Book Review: Thoughts and Rants From a Wanderer on the Path

What would happen if you took a series of blog posts, social media posts and notebook journal entries, loosely organized them by themes and then published them as a book? You would get something like Timothy Jurgens’ “Thoughts and Rants From a Wanderer on the Path.

The author, Timothy Jurgens, has been studying various forms of martial arts since the mid-1980s. While his martial arts background is quite broad and varied, his primary “style” is Shorin Ryu. As a classical/traditional martial artist, and a former-Marine, Mr. Jurgens has some very particular views on martial arts, training, etiquette, and other topics.

If the author had included various descriptions of kata and specific training techniques, this book has a similar feel to those written by Motobu Choki and Mabuni Kenwa.

What’s in the book?

As I said, it is largely a collection of “thoughts” and “rants” from the mind of the author that covers a wide range of topics.

Rather than stringing together his thoughts completely randomly, Mr. Jurgens gives us categories of posts such as budo, the dojo, student & teacher, technique (mostly principles of proper training and execution), kata, progress & promotion, his teachers, and useful tidbits regarding Japanese & Okinawan culture.

Frankly, there is a great deal to unpack in this book because the topics are so broad. However, some martial arts practitioners may either find themselves violently agreeing with his thoughts and rants, or find some of his thoughts upsetting.


This book isn’t an “academic” work like Clayton’s “Shotokan’s Secrets” or Bayer’s “Analysis of Genuine Karate“. Rather, it is more introspective like Burgar’s “Five Years, One Kata“. That’s not to say that the opinions expressed by the author aren’t grounded in “research”. They are; his research, in this cases, consists of over 30 years of martial arts study in the U.S., Japan and Okinawa.

In many regards, this book has a great deal in common with that of Bayer and Burgar because Jurgens is both a martial arts utilitarian and lover of the classic arts. Personally, I found it difficult to disagree with the thoughts he shares.

What this book made me realize about my own martial arts journey is that I am fairly sheltered. On at least two occasions, I got side tracked by his discussions of “XTREME Martial Arts” (because things that are really cool should be XTREME!), self-appointed “grand masters”, and McDojos. Maybe part of this is because it has been over 15 years since I last competed in a martial arts tournament, and I already stay away from “belt factories”. But the wonderful world of YouTube helps to showcase much of the crap that people buy into whenever it is wrapped in cheap marketing blankets and shrouded with the “mysteries” of Eastern martial arts. I’ve seen incomplete and watered down training methods, but I’ve not had a great deal of interaction with the world of screaming karate gymnasts.

Overall, I think this book is a solid find with one caveat. This book with resonate well with traditional/classical martial artists who likely already share many of the same viewpoints. Those who are of the sport “karate” or XTREME “martial arts” variety are likely to put it down quickly without ever understanding why they find Jurgens’ thoughts upsetting (then again, they are unlikely to read this blog..).

Thank you for reading. Until next time.

The goal of the Shindokai Kobujutsu Research Society is to join the efforts to restore information that was lost about the traditional Okinawan martial arts and elevate their status legitimate self defense systems that are applicable to our times. In some cases, we can piece together bits of information that is scattered around the world like a bunch of forensic historians. In other cases, we just have to experiment with concepts, just like the forbearers of karate did, and figure out what works (and then ditch the rest).

Book Review: An Analysis of Genuine Karate – Misconceptions, Origins, Development and True Purpose

Recently, I joined a number of martial arts and karate groups on Facebook. As I am furthering my own journey into the historical and cultural study of karate, I’ve found it helpful to engage in constructive dialog regarding martial arts.

One such exchange occurred with a gentleman named Dr. Herman Bayer. In our discourse regarding the role and function of kata, he mentioned that he had written a book on the subject. His book, “Analysis of Genuine Karate: Misconceptions, Origins, Development, and True Purpose” delves in to a wide range of topics regarding the current state of karate and karate-derived martial arts.

It is a quick read that contains comparison and contrasts of Okinawan karate styles and their descendent Japanese and American styles.

