Life is too short to aspire to mediocrity. It's better to shoot for the stars and only reach the moon. Nowhere is this more true than in the martial arts. To animate your martial arts with the spirit of greatness, choose the most profound role models you can find and follow them with an obsessive devotion. That's your best chance to receive the direct transmission of the deep spirit of your martial art. If and when you receive the direct transmission, keep in mind that it includes everything - the sounds in the room during your training sessions, the rare smile of your Sensei, the warm air coming in through the windows, the pain of learning, the salty tears of exhaustion, the crushing pathos of washing your teacher's gravestone and the incredible energy of great martial arts techniques executed with clarity, energy and joy. The complexity and emotion of your martial arts should be very profound indeed.
The extraordinary musician, the exemplary painter, the best writer, the gifted singer, and the exceptional martial artist share a unique sort of magic. There's a depth to their performances that only a keen eye can see, only a sharp ear can hear. Their notes are not just notes, their brush strokes are not just brush strokes, their words are not just words, their voices are not just voices, and their kata are not just kata. Instead, they're a deep expression of a collection of meaningful experiences, distilled through countless hours of practices and years of reflection.
If you watch, read or listen carefully enough, you can sense the depth of their technique. If you're lucky enough to have seen their teachers or role models, you'll also be able to see echoes of their predecessors in their art. That's an extraordinary expression of love ... granting immortality to an artist by ensuring that his or her art is preserved in your body, mind and spirit. The level of your tribute corresponds to how well you internalize the nuance of his technique and how well you understand and give life to the principles he held dear.
Today's martial arts world is dominated by light weight players. By that I don't mean people who are small in physical stature. Instead, I mean people who are small in character, technique, and aspirations. Consider carefully the school you plan to attend. Is the approach all about rank? Does the curriculum change frequently ... is it more focused on variation than on depth? Are the lead instructors out of shape, mean spirited, or simply poor technicians?
In my opinion (be it ever so humble), every serious martial artist should have a little training with these three men on their resume´ ... if you want to be a jedi, you have to know what it feels like to be in the room with a jedi, and if you want to be a martial arts master in the true sense of the word, you have to train in the room with a real Japanese master to try to soak up the essence of what that means.
I've already started training to make sure I'm in the right condition in both body and mind to absorb all I can from Yahagi-Sensei's teachings. For me, that's just part of striving for the extraordinary every day ... envisioning greatness, planning, preparation, training, evaluating, and improving.
Remember, the kind of day you're having may depend on the world, but how you deal with it totally depends on you. If you have an exceptional mindset, you'll lead an exceptional life. I'd love to hear what this means to you!
I've been very, very lucky to have trained with or met some extraordinary martial artists. I've been in the room with Shioda Gozo of Yoshinkan Aikido, Yasuhiro Yamashita of Olympic judo fame, Kawabata Terutaka of Jigen-Ryu, Otsuka Hironori, son of the founder of Wado-Ryu Karate, and my own iaido teacher, Yamaguchi Katsuo, Meijin 10th Dan, just to name a few. Holy crap, it feels crazy to write those names when you think of tens of thousands of martial artists whose lives they've affected for the better.
So when I say that there are only three living Japanese masters I care to train with anymore, I hope the context for that statement is clear. I've searched the world over for new mentors and, among those living, training and teaching in Japan, only three make the cut for me.
Nobetsu Tadanori - Goju-Ryu Karate
One is Nobetsu Tadanori, an exemplar of a life lived in Goju-Ryu Karate. He's extraordinarily talented, kind, and humble, and has thousands of students in Japan and around the world keeping his legacy alive. Another is Satoh Tadayuki, one of the world's leading Shodokan aikido experts. He was taught by Tomiki Kenji Sensei and is currently Shihan of aikido at Waseda University Aikido club.
The third is perhaps lesser known except among the cognoscenti of koryu ... Yahagi Kunikazu, soke of Ryushin Shouchi Ryu. His art is an evolution of Kawabata-Sensei's Jigen-Ryu ... dynamic, powerful methods for employing the Japanese sword ... an art that includes not just great cutting techniques but also breathing methods, presence, and that wonderful ineffable power and humility that only legitimate heritage martial arts from Japan seem to create.
Our yoga seminar with Ita Reyes is Saturday, May 6. Time is running out to register. This is going to do amazing things for your body as a martial artist and athlete. Breathing, alignment, strength, endurance, and reaching deeper levels with ligaments and connective tissue will all be key topics.
As you may know, I seek out great teachers, inspirers, high performers, charismatic people and motivators. Besides studying with some of the greatest martial artists of the 20th Century, I've read and listened to people like Tony Robbins, Brendon Burchard, Deepak Chopra, Warren Buffett, and many, many more. These people have an incredible amount to offer, but there's something about the martial artists who have devoted their entire lives to learning, perfecting, and passing on profound secrets of the Japanese arts that resonates with me and many people I hang around with.
