Wednesday, August 20, 2014


This post is dedicated to a friend at karate, but to all who strive to reach a goal.

Recently my Kyoshi asked when I worked (evenings and nights) because he wanted to test one of my class mates for black belt.
He has been training for just as many years as I have, but just wanted to be a good fighter and has never been concerned with rank. He truly believes that the belt is "just a piece of cloth"
True as that may be, I want you to think about is this way:  It represents a milestone.

Websters online dictionary defines milestone this way:

an important point in the progress or development of something : a very important event or advance

In a previous post on self confidence I conveyed the story that when I was a novice (yeah... I still feel like one 27 years later as well!) the black belts would tell me "A black belt means that I am just beginning to learn"

They were right. A black belt means you have learned the basics to an acceptable degree of the martial arts school curriculum that you are involved in.  The senior instructors in the school / organization will review your abilities and confer on you that "piece of cloth" we call a black belt.

Now, depending on the school, the test may be rigorous or . . .  shall we say less than rigorous. I say this because there is a common occurrence in martial arts schools that a person can "purchase" their way to black belt with no real-world skills.  We have all heard the story how a person that claims to be a black belt in Karate easily loses a fight to a person who has never stepped on the mat a day in his life.  I readily admit that there are good street fighters out there than hold their own and win against a person trained in the arts.

So, what is my point?  My point is to simply state that this "piece of cloth" represents a milestone in your training and, for that matter in your life.  Although there are many programs out there that teach martial arts and self defense, and a person can "buy" a black belt, you my friend have paid for this through blood, sweat and tears!

That piece of cloth is a representation of those years of sweat and practice.  It is a representation of your dedication and development and marks an important event.

That event being "you are just beginning to learn."

I am by no means an expert in Japanese or Okinawan traditions, customs or culture but I do understand a few things. An upperclassman in a school (Japanese:  Senpai) has a responsibility to look out for and encourage the class mates in the ranks below him (kōhai).  As Westerners we have a difficult time understanding collective societies that value the group over the individual.  In America, it is all about us. In other cultures the family name, or group affiliation is more important.

I am encouraging you to test out.  In many many ways, you have already earned it.  Oh, and being Senpai I offer my help in practice at the inconvenient times, when I work until midnight and come to the Dojo with only 3 1/2 hours of sleep under my . . . belt (pardon the pun).

To my readers, I say this: any event that marks a milestone in your life should be stepped through and taken. If you have "done the time" in training and work, treat that pinnacle event as what it is: a milestone!

In other words, you earn(ed) it!

Your Brother in Christ
And  Senpai in Karate 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Biblical Church Part 9 Education

There are thee pertinent Bible verses that come to mind:


Ignorance of the law in court is no excuse.  Ignorance of how a piece of machinery works, if we try to repair it can result in an injury or fatality. Yet why do people think that ignorance of the word of God will still build a strong church or ministry?  Christian education in a church is just as important as preaching the gospel and winning people to God!  Soldiers are given basic training, then advanced training for their military occupation.  If the Church is an Army, we should be involved in spiritual combat training as well.  I’ve heard much talk from churches but little action!
I agree that a good portion of this combat is prayer.
 After all, the above mentioned scripture says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12)!  The Bible doesn’t mince words when Paul told Timothy to “Study to shew thyself approved”  or Paul told the Thessalonian church to “Study to be quiet”  nor Solomon who stated “A wise man studieth to answer”  our words and actions must be chosen both prayerfully and carefully!
A biblical church should be a church that teaches sound doctrine.  The doctrine should also be backed up with actions to prove it as well!  Moses commanded the Israelites to teach their children the precepts of God.  To this day in Jewish tradition, they will read a specific passage from the Bible that asks and narrates the reason behind the Passover that it may be learned and remembered! There are other activities, but this one comes to mind the most:  Do this, and REMEMBER why you are doing it!


