How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone Not to Proselytize?

Francis Schaeffer on the Origins of Relativism in the Church

One of My Favorite Songs

An Inspiring Song


Monday, May 31, 2010

Just Swimming in Utter, uh, Stuff

There are times when I open up the intertoobs and just cannot believe what I am seeing. And yes, sometimes it's trivial, as it was today when I saw someone I keep up with via Facebook spout the old story that the "black belt" has its origins in an old custom of giving a student a white belt, which got dirtier and darker over the years until it was finally black, or close to it.

What utter nonsense. What horse squeeze. Yes, I know it's a triviality, but dadgummit, the person propagating this myth is a senior-level black belt with a fair number of students. She ought to know better than to just repeat stuff that she was told years ago without taking the trouble to check it out. And it's easy to check out. All you have to do is google "origins of the black belt system" and you will come up with it. Some sites will be missing some of the details, some won't. The one thing everyone agrees on is that the belt ranking system had its origin in Jigoro Kano's judo, and the progression from white to black (with whatever colors in between, if any) had nothing to do with dirt. Some people think that he got the idea from Japanese swimming competitions, where apparently more advanced competitors were denoted with a black ribbon tied 'round their waists. I don't know about that. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not.

Why the heck would he come up with such a thing, anyway? You have to remember that a big part of Kano's judo process was standardization. He was trying to create something of a standard jujutsu that everyone could rally 'round. He needed order, he needed hierarchy, he needed a standard uniform--all of which he developed over the years. Personally, my thinking is that the belt was just the easiest visible object on the uniform to change as rank changed. I mean, what the heck else would you do? Change the whole uniform? Give 'em a badge (ouch!)?

But that "dirtier and dirtier white belt" stuff? That's horse hockey. It amazes me that people still tell that story.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A YouTube Tour of Seisan

I'm not entirely sure what my favorite kata is. There are days when it might be Naihanchi Sandan, and there are days--lots of days--when I think it might be Seisan. Something about it appeals to me. Part of it, I am sure, is its antiquity. The kata is old, very old. I'm not at all sure that anyone knows for sure just how old it is, and practicing it, I almost feel like I've got a pipeline to practitioners of several hundred years ago.

Only God knows how many versions of Seisan there are. In RyuTe, we practice a version called "Tomari Seisan," and the further one goes along in learning the kata, the more variations you learn and investigate, until you might not find it entirely unfair to say that there are several versions of Seisan in RyuTe alone. I thought, for the amusement of those interested in such things, that I might gather a few clips of differing versions together.

First up, "Tomari Seisan" as performed by a former RyuTe practitioner, now practicing under the umbrella of the "Ryukyu Kempo Alliance." I would, of course, have posted a clip of a current RyuTe practitioner performing the kata, but there don't seem to be any examples on YouTube. This is as close as I could get.

Here's the Okinawa Kenpo Seisan. Okinawa Kenpo and RyuTe share some common lineage.

This is the JKA (Japan Karate Association, or Shotokan) version, which they call "Hangetsu."

Chito Ryu interests me. The founder was a physician, and I have often wondered exactly how much impact his medical knowledge had on his karate. This is their version.

This is Morio Higaonna of Goju Ryu fame. I am told that Donn Draeger (Don't know who Draeger was? Shame on you...) once said that Higaonna was "the most dangerous man in Japan in a real fight." I don't know about that. Wouldn't Draeger have had to know every man in Japan to say that? But still, Higaonna is a most impressive Goju practitioner, and here is his Seisan.

This is Goju Kai, or the mainland Japanese Goju Ryu organization.

This is Shito Ryu's version.

And here's Wado Ryu's Seisan.

Isshin Ryu is something of a blend of Shorin Ryu and Goju Ryu. Here's their Seisan

Shorin Ryu Seisan

Shorinji Ryu Seisan

Seibukan Seisan. Seibukan is, I reckon, another variant of Shorin Ryu. There must be at least half a dozen.

Uechi Ryu Seisan

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

De Tocqueville on the Relationship Between Christianity and American Liberty

Moreover, almost all the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same. In the United States the sovereign authority is religious, and consequently hypocrisy must be common; but there is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other; and with them this conviction does not spring from that barren traditionary faith which seems to vegetate in the soul rather than to live.

There are certain populations in Europe whose unbelief is only equaled by their ignorance and their debasement, while in America one of the freest and most enlightened nations in the world fulfills all the outward duties of religion with fervor.

Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more did I perceive the great political consequences resulting from this state of things, to which I was unaccustomed. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country.
Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in
Just sayin'.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Difference Between Liberals and Leftists

A couple of weeks ago, I mused that I ought to write a post outlining the difference between Liberals and Leftists, at least as I use the terms. I'm not sure when I began separating the two in my mind, but somewhere along the line, I started. The "nutshell definition" is that "leftists" are the hard-core statists amongst liberals, and that is true, I think, as far as it goes, but I thought I'd try to draw the difference a little more starkly.

First, it might be helpful for you to read my definition of liberal. And please bear in mind that I'm not proposing these as universal definitions, this is simply how I think of things in my own writing.

Now, the difference...

It's not their positions, per se. Often a liberal and a leftist look alike in terms of their positions, and often, even in their argumentation. The people I refer to as "liberals," I think, generally mean well. I may find their thinking frequently confused, occasionally idiotic, and often annoying. I may find their overall attitude and sense of condescending superiority aggravating. I may find their stubborn refusal to come to grips with certain elements of reality almost maddening. But I am convinced that, at bottom, where the rubber meets the road, if I can grab one by the ears and make him look at the real-world results of what he so blithely tosses off the top of his head as potential policy, he just might back off of it. He just might, for example, after watching Kim Jong Il's people peel the bark off trees in order to have something to eat, be prepared to say that there is something wrong with statism--at least that much statism.

I run into people like this. People who--just for example--really, honestly, back abortion rights because they really, honestly believe that at some stages of development, that fetus isn't really human. For purposes of this discussion, it really doesn't matter that I think they're wrong. What matters is that that really is what they think. When you take a person like that and butt him up against the reality of partial-birth abortion, he gets this really funny look on his face, a look that clearly says, "I never really expected it to go this far." He may not immediately act on his realization that something's gone hideously wrong. He may file it away in the part of his brain that houses the things he'd rather not think about, or he may want to chew it over for a while to see if he's missed something, but you can tell you've rattled him. There's something there to rattle.

Leftists aren't like this. Each may have a different reason for being the way he is--one may have a never-ending thirst for something as banal as telling other people what to do, one may be acting out some sort of grudge against people of whom he's jealous, one--say, you remember The Dark Knight? Remember Alfred telling Bruce Wayne this?

