By virtue of you reading this blog article, chances are, you are involved or at least interested in the martial arts of some form or another (karate probably.)
How involved is your interest and/or training? Are you a casual participant at once or twice a week and this endeavour is recreational, or are you more involved and your martial arts training is more intense with more often workouts and you’d consider yourself more of a ‘serious’ student?

Wherever your answer lies, – how do you apply your training in your everyday life? Is it for Sport or is it treated as an Art?  
There is a difference. On starting your chosen martial art, whether it be karate, judo, aikido, boxing or anything else, the start of our training is always so physical – learning steps, moves, techniques (both offensive and defensive), terminology, philosophy, etc., etc.  

Over time as we progress and attain proficiency, the natural high that we experience from our chosen art, feeds a place in our heart that moves us now, in a direction that maybe emphasizes ego and the need for displaying our expertise, whereas, some may be nourished by finding that they are defeating inner conflictive demons, finding solace within an art and realizing the quiet confidence that may permeate their life. I’ll expand.
I believe that if we use our newfound skills within a sport platform to attain personal status via hurting someone in competition or vying for medals and trophies in contests, then we are just an empty vessel holding nothing of true value for ourselves or to those around us. Our medals and trophies soon sit on a shelf collecting dust and then our moments of adulation are long gone – what’s the next fix for ‘ego’?
When we study our chosen interest and embrace the teachings with an open heart really trying to develop skills, over time we find that the relaxed inner confidence and healthy self esteem oozes out to all other areas of our being and thereby to the rest of our lives. We don’t just do our ‘art’, we are now living our ‘art’. These people tend to attend class more often. We become the vessel holding wonderful personal attributes that can only serve to enhance our lives!

Developing that kick or punch and trying our best to be the best we can be just because we like to improve for ourselves spills over into other areas of our lives. We develop an intolerance for mediocrity and form the habit of trying to do well and then do well at much of what we do. Good!
Living our art helps us in so many ways and as a result, we are naturally on a ‘high’ without need of peer adulation or a need to feed that ego by attention grabbing activities.
Sport is healthy, no doubt, but all too often the tenets of sport (camaraderie, fair play, fun, skills building, etc.) are waylaid and we get caught up in a competitive atmosphere that only serves to break true relationships with ourselves and others – for what? A medal?

How long do we really think we could last treating our interest as just a ‘sport’. Our bodies wear down as we go on, injuries occur, that old buzz we used to get when we ‘won’, has gone.
As an ‘art’, sure we still get injuries, we still age, but now our injuries are dealt with in a way by which we deal with it in a more spiritual way, accepting it and taking it easier only doing what we can do until healed. The mental attitude shifts as we recognize that our art is a lifelong endeavour and our skill sets can be applied to all aspects of our lives – gardening, driving a car, dealing with issues, raising kids, etc., etc. Yes, when we accept the ‘art’ of our training, we become more than we ever could have realized, growing older with so much more substance within AND we have also developed physical skills.  
A question; faced by a situation in which two martial artists (one sport minded, the other trained but with an ‘art’ attitude) are accosted by someone aggressively confrontational.  

How do you think each would deal with the situation and how do you think it would end?
You’ll notice that I haven’t emphasized the lethal aspects of our arts. There’s more than enough material around that does just that, but we’ll talk another time about that aspect.
Yours in the arts,

Gary Christensen – Renshi


I am an unabashed believer in recognizing the difference between an ‘Instructor’ and a ‘Teacher’.

It is my belief that an Instructor leads a class and demonstrates his/her interpretation of ‘what is’, and how to do the technique or application applied and usually with relying on a counting rhythm. We need Instructors and we do value their contribution!

A Teacher I believe, adds so much more, not only within technique lessons but also the intangibles required to lead students. This idea will be expanded upon in a future blog post.
Within the framework of my preamble above, I note that more than a few ‘Instructors’ tend to keep their students interested by trying to teach more ‘advanced’ techniques without first laying a proper fundamental foundation by emphasizing the basics (kihon).

This practice coined by Kyoshi Dan O’Brien as ‘OVERTEACHING’ is quite apt.

Overteaching is just plainly giving more than a student can handle without them having the proper foundation and understanding required to affect a proper technique. Often, if we lack our own proper understanding and imagination, or even a well thought out teaching curriculum, we resort to an advanced idea/technique to impress those we teach. Could it be that we lack confidence in our own selves so much that we overteach and gloss over our own martial arts insecurities by giving more than we should?
A beloved Teacher I trained with years ago (Peter Phillips -Renshi) stated, “Advanced karate is just better basics.” – agreed!

