April 25, 2011

Enter the Ethical Warrior

Yes, we just wrapped up another visit from the ethical warrior himself, Jack Hoban, who never ceases to amaze us with his energy, message, energy, enthusiasm, energy, and energy. 

BLACK BELT magazine's June 2011 issue - 50th anniversary -
is out along with my interview with Jack Hoban. In it, Jack speaks
about his history and the importance of clarifying the 'warrior ethic.' 

Jack came to town to clarify warrior ethics at the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) conference in Wheeling, IL. More than 700 trainers from around the country, and perhaps the world, were on hand to share ideas and learn from each other. It is the premier event of its kind and happens once a year.

He was invited to give his "Ethical Warrior" presentation - his thoughts on protector ethics derived from his work with the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, a moral-physical approach to activating protector values. It is based on a theory of human nature, so powerful, its realization has promoted respect among unlike peoples, quelled violence, and stopped unnecessary killing. With the training, the Marines are transforming themselves from the stereotypic ‘killer’ to the Ethical Warrior - the life-protectors of the 21st century.

As it turns out, the Law Enforcement community has been doing its own soul-searching for some time now. We don’t have to ask why, just open a newspaper or check the Web to see a story on our protector professionals exhibiting poor, if not downright criminal behavior, overshadowing the good work done by their majority. Jack’s message resonates with trainers and officers, who understand the need for a recalibration. But calibrated to what? People believe there’s a crisis of morality in America today. But it’s not true, says Jack – there’s a crisis of ethics. So, exactly what is an ethic?

Jack begins his EW presentation by asking the very same questions the Marines struggled with as they embarked on creating their program. At the time, Jack knew training young Marines to physically protect self and others was the very best way to instill warrior values, but first they had to clarify those values. And so, they began by examining the Marine Corps' core values: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. And that’s when the trouble started …

What trouble, you may be thinking. What could possibly be wrong with values like honor, courage, and commitment? Are they not great values? Perfectly suited for the warrior? But, wait a minute ... don't terrorists talk about honor? Ever heard of an 'honor killing?' "Honor among thieves?" Is that the same honor we're talking about? What about courage? Don't terrorists believe it's courageous to sacrifice themselves by blowing up and killing 'infidels?' And they certainly are committed. In fact, they talk about their commitment to ‘jihad,’ their religion, their values ...

So, let me get this straight … the Marine Corps – American servicemen and women - and terrorists share the very same core values? They’re morally equivalent? And if they are not, how are they different? What separates United States Marines from Al Qeada?

These were the difficult identity issues the Corps was dealing with. Of course, they felt they were different - if an insurgent shoots a Marine down and closes with him, that insurgent is likely to empty the rest of his bullets into him. No one disputes that. But when the reverse happens and a Marine shoots an insurgent down and closes with him, if that insurgent is no longer a threat, that Marine will render first aid. And if that Marine chose to kill that unarmed insurgent, he could face arrest and be charged with murder (we could also say the same thing using Police Officer and Criminal). Does anyone believe the Taliban is putting their people on trial for murdering Americans?

There was no moral equivalency about it - they were different, but they needed to articulate why in a basic, common sense way, not some pseudo-intellectual freefall through semantics. In fact, they realized they had to clarify a great many things that most people took for granted. For example, what exactly is a value? Or a core value, for that matter? Are all values moral? How do we know for sure a value is moral – simply because we think it is? Or is there some way to qualify our values to make certain they are moral? Are ethics and values the same thing? What exactly is an ethic? How do we know when our actions are ethical? Not easy questions are they? The great thinkers have struggled with these very concepts for eons and now the Marines were trying to answer them.

The reason there was difficulty clarifying the Marines’ core values is because most (if not all) values are relative – important because we think they are; which is why we can see how the Marine Corps and the Taliban could share the very same values. It’s called Moral Relativism and is defined as “truth or falsity of moral judgments is not objective. Justifications for moral judgments are not universal, but are instead relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of an individual or a group of people ... "It's moral to me, because I believe it is."” What was needed was a qualifier – a superseding value that qualified relative values as truly moral.

