Monday, April 23, 2012

Iron Pill

Iron Pill

The reasons for not pumping iron in the martial arts community are as wide and varied as the trashy romance novels found in Kroger. My all time favorite is: “I don’t lift because it impedes the chi.” “Oh, really? And that’s why you can’t pick up a bag of cat litter, much less grapple for ten seconds?” I’ve also heard this one: “I get my strength from practicing kata.” “Hum, considering the size of your gut, I’d say not.” Then there’s: “Strength training isn’t part of traditional martial arts.” “No kidding. Try telling Mike Tyson that. Boxing is about as traditional as it gets. And while we’re on the subject, can you tell me why Shoshin Nagamine advocated exercising with “bar bells, dumbbells, chishi (an ancient form of dumbbell), sashi (iron hand-grip), etc., to develop muscles and physical power.” Nagamine p.29.  Then every so often someone says in a humble tone, “I’m trying to up my deadlift from 350 to 400.” And you immediately shake their hand and shout: “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” over and over again.                                         
Strength training has gone hand in hand with the fighting arts for thousands of years.  Chinese and Okinawan martial artists have utilized it for centuries and in ancient Greece weight training was popular in all forms of athletics; wrestling, boxing and pankration included.  More recently strength training was incorporated into Judo by the Kodokan during the early 1960’s while currently some of the best known proponents of strength training are MMA fighters.
There are many forms of strength training, some better than others depending upon your goals. Take for instance body-building which uses lighter weights and higher repetitions to tone and define the body’s muscles. Body building was made famous by greats like Dave Draper, Bill Pearl, Frank Zane and Arnold Schwarzenegger during the mid to late 60’s and continues to be one of the more popular forms of strength training today.
Exciting to watch, technical and very demanding, Olympic weight lifting involves the snatch, clean and jerk. And while Olympic lifters may not possess the same muscle definition as bodybuilders, their overall strength and explosive power is usually greater because Olympic lifts employ several large muscle groups (thighs, back, shoulders, etc.) simultaneously to move the weight from the floor, to an overhead position in a split second’s time. In fact during the 1972 Munich Olympics, studies performed concluded that some of the fastest moving athletes were Olympic lifters.
Last but not least is power lifting, which uses the squat, deadlift and bench-press. Power lifting requires the athlete to raise a massive amount of weight using strict movement. The sport emphasizes push-pull actions, heavy weights and single repetitions. Hence the reason power lifters usually have the highest degree of functional strength in athletics today.
Prior to the 20th century strength training differed to that found in modern health clubs. For instance, where as today one goes into an air conditioned gym and performs chest exercises on the nautilus machine the Greek pankratiast lifted a large stone off the ground, worked it up to shoulder level and threw it as far as possible. This developed not only raw strength, but also anaerobic endurance and explosive power, all through the use of one exercise.  
            Unlike the bodybuilder, power, or Olympic lifter, fighters must develop both strength and stamina in conjunction with martial prowess. And since fighting requires use of the entire muscular system to strike, push, pull, or grapple then the best lifts are those that work the entire body simultaneously while enhancing combative skill.
            There are literally thousands of combative techniques to draw upon, but the foundation of most rest upon three principle actions. They are: extending, withdrawing and grabbing. You extend a limb to strike, push or throw. You withdraw a limb to pull and grapple and grabbing is used in all phases of combat.
            These three actions are performed simultaneously with power being generated and enhanced by the abdominals, lower back, glutes, hips, thighs and spine. For instance when punching the arm extends rapidly, but the strike’s power originates in the feet then travels upwards to the hips and abdominals which act as superconductors before transferring it to the arm. This process occurs in a split second’s time and is repeated constantly during combat. Moreover it requires a high state of anaerobic conditioning to perform over extended periods.
            Where fighting is concerned the deadlift, clean-overhead-press, one- armed snatch and military press are some of the most beneficial. These lifts work the major muscles simultaneously, increase anaerobic endurance, develop explosive power and enhance the extending, withdrawing and grabbing actions.  They also provide an intense workout in a relatively short period and can be performed using dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, sandbags, or even heavy rocks.
                        The following is a brief description of each lift and its benefits.
Deadlift: An overall power exercise that works the upper and lower back, trapezious muscles, buttocks, legs, shoulders and hands. It develops maximum pulling and pushing strength, anaerobic endurance and raw body power. All of these are essential for grappling and striking. The optimum goal is to deadlift your own body weight, if not more.

