Friday, October 28, 2011

Change of Direction

Just a quick note to let all of our regular visitors know about some website changes to Shotokan Sensei.

Until recently there were three different sites associated with Shotokan Sensei - this blog, the YouTube site and then our main site was hosted on a Word Press platform. Due to some technical difficulties with the Word Press platform, we are now in the process of designing a new homepage and site for

Also this blog is now hosted under the URL. The YouTube site is unchanged.

In the coming months we will be releasing the new Shotokan Sensei website that will try to organize all of the content that we offer in an easy-to understand and easily accessible format.

In the meantime, please enjoy the many articles and video posts on this blog and also our YouTube channel.

Thank you all for your continued support.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Updated Website at

Check out the new and updated website at  This website brings together the best aspects of this blog and the Shotokan Sensei YouTube channel.  Currently there are 75 uploaded videos on the YouTube channel and this blog has numerous articles.  By bringing these two sites together at I can put both the written and the video content together in one place in a more coherent and systemized manner.

Initially, there is a free basic membership on the new site that includes many of the videos and articles that have already been posted on both sites.  It is easily searchable through the convenient categories and the site will have many updates as it grows.

This blog will still be updated with new articles and posts as a complement to the main Shotokan Sensei website.  Please check out the new site at

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Karate Spirit

I once asked Master Kanazawa, "What is the most important aspect of karate?"  He answered, "Seishin".  "Seishin" means 'spirit', not in the religious sense, but in the sense of personal identity and of what we represent in life.  This video tries to explain the concept of spirit and how it relates to karate.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Gankaku-sho is an advanced kata that has been introduced into the SKIF extended syllabus content by Master Kanazawa.  Two of the interesting aspects of this kata are the multiple stance changes, and the diagonal embusen (performance line) of the kata.
I have included a couple of presentations of the kata in this post - the first video demonstrates the kata as a whole, and the second video breaks down the movements with a commentary of what is happening.  I hope you enjoy the content.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Three Ks of Karate

The education system often talks about the ‘Three Rs’ of Reading Writing and Arithmetic.  To a casual observer, one might say that the education system was flawed from the very beginning by the fact that it can’t spell!  In Karate, however, we can spell and the three Ks really are three Ks – Kihon, Kata and Kumite.  Let’s look at each one and explain what it is.
Kihon means Basics.  Basics are the fundamentals of our art or style.  In Karate, basics are our punches, our kicks, our blocks, our strikes and our stances.  In order to build a strong foundation for our karate we must drill and practice basics constantly.  The honing of our basic technique is the very essence of our training and must be taken seriously in order to progress to a high level of skill.  If we compare karate to learning a language, our karate basics are our vocabulary.
Kata means Form.  Forms are sequences of movements that are put together in an overall pattern that we must memorize.  Kata training includes the elements of direction, technique, speed, power and rhythm.  On a deeper level the analysis of kata can lead to many useful discoveries for practical self-defense, as hidden within the different forms are many useful sequences of movements that can be directly applied to different scenarios.  Going back to our language analogy, kata can be likened to the grammar of our karate.
Kumite means Partner Work or Sparring.  Basic partner work introduces pre-arranged training drills that help us get used to using different punches, kicks, blocks and strikes.  Through these set training drills we are able to directly apply our defensive movements and counters against actual attacks.  As we progress in our skill level the drills become harder with a bigger element of surprise that is gradually introduced until we are able to deal with random attacks from multiple opponents.  For our language analogy our kumite training is therefore how we express ourselves by using our vocabulary and our grammar appropriately based on any given situation.
By breaking down our karate training into the ‘Three Ks’, we are able to focus on each core training element individually and consequently improve our overall ability with a very systematic approach.  Our ultimate goal is to combine these three elements seamlessly so that the ‘Three Ks’ become one K.  And that K of course is Karate.
When this seamlessness takes place, you begin operating from a level of what is sometimes referred to as unconscious competence.  You don't have to think of the individual pieces and parts.  Everything fits together and works in harmony, almost totally without any direction from the conscious mind.  This is the level from which the masters operate and that is why observing them is like watching poetry in motion.
Keep training hard on the three Ks and they will gradually begin to merge into one over time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Behavioral Congruency

The idea of Behavioral Congruency is not a new one but it is one that is based on sound logical principles.
In mathematics the word congruent means something that is exactly the same size and shape.  Therefore in terms of behavior, congruency means acting in exactly the way necessary to achieve a desired outcome.  So, in other words if you can align your behavior with those who have already achieved your desired result or outcome (and are still achieving it) then you too can obtain the same result.

