Warming up to the New Year

Originally posted January 5 2016
A few weeks ago I attended an in-service on sports performance with a very prestigious method that is used by many collegiate and professional sports teams, special forces and professional emergency response organizations and Rehabilitation agencies.  Self described “as a leader in applied research and innovation to advance human performance”.  This short in service was specific to the warm ups.
We were running through various exercises that were thoroughly studied to provide optimal preparation for maximum sports performance.  As we worked through this set of exercises my Physical Therapist co-workers, many of whom were collegiate athletes, noticed how it seems like I do these exercises all the time, which is great since they were very similar to some of the yoga exercises and Junbi undo techniques we employ in the dojo.  

Today I am writing about Junbi Undo, one of the cornerstones of Goju Ryu.  Created by Miyagi Chojun Sensei after extensive research with medical professionals into the workings of the human body, the junbi undo of Goju-Ryu are more than a warm up but a way of instilling martial movement and building a robust body of good health
The exercises contained within junbi undo not only loosen the joints they promote mobility and martial movement. Relating specifically to Karate technique, the various methods gradually raise the heart rate, promote circulation, regulate the breathing, massage the internal organs, and boost the immune system.  Body-weight exercises designed to improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles and spirit of the practitioner.  Breathing exercises introduce the concept of hakkei and how to issue power using the entire body and breath. Also contained within the exercises are elements of Kiko (Qigong), the harvesting and circulation of energy in the human body. Many of the movements transfer directly into Kata demonstrating the link.  
My definition of Self-defense has been to protect (my/our-self) from anything that would cause us harm.  In modern days it may be complications from inactivity.  Regular practice of Junbi Undo helps to ensure we remain active, mentally alert, and energetic throughout the span of our lives.  
The cat may be out of the bag as we started last night, but our focus for January will be Junbi undo, Preparing the body for our Karate practice.  That is not to say we will not practice other things, but we will be paying special attention to Junbi undo and Sanchin as this is the foundation.  
On a related note our Yoga class is on for tonight if you are looking less to instill Martial Movement but still like the ideas of promoting mobility, increasing circulation, boosting immune function and stabilizing joints with body-weight exercises.  Additionally we will work to connect with breath and calm focus the mind.  We will also begin some dedicated time for supplemental exercises, with implements to help with strength.   
Looking forward to a great 2016!  

Twenty Years…

Originally posted April 7 2016
Recently I was asked to reflect back 20 years to 1996.  The person asking was representing an organization I belong to and they were wanting to hear what we were doing when the organization was founded.  Answers were interesting to read at the event in celebration of the longevity and growth.  
My response was interesting to me in that I began to realize what a pivotal time this was in the development of my love for Martial Arts.  My journey began in April of 1985 attending my first Karate classes at the local Goju Kai school.  Up until 1995 I had little experience outside of this style or school.  During the summer three of the black belts and I attended our first major Gasshuku and learned several things that we did not know, that is to say several holes were exposed in our training to that point.  That fall returning to university I began to get involved in the campus Martial Arts club.  The university I attended had a great English Language program at the time and would frequently get a number of students from Japan and Korea that would continue in the the hospitality and tourism program.  Several of these students would participate in the Martial Arts club sharing their experience and opening our eyes to the global nature of activity we were practicing.  We had a diverse group of Martial Arts represented, mostly doing Tae Kwon Do, however we were all able to share what we had done.  We attended some events and frequently worked out with clubs from neighboring universities.  It was a great time of seeing different styles, new techniques and perspectives.
In 1996 I began the year filling the position of Vice president with the University Martial Arts Club.  By the end of the year the group elected me president.  This gave me more influence and more opportunity to meet martial arts students on campus.  I went to the Major Gasshuku again this year better prepared to handle the challenges this included.  One of the side classes was teaching a bo Kata during that week.  The Kata was more complete than what we had been doing to that point and the practical nature was more evident, at least as practical as working with a 6 foot stick can be.  This was my first exposure to Matayoshi style Kobudo the style I still practice today.
Paul, one of the black belts from my home dojo who I had attended Gasshuku with was  continuing his education at my university.  We would see each other on campus regularly, this usually began with him kicking me in the library which gave me great opportunities to practice my blocks.  Fun times.  Paul turned forty that year I seem to remember him getting grief in the dojo.  Life has an interesting way of turning the tables on us.
This time was instrumental in the love for the styles I continue to practice today, and often gives me pause to reflect on how lucky I have been to have such great styles and teachers help move me forward.   It is hard to believe that 20 years have passed since this time.  Great leaps in growth and understanding have taken place since then but this was the loosening of the soil that allows the roots to spread, as my Tai Chi teacher put it.  
Thank you all for your support of Menomonie Goju Ryu, To another 20 great years!  