What’s in the book?

The book is organized into three chapters: “Okinawan Karate’s ‘Japanization’, ‘Americanization’ and ‘Commercialization'”, “Arguments to Maintain Okinawan Karate in its Originality’, and “Empirical Evidence and the Laws of Physics to Support the Sociocultural and Historical Arguments”. Let us briefly examine the chapters.

Chapter 1: Okinawan Karate’s ‘Japanization’, ‘Americanization’ and ‘Commercialization’

As most first chapters should be, this chapter sets the tone for the rest of the book because Dr. Bayer clearly defines what is and is not Okinawan karate by simply restating what the governing bodies in Okinawa recognize. To my surprise, my main “style” (such as it is), Shitoryu, does not make the list, and is categorized as Japanese. Dr. Bayer, rightly, makes the point that the only ones who get to determine what is and is not Okinawan karate are Okinawans.

In Japan, by contrast, Okinawan karate is regarded as a subset of Japanese karate because of the (fairly new) incorporation of Okinawa into the Japanese political sphere, and the Japanese belief in the superiority of Japanese budo. Interestingly, other than karate there are few other Okinawan cultural traditions that seem to have been claimed as Japanese. (We’ll get into this in a future post.)

The separation of Okinawan and Japanese karate is important to the discussion in the rest of the book, because Dr. Bayer lays out an argument that Japanese karate is a “disarmed” version of Okinawan karate. The dividing line laid out in the book does not seem to have any exceptions.

Obviously, the farther away from Okinawa one gets, the more one strays from the original form and function of karate. Dr. Bayer broadly categorizes karate and karate derivatives into classical (read as “Okinawan”), traditional (Japanese karate merged with Japanese budo concepts – sometimes referred to in the book as “karatedo” to separate it from “karate”), and sport (bunny hop sparring and baton twirling with swords, etc…).

Here is how Dr. Bayer explains the distinctions. Classical karate is and was designed as a self-protection/self-defense fighting style with very damaging and lethal techniques. Traditional karatedo is geared towards self-perfection and as such puts more emphasis on strengthening ones mind, body and spirit using martial arts as a way to do it. In this way, one could theoretically use yoga or rugby to achieve the same result since, as Dr. Bayer claims, the goal is not about the lethal arts anymore. Then there is sport karate – it is flashy, dashy and fun. It is certainly athletic. But (and I completely agree with the author here) it is devoid of anything resembling its classical ancestor – one may as well compare Bengal tigers with house cats.

There are a number of other fascinating threads in this chapter, and in the words of Miyamosh Mushashi, “You should investigate this thoroughly.”

Chapter 2: “Arguments to Maintain Okinawan Karate in its Originality”

Dr. Bayer lays out three key reasons to keep Okinawan karate intact. Much of this chapter is actually a restatement of the previous chapter in different ways.

Rather than restating the three reasons here, I’ll sum it up in one statement (which pretty much sums up the chapter), unless you are Okinawan, if you change or alter Okinawan karate from its original officially recognized forms, it is no longer Okinawan karate. Period.

In this chapter, he also discusses the idea of “never changing kata”, but doesn’t develop this as far as I had hoped.

Chapter 3: “Empirical Evidence and the Laws of Physics to Support the Sociocultural and Historical Arguments”

In this chapter, Dr. Bayer attempts to analyze two of the hundreds (thousands?) of changes between classical karate and traditional karatedo. At this point in the book, he’s limited his analysis of the two categories to two styles: Shorinryu (classical Okinawan karate) and Doshinkan (traditional Japanese karatedo). Any bastardizations by sport karate are simply (rightly) ignored.

He cites three examples: training methods, execution of the cat-stance (Neko ashi dachi) and the execution and change of Nianhanchidachi (a narrower fighting stance).