I think one reason the true masters of the martial arts convey a unique power is their integrity. To stay with a path that is composed of hard work, pain, humility and very little financial gain takes a special character. Even if that character isn't present at the start, it often emerges over the decades required to understand and internalize the principles of legitimate heritage martial arts. You have to be in it for its own sake. If you get a little money or fame doing it that's nice, but at its core the thing you love is the thing itself, and that shines through when it's true.
Half of success is showing up. Half is working hard. And the third half is finding a way to track your progress to make sure you're moving toward your goals in meaningful ways. I put it that way for a reason...
If you just stick with your martial art long enough, you'll outstrip everybody who quits, everybody who dabbles, many of those who also stick with it, and a few of those who show up AND who work hard. But the truth is, very, very few people who train in martial arts - even those who do stay with it for two or three decades or more - truly set goals and take meaningful steps to track their progress. Those few who do (and who use the information to keep improving both their skills and their training methods) become the exceptional martial artists: the role models, the tournament champions, the teachers ... the bright lights that show us what's possible if we would only bring all of ourselves to what we do.
Sometimes just sticking with a thing is enough to separate yourself from the crowd.
If you've been in the traditional martial arts for any length of time, you've heard your teacher mention how many of the best aspects of training come only after years or decade of persistence.
Sometimes it's about sticking with what you're doing even for a few years, and then taking time to reflect on how far you've come.
I opened JMAC in 2006 because I couldn't find a dojo in the Midwest that offered world class judo and jujutsu. Two years later we were one of the notable dojos in Ann Arbor. We weren't intentionally competing with other martial arts schools, but by the end of 2009, two nearby schools had gone out of business, several had moved, and the array of clubs and informal martial arts groups had changed considerably. All we did was keep offering exceptional training and welcoming new students into our classes. Now, ten years later, we're an established program in our region with an extraordinary facility. We host 2-3 of the best system leaders from Japan each year and continue to grow and deepen our knowledge. The scene in our town has changed drastically and, in one sense, all we did was stick with what we love to do.
Courtesy of Institute of Budo Studies. Register to train with Yahagi Sensei at JMAC. This is your last chance to sign up. Our seminar starts in just 2 days. Click here now and sign up. You don't want to miss it!
If you're struggling to get in for training or just feeling sluggish from too many cupcakes, maybe it's time to go back to the movies or books that helped you get started. If there's something that motivates you, I'd love to share it with the other readers. You never know, your inspiration may help take someone else to the next level.
Meanwhile, I can't wait to settle in and tee up Kurosawa's Sanshiro Sugata.
Until then, I'll see you on the mat! Read more here.
Do you remember what got you excited about martial arts in the first place?
I remember, many, many years ago in college (1980, to be exact), going to a Chuck Norris movie called The Octagon. I was already involved in karate and judo, but Chuck's ass kicking in that movie really got me fired up about training, and I can still play back some scenes in my head. Watching The Octagon had me training not just in the dojo, but in my apartment and in the park, for several months.
But even before The Octagon, I had seen movies like Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Hidden Fortress, and I dreamed of going to Japan to learn the ways of Bushido. As you may know, I did eventually go. The reality was very different from the movies, but there's enough budo culture remaining to keep the dream alive. I trained like a madman for the four years I was there!
And, like most martial artists of my generation, I watched every Bruce Lee movie two or three times, and did whatever I could to learn his moves. Bruce was such a charismatic figure that virtually everybody I trained with wanted to be more like him.
Were there movies or demonstrations that inspired you to start training? Are there still people, books, or tournaments that get you running to the dojo for more practice? I'd love to hear what motivates you! Read more here.
It's easy to fall into slothful habits and overeating. I've seen more than a few students disappear during the later part of the year, only to reappear in January carrying a few more pounds and a little shame because of the lost training time.
I remember a teacher telling me years ago that "if you miss a week of training, it will take you three weeks to get back to where you should have been."
I don't know if that's true, but I do know that finding ways to get re-inspired can help keep you training hard even when the turkey and cookies are calling your name!
Did you miss our open house? No fear, here's a quick recap of what you missed. Food, prizes, demonstrations, friends, and family were all present in the celebration of our new location on Boardwalk in Ann Arbor.
Really wanted to see some of those demos live? Not a problem! Give us a call at 734.720.0330 and set up a time to come in and watch a class.
To shy to use the phone? Take a peek at our schedule and come in and watch. I promise you'll be greeted by a friendly face who can answer all your questions.
JMAC offers some special seminars, one of which is the Critical Self-Defense Seminar. While not a specific martial arts style, it gives a basic overview of things that will help you defend yourself in a dangerous situation.