Live a plain and simple life

Originally posted January 20 2017

The Lunar New year is upon us.  One tradition that I have tried to keep with the incoming new year is to do some releasing of things no longer needed.  I will be going through my closet over the weekend and selecting items that no longer serve and boxing them up for a trip to Goodwill.  I am excited to rip in and thin out the collection selecting out the items I really love and sharing the rest.  I am thankful for the blessings these items may have been, recognize they are not required anymore and they may be of benefit to others.   You may ask what does this have to do with our martial arts training?  Read through the Dojo Kun: Live a plain and simple life.

Follow Through

Originally posted Feb 6 2017

Today I write about Follow through,

A few weeks ago I meet with one of my first Karate instructors for the first time in 10 years.  I met with him and his wife in the midst of my longing for the time when he lead our class and taught from his experience.  We talked about family and the general catch up things.  Then the term follow through came up.

In the year 2001 I moved back to the area.  As I returned to classes it was apparent our instructor had gotten busy with his job and was not able to regularly lead classes.  There was no clear communication about person or persons to fill in when he was unable to be there, some nights class were being led by green or brown belts, whoever showed up.  For years we had been aware of holes in our training and many of the black belts had petitioned the original head instructor for opportunities to advance.   The petition had met with no result and the holes were growing.  Seeing the problems identified a board meeting was called to discuss different things relating to the direction of the group.   With assistance from Mrs. Young I demonstrated things I had learned, proposed additions to the curriculum and taking leadership to help move in a slightly new direction.  This was based on experience training with some senior instructors.  My Goal at that time was to fill in holes in the curriculum, move our knowledge base forward, give a clearer understanding of our techniques and create a structure that would help ensure the knowledge would continue to grow.  Mrs. Young and I traveled to seminars and classes with people who could help us move things in the identified direction.  We brought in  senior instructors to help all participants see the benefit of this style of training.  We expanded class offerings and moved to our own space that allows us more flexibility in class times, an ability to set up a “dojo”, have training equipment and implements, and be free from many of the distractions that were frequent in our old space.   With these goals met we began working on the weapons curriculum that had been all but abandoned allowing us to focus on Goju Ryu.  

Over the years there have been numerous students training here learning skills and gaining confidence,  several have made black belt.  There have been growing and changing pains and there continue to be transitions but there will be follow through on my part.  I again invite you to make goals that are Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and give them a Time frame (SMART).  Set step that will help you move toward those goals, maybe involving your training partners or someone else in helping keep you accountable and go after your goals with focus.  

Do you spar?

Originally posted March 10 2017

Today I am writing with regards to sparing.  It is the most common question people ask when they call, “do you spar?”  My response for years has been no. I usually talk about the drills we do and how they develop skills and reactions.  I find it seems like it usually falls on deaf ears.  That is OK, this is why we interview each other.  If that is what you want this is not your school.  If you want to learn an authentic Okinawan Martial Art (or two) the way they have been done traditionally this is the school for you.

As a student in the past we did jiu kumete or free sparing.  We would spend about 1/4 of our class time on this exercise.  When I was going to classes 4 and 5 times a week this amounted to several hours each week.  I learned several things including that I could block and take an incredible amount of punishment.  I often hated it, I hated that we were not learning martial arts in my opinion.  We were not gaining an understanding of the concepts in the gifts we had been given of the katas thoughtfully crafted and carefully handed down.  It is this experience that brought me back to Okinawan style Goju Ryu and informed the response above.  Goju Ryu is a practical art developed by people whose lives depended on fighting or at least being prepared.  Kata are packages to transmit information, our job is to unpack the concepts they transmitted and develop them for use.

Here is an article Mr. Hagen shared on the subject.



