Copyright © IJCMAS ICMAUA. All rights reserved
# 17. 2017
The international Journal of Combat Martial Arts and Sciences ICMAUA
Current articles (All rights reserved by authors):
IS THERE LIFE AFTER OLD AGE (RECREATING YOURSELF): Donald Miskel (08. 2018)
DISHONOR IN THE MARTIAL ARTS: Donald Miskel (12. 2017)
MAINTAINING: Donald Miskel (12. 2017)
TRANSITIONS: Donald Miskel (12. 2017)
STICKING TO THE FACTS: Donald Miskel (12. 2017)
THE REALITY OF COMBAT: Donald Miskel (02. 2017)
Is There Life after Old Age (Recreating Yourself)
I have been on this martial art journey for about sixty one years. Since I didn’t start at birth most of you would have garnered the fact that I am no longer a young man. I’m not even a middle aged man. The truth being that I have some age on me. However though the body changes and capabilities shift I am still a martial artist and probably will be until they plant me.
I was never a tournament champion. That isn’t what I studied the arts for. Growing up in ‘the inner city’ of Chicago the martial arts was more of a survival tool. No, I wasn’t picked on or bullied as a kid. I was too volatile for that. I not only would fight but I actually got off on it.
My father was a marine during WW II. He was stationed in Hawaii and along with being trained in the marine version of hand to hand combat he was exposed to several styles of martial arts. As a military policeman he trained more extensively in those arts than most of his peers. When I was a small tyke (yes, you young buzzards, I was once a kid) my father tried to teach me what he knew. I was probably too young and wasn’t able to grasp most of what he was trying to teach me but it planted a seed. Later, when I was about ten years old my friend’s father came home from military duty. He had been a marine staff seargent and spent most of his enlistment in Okinawa. He was a military boxing champion but rather than studying Okinawa’s indigenous arts he studied judo. He was the boxing coach at one of the Park District’s field houses and after the boxing classes he trained his son and I in judo. That lasted for a little over a year. After they moved I didn’t have a sensei but I continued to box and I got in a wrestling program.
When I was twelve I started what I consider my formal martial art education. I began studying judo and jiujitsu at the oldest and most prominent school in the city. It was two years into that class when I met my first karate instructor. He was sent to Chicago by the JKA and taught Shotokan Karate. I stayed with him until I met Douglas Dwyer and through him I met John Keehan. The rest is history. In my martial art career I have had an opportunity to study internationally and while I’m not the greatest martial artist this age has produced I have garnered an excellent foundation and a great deal of knowledge in these many years.
Again, all of that is history. Times change and circumstances shift. My body has aged over these many years and a thousand minor and not so minor injuries have come back to award me for the years of abuse I put my body through. The years have taken a toll. I’m at the age where most martial artists have retired, probably because of some of the same challenges that I have mentioned. I’m at a stage now where my mind knows a lot of things that my body just can’t do. My years of todi geris (flying kicks) and ne waza (ground fighting) are safely behind me.
When I was a young man I suffered from the same malady that many young martial artists struggle with. I was enamored with the theatrical. I leaned toward the more acrobatic and visual techniques. My philosophy was this; Why kick someone in the knee and end the fight in its tracks when you can leap in the air, flip over spin around three times and kick someone in the head. Usually the opponent would walk away in psychological overload or they would die laughing. Of course I’m exaggerating but I’m sure that you serious martial artists out there know what I’m getting at.
All of that was then. This is now. At this point of my life I might be able to kick you in the head but even if the technique landed with any power it would probably do me more damage than it would you. Most of those aesthetically pleasing techniques are lost to me. At this late date I have had to focus on the techniques that work for me which means I am no longer visual in my approach. I’m told that I have pretty decent form and I’m still pretty graceful. Conservation of energy and economy of motion translates itself like that to the eye but being graceful is the furthest thing from my mind. Being effective with the tools that are left to me is my primary focus.
To my younger martial artists out there I have bad news or better yet let’s call it a reality check. Age will put demands on you. It happens to the best of us, some sooner others later but if you live long and continue in the arts you will be where I am. You will either have to tweak what you are doing and how you do it as time passes and the body yields to age or you will have to transition to an art that will allow you to continue on this journey. Minimize the damage to your body and don’t put it through unnecessary abuse. You can only endure so many broken bones and kicks to the head. Train smart and pace yourself. Hopefully you’re in this for the long haul and not just for a while.
