Sunday, October 11, 2015

Self-Defense & Karate Classes

Training in self-defense at the Arizona Hombu dojo - Suzette defends against an attack with tonfa (side-handle batons), defending against sansetsukon (3-sectional staff) attack by Lexi at the Arizona Hombu dojo in the East Valley of Phoenix
Some people have no respect for others, their property, or their lives and we need to prepare ourselves for a time when we run into one of these thugs. I'm not as concerned about personal property - and I would probably turn the other cheek in cases related to mental assault, but when it comes to physical assault on a child, woman, senior citizen, or myself, I look forward to turning both cheeks of these people. If nothing else, maybe they will find a better path after they are thoroughly beaten. But it is my prayer that it doesn't come to that, even though it has happened in the past. So, why would I train in traditional martial arts 5 to 6 times a week - as I've been doing this for quite some time?

It has a lot more to do with self-defense. In traditional martial arts, there is never an end to learning. It is amazing how much there is to learn - so much that one cannot learn it all in one lifetime. And I enjoy training with my students many of whom become personal life-long friends.

I have reached the highest level I can reach in at least one martial art, but I recognize there is still a lot more to learn - including martial arts history, different kobudo and samurai weapons, many forms (kata), Okinawan language, maybe a few Chinese martial arts, philosophy, better physical fitness, meeting more people in the martial arts etc., etc., etc. I've been inducted in more Halls-of-Fame than Senator McCain has told the truth to his constituents, but there is still a lot more for me to learn. And in our dojo in Mesa, we have many PhDs, engineers, some doctors, lawyers, scientists, accountants, school teachers, soldiers, pilots, physical therapists, nutritionists, personal trainers, computer techs, Christians, Mormons and Catholics. Why so many highly educated people in our traditional martial arts school? It's because we all realize how much there is to learn. And our dojo has a very positive environment that is favorable to learning. My past experience as kyoju no budo (professor of martial arts) at four universities tends to attract people with a similar interest in learning and education.

I've been teaching martial arts and self-defense classes most of my life, and try to make classes and clinics as entertaining as possible and focus on techniques I know will work for anyone - simple things like defending with elbows, knees, the palm of the hand, car keys, a fork, spoon, pepper shaker, rock, magazine, pen, etc. So, when you are attacked on the street (no matter what your age), hopefully you will have had specialized training in traditional martial arts. Without it, you are likely a sitting duck.

Learn self-defense, learn it well and practice every week for the rest of your life. To be successful in self-defense, it must become second nature. There are lots of crazies out there - not just politicians, but you know the other types - they are everywhere - Congress, stores, transgender restrooms, etc. So, consider learning self-defense to help ease your mind. Here are a couple of things to think about before beginning a self-defense program:

(1) To be successful in self-defense, you must practice constantly to build muscle memory so you will not have to think about how to defend yourself during a stressful situation or attack - it is important that you just react! This is known as mushin. To build mushin, we strongly recommend signing up for "Traditional" Karate Classes and practice often. Once a week is enough, but 2 or 3 times a week is much better better. And this also means you need to make a lifelong commitment to self-defense training.

This is not as bad as you might think! Actually, its great! It is a great exercise program and stress reliever. So, you will no longer have to go to a gym as you can burn lots of calories in your karate and self-defense classes and make new friends. The nice thing about 'traditional' karate as opposed to other forms of martial arts is that the Okinawan martial artists who developed the art focused on kata and bunkai. Kata are living encyclopedia of self-defense techniques - it is like dancing or shadow boxing, so you can practice most of the time on your own if you are so inclined. The bunkai are the self-defense techniques that make up the kata. So practice kata in your home and at the dojo and you will be learning self-defense.

(2) 'Traditional' Karate is considered to be a self-defense weapon rather than sport, so your goal of being able to defend yourself will be better served in traditional, rather than sport karate. If you ever watched the original Karate Kid (1984) movie, you'll likely remember the difference between Sport Karate (the nasty Corbra Kai group) and traditional karate (the Miyagi-Ryu Karate Kid).  Another significant difference mentioned in passing in the movie is that sport karate is about winning - winning trophies, whereas traditional karate is about self-defense and self-improvement. One of the great Okinawan martial artists - Gichin Funakoshi - made the following statement about traditional karate, "The purpose of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of its participants". Now that sums it all up very nicely. But if you are really competitive, then you will probably benefit more from sport karate.

