As you may have heard, Hanshi Kennedy is recovering from a serious medical condition. During this time, Lenexa Karate will continue to hold regular classes (except for Friday, which will be cancelled until further notice), all taught by experienced instructors. Please come join us for regular workouts! And please be sure to keep Hanshi Kennedy in your prayers for a speedy recovery!
The concept of “Giri” contains elements from words like loyalty, duty, responsibility and obligation. The Japanese kanji that make up giri translate as loyalty, reason. Or in other words, duty is the reason for loyalty. In America this is a hard concept to explain because most of our citizens are brought up very individualistic and not taught the concept of duty or obligation in depth. Dr. Glen Morris explains Giri in this way:
Giri is a Japanese word for obligation and it is often translated as duty or respect, but in the martial arts the concept becomes more honor-tied and feudal. What is it worth to you when a technique saves your life? Usually a lot more than the cost of whatever you have paid for your training. What do we owe to a teacher who reveals our true nature? A Zen master would say nothing since we are all immortal and being enlightened is just being yourself. A guru of the Krishna consciousness would say you must give all your worldly goods to the sangha (training group) and start working in the bean sprout cave. A Christian tithes ten percent. A Buddhist supports the dharma, offers charity to teachers and seeks rightness. One has to use religious examples because the spirit of budo and chivalry are not easily modeled in these gentile times. However, masters of the warrior ways that are indeed avatars, not those who wear the mantle and quote the talk, are truly rare. If they are willing to sacrifice their time to better your life, then the rules of giri require you to assume the same generosity toward them.
It has been my experience that the martial community in the West has become sorely ignorant of these teachings even to the point of denial and attacking real teachers. Real teachers are not obvious to the unenlightened eye. What is it worth to have the blinder’s removed? In such a case, giri is endless as your life has been changed by the words and actions of the “master.”
There are three basic archetypes of teaching in the Martial Arts and giri accrues to each. 1) The Technician teaches skills, usually by rote, and seeks perfection of techniques in self and student as standardized by the lineage. 2.) The Artist teaches techniques by feeling, but has the technical expertise to make it work. S/he customizes the lineage techniques to fit the student. 3.) The Sage teaches the techniques, art, principles, philosophy, history, and strategy. Essentially, the sage teaches a way of life.
Examples of giri can be the senior student who disciplines a beginner after warning him three times to address the instructor by his title, not his first name; the dojo maintainers who take care of the training hall for the master; the student who anticipates the unspoken needs of the master; and those who understand that their own actions reflect on the teacher and act accordingly in all situations.
Giri is a debt that is owed to those whom you follow (including the ancestral lineage, your teachers, etc.), and to those who follow you (now or in the future, including those who read your words or watch your videos). Giri not only flows up channel and down channel, but laterally as well, to your fellow Senpai and Kohai , or all, depending on your personal viewpoint).
In combat, as well as life in general, good timing is essential. If the warrior acts too soon or too late he may be injured or killed. In civilian life, success is totally dependent on the timing of all energy in relationship to opportunities. A skilled fighter is one that can fill the gaps of his opponent’s defense with his own strikes. Those strikes are a summation of mind, body and spirit and delivered to a specific target at a specific time. This is easily demonstrated by an advance karate-ka when they slide across the floor and execute a technique. Each detail has been integrated into the process to create maximum efficiency with minimum effort.
Being “on time” is a universal law. By totally concentrating on one thing at a time, and putting all our resources to bear on that task, we are able to produce the most effect results with the use of minimal amounts of energy. If all things are equal, the side that is the most unified and has the best timing will win.
This concept is also true when applied to personal success training. The sub-conscious can only focus on one thing at a time, either yes or no. By concentrating on positive forward-thinking goals, negative thoughts can’t penetrate your defense. The law of concentration dictates that what ever we concentrate on grows in our mind and in our experience. The modern warrior is constantly thinking strategy and tactics in all areas of his or her life. By always seeing options and focusing on positive outcomes, the modern karate-ka is being proactive by developing a winning attitude no matter what the situation. Failure is not an option.