Please note on the second point that, unlike many who quote this verse (Proverbs 29:18) I have included the entire rendering.  Mainly due to this reason:  A vision of God and what he expects of us requires knowing the word of God.  God doesn’t operate outside of his word (Bible).  The more we have on the inside through prayer and study, (once again humbly I say this, and within reason, because God can do anything) the more God can use our faculties.  I say this very carefully, because the Book of Numbers tells us that God used a Donkey to speak to an unwilling prophet (Numbers 22:28).  This is a good lesson to remember on humility.  Even with this illustration, it does not mean a soldier can neglect his training to be ready for battle!  Soldiers are given orders to “Take that hill” or “Hold this position” or something else depending on the situation.  A church that supports missions, has a defined community outreach and objectives to meet that end, is evidence that they are doing something!

Battle Gear

No matter what age, soldiers must be dressed and trained for battle!


Lastly, if we are soldiers, we must wear all of our spiritual armor.  I call to your attention the various photos of soldiers in Iraq, who wore their helmets, flack vests and goggles.  They were trained and dressed for offensive combat and defensive protection.  In the scripture, the allusion is to a Roman soldier in battle gear.  The first items of armor (Verses 14-17) are concerned with having our vitals protected (breast plate, loins, helmet, shield) .  The helmet of salvation is on our head – where our brain is, concerns mental protection as well as the shield of faith.  Any firey darts (or arrows) can be deflected if our shielding is ready.  The Fifth is having our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel.  This goes back to education and training!  Armies have always depended on marching on their feet.  How do we know the gospel if we only hear it once?  The offensive weapons are prayer and the Word of God.  Many times, we hear the word of God is likened to a sword, that cuts very fine.  My experience is that people want to use this sword like a club and eventually become seriously injured.  In other words, they step on their tongue or are caught in hypocrisy or scandal.  This was all from using the word of God as a bludgeon rather than a sword!
My point is simply this: Preparation and training does not waste time or energy!
A Biblical church has a mission and diversifies it’s resources to be effective on all fronts!

Your Brother in Christ
And  Senpai in Karate 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Verbal Judo: The book

I don't know what penchant it is that makes me fond of old books.  It could be that King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes that "There is no new thing under the sun"  and he also said that of making books "There is no end, and much study weareth the body"
Having said that, where does this leave my desire to read old books?  Well, probably that any information or story has probably already been told and a book is just a re-telling of previously known information yet unbeknownst to us!
Sometimes an older book on a particular subject, as long as it is not technology, will give us a richer view of the matter at hand.  Despite the internet, I still own a set of encyclopedias and use them from time to time.  I heard about a particular subject a while back called Verbal Judo.  Although the system was originally directed at law enforcement, the book by the late Dr George Thompson is the psychological adaptation of speaking that he compares with physical Judo.  Using an opponents words to create a win-win situation in communication.

One of the main reasons I purchased the book was because I have communication problems at home.  When I taught at a technical college, I found that I had communication problems with some of the students as well.  So, since I am on a journey to be the best I can, I wanted to work on this area a bit more.

Lo and behold, I found a wealth of information in this book.  Some may say that books can give information, but life will give us a true education.

This is where wisdom comes in.  A book is good if we know how to read in interpret the information contained therein.  Not every book is worthy of our time and effort.  I was once given a book to read by a national talk show host.  It was so negative within the first 25 pages, that I made the pinnacle decision to give it back to my friend.  that is when I realized to choose what you read carefully and don't be afraid to give it back.

Sir Francis Bacon said "Some books are to be tasted, others tasted and chewed, and others tasted, chewed and thoroughly digested"

Secondly, another old book gave some advice on reading.  That was to train your mind to be like that of a miner digging for diamonds.  Throw away the useless information and only keep the jewels!

So is Verbal Judo!  I found that Dr Thompson was a former police officer that compared psychological principles, Asian philosophical adages, and street common sense to form a system that is fairly effective in dealing with talking to people. 

