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The Shinken Dojo   真 剣 道 場
Ryusyokai Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate   琉 翔 会 沖 縄 空 手
Ilfracombe - North Devon - England   英 国
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"Karate the Okinawa way"     Blog posts by Glyn Jones
"Are you Ready to Grade ?
What always amazes me with Karate Ka is some of the people who they will go to for advice. Why? Well the thing with advice
and guidance is that it tends to be kind of threefold. Firstly, it is yourself who needs the advice or guidance, not the person you
are asking. Secondly, who you decide to ask or receive advice from is so important that it's paramount. Thirdly, if you decide to
follow or take the advice that you have been given, really is all down to yourself. You as an individual and Karate Ka will make
all of these choices, be they good or bad!

When you write a blog like this you often get people asking you for advice on Karate.  I'm happy to help out if I can, but in truth
what little advice I have to offer I prefer to keep for the small number of students that I regularly share my Karate training with,
and only then, to those students who are prepared to listen. Those that don't, I leave them to get on with it.
I have always likened most Karate Ka to this quote by John Steinbeck;

"You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway." John Steinbeck.

From my initial introduction in to the Martial Arts as a youngster under the tutelage of my father in the Art of Judo. I have
always sought out both guidance and tuition (advice) from reputable Sensei who know their art inside out. I just don't do wishy
washy advice, as in seeking training guidance from everyone and anyone.  Many these days just get on discussion forums and
take advice from arm chair know all's, or the bigger the Karate name or celebrity, the more people who tend to attach
themselves and listen.  Maybe it was taking a disliking to the story of the pied piper as a kid, I am unsure, but I have never
been a natural follower. I prefer to listen to the quiet man of Budo who does his talking through many years of quality
experience, through proven to be seen regular in Dojo training. True Budoka offer advice and guidance of value sparingly!  
Oh, plus they train not talk... Primarily I listen to those who I regard as my Sensei or in the know, not just anyone.  Most Karate
Ka would benefit from relating this quote by Patch Adams to their Karate.

"See what no one else sees. See what no one else chooses to see... Out of fear, conformity or laziness.
See the world anew each day!"
 Patch Adams

When I get to spend precious time with my Sensei, be it inside or outside of the Dojo. I am quietly taking in and absorbing the
words and direction that Sensei offers.  Not just because they are my Sensei, but because they have decades of quality
experience in Okinawan Karate behind them.  And I don't mean talk or showman Karate either. They have been there before
me so I learn from their experiences.

Tamaki Sensei  has been an hands on regular in Dojo student under his Sensei, as in Senaha Sensei, on Okinawa for over 45
years.  Where by others have sought to teach, he has sought to train, where by others talk good karate and effective
techniques, he demonstrates them. Where by others talk about training, he has trained regularly, hard and often, where by
others have rode off a Sensei for a few years, he has shown decades of unwavering loyalty. These are the characteristics of a
true Karate Ka and what the art is truly about.

If you are ever lucky enough for Tamaki Sensei to offer you advice or guidance on Karate, the seriousness or sternness that
he says these words
"This is very very important in Okinawan Karate"! will leave you in no doubts how important it is to
receive quality advice or guidance from a real Sensei of Karate.

"In Karate if you take advice or guidance from a person of deep understanding it can be invaluable,
take it from one who is not, and it may be useless".
Senaha Sensei and
his student Tamaki
Sensei leading by
example as they
Renzoku Kumite.
Spending precious time In the company
of my Sensei
"See what no one else chooses to see"
I often get enquires about what training is like at the Shinken Dojo, and my replies have always been along the lines that our
Karate training is nothing special really. There are no frills or fancy offers like regular new belts to encourage attendance. All
is based on regular hard training in authentic Karate, training is not always easy, but it is always uplifting, with training being
done in a way just as the art has been practised for decades on the island of Okinawa.