Enter Robert Humphrey, a mentor of Jack Hoban. Humphreys’ theory, the ‘Dual-Life Value,’ was conceived in war. He first observed it in the heroic actions of the men he commanded as a Marine rifle platoon lieutenant on Iwo Jima. He would come to recognize the balance and imbalance between the value’s ‘self and others’ concept, which holds we consciously or subconsciously value our life (self) by the simply reasoning that we have not taken our lives, which we could freely choose to do. We also value the lives of loved ones (others) and can reason to value by extension ‘all others,’ even those outside our group whose behavior we disagree with.

Reason acts as the fulcrum between ‘self and others,’ with the balance slightly in favor of the ‘others’ side as we may reason to give up our life in order to protect someone we love. Therefore, on its face the “true north” of the DLV is ‘life,’ but actually it is recognition of the ‘life value’ inherent to all human beings and characterized as an ‘inalienable right to life.’

Jack being interviewed by PoliceOne.com

Humphrey himself said it best: "Obviously, it does not mean that people are not different in almost all measurable ways. You may be bigger than I am, smarter than I, better built, stronger, faster in mind and body, better looking, possess a more popular skin color, etc. Nonetheless, in one way, in a way that eclipses all others in controlling importance, I AM YOUR EQUAL: MY LIFE AND THE LIVES OF MY LOVED ONES ARE AS IMPORTANT TO ME AS YOURS ARE TO YOU." ("Values for a New Millennium," Robert L. Humphrey, pg 51, emphasis original).

This recognition and respect of the ‘life value’ is the DLV’s law, its foundational concept for one simple reason: life is not a relative value, it is an objective value - we either are alive or dead, and if we are dead, we no longer have need of a ‘life value.’ Aside from all the world’s relative values, contributed by all the cultures of the Earth, life is the single, universal, objective value every human being shares in common with every other human, no matter our standing, who we are or where we come from. There is nothing nebulous about this - we each have a life, and we value it, consciously or subconsciously, or we would not be alive.

Seminar 04/16/11
Without even knowing it, most of us already adhere to both sides of the life value and live our lives accordingly, balancing out our singular wants, with the needs of others. However, some of us, and they are very few, do not. They still live according to the value, but in an unbalanced manner. For example, when the value is tipped toward the ‘self’ side, someone, like a serial killer, reasons to live only for themselves – selfishly - in a most violent way. And when the value is tipped toward the ‘others’ side, an individual can reason to live only for their group - self-lessly - like a suicide bomber. Thankfully, the people who carry out such violence are few in number compared to the rest of us.

The DLV is a recognition of a superseding value that can clarify relative values as moral and stands in direct opposition to Moral Relativism by asking a single question: does the relative value protect life? Or in this case ‘respect the life value of others?’ Since life is an objective and universal value, shared by everyone alive, the DLV becomes an excellent judge of the morality of every relative value there is, by making ‘respect for the life value’ the qualifier between them.

"Nice guys finish last ... Unless they got their shit together." 

For example, I like vanilla ice cream. But if I attack every vanilla ice cream disliker I meet, because I deem their ‘vanilla disliking value’ to be inferior to my ‘vanilla liking value,’ the DLV would rightfully judge my behavior as immoral. Because I choose to reason my own relative value – liking vanilla ice cream – as superior to their inherent life value, regardless of whatever relative value they may believe, my behavior is immoral. Remember, the singular law of the DLV notes that a particular relative, cultural value, tradition, or belief cannot supersede anyone else’s ’right’ to their inalienable life without being immoral.

Can we understand how the Taliban, the Nazis, and the 9/11 hijackers did not place life or a life value as the “true north” of their moral compass? In fact, they placed their own relative, cultural values as true north, values they reasoned superseded the value of all of their victim’s lives. Moral relativism occurs here in rejection of a universal life value - the Nazis claimed moral license to burn innocent Jews, because they reasoned Jews were their inferior and the 9/11 hijackers claimed moral license, because they reasoned infidels were their inferior.

