Friday, August 22, 2014

The Difficulty of Simplicity

This is a weapon?
    We have a phrase in our dojo.   "Dazzle them with Bullshit."  We use this to refer to those actions that are not designed to have any practical application, but look cool.  Not to be picking on any one group, but for a reference point, think of the XMA events that they used to show on ESPN.  They would do bo staff work with thin, pieces of plastic, which were specifically reflective to impress and dazzle the judges.  The weapons themselves were mere props, not weapons.  By the way, of the competitions I saw, they never had martial artists as judges, just celebrities.  There were competitors that would do a "Japanese sword" form where he would toss his thin, unsharpened blade into the air, spin around, and catch it again.  Most of what I saw was glorified juggling, and wasn't any form of martial arts.  If you put enough sparkles and glowsticks on it, the judges won't notice, that you you're not doimg anything.  I'd had loved to see one of the competitors come out do one, perfect iaido draw and cut, resheath the blade, bow and walk off.  No BS, just simple and effective.
    I think all that dazzle is designed to cover up for flaws.  That's because the simplest things are the most difficult to do right.  I've been doing aikido for over a dozen years, and I'm still working on my tenkan and irimi.  The two most basic moves in aikido.  The more you concentrate on a simple thing, the more every detail needs to be correct.  And that's the difficulty of simplicity.  Because it is this one simple thing you are doing, if you do any small detail incorrectly, it shows.
   So the next time you go into your  dojo, and you're working on your kihon, your basics, do so mindfully.  Make sure the simple stuff is done right.  Make sure every detail, every piece of your body is in the correct place.  Feel what is done correctly and incorrectly.  You might appreciate the difficulty of it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Another Interview with...Me

  The Martial Arts Nation just posted their 6th Episode which had an interview with me.  If you want to hear more of your Martial Thoughts host than you get normally, here you go.

  Try out the podcast.  Cory is a cool guy, whose a fellow martial artist.  And keep listening to the Martial Thoughts Podcast.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Information = Skill; Knowledge = Mastery

I blame the internet

  I don't remember where I stole borrowed this from on the internet, but I never seen as good an example of the difference between information and knowledge.  I taught high school level students for over a decade, and with the increased availability of the internet, i.e. smartphones, I've seen a drop in both the information and knowledge level of today's students.  Before you stop reading, this isn't a "kids these days" rant.  I am just addressing the problem before I talk about the solution.
   Here's an example of how information gets together to become knowledge.  In my AP Environmental Science class, there was a question to the effect of "How does global warming affect malaria rates?"  You have to have a bunch of pieces of information to answer that question.  You have to know that global warming increases rainfall, increases temperature, moves mosquito lines on mountains, that mosquitoes breed in still water, and that mosquitoes carry the malaria causing agent.  Wow!  That's a lot of pieces to put together.  But its the same thing with martial arts.
  We'll keep the example simple.  The question is "How do you deal with a front punch?"  There are ten thousand different variables that come together to answer that question, including what your preferred martial strategy and tactics are.  I've seen plenty of people in the dojo who can perform individual techniques beautifully.  They are well trained, and they know the terminology, but they can't answer questions about how techniques are related to each other, or how they are part of the over all system of our art.  These are the people I've referred to in the past as martial arts practitioners, as opposed to martial artists.  They haven't made that leap from information to knowledge.  They don't look at the system as a whole, with larger eyes.   They see a collection of individual techniques.  From my experience, that usually means, when something goes wrong with a technique, they can't flow into another one.  They are stuck, again, because they don't see the relationships.
    They probably also not see how life's other aspects are connected back to martial arts.  Music is often compared to the martial arts, as is driving.  That is the difference again between knowledge and wisdom.  The ability to connect unrelated ideas.  In Robert Greene's Mastery, he talks about how the really great thinkers in the world often came up with their ideas while doing something else.  Einstein was famous for coming up with physics ideas while playing the violin.  So try to see things with a wider gaze and ask your instructor questions (when and where appropriate) about how techniques fit into the system's strategy.  Look at your martial arts as a microcosm, see how it applies to the rest of of your life, and try to gain some knowledge.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Episode XV-A Fist Full of Podcast

Episode XV-A Fist Full of Podcasts

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Download the Podcast HERE

Recorded: Sunday August 3rd, 2014


Intro:  Theme from "Enter the Dragon" by Lalo Schifri

Introduction of Mariano
The Skeptics Guide (to the University)
Chendokan Aikido
Atemi ryu Jujutsu
Bill Herndon
  Episode XIV-A Fish called Podcast
Piranha Gear
Red Dragon Inn/New Legends of Shaolin
  Man Ting
  "When you just can stands it, just don't stands it."