Of late though I am starting to change my beliefs a little, not that I feel our training or Dojo is anything special in comparison
to the hard quality training that is being done in various Dojo on Okinawa, far from it in fact. I just feel that so much of the
Karate around these days has lost the basis or characteristics that the art was founded on. Sad but true.
"No craft to the
art anymore",
as my Sensei so wisely puts it. What is obvious to see is that much being taught these days under the
generic name of Karate, bares little or no resemblance in standing compared to the Karate that which was taught to and
then passed on by renowned Sensei or teachers of Te/Karate, the likes of Miyagi, Motobu, and Funakoshi, or even

Last weekend, a few of my long time students visited our Dojo, so over the weekend there was a vast number of just eight
Karate Ka who shared our Dojo.  So we spent many a hour over the weekend training hard together, whilst also
socialising and discussing Karate too. In truth we all just got on with things in the correct way and trained hard and
respectfully, and to be honest I never realised or noticed anything out of the ordinary at the time. However, when things had
finished, I sat back and gave things more thought and consideration, then I kind of thought otherwise. Not specifically about
the training that had occurred. I just wondered if a few of things that had happened quite naturally over the weekend could
be said of the same in most Karate Dojo's that are around these days?

Well it went a little like this.... There was as I said some hard quality training done over the weekend, and there was also an
assessment of some peoples levels too. Of their personal progression in the art, or a grading as we all tend to call things.  
Nothing out of the ordinary In Karate these days!!!  

1, There were students who after taking all in to consideration, I felt were not quite ready to attempt their next
grading, so after a private discussion, it was decided that more time, training and understanding was required
to achieve the next level. Nothing personal they just weren't ready to grade yet.

2, There was also those who despite giving things a good go, were not successful in achieving their attempted
grade.  So yet again, it was no big deal!  Just that more time, training and understanding was required to
achieve the next level.

3, The weekend had been set up so that there would be no interference or concerns about money. Basically
there was no fees or costs for accommodation, training or grading. This way there could be no excuses, and
attendance was focused on the training. All students could then only look at themselves. As for
grading,successful or not there could be no qualms either.
(Please don't misunderstand me here!!! I have no
problems with training or grading fees within reason, and I fully understand the need for fees, at times though money can be
a distraction from the true purpose of practising Karate)

Feeling that there was a need for a Kumite drill at the highest levels in Karate that could both test and push the traditional
Karate Ka to their limits, especially so as far as testing effectiveness goes. I therefore decided to devise a Kumite a few
years ago. But due to its nature, as in complexity and maybe danger too I only work it with my most senior Dan grade
students. So high levels of skill and concentration together with mutual trust being paramount.  I may show a little video
footage sometime, but we will see..

4, Anyway, whilst training in this Kumite drill with a student on the Sunday, I as the Dojo Sensei, personally took
a blow that cracked two of my ribs. I accept though that we were pushing things close to the limit. And of course
the injury was an accident and not intentional, a lesson learned too. Despite this I'm still a little tender, but I will
be just fine, and look forward to pushing myself and practising it again.

I do just wonder though if these four simple characteristics that I have mentioned, can be said of most Karate Dojo or Clubs
these days.  If not, I have to ask and wonder why.
"Students training at the Shinken Dojo"
"A Karate with Craft to the Art"
It is a well known fact that when you transcend from being a Karate student, to being a Karate Sensei, this will have a renowned
effect on you as a Karate Ka, as there are many lessons to be learned from teaching students.  Maybe that's why I'm a little
selective in who I teach these days.

Personally I feel that too many Karate Ka these days become Sensei immaturely, undeservedly, or for the wrong reasons.
Whereby they are teaching an art that in truth they have little understanding of, which is to the detriment of both the art itself
and their very own Karate training too. Together with having no real idea of the obligations involved in being a Sensei.  Maybe
the true Okinawan way of how one becomes a Sensei hasn't been passed on to well outside of Okinawa!?

