instructors have had targets, but are on a path.

So helping somebody reach their goal is more complicated than just putting them through the paces, targets move, appear and disappear, agendas change, and when a good path rises, it should be chosen.

Do you have a place that you can point to where the target fell away and the path appeared? I would love to hear about it.

There ya go, a big cup of deep thought tea.

I am back from Martial X-PO Crossing The Pond. The X-PO was fun but I have to say that I bit off a lot doing a seminar in Seattle and then the next weekend in Coventry England. There are some immutable rules of travel and jet lag, no mater how condescending I am of it, it always wins the battle.

A lot of things happened on the floor and during the down times too, and I want to tell you what my observations of the down time where.

First, all of the presenters had a terrific senses of humor, ranging from just stupid Three Stooges humor type to truly droll.

Second, each instructor, in quiet conversation, eluded to the point that they where far from satisfied with their technique.

A third commonality was they where all seekers, always asking about book titles, movies and experience, looking for that next thing that is going to add to their life experience. They where always, making physical or mental notes, almost shark like, but with the aforementioned humor.

I consider myself fortunate to have had a chance to make contact with and spend time with Al, Iain, Marc, Nicholas, (Rory in the states) and more importantly the folks that made the extraordinary efforts to travel to the X-PO as some of those folks came as far as New York, and Barcelona to name a few places.

You can read some other people blogs and thoughts on the event by clicking the links below.

Martial Development

On The Training Floor

NW Martial Arts

Chiron Training

I now bow to the harsh mistress that is jet lag, and take a nap.

Kris +

Several years ago, I did a podcast called, “Martial Secrets.” the server that I used was an excellent product, but they went out of business and that left me high and dry, with no easy way to Podcast. Frankly I find the mechanics of a podcast are a lot of work and the old company was so seamless in their operation nobody has yet to compare. I know you you technologically savvy people out there are saying, “All you have to do is…” but the bottom line is that I don’t feel a need to battle technology; it works for me not the other way around.

Also doing a long-form interview format is difficult as it requires asking good questions, doing some research and knowing your subject, which is all time consuming, complex work.

Bottom line, technology, and the interviews consumed a lot of my time. However, going through some old files I found these interviews from several years ago and have posted them for you to hear. I hope to post more soon. In the meantime, enjoy these classic Martial Secrets.

By the way if you know someone you think might like this blog…pass on the link, your good words are the best endorsement anybody can have, I’d appreciate it.

As always, be well.

Oh… here is the link. Martial Secrets

Thanks for your support. Many of you have already signed up. To continue to get notices regarding this this blog, you will need to sign-up under “Followers” in the lower right hand corner of this blog – it is easy to do and keeps you in the loop. – Kris+

I am a big fan of Rene Descartes, I have read much of his work (not all of it do I understand…yet) and his biography. Further I have written about him before. Descartes said something that really applies to the martial arts, and I paraphrase, “The best government has few rules and those rules are strictly enforced.” Wow that is some tight and deep thinking. And it absolutely applies to the martial arts; the best martial arts have few rules and those are strictly followed.” would be one way to put it. So here is the challenge to you. Find, three and no more than three guiding principals that guide your art. More than three is too much – if you get it to two that is good. However three is the number needed to create a pattern so three is the magic number.

Examples might be, “Defang the Snake” as the Pilipino arts might say, or Judo might say, “Create imbalance.” Aikido, “Keep the center.” And there are more for each of those and more for other arts. So as Descartes might ask, “What are your three guiding principals that you must have to execute your art and how are they rigidly enforced?”

Way back when I used to judge the importance of a friend by one simple test, did I know their phone number? Not stored in my phone, or written down, but in my head. This leads me to this simple statement. We don’t store information in ourselves anymore, and that is bad for martial arts skills. Yup, seen it on Youtube, did it once, seen it…sure, but can you do it?