Some leftists are like that. But whatever the reason, leftists don't have that "stopping point" that liberals do. There is no boundary they won't exceed, nothing they won't, given the opportunity, do. They are the Robespierres and Stalins on the left side of the political spectrum, not guilty of mass murder only because the political scene hasn't yet reached the point where it is expedient. These are the people who, thirty years ago, screamed about the coming ice age and now, with equal facility, scream about anthropogenic global warming, screaming not because they genuinely want to save the planet, but because the whole concept of catastrophic climate change is simply a political weapon, something to use against their enemies in their never-ending quest. I am convinced that often, the leftist knows perfectly well that what he's proposing won't have the effect he ostensibly wants it to have, and he just doesn't give a flying Mongolian etcetera-and-so-forth. He just doesn't want you to know that it won't work.

Leftists cloak themselves in the good intentions of liberalism, but they have a much darker vision, sometimes, perhaps, not even quite understood by themselves. They will, bit by bit, completely destroy a society, look upon the rubble, and say, "I find it good."

What scares me is how many of these people there are, and how they so clearly seem to be driving the train for the Democratic Party.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dan Phillips Shoots, Dan Phillips Scores...

He noteth:
I'll be completely candid. I don't know one conservative, private or public, who wouldn't weep for joy (virtually or actually) to see "minorities" pouring into the conservative movement and filling up positions of leadership.
Oh, he said a lot more than that, of course, and I recommend you go read it. But this really hit me.

You get aggravated after a while, you know. You get aggravated because your positions are continually being attacked as raaaaaaacist, and you, by extension, are being attacked as raaaaaaaacist, and you know, and everybody who knows you even tolerably well knows, that there's not a raaaaaaaacist bone in your body. But say that affirmative action produces negative results, say that illegal immigration is a bad thing, say that welfare programs are a classic moral hazard, and an inevitable part of your opponents' response is, "You're a racist." It's aggravating because it's so obviously an attempt to discredit you with an unwarranted smear.

Feh. The reality is that if I saw the conservative wing of the Republican Party filling up with Black folks and Hispanics, I'd be so tickled I'd be downright impossible to live with. Come to think of it, the Marine Corps was just shot through with Hispanics, and man for man, I'm dead certain it's the most conservative branch of the military. And you can bet your bippy that was okay with me.

And becoming conservative wouldn't mean that they were being race traitors, either.

For more of my thoughts on raaaaaaacism, click here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Random Thoughts on Why Our Churches Are Dying

I started this post some few months ago, and then let it "sit," wondering if I would have much else to say. I didn't, not 'til the last couple of days, when I see from our local Baptist newspaper and some of what I see on Facebook that changing this situation is going to require the finger of God. If you're a Baptist, read on at your peril. I have added only a small amount of material since the original writing. I apologize if it doesn't seem a model of coherence. It was, after all, intended to be a "random thoughts" sort of post.

Of course, your church may not be dying. "Church death" may not even be on your radar screen for one reason or another. You might find some of these thoughts useful for future reference anyway, if only to give yourself some ideas on some things to avoid.
Our congregation was told some time ago that one of our full-time ministerial staff was being let go, due to a budget shortfall. In a way, it didn't really surprise me. I've been wondering how we afforded so much staff.

I'm not being negative about the man. The person who was let go is a wonderful guy. Very knowledgeable, very capable, universally loved (I know he's universally loved; I took over teaching the Sunday School class he taught. It took months for that stuff to settle down!). I'm sorry to see him go, I really am. But you have to wonder just how much full-time staff a church that (to the best of my knowledge) averages no more than two hundred people in worship on Sundays (and actually, I think it's less) can realistically afford to support.

You have to understand: it wasn't always this way. This church is somewhat more than fifty years old. Built shortly after World War II, as, I understand, a church plant from First Baptist, Tulsa. At the time, it was on the outskirts of town. Now, the part of Tulsa it's in is considered somewhat old and dilapidated. When it was built, the United States was in the middle of the legendary "baby boom." American economic power was at its zenith (economic power fueled, in large part, by a policy involving consumption taxes, the specific variety being tariffs, I might add). The population was growing and people had money. This church was built where all the young people with money were moving. It grew and grew rapidly. I believe that at one time there were about six hundred or so people in the services (I could be wrong on this), just like there was at another church built in the same time frame only a mile or two down the road. The population out there was growing so fast that you could hardly build churches fast enough or big enough--or at least I'm sure it seemed like that.

Take heed, those of you who live where the young people with money are moving now--places like Owasso, Jenks, Bixby, and so forth. There was a time when those old churches in central Tulsa fit the same profile you fit now.

I'm dead certain that when those rapidly-growing churches of the fifties and sixties were experiencing explosive growth, quite a lot of people saw that growth as a blessing from God and not a whole lot of people gave much thought to the possibility that they were doing some things drastically wrong. Why would they? I'm not sure it would occur to me, either. But in retrospect...

...You know, years ago I worked for a rather large restaurant chain. We had a location in Claremore that did pretty good business. One day I chanced to talk with the district manager who had that location. It seemed that a Wendy's had opened up down the road from our store--we called our restaurants "stores," for some reason--and business at our store had gone down. The district manager told me that he had been told that our store must be dirty. In other words, the problem, the business downturn, had to be the result of something the management and crew were doing wrong. It couldn't possibly be the result of a new competitor opening up. It couldn't be the result of a business plan that assumed the absence of real competition. It had to be something going wrong within the store. And before the Wendy's opened up? Presumably, their bang-up business must have been solely the result of excellence in product, cleanliness, and service. It must be very difficult to examine yourself and your business model for deficiencies when things are going smoothly and you are making good money. Why wouldn't you assume that what you are doing is correct? After all, you are making money--and isn't that the ultimate criteria for most businesses?

In the same way, I can't help but think that it must be very hard for a relatively new church experiencing explosive growth to examine itself and decide that it is doing some things wrong, or at least not as wisely as they might. It seems to me that just as most businesses operate on the assumption that massive profitability validates their business practices, most churches operate on the assumption that massive growth indicates that they are at least not doing too badly. When I've visited churches that are growing rapidly--the ones I've visited in the last few years are mostly out in Owasso--it seems to me that they have an undercurrent in their thinking, an assumption that their exploding numbers are at least partly the result of God's blessing and their own evangelistic fervor. Some seem to have a handle on the reality that Owasso and its churches are the beneficiaries of young couples with money moving out to the 'burbs, but others don't quite seem to "get" this and assume that their model of ministry must be okay.