We’ll take the last two first. Dr. Bayer does some back of the napkin math to show the differences in the ability to close distance using certain stances, power generation, and even physiological stress. To be completely frank, some of the issues that he cites (straightened cat-stances) are things that I have never experienced in over 30 years of training in Japanese or Okinawan martial arts. Some arts, like Shotokan, don’t really use cat stances, but in my experience, when they teach it, it is taught correctly.

The change in nianhanchidachi, which is a pigeon-toed shoulder width stance, is more problematic because it is the less understood stance of the two that the author highlights. Admittedly, I still get this stance wrong more often than not.

Finally, back to the training methods, Dr. Bayer lays out a short list of differences in the training methodologies of classical karate and traditional karatedo. One of the more puzzling differences that he cites is one of a structured curriculum. He has spent a great deal of time studying both Shorinryu and Doshinkan. His observation of Doshinkan is that it lack structure in terms of both rank progression and in the kata that may be incorporated into the style, and then carries that observation over to all Japanese styles. Having studied numerous Japanese styles myself (Shotokan, Kyokushin, and apparently, Shitoryu) I have never seen a lack of defined standards or kata from any dojo or any sensei with whom I’ve studied. This seems to be a peculiarity of Doshinkan.

However, one observation to which I agree is that, in general, Japanese karate is not overly concerned with the self defense applications of kata. The practice of kata for strength, conditioning and self-improvements often seems to be its own reward.


My opinion on this book is mixed. Like Shotokan’s Secrets (review here), it is evident that Dr. Bayer conducted a great deal of research in preparation for his book. However, Dr. Bayer, unlike Dr. Bruce Clayton, tends to stick with facts.

Still, the book suffers from two important shortcomings. First, Dr. Bayer has a clear bias (so do I, but I’m not writing an “objective” book on the subject). Second, Dr. Bayer uses his extensive working knowledge of two specific styles and draws conclusions about all styles labeled as Okinawan or Japanese.

Having been a Shitoryu practitioner for the better part of a decade, I do not share Dr. Bayers assessments of the weaknesses of what is apparently a “disarmed” Japanese style. The difference in focus between Motobu-ha Shitoryu and Shotokan (another style that I’ve studied extensively) is stark… and if Dr. Bayer were to level the same criticisms of Shotokan as he does at Doshinkan, most of them would stick.

That said, I do not know if my exposure to Shitoryu’s emphasis on natural stances, throws, locks, nerve strikes, self-defence, and other supposedly Okinawan-only concepts are also a result of Sensei Rob having also studied Gojuryu, Motoburyu, and Motobu Udundi. Maybe we’re an exception to the rule, but I suspect not.

Truthfully, I was expecting a bit more analysis on how changes to kata impact their self-defense applications. I can think of at least 20 changes that Shotkan makes to the Pinan-series of kata (called Heian in Shotokan and other derivate styles). This is where the principle of “Never changing kata” could have been explored in more depth.

Despite the shortcomings, Dr. Bayer raises some important points about who gets to determine what is and is not “Okinawan”, how sportifying and pushing karate into the Olympics changed (for the worse) and delves into some of the problems of commercializing martials arts (which we really didn’t touch on earlier in this review). If nothing else, it is a good think piece that should give serious karateka some pause to ascertain whether their specific martial art matches up with their goals for their studies.

All-in-all, I’d recommend this book. Despite some of my specific disagreements with statements within the book, it sets up the discussion for what should and should not be considered as karate or even martial arts. It sets out the idea that some arts, like traditional karate, retain enough of the form of Okinawan karate to regain much of the function. Doing this requires changing some deeply held institutional artifacts, but it can happen. Most importantly, it serves to pay homage to the forbearers of karate and of the gift that they’ve passed on to the rest of us.

Thank you for reading. Until next time.

The goal of the Shindokai Kobujutsu Research Society is to join the efforts to restore information that was lost about the traditional Okinawan martial arts and elevate their status legitimate self defense systems that are applicable to our times. In some cases, we can piece together bits of information that is scattered around the world like a bunch of forensic historians. In other cases, we just have to experiment with concepts, just like the forbearers of karate did, and figure out what works (and then ditch the rest).