Having run into this a couple of times while working some seminars it started to become a little more frequent in, say the last year, now I not getting all judgmental here, just observational. I think information is good, especially when it is transferred into wisdom. But just having information, just having seen it, just being familiar with it is not the same as ingraining it into your fiber.

Ask any person who ever wrestled, “Did you ever drill sprawls?” and the answer is going to be some form of, “Yes” follows by a grin, moan, or eye roll. But follow-up with the next question, “It worked for you right?” And the answer is, “Yes” again. They didn’t just look at the sprawl and say, “Ok, got it” coach made sure they worked it, over and over. Ask any judoka about uchikomi, ask a karateka about kihon ido. It is all the same.

So the question this, do you know the phone number of your best technique, or is it stored elsewhere.

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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.

Bunny hops – putting your hands behind your head and hopping around the dojo floor – is bad for your knees. And several other exercises that don’t come to mind right now are in the same category of “seemed like a good idea sixty years ago” and today we know are not. We know much more about physiology, the functions of the human body and its parts, than we did half a century ago. Further, we live longer than we used to which means that the practice of maintaining the body is even more important. I mean where are you going to live for the rest of your life? In that vein I took a look at some of the exercises that we have and might use in the warm-up before class, and I have quietly dropped some of them.

I am not bound by tradition when empirical evidence proves that an exercise I was taught is not getting the job done, and, in fact, may be causing injury. Now that is an easy thing to do; drop or change an exercise because of evidence that it doesn’t work. The question is, why is that so hard when it is an interpretation of a technique?

Look at it this way: I will drop an exercise like a hot potato if evidence proves that it might injure me. Why, then, will I not do the same when the evidence proves a self-defense technique might get me seriously hurt? Here is the question for you: is the hesitancy to drop a known interpretation that will get you hurt because of an allegiance to the instructor? The system you bought into? Or is it just a lack of really taking a look at what is being done? So, what do you say it is?

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If you don’t know who Phillip Starr is, well here is your chance. He is a great guy and has a ton of knowledge. You can find his books and more information on him and his art here: — Kris

It was during my last year of high school back in 1967 that I decided to attend Tokyo University. I frankly didn’t care one whit about which university I attended; I wanted to go to Japan and study the martial arts – especially karate. I wrote to Master Masutatsu (“Mas”) Oyama, who was the founder of the Kyokushin style of karate. I held a black belt grade in his system and discovered that he allowed a certain number of foreigners to live in the honbu dojo (headquarters training hall) each year. I had visions of waking up, cleaning the dojo, working out for a short time before breakfast…what a life! Ah, but life had different plans for me.

I was accepted at Tokyo University and Mr. Oyama actually wrote me back and invited me to stay at his dojo…but try as I might, I couldn’t get enough money put together to bring this dream into reality. I still have that letter that the legendary “god-hand’ (Mr. Oyama) sent me. One of his statements stuck in my head and it’s still there. For some years I couldn’t figure out exactly what he meant but as I matured and kept training, I came to understand it. He wrote, “I always look forward to teaching my foreign students in Japan. The most important thing for them to learn while they are here is spirit…” He said that it was the most difficult thing to teach Westerners.

What Master Oyama was talking about has nothing to do with religion, ghosts, or any of that sort of thing. What he was referring to is the very glue that holds together each aspect of the martial ways of the East. It is very a very real, almost palpable thing although it cannot be weighed, measured, seen, heard, or tasted… But without it, there are no true martial arts – just exercise and dance routines. You cannot really understand this concept through intellectualizing about it. Talking or reading about it may help you acquire a basic grasp of its meaning but to truly know it you must experience it directly. It isn’t something that you try to experience from time to time – it’s something that has to be strengthened, refined, and lived every day. To find a simple definition of it is far from simple. It is a striving for perfection – perfection of technique, perfection of form, perfection of physical skill – and these lead to perfection of character, proper behavior, correct etiquette at all times, and consideration and respect for yourself and others.