Japanese Martial Arts Center opened our doors in 2006. Nick Suino just couldn't find a place in the area that fit what he wanted in a dojo. After 38 years of training in martial arts, he knew he wanted an amazing place to train and teach. More than 10 years later, JMAC has become the premier dojo in the Ann Arbor area with an amazing facility, highly trained instructors, and programs to fit all ages.
Use your imagination! It's the most powerful tool you've got. Visualize yourself doing exactly what your Sensei just showed you. See yourself doing it with smoothness and confidence. Visualize your hips forward in a confident posture, and your shoulders pulled down and back to unify your torso. Remember, it's your imagination, so you can be as powerful and confident as you like. You are graceful! Your ability is unmatched! Your power is unlimited! Visualize it again and again. Keep going over and over the movements in your mind until you see yourself moving as smoothly, gracefully, and powerfully as your Sensei. Learn more here.
Want to improve your self defense? Here's the most important first step to doing that. We're so focused these days on our phones, work, and other distractions when we should be focused on our surroundings. Increase your awareness.
If you want help increasing your awareness, let us know. We'd love to help make you more aware and present in the moment.
Your Ordinary Routine May be Why You Are Still Ordinary
Here's why: if you start your "imitation" behaviors at this point, you engage your habitual physical and mental learning scheme. This short circuits the direct perception of your subconscious mind and makes the whole process ordinary. If you truly want to learn faster and more accurately than ever before, if you want to become an extraordinary martial artist, you have to revolutionize your approach. If you do what's always been done, you'll get what people have always gotten.
So, create a far more productive habit. Do something different - don't imitate - just absorb!Once you've truly soaked up what your Sensei has shown you, THEN it's time to play back the movements. The easy part here is that you don't have to DO the moves yet. You just have to visualize them. You can do this in an easy chair, or sitting up in bed. The hard part is that you have to make sure you're capturing as much of the essence of the motions as possible, and not engaging in imitation. Find out more here.
This week's suggestion is really, really important. It's different from the way almost everybody practices. In fact, almost everybody I've trained with or taught in 46 years who's mediocre or just "pretty good" at martial arts does this wrong, and almost everybody who's very good or exceptional has figured out how to do this well. So here it is...
When you first see a new technique or move, DON'T try to copy the moves right away! DON'T do it.
Stop making those little movements with your hands that you use to try to remember or preserve the motions. Just pay attention and absorb. You've heard about "emptying your cup" to truly experience everything a lesson has to offer. This is an immediate, practical application of that concept, and it's this: put aside any and all evaluation or imitation thoughts or habits, and just let yourself absorb the example or demonstration for a moment before you try it out. Find out more here.
Interested in learning traditional Japanese swordsmanship? Yahagi Kunikazu Sensei, a true Japanese swordsman will be holding a seminar in April hosted by Japanese Martial Arts Center. No experience necessary! An experience you won't want to miss! Find out more information here.
The Japanese Martial Arts Center, is ecstatic to host Yahagi Kunikazu Sensei, second soke of Ryushin Shouchi Ryu swordsmanship, for a 3 day seminar to be in Ann Arbor, MI in early April 2017.
Yahagi Sensei (born in Tokyo, Japan) began studying traditional Japanese martial arts (kendo) in elementary school. He went on to earn the rank of judo 2 DAN as a youth, and studied classical kodubo (ancient arts) for more than 30 years under the tutelage of Kawabata Terukata Sensei, 1st Ryushin Shouchi Ryu soke (grandmaster). He was appointed the second soke of Ryushin Shouchi Ryu in 2008.
Yahagi Sensei is the director of the Seiseikan Dojo in Tokyo. He currently holds an 8th DAN ranking in Kokusai Budoin Kobudo Hansi and 7th DAN in Kendo.
Training will be March 31, from 6-8pm and April 1-2 from 9:30am-4:30pm at JMAC, located at 2875 Boardwalk St, Suite H, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.
Preregistration is required. Tickets can be purchased at www.japanesemartialartscenter.com/events. Tickets are $195, with a discount available for JMAC, SMAA, and IMAF members.
Enlist the help of your instructor. If your instructor is your role model, tell him exactly what you are doing. He’ll be flattered (and maybe a little worried), but he may be able to point out some habits that you need not copy because they do not advance your mission.
If your instructor is not your role model, he may be threatened by your burning desire to emulate some other great martial artist. Find out why he doesn’t want you to follow that person’s example. If the reasons are good, you may want to find a new role model. If the reasons are just his insecurity or uncertainty, start looking for a new instructor! Life is short. You don’t have time to learn from anybody but the best instructor you can find.
Summary: Find a person who has already achieved what you want to achieve. Make that person your role model. Learn everything you can about that person. Soak it up. Enlist the most capable coach or mentor you can find to help you emulate your role model.
But whatever you do, starting training and never, ever, ever quit!