To those who have gotten too old to get too hands on try coaching rather than teaching. Train those who know the basics and just require an effective and practical physical regimen. Research, innovate, educate. Pass on your insight and wisdom as well as your knowledge and expertise. As you begin to teach more advanced students you’ll find that more of your instruction will be in those more esoteric realms anyway. You’ll find that most of your midlevel and advanced level black belts don’t need much help with their technique. They can however benefit from the years of knowledge and wisdom that you have accrued over the years.
I am in my seventies now but I still find occasion to pass some bit of knowledge on or share a word of wisdom. That’s what old folks do. Should be anyway. We teach, we preach, we educate, we give direction. We inspire other martial artists. While allowing them to grow and create themselves as martial art technicians we give them the knowledge that they need in other areas. In the end, as we continue to grow and we recreate ourselves we will find that we have become as much life coach as martial art instructor. But then again that’s what a sensei is supposed to be anyway.
Blessings to you, my brethren. I offer special encouragement to the old guard in the martial arts. Keep the faith and keep on keeping on.
Rev. Dr. Donald Miskel
Dishonor in the Martial Arts
Most of you who will read this know who I am and you know of my reputation. You may not all like me. Many of you may not agree with me and really people that’s no issue with me. It certainly won’t make me disrespect you or dishonor myself or those who have trained me over the years by attacking or trying to discredit any of you. We each have a right to our own opinion and we supposedly have freedom of speech in our wonderful country. However with that freedom comes some level of responsibility. We should have enough wisdom or if not enough wisdom enough sense to sensor ourselves. In other words we need to be responsible what comes out of our mouth.
I have been involved in the martial arts for about sixty years and that’s only the formal training. My father tried to teach me some of the unarmed combative skills he accrued as a Marine MP in Japan during WW II. I was too young to grasp much of it at the time but should I care to include that time in my martial art bio I could honestly say that I have sixty three or sixty four years of involvement in the martial arts. In that time I’m seen some nobility and some insanity in the arts but I’ve never seen anything like I see today.
I have lived most of my life in Chicago and like many young black males in the inner city my youth was often fraught with danger and violence. I’ve been shot a couple of times and stabbed as often. I’ve been left broken and bleeding in the gutter more than once by multiple opponents, more often than not rival gang members. I learned to fight early and I learned to fight well. I’m not tall but I’m a pretty big fellow. I’ve always been exceptionally strong and I was gifted with good eye hand coordination and speed. I never played team sports in my youth. Instead I boxed, wrestled and trained in the martial arts.
In the tough streets of cities like New York, L.A., Chicago and any of the other major cities of our nation martial arts has to be more than theory. In some of the places that I’ve had schools in you had better be able to back up your claim. For me and many like me martial arts weren’t a sport or an esoteric art form it was about fighting and survival.
Enough about me. I just wanted to qualify myself for the statements I’m going to make. I’m not an especially critical person. I see no need to brow beat anyone, discredit them or tear them down. We each have a right to seek life on our own level and to our own ends. It’s the same way with those who study or teach the arts. People study the martial arts for many reasons. By the same token they study them at many different levels. It shouldn’t matter to any of us. We are all martial artists on whatever level we strive or for whatever reason. We should view one another as brothers in the arts since we share something in common. That doesn’t mean that we have to like each other or even that we have to agree with each other but we should respect each other as human beings if not as martial artists. In the areas that we don’t see eye to eye on we should be able to agree to disagree rather than behaving as immature children.
My involvement in the arts has little or nothing to do with sports. I’m not interested in competition nor are most of my students. Much of my teaching career has involved teaching combative or self defense skills to people in high risk professions. I worked in mental health, most of it on psych wards or similar mental institutions. I’ve also worked in hospital security, personal protection and as a bouncer. What I did for a living, where I lived and who I taught shaped the art that I taught. I have studied a number of traditional arts and I know the kata that are associated with those arts but because of who I teach I don’t have a lot of cause to teach them. Many traditionalists would say that that would disqualify myself from referring to myself as a martial artist. Not that such an evaluation by such a dissenter would bother or offend me. My purpose in life isn’t to satisfy their sensitivities. They can think and say what they like as long as they don’t make the mistake of getting in my face.