You don’t seek perfection only within the boundaries of your chosen martial art. At first, that seems to be the goal but with time, introspection, and incessant training, you seek perfection in everything you do. It begins with relentless training of the body, which leads to training and refinement of the mind. This means training daily. In the East, it’s understood and accepted that training in any martial discipline is going to be painful and new students accept that (for the most part). In the West, things are very different. In our society, any form of discomfort is to be avoided.

If training in aikido or kendo or any other martial form results in bumps, bruises, sprains, strains, and other assorted “ouchies”, we either discontinue practicing until we feel that we’re properly healed up or we might quit altogether. In short, we’re wimps. The find and develop this spirit, you must train daily even when you don’t feel like it. You have to push yourself and find the strength to go on even when your body or mind feels like giving up. Now, I’m not encouraging you to practice when you have a serious injury or illness.

Spirited training doesn’t mean that you should be foolish…but it does mean being mature, tough, and unwilling to accept anything short of perfection. It means that you’re unwilling to accept any excuses that you make up for yourself as to why you just can’t practice every day, why your punch, kick, iai kata, or whatever, just isn’t up to snuff. No excuse is acceptable…to you. It means being a useful and productive member of your community and society. It means being sincere and honest, and it means being honorable and standing up for what is right. It’s not something that you strive to develop and feel only when you don your practice uniform or attend your martial arts class. If that’s what you’re doing, then you’re just playing “make believe” and your training will come to nothing. You either dive in head-first and immerse yourself in it or you stay out of it altogether. It’s not something that you can do on a part-time basis.

You have to want to learn badly enough that you won’t allow anything (I repeat…anything) to stand in your way. Words like “quit” are not a part of your vocabulary when speaking of your training or doing anything else that you set your hand and mind to do. To you, such ideas are shameful and unacceptable. This kind of constant training will reveal to you, as well as your teacher and many of your classmates, much about your personal makeup. All of the ugliness and flaws, as well as the beauty of your personality and spirit will be laid bare. Your true self will be unveiled. This can be more than a little unnerving but it is part and parcel of traveling the path of the martial ways. You must determine that even if your desire to learn should lead you to your own death, you’ll do it. I know this probably sounds a bit melodramatic but that’s how it truly is. The price for learning and acquiring a high level of skill in genuine martial arts can be very high and it involves much more than dollars and cents.

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There is an old saying that a person cannot be a prophet in his or her own land. Moreover, it is actually quite true, and speaks to a very pervasive attitude that most of us, I will assume, have succumbed to at one time or another.

A personal example that comes to mind concerns a guy on my local sports radio station named Softy. I often listen to sports radio – even though my teams are terrible I cannot help myself.

So, one day I was in the dojo cleaning up and listening to Softy on the radio. It occurred to me, “I remember Softy when he was an intern, doing all the odd jobs, bad slots and fill in work that this station needed, and today he has a prime morning spot.” At one point in the broadcast, I found myself disagreeing with what he had to say regarding one of the local sports teams. I said to myself, “I knew you when you were an intern, you don’t know what you are talking about!” Frankly, that was just wrong on my part. I was trying to force Softy back into a slot in time that he had long outgrown. Why? Because, if he was once just the intern, his position was not credible, you follow? I put him down, if only in my own head, to make him fit my line of thinking.

Often times, I think that we see martial artists in the same light. We say things like, “I remember training with him way back when he was 10 years old.” That is true, but he has gotten older, better and probably is still in his prime. While hopefully you have gotten older, and better, but you might just have edged past your own prime.

I guess what I am really getting at is that instead of living in the past, and judging people on what they were doing, or were capable of, when you first met them, it is really important to accept them for who they are today, whether it be in the role of a young college student, a first-time parent, or somebody who’s left the nest and started their own martial arts school.

By taking people at current value as well as in the context of how far they’ve come we get a far better picture of their worth. We may also find that this time around they may have something to teach us.

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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.

Ok, I am going to get a little hoity-toity here, but bear with me I think this is worth the pontification.