Going back to the sentiments expressed in my first paragraph. When one is ready and becomes a Sensei, or if you're a Dojo
student who opens their eyes and sees things that are going on around them. You will naturally learn a lot about Karate from
the other Karate students who you are surrounded by, be they fellow Dojo training partners or students.  As learning from both
their good and bad points creates a deeper understanding.

When I teach students in my Dojo I often stop everyone so that other students can watch what they are doing. But more often
than not, it's not all about the good, but to show how NOT to do something. By the correction process everyone then gets to
understand and learn by the mistakes of other students. Some like this way of being taught, some do not. But either way I use it,
as it destroys ego and it's very effective. This way as a Dojo we are privately all coming together trying to understand the
teachings of Karate.

Here are ten valuable lessons on Karate students.

Regular Dojo attendance and good etiquette are the first lesson to be learned as a student! Students that attend training
sessions regularly and consistently will reap the many benefits that Karate training has to offer. Students that try and attend
training sessions sporadically, or are hit and miss, will gain very little from Karate as they will always be fighting a losing battle.
Excuses are just that excuses, if a student is injured they should either watch and still learn, or train around the injury.

2, Students that practise their Karate regularly at home or in addition to set Dojo classes, always tend to have that little extra
spark or stand out from students that don't. Sensei and students alike will easily pick up on this one. Training alone or with fellow
students away from the Dojo is a must.

3, There are times that one should be training at an easier pace to work on technical aspects. However, we have all seen those
that just coast along without ever really pushing themselves, with sweat being a taboo word. Laziness has never had a place in
real Karate. For Karate to be of benefit health wise or to become effective in combat, it really does require physical effort.

4, I have seen the most technically gifted and hardest training Karate students, pack their training in for the most trivial of
reasons. Be it just after a year or even after five years, but I've seen it often. On the other side of things I have seen the most
unnatural, ungifted and uncoordinated student, through sheer motivation and a determination, reach some of the highest levels
of the art. The story of the tortoise and the hare relates well to Karate training, there is no rush, but it is a life long journey.

5, We are all in Karate together, and a valid lesson with Karate just as in life is this: Those who we surround ourselves with is of
the upper most importance to achieving anything. Fellow Karate students or training partners of worth really are worth their
weight in gold, to be honest they are invaluable, so always appreciate them and respect them. Being around sad people or a
member of a poor Dojo won't get you very far.

6. We are all students of Karate regardless of grade held or months/years of training. If you talk about it more than you actually
train, or teach more than you train, or you lose the beginners mind. Then it really is time to hang your Gi up and accept that you
are no longer a student of Karate, but one who is fooling no one but yourself.

7,  Don't get caught up in doing regular weekend seminar Karate, as it really is no basis for studying the true art, occasionally
for the experience is good. But as a basis it will get you nowhere at all. A student who is serious will seek out a Sensei and Dojo
of worth, regardless of the sacrifices that need to be made.  Anything of worth takes sacrifice, time and patience, most things
that come easy in life usually end up being worthless or of little value.

8, A true student of Karate will have traits and not just take from the art, but will constantly be giving something back, and I don't
mean in training fees here. The following should all come quite naturally. Helping out around and supporting the Dojo, as in
attending regularly, giving help to Juniors students. Whilst being appreciative of and looking after one's Sensei for teaching you
Karate, as normally it is for very little or nothing in return.

9, Both as a Sensei and as a student, you will occasionally come across a fellow student who has a bad attitude or demeanour,
be it inside the Dojo or outside of it in everyday life. (bullying, arrogance, lack of commitment, constantly fighting, to name a
few). Many tend to try and hide these things well from their Sensei, but at the end of the day they fool no one.  They are though
a lesson to you as a true Karate student on how not to act and behave. So stay true to yourself and the art! The key here is that
students with a bad attitude are for the Dojo Sensei or Dojo Sempai to deal with, because in time I'm sure they will.