To be fair, I'm not altogether sure that I would do things any differently in that situation. Looking at the situation in central Tulsa, my first thought was that it would have been better for those then-rapidly growing churches to have spun off more local, neighborhood churches than to build large buildings and grow themselves to enormous size. That way, I thought, when the younger folks moved out to go to college, then to the 'burbs and even to other states, the remaining, smaller congregations wouldn't have been faced with the problems of trying to maintain large buildings and large staffs on retirees' budgets. But then I remembered that the two churches I was thinking of most were within a mile-and-a-half of each other. How much more "local" can you get? Both those churches were running over 500 in attendance at one point! And they weren't the only churches in the neighborhood, not by a long shot!

Try convincing crowds like that that they do not, as a church, really know how to evangelize. I bring that up because, in retrospect, it seems clear that they did not. If they really knew how to evangelize, then would it not have been inevitable, as families moved out of the neighborhood and new families moved into those houses, that those new people would have been brought into the church in numbers proportional to those who had left? But that didn't happen. Instead, as families aged and children moved out of the neighborhood, those churches' attendance gradually dwindled. Since the houses in those neighborhoods are still occupied, I have to conclude that--for whatever reason--we are not taking the gospel to those new residents, at least not in the same way we did to the former residents.

This would certainly be consistent with my experience. Time and again, I'll bring up the topic of personal evangelism and witnessing and visitation to folks in our Sunday School class, and the folks in our Sunday School class will, time and again, aver that overall, they prefer "lifestyle evangelism." (They did not use this term; it is something I introduced to them.)

Do you know what lifestyle evangelism is? It is operating on the assumption that the people around you, on seeing how differently you live, will eventually be drawn to ask you what makes the difference in your life, giving you an opportunity to share the Gospel. And it is certainly true, in my opinion, that if you are going to go around sharing the Gospel, a lifestyle consistent with it certainly helps! And maybe this sort of thing was more effective back in the fifties and sixties, when central air conditioning and cable tv weren't ubiquitous and people spent more of their time outdoors, where their neighbors could see them. But now? Friends, for the most part, your neighbors don't even notice you, not unless your car is blocking their driveway. They are certainly not going to take notice of how holy your life is. And, too, ironically, the same people who seem to think that their lifestyles are so holy that they will attract people to Christ as lights attract moths will consistently confess that they need to grow in holiness! So, overall, what is lifestyle evangelism worth these days?

Sooner or later, you've got to go knock on some doors and at least pass out a tract. It's better to be able to say something, but--and yes, I have asked--most Christians don't feel terribly confident in their ability to clearly articulate the Gospel, or to answer questions and objections, so they don't even try. They just keep coming to Sunday School and church services, hoping all the while, I guess, that they will eventually gain enough knowledge to be able to tell other people what they believe about God, life, death, eternity, and salvation. To my mind, the situation looks like a massive, systemic failure to educate and train, despite a massive Sunday School program and the availability of enough literature to choke a moose.

You know how I teach Mexican immigrants to speak English? (I teach an ESL class on Sunday nights.) We have books, of course, and we use them, but class after class, I, as the teacher, get up there and make them speak English. They can help one another answer questions all they want, but they have to do it in English. The hands-on practice is far more valuable than the textbook study, important as that is.

I can't help but think that for decades, we've had evangelism books, seminars, and so forth, and all we've succeeded in doing is so clouding the issue that most people aren't sure that they can share the Gospel "correctly!" Great result, isn't it? Perhaps it would have been better to focus first on hands-on experience and supplement with the training. Perhaps not. Perhaps yet another model would have been better. But because we confused demographically-driven church growth with successful evangelism, the idea that the core of our evangelistic practices simply didn't work and needed to be revamped never gained traction. If the thought was ever voiced, which I rather doubt. And now, our once-full churches in central Tulsa are dying on the vine, despite the homes around them being occupied, and I predict that the same thing will eventually happen to the now-full churches in Owasso.

The final nail in the coffin of how I think of our evangelistic methods, so to speak, was a thought that--in all seriousness--took me years to develop. You may remember, if you're from around Tulsa, that Franklin Graham came to Tulsa several years ago. Of course, I signed up to be a counselor and went to all of the BGEA's training sessions. Most were forgettable, though I remember enjoying seeing some of the other churches 'round town, but one--I think it was the third one--was something I'll never forget, not as long as I live.

You see, at one point, the person leading the training session--it was at Christ United Methodist, I believe, and it was packed out, brothers and sisters--asked all the assembled, "How many people here came to Christ at a revival?"

And a few hands went up.

Then, "How many people here came to Christ because they saw Billy Graham on TV?"

And a few hands went up.

Then, "How many people here came to Christ because of an evangelistic tract?"

And a few more hands went up.

And then, finally, "How many people here came to Christ because a friend or relative told them about Christ?"

And the whole place went up!

And I thought, "Brother, you don't know it, but you just told me that I'm wasting my time here." And that thought stayed in my head for a long time, even though I continued with FAITH evangelism, with "Share Jesus Without Fear," and so forth, and was one of the most consistent people in visitation the church had.

Some few months back, I was, like I alluded to earlier, talking to my Sunday School class about personal evangelism, and a light bulb went on. "How many," I asked, "of you live within a three--mile-or-so radius of this church?"

One hand went up, as I recall. Then I asked, "How many of you have friends or relatives that live within a three-mile-or-so radius of this church?"

And nobody, friends, nobody said a word. And that is the reality, friends, of most of the churches dying around you, I am quite sure. Yes, your church members fail to evangelize--to strangers, with evangelistic models that were assumed to work because the churches that used them grew so rapidly in the fifties, sixties, and even seventies. But they continue to talk to their friends and relatives about Jesus, and their friends and relatives often end up coming to Jesus. And friends, if you haven't figured it out by now, by and large, your church members' friends and relatives, unless your church is in a growing suburb, don't live around your church, so, ironically, your church members' perfectly normal evangelistic practices don't actually end up doing your local congregation any good.

You will say, "But MOTW, just like you said, we've got to revamp evangelism training, have people learn by doing, so that they will evangelize strangers! We're supposed to carry the gospel to everyone." I would agree. I am not saying otherwise, not at all. I am simply pointing out that the actual evangelistic practice of most of the people in your congregation differs considerably from what your theoretical model of church growth would like it to be, that it conforms, I have no doubt, to the actual evangelistic practice of most believers throughout Christian history, and that if you succeed in turning the situation around in your church, the entire Southern Baptist Convention will immediately be beating a path to your door.

Somewhere along the line, we built our ideas about church growth and evangelism around an ideal model that we would like to see in action, instead of the actual practices of the people in the pews. How to solve it? I'm not entirely sure. But I am pretty sure that if we keep failing to work with the way most people actually evangelize instead of against it, we are not going to be altogether successful.