It is nice when my peers tell me I am doing the right thing. I like it when I get cultural reassurance, a metaphorical nod in my direction that says, “That was well done, you’re a good person.” However cultural reassurance is not always right and is as flexible as a Cirque du Soleil’ contortionist. If I spend two years working on a wristlock, having my partners honor that technique, being cooperative and everybody in the dojo behaving in that pattern, I have a great amount of cultural reassurance. I feel good about what I am doing, and soon I begin to believe it, I justify in my mind that the technique is rock solid and others join in that dance of cultural reassurance. Then the day comes where the person on the other end of the technique does not dance my dance, they have a far different culture…I am no longer reassured, and in fact I am cracked open, not reassured, in fact I feel betrayed. The question now is, “Should I be angry at myself or the culture that set me up for this failure?” Pause for effect…you should blame yourself. The culture that you have subscribed to is going to do whatever it needs to do to propagate itself, including lie to you, it can’t help it is what it does.

You are responsible to yourself and what you choose to believe and do. Martial Arts schools are bubble baths of cultural reassurance warmly soaking each student in their brand of comfort and truth. That doesn’t mean that your school is wrong or leading you down a path of cultural reassurance, based on falsehood, lies, it means it is doing what it does and you need to decide for yourself what you will accept.

“It bothers me when people equate niceness with being dull of wishy-washy. It makes me sound like a wuss.”
- Tom Selleck

In the world where we celebrate the notorious I find, the actor Tom Selleck’s comments, refreshing, truthful and also expressing some frustration. You see wolves respect power; well most of the animal kingdom does in fact. When we as humans carry that impression over from animal to human niceness is seen as weakness, when in fact that is not true. It is the perception that being nice is a sign of…subservience, of kowtowing, but it is not.

Niceness is the first act of stepping into the role of being human, of engaging humanity, on a human level instead of simply having a human expression of an animal behavior. How does this apply to the martial arts? This way, rank delineates and separates people, when superior ranks use that separation as a means of lording over the lower ranks, well that is not nice, and the higher rank is…well not being a nice person. They are acting out a role of animal existence, a role of alpha male wolves and a very clear internal position that being nice is a sign of weakness – “…a wuss” as Tom Selleck would say.

So if you are with a club, dojo or job for that matter where the superiors believe being, “firm, hard, and heavy-duty” makes them not a wuss, you might want to rethink your participation. That kind of behavior only gets them so far in life, and hitching your wagon to their behavior will eventually limit you as well. Being a nice person, who can defend themselves if need be is a much more pleasant path to walk, and not anything close to being a wuss.

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;

Ok let’s bring this all into one big king rat. Here are all the places you can contact me, source media, see video, read excerpts from my books, and listen to the Martial Secrets podcast, etc. :

Books and Media

This link will take you to a page with all my books clustered within You can scan all the books; read previews; and, if you like, write a review.

Blog – The Striking Post
Well, you are here aren’t you, but have you plumbed all the entries? With over 50 entries you might want to hit the “Older Posts” at the bottom right of this page or jump in The Way back machine by clicking here.

Kris Wilder Myspace: Watch video samples from my video “121 Killer Applications”, meet my many friends, like Marc Animal MacYoung, (you should read this blog), Datu Kelly Worden, and Antonio Margarito, boxing’s Tijuana Tornado, and get little more background on yours truly.

Just go to Facebook and search for KRIS WILDER (I’m the one in the gi). Stupid doodling at its finest. Find out that I love the Raiders and Canadian Football, and can’t stand the Cowboys (I refuse to link them).

Podcast – MartialSecrets
Got 15 – 20 minutes? Want to hear about subjects like teaching the arts, a little philosophy, and some other good stuff? Then the new MartialSecrets podcast just might interest you.

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.