10, Brain not Brawn or Skill not Strength are well known sayings for a reason. It is ok receiving 100% for effort, but at the end of
the day a deep understanding combined with skill and good technique equate to everything in Karate, the same in real life
confrontations. Spirit, determination, strength, speed and power are all needed for effectiveness, but they will only get you so
far. Karate is not a battle of the toughest, always remember this as it is a major lesson of Budo, and one that may save your life
some day.
Working with student Pete Welsby in the old Shinken Dojo
"Lessons of a Karate Student"
Many years ago I was given some quality advice from Brian Hinchliffe Sensei, advice that I took on board and it has served
me well.

At the time I was training way to much from the heart, and not using my head enough. So he told me so.... These were words
that took me back a little at the time from what I remember, maybe knocking my ego too. My reply if I remember correctly was
along the lines of this
"But you win fights with the heart, not by training all softly softly"!  

Then he said words to this effect..... "Maybe, but you've misunderstood the basis of training in Budo! Your approach to
training Glyn is going to end up being detrimental to your own health and a little counterproductive when it comes to
 Yes he'd lost me!! As even though I have always been a technician so to speak, raw spirit had got me through
more than a few battles.

Hinchliffe Sensei then went on to explain that Budo and good Karate is not just about giving your all in training, or about
trying to be the toughest, hardest or strongest.  As training to be in a brawl with, or mix it with, say the likes of Mike Tyson,
really would be foolish. The same in doing so with a top Kyokushin or Thai Fighter.

Yes you need heart and determination to see the job through, of course you do. But good Budo is about training and fighting
intelligently. A training that is very clever, sneaky, and maybe a little dirty when it comes to confrontation too, all being
backed up by a variety of highly effective techniques and practises that are based on good health and longevity.
I have just finished reading the book "Cereus - And the Rarest Thing by RH Gutierrez, MD.

It is a very personal book that reflects on the deep impact of losing a father, thus feeling a little lost for direction in his life. So
he decides that the answer to finding himself is to pack in his job and move to Okinawa for a time of reflection, starting with
training at the Shogen Ryu Karate Dojo. I won't spoil things by giving out to many details, but it really is an excellent book that
is based on one man's experiences on Okinawa and is well worth reading. For those of you who don't know, Shogen Ryu was
formed by the late Taba Sensei after the passing of Shoshin Nagamine. So it's a branch of Shorin Ryu.

The thing with RH Gutierrez Sensei is that he is not only a Karate Ka, but a professor of medicine too, so when it comes to
either dangerous training practises or understanding the impact that either Martial Arts training, good or bad, can have on
the human body. Due to his dual understanding of both authentic Okinawan Karate and Medicine, if he speaks then of course
we are wise to listen, just as I am so thankful that I listened to Hinchliffe Sensei all those years ago.

Quite recently RH Gutierrez has started putting up clips relating to Martial Arts and Medicine on a very informative you tube
page that is well worth subscribing to, as an example, the clip above is for those who are still practising or teaching kicks and
exercises that are clearly detrimental to your hip joints.
"Train from the Heart but use your Head"
The footage below with the heading "Okinawan Karate the Original MMA" has been put together quite recently, and
very well and cleverly I may add. In many ways it is very interesting and thought provoking too, so it is well worth viewing. The
sentiments expressed in the clip itself have aroused the support of many Karate Ka, and I can fully understand why this is, as
all kind of adds credibility to the effectiveness of the art that they put their name to, as in Karate.

The term Mixed Martial Arts came about when participants of anything goes, within reason, challenge matches. There by
learnt skills from a mixture of Martial Arts. From Western Boxing, Karate or Muay Thai for striking, on to Judo, Brazillian Ju
Jutsu or even Wrestling for the clinch and on the ground.

I have full respect for the training that the MMA guys do, even though personally it doesn't appeal to me at all, the same for
all of the arts I've mentioned above and they have my full respect too, and in their own way they are all highly effective, even
though some of them can at times be more detrimental to your health than beneficial, all though is about making personal
choices. To be fair, with a lack of understanding or dilution, Karate can be both ineffective and a ticking time bomb for both
injuries and ill health too, so be warned.