Book Review: Shotokan’s Secret: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate’s Fighting Origins

My apologies for the lengthy delay between posts. I’ve had a few articles in the works, but they are not really turning out the way that I would like. While I was trying to sort out the next article, I dusted off a book that I bought nearly 10 years ago, “Shotokan’s Secret: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate’s Fighting Origins,” by Dr. Bruce Clayton.

Before launching into the review of the book, I think it bears mentioning that I’ve studied Shotokan for a total of nearly ten years and with several different organizations. The origins of Shotokan are essentially identical to Shito-ryu and Motobu-ryu in that Mabuni Kenwa and Motobu Choki had the same teachers as Funakoshi Gichin. This importance of this statement will be evident later in this article.

About the book

Shotokan’s Secret: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate’s Fighting Origins” attempts to uncover the historical applications of the Pinan (“Heian” in Shotokan) katas developed by Anko Itosu. There are three parts to Dr. Clayton’s approach. First, he sets the historical scene in painstaking detail. Second, he suggests some principles and heuristics for analyzing kata. Finally, he lays out his “discoveries” of the historical applications of each Heian kata put in the historical context he outlined in the first section.

Early Figures of Karate

Dr. Clayton attempts to walk down a path that many a karate historian has tried to take before. He gives us a picture of some incredibly tense times in 19th Century Okinawa as the local nobility attempted to serve two masters, the Satsuma samurai and the Ming Dynasty. This split fealty was made even more precarious by the increasing frequency of visits from Western traders and whalers, and then finally, by Commodore Perry’s fleet.

Anko Itosu

The nobility of Okinawa had to protect their king and maintain order against several hostile actors and do it all while unarmed. Dr. Clayton lays out what is known about the men of this age, their concerns, their training and their methods. The central character in this story is Itosu Yasutsune, also known as “Anko”. Anko Itosu is widely revered in the karate world as being the grandfather of karate. Many of his students would go on to create and spread modernized styles of the teachings they learned from him and his contemporaries. Dr. Clayton discusses other figures, as well, but the main focus of the narrative tends to revolve around Anko Itosu.

Three key facts are known about Anko, his career and his teachings. First, he served as the head bodyguard to the Okinawan kings from the mid-1800s until the disbanding of the nobility after the Meiji Restoration in Japan. Second, he created the Pinan (later called “Heian” in Shotokan) katas. Third, in the late 1800s, Anko Itosu lead the effort to teach karate in Okinawan public schools as a physical education program for Okinawan youth.

One of Dr. Clayton’s conclusions about Anko and his fighting methods is probably something with which most people can agree: Anko had to be brutal and efficient. He could not waste time with flowery movements and symbolism when teaching his small cadre of bodyguards and police how to fight. This tendency towards ruthlessness naturally would carry over to all of his teachings in both his early and late career.

However, Dr. Clayton challenges a popular, but historically unverifiable, belief about the Pinan/Heian kata. Most styles hold it as history/lore that the Pinan/Heian katas were created by Anko late in his career as he began to develop lessons for the public schools. Dr. Clayton however, claims that the Pinan/Heian kata were much older, and created by Anko while he was still the chief of security in Shuri Castle.

Neither of these claims can be verified since many written records and people with first-hand knowledge of the origins of these kata were killed in World War II.

Suggested methods for studying kata

After discussing Anko Itosu’s career and the fact that he had no time to waste on extraneous movements, Dr. Clayton lays out some guidelines for unpacking the applications buried in the kata created by Itosu. Here are some of the main rules that he outlines:

  • Keeping it Real – The historical applications were actual techniques taught at the time of the kata’s creation.
  • Other Mountains – The applications of kata may be resident in other arts that have been separated from modern karate.
  • Lesson Plan – Kata are a lesson plan with a specific goal in mind.
  • Occam’s Razor – The simplest explanation is usually the best.
  • Crabtree’s Bludgeon – One can make up explanations for anything.
  • Dinglehoppers – A term borrowed from “Little Mermaid” to explain embarrassing applications created through Crabtree’s Bludgeon
  • Shadow Principle – If the application and the kata share the same form, it may be a good fit.
  • Symbolism Rule – Just because we cannot explain a move, doesn’t mean that it is somehow symbolic (think of the opening of Kusanku/Kanku Dai).
  • Last Move Rule – If we can’t make sense of the last moves seen in the kata, they are probably added in for symmetry. He cites the “bunny hops” in Chinte kata as a prime example.