Moral relativism gets its “truth” from having no absolutes, but unlike relativism, the DLV’s method of observation and explanation of behavior is based on an objective absolute - the sanctity of life itself. It challenges us to clarify our perspective and behavior with respect for that sanctity, making us aware of the natural rights and duties that exist toward each other. When we understand these duties, we can voluntarily choose to place ourselves at greater risk – spiritually, emotionally, and in some cases, even physically - to protect the health, welfare, and lives of those around us.

We can approach higher ethical standards in dealing with the least of us, including violent offenders, by intuiting respect for the value of life, even when someone’s behavior is not equal. For our protector professionals, law enforcement and military, this reasoning may also serve to better protect them from the psychological damage that occurs in having to kill a fellow human being, and there is great hope it may even lower rates of PTSD and suicide by stating, in effect, an oxymoron – you were forced to take life, because it was the only way to protect life.

Someone pipes up - what if they're ‘Army strong?’
Jack smiles, "Send in the Marines."

By the DLV’s reasoning, we could ask the morality of all kinds of values. For instance, is truth a moral value? Most might say, the truth is the truth, it is neither moral or immoral. Really? Got kids? Gonna tell the truth and let a pedophile know where your kids are? Truth here is not a moral value, is it? In fact, it would be immoral to tell the truth, because in this case the truth does not protect life, does not respect the life value.

Is freedom a moral value? It can be, when it is operating in a life-protecting manner. But I can assure you, when it becomes unbalanced and too much freedom actually endangers life, like here on the West and South sides of Chicago, where children are dying by the carload because of the ‘freedom’ of gangs to operate illegally and violently, it is not moral. In fact, what we have seen is a rejection of freedom by victims for the security of a ‘code of silence’ – a protective barricade from retribution, by those who fear the gangsters more than they trust the authorities.

Is divine faith a moral value? We may believe so, but so do radicalized Islamic terrorists. Their divine faith is used to justify the deaths of innocents all throughout the world. Which means divine faith is a relative value and must be qualified as moral or not. How do we qualify it as moral? When faith is life-protecting, life-respecting, it is moral, but when it endangers and takes life – like Islamic terrorists use their faith - it is immoral.

Even the church’s four cardinal virtues are relative values: Prudence, Justice, Restraint or Temperance, Courage or Fortitude. Unless qualified by the ‘respect for the right of inalienable life,’ they cannot be truly moral. As we saw, even the core values of the Marine Corps - ‘honor, courage, and commitment’ – can be corrupted to make logic of evil – Al Qaeda can say their agents are honorable, courageous, and committed as well. But when we weigh Al Qeada’s actions on the DLV scale, we find them immoral precisely because they believe their group’s beliefs, traditions, and culture to be of greater value than their victims intrinsic ‘life value.’

And what of those who choose not to believe in God or are agnostic in their beliefs? How does divine faith work for them? The brilliance of Humphrey’s theory is if you believe in God or do not believe in God, the reasoning is sound. Should divine faith simply preclude our ability to reason and deconstruct our own nature? On the contrary, even St. Thomas Aquinas applied Natural Law theory to reason why “Good is to be sought, evil avoided.” He didn’t just take God’s Word for it, he used God’s gift of reason to explain why.

The DLV does not address divine faith for one simple reason – it is not equipped to, so it neither supports faith nor dismisses it outright. But with studies showing humans hardwired to be moral creatures, even born that way – the work of sociologist Stephen Pinker, who argues against the notion of the ‘blank slate,’ or the surprising experiments at Yale University discovering a rudimentary morality in infants – it seems the DLV leaves the door open for discussion, discovery, and debate on where this hardwiring comes from.

