Sunday, June 24, 2012


A person can defend themselves in many situations if they are aware of weapons they possess and have considerable traditional martial arts training. When I say considerable, I mean a long time period of constant and continual training. This is what we call mushin in martial arts and relates to muscle memory. Practicing the same techniques over and over with and without a partner until it becomes second nature and you can react during a very stressful situation without thinking is what successful self-defense is about. If you think you can attend one clinic taught by a martial artist, police officer, etc, and successfully defend yourself, you are mistaken. It is something you must do all of the time. You don't have to be an expert in martial arts, you just have to practice constantly with techniques and methods that work.

It was discovered long ago by Okinawan peasants and royal body guards that training in karatedo (空手) one can develop good habits for self-defense only through muscle memory. It is such an important concept of karate, that Okinawans chose the kanji for "empty" () to represent karate. The 'empty' referring to the state of mushin (無心) or emptiness, philosophically indicating that one must be able to react, not think. In karate we have a zen phrase - mushin no shin (無心の心) that translates as "a mind without a mind", or "think without thinking".

What does this mean? It means if you want to properly react to an attack, you need to train over and over and over again so that you can react without thinking. You must be able to just react to an attack. This can only done by muscle memory or repetition. But in addition to just reacting, one needs to know how to react (this is why we teach clinics and classes) and also how to develop a technique we use in Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Renmei known as hitotsuki hitogeri, which directly translates as 'one strike one kick', or the art of one-punch knockouts. Why? If you are attacked on the street, do you want to have to prolong self-defense by having to hit the attacker 15 to 30 times, or just one or two?  By prolonging self-defense, there is a danger that you mind will start thinking and cloud your thoughts with fears.

Dr. Teule defends herself at the Arizona School of
Traditional Karate on the border of Mesa and Gilbert
Karate is considered the ultimate method for developing good self-defense habits. Karate has many benefits that go beyond self-defense. When taught properly with traditions, karate training should provide a path for self-awareness, self-confidence, self-esteem and life-long health. We often joke at our dojo that karate is the one proven dietary method that works. Have you ever seen a karateka (空手家) who looked like he or she should be on the Walmart Shoppers list? Think about it. Burning ~1,000 calories during karate training 3 to 6 times a week is a great method for building good health and a weight loss plan that works and at the same time, you get to learn a martial art.

Some people are told they can take a one day, or one hour class and learn to defend themselves. Not so, unless we are talking about how to pull a trigger on a shotgun. In self-defense, one must develop roots that include proper stances, good hip rotation, focused punches, blocks and kicks; good use of body weight, and a weekly training regimen. Without this, you are wasting your time. All a one-day clinic can teach you is that there are options and it will teach you what some of the options are. But if you want to learn how to use those options effectively, you better sign up for a traditional (non-sport) karate class.

But its not as bad as you think. If you join the right club or school, it is a wonderful place to meet new friends with similar interests. Be sure you find a good karate school. Just like everything else, there are many scam artists ready to take your money and run.

Ryan defends grab by Rich while Heather watches.
Before you sign up, watch a class and talk to some students to find out about the instructor and the classes. I've heard my sensei (teacher) say in the past that as many as 75 to 85% of martial arts instructors are not properly qualified. I don't know if it is really that bad - I have never seen any published statistics, but you do have to be careful.

A few years ago, I stopped by a dojo in Fort Collins, Colorado. It was advertising as a traditional school (in other words a school you would expect to see in Okinawa). I have a bias view towards traditional schools. Traditional schools simply enforce traditions, bowing, respect, etc, rather than winning trophies.

After a short conversation with this Colorado sensei, I discovered he was a con artist. Believe it or not, he claimed to teach his students (including 5 year-old students) to catch arrows with their bare hands shot at them with a 30-pound bow in the dojo. Why would anyone want to catch arrows?

At another so called 'traditional' school in Mesa, Arizona, the instructor was teaching karate kata (forms) to loud rock n' roll music. These people need to look up the meaning of 'tradition'.

In Gilbert, Arizona, I met another instructor who was very disrespectful. Something you don't often see in traditional martial arts. So, yes, they are out there and it appears in droves and unless you are an experienced instructor, you will not be able to pick them out so easily - but use common sense! If it sounds like a scam - its a scam.

Sign up for a self-defense clinic. These can be important to help you realize you can really defend yourself. Next, start looking for a good karate school to attend, one that you enjoy the curriculum, instructors and students, and make a commitment to train for the rest of your life. Consider it as a gym - you will lose more weight in karate classes than you will in a gym.
If you are in our neighborhood, please stop by and talk to our students. We are located at 60 W. Baseline Road, Mesa, AZ [Arizona School of Traditional Karate (Seiyo Hombu)] (MAP).

Personal Self-Defense Clinic: To get you started, we offer a personal self-defense clinic for as few as 6 or more persons. The fee is only $25/person. In this clinic, Hall-of-Fame Soke Hausel will teach you how easy it is to defend against many attacks and will teach you about weapons you have available - not only your limbs, but also car keys, sticks, purses, books, cups, etc.  This personal clinic can be scheduled most any weekend for 2 hours for you and your friends. Just contact us at our dojo on the border of Mesa and Gilbert just down the block from Chandler.

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