There are other problems. One of them is a cloud of ideas revolving around giving and money. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard sermons or comments to the effect that if only church members would do what they were "supposed to do," that is, to tithe, to give ten percent of their income, that we'd have the money to maintain the building, pay staff, and do ministry and evangelism correctly. "Correctly," of course, being the way it was done during that era of explosive church growth. And since that way wasn't/isn't working anymore, and most people don't actually tithe, it is pretty much a slam-dunk for many ministers to conclude that failure in evangelism is somehow connected to poor stewardship, to a failure to tithe. As a matter of fact, I just read another such column to that effect by the director of the BGCO in the Baptist Messenger!

It's an easy out that allows people to continue to ignore the massive failure of our evangelistic models. So is the classic, "There's sin in the camp!" (Somebody in here drinks beer!)

You know, the word "tithe" is not to be found in The Baptist Faith and Message. You know why? It's because--and this will come as complete and utter shock to some of you--there is no command, not one, not anywhere in Scripture, for Christians to give a specific amount or percentage to the work of the church. Go ahead. Use your Bible software and spend some time looking for one. You won't find it. It isn't there. No preacher in the world can point to one. Instead, they will tell you what all preachers tell their congregations when they want them to believe something that they can't actually find in Scripture: that there is a "principle" found in Scripture to that effect. And that isn't true, either, not on close examination. Not that these people are lying. I don't think that at all. They are just parroting what they've heard all their own lives.

The reality is that there is plenty of Biblical admonition for the Christian to give joyfully and generously, but there is no guidance as to specific amounts or percentages--and the further reality is that on average, if memory serves, most families give about three percent. You might argue that they should give more, and they would probably agree. But this is the situation that you, and they, are facing: they have so arranged their finances that they can't, not without leaving some bill or debt unpaid. Does it reflect poor financial practice? You bet it does--and I'm as guilty as anyone, trying to claw my way out of all my non-mortgage debt over the next two or three years. Perhaps it would help--over a period of years--for the church to teach sound personal financial management, but that is hardly a short-term solution.

It doesn't help to tell families in this situation to "step out on faith." Telling them to have faith that God will bless them--somehow, usually, the impression is left that the blessing will somehow be financial--for their obedience to a command that any idiot can see doesn't actually exist insults the intelligence of a ten-year-old.

At any rate, we have this situation: we have churches that were built and staffed back when the population was growing and personal income was high, that now do not draw percentages of neighborhood residents similar to what they once did, and even if they did, most of those residents are either retirees on relatively small and fixed incomes, or they are younger families who moved into the neighborhood specifically because the older homes there were cheaper--in other words, nobody in the neighborhood has big bucks, many, if not most of them, are hard-pressed financially, and yet we keep trying to operate those churches and to evangelize on the very mistaken assumption that all good Christians will give ten percent of their income to the church, when any idiot reading the Scriptures can see that such a command just isn't there, and ten percent of the "not much" in those neighborhoods might not be as much as our ministerial models would like to think anyway!

That's why I asked, back at the beginning, how much of a staff a congregation that averages two hundred in attendance (at best) can realistically support. When we were running five or six hundred, perhaps it made sense to have a full-time preacher, a full-time music minister, a full-time Sunday School minister, two secretaries, and a maintenance guy (and maybe more). But now? What's the point in suggesting to a financially limited and much smaller congregation that they aren't doing what they are supposed to do, when they can't possibly support a staff like that? Doesn't it make sense the staff be cut back to a level commensurate with the congregation's size instead? Doesn't it make sense to operate on the assumption that what members you do have will give what people on average actually give? Why continually operate as though the fact that a congregation of two hundred cannot do ministry on the same level as a congregation of six hundred means that the smaller congregation is somehow failing to do something the larger congregation did? That isn't the way it is, or was. The larger, richer congregation was the result of a unique confluence of demographics and economics, and may not ever be duplicated.

We can either change our assumptions and expectations, or we can teach people--perhaps, ironically, by immersion--how to clearly articulate the Gospel to strangers, and teach people how to manage their money, and how to give biblically--it's often called "grace giving," if you want to know. But that will take time--and a willingness to admit that despite having ostensibly been completed devoted to evangelism for decades, the reality is that we really only manage to successfully pass the Gospel on to our children, and some people don't even do that.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Channeling Greek Conservatives

I find myself thinking about what Greek conservatives (there has to be at least one, dadgummit) must have been thinking during the run-up to the current situation. I picture it more or less thusly:
Hey, listen, y'all, you gotta slow down on all this social welfare ----. It don't work. All yer gonna end up doin' is creatin' a class of people whose "work" will be to vote more money out of other people's pockets.

Y'all? Hey...


Y'all lis'nin'?

Look, y'all, we know y'all mean well, but, ------, this ---- ain't got no track record o' workin' the way y'all think it will. Ain't never worked, an' it ain't gonna work this time. History's against y'all. Ec'nomics is against y'all. ------, common sense is against y'all.

Um--y'all? We git the sense you ain't payin' no attention.

You're borrowing how much? Are you ------' serious?

Lissen, y'all, y'all jist ain't gittin' it. Ain't enuff money in the world to pay for all the ---- y'all is votin' y'selves.

We ain't lyin', the day's gonna come when it's all gonna crash down 'round yer ears an' yer gonna have riots in the streets over this ---- when y'all can't deliver. Gonna take yer --- years, ------' years, to recover. Look, we're tryin' to help here...
And then, just the other day...
Told ya. But y'all wouldn't listen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Take the Time to Take a Peek

Well, first take a look at what the ever-estimable Mr. Buchanan has to say. But then spend some time with the incomparable Diana West:
..."there was a part of me that was hoping (the Times Square bomber) was not going to be anybody with ties to any kind of Islamic country," said MSNBC host Contessa Brewer. Of course, she inadvertently revealed there was a part of her that strongly suspected otherwise.

But that tiny voice of reason, Brewer and her peers seem to believe, is from the dark side. Brewer explains: "There are a lot of people who want to use terrorist intent" -- jihad! -- "to justify writing off people who believe in a certain way" -- people who believe in jihad! -- "or come from certain countries" -- that is, countries that practice Sharia and promote jihad! -- "or whose skin color is a certain way." This last bit, a non-applicable race card, works like a last-ditch sympathy-trigger. "I mean," she said, "they use it for justification for really outdated bigotry."

Welcome to your world, where self-defense is bigotry, and thus worse than death by fireball, axe or vaporizing over the Atlantic.