Personally, I believe it comes from God, but this is not a prerequisite for acceptance of the DLV. In fact, I would argue God is the inspiration of this design for one simple reason – why we value our lives defies explanation. Are they important simply because we think they are? Or is there a superseding value to them that at this point in our evolution we are not equipped to answer? The DLV is a rejection of moral and ethical relativism, standing in direct opposition to that amorality because it reasons our proclivity to value our life, the lives of those we love, and by extension ‘all others,’ to be inherently moral. But it gives no answer as to why. On this, the DLV is silent and rightfully so.

To wrap up, I’m quoting Jack Hoban and his “Bully” story, that I believe answers the very questions the Marines set out to answer early on.

"The Bully"

You are a kid in the schoolyard. You see a bully. He thinks he is the “top dog.” That is fine. That perception is a relative value. But when his relative value supersedes the life value of another kid – in other words, when the bully picks on and/or punches the other kid – this is wrong.

Here is the rule: relative values, no matter how “great,” cannot supersede the life value.

You see the bully picking on the other kid. You feel – in your gut – that this is wrong. Congratulations, you are moral. (By the way, most people are moral – they know the difference between right and wrong).

Now…you see the bully picking on the other kid. You overcome the “freeze,” you overcome the embarrassment, and you go tell a teacher. Congratulations! You are ethical. (Ethics are moral values in action).

Now…you see the bully picking on the other kid. You overcome the “freeze,” you overcome the fear, and you go to the aid of the kid being bullied. You put yourself at risk. Congratulations! You have the makings of an Ethical Warrior.

And as we know, it doesn’t end in the schoolyard does it? There are bullies everywhere, in our communities and all over the world, in fact, occupying high offices and wielding power – superseding the life values of others with their own relative values. If we’re going to counter bullies, whether directed at us, others, or ‘all others,’ we first have to know the difference. Once we do, we can choose to stand up for ourselves or the bullied. Why? Because I got news for us – we have the training, we have the know-how, and whether we like it or not, it may just be, in that moment, our responsibility. Some people can practice the whole of their lives and never understand this.

So, don’t just practice, train. When not standing up for themselves or others, warriors, especially ethical warriors, train. Because if we don’t, if we can’t walk our talk, if we can’t make it work, can’t do it, nobody is going to take us seriously, nobody is going to listen to us and give us a chance to do the right thing. And we should ask ourselves, what’s worse than doing the wrong thing at the wrong time? Simple. Not doing the right thing, at the right time.

Train. Live a better life. Repeat.

April 12, 2011

Rome, Italy - April/May 2011

In the last week of this month, I will travel to Rome, Italy, with my fiance, Tomoko, as well as my family for a vacation. We will stay until about the second week of May.

The last time I was in Italy was April 1995, just before I left to live in Japan. I have very fond memories of that first Italy trip and look forward to making new memories.

As we'll primarily be in Rome, I would be interested in any information about training. Tomoko and I love to make new friends, learn, and share our experiences, she being one of the few licensed 'Makko ho' instructors outside of Japan. In the Bujinkan, we know Makko ho as Ryutai Undo.

Please feel free to drop me a line - maybe we'll share a cappuccino together!


Contact: james@sgtidojo.com

April 9, 2011

The Girl who learned Taijutsu in 10 minutes

She’s young and pretty, wears her hair cropped, and her 5.11 BDUs lay on her buck-twenty frame with authority. Her name is Jill. We meet at TacComm training where she’s my partner for a segment. She’s nice as pie. She’s an officer with Marquette University’s Public Safety Department – a college cop.

As the TacComm instructors refer to my martial background, Jill leans over asking for advice: She’s already a Defensive Tactics (DT) instructor (which could mean almost anything), but is looking to begin martial arts training in earnest. Could I recommend one? I’m happy to help. Choosing a martial art should be based on answers to several questions: Why do you want to train? What do you hope to learn? What are your options for instruction – any groups on campus or schools you’re willing to drive to? We chit-chat. And then I have a thought (‘Ichi go, Ichi e’).