Dr. Clayton’s Interpretations of the Pinan/Heian kata

I should state that, up until this point in the book, I was largely along for the ride. Dr. Clayton’s history, while a bit biased, seems plausible enough, and the rules he creates for analyzing kata are pretty good ones. In fact, Bill Burgar, has a similar rule set for analyzing kata applications.

Based on the rules above, here are the general themes that Dr. Clayton lays out for each of the Pinan/Heian kata:

  • Pinan Nidan/Heian Shodan – How to disarm an unarmored Samurai (or two) and use their swords.
  • Pinan Shodan/Heian Nidan – Wandering around throwing linear, bodyweight punches against other unarmed combatants (I’m not making this up).
  • Pinan/Heian Sandan – Fighting drunken sailors in Naha.
  • Pinan/Heian Yondan – Fighting an armored Samurai.
  • Pinan/Heian Godan – Fighting against a bayonet-wielding U.S. Marine.


Frankly, I have mixed feelings about this book. Dr. Clayton clearly put a great deal of research and thought into this work. That said, aside from being riddled with biases against other styles of modern karate and their teachers (he holds particular disdain for Motobu Choki and Kyan Chofu), he takes the excellent list of principles for analyzing kata and violates almost every one of them.

Dr. Clayton’s historical analysis and setup ignores the fact, documented by Mabuni Kenwa, Motobu Choku and Funakoshi Gichin themselves, that kata were treated as complete fighting systems. Many of the old masters only knew between 3 and 5 of them because they held a wide variety of self-defense applications. They were not, in fact, “themed” in the manner that Dr. Clayton suggests.

In addition to taking aim at some of the masters of old, Dr. Clayton also calls out a particularly prominent kata researcher, Iain Abernathy… twice. He says that while Abernathy’s application of kata are “viciously practical”, they are not historically accurate.

Interestingly, if one were to compare the analysis of kata done by Iaian Abernathy and Dr. Clayton against Dr. Clayton’s principles for understanding kata, Iaian’s explanations would tick every one of Clayton’s boxes.

Clayton violates his own rules by creating incredibly complicated explanations for kata that were, in all likelihood, created after Itosu served as Shuri Castle’s head of security. He bludgeons his “dinglehopper” explanations into the kata and ignores the fact that other kata that existed at this time are compilations of grappling techniques, throws and locks.  

Oh… and the “bunny hops” from Chinte? Iain Abernathy shows an incredibly practical explanation for those in a way that uses every move of Chinte kata instead of being discarded.

Chinte “bunny hops”

While there is a great deal that I disagree with in this book, there is one thing with which Dr. Clayton and I could agree. One should not be limited to one style or school of thought within the martial arts – although, given the overt bias towards Shotokan in this book, this is a bit of an ironic conclusion. Perhaps this conclusion is, in part, meant to deflect from the vast amount of criticism that Dr. Clayton received from his first release of the book. After all, if someone disagrees, they must be stuck in their ways.

Still, the point stands. Martial artists should do what the old masters did: learn from anyone and everyone with something of value to teach.

Overall, I’d recommend that folks pass on this book. The history presented in it is riddled with bias and the kata applications shown in it are far-fetched. Other books have more to offer in terms of historical value and understanding of martial arts than this one.

The goal of the Shindokai Kobujutsu Research Society is to join the efforts to restore information that was lost about the traditional Okinawan martial arts and elevate their status legitimate self defense systems that are applicable to our times. In some cases, we can piece together bits of information that is scattered around the world like a bunch of forensic historians. In other cases, we just have to experiment with concepts, just like the forbearers of karate did, and figure out what works (and then ditch the rest).