Making Promises and Keeping Them

Promises are not big in my book, and I have heard a lot of them. “Oh, I promise I’ll send the pictures from the seminar.” “I promise I’ll pay you.” “I promise, promise, promise…” The question I have is, “Why do you need to promise? Isn’t your word good enough?” I meet a lot of people and I do some form of business with a number of them frequently. However, I have to tell you, when I hear the words, “I promise” I just write it off. Seriously, I just forget about it, because if they needed to promise that means they simply have not followed through in the past and are unlikely to do so now.

Look, I am not trying to set myself up as some paragon of virtue. I have made more mistakes than there are stars in the heavens. I just take the “I promise” statement as a cue to just forget about whatever they just said. It makes life easier, and besides, my head is already too cluttered.

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.

One evening after training at the Jundokan International dojo (sure, I can name drop with the best of them) I was invited to Chinen Sensei’s home (oops, let me pick that up too) and we and talked, oddly enough, about karate. After about a half hour, Chinen just looks at me and says, “You teach too much; you need to go deeper into what you have.”

What he was saying was simple and often overlooked: something that is designed for everyone rarely reaches anyone. Come again?

I was teaching too much material, and as a result studying too broadly. My art was suffering, my students were suffering and we did not even know it. So I returned home and went to work. I pared down the dojo syllabus, stripping off much of what had been added over the years by so many instructors before me. A codified set of movements, and officially named moved written into the canon of the art; I chipped away at them all.

After the list was completed, I dove into the forms for more study. Oddly, the deeper I studied the farther the bottom of the information receded from me. All of a sudden, I was deep and not broad. My focus was now not so much on pattern as it was on the simple turning of my knee, the pushing of a foot, or the alignment of my spine.

And I am stronger for it.

So I pass on Chinen Sensei’s advice to me to you now. It might be right for you or it might not: you are the judge of what is best for you.

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.

One of the challenges faced by martial artist is how to be successful in their technique. That is to say, the judo-ka wants to throw a person to the ground and the karate-ka wants to land a perfect strike. More often than not, forcing a technique is not very successful. Too much muscle, not enough skill, and often frustration makes a formula for failure.

Which brings me to a great real-world example of how to get what you need done and be successful. Seattle, Washington, USA, where I live, is a very poorly run city. There is no need to belabor this blog with numerous examples of ineptitude except for this one, because it is funny, factual, and demonstrates ingenuity and creativity, all of which make for good martial arts technique.

Because of a traffic reroute, a local neighborhood had cars using the neighborhood’s residential streets to avoid traffic lights during the morning and afternoon commutes. The result of this was a large number of cars on these residential streets, going faster than they should and endangering families, kids, cars pulling out of driveways, you name it, and overall just generally creating a bad situation.

So, the neighborhood petitioned the city for speed bumps. The long and the short of it is the city denied the request. So in an effort to protect their neighborhood, the leaders of that community bought their own speed bumps and spent a weekend installing them. City officials, upon hearing of these installed speed bumps, sent a crew about a week later to the neighborhood to remove them.

Now I am not really getting into all of the justifications involved in this situation, but I thought something one man said was very wise. He suggested that they should have just used a pick and a shovel and made a couple of potholes, essentially making a negative speed bump, because the city has a horrible record of road repair… problem solved.

So I try to do my best to apply a little creativity, like this guy that suggested the potholes instead of speed bumps, and be as clever as I can when it comes to my martial arts.

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!


I got a call from someone in the television industry the other day; a young, sharp and pleasant man was on the phone who wanted to talk to me about a show on the MTV network called “MADE.” The show’s premise is “Man bites dog.” Take a person, create a fish-out-of-water situation and film it. Apparently, he had found my website while looking for potential candidates in the Seattle area. Here’s how the conversation went. The man says, “A couple of young women in the Seattle area want to become martial artists. So the proposal is this: in six weeks can you take these two young women and make them into martial artists?” “Well no,” I replied. “You cannot do that. However, you can set them on the right path given a foundation, a basic set of skills and vision, yeah, yeah, that is something I can do.” I give him a run-down of my qualifications: I have the experience, a little street cred with a few books, make a living teaching martial arts, and so on. Yeah. I am pretty much what they’re looking for until we got to my age. I could tell right there it was going to be a problem. But he put me on the short list, I followed up with a few videos, interview transcripts, articles, etc. and for a couple of days I enjoyed the possibility of being in the running. But when it came down to it, he went with someone else. He didn’t come out and say it, but I’m going to guess I was just a little too old — ouch. While there is not a lot I can do about that, it was kind of cool to be considered. So at the end of the day I hope the show goes well, and the girls in this episode of “MADE” get a chance to find something in themselves, something that they didn’t know they had before. And hopefully they will turn into martial arts junkies like the rest of us who know that our lives are better for having walked on the floor that first day.