So, I say to her, “Ya know, since we’re here all week, if you like, I can show you martial arts in about 10 minutes.” Her expression furrows to concern, but with a Cheshire-cat grin - “Whaaat?”

Courtesy Jon Phillips
This year’s training theme of Kihon Happo, challenges us to explore not only the technical applications of training, but our foundational understanding as well. Foundational to me means ‘context.’ Learning by context is to discover one’s own ability, rather than waiting to be instructed, and grants permission to do it. Context also means that teaching anything to Jill (coincidental name - see “Ode to a Warhammer”), and more importantly, having her retain it, means I have to understand the context of our situation, and there are several factors in play:

1. With the exception of DT training, she has zero experience in martial arts (not necessarily a bad thing). Yet at any moment her job may require her to protect or defend herself, a colleague, or civilian contact. It may also require her to take offensive action against a non-compliant contact, with or without back up from other officers.

2. Setting aside her department’s ‘continuum of force,’ any application is further complicated by technique training she’s had previously in DT. By way of attempting to recall how to twist a wrist, what so-and-so said about applying arm locks, or utilizing techniques she does not understand, she may place herself and others unintentionally in greater risk under given conditions.

3. To keep my sanity, I choose not to address, except in passing, all the specialized gear of her trade she would inevitably be wearing, from tac vests, to armor, to various weapons, and restraining devices, any of which have the equal potential to assist or become a liability against her in a blink.

4. And bear in mind, all of it would be under stress, in differing environments, with possibly chaotic, ever-changing situations.

5. Oh, and I figured I’d get one shot at this before totally confusing her.

Courtesy Jon Phillips
After class the following day, we walk outside the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Training Center, find a quiet spot on the lawn and begin. I walk her through a few “rules,” then set her loose. It takes her several tries to get her sea legs, but very soon she’s moving and slamming me to my belly and back, rolling me into positions of compliance. I try grabbing her, punching her, kicking her, tackling her – no matter. She’s moving, upsetting my balance and gaining leverage, taking me out of the fight, switching my own intent from trying to harm her to trying to save myself.

Now, granted, we trained longer than 10 minutes, but only because she was having so much fun kicking my ass. I coach her further to drop in whatever DT training she knows into the moment (opportunity) created. Now she’s got my balance and dropping elbows, kicks, and slaps into the fray at the worst possible moments for me. By the end, I’m out of breath – she’s good – and stand up covered in leaves and dead grass. Well done, I tell her.

She is astonished and almost cannot believe what she is doing. The look on her face priceless – childhood wonder amidst dismay, like I had just shown her magic is real. I end the session – we have trained for about 40 minutes, between talking and moving – and tell her this ability is now her own. She is responsible for it and most importantly she must train it with others – it will not get better on its own. Smiling, she thanks me repeatedly and we part.

It seems to me, the foundations of Kihon Happo not only extend into technical areas that we will spend a lifetime refining, but more importantly, exist contextually on a roadmap of our own making, that we can look at and instantly know where we are, where we are going, and how we can get there. With these bearings we can effectively communicate Taijutsu to others, whether weekly students or those who don’t train regularly, but need this gift to potentially save lives. Being able to help Jill was a thrill. In fact, I couldn’t have slept well knowing I had a chance to assist her and declined. I hope it helps. Perhaps she can even pass it on.

Look, no one needs to be taught how to defend themselves, ‘self-defense’ is coded into our human nature - no one is openly attacked or murdered without receiving defensive wounds, pull the plug on life-support and the body will fight to survive for as long as it can. The truth of the ‘Life Value’ here is simple - if you are alive, you either consciously or subconsciously respect your own life, simply because you haven’t taken it. Anyone attacked will defend themselves, people study martial ‘self-defense’ so they can learn to do it better.