Book Review: Five Years, One Kata

As part of my own martial arts journey, I have started to amass a small library of martial arts books and literature. Several of these books are from the founders of modern karate styles like Mabuni Kenwa and Motobu Choki. Last week, I decided to add a more modern tome to the collection: “Five Years, One Kata: Putting Kata Back at the Heart of Karate”.

Bill Burgar, at the time of print a 6th-dan in Shotokan, undertook an experiment unique to modern karate practitioners… (spoiler alert: it is in the title!) In his book, he shares his journey of discovery of mining the kata Gojushiho for techniques, self defense principles, and tactics. Less important than the specific techniques that recorded from Gojushiho and developed into a specific fighting syllabus is the process he developed to do it.

I have not read other reviews of this book even though it is more than 20 years old. Suffice it to say, however, that it is probably still highly controversial to “traditional” karate purists because Burgar makes some pretty radical claims and suggestions… and he’s not necessarily wrong.

What’s in the book?

If you ever wondered how an engineer might write a book about kata, then look no further! Burgar chews through and condenses an incredible amount of resources and source material to answer a basic and fundamental question: “how do I know the things I am doing in kata are actually worth my time to train?”

Interestingly, as a result of beginning this blog, and right before picking up this book, I started thinking of kata in terms of mnemonic devices for the body. That is exactly how Burgar approaches kata. (More on this later)

In the first section, Burgar lays out some principles that he says should guide exploration of kata. One of the key point is that the karateka should understanding how a “typical” fight (or as he terms it, Habitual Acts of Violence) might actually start and then using those scenarios to guide the exploration of kata technique application (oyo).

He goes dispels many of the same karate myths… of multiple attackers who faint at the sight of the awesome kata performing karateka.

He goes dispels many of the same karate myths that we started discussing here (the very first post, in fact) of multiple attackers who faint at the sight of the awesome kata performing karateka. But rather than just simply deride the myth as I have, Burgar take the time to explain how those myths form terrible habits, and how those habit can get someone injured or even killed.

So what to do, you ask? Burgar has an entire section dedicated to the analysis (bunkai) of techniques within a specific kata, detailed rating criteria, and guiding principles through which to examine those techniques.

In the second section, he applies the principles that he lays out in Section 1 to Gojushiho in great detail (complete with lots of photos) and contrasts his modifications to those of the stylized version he learned in Shotokan. Over half of the real estate in the book is dedicated to sharing these lessons that he learned over five years of painstaking study of the kata.

In wrapping up his book in the third section, Burgar give a few ideas as to how a karateka may approach his or her detailed analysis of kata in order to mine the gold buried within…. and this is where the controversy probably starts.

Burgar makes the bold statement that studying “someone else’s” kata is a complete waste of time. If he had to do it over again, he would not have studied Gojushiho in the detail that he did. Instead, he says that karateka should create their own personal kata as their unique self-defense syllabus… and let other people figure out their own kata.


Whether you eventually agree with Burgar’s final conclusions or not, his detailed framework for studying, disassembling and reassembling existing kata into a complete fighting system is highly impactful.

In fact, it is clear that, twenty years later, many of the principles that Burgar laid out have gained popularity among and are the driving force behind some of the more well known martial arts researchers (like Iain Abernathy and Jesse Enkamp). My own conclusion of kata being a mnemonic device is probably a result of his research being distilled through and retransmitted through various sources that have shaped my own thinking.

I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about abandoning “old” kata altogether in favor of developing an “iKata”. I think there is a time and a place for the kata established the fundamentals of the martial arts that we strive to learn and perfect. But… I think that it is okay to question the thinking that has been transmitted to us through the giant game of telephone to expose holes, weaknesses and deficiencies of the old knowledge that may no longer fit our circumstances. Maybe I do not need to know how to disarm samurai… but maybe, there are ways to encode defenses against someone threatening me with a pistol into instinct and good habits…

There are few great artists that just started creating masterpieces. Many of them went to art class and learned how to recreate the classics in their own way. Maybe, this is the balance between throwing out all of the old classics, and never changing.