(3) Learn to use a gun, pepper spray, etc. But remember, you can not always get to these; whereas your hands and feet are always with you. And if you are a school teacher - forget it, they will not let you carry weapons - or will they? If you are trained in traditional karate, you have your feet, elbows, hands and knees - that are attached!

After teaching self-defense clinics for more than 30
years at the University of Wyoming, author and
Grandmaster of Shorin-Ryu karate, Soke Hausel
indicates these clinics are great for entertainment
and provide information to assist women and
men in general self-defense, but to be really prepared,
people need to consider weekly karate and
self-defense classes. And forget about aerobic kick
boxing classes: they provide little self-defense value.
After teaching kick boxing classes at Golds
Gym in Gilbert and Mesa Arizona, Soke Hausel said
these classes are great for calorie burning, but provide
little to no self-defense value. Kicking the air or a
punching bag does not teach a person how to react to
an attack.
(4) There are many free, one night, self-defense clinics offered by local police departments or civic centers. Some of these are good in that they help you become aware of your surroundings, BUT they will not prepare you for self-defense! The reason is simple. Okinawan karate practitioners discovered a long time ago that in order to defend oneself, they had to develop muscle memory. The only way to develop muscle memory is to educate your muscles properly - through constant practice and proper training.

You must learn to react to movement without thinking and you must learn to react using full force blocks and strikes with devastating focus we martial artists call ki. The reason for this is simple. During an attack, you will be under a lot of stress unless you well prepared. If you do not react to movement and instead try to judge which hand or foot a person is going to attack you with, you will be in a lot of trouble. For instance, imagine some thug is harassing you and you have to defend yourself. You stop and think "I'll block his RIGHT punch with my left hand and then kick". You are ready and then you discover he is left handed! If you were properly trained to react to movement, you would not be lying on the ground on your back with a broken jaw. 

(5) Schedule a weekly night out at a dojo (karate school) with your best friend, husband, father, boy friend, girl friend, mother, or even grandmother or grandfather. It will bring you closer together and give you both something to do each week and talk about. And when you search for a dojo, look for a school that offers 'Adult' Classes. This is important, otherwise you may end up like one of our lady black belts who trained at a taekwondo school. Sensei Paula attended taekwondo classes and she was the only adult in the class. Training to defend yourself against 5 year old boys and girls was not realistic, and its even more embarrassing when you are old enough to be the mother of the pimple-faced instructor. At the end of each class, Sensei Paula, now a Hall-of-Fame Shorin-Ryu Karate instructor told me that she had to stand in line with all of the little kids to site the dojo philosophy. Now get this - the dojo philosophy was "I will obey my mommy and my daddy". Very hard to swallow, especially for someone like Paula, who was born in Japan.
Weekly traditional karate and kobudo classes at the Arizona Hombu dojo in
Mesa Arizona provide adults (and families) with muscle memory through
kata (forms) practice and self defense comes naturally as the students are
all taught how to break down every kata so that every single movement in
every kata become a self-defense application that is known to Okinawan
karate practitioners as bunkai. When properly taught, according to Soke
Hausel, "these kata become living encyclopedia of self-defense applications."
If you are taking karate or taekwondo, and you do not understand what each
move in every kata is for, you may be in the wrong martial arts school. Nearly
all traditional Okinawan karate schools focus on the bunkai or self-defense

(6) Not all instructors are certified. In fact, many are not. So, do some quick background checks on the instructor and school you are considering. It is very easy to do a quick BING search, or Yahoo Search, or GOOGLE search for information on the instructor, the martial arts school, the martial arts association - you could find out that you are about to sign up for self-defense classes with a person under investigation for sexual harassment or a person with many complaints on aggression. Even more scary, you may find out that the person has a history of politics - Egad!

The martial art of kobudo goes hand in hand with traditional Okinawa karate. Kobudo is nothing more than an extension
of karate (empty hand) techniques, but teaches martial artists that there are many weapons available - not only the
traditional Okinawa weapons, but also everyday weapons. For instance, Soke Hausel recently taught a group of librarians
in Chandler Arizona how to use their books, car keys and even magazines for self-defense weapons.

Self-defense training needs to apply kata (karate forms) and be realistic. At the Arizona Hombu dojo, students
from around the world train in karate, kobudo, samurai arts, jujutsu and self-defense. The self-defense applications include defense against hand guns, rifles, clubs, knives, grabs, chokes, and punches.


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