This is as ridiculous as it is obscene. There is no "bigotry" in understanding jihad as the engine of Islamic supremacism driven by the imperative to spread Islamic law (Sharia). Our leading lights shrink from this basic truth lest its clean logic wither the fuzzy, cultural-relativism-based universalism that orders our society.
I really hesitate to identify anyone as stupid. I truly believe that there are very few truly stupid people in the world. On the other hand, it never ceases to amaze me how many people have allowed their unexamined ideologies to turn them into people almost impossible to distinguish from the truly stupid.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Financial Crisis 101

Courtesy of Andrew Klavan. Actually, this was about as good an explanation of the situation as you can get in four minutes.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oh, Like You've Never Been Tempted...

Click on it for a larger version.

Beware Oklahoma Martial Arts Frauds

It is with some regret that I find that some people are still being taken in by tellers of lies and tall tales.

People, please understand: it is actually not all that uncommon in martial arts circles for people to tell lies. There is money in it. All someone has to do is convince people that he really does have rank from multiple organizations or arts, or has created his own art, or--one of my favorites so far--that his art was revealed to him in a dream by the ghost of a long-departed samurai, and people will actually pay to learn basics the likes of which can easily be picked up off basic instructional videotapes.

Or he might offer to instruct you via video and even promote you based solely on your performance of his techniques--on video! Yes, in some cases, it's true: you need neither actually attend classes nor actually do your belt tests in person. All you have to do is order the tapes, practice, and then have someone videotape your performance, and then send it in for evaluation. And pony up a fee, of course.

There are at least two notorious martial arts frauds in Oklahoma. I will not name names, as the modus operandi of at least one of them seems to be to respond to inquiries and criticisms with threats of lawsuits. Not that the fraud can't be verified, but last I heard, just fighting a lawsuit is an expensive proposition even when you win, so instead of just flat-out telling you who these people are, let me caution you: not every martial arts instructor in Oklahoma is telling you the truth about his qualifications and background. Be skeptical--very skeptical--about claims of extremely high rank in multiple systems. Take the simple step of googling his name and looking for criticism.

And lastly, don't exaggerate your ability to judge martial arts proficiency. Unless you have spent considerable time training in the martial arts, your ability to distinguish between a genuinely high-level martial artist and someone who is decently competent at a handful of basics may be worse than you think. In other words, the fact that your prospective instructor looks good to you may not amount to a hill of beans! Be careful before you waste time and money on a fraud.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I just looked, and much to my amazement/amusement, both these gentlemen have actually taken the risky step of putting up little videos on YouTube. No, I will not link, for the reasons stated above. But they are amazing, they really are. One of them showed a defense against a knife thrust, and this is what interested me: to the uninitiated, or to someone who was only familiar with sport karate, it had a surface appearance that looked very attractive. What the defense amounted to was a basic deflection, followed by rapid multiple hand slaps--ok, he did have a "knife" in one hand. It was done very fast, and if you didn't slow it down (I did), you might have missed the facts that:

A) They were just slaps, all slap and sting, no weight or power or zip behind them. For darn sure not palm strikes. Anything done with the non-knife hand was going to be little but annoying. And I'm none too sure about what was being done with the knife hand.

B) Not only did they appear to be largely undirected to specific targets, let alone vulnerable targets, it looked to me--heck, "look" isn't strong enough, they did--land on, in some cases, the sides of the attacker's upper arm. Understand: those weren't "checks" or "traps" or strikes to pressure points. The attacker just got slapped on the upper arm.

Oh, heck, go ahead and thlap me on the upper arm, you bwute! Yeah. That'd work.

C) Considering that the gentleman in question is touting his credentials as an instructor of an art that showcases trapping skills, it is interesting that, not only did the attacker's weapon remain completely uncontrolled, it actually wound up directly beneath the intructor's scrotum at one point. I am not certain that he noticed this himself, but it goes without saying, I should think, that you might want to avoid your attacker having his cutlery directly under the family jewels.

I will not criticize the total compliance of the "attacker." Demonstrations are demonstrations, after all, and as a rule, I don't expect the attacker to do more than go through the motions, since the instructor is usually attempting to illustrate possible responses rather than engage in high-intensity simulated close combat.

The upshot? It was precisely the sort of thing I would expect to look good to someone who was not actually all that familiar with the martial arts, but not at all like something I would be impressed with in the real world. You can deliver a barrage of relatively undirected slaps at an extremely high rate of speed. Try it yourself on a bag sometime. But that doesn't mean that they amount to a hill of beans.

Again, buyer beware. In this case, the buyer should be aware that, last I heard, this man charges something like sixty or seventy simoleons a month for one lesson a week.

And the other guy? He didn't look so hot either.

Maybe I'll recommend some martial arts videos...

Monday, May 3, 2010

On the Infamous "Have You No Decency?" Remark

Every so often I will read some commentary involving or referring to Joe Welch's infamous riposte to Joe McCarthy--"Have you left no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"--and almost without exception, the commentary makes it clear that the writer knows only part of the story behind that remark. It was only a few weeks ago that I read another such bit of commentary. I thought, at the time, "You poor devil. You have only part of the story, and have no idea what an ignorant footstool you've made yourself out to be." And I thought, too, that it would be a good thing for the correct story to be "out there" in the blogosphere.

Anyone genuinely interested in the full story of Joe McCarthy has been perfectly free to pick up M. Stanton Evans' massively researched and painstakingly documented Blacklisted By History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies for a couple of years now. Of course, most of the people who cite Mr. Welch's remark are not interested in the whole story; they are simply interested in making McCarthy look bad. They do not care that McCarthy has indisputably been proven correct: the federal government in the thirties, forties, and fifties did harbor quite a lot of communists. Nor do they care overmuch that communists persist to this day, that our wonderful president, Barack Obama, Peace Be Upon Him, has been known to appoint avowed communists such as Van Jones to positions of power and influence.

I have often thought that such people either have convinced themselves that communists are a thing of the past, something from the "old days," a specter, a phantom, a chimera which Republicans hope to use to scare up a few more votes, or even that communism itself has been hideously misrepresented. It was/is a simple reformist agrarian movement, they think. Nice spread-the-wealth folks. Can't possibly be as bad as those conservatives or Republicans.

I must disagree. Communism was, and is, a murderous, totalitarian ideology, and hard-core communists are, at heart, themselves murderers.

Now, I know--I know--that at this point, some poor soul is even now scrambling for his keyboard, eager to inform me that conservatives have no room to talk, that, after all, fascism is a murderous ideology, too, and fascism is a totalitarian ideology of the right. Sorry. It isn't true, and in trying to argue for it, you are only making yourself look more uninformed than you already did. Read this excerpt, and learn that fascism sprang from the bosom of socialism, is, in fact, simply a different variety of socialism, and learn that your devastating counter-argument is stillborn: fascism, too, is a creation of the left, not the right.