Courtesy Jake Geisel
Regardless of style, technique, tradition, or lineage, Jill was able to realize an ability she already had, I merely coached her as to how to embrace it simply and naturally. Again, I don't think I actually taught her anything, only directed her to recognize what she could already do, and give her permission to do it. I see this as by far the most challenging aspect to martial training (and perhaps education in general) – instead of discovering one’s own intrinsic ability and refining it, people unavoidably begin training with biases - waiting to be instructed and waiting for permission to become able. This can create a division in perception, confusing ‘practicing’ (programming of procedure) with ‘doing,’ which may take years of training to reconcile.

I am more interested in folks recognizing their inherent ability and then refining what they already understand they can do. Perhaps this is similar to what Soke writes about as “whole body sense,” the instinct of wild animals that move the instant they notice danger. When Takamatsu sensei first began his own training, Toda Sensei and his dojo used him as uke for an entire year before teaching him any techniques. It sounds like this kind of context was also the basis of much of Soke’s training with his teacher, as Soke reflected on it saying Takamatsu sensei always trained ‘for real,’ and Soke was given the densho only years later.

Courtesy Jake Geisel
As Budoka, techniques are crucial to our development; they supply us with procedure to pair with principle to give us efficiency – highly effective output with low input. Many techniques are counter-intuitive and can only be learned through quality instruction. A technique’s inclusion with any of the schools of the Bujinkan is often considered proof positive of their ageless efficacy. But any technique’s value must be weighed against its application within Taijutsu, balancing out to exploit opportunity and maximize advantage.

Soke has talked about schools of martial arts having lost their Taijutsu, becoming empty vessels of techniques, curriculums of procedure. Is the reverse also true? Could it be said that Taijutsu is not comprised of any particular school of martial art, merely exemplified by them? In the Bujinkan, for example, if we did not have nine schools, but eight instead, would it make any difference in our understanding of principle - of Taijutsu? How about seven? Or six? Or none? Can it be said that Taijutsu exists independently of any external technical form? And if it cannot, then what did I elucidate to Jill?

The brilliance of Hatsumi sensei’s teachings and Bujinkan training is even though for Jill I stripped Taijutsu of its DNA - its culture, tradition, lineage, technical and mechanical forms - it still resulted in a martial awareness that retained its core values as a means to protect and defend life. Could I have shown Jill a technique? Even several? I suppose. But why give her procedure, when I could confer insight, an insight that any and all techniques may be utilized within? An insight that does not require any specific technical data to operate, that does not wait to be instructed, and certainly does not wait for permission to protect and defend.

True warrior arts empower and inspire the moment we activate their ethical and physical message as one: A good friend is shipping off to Afghanistan next week, “Hey, you know martial arts … anything you can show me before I go?”

“Sure – as long as you pass it on to your buddies when you get there. You got 10 minutes?”

Note: Intently watching Jill and I train was a fellow TacComm student - a certified instructor in several martial arts and lifetime practitioner, who admitted much of the Bujinkan training he’s ever seen seems like ‘a fortune cookie, wrapped in a Zen koan.’ But the following day he pulled me aside with great sincerity, “What you did yesterday with Jill … that was really cool.”

April 1, 2011

10 Questions with Shidoshi Jim Delorto

Jim Delorto has been training with me for more than 10 years now. He started back in the early days, when I had just returned from Japan and I was teaching in the back of a video store in Elgin, IL, more than an hour from where I lived, three days a week. Eventually, our Friday night trainings became legendary: we'd start about 7-ish and train all night long, finishing sometimes at midnight or later, and then go out for beers. Great times.

Jim has probably been my most consistent student. He is exacting in his movement, yet supple in application. His exterior is quiet, reserved, but inside his thoughts on Budo race as he searches ever deeper for meaning. Jim is also one of the nicest, politest people you'll ever meet. And he's an incredible teacher to boot, mixing application with real-world data to give folks context and clarity.


What is your personal martial arts biography?

Like many I was swept up in the ninja boom of the 80s and the martial arts boom in the 90s. I would read the old "Ninja" magazine and I even bought my first ninja book at the ripe old age of eight - Steven Hayes', Mystic Arts of the Ninja.