Clean and press: An overall power exercise that works the legs, shoulders, chest, upper and lower back, arms, buttocks and hands. It develops maximum pulling and pushing strength, works every major muscle group plus increases explosive power and anaerobic endurance. Your optimum goal being to clean and press half, if not three quarters of your own body weight. When performed with light weights and high repetitions this exercise is excellent for cardiovascular development.  [i]

One arm snatch: An explosive, power based exercise that works the legs, shoulders, back, arms and hands, plus the abdominals. It develops the pulling action, grip and explosive power. The optimum goal being to snatch half your body weight, or in layman’s terms grab a weight with one hand and swing it from the floor to an over head position in a second’s time.

Military Press: A great exercise for upper-body development that works the shoulders, arms, back and chest. The military press is also excellent for developing punching power since it isolates the pushing motion. Optimum performance is to press half your body weight (if not more) into the over head position. The military press can be performed either seated or standing, though when done standing more of the body’s muscles are worked.
Unlike professional sports which have off seasons most fighting arts practitioners train weekly and throughout much of the year. This requires rest periods to be included in one’s training program. More importantly though, is that the fighter is developing combative skills while conducting strength training, that's why a training program should devote equal time to both strength and skill.
            Many people assume strength training requires several hours each day to obtain proper results. And while this might true for body builders, Olympic and power lifters, where fighting is concerned the desired effects can be gained from 30-45 minutes of training, three times a week. Below is a simplified routine for the fighting arts practitioner that develops over-all strength, speed and endurance and can be completed in 40 minutes, or less.
Week One:
 Monday- Deadlifts and Military Presses. Five sets with one repetition of each exercise using 80-90% of your heaviest- one repetition max.
 Wednesday- Clean overhead press.  Four sets of light weights, 6-10 repetitions.
Saturday- One Arm Snatch and Military Presses. Four sets each exercise, adding 3-5 pounds on each lift. For instance if you’re beginning the Snatch with a 10lb dumbbell, then the next set with be with a 15lb dumbbell, followed by a 20lb, then finally a 25lb.
Week Two:
Tuesday- Clean overhead press and military presses. Five sets with five repetitions using 70-75% of your one rep max.
Thursday- Deadlift. 1x5’s. Single repetitions of 90-100% of your maximum one rep weight.
Sunday- One Arm Snatch and Military Presses. Four set of light weights. 6-10 repetitions each exercise adding 3-5 lbs each set.

Week Three:
Wednesday- Deadlift and Military Presses. Five sets with five repetitions using 70-80% of your one rep max.
Friday- Clean Overhead Press and Military Press.  Four sets of light weights. 6-10 repetitions each exercise adding 3-5 lbs each set
Sunday- Deadlift and Military Presses. Five sets with one repetition each exercise using 80-90% of your one rep max. (1x5)
Week Four: Rest

As you progress, the time it takes to complete the workout shortens, so additional exercises to include are squats, pull-ups and dips. This means where previously each workout consisted of two exercises, now it will consist of three. Or if you desire, squats, pull-ups and dips can be combined for an entire workout.
Aging causes muscle and bone mass to deteriorate which results in the loss of athletic performance and combative skill, especially during one’s 40’s and 50’s. This is why strength training plays such a vital role. It builds bones and preserves muscle, plus activates nerves that increase reflexes. Strength training not only helps you become a better fighter, but reduces the effects of aging. That's why legendary figures like Shoshin Nagamine and Donn Draeger where practicing martial arts well into their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. So go on, take the iron pill. You’ll be able to train longer, plus you’ll probably live longer and besides you’ve got nothing to loose, but some unwanted pounds.



[i] Much the same as it is with developing good technique, proper form is essential when executing the deadlift, clean and press. There should be no curvature in the spine, feet are shoulder-with; always begin with your shoulders over the bar, push with the legs first and initially start your training with light weights and increase poundage as you grow stronger. Remember, its not how much you lift, but how you lift it that matters most.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bubba's Karate