I hesitated somewhat before typing up this lengthy quote from the book. My fervent hope is that reading the material will cause at least a few people to take the step of actually ordering and reading the book, but nevertheless, this extended quote is perhaps somewhat longer than most authors would prefer. Should Mr. Evans (and I will not be satisfied with someone merely claiming to be Mr. Evans) ask me to take the post down, I will of course comply, but hopefully he will approve my intent and reap some additional sales. The remainder of this post is from the book and will give you a much fuller sense of the genesis of Mr. Welch's remark to Senator McCarthy. If I have missed any typos, I apologize, but they are perhaps inevitable in the copying of such a long section. Anything in bold is something I have emphasized. Lastly, I would be remiss in not mentioning that in the book, Mr. Evans includes a photocopy of the New York Times article to which he refers.
Having thus exhibited his instinct for the capillary, Welch would outdo himself in a third notable episode of this nature--the matter of Frederick Fisher. Fisher was a young attorney from Welch's Boston law firm of Hale and Dorr, brought down to Washington to help prepare the case for Stevens-Adams. In getting ready for the hearings, Welch had asked Fisher if there were anything in his background that could prove embarassing to the Army.

Well, yes, said Fisher, there was. He had been a member of the National Lawyers Guild, which was indeed a problem. As the Guild had the year before been branded by Attorney General Herbert Brownell as the "legal mouthpiece" of the Communist Party, and before that by the House Committee on Un-American Activities as the party's "legal bulwark," it was decided such past membership would be an incapacitating factor in hearings so heavily devoted to issues of subversion. Fisher was sent home to Boston.

Nevertheless, his name would show up in the hearings, as Welch was cross-examining Roy Cohn in what would be a famous confrontation. This began with the standard Welch technique of exaggerated buildup, to the effect that Cohn had been remiss in not communicating whatever he knew about Communists in the Army directly to Robert Stevens. This colloquy is worth quoting in extenso as an example of Welch in action and the degree to which the lovable codger could change his mien as needed.

WELCH: If you had gone over to the Pentagon and got inside the door and yelled to the first receptionist you saw, "We got some hot dope on some Communists in the Army," don't you think you could have landed at the top?
COHN: Sir, that is not the way I do things.


WELCH: And although you had this dope and a fresh and ambitious new Secretary of the Army, reachable by the expenditure of one taxicab fare, you never went during March, if you had it in March, did you, is that right?
COHN: Mr Welch--
WELCH: Just answer. You never went near him in March?
COHN: No, I--
WELCH: Or April? Did you?
COHN: Mr. Welch--
WELCH: Tell me, please.
COHN: I am trying, sir.
WELCH: Or April?
COHN: No, sir.
WELCH: Or May?
COHN: I never went near him, sir.
WELCH: Or June?
COHN: The answer is never.
WELCH: Right. Or July?
COHN: I communicated--
WELCH: Or July?
COHN: No, sir--
SENATOR MUNDT: I think we have covered July.
WELCH: I think it is really dramatic to see how these Communist hunters will sit on this document when they could have brought it to the attention of Bob Stevens in 20 minutes, and they let month after month go by without going to the head and saying, "Sic 'em Stevens."


COHN: May I answer the last statement?
WELCH: I only said you didn't say, "Sic 'em Stevens," and you didn't, did you?...You did not say "Sic 'em Stevens." Is that right?
COHN: Sir--
WELCH: Is that right?
COHN: Mr. Welch, if you want to know the way things work, I will tell you.
WELCH: I don't care how it works. I just want to know if it is right that you did not say, "Sic 'em Stevens."
COHN: No, sir, you are right.
WELCH: I am at long last right once, is that correct?
COHN: Mr. Welch, you can always get a laugh...
WELCH: Mr. Cohn, we are not talking about laughing matters. If there is a laugh, I suggest to you, sir, it is because it is so hard to get you to say that you didn't actually yell, "Sic 'em Stevens."

When McCarthy finally objected to this burlesque, the discussion wandered off to other topics. However, Welch was soon back in "Sic 'em Stevens" mode, arguing that Cohn was at fault for not having personally rushed to inform Stevens the instant that data on security problems at Monmouth surfaced. This recapped what had gone before, but with additional Welchian furbelows:

WELCH: didn't tug at his lapel and say, "Mr. Secretary, I know something about Monmouth that won't let me sleep nights?" You didn't do it, did you?
COHN: I don't, as I testifed, Mr. Welch, I don't know whether I talked to Mr. Stevens about it then [in September 1953] or not...
WELCH: Don't you know that if you had really told him what your fears were, and substantiated them to any extent, he could have jumped in the next day with suspensions?
COHN: No, sir.


WELCH: Mr. Cohn, tell me once more: Every time you learn of a Communist or a spy anywhere, is it your policy to get them out as fast as possible?
COHN: Surely, we want them out as fast as possible, sir.
WELCH: And whenever you learn of one from now on, Mr. Cohn, I beg of you, will you tell somebody about them quick?
COHN: Mr. Welch, with great respect, I work for the committee here. They know how we go about handling situations of Communist infiltration and failure to act on FBI information about Communist infiltration...
WELCH: May I add my small voice, sir, and say whenever you know about a subversive or a Communist spy, please hurry. Will you remember these words?

This hectoring of Cohn, be it noted, came from the small voice whose clients had been pressuring General Lawton to restore asserted security risks at Monmouth. Even more ironic, if possible, it was premised on the selfsame "purloined letter" Welch had dismissively treated as a "carbon copy of precisely nothing." Now he was contending that Cohn was grievously to blame for not hand-delivering this copy of "precisely nothing" to Robert Stevens by the fastest possible method.