We have all heard that we are what we eat. Well, we are what we think as well. By surrounding yourself with positive and successful people, you will begin to think like a winner. If you concentrate on good and healthy things, those things tend to be everywhere. Once you start focusing your mind on winning strategies, opportunities will present themselves more and more. Successful strategies, whether you are talking about combat or in your personal lives, are predictable. If you adopt the strategies and tactics of other successful people, the odds are that you too will be successful in what ever your endeavors may be.
On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs – Dave GrossmanBy LTC (RET) Dave Grossman, author of “On Killing.”
Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always,even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for? – William J. Bennett – in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November 24, 1997.
One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me:
“Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident.” This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another. Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.
Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.
I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin’s egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful.? For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.
“Then there are the wolves,” the old war veteran said, “and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy.” Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.
“Then there are sheepdogs,” he went on, “and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.”
If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed
Let me expand on this old soldier’s excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids’ schools.
But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid’s school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep’s only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.
The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.
Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn’t tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, “Baa.”
Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.
The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.
Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?
Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.
Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, “Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, “Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.” When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.
There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population. There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.
Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I’m proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.
Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, “Let’s roll,” which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers – athletes, business people and parents. — from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.
There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. – Edmund Burke
Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn’t have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.
If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.
For example, many officers carry their weapons in church.? They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs.? Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to massacre you and your loved ones.
I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, “I will never be caught without my gun in church.” I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy’s body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, “Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?”
Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for “heads to roll” if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids’ school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them.
Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, “Do you have and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?”
It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.
Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn’t bring your gun, you didn’t train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.
Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation: “…denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn’t so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling.”
Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.
And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes. If you are warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be “on” 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself…
This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.
Winston Churchill had principles. The difference between him and most of us is that he stuck to his principles at all costs. He didn’t waver when they weren’t popular – an extreme rarity in politics. When England entered WWII Churchill knew that by themselves, England could not defeat Germany. But his mindset of “I’ll probably end up in the hospital, but I swear to Christ you’ll be laying next to me” and his Never Say Die attitude made him one of the most influential people in history.
We all have principles. Some are more outlined than others, and though you may not be able to list them off the top of your head, you have them. Our dojo has a set of principles as well. These principles are what we consider our “Unbreakables” and what help define our black belts:
1) You must have a great reverse punch. Kenpo is the ‘fist way’ and we should consider this as the most important technique. I believe our core curriculum is broad and includes many variations of hands and feet. However, the shelf life of kicking is somewhat limited. Sensei Stan Mattson told me, “The hands will never leave you.” I continue to believe it to be true.
2) You must be excellent at kata. If you are excellent at kata, so will your basics be. Kata is uniquely identified with the martial arts and often misunderstood. Many believe that practicing kata will not make you a better fighter (nothing new here; that argument has been around for many years). ALL of the martial arts master instructors practiced kata and considered it essential to development as a warrior. In fact, ‘sparring’ is a 20th century innovation made possible by using kendo equipment. Bunkai and Kata were the only tools available for combat training.
I would agree that practicing a single aspect of the martial arts – in a vacuum – is not enhancing your fighting skills. However, we have more than one dimension for training: bag work, basics, kata, self-defense, sparring. They all add up and provide opportunities for development of basics and application of those basics. You must do it all. “I should see your best karate in the forms. Full power, full speed.” ~ Roger Greene
3) You must have good inside fighting. ‘Sense motion. Close. Control the center line.’ is my approach for combat training. We are much better off stepping inside someone’s range and staying there. Looking at the Hawaiian Kempo self-defense sets, they are all designed for moving close –either closing on the outside or closing on the inside. Incorporating our Jujitsu has added more options for us. Sensei Mattson told me Professor Chow and Sensei Alo always included the grappling as part of the striking movements.
4) You must have an understanding of the principles and concepts of movement. We are students of the martial arts. Practical application is coupled with theoretical knowledge. It is important to understand why things work, when to use specific techniques, and how to apply our physical capabilities to our advantage. Strategy is first, tactical approach is second, and the ability to deliver techniques is third.