One night at the dojo. I was working with a man from Japan who is experiencing some back problems. We have a medicine chest in the restroom of the dojo that contains all the things that you would hope a medicine chest would contain – bandages tape, and also some aspirin-like products for pain.

I asked him, after he grumbled about his back, if he would like some Tylenol or something. He reached behind his back and rubbed a little bit with his fist and said, “No, I like my pain.” I had to think about that for a minute, and then asked him if he would elaborate. He came back with a very simple principle, he said something like, and I paraphrase, “If I’m in pain I’m not doing my technique correctly.” Now that is an interesting concept, and one that makes abundant sense. What animal on the planet will engage in a painful experience on purpose other than man? I’m not sure that I can think of one. So if the majority of nature avoids pain, then why shouldn’t martial artists? Pain tells you you are doing something incorrectly. So in this instance, the statement, “I like my pain,” Is really not some sort of masochistic declaration, but instead is an acknowledgment of what the pain is teaching. This guy uses his pain to help him shape his technique and that, in my opinion, is very insightful.

Should you weight lift? Will it help you be better? Will tightness or bulk get in the way? Sure, yes, and no. Weight lifting is a great way to build and keep muscle tone. I used to lift a lot; I did it in high school, and then picked it back up again in my thirties, and I got a personal trainer. My trainer was a nut about me keeping a log of what I lifted and what I ate… I did not like it very much, but I liked the results. My goal was to build bulk and it worked. Today I still lift, but in a different way. I got myself a Total Gym, yup me and Chuck Norris having at it. Urrgh! Did you see that last rep, Chuck?! Yeah! The Total Gym fits my world right now. I also use Kettle Bells, Chishii (the traditional Okinawan stone levers.) and an old bicycle tube for some judo techniques.

Look, people argue about whether weights will help your martial arts technique and the answer is yes, by creating muscle tone, body awareness, and general health. If you plan to use them to create more power, to be more powerful, exclusively, you are setting yourself up for a fall, because technique is the king, ask Randy Couture. You cannot outrun father time, as strength will fade.

If you bike ride, hit the gym, lift weights, do yoga, rock climb, it is all good. These all increase the quality of your life and hey, have fun.

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.

Many years ago, I was at a seminar and the instructor stood up in from of the class, shredded a local newspaper, and threw it to the ground. She said, and I paraphrase, but I am very close, “Quit reading this garbage.” Honestly, the first thing that went through my mind was, “How am I supposed to know what is going on?” She proceeded to explain that it was all negative, and then turned her vitriol to television. At that time, I was so immersed in the dance of the media that I just thought she was being crazy, kooky in her rejection of it.

Since I am not always fast on the uptake, I rejected her comments just as she had dismissed the newspaper and television. A few years later, I was on her program. My television is now a monitor that I salvaged from a failing business. It gets no reception and I do not have it hooked up to cable. The subscriptions to the newspapers have long since lapsed.

At first, it was difficult. I was not able to have conversations with people about what happened on TV last night, nor was I hyper-knowledgeable about the local and world news. Honestly, it took me a year, maybe a year and half to break the hold the media had on me. However, when that tight-fisted grip was broken I found myself happier, more relaxed, and healthier. “Really?” you say, “Happier, relaxed, and healthier?” Yes! Much more, thank you very much. I have found that I devote more time to reading, writing, martial arts, and spending time with friends and family, and all of those things I do with far more joy.