Bubba’s Karate
My brother’s real name is Buddy O’Dell, but since we were kids I’ve always called him Bubba.  We grew up dirt poor in a four room shack and most of the time it was just us boys and momma cause daddy was doing life without parole for first degree murder. Even then Bubba never had much to say except “Yes momma, no momma” or “No thank you.”
            Bubba dropped out of school in the eighth grade to work as a farm laborer so that he could help momma with the bills. He grew up lean and muscular and by the age of fifteen stood 6’4 inches tall and could split a fence post with one swipe of an ax.
            People liked Bubba because he worked from sun up to sun down and didn’t steal, but they were cautious not to anger him. Once a local farmer tried cheating Bubba out of a day’s wages and when the argument grew heated Bubba cold cocked the farmer with an ax handle, took what money was his and left.  Word got around you didn’t mess with my brother.
            When Bubba turned eighteen the army drafted him and he spent two years in Vietnam. After coming home he didn’t say much about the war, but at night I could hear him tossing and turning in his bedroom and there were some days when he’d set on the front porch for hours on end, staring off into the distance, never uttering a sound.
            Following the Army, Bubba worked as a farm hand for a year or so then one day he quit, bought himself a piece of land way up on a mountainside and started making moonshine for a living. His first year wasn’t a success, but afterwards his reputation grew and so did business. People from all walks of life wanted Bubba’s shine: politicians, country music stars, the local sheriff, even a few preachers drank my brother’s white lighting.
            Bubba saved his money and bought a small house in the valley below his still and before long he was married and had two kids of his own. Life was finally looking up and every time I saw him he was happier than before. During the spring, summer and fall he made shine and during the winter he hunted. Things couldn’t have been much better. The years passed, Bubba’s children grew up, left home and went to college and before long my brother was collecting social security.
            Just outside town on State Highway 29, there is a small bar called Sammie’s. It is a run down looking place with two store fronts, one of them a bar the other deserted. Ever since coming home from Vietnam Bubba has frequented Sammie’s at least once a week to drink a few beers, watch a ball game or two, and shoot a game of pool.  He always parks his old Chevy pickup in front of the deserted store front so he doesn’t have to walk so far. You see his back hurts him from years of lugging moonshine up and down the mountainside. That’s where the trouble began.
            A week after the New Year Bubba parked his truck in the usual spot and noticed a sign in the deserted store front’s window that said: “Coming soon: Master Jay’s School of Karate and Self-Defense. Enroll now!” Bubba paid little attention to the sign, but later found out that a young man from Wisconsin had bought the store and was opening a karate school.
            Two days later Bubba parked his truck only this time he saw through the store’s plate glass window people dressed in white pajamas and wearing colored belts doing kicks and chops and screaming real loud. One, however, caught Bubba’s attention. He was the school’s owner and his name was Master Jay and him and my brother locked eyes like two bulls stuck in a cattle pen.  Bubba held his glare for a moment then spat some Red Man on the pavement and went inside Sammie’s. Master Jay was offended by the surly old man dressed in overalls and decided to teach him a lesson.
            Never one to miss dinner with his wife, Bubba left Sammie’s after a couple of beers and just outside the bar he noticed a piece of paper stuck to the windshield of his truck. Unfolding the paper Bubba saw that it was a note addressed to him. “Dear Sir, in the future would you please refrain from disgracing yourself by spitting on the sidewalk. Also, since you are not a paying karate student, please park some place else. Respectfully, Master Jay.”