5) You must be willing to “go”! No paper tigers. It’s not about winning – it’s about courage. Every soldier facing combat must face the fact that they may not be the victor in every encounter. Yet they train as much as possible, maintain mental focus during practice, develop the mental attitude of a warrior, AND GO TO COMBAT! “Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.” ~ John Wayne
Finally, some believe that a warrior is one who always wins – never accepts defeat – is quick to respond to conflict. I think there is some truth to that viewpoint, but only some. For me, a warrior represents meekness (strength under control). They are the quietest one in the room and reluctant to be drawn into any confrontation. But when faced with a moral imperative to protect the weak, a loved one or themselves, they will step up and put everything on the line. That’s courage. Fighting is the very last resort; avoiding conflict is always the first response.
Identify what principles you have that guide your life through both tough times and when things couldn’t be any better. They shouldn’t change, and at your core neither should you.
By Hanshi Dan B. Kennedy and Kyoshi Mike Colahan
The civilian lives in a world that edifies mediocrity. He spends his time playing computer games and when he looses, he just hits replay to try again. He watches TV where the person dies and next week guess what, he is back on the screen again. Instead of taking personal responsibility, he looks to blame others, society or the government for his problems.
The warrior, on the other hand, understands the concept of one encounter one chance. He knows that in a life and death encounter there is no second place. He never takes these things lightly, and would never engage in a situation where he is not assured victory. He believes in the saying, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
He constantly strives to increase his abilities and his understanding of the obstacles around him. He believes there is truth to the statement that you are either getting better or your getting worse all the time, and therefore works everyday to improve mentally, physically and spiritually. This concept is not trying to be better than someone else, only that you are improving a little everyday.
Kaizen is the Japanese word for constant and never ending improvement. In our quest for black belt excellence, there is no time off. This is a 24/7 endeavor. If you witness senior students and instructors they are always working on improving their mind, body and spirit. Winners feel they are destined for success and are constantly trying to grow and prepare for that goal. Successful people constantly read and listen to positive and inspirational books and tapes. They know that by reading 30 minutes everyday, within a few years they will be in the top 10% of their chosen field. In the dojo, they give it all they have every class, forging their spirit and attitude.
The Chinese say that a journey of 1000 miles begins with one step. Kaizen is all about making that step towards improvement, everyday – in every way.
When I began learning karate I didn’t understand why we did things like push-ups and crunches. Wasn’t this karate class? Shouldn’t the whole workout consist of karate moves?
I didn’t get it! I knew my fitness was poor, but really – how much physical fitness could it take to do front chokes? Or that single kata we were learning?
Well, time passed. The more familiar we became with the moves, the more material we learned and the more difficult that material was. Classes moved faster because we had more things to cover in that hour. Renshi introduced circuits; I hated them! (Took awhile to change my mind on those. Jump over to Circuit Convert!) Naturally our fitness improved, but it still took quite awhile for me to understand why it was important. Yes, I know – I’m slow sometimes.
What did I figure out?
The low stances? Conditioning.
Kick after kick after kick on the bags? Conditioning.
Stamina to stay on the floor for all the kata? Conditioning.
Sparring class? Conditioning!
It takes strength, speed and stamina to practice karate correctly. The more tired you are, the messier your karate will be. In order to get the most out of classes, conditioning is vital. That’s not to say you need to be an Olympic-caliber athlete; it would help, but I don’t know anyone who’s at that level.
If you’re not in great condition, don’t stress about it. Do what you can, and make it a goal to improve your conditioning from week to week. Break a sweat in class! Work hard so when you walk off the mat, you know you’ve done your best.
Two hours a week in class is not enough if you’re trying to ramp up. On non-class days, work on your kata and basics, walk, swim, paddleboard, bike, lift weights, do aerobics or ballet. It doesn’t matter what you do – but do something! The effort you put forth now will pay off in the long run.
When I only had a couple of self-defense sets and a few kata to work on, conditioning didn’t seem very important. Now I’m working on 9 self-defense sets and 14 kata, and I get it! Conditioning is vital to executing moves with power and grace.
– Sensei Michele Weissensee
I came across this story, yet I’ve heard variations of it before. It is a good reminder to us all as we set our goals for 2015. Enjoy.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with large rocks. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed..
‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The large rocks are the important things — your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions — and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.
‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for life.
If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Take care of the large rocks first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.