Humble and Kind

This was originally posted May of 2016
Recently I had a patient who is in her mid 40s who works in a local High school and sees issues with the youth population.  She and her husband like myself had grown up in this area and commented about the changes we had seen.  I guess it was an admission of our age.  She is the mother of a 20 year old boy and 17 year old girl.  This is a family I have known for a few years and have had the opportunity to work with each member of this family.  They are active athletic people and to me anyone who can raise “good” children are worthy of admiration.  During this particular visit She happened to be telling me about her daughter and how she was doing in school and athletics.  I mentioned that I had seen them after the Easter service.  She told me that I was the topic of conversation on their trip home.  She commented how they noticed that I opened the door of the car for my wife and mother.  This seems like a simple thing and should be common but in a day with the key fob button that unlocks the doors and can do multiple functions too frequently you will see a couple approach the car and he gets in his side and she in hers.
This woman and her husband discussed the scene in the parking lot with their daughter noting that if she could find a “boy” who would do this for her she should marry him.  Now this girl is on a good path as her parents are guiding her toward self respect and having others treat her the way she deserves to be treated.  Good on them.
I am always struck when I see a man remove his hat upon entering a building.  It seems like a simple thing it shows respect.  On occasion I see a few men who wear their baseball hats or fedora through church.  This goes against Hat etiquette https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=hat+etiquette but I am glad I am not sitting behind the guy in the fedora, How rude.
In (the Dojo) Martial arts training we work to humble ourselves with all participants.  We bow to each other at the beginning and end of class to show mutual respect.  We utter the statement in Japanese, “Onagashi Masu”  Meaning “Please assist me”  or “Do me this favor”.  We do this at the beginning and end of exercises no mater the partners age rank, gender or affiliation.  This is emphasized with the new white belts on their early lessons with the black belts.  The senior is also asking the junior for assistance.  Everyone removes their shoes at the door to keep the floor clean.  We all take off our jewelry.  We are required to keep our nails short.  Our uniforms should be kept relatively clean.  This is not a dress code for the sake of conservative values, it is for our protection and the protection of our classmates.  No one wants to be put into a headlock by someone who has not washed their uniform since their last grading.  It is dangerous to meet with someones toenails as they kick or step toward you.  At a minimum you may have to miss a few minutes while you clean and dress the wound.
As we travel and have time to visit like minded individuals I find it fun to watch and participate in the race to refill your companions tea before they can fill yours. It is not a race of course, but the point is to put others before yourself.  It is hard when you want a cup of tea and find the tea pot is only partly full to pour for your two neighbors and then have nothing left for your own cup.
I recently was turned on to a song by Tim Mcgraw that I really like and says a lot of this.  The link to it on Youtube is below.  Enjoy!


Date: Tue, 24 May 2016 12:20:02 -0700

trayounger has shared a video with you on YouTube
Tim McGraw – Humble And Kind (Official Video)
Humble and Kind is off Tim’s album DAMN COUNTRY MUSIC: …
©2016 YouTube, LLC 901 Cherry Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066

Celebrating partners and Moms

So we have arrived into May.  May offers a lot here, we get antsy and involved in summer activities and get outside on occasion…

So as we finished up April I was reflecting back on the Gasshuku to give an update and congratulations to all who attended.  Several who were unable to attend were missed but several students attended this year who had not before.  It was my thought that they would be hit hard and fast with new information.  My concern was that it would  overwhelming.  It was so great to see new students to this level step up and go through this amount and intensity of training.  As an instructor I tend to get evaluated by the students performance, not just in how they preform techniques new and old, but how they behave in the dojo etc.  It was very uplifting to see them do so well and to have the head instructor and several seniors pull me aside and comment on the students.  Now this is not new that the quality of students here has been complimented but it always feels good and it keeps me from having to do remediation…  The first year we hosted something like this I got the call out for a dinner, not uncommon, but the debriefing was new.  I was instructed on areas that were lacking in the student population.  Rather uncomfortable but these were the corrections I needed at the time.  Fortunately we plugged the gaps noted at that time and have moved forward.  Now there are always things that I am learning about how we can improve, things get pointed out all the time but now they are technique and less procedural.  Congratulations to all who survived and thank you for making me look good.