            Bubba crumpled up the paper, dropped it on the sidewalk, looked inside the karate school and shot Master Jay the universal finger then drove off. Jay, being a young man, vowed to get even since his honor had been offended twice that night.
            The following week Bubba parked where he always did, went inside Sammie’s, got comfortable on a barstool and was drinking his first Budweiser when Master Jay crept up from behind and with a loud yell that startled everyone, chopped Bubba on the back of his neck.
My brother never knew what hit him. He dropped to the floor like an old pine tree and was unconscious for several minutes. Worse though was as he lay in that disgraceful state, Sensei Jay said to the bartender. “When the old man wakes up you tell him that was karate from Japan.”
That night Bubba told me the whole story as we sipped Jack Daniels in my living room.
“Dang, Bubba. He really said Karate from Japan?”
“Yep” answered my brother.
“And he knocked you out cold with one chop?”
“Yep” said my brother refilling his glass.
“And you let him get away with it? What’s wrong with you?”
Bubba cut his eyes towards me and I saw the fire he had in Vietnam.        
“Little brother, who said he was getting away with it?”
“Bubba, you ain’t going to kill that boy, are you?”
“See you later,” said Bubba rising from his chair and as I took another drink he disappeared out the front door and into the night.
The next day Jay was leading a class on knife defense when he heard squealing tires in the parking lot. Looking out the karate school’s plate glass window he saw a familiar truck come to a sliding halt. Then Bubba got out, reached into the truck’s bed, retrieved a chain saw and started it with one pull and Master Jay- who previously had seen my brother as an old man- saw instead a homicidal lunatic dressed in overalls, sporting a mouth full of chewing tobacco, coming straight towards the karate school.
Bubba revved the chain saw and it made a loud buzzing sound and with one swipe he split the karate school’s door from top to bottom, stepped inside and yelled “I’m back sum-beech and this here’s my karate.” It was at that precise moment Sensei Jay realized that nothing on God’s green earth had prepared him for what was about to happen next.
Reports vary as to what exactly did happen that day, but from reliable witnesses it is known that pandemonium broke out as Bubba chased Jay round and round the karate school. At one point Jay picked up a long staff and tried using it but to no avail, Bubba turned it into splinters. Then Jay considered using a flying side kick but decided otherwise because the thought of loosing a leg was too horrible. Finally an opening came and Jay ran out to the parking lot with my brother in hot pursuit then into the bar screaming for help, but it was no use because everyone was on Bubba’s side.
Bubba finally cornered Jay next to a pool table. “You’re mine now karate boy” and just as he was going to administer the coup de grace the chain saw ran out of gas. “Oh, Hell” said Bubba and everyone in the bar saw Jay drop down into a low stance and start making loud cat calls, like Bruce Lee did. “Old man, you’re going to suffer before you die,” hissed Jay drawing back his hand, as if it were a cobra. My brother wasn’t fazed though. He just spit Red Man in Jay’s eyes and when Jay flinched Bubba picked up a pool cue and knocked him cold.  After Jay hit the floor Bubba turned to the bartender and said. “When the sum-beech wakes up you tell him that was a pool cue from Sears and Roebucks.”
I knew from the bottom of my heart that Bubba was going to do serious time for breaking Sensei Jay’s face, but it didn’t turn out that way. You see the sheriff found out that Jay had an out of state warrant for writing bad checks and possession of illegal drugs. So that made Bubba a local hero, not a criminal.
More importantly though is that just recently the State of Tennessee passed a bill making it legal to produce moonshine. Bubba, being the astute businessman that he is, took advantage of the opportunity. He bought Sensei Jays karate school, moved in his still and began selling moonshine. Now he parks out front all the time and the sign on the plate glass window reads: Bubba’s Moonshine and Karate.
           