Let me give you an example with your karate practice that will illustrate this concept more clearly.  Probably over 90% of people who start karate would answer “Yes” to the question,
“Do you want to become a Black Belt?”

However we all know that nowhere near 90% of students actually make it to the black belt.  The number is actually quite low.  So how can we increase the number of students who make it to the black belt?  Well we can start by looking at behavior.
So what did black belts do before they were black belts and what are they still doing now that defines their success in karate?

Well the good news is that black belts don’t really do anything that is extremely difficult or radically different to the average student.  I think I can boil down their behavior to three simple things:
1. They come to class regularly and consistently.  I personally recommend twice a week.
2. They always give their best effort during class.
3. They stay focused on their goal until they achieve it.

Obviously there are other things you can do too to make sure you become a black belt such as practicing at home and reading and studying about karate from books, magazines, DVDs and the Internet.  However the three crucial behaviors are to come to class regularly, to train hard and to stay focused on your goal.

If you are someone who “wants to be a Black Belt,” I suggest that you ask yourself honestly if your current behavior, in terms of your karate practice, is congruent with the behavior that I just described.
If it is, then you are well on your way to becoming a black belt, if not then it’s not too late to change!

The same simple question can also be asked about other important aspects of your life...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Basic Stances

This video shows the three most common basic stances of Shotokan karate.

For more videos, check out my YouTube site at

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Trip of a Lifetime

I was born and raised in England for 22 years, lived in Germany for 1 year, Japan for 3 years and now the United States for over 10 years.  I have traveled throughout Europe and also South-East Asia.  As you can see I have been very fortunate so far to have had the opportunity to visit so many places and experience so many cultures.  Many of these trips and experiences were both life-changing and inspirational but I can say with complete honesty that the ‘trip of a lifetime’ for me is still continuing to this day, and that is my study of karate.
This trip, or maybe journey would be a better word, started on a cold January morning in 1982 in an even colder dojo in North-East England.  I was 8 years old at the time and could never have known what a huge impact karate would have on my life, and to be honest, it probably took about 10 years of training before I really began to understand the impact and some of the benefits that karate had already given me.  However on that cold evening I didn’t know what to make of the lesson or of the experience, and I almost quit after the first lesson.  To this day I still can’t figure out what made me go back, but I’m certainly glad that I did because what I’ve gained in the years since is immeasurable.
The goal of this article is not to give you a blow by blow account of my own experience in karate, but rather a perspective on what lies ahead.
What lies ahead is a very difficult journey, full of success and failure, a journey of self-discovery and ultimately a journey of honest introspection.
Let me start by telling you that I have failed a grading 4 times, I failed my Green Belt as well as each of the three Brown Belts once.  It took me 6 years to get my Black Belt, when it should have only taken me about 4 years on average.  Despite being top of the class at school, I was NEVER top of the class in karate.  Why am I still doing karate?  Why am I still wasting my time?
...because I understand the value of karate.
Karate is not about being able to beat somebody up, karate is not about being able to kick high, karate is not about back flips, karate is not about aggression or anger, karate is not about weapons, karate is not even about keeping fit and healthy (despite that being a side benefit).
Karate is ultimately about fulfilling your potential, it is about developing the discipline needed to deal with daily life in a consistent manner, it is about friendship, it is about harmony with others, it is about never giving up, it is about being true to yourself and others, it is about testing your limits and constantly challenging yourself.
There are three main aspects of karate - Kihon (Basics), Kata (Forms) and Kumite (Sparring/Partner Work).  These aspects can be applied to everyday life.  The true value of karate is found in how the different components of karate are relevant to everything that we do.  It might sound strange to think that our everyday life is made up of Kihon, Kata and Kumite, but it really is.  Kihon represents those things that we do day in day out such as going to work or school, making dinner, brushing our teeth, organizing our day, Kata represents the set routines that we follow everyday, such as the order in which we do things in the morning when getting ready, the route that we follow to school or work, the school schedule or the work routine and Kumite represents how we apply our basic movements and our set routines to have an effective, successful and productive day.  As you can see it is necessary to repeat the basic techniques of our life again and again, we will constantly follow set routines and will always add new routines but our success ultimately depends on how well we apply the things we have learned on a consistent basis.  I believe that karate can help provide the disciplined structure to ultimately improve our lives.