When I was ten, I began training in the martial arts. The first style I picked up was a blend of Judo, Aikido, and Karate called at first, "Budo Aikido" and later, "Budo Tai-jutsu." I received my black belt in this at 16 and was a 2nd degree when I moved on. In high school, I really began to experience a wider array of martial traditions. I was a wrestler my freshman year and also began to study Shaolin Chuan Fa Kung Fu under Sifu Chris McClure, Sifu Catherine Blaisedell, and Sifu Gia and Dino Spencer.

It was through my time at this school I was exposed to a multitude of other systems through guest instructors and seminars. I came in contact and had training in Xing yi, Baqua, Tai Chi, Jujitsu, Kali, Escrima, Arnis, Muay Thai, Hapkido, and western boxing. I met and training with a great many teachers with exceptional backgrounds, including a shaolin monk. I also studied fencing. Shortly before leaving high school I attained the rank of junior black sash.

Upon entering college, I took up Jidokwan Style Tae Kwon do, Aikido, and Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu. By the end of my sophomore year I had stopped taking both Tae Kwon do and Aikido and focused all my attention on the Bujinkan. While both other arts had been enjoyable and I advanced well - Cho Don Bo in TKD and 5th Kyu in Aikido - and had exposure to a Korean TKD Olympic Champion and one of Ueshiba Sensei’s students, neither fit me as well as the Bujinkan.

I began training with Gabe Logan and through him came to train with James Morganelli, who I currently train and teach under. I have trained in the Bujinkan for 10 years and along the way have attended seminars with instructors such as Mark Hodel, Jack Hoban, Ed Martin, Dick Severence, Andrew Young, Luke Molitor, and others. I have participated in two Tai Kai, two Bufest, and one Buyu camp. I have traveled to Japan twice and attended classes with the Japanese Shihan and Soke and look forward to future trips. My Godan test was passed in 2007.

Why do you train?

While I hate to give a simple answer to such a deep question, I train because it makes me better in all areas of my life. Through training, I am a better man in all the roles that I have in society. I’m a better husband, a better son, a better friend, a better student, a better citizen, etc. Training makes me better in all these areas of my life.

What do you think is/are the core value(s) of martial arts training?

This is a very difficult question to answer. For me, I’d say the core value from which all others spring is life. All the other values that martial arts of any style claim to value, all come back to life. Because all of those other more relative values are all to protect life, whatever they are - strength, power, cunning, perseverance - whatever it is. They all should be used as tools and means to protect life.

Can you explain your method of training and teaching?

To be honest, no I can’t. While I can try and pin down what I do to both teach and train, it would only be true for a moment, and then would change. One day I might focus on the technical aspects of a movement or waza, the next on feeling the energy of the attacker. I tend to, for lack of a better turn of phrase, train/teach on a whim and see where it takes me.

Is there a “secret” to training?

Ganbatte. But not just keep going, keep making progress no matter how small an increment.

What would you recommend others do, to improve their training?

Learn to seek and enjoy being frustrated. It means you’re doing something new and that means progress.

What are the biggest differences today, than when you first began training?

There has been a swap from physical to mental. Training is no longer as physically demanding as it once was. We used to train for 4 or more hours a night and be physically exhausted. Now we train much less, about 2 hours a night, but the exhaustion is more mental.

What is the role a martial artist plays in our world?

To be honest, martial arts today is entertainment. It has become a means of making a buck. That is why I don’t think of the Bujinkan as a martial art, it is a warrior art. Warrior arts are those that adhere to the true spirit and purpose of what used to be “martial arts.” Warrior arts protect all of mankind; most so called “martial arts” have forgotten this, their true purpose. And that is truly sad.

What one thing would you contribute to a “Book of Knowledge?”

I’ll steal this one: "Education is not about filling a bucket, it's about lighting a fire." William Butler Yeats

Do you have any great hope for the future of martial training?

I would say my one great hope is that the few of us that practice in the true spirit of a warrior art can do so in a way that shows our world it can be better than it is and that we as human beings are better than what we have been.