On the Path of the Warrior-Scholar & Warrior-Philosopher


Discipline and Martial Arts … in our day

Greetings again from San Diego.  In this post I’ll be covering the topic of discipline with respect to martial arts training…


It is defined in the dictionary as:

  1. Punishmnet
  2. Instruction
  3. A field of study
  4. Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
  5. (a) Control gained by enforcing obedience or order.  (b) Orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.  (c) Self-Control
  6. A rule of system of rules governing conduct or activity

As an instuctor in a martial arts school, I often hear from prospective students that they are looking for more discipline in thier lives.  I think what they are really saying is that they are looking for someone to tell them what to do to produce whatever they have determined is their goal.  In many cases there is no defined goal.  In these situations, we must ask:  What’s the point?

Having just returned from an excellent seminar on the “Koppo of Ken” — “The bone of sword” — hosted by Phil Legare and taught by Mark Lithgow — It became very apparent to me that old-school discipline often seen in the movies is no longer appropriate for most people.  During a discussion I had with Mark and Phil regarding a particular technique, we touched upon the many layers that exist in this kata and how it was critical to embody one layer before another can be truly understood.  As students of our respective discourses, we must be brutally honest with our level of embodied skill as flawed assessments or bias due to conceit, arrogance, or pride will result in a skewed interpretation of reality.  In this case, our ability to design action or produce outcomes that are reliant upon our skill.  In some cases, it can get us killed.

In the old days the definitions of #1 and #5(a).  This is discipline enforced by instructors upon students.  “Do this, do that, do what I say…”  My perspective is that this is child’s play.  It is discipline designed for children who don’t know what to do and do not possess the capacity for self-directed thought.  In battlefield arts such as Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, to produce mastery discipline must lie with the student.  The delivery of material clearly and accurately is the instructor’s responsibility.  The responsibility to embody what is taught, to “take it off the table and eat it”, belongs entirely with the student.  This is driven or produced by our current society and culture.  Gone are the days where there were very few ways to learn fighting skills.  A prospective student had to first be accepted into the school, most likely serve an apprenticeship period, work at the school, be obedient to all seniors, and someday finally begin his training.  Not many today are willing or able to place themselves into that situation.

Discipline today lies with the student.  With the cost of information being virtually zero, what is left is the embodiment of those skills.  There is no one to tell you what do to.  For us to walk the path of mastery we require a new definition – Self-directed thought, action, and practice.

Essential Warrior Skill – Situation Awareness

An essential warrior skill that we must embody to enable effective action is situation awareness.

“Situation awareness, situational awareness, or SA, is the perception of environmental elements with respect to time and/or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time.” – Wikipedia

The team over at Ready 5 has posted an excellent article on what situation awareness and the OODA loop is.  This is a great read for any student of the martial arts and anyone interested in self defense.

Last weekend, on a bright San Diego morning, we ran BTSDsd and Jing students through an class designed to trigger development of SA skills.  It was designed to trigger the students’ nervous system and incorporate the Cooper’s Color Codes (listed below).

  • White – Readiness is non-existent. The individual’s readiness would be white if he were asleep, or reading a book, or otherwise without any perception of his surroundings or movements within them.
  • Yellow – Readiness is general. The individual is aware of his surroundings and monitoring what is happening in those surroundings.
  • Orange – Readiness is specific. The individual is aware of any activity or person within his surroundings which presents a threat.
  • Red – Readiness to face danger. The individual is aware of an immediate threat, which will likely result in the use of deadly force.
  • Black – Breakdown of cognitive functions.

In my experience with the martial arts, self defense, and the Bujinkan – we have heard many times:  “you must develop awareness of your surroundings…”  However, the tools to do so were missing.  At Bujinkan Taka-Seigi Dojo | San Diego, we’ve taken the best we’ve learned from our military experience, research into leathal force encounters, and what we learned from our martial arts training and have selected the best of breed.  From there we have built a training curriculum to effectively deliver it in a repeatable manner.

SA is taught in rudimentary forms in many places such as the Karate dojo for sparring, the Judo mat for competitions, Aikido for kata.  However, at BTSDsd, we’ve designed the SA course to focus on a street situation.  By taking students out of the training hall we’re better enabling them to handle real life.

To all our students – we’re going to be running this course again soon.  See you there!

The True Spirit of Gambatte…

Gambatte (頑張って) … keep playing …

Many of us have said this to one another.  We say this as a form of goodbye or a feeble platitude when someone is going through a hard time and we don’t know what else to say.

With thanks to my friends over at Investment Merit, here is a story of a man who truly embodies the spirit of Gambatte.  Charlie Munger was divorced, broke, and burying his nine-year old son.

Charlie Munger kept playing, he persevered.

I was inspired by this story.  When I took some time to reflect upon it, the interpretation I held of my situation was significantly different.

There are times in life when we are swept up in the moment.  Perhaps when we are working on our Taijutsu skills during class for the purpose of self-defense and there is pain involved, or when we are having a hard time at our day job, or when we think life isn’t working out the way we want it to.  Perhaps because of his example, we will learn to say Gambatte and keep going because we choose to.


Bujinkan Taka-Seigi Dojo San Diego Blog Launches!

Hello All!

I’ve been asked many times to write about my thoughts and experiences while on the path of the Warrior-Scholar and Warrior-Philosopher.  I’ve created this blog in response to those requests and have designed it so that it can be used as a resource for the students and friends of Bujinkan Taka-Seigi Dojo San Diego.

Please see the “About” section for more on the philosophy and motivation behind this blog.

To all of my friends and mentors who have helped my along my journey – Thank You!

All the best,