Every martial art teacher, master or grandmaster doesn’t satisfy everyone else’s concept of those titles. There are those who wouldn’t appreciate or embrace what they do or what they teach. On occasion some of the less expedient of those individuals might what to challenge the authenticity of whatever it is that that person does. Personally I think that that would be energy and effort that could be expended in something positive but in this world there are always some nay sayers. As a psych professional I question the mental stability of anyone who spends a lot of time and energy trying to discredit someone else. Get a life people. If you spend that much time focusing on someone else’s life it puts your own validity in question.
I have to wonder whatever happened to integrity? Whatever happened to respect and honor. Spewing bitter bile and hate and confusion doesn’t benefit any human being but it definitely doesn’t suit someone who has dedicated themselves to an endeavor that’s supposed to garner mutual honor and respect.
I know some very credible and some very talented martial artists who can’t even post a short statement without stirring up a bunch of cyber vultures. The nit pick, harass and back bit every word that that person says. Keep in mind that the people that they attack often have some level of notoriety while nine times out of ten no-one has even heard of the person harassing them. That would lead me to believe that much of their response is caused by envy or jealousy. I know of at least three individuals who are devastatingly skilled and effective practitioners and teachers who have schools all over the world and can’t answer the demand for their services. These same individuals are hounded by a pack of ankle biters who demand that they validate themselves. They only have to open their eyes to realize that the demands for the services of these individuals should speak of their ability. These individuals are in high demand for their knowledge, abilities and teaching skills. Meanwhile all you see or hear of their disclaimers is their caustic ranting on social media.
I don’t know of the knowledge or skill level of any of these individuals. All I see or hear from them is their negative statements against some other individual. I believe that if they have skill and knowledge let that speak for them. Apparently the people that they spend so much time criticizing do. I don’t have to discredit any practitioner or teacher of the martial arts. I have more honor and respect for that. I feel that every pot has to stand on its own bottom and in the end their skill or lack of the same will reveal itself. An old saying states that if it doesn’t come out in the wash it will come out in the rinse.
I’ll close this by saying that no-one olds anyone else an explanation about their background or lineage. That’s their own business and unless they care to share it it’s no-one else’s. If you don’t care for a person stay away from him. That doesn’t require a degree in quantum physics to understand. It’s a no brainer. The only one you can be accountable for is yourself. Don’t demand your idea of honor from someone who you have no knowledge, involvement or association with. You can only be honorable for yourself. Live honorably before others however you envision them. We teach by precept and example. Our individual arts are the precepts but we ourselves should be the example. Be responsible for the only person you can be responsible for. Exhibit honor in your own martial art career. Perhaps in so doing you can inspire someone to a higher level of honor and integrity.
God bless you, my brethren and friends
Rev. Dr. Donald Miskel, MDiv, MA, PhD, ThD
In between sets. Back and forth in my home gym, stereo blasting gospels. Wondering why I do this to myself. Just finished my last set of bench presses. About to start on curls and tricep presses. Will probably do some rowing and lat pull downs before I’m through with the days masochistic routine. So, why do I do this to myself?
At a few months shy of seventy I’m probably not going to put on a whole lot more muscle. I remember less than a decade ago that I had a physique that many young men envied. My thighs were as big around as my waist. My calves looked like bricks. My stomach was hard enough to shrug off a full powered front kick. I was a yard wide in the shoulders and my arms were massive. A prime case of ‘back in the day’. Obviously I’m not that man anymore. I’m still a pretty good sized fella and I still carry a good bit of muscle but it’s hidden under a plush layer of padding. I look pretty decent when fully dressed but my beach body is a thing of the past. Pumping all of the iron and abusing all of the martial art students in the world won’t change that. My days of launching myself in the air in devastating flying kicks are safely behind me.
Excuse me. Gotta do a set of curls before I cool off.
I’m back. Man that hurt. I’m not trying to build a beautiful body. I’m pretty sure that that isn’t going to happen again. Maybe I’ll manage to get rid of a bit of this winter fat but I won’t be winning any physique contests anytime soon. I’m just trying to maintain; maybe slow down the onslaught of advanced age a little. It’s like putting a bandage on a cancer. It won’t stop the inevitable. In the end, regardless of how many bench presses I do or how many times I punch my heavy bag age will win this battle.