Letter of corrections from Ezekiel
Martial Arts Nation
1. Wong Fei Hung is not the "Hung" of Hung Gar
2. Bodhidharma did not create Kung Fu
3. Taichi chuan (Yang Style)

Discussion Topic: The Value of Seminars
The Moses Powell Memorial Seminar
  Rape Prevention Classes
  Pat Morita
  Ginchin Funikoshi
  Self Defense Seminars
Weekend Long Seminars
  Physical Aspects
  Social Aspects
  Training Aspects
    Benny and Jude
    Cung Li Flying Scisors Leg Take Down
  Training Buddies
  Motivational Aspect

Martial arts certificate as important as physics or maths: Akshay
  Akshay Kumar
  Harold and Kumar
  Hot Yoga
Grace, danger blend in Haiti's machete fighting
 Michael Rogers
CSM Strategic hired by Turkmenistan government
Asian indoor and Martial Arts Games
Martial arts drama from 'Smallville' team coming to AMC
  Kung Fu
  Martial Law
    Sammo Hung
  Kung Fu: The Legend Continues
  Stephen Chow
    Shaolin Soccer
    Kung Fu Hussel
  Shanghai Noon
  David Wu
  Taichi Hero
  Taichi Zero
  Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
  Stephen Fung
  Power Rangers
  The Last Airbender
  Hung Gar
  Northern Shaolin
  Guy on a Buffalo
Panna Rittikrai (1961-2014)
Tony Jaa
Jijaa Yanin
Born to Fight (1986)
Ong Bak
Born to Fight (2008)
Dynamite Warrior
Bangkok Knockout
The Protector II
MMA fighter with Down syndrome sues to get back in the ring
Top Team Weston
Down's Syndrome
'Karate Clerk' Who Stopped Alleged Mugging: 'I Just Kicked Him In The Face'
  Mayura Disanayaka

Interlude Music: (Don't Fear) the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult

Interview with: Ryan Holiday
  Max Tucker
  Robert Greene
  Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator
  Growth Hacker Marketing
  The Obstacle is the Way
  Marcus Aurelius
  The Book of Five Rings
  The 33 Strategies of War
  Sam Sheridan
  A Fighter's Heart
  A Fighter's Mind

Interlude Music: Johnny B. Goode by Judas Priest

This Week in Martial Arts: August 12th, 1978
5 Deadly Venoms: Pick your Poison
  Cheng Cheh
  The Crippled Avenger

Contact Information
Twitter Account: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

Outro Music: Voodoo Chile-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna

Review of Chocolate

  I had bought this movie about a week before I moved, and I just had the opportunity to watch it.  So even though this is a little bit older of a movie (2008), I wanted to give it a review, as it didn't seem to make a big impact in the US.