This article is dedicated to the late and great Popcorn Sutton.
Copyright by Michael Rosenbaum 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Post War Karate

Lost in Translation The Post War Styles
 Gichin Funakoshi, Choki Motobu, Chojun Miyagi, and Kenwa Mabuni are widely regarded as the pioneers of Japanese karate. However, Yabiku Moden, Uechi Kanbun, Sawada Masaru, Nisaburo Miki and other prominent Okinawan karate-ka also traveled to Japan where they too influenced the fighting arts development and subsequently helped give rise to other styles of karate.
 While individual preference dictated karate’s practice on Okinawa, many who taught it in Japan realized that for karate to be accepted by Japanese society it needed a structured format that provided a historical foundation, standardized methods of training and continuity of instruction. By 1931, these changes were implemented and, in 1933, Karate was officially recognized by the Butokukai. With this came the formation of karate ryu-ha the four earliest being Goju-ryu-Chojun Miyagi: Shotokan-Gichin Funakoshi: Shito-ryu- Kenwa Mabuni and Wado-ryu- Otsuka Hidenori.
A concept that evolved in feudal-era Japan, the martial ryu-ha was developed by a warrior, or experienced practitioner, who compiled proven techniques and strategies into what they considered a complete syllabus of martial knowledge. Consequently one did not join a classical ryu but gained admittance to it and then became immersed in its teachings and camaraderie. Yet despite the presence of a group ethos, each warrior’s progression was charted separately within the classical ryu, its goal being to develop competent war fighters through a time consuming process based on integrity and quality.  Because of this regimen the classical ryu were living entities, steeped in centuries old traditions, passed down through time from one appointed successor to another, a process leaving no room for offshoot dojos or competing headmasters within the ryu’s linage.
These classical traits were not incorporated into karate despite its practitioners borrowing liberally from the classical systems to enhance their own style of fighting. The modern karate ryu’s purpose was, and still is, to make the art accessible to the masses. Whereas the classical ryu are concerned with small groups of students the modern ryu is designed to facilitate multitudes of people. This, in turn, allows one karate ryu to have numerous dojos and hundreds of practitioners at the same time. Likewise, whereas the classical ryu stressed individuality the modern version emphasizes conformity and group cohesion, traits imposed upon karate by prevalent militaristic policies of the day. [i]
As the modern ryu gained dominance over previous methods based on personal style, the nature of karate became increasingly regimented and group orientated. Overseeing this process was the Butokukai, which before it recognized someone’s training as a legitimate style of karate required a standardized teaching syllabus to be present, the instructor deemed qualified and the kyu-dan ranking structure, employed to grade students’ progress.  While establishing continuity, this institutionalization divided karate into differing camps, each with its own unique identity. Hence individual styles were compared against one another, instead of being considered interrelated parts that belonged to a larger entity.
 Complicating matters even more was a difference in regional teaching styles, for while Japanese karate was regimented, Okinawan styles remained eclectic until after the war. In Japan competitive elements flourished while on Okinawa they were initially downplayed in favor of traditional approaches relying on kata. However, as free sparring became popular in Japan and on Okinawa, the partitions separating the two styles grew less obvious until the post-war period war saw both styles of karate considered as one in the same, a perception brought forth by unknowing westerners and Japan’s own economic revival.
                More than 52,000 civilians perished during the battle of Okinawa, after which the island was forgotten as military bureaucracy concentrated on rebuilding Japan. This left the Okinawans in a tenuous position as many of them became laborers on military bases, while others existed on handouts from American soldiers. As George Kerr wrote about the island’s post war period: “For military men the Ryukyus became a place of exile from GHQ and Japan proper, and for ambitious civilians with the army it was ‘no man’s land,’ ‘the end of the line,’ or ‘the Rock,’ a veritable Siberia much too far from Tokyo’s neon lights.” (Kerr, Okinawa History of an Island People, 5)
     This negligence hampered Okinawa’s rebuilding, whereas in Japan it was encouraged by American business interests and military doctrines. General Douglas MacArthur supported trade unions which distributed Japan’s wealth and helped build a thriving middle class. He also suppressed the power of family trusts that had controlled Japan’s economy for many years and encouraged American industrialists and scholars, such as W. Edwards Deming, to contribute ideas and technology to the rebuilding of Japan’s industry. Moreover, the 1950’s saw karate’s popularity rise again in Japan as General Curtis B. LeMay, a dedicated Judoka, instituted hand -to- hand combat programs for U.S. servicemen taught by leading Japanese Judoka and Karate-ka. This, along with Japan’s economic revival, enabled Japanese karate to achieve a place in the international spotlight which overshadowed Okinawan styles for years to come.
 However, it was the western society’s own inability to distinguish between sport and traditional styles, Okinawan and Japanese teachings, which gave rise to contemporary beliefs that all forms of karate were the same. Adding to this confusion is karate’s introduction to the United States, Great Britain and Europe where it was promoted as either a sport or a martial art developed from centuries of battlefield combat. The latter being in spite of the fact that the styles introduced were not much older than the western karate-ka practicing them.
It was due to these oversights that many Westerners were left uncertain about karate’s identity. However, despite this predicament, karate’s regimented style of teaching appealed to many in the West, as it did to the Japanese, because of its linear nature, a by product of earlier British, American and European influences on Japan.  Modern karate’s learning syllabus has a beginning, middle and end point, each defined by the ryu’s teaching syllabus and the kyu-dan ranking structure.  Therefore, the student examines where he or she is along the ryu’s linear progression: “I know ten kata and hold a san-dan ranking so I’m one third of the way to tenth dan,” and thus a practitioner’s progress is automatically determined for them.
 Although the modern ryu’s teaching syllabus has done much to promote karate world wide, it sometimes contrasts with how Chojun Miyagi, Choki Motobu and others of this caliber accessed their merits, which was on a day-by-day, technique-by-technique basis, within the intimacy of a small group of fighters. These were well versed and educated men raised in a culture where an apprenticeship could last ten years and the mastery of an art could take half a lifetime. Their definition of quality was based on traits which developed both one’s fighting prowess, as well as their character. Peripheral accoutrements held little, if any, appeal to them.  
In Gichin Funakoshi’s book The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate Genwa Nakasone presents an example of how important a student’s character was when relating the story about sixteenth century sword master Tsukahara Bokuden, who, upon learning that one of his students employed a martial arts technique to avoid being kicked by a horse, dismissed the young man from his dojo. When asked why, since the young man was such a fine tactician, Bokuden replied, “A person with a mental attitude that allows him to walk carelessly by a horse without considering that it may rear up is a lost cause no matter how much he studies technique.  I thought that he was a person of much better judgment, but I was mistaken” (Funakoshi, Twenty Guiding Principles, 40) Such traits, are the essence of all styles of karate, either sport or traditional-Japanese or Okinawan, because they enable us to become not only superior fighters, but better humans as well. 