After sitting through these Welch sermonettes about exposing every subversive or Communist suspect Cohn had ever heard of, and being extra quick about it, McCarthy at last broke in by raising the issue of Fred Fisher. Having brought Fisher to D.C. to help out with the hearings, McCarthy opined, Welch had little standing to lecture others about proper methods of Red-hunting. In a tone heavy with disdain, McCarthy stated: view of Mr. Welch's request that information be given once we know of anyone who might be performing work for the Communist Party, I think we should tell him that he has in his law firm a young man named Fisher, whom he recommended incidentally to do work on this committee, he has been for a number of years a member of an organization which was named, oh years and years back, as the legal bulwark of the Communist Party...We are now letting you know that this young man did belong to this organization for either 3 or 4 years, belonged to it long after he was out of law school...
And subsequently:
Jim [Juliana], will you get the news story to the effect that this man belonged to this Communist front organization?
This drew from Welch a much-celebrated answer, featured in all the usual write-ups and replayed innumerable times in video treatments of the hearings. It was the distilled essence of Joe Welch, worth studying in detail to get context and flavor. Along with certain other statements on Fred Fisher, Welch assailed McCarthy as follows:
Until this moment, Senator, I think I never fully grasped your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to Harvard Law School and came with my firm and is starting what looks like a brilliant career with us...Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad...I fear that he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentlemean, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me. (Emphasis added.)
When McCarthy then attempted to give some background on the National Lawyers Guild, plus a strong tu quoque about the harm done to the reputations of Frank Carr and other young McCarthy staffers by the charges Welch had signed his name to, the Army counsel again lamented the injury to Fisher:
Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you left no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?
And, finally:
Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this with you further. You have been within six feet of me, and could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have brought it out If there is a God in Heaven, it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it with you further. (emphasis added.)
Subsequently, we're told, Welch broke into tears and the audience in the Senate chamber responded with sustained applause. Thus the incident most remembered from the hearings, and generally viewed as the moral Waterloo of Joe McCarthy. The reckless evildoer had exposed young Fred Fisher and his former membership in the National Lawyers Guild, thus scarring the innocent lad forever, and the good, decent Welch had protested this shameful outing of a youthful indiscretion.

All of which seems very moving, and is invariably so treated. It looks a little different, however, when we note that, well before this dramatic moment, Fred Fisher had already been outed, in conclusive fashion, as a former member of the National Lawyers Guild--by none other than Joe Welch. This had occurred in April, some six weeks before the McCarthy-Welch exchange, when Welch took it upon himself to confirm before the world that Fisher had indeed been a member of the Guild, and for this reason had been sent back to Boston. As the New York Times reported, in a story about the formal filing of Army allegations against Cohn-McCarthy:
The Army charges were signed by its new special counsel, Joseph N. Welch. Mr. Welch today [April 15] confirmed news reports that he had relieved from duty his original second assistant, Frederick G. Fisher, Jr., of his own Boston law office because of admitted previous membership in the National Lawyers Guild, which has been listed by Herbert Brownell, Jr. the Attorney General, as a Communist front organization. Mr. Welch said he had brought in another lawyer, John Kimball, Jr., from his Boston office to take Mr. Fisher's place. (Emphasis added.)
Giving this news item further impact, the Times ran a sizable photograph of Fred Fisher, plus a caption noting he had been relieved of duty with the Army's legal forces. Having caused this story to appear in the nation's most prestigious daily and reputed paper of record, Joe Welch would seem to have done a pretty good job of outing the innocent lad from Boston. (it was undoubtedly this news story, or an equivalent, that McCarthy was asking Jim Juliana to bring him.) It thus develops that Welch himself had already done the very thing for which he so fervently denounced McCarthy. So the suspicion once more dawns...that something was unspeakably evil when, and only when, done by McCarthy, but perfectly proper when done by Welch and/or his clients.
Counterpoint? Find it here. And yes, if you're wondering, I did go back and change two words in my introduction, two words which may, in retrospect, have been over the top. That's the beauty of the "edit posts" function of blogger...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Some Noonan Worth Reading

God knows I don't agree with Peggy Noonan about everything. The human being doesn't exist with whom I agree about everything. But I really got a kick out of her column on the Arizona illegal immigration situation, and would recommend reading it. In particular, I got a chuckle out of this:
In the past four years, I have argued in this space that nothing can or should be done, no new federal law passed, until the border itself is secure. That is the predicate, the common sense first step. Once existing laws are enforced and the border made peaceful, everyone in the country will be able to breathe easier and consider, without an air of clamor and crisis, what should be done next. What might that be? How about relax, see where we are, and absorb. Pass a small, clear law—say, one granting citizenship to all who serve two years in the armed forces—and then go have a Coke. Not everything has to be settled right away. Only controlling the border has to be settled right away.
This made me chuckle because, although I'm not wild about amnesty and think it is absolutely an abdication of the responsibilities of the federal government to the American people, I'm not unaware of the sausage-making aspect of how government actually works. I have often tried to puzzle out in my head exactly what sort of "deal" I would have to be offered before I would accept amnesty for most of the illegal aliens already residing in this country. Certainly, securing the border first would be one element of that hypothetical deal. Until the border is secured--actually secured, not merely promised to be secured--as far as I'm concerned, no promise can be trusted. But after that? I might be open to negotiation. Let's see what you got.

But that border's gotta be closed first, y'know?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Some Thoughts on Taika Oyata, Seikichi Uehara, Tuite/Toide/ToriTe, and the Development of Kata

I just finished reading several threads on a traditional fighting arts forum, each of which at least tangentially concerned Taika Seiyu Oyata. There were several interesting things therein, not the least of which was that not one of the participants was actually a member of the RyuTe Renmei. Another was the respect everyone writing had for Taika. To my mind, this is extraordinary. Think of Wing Chun; last I heard, there were a minimum of three people each claiming to be Yip Man's "closed-door disciple." I recall seeing video of one particularly spectacular incident wherein a student from one faction attended a seminar taught by the leader of another faction, and actually jumped him!

Not so with Taika. Nobody, not from any system, as far as I know, doubts that he is the "real deal." At least, I haven't seen any such speculations publicly made. Taika's former students (some of them quite high ranking), as far as I know, say nothing negative about their former teacher. That, too, seems unusual in the martial arts world. It speaks highly of Taika and his system.

There were some other interesting thoughts being voiced. There seemed to be some speculation as to the history of tuite, both as taught in RyuTe and in Shian Toma's Seidokan, with some apparently leaning toward believing that both Taika and Shian Toma had been at least influenced by Seikichi Uehara, and Uehara, in turn, having possibly been influenced by Hakko Ryu jujutsu, which, in its own turn, was derived largely from Daito Ryu Aikijutsu, with the apparent upshot, in some people's minds, being that Taika's tuite was something of a descendant of Daito Ryu and apparently obviously right out of Uehara's Motobu Udun Ti, and therefore just like Shian Toma's tuite!

One person seemed to have doubts as to the immediate effectiveness of tuite techniques--he stated that he and his students "just" trained to stop people in their tracks, and I gather that he didn't think tuite would be an effective vehicle for such things.

Others seemed to be concerned with such things as whether Taika derived his tuite from the kata or whether he read it into the kata.