Thank you for reading. Until next time.

The goal of the Shindokai Kobujutsu Research Society is to join the efforts to restore information that was lost about the traditional Okinawan martial arts and elevate their status legitimate self defense systems that are applicable to our times. In some cases, we can piece together bits of information that is scattered around the world like a bunch of forensic historians. In other cases, we just have to experiment with concepts, just like the forbearers of karate did, and figure out what works (and then ditch the rest).

Everyone has *something* to offer

I admit it. Sometimes, when it comes to martial arts, I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I’ve studied some form hand-to-hand combat style for nearly three decades. During that time, I’ve subdivided the martial arts into those who are serious (typically includes Okinawan, BJJ and Muay Thai school), and those who aren’t (the “McDojos” of the world).

In fact, I currently have another post in draft about how to know if your school is “good”. It is long and maybe a tad self-righteous… and there might be a reason that I haven’t hit “publish”.

Normally, when I walk into a new serious school, I’ll wear my white belt which is dingy and even bloodstained. I tell myself it is because I am being humble. But I won’t go to a “non-serious” school. I mean… what could they really offer me? That doesn’t sound much like humility.

Keep to the beat!

So, a funny thing happened the other day, that got me thinking about my viewpoint and the massive chip on my shoulder. Sensei Rob had to cancel class due to work conflicts. Instead of taking my youngest son to karate, I took him to his swim practice at the local rec center. I still had on my gi pants.

My original plane was to find a corner of the rec center or one of the workout studios to go over kata or something. Then I decided to check the course schedule and saw “cardio kickboxing”. I went.

My mental image was one of Billie Blanks, some happy music, and spandex clad cardio kickboxers with so-so form. And really, minus Billie Blanks, I wasn’t far off… but I think that, despite not really knowing much about it, I underestimated this class.

Look, we’ve all had those classes in the dojo (and nearly every day in a BJJ school) that are simply draining. About five minutes in, I’m thinking “what the hell did I just get myself into??”

Jab, cross, hook, knee…

There were two things that were obvious to me. One, I was probably the only actual trained fighter in that studio. Two, it didn’t matter. I was in Billie Blanks’ world, not in a dojo, not on a mat, and not in an alley.

Get in your horse stance, and squat pulse…

Fifteen minutes in, it is slowly dawning on me… uppercut, uppercut, hook, hook… that I have another forty minutes of this.

Burpee, bob and weave, bob and weave, burpee…

So I embraced the suck, and accepted the class for what it is… a golden opportunity.

Alright class, next combo is with side kicks. Remember to chamber your leg.

I’m going to try and work on my form, to the beat, and try not to get sloppy.

Class was over, and I was drenched. It felt great.

At the moment, my two regrets are that I severely underestimated this class, and that it conflicts with Sensei Rob’s class because I would definitely go back.

Wrap up

That class made me a better martial arts. It wasn’t because I learned any new techniques or got instruction on my form or kata… It was because I had my butt handed to me in a cardio class that uses something that I’ve been doing for a long time as the vehicle for getting into shape… and I enjoyed the challenge.

More importantly, it makes me realize that the pool of schools with nothing to offer is significantly smaller than I had originally thought. If they are teaching dim mac (death touch), run away. Otherwise, maybe try and keep an open mind. I think I will… and I have some revising to do to that other post…

Until next time.

The goal of the Shindokai Kobujutsu Research Society is to join the efforts to restore information that was lost about the traditional Okinawan martial arts and elevate their status legitimate self defense systems that are applicable to our times. In some cases, we can piece together bits of information that is scattered around the world like a bunch of forensic historians. In other cases, we just have to experiment with concepts, just like the forbearers of karate did, and figure out what works (and then ditch the rest).