[i] Donn Draeger gives further insight into the differences between the two methodologies stating that, “Two aspects differentiate the shinsei budo from the classical ones. First, they are always exercised as sport activities.  Secondly, whereas the classical forms depend upon the deliberate placement of technical hurdles on which to constitute the foundation of their disciplines, the shinsei budo forms tend toward the removal of as many technical hurdles as possible.  Thus in the classical disciplines, the trainee is required to deal with a great variety of technical difficulties, the nature of which generates the process of spiritual forging called, seishin tanren.  This is necessary to the goal of enlightenment of self-perfection.  In the shinsei budo forms, however, the trainee is guided so that he may become physically skillful in the shortest possible period of time” (Draeger, Modern Budo Bujutsu, 9).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Butt Whippings

Butt Whippings

I’m standing ringside at a martial arts expo watching various people demonstrate their styles when one particular master catches my attention. “Yes, the Okinawans had such powerful kias that they could knock the squirrels from the trees.” Huh? I thought. Knock squirrels from trees? I didn’t know they squirrel hunted on Okinawa. And besides, why shout at a squirrel when you can shoot it? Then the master continued demonstrating the power of Ki by taking an arrow in one hand and trying to push it into the chest of a student who was performing Sanchin kata.  Naturally the student’s skin wasn’t pierced because an arrow is a projectile weapon that requires velocity to penetrate its target.  Plus the master was ever so slightly bending the arrow’s shaft as he pushed to ensure the student’s safety. To the untrained eye, or those just needing to believe in hocus-pocus, the whole thing looked very impressive.  I, on the other hand, thought: Butt whipping. If the master had had a proper Butt Whipping he wouldn’t believe in such nonsense.
            Butt Whippings are an essential part of learning because they shatter our illusions about life, love, violence and the world in general. Take me for instance.  One of my first Butt Whippings occurred when I was five years old.  That’s when I thought shooting my dad with a BB gun would be funny.  And it was very funny watching him jump and holler after being shot in the back with a Daisy rifle.  However, the Butt Whipping he administered shortly there-after convinced me that what I had done was not funny, nor was it something I would ever repeat again. 
            Butt Whippings used to be an essential learning tool in karate.  I mean after all what better way is there to learn you’re not a bad hombre than by getting your butt whipped? However today, in this overly commercialized world run by the martial arts industry, instructors realize that whipping a student’s butt results in the loss of revenue. And heaven forbid a commercial school owner admit they’ve had their butt whipped because that’s sinking the Titanic before she leaves port. For unlike full-contact styles (Boxing-MMA-Kickboxing etc) where butt whippings are a source of pride, in the karate world they’re rarely spoken of.  Hence the reason why martial myths abound, common sense is tossed out the door and all these deadly masters, who are over-weight and out of shape, are talking about knocking squirrels from trees. Yes, I know. You’re a master and that’s not your gut, but three- decades of chi hanging over your belt buckle. Go ahead, pop the top again and tell me another story.*
 The following is a quick run down on some martial myths and the Butt Whippings incurred from believing them.
  • You’ve just been promoted to black belt and now you’re hands are deadly weapons, so its time to celebrate. You call up a girl, ask her for a date and take her to a swanky restaurant. The lights are dim, elevator music is playing and you’re both getting cozy making small talk and sipping mixed drinks with little umbrellas in them. From the next table over some drunk makes an off hand comment about the girl you're with.  Defending her honor, you stand and ask him to step outside, but before anything happens the bouncers arrive and they make the guy move to another table. You sit back down feeling confident, but more importantly your date is impressed. Before long the incident is forgotten and after two more drinks the call of nature arrives. Saying “excuse me,” you stumble to the restroom where after a moment’s fumbling you unzip and make use of the urinal. All’s going well, but just as you’re about to put Willie back in the barn, there’s an angry tap on your shoulder. Turing around you spot the guy who insulted your date standing very, very close. “Sum-beech” he says with a menacing grin. Uh-oh, what should you do?  Put up Willie and fight or, fight then put up Willie.  Too late, the matter is already decided.  A thundering right cross breaks your jaw and you slump to the floor unconscious with Willie out of barn and as lifeless as you are. What’s more embarrassing though is that when paramedics carry you out on a gurney everyone in the restaurant sees that you got whipped, plus your date realizes that you’ve been lying to her for the past week.  Lesson learned: Believing you’re undefeatable + oversized ego + not paying attention to your surroundings = Major Butt Whipping.