  Chocolate is a movie from Thailand, directed by Prachya Pinkaew.  He was the director of Tony Jaa's movies Ong-Bak and The Protector.  And as such, it has a very similar filming style during the fight scenes.  Not that the filming is bad, in fact, because they pulled the camera away a bit, you can actually see what the movements are.  That's one of those things I hate about bad fight scenes.  When the camera is so focused on the actors, that you can't see the fight scene.
  The story focuses on Zen, an illigitimate daughter of a Yakuza member and a female Thai underworld enforcer.  What makes it unusual is that Zen is autistic.  Jeeja Yanin (one of the names she goes by) does a very good job of portraying this.  However, the movie portrays her hyperfocused aspect on the physical
movements of the Muai Thai school next door, and the kung fu movies she likes to watch (Of course Tony Jaa is one of the actors she likes to watch).  This apparently makes her a bad ass.
  When Zen's mother gets cancer and needs chemotherapy, Zen and her chubby friend from childhood, Moom find her mother's old debt book, and start going around to collect loan money.  Mom's old underworld boss doesn't like that.  Hi-jinks ensue, and the movie goes on from there.
  Now to the review part.  The stunt team (Muai Thai Stunt Team) is just as much a star as any of the principle actors.  The last half an hour of the movie is one non-stop fight scene.  And its a good one.  The fights and stunts make the movie, and the acting was very good.  However, what I came away with is feeling sorry for anyone that an autistic person in their care.  I've only known a handful of people wit autism, but I've not had any real long-term dealings with them.  Because of that, I'm going to give this movie 3.5 Ninja Stars out of 5.  It was a good movie, definitely worth checking out, just for the stunts if nothing else.  The acting was very well done and the cinematography added to the excitement of the movie.  But the overall message made me feel a bit uncomfortable.  I don't know if that was the movie or me.

Friday, August 1, 2014

An interview with Sensei Walter G. vonKrenner

Interview form for Walther G. von Krenner

  It is my pleasure to present an interview with aikidoka who studied with O-Sensei and is an author of the book Aikdo Groundfighting: Grappling and Submission Techniques.  I loved the book, and it changed the way I think of my aikido.  The book is available at all major retailers.  If you want to honestly practice aikido, I highly recommend you pick this one up.  I hope you enjoy this email interview.  

Martial Thoughts: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I usually start with the same story. Could you describe your martial history?  How and why you got into martial arts in the first place, and then how you ended up where you are now (martial arts wise).

Walther G. von Krenner: I started Judo in 1956 in Germany. In 1960 after training for a short time in Paris, France  I moved to the USA.  In 1961 or 1962 I was introduced to Aikido and Takahashi Isao Sensei, my first teacher. In 63 I met the founders son and took classes with him. In 1966/7 I moved to japan to train at the founders Dojo while he was still alive and teaching. I returned to the US after his death and lived in Hawaii where I was teaching and training with Aoyagi Shihan.

MT: How were you introduced to Aikido?

WGvK: In 1960/61 I saw a demonstration and decided to study Aikido. For a short while I continued in Judo while I was studying Aikido, but after a year or less I focused on Aikido and quit Judo. I reached 4th Dan in Judo.

MT: Do you teach now?  And if so, where?

WGvK: I teach Aikido and Sword three times a week at Aikido Kenkyu Dantai (Sandokan) Dojo in Kalispell, Montana. (

MT: What does Aikido kenkyu dantai translate as/mean?  

WGvK: Aikido Kenkyu Dantai translates as “Aikido Study group”.

MT: Does your particular teaching style have any particular or unique philosophy?

WGvK: We focus on Aikido as Budo, a real Martial Art and its relation to the sword. Much Aikido in our days would be useless in a self defense situation and has deteriorated into a

dance. We believe that a particular technique or Waza should be workable with a Jo, a Sword, a Tanto and bare handed. Another words the Riai or fundamental principle of a particular waza should apply to all those weapons and should be interchangeable. Any Ryu or style that does not have this principle is only a collection of techniques and will not lead to a deeper understanding of the Do of Budo.  The now so popular Mixed Martial Arts will never be a true Budo, it is a fruit salad of techniques and useless as a spiritual discipline.
MT: You ended up taking aikido, but you seem to have a different interpretation of what aikido is compared to what is generally being taught now?  Could you explain a little about how or why it has changed since you started?

WGvK: Our Dojo believes that Aikido is a Budo, as Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei stated countless times. In some schools in our days I see totally ineffective and useless teachings that are closer related to dancing then Budo. Those techniques require a  Uke that does not know how to realistically attack and is willing to fall without being thrown. Such was not the Aikido I saw the founder perform.
Those people translate “Ai” as Harmony, and harmony means to do anything your Nage wants.  “Ai” does NOT mean this kind of harmony or harmony at all. “Ai” means meeting, or blending together. A large percentage of Aikidoka could not stand for thirty seconds against a Judo or Karate practitioner! They generally excuse this lack of reality by stating O-Senseis Aikido is the Art of peace. You can not be a pacifist if your only choice is being a victim, if you are martially competent  (as O-Sensei certainly was) and you choose to resolve the situation peacefully, which is  one of your choices, then you can call yourself a pacifist or a man of peace.
MT: On that same note, your book goes against the grain of what is taught as aikido, what motivated you to write the book in the first place?