Well, I wasn't there during all the history that was being speculated on and can't speak from first-hand knowledge. Whether or not Seikichi Uehara ever studied Hakko Ryu, I don't know. I have read that he denied it more than once, and in the absence of definitive proof to the contrary, I would think that people would be good enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. I have read in several places that Taika was part of a "research group" that included Uehara and certain others, but for me to speculate as to who influenced whom would be going quite beyond anything I am ever likely to find out.

For what it's worth, here's a sample of the tuite taught in Shian Toma's organization:

and here's some demonstrated by Taika himself:

Same stuff? You be the judge. Doesn't seem quite the same to me. Points of similarity, yes. Identical, no.

At any rate, that whole thread got me to thinking about some of the things that I have heard and read about Taika and his arts, and I thought I'd air my thinking publicly for a few minutes. I am in no way speaking as an authority or an expert, so bear that in mind.

I think one of the first things that you have to know about Taika is that he is extremely intelligent. I have never read anything by anyone or heard anything from anyone that would indicate otherwise. Everyone who's met the man seems to come away convinced that he is exceptionally bright. One person wrote that when he first came to train under Taika, he was making his living as, if I recall correctly, a diesel mechanic. He had been trained as a kaiten pilot. My own instructor told me a story of where he'd been sitting in, a guest, apparently, at a Japanese language class. The teacher, a native speaker, was apparently treated to a rare display as Taika explained the background and meanings of a number of kanji--background and explanation that apparently are ordinarily the province of scholars. I have heard that Taika manufactured his own uniforms at one point. He is clearly a man of intelligence, drive, and determination.

And for sixty-plus years, he has channeled that intelligence, drive and determination into the Okinawan martial arts. Some of what he knows seems to have been derived from a combination of what his teachers showed him, deep thinking, practice, and experimentation. If it seems to some that some of what he teaches is to be found nowhere else, at least not in quite the same form, I can only suggest that not every system has a man of Taika Oyata's caliber at its head. He seems to be unique, a last link to a body of knowledge that came distressingly close to passing out of the world.

His first instructors, I have been told time and again, did not so much teach him kata as they taught him how to interpret kata, and about the weaknesses of the human body. From somewhat oblique remarks made here and there and from time to time, I have also begun to think that they taught him some psychology, not the therapeutic kind of psychology, but means of misdirection, distraction, and taking advantage of the way the human body receives and processes information. I remember one writer saying that when he sparred Taika, he seemed almost invisible, that he couldn't tell when Taika was gaining ground on him, and that his blows seemed to come from out of nowhere. I mentioned this story to my own instructor, and he showed me some of what the writer was talking about, but I do not believe I have seen it all yet. On another occasion, my instructor told me that Taika once said--to him or to someone else, I don't know--that "jitsu" (jutsu), though now generally translated more or less as "technique" or "method," once also carried the connotation or meaning of "tricks," like magic "tricks," or sleight-of-hand. Make of that what you will. I do know that Taika explicitly rules out any supernatural elements to what he teaches. No special "ki" or "chi" abilities necessary.

Taika learned his empty-hand kata from Shigeru Nakamura, as anyone can find out by surfing the 'net for a little while. But sometimes I wonder if what we here in the United States think of as "learning kata" really reflects what Taika has been all about. Looking at my videotapes, and looking at what I am being taught now, it is clear that they are a little bit different. Is Taika changing the kata? I don't think so. There are a few little things that convince me of this, all of which would require paragraphs of explanation that would bore anyone not interested in the subject to tears, so I'll skip those and just cut to the chase.

If you are interested in karate, you may, at some point, have read Gichin Funakoshi's autobiography (if you are not familiar with the subject, Funakoshi is the man most generally credited with bringing karate to the attention of the Japanese public). Do you remember the part where he said he deliberately simplified the kata so as to make them easier to teach and learn? You have to keep in mind that Funakoshi was trying to teach rather large numbers of people, quite the opposite of the practice in the old days, where practice groups were (I'm told; again, I was not there) quite small and intimate. In my opinion, it would simply not have been possible to teach the details of the kata--at least, not the way I am being taught them--to that many people at one time. I am about half-convinced that what look like "changes" in the way Taika has taught the same kata over the years are not so much changes as they are reflections of the fact that the pool of knowledge possessed by his senior students keeps growing so that they are ready to absorb and pass on new levels of learning.

Have you ever taught someone a kata? Or, if not, can you image learning one? What comes first? The simple sequence of movements, right? Then details of posture, of balance, of hand and foot placement, of proper stepping, of application, are taught later, at appropriate times in the student's development.

One of the first things my instructor told me was that I would be beginning to understand any given movement of a kata when I had at least one interpretation of that movement as tuite, one as a strike, and one as a block. Given an approach like that, can you see how going through the kata deliberately looking for the strikes would affect your understanding and performance of it? How doing it just looking for the blocks and deflections would affect it? Just looking for the tuite? Then looking for how the strikes and blocks worked together, then how they were sometimes the same thing? Would any of those interpretations and performances of kata necessarily be incorrect? No. They would just reflect differences in what the student was learning or working on at that time. Sometimes you might be looking for how to shift your weight. Sometimes you might be emphasizing footwork. You could go on for years. Is that drawing technique from the kata? Or reading technique into the kata? Wouldn't it look more like a spiral, as the drawing and the reading fed, in turn, one upon the other?

About the effectiveness of tuite: I do not, of course, claim to be an expert. But I have practiced enough, and been on the receiving end of enough tuite to have no doubt as to its effectiveness. As far as I can tell, all of those techniques, executed correctly, are fight-stoppers.

I recall that after one test, my instructor was reviewing the test with us, and when we got to one particular self-defense technique, he'd had me repeat the defense a couple of times, not so much because what I did was ineffective (though part of my success was due to size and strength), but because he hadn't taught what I did to me, and wondered if I'd picked it up years ago whilst in the Marine Corps Reserve. The answer was no, I'd simply done it wrong, but nevertheless, he said, "Well, consider this," and showed us a variation of what I'd done. We got to try it out on the senior student in the class. I was, as is not unusual in that class, gobsmacked. Once the techique was "set," there was no recovering for the poor attacker. He was going to go down, awkwardly and off-balance, with absolutely no chance in the nether regions to break his fall or slow his momentum in any way. Applied full power, it was apparent to me that the results would--at least!--involve a wrenched elbow and shoulder, and a high-velocity slam of the rib cage into the ground, probably with the head whipping around and bouncing, too.

All in less than a second. Whenever I hear or read about someone thinking that tuite takes too long, or doesn't have real fight-stopping capability, I can't help but wonder what they've been looking at. It doesn't seem like the tuite I'm being taught.

Just my opinions and thoughts, worth about what you paid for them!