  • It’s Friday night and you’re out drinking with some dojo mates after a hard workout. The beer is cold and tastes good.  So good in fact that you drink more than usual. You’re a black-belt and you want to impress the lower ranking students so you talk loud and demonstrate kata between tables. Someone complains and the bouncer comes over. He looks old and tired and out of shape. True, he has muscular forearms covered in tattoos, but that means nothing to you because you’re a black-belt. “Quiet down, please” he asks in a polite tone. You consider his offer but, the other students are watching so you decide it’s a matter of honor. “Buzz off pops,” you rely. The expression on his face never changes and for a brief moment you actually believe he’s intimidated, then the world comes crashing down and suddenly you realize this man is a seasoned fighter.  Someone who experiences more violence in one night than you have in your entire life and as he’s dragging you from the bar into the parking lot, you try apologizing. But too late, the police are there to take you away. Lesson learned: Ego + Stupidity + Alcohol = Butt Whipping and Jail Time.
  • There’s a new guy in class who used to box and you’re trying to teach him how to punch the proper way, but he keeps retracting his punches.  Soon you move onto blocking and as you’re explaining a rising head block you state “this is designed to stop a boxer’s jab.” “Oh really” he says. “Well show me.” Determined to teach the new guy a lesson you assume a deep stance and tell him to “give it his best shot.” Birds sing, bells and whistles go off and stars float above in the heavens. You come to with a bunch of people standing over you, one of them the new guy who keeps repeating “I’m sorry, I’m really sorry” over and over again. Lesson learned: Ego + Stupidity + Inexperience = Butt Whipping.  Or, in laymen’s terms you’re not the only Sad Sack who can throw a punch.
  • You’ve been practicing pressure point fighting when a friend invites you to their Judo class.  You accept, knowing before hand that it will be no problem defeating mere grapplers. As you step out onto the mat there’s a strange sensation in your gut, but you choose to ignore it.  I mean after all, you know pressure point fighting and once in close there’s no stopping you. You take hold of your opponent’s gi, assume a low stance then the world turns upside down and you crash to the floor. And for the rest of the night you become a throwing dummy, despite the best pressure point techniques you can apply. Lesson learned: Ego + Stupidity + Assumption = Butt Whipping.
  • You’ve come to the conclusion that kata has no real application to fighting. It’s obsolete, archaic and far too rigid. You decide to make your own kata complete with high kicks, spinning techniques and secret techniques learned from a deadly arts book you bought on-line. Things are going well and before long you’ve discovered the hidden secrets of karate.  Secrets too deadly to pass on to others. Two weeks later you’re attending a kata seminar hosted by a funny talking guy from England, who is in his forties and has no hair. I can take him, I know I can, you think.  But when he grabs you by the hair of the head and punches you in the faces and says “this bunkai is from Seisan,” you suddenly realize there may be more to kata than what you perceive. Lesson learned: Ego + Inexperience + Unchecked Ambition = Butt Whipping. Never forget traditionalists can fight too.

Now having covered some real life scenarios can I get an Amen for Butt Whippings? I mean don’t you think the world needs more of them, especially the karate world?  And if you’re in a school that believes in Butt Whippings then consider yourself fortunate because you won’t be plagued by those dangerous illusions which haunt most folks. As a matter of fact this might be the start of a world wide movement. Just imagine it. Butt Whippings international, or Butt Whippings 4-U. There’ll be license plates, bumper stickers and seminars. The possibilities are endless…

About the Author: Although slightly delusional, Michael Rosenbaum is a very traditional Southern storyteller who has been involved in the martial arts since 1966. Since that time he has had his butt whipped on numerous occasions, both nationally and overseas.

*Southern speak for open a beer.