Category Archives: Martial Arts

Concussions

Today I received an email regarding sporting participants who get concussions. Attached was a “New York Times” online article regarding this problem. This email was about the lack of reporting the seriousness of the injuries by the injured players. These were the star players who thought they would be sidelined if they showed the symptoms and likelihood of a concussion thereby letting their team down.

This problem should not arise for martial arts practitioners but I mention it for the simple reason that many young students practice organized sports in addition to martial arts. I’ve, on occasion, observed a macho streak running through much of organized sports and I call it the “win at all costs” syndrome. And I remember that attitude as the primary cause of “Watergate.”

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of great coaches working with thousands of impressionable athletes. And some of those coaches may lack the proper foresight to understand what they produce when they drive their charges to give “all” for the sake of the team. A strong mind in a strong body is a great and worthy goal, however reason must be applied as well. One evening back in the seventies I had a conversation with a local radio commentator regarding the vulnerability of youthful minds when they are not properly directed. I discuss this incident on page 97 in a chapter of my book, “Stepping Off the Mat.” In another section of the book (page 85) I describe a televised basketball game. Actually, I did not see the game. It was a televised news item which showed a player acting like a dog urinating on the sideline to distract the other team as the ball was being inbounded. The chances are slim that the coach of that team did not know about the tactic. I entitled that chapter “Ethics and Sportsmanship,” and ended it with an open letter to my sons on attitude and altitude and I published it in my company newsletter.

If martial arts instructors do nothing other than teach self-protection, I pray that they at least teach by example how to conduct one’s life honorably. Martial arts’ training does not produce students of good character; Training under an instructor of good character produces students of good character. Children pay more attention to what you do than what you say. Change the word “children” to “people in general.” If one wishes to change the world, start by changing self.

I believe the world is getting better, are you working in that direction or the opposite?

Switching Arts

The training and study of several different martial arts just to be able to say I know them is not my style. I believe in being practical. Multi-tasking is not conducive to my wellbeing. Multi-tasking leads to many problems.

After encouragement from my brother-in-law from whom I borrowed several black belt magazines, I stepped on the martial arts path. What I read about people like Gogen ‘the cat” Yamaguchi, Mas Oyama and Tsutomu Ohshima was impressive. Their many accomplishments were inspirational. All of the stories and articles published in those magazines were fascinating and made me want to train in karate. Back then the mystique of karate was bigger than life. To think that a man could shatter bricks and wooden boards with his bare hands was almost unbelievable.

I joined an Okinawan dojo which taught Shorin ryu Karate. After six months I switched to the Korean Tae Kwon Do system called Ji Do Kwan in which I spent eighteen years of intensive development.

I trained constantly, in the dojo and in my back yard. However, as the months passed into years I noticed something strange happening. Little by little a feeling slowly began to develop and it gnawed at the edge of my consciousness. Something was missing.

I began to research deeper but it wasn’t easy. Books on the arts were not easy to come by and magazines was non-existent except for Black Belt Magazine. Later other magazines began to appear. What was missing was the spiritual dimension. No one seemed to be teaching it. Not even my teacher who was a seminary student at the time. He was also a little younger that me. To his credit, he did insist that we run if possible rather than stand and fight. And that if we could not run, win. Philosophically that principle can be carried to a spiritual level if you are an evolved being. Being older, I had already been through the military, was more disciplined and got the message, but most of my dojo-mates were in their late teens and early twenties. They most likely missed it.

In my belief, the omission of philosophical and/or spiritual discussion [and practice] is what led to the almost total lack of humility, discipline and respect demonstrated at karate tournaments in the late seventies and early eighties. That lack of development was what pushed me out of the tournament environment and encouraged me to pursue the change taking place within me. Disliking what they had produced, I wanted nothing more to do with competitions. An inner tranquility was taking place and I wanted my art to reflect it. Karate and Ji Do Kwan have that element but the students in my dojo environment did not, they just wanted to fight(free sparring). I wanted internal energy development and to guarantee the elimination of competition I considered the sword but could not find a school. I then considered Chi gung but the schools I visited wanted to teach me to the entire spectrum of gung fu and I already knew how to fight. Looking back I remembered those black belt magazine articles on Uyeshiba and Aikido and began a search in Philly which led me to the Arch Street dojo. Ki development was what I was looking for.

But even in Aikido I encountered a problem. Ki development was taught, however I was told that in order to get to more classes for that training I would need rank to enter advance classes. Rank was something I was not seeking so I had to make a choice. As you can see for yourself I made a positive choice.

Now some of you may be thinking that I did not teach my Ji Do Kwan students spiritually which may be the reason they just wanted to spar all the time. Well, consider this: I pushed and pushed relentlessly and lost some students. One of my students left for a period and when he returned commented regarding my loss of students. He had entered a seminary, to gain insight as he put it. He said I was losing students because I was like a 220 volt circuit and they were 110 volt toasters burning out as they could not handle the voltage I was generating.

Comments please.