WGvK: Because most fights or confrontations will end on the ground in less than 30 seconds and today’s Aikidoka is helpless and totally defenseless in this situation. There are many photographs of O-Sensei doing ground techniques and he certainly knew how to do them. Masatome Ikeda, one of Hombu Shihan, is teaching the very same techniques in the book. Groundwork is not against the grain of Aikido, it is simply missing from the Aikido that is practiced today. Along with many other things such as realistic Atemi and protecting yourself against realistic Atemi.
MT: Because of the “controversial” nature of the book, how have the responses been?  Has there been a good reception, or perhaps, someone who has said “groundfighting is not aikido?”

WGvK: Most responses were favorable and perhaps 3% claimed ground fighting was not Aikido. This is like saying spelling is not part of writing.
Those are the people I talked about earlier. It is their short coming and lack of Aikido knowledge in general. Most have not been in Aikido long enough to have an opinion. I would like to remind them that I have been 53 years in Aikido and that I studied with the people they only read about.

MT: Do you have a hypothesis or idea why aikido has seemed to get away from the budo that it initially was under O-Sensei?

WGvK: Yes, students have become lazy, undisciplined and lack commitment and pride. Why work for 10 or more years to get good at something when you can be a hero in a video game holding a Joystick and sitting on your butt!

The way you live is the way you train and the way you train is the way you live, those are not two separate things, they are one. Shimizu Sensei in Japan told me one time that “after 15 years you gain a slight understanding” can you see anybody today staying with one thing and dedicate your life to it? Countless times I hear students proclaim this is what I want to do forever! Forever usually is less than a year.This holds true for a lot of things, not just Budo.

MT: As you said, you got the chance to work with people, I've only read about.  What was O-Sensei like on and off the mat?  Do you have a particular memory of him, or a good story (come on I know you do...)?

KGvK: this is a question that I could write much about, but it would be to long, personal and involved. My Aikido Biography entitled “ Walking the Martial Path” published by Quest Books (Theosophical Publishing Co.)  will be released later this year and will address all this and more. So buy the book Smile

MT: Awesome, Keep me informed, and I'd like to do a review form my blog. Besides, the book, not that a book isn't enough, what does the future hold for you in aikido?

WGvK: Well, I am 75 years old, I will teach as long as I can and try my best to keep my Aikido out of politics and the control of organizations that think Aikido needs to be exploited and controlled for money.  I am contemplating a book about Atemi, another facet some can claim is not part of Aikido in spite of the fact that O-Sensei said over and over again that Aikido is 75% Atemi.
MT: Now, I generally think martial arts teaches lessons outside of fighting/self-defense.  How has martial arts influenced your non-dojo life?

WGvK: Since Aikido has been a large part of my life this is hard to say. I live on a beautiful Ranch in a beautiful part of the country, I am free to do what I please, I have been successful in all of my endeavors . If you Google Walther von Krenner you will find other facets of me, but all in all they are centered around my study of Zen and Aiki which I believe have enhanced my life and shaped my lifestyle.
MT: I generally find martial artists love martial arts movies and books.  Since you wrote a book, and I’ve already recommended it to every aikidoka I know, do you have any favorite martial arts movie, or book you’d recommend?
WGvK: Hard to answer. A good movie for Aikido students to watch would be “Aikido no Chikara” (the power of Aikido) it deals with the early part of O-Sensei’s life and would be a good history lesson for those who believe Aikido is not Budo.
As far as books go try “Aikido in daily Life” by Tohei Koichi, also one of my teachers.

MT: Mr. von Krenner, thank you for taking the time to talk to me, and the readers.

WGvK: Thank you for this interview and the opportunity to express my opinion!

Gassho, W.G. von Krenner