Some of this information is just common sense as I've said.  We need to watch our voice when we talk to people.  the tone, inflection and the realization that we are viewed differently that how we see our selves, and that may make a big difference.
A big subject that stood out to me was the fact that empathy is a huge part in understanding people.  I should have heard this in bible college, but only remember some remote teachings when we studied the book of Job!
the other factors that stuck out in the book were techniques and styles to use when dealing with people, and some really good information that he says can apply to dealing with teenagers.  My oldest is only 10, so I have a few years to perfect this before the deluge of attitude comes!

I recommend this book, it's a really good read and is a tool in the arsenal of anyone who would rather do as the great general Sun Tsu said" 
"To win without fighting is the zenith of excellence"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Self confidence

I found myself in class recently working with a younger man who was a brown belt.  And although I'm about 17 years his senior in age, a creeping feeling came into my mind:

Is he having a problem with the kick because he watched me?

Am I doing it wrong and he is following me?

Most of this came from my last black belt test for 2nd dan.  I was succinctly warned by one of the masters that I had to be extra careful, because people will pay attention to me as a senior belt.

What followed was something that plagued me since I was promoted to black belt.

I don't feel like I have arrived

Years ago, when I studied Tae Kwon Do, I would meet black belts and comment how much they must know, and how impressed I was.  I did this in a manner of humility and not "sucking up".  To be honest I don't remember the exact words but they would always come back with the statement:

 A black belt means you are just beginning to learn

I always thought to my self the following  "What kind of mystic Eastern crap is that!?"  years later I finally understood it, because I was now walking in their shoes!  I gave it about 3 years of thought and then decided to go to my Sensei (Kyoshi Wilcox).  I explained this concern with him. He looked at me and said, "You know what you call that!?"  He then leaned towards with wild eyes (quite the norm for him) and said "You call it NORMAL"

We all go through stages in life where, perhaps we feel less than adequate or wonder what others are thinking.  To a degree this is normal.  He later shared with me that to feel like you have arrived or, you are owed something is abnormal and bad.  Heres a few Biblical examples:

We read that Moses fled Egypt for killing a man and lived for 40 years in exile.  Keep in mind that he was trained as a Prince; the heir apparent of Pharaoh.  Moses was a statesman, General and scholar!  but he didn't have humility  "Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall"  The prophet Amos was a shepherd and tree trimmer, not well suited and trained by the standards of those days, but he spoke of what he knew and was effective enough to be called and recorded in scripture.  True, they had the call of God on them and obeyed, but notice what God did!  never discount your learning and abilities to be used some day!

 The martial arts is about growth and development, much like Christianity and life in general; it is a journey not a destination! It only stands to reason that we should be careful how we step because there are always people above and below you and some will undoubtedly look at how you step.

So, where does my title come in?

The best way to explain it is by telling you a story back from 1991 when I was in the Army.  I went to the U.S. Army Air Assault school where I learned about sling loading equipment from the bottom of a helicopter and how to rapel.  The instructors would tell us horror stories about not having the rapel seat tight and even a soldier who was severely injured when the rope was caught in between his leg and one of his . . .  uh never mind, but you get the point.  As a bunch of young men we were now scared silly about losing part of our manliness.  This is when I received a bit of sage wisdom I have not forgotten since.  the instructor said:

At some point, you have to have faith in your equipment

And so it is with our training.  if you attend a reputable school that has a good mix of tradition and common sense training, you may not get everything 100% correct all of the time, but you will understand the concepts to make things work and still be a good example to all. In martial arts, we wear belts as a sign of rank.  In the Army, schools are represented by badges worn, but in the church our hard fought tests are shown by our character and spirit and only sometimes by a position or calling in the church.

Incidentally, we were doing inside and outside crescent kicks, and the rhythm was a bit odd.

Overall, you .must have faith in your equipment (training). and let your good actions speak louder than words

Your Brother in Christ

And  Senpai in Karate