I'm a firm believer that Karate contains all of the techniques required and being demonstrated, and many more so. But I do
wonder if many Karate Ka these days are being distracted by thoughts of learning more kata, more bunkai applications, and
lots of throws, grapples, holds, locks and more drills. Whilst also training to mix and match. All Instead of maybe trying to
spend the fundamental years trying to achieve a firmer base or deeper understanding of Karate as an art, as a whole one
could then slowly and more efficiently progress on to thus from there.

"You can not build a dream on a foundation of sand. To weather the test of storms, it must
be cemented in with uncompromising conviction".
 T.F. Hodge.
"Okinawan Karate the Original MMA" ! ?
The first Karate grades and certifications are believed to have been issued by the Okinawan Karate teacher, Gichin Funakoshi
Sensei of the Shoto school on the 12th April 1924. The father of modern day Karate held a formal ceremony in which he
handed out both black belts and hand brushed Menkyo diplomas to seven of his students. These students included the Ju
Jutsu master Hironori Ohtsuka, the founder of the Wado Ryu or peaceful way of Karate.

The grading or belt assessment system certainly has many benefits if used correctly and wisely! A guide on a students level or
understanding within the Dojo being the most obvious, not forgetting personal incentives and motivation. Goal setting works
well within human nature, it acts in a way that makes us push through to overcome failure or defeat, by pushing on to achieve
success. Personal battles, achieving and going out for things of worth and positivity should be encouraged in life.

The use of grades, belts and titles has of course gone on to be abused by so many these days, not though by everyone who
practises Karate or the Martial Arts by any means. So my focus as far as grades go, is to work around and concentrate on the
good, the positive, and their meaningful purpose, just as many others still do too. Thus disregarding the negativity. Grades of
worth, just like anything in life they really do take hard work and patience, if they come easy just like anything else again in life,
they are usually of little worth. Quietly wait and work hard for what you really want, as a wise man once said. Why do so many
settle for less, little, or second best!?

Some Karate teachers prefer a formal assessment or grading by putting eligible students under a definitive pressure test, by
way of a grade assessment under their teacher, or a panel of teachers, thus putting students under examination with a firm
pass or fail being the outcome. Of which a pass should not be guaranteed. Other teachers prefer to assess students progress
and understanding along the way and feel no need then for a formal grading assessment, as the teacher is already aware of
the progress made by each individual student and their ability. The appropriate grade level or diploma is then being awarded
once the teacher feels that the student is at the required level and is ready to progress further and be taught more.

There are also teachers of Karate who assess students by using a combination of both of the above methods. Personally I feel
that both methods are of equal value if used correctly.

When one is considering attempting a grading or put forward by their Sensei. I have always advised my students to forget the
year rule, as in two years to 2nd Dan and three years to 3rd Dan etc, as this means very little as far as personal development
and understanding goes. Two or ten years doing what, low level Karate or acting like a ego filled fool? Regardless of grade
and regardless of time scales, I always advise students to question themselves and achieve the following three before even
considering attempting a grading;

1, It must be Your Sensei or Sempai who initially feels that you have the required understanding, ability and maturity to be
worthy of attempting a higher grade or being promoted up a level in Karate, not yourself!  And the meaning primarily is Dojo or
Kai based.

2, Your fellow Dojo students or members should also feel that you deserve to grade or be promoted. Does it matter what others
think of you? Yes it does! Especially those close to you, admitting your faults or overcoming them is honourable. The same in
proving your worth to others through your actions. Your fellow students will also see things and in a way that your Sensei does
not see.

3, You yourself should then feel that you have put the required time and effort in the Dojo to deserve to grade, whilst have the
ability, understanding, technical skills required and correct temperament to match.

All 3 should be of equal importance and just as equally challenging too.

(Saturday 6th February 2016)