Sunday, February 19, 2012


Stretching to the limit. Here I train at the
University of Wyoming while stretching with my
foot above my head.
Martial arts are about teaching self-confidence and self-respect as well as respect for others. It is about proving to yourself that you are super-human of sorts. Things we do in karate are not the things we imagine are possible for ourselves - take stretching, I don't like to stretch, but when I train at the local 24-hour fitness gym in Chandler or in Gilbert, I will stretch to take a break to catch my wind between sets of weight lifting. 

Stretching is good for developing kicks that reach high to the face, but personally, I'd rather kick someone in the knee, groin, or stomach. Kicking high leaves you open to falling on ice (if you live in Wyoming), leg sweeps from other martial artists, and many other things that are not so good. The stability of a high kick is less than that of a low kick (its been a long time since I took physics, but if I remember correctly, entropy is all about dissapating energy to try to reach a level of stability), so why not go for some of those excellent targets below the belt.

I like to lift weights and I use to lift more than I'm suppose to based on my body weight. I remember I use to train with a curl bar with two 45 pound discs (about 125 pounds total).  Not bad for a skinny guy at 160 pounds at the time.

A 400-pound squat at the University of Wyoming.
Photo was taken for an article on martial arts
One time, while exercising at the University of Wyoming, I watched a guy in the corner of the weight room whose thoughts were freely flowing from his mind - "if that skinny guy can lift that, I should be able to". After I abandoned the curl bar, I watched him walk up to the bar and he looked as if he pulled every muscle in his arm. He quickly dropped the bar wincing in pain, massaging his bicep and exited from the weight room.  I use to also perform free squats with a lot of weight as this gave me a good foundation for karate stances. I really miss squats.

When I was still the University of Wyoming, I would squat 400 pounds every other day while at a body weight of 160 to 170 pounds. Periodically I would show off and squat 600 pounds. One of my students insists that he saw me squat 800 pounds once, but I'm not sure that I lifted that much.

This worked fine until the day my back rebelled. I pulled some muscles in my right lower back that should never be pulled and ever since that time, the same muscles complain over and over again until I finally had to give up squats with free weights so I could walk normally again.

I still like to push weights on a squat machine. Last year when I was training and getting my thighs back in shape before the 2012 JKI National Clinic, I tried putting 850 pounds on the squat machine. I can do this much weight without killing myself because my back is supported by a chair attached to the machine - but it is nowhere as difficult and useful as squatting 400 pounds of free weight. I was working on my thighs and knees because in the previous year (2011) I had a bucket handle tear in the meniscus in my left knee that had to be repaired by a surgeon: my knee never quite felt the same. I suspect my doctor would have given me a time out for trying to lift this much weight - and you guessed it, I hurt the other knee - ugh! Now neither is quite right.

Accepting a full force roundhouse kick to
ribs from Sensei Gillespie at University
of Wyoming basketball game.
After I left surgery on a Friday in 2011, I was required to be wheeled to the door of the hospital in a wheel chair. At the door, I was given crutches and told I would need them. I never used them. The following day, I was ready to head to the gym, but my wife talked me out of it and so I waited until Monday to head back to the gym. I was also enrolled in physical therapy at Diamondback and was told that they only had one other person ever be able to as much as I could after this kind of surgery and he was an active Phoenix Suns professional basketball player - where I had about 40 years on him. The physical therapist wanted to know what my secret was - I told him it was no secret - it was just my weekly training in traditional martial arts that made all of the difference.

Nowadays, when I lift I warm up for 40 minutes in the aerobics room.  My regimen begins push-ups and sit-ups, then followed by kata, and groups of self-defense applications (shadow boxing) using hands and finishing with a few kicks. How many I do depends on how I feel that particular day. Other days, I may just do kata - typically 35 different kata and by the time I'm done, I've produced enough sweat for everyone else in the gym - I cannot think of anything that is better than kata for overall physical fitness. I would also add kobudo kata, but the gym frowns on weapons - but if they just had a bo (6-foot staff or dowel) that would be very helpful.

When I do push-ups, I do between 100 and 250. Sit ups, I do a minimum of 300 and periodically have done as many as 1200 (I quit at this number only because sit ups get boring). Not too long ago, while teaching at my dojo in Mesa Arizona across the street from Gilbert and Chandler, Arizona, I had a visitor from Florida who had trained in martial arts elsewhere. He and a young lady were watching as we warmed up. At the beginning of the class, we often do a set of 20 push ups and 30 to 50 sit ups. I was told after the class by our visitors that they thought it was entertaining that an older person with gray hair (me), was doing these exercises at ease, while my students (nearly all younger than me) were struggling. This is because I practice sit ups and push ups so often.

I like to do kata during warm-ups at the gym. I warm up with 4 or 5 kata. When I run through the kata, each and every strike, block and kick are done with full, explosive force.

Two of my favorite all time martial artists at
the University of Wyoming. Sensei Katie and
Sensei Kris. They married after college, and
both developed a reputation for powerful
technique. Katie also developed excellent
jujutsu waza such that most guys were
concerned about having to train with her.
Periodically, other martial artist show up in the aerobics room at 24-hour fitness in Chandler, Arizona. Some have a serious attitude problem, and I've yet to see any that impress me - but it's because of the way they train and their disregard for courtesy, which is a must for martial arts. It is obvious these people have a lack of understanding of martial arts. I assume they are trying to make up for a lack of power and focus by adding a chip on their shoulders, when all they would have to do is learn how to focus and be a little courteous. Most of us can do this, but apparently few martial arts instructors teach a method whereby their students can learn power and also learn respect.