One big note for in this last gathering we had a mother son student paring (other than Mrs. Young and myself).  Now there have been many other family parings over the years but this is a special month with mothers day coming up next weekend to note this.  We remarked at how special that is.  Even suggesting they look around and ask how many other parent child combinations do you see?  With 4 female participants at this event and in many dojos women seem to be the minority so, how many Moms…?  What other activity can parents and children participate in together?  Yes there are some but it is special to the martial arts practice.  Having shared 34 years of participation with my own mother I may be coming from a perspective.  She has demonstrated herself to be one of the toughest people I know.  She has overcome mental blockages and significant physical pain to rise to the level she has achieved.  I have written about this before but it bears repeating, she has been the driving force that has helped me get to where I am, supporting me at every grading.  Her support has kept this dojo going.  Her ability and attitude has been the inspiration for me and many of our students, perhaps this is why we have many women young girls and even moms that participate.

So for May we will be working on partner drills… The reason to attend classes.  We will do Kakie, Bunkai (kihon and Rensoku) and Sandan Gi.  Buckle up for a fun month of partner training….


As I look out the window, and feel the single digit temperature I want to say happy winter.  I have been enjoying shoveling snow while listening to the birds.  So today we are into April the fourth month and the beginning of our second quarter.  

In past years we have worked on Shesochin kata; fighting in the four directions…  This year we will continue to think of the four directions Perhaps more simply than the complete kata.  We will work with Ido or movement and turning both 90 degrees and 180 per our usual, but we will introduce the 270 degree turn to many of you.

Just a reminder Yoga is Tuesday evenings 6:30-7:30 pm.  The current drop in cost is $7.00 and punch cards are available for $63. Beginning June 1 the Drop in rate will be $8.00 and Punch cards will be $72 for 10 punches.  Purchase punch card prior to that date for the savings.  Adult Karate students are welcome to attend at no additional cost.  Parents who have children enrolled in karate are welcome to attend Yoga at no charge as well.

Over the next weeks and months we will be offering additional classes and having some expansions of our programming.  More information will be out as it becomes available.  Some classes will be series Like Tai chi class beginning May 8.  This will be a 45 minute class from 12:15-1:00 running Tuesdays and Thursdays from May 8- June 14.  This is a separate class and must be registered for specifically.  The investment is $72 for the 6 week class.  Others classes like this will be offered soon.

The Character of Integrity…

Many who know me know I am an avid bicycle commuter, riding daily trough the year. Today it was a quiet morning, a beautiful sunny day with a temperature in the mid 60’s. To me this is a perfect morning to ride. I was riding down a road I ride multiple times a day on my way to work. I approached approaching a four way stop that I go through multiple times daily. Approaching the intersection I looked in all directions and saw there was no one visible in any direction. To my left there are trees and visibility is limited but no one visible approaching or at the intersection. I went through the stop sign without even slowing down. As I got into the intersection a large Chevy impala approached and then stopped at the sign. The driver respectfully said out the window, “There’s a stop sign.” I was instantly convicted. He was right in that I did not follow the rules, or display good character. I justify this non stop by saying how much effort it is to start back up. I began thinking if he had made the same choice, perhaps justifying it saying it was best for his fuel mileage, I would have likely been struck by his car and my perfect morning would have taken a very different direction. I continued my ride thinking about character.

Character is who you are when no one is looking… I continued to think about what image do you want to project. The actions you undertake generally have effect beyond just that moment. In may places their exists animosity between auto drivers and bicyclists. An issue that can end badly for someone on a bike. I certainly did not want to contribute to this. In seeing riders who cut sharply across traffic, ride in the middle of the road or into traffic I usually want to yell at them myself. At one time I was a few hundred feet behind an older rider who chose to make a right turn in to a traffic lane without stopping or apparently looking because he was struck by a van. He bounced along the side of the van after he was clear the van attempted to stop. The rider waved and said “its all right”… My response was “no its not” you totally blew into traffic, how does that driver feel? Riders like this make all of us look bad, creating negative image of bicyclists in the minds of auto drivers. As a rider is us usually a good idea to approach your ride like you were an auto following traffic laws. I appreciate the use of bike paths but have taken advantage of the occasional “rolling stop”when no one is looking.

I want to thank the driver of that impala for correcting my behavior and offering a check of my character.

In karate this happens often. We do our practice thinking we may have done it the way that is correct but a well tuned eye will catch even a minor detail. They will call you out on what they see. The next step is what to do with it… Do you defend your action saying I thought… or do you take the correction and examine what was offered and find out what it has to offer? Perhaps that correction will keep you from bouncing off the side of a van, or worse, in your future.