If I could make one recommendation to you it would be to get rid of your TV, not physically, but kill the broadcast. Order movies and films from the library, Netflix, or your local video store, fill your mind with good stuff, fun stuff, or educational programming, drill down into a subject, and study. Use your TV as a tool to your advantage.

And here is your money-back guarantee: You will, without fail, gain a new, lighter, and more joyful perspective on life.

The Madonna vs. Descartes

No, not the “Madonna” I am talking about is the pop icon Madonna and her book from 1992 titled “Sex.” A controversial book, it featured strong adult content and was pretty much lame, in today’s vernacular. Then you have René Descartes the (1596 –1650), an influential French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and writer. He has even been called the “Father of Modern Philosophy.”

Now jump ahead to 2008 and me in a used bookstore. I find Madonna’s book for sale for somewhere around fifteen bucks and then I find René Descartes’ “Discourse on Method” and “Meditations on First Philosophy” for a total of seventy-five cents. Yeah, it is harder to read Descartes and there are no pictures. However, my real point here is, look at the value versus the price. The bookstore is going to sell books for what the market place is going to bear, selling what it considers more valuable for a higher price and what is considered of less value, well, for less. That is Economics 101, right?

I bought the two books by Descartes, and now in the evening I read his words, listen to his thoughts and try to grasp what he is telling me. It is slow going, requiring work on my part, and I feel like a thief who stole from a bookstore that did not know what they had. Or did they?

Talk amongst yourselves.

At a bank with my son and one of his friends one afternoon, a young (22-ish) guy starts going off on the teller. He is raising his voice and his buddy is getting in on the action as well. Apparently, they are trying to cash an out-of-state, third-party check using expired identification or something.

The teller calls the bank manager and the dance continues. Now the young guy starts ripping loudly into a bunch of obscenities, and people are feeling threatened and uncomfortable. I turn to him, separated by a fat velvet rope, and say, “Hey, I’ve got kids here…” and before I can finish he spits out at me. “Shut your f*#king mouth…punk; this is none of your business.” “You made it my business when my kids can hear it,” I say, and the monkey dance is ignited (refer to earlier post “The Monkey Dance”).

Now here is where it gets weird. The manager, who has just had his teller verbally assaulted as well as himself, turns to me, a fourteen-year account holder and says, “Sir you need to leave the bank.” Now, I am incredulous at this and reply, “I am the one person that is protecting you and your clients from being assaulted. I suggest you call 911 right now.”

The manager looks at me like, “Oh, good idea.” As he dials the number, the guy who was trying to cash the check, well, he told me that it was a good thing he had to go, otherwise he was going to do something to my punk ass.

As the teens, say today, “Whatever.”

The moral of the story? When the monkey dance begins, there is no perspective, no rational thought. This young guy in the bank is going to throw down with how many cameras taking his picture? The manager holding his identification in his hands, and the guy is most likely in possession of a bad, or stolen, check? Not rational at all. But then again, that’s how the monkey dance goes.

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.

This is from an interview with Fumio Demura, Shito-Ryu karate practitioner, author, and actor from “Classic Fighting Arts” Magazine Vol. 2 No. 14. His comments are just so good that I have reproduced them here.

“I like the world karate championships, but I don’t like the Olympics. Why! Because so-called Olympic karate is not a martial art, and so it’s not karate, as I understand it. There is no ranking system, no teacher student relationship, no discipline, and no structure. Only the people who win receive attention – everyone else gets none. And even champions are soon discarded as the next batch of fast young kids come up to take their places. On the other hand, serious karate people, those who train for the world championships, tend to view competition only as an interesting diversion, and go back to serious training in the dojo after they finish competing.”

– Fumio Demura

…that is a tight, well thought out expression of what karate is by saying what it is not.

You can find “Classic Fighting Arts” at



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.