Anyway,I watched one martial artist as he kicked, punched and blocked with no focus, acceleration or power in any technique. He did do a lot of exercies trying to conserve energy, but it was more like a demonstration of aerobic kick boxing classes for overweight housewives that I've seen at Gold's Gym. Motion, but no power. Don't conserve energy! Put some power in your technique!

In karate (and martial arts in general), if you want to be above average, you cannot conserve energy. Instead you must put yourself into the hands of Uncle Albert and focus on his formula E=MC2. You must erupt like an atom bomb during every technique. While generating focus and power, one must also be aware of time (another of Uncle Albert's concepts). Time is relative, and it is wise to move from technique to technique considering ma (distancing and timing)!

A few decades ago, when I attended my first Juko Kai International Clinic in Florida, I was asked by my Sensei (Dai-Soke Sacharnoski) to demonstrate every empty hand kata I knew. This was done in front of 250 black belts. At the end, I probably lost 5 pounds of water from sweating, but I established a name for myself.

Many came up afterwards to tell me it was one of the best performances they had seen. One black belt (a 7th dan) indicated he had never seen another in his system with so much power. Another (a 5th dan) told me that so much power emanated from my technique, that the building actually shook every time I punched or blocked (of course it didn't, but that was the impression).

Teaching my students to break rocks at the University of Wyoming. Rocks
are much cheaper than boards or rebreakable boards and much more
difficult to break.
This is the type of focus and power I teach my students. Nearly all are adults, but I have a couple of kids that one family watched one Wednesday afternoon. The lady told me these two kids had so much power she would be fearful of being hit by them (they were 6 and 8 years old). I would have to agree. They have more focus and power than most black belts I've seen in Arizona.

I also emphasize body hardening to students so they can learn to break rocks with the hands, knuckles, feet and head as well as accept and dish out powerful blocks, strikes and kicks. I use to allow my top students to punch me in the stomach until they got tired. I have some good blocking exercises I teach so I can get my students to make powerful blocks as well as learn to accept pain and power of such blocks. After a few sessions of these kinds of exercises, our students love to show off their bruises to one another.

One of my female students (Paula) recently had a physical. The doctor's eyes got real big when he saw the bruises on her arms. Apparently, it took some talking to convince the doctor that her husband was not really abusing her and he should not call the sheriff. She was just taking traditional karate. Not sure why, but I've had a group of really tough women black belts over the years. One was a petite young lady at the University of Wyoming named Katie. She loved jujutsu and loved to rough up the guys. One of my male students actually quit training in the jujutsu classes because he was afraid of her.

One of my powerful hitters, Sensei Paula Borea
loves to hit. Paula is actually of Japanese
samurai lineage.
I thought my body hardening techniques were intense until I joined Juko Kai International. When I was at the Black Eagle Federation Kyokushin Kai dojo as a teenager and later at a Wado-Ryu dojo as an undergraduate in the local university, kumite was pretty much all we learned. We had only a cup and nothing more for protection. Still, when you got kicked in the nads, it dropped you. So, when I met Dai-Soke Sacharnoski of Juko Kai International, I was absolutely amazed at the heights he had taken body hardening to. Nothing came close - he was superhuman! I had to learn this art. His martial artists were striking each other in places you don't even want to think about and smile! Places where we had been taught in other schools to be killing blows. But the JKI martial artists were smiling while being totally exposed and unprotected!

After I started learning this art in 1996, our university club presented a couple of karate demonstrations at half-time at the university basketball games. There was one demonstration that stood out. At the end, my hardest kicker, Sensei Donette Gillespie, 3rd dan, was to kick me in the groin while I was totally unprotected. I was not wearing a cup, and believe me, after being kicked there numerous times during full contact training in Kyokushin Kai, Wado, Kempo, Shorin-Ryu and Shotokan karate, it doesn't help anyhow.

The UW crowd was going wild as Sensei Gillespie did her warm up kick to show what was going to happen. There were more cheers than during the basketball game. The audience wanted to see me fall. As Sensei Gillespie got ready to do her kick, I told her to kick me as hard as she could and try to lift me off the ground. She then focused. She got a look like "I'm going to kick your nads into the rafters". The stare was so intense that I smiled - then she kicked!

Ted's famous photo of Sensei Gillespie kicking me
at a basketball game (University of Wyoming
Photo Service)
The crowd went crazy and there were lots of oooooooooohhs in the audience from the males. And did I survive? 

The next day, Ted from the University photo service called me at my office in the geological survey (I was also a geologist) and said I needed to stop by his office to see his photo - he said it was the craziest photo he had ever taken - I was being kicked in the groin and smiling, as if I enjoyed it.

I was very excited to learn Juko Ryu kijutsu (Combat Ki) and many other martial arts taught by my instructor. Dai-Soke Sacharnoski is one of the greatest martial artists to ever walk the planet and its a privilege to be able to train under him. In my opinion, he is the best all around martial artist in the world. He also has a large following of martial artists that feel the same and include many of the better martial artists in the world.

His martial arts association, Juko Kai International, is for traditional martial artists and it is not easy to get in. Most applicants are rejected.

Using my head at a karate demo in
Las Cruces, NM in 1976.
After I was granted my own sokeship (I had a kind of hybrid style from all of the martial arts I had trained in), I modified my body hardening concepts and include them in my teaching. They are no where as superior as those of Dai-Soke Sacharnoski's Juko-Ryu Kijutsu. One of Sacharnoski's other students, Hanshi Kiby Roy, is incredible and something that you have to see to believe!

Many of my students enjoy learning body hardening techniques - both male and female (see following photos). It was not too long ago, that I celebrated 45 years of martial arts training. My, the time flies by.