Let’s overteach our basics so that the advanced technique is just a step away and so much easier to digest.
Karate students — your turn. Are we as students, guilty of ‘OVERREACHING’???

By ‘overreaching’, I refer to a student’s propensity to always try and do more than what they are ready for, by seeking out other ideas and trying to mimic these ideas while neglecting their own studies. We’ve all done it and we’ve all seen it.

I personally knew of an intermediate student recently, who was always online looking at more advanced ideas that he may try and then he’d approach with his interpretation of what he saw and thought he’d understood. It was obvious that he was in over his head!

Well, then it became apparent that his own dojo efforts and concepts were suffering and his in class corrections were mounting, he soon came to the realization that he was being torn in two different directions – something had to give. I received a note from this student a short time later indicating that he’d become lost within his own karate enthusiasm and was re-dedicating himself to his karate studies with no distractions.

The grass may be greener on the other side, but if we are invested in our own style and that is where our love is, that is where we should invest our efforts and be patient, we will be rewarded in due time! The Universe will unfold as it should!
A personal investment in making ourselves better through diligent studies of well understood technique and our own bio-mechanics through better basics, will inevitably reward us with effective and confidence building skills capable of dealing with any adversity.

No batteries… but, Patience is required.
Yours in the arts, Gary Christensen – Renshi

“…I expect my students to fail.” – Pennell Sensei

Failure.  It’s a part of life.  Athletes fail in spectacular fashion.  And quite often their failure is shared with hundreds, if not thousands of spectators.  Sure – it hurts.  The humiliation of it all; exposing one’s self to the bitter reality of failure.  It can affect your career.  It can affect your personal relationships and indeed, it can have an effect on your perception of the world – sometimes, in a negative way.

No one wants to be hurt – obviously.  However, I think (and perhaps many of you have had the same thought) that failure really does build character.  Sure – perhaps we’ve all heard our grandparents talk about this mystical quality of failure.  “When you fall down, brush yourself off and get back up again!”  Now, Call your grandparents old fashioned, but I think they have grown to appreciate the lessons learned from failure.  Maybe they have seen the long-term effects of failure and have grown to appreciate how it can mold an individual.

Not to jump all over the ‘helicopter parent’ or anything – but I’ve seen first hand how fear of failure – or more specifically, fear of our children’s failure, has caused many parents to turn into overbearing watchdogs who are quick to fight their kid’s fight on their behalf.  I get it, you love your kid.  I appreciate and respect the love you have for your children.  But perhaps – in the right circumstances, a taste of tough love is appropriate.

Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “what the heck does this have to do with Karate?”  Well, a lot actually.  I feel like in the last 20-25 years what could once be considered a healthy supply of traditional karate dojos have turned into these hyper-safe playpens that cater to the constant worry and interference of all!

The ‘helicopter parent’, I see it all the time: Parents who try to tell Karate teachers when their kid is ready to grade.  Teachers who only test a student, “when they are ready”, parents who berate instructors who discipline their child – the list goes on.  Now, am I saying that the institution of Karate should be immune to discipline when teachers get out of line?  No – that would be silly.  If a Karate instructor crosses the line, he/she must answer for it.  But, for a moment, try to be bi-partisan and listen to what I’m trying to say.  Karate teaches us valuable lessons.  It’s meant to build character, teach focus, etc., etc., etc.  However in today’s world where many live under the “fear of liability”, where at any moment a wayward parent is “always right” when they stomp their feet and throw their own temper tantrum – it can be very difficult to teach the life skills that Karate can offer.

“In my Dojo, students are not immune to failure.  I expect my students to fail.”

More importantly however, I expect them to learn and grow from the experience.  I expect them to learn from it the same way I do.  Failure builds character.  Period.  Only when we subject ourselves to the possibly of failure, can we hope to learn from it.

Life is not always going to be a cake walk.  It seems silly to say it – you’re probably thinking, “ahh – duh! Of course it’s not.”  Well our kids need to learn to experience failure without being molded into believing that mom and dad are always going to be there to save them.  Because whether parents are ready to believe it or not – their child is going to face difficult decisions in their life and you’re not always going to be around to tell them what to do – so the sooner they can forge a strong character, the sooner they will be able to deal with all the curve balls that life will throw at them.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it’s the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill.

Happy Training

Pennell Sensei.

Eihachi OTA Seminar May 2017

Hi Folks!

I wanted to post a few pictures May’s Ota Seminar in Orillia.  Thanks again to Campbell Sensei for hosting.  It was a great workout!

Where the tradition of Karate continues to grow.