This is about the age when most martial artists retire and hang up their beat up black belts. Those of us that are still somewhat active at this age know that being a grandmaster isn’t so grand. A lot of age and injury accompany us to these exalted positions. By the time we are able to achieve this advanced rank we have been practicing for fifty years or more. Every joint hurts. Arthritis makes every kick or punch painful and many of us couldn’t punch our way through a wet Kleenex. By this time, if we are able to achieve such rank we are masters more for what we know than what we can do. We’re probably teaching more by precept than example. Still many of us muddle on.
The martial arts are just that; martial. They were designed for combat whatever other benefits we may derive from them. For about five minutes I can probably be one of the most deadly opponents you’ll ever have to face but if you can last for longer than that you’ve probably won the fight. Fortunately most fights, contrary to what kung fu movies may convey, last only a few minutes so we old octogenarians have some small chance.
The point I’m trying to make is that though our bodies age, and they will age, we do the best we can to maintain. We may not be what we once were but we try to be the best we can be. Even when we can’t do what we can now our minds will hopefully still know what our bodies can no longer do. When we can no longer perform well we can teach. When we can no longer teach we can inspire. We can be the voice of reason or a word of wisdom. We may not be able to walk the path but we can illuminate the way for those that can.
I’m slow on the keyboard. In the time it took me to type these few words I’ve abused my biceps and triceps. My arms are suffused with blood and I’m feeling that elusive pump. I no longer sport the eighteen or nineteen inch arms of my youth but I still have some respectable guns. No longer beating off hoards of miscreants. Haven’t leaped a tall building in a single bound in quite some time. Heck, I do well to bound onto the curb. Still I do what I can. I’m too stubborn to do otherwise. Just trying to maintain.
Dr. Donald Miskel
I am approaching my seventieth year in the land of the living. Sixty years of that has been spent in the pursuit of some small expertise in the martial arts. It’s debatable as to how much actual expertise I have managed in those six decades but if nothing else I have longevity. I am often asked why at this late date I still claim to STUDY the martial arts. When do we get to the point that we actually KNOW the arts? Most martial artists even into the rarified ranks of masters and grandmasters will say what I say. We are eternal students. In the past most of my knowledge was accrued by continual pursuit of knowledge but as I got older I found that most of my growth came through teaching and research. I am still a student and I still study the arts but I have transitioned into a more advanced phase of my study.
As I look back on this journey I am amazed that I have dedicated so much time and effort into this single endeavor. In those many years of study I have managed to grasp some of the inner workings of several arts. My primary arts are kempo jitsu and aikijitsu both of which I have modified so much that they have become the foundation of the art that has developed around my studies and not the arts that I teach these days. I am sold on simplicity. It’s hard if not near impossible to perform complex maneuvers under extreme stress. Combat is stressful so too often the techniques that worked so well in the dojo become elusive in the heat of battle. When adrenalin is introduced to the bloodstream and the heart rate goes up eye hand coordination goes out the window. In combat basics work better than those fancy techniques that we spend so much time perfecting. It’s an irrefutable fact; we fight the way we train. For that reason in my own art I teach only what is combat efficient and easily assemble in the heated moments of actual combat.
As a youth I was all multiple high kicks and aerial kicks. I had so much hang time I felt that I could almost levitate. I looked like a cross between Michael Jordon and Neo of the Matrix. I was flexible enough to do Chinese splits and twist my poor abused body into some unlikely positions. As the years have progressed I am no longer burdened with such abilities. Practicality was thrust upon me by my transition from youth to advanced age. As a young man I didn’t worry about such trivial things as practicality. Who needed to be practical when you’re Bruce Leroy.
Life sends us through many transitions. We adjust to where we are in life either by choice or by necessity. My body won’t do what it once would. As those extreme abilities waned I leaned more and more to the basic aspects of the arts that I studied. In so doing I have an art that still serves me in my later years. I’ve also found that practical works better so that the art that I teach now is more efficient than what I once taught.
While my body was going through a transition my mind did also. My philosophy on all aspects of life began to change. My views on physical confrontation changed also. I grew up in the inner city of Chicago and the confrontational nature of the neighborhoods that I grew up in shaped my approach to combat. Back in the day I fought to disable, maim or kill. If you gave someone a black eye or broke their nose they either came back with their boys or the came at you with a gun. Consequently if I fought you I tried my best to send you into your next incarnation. I am a minister and pastor now so I have to limit the number of miscreants that I send to their demise. It’s kinda hard to redeem a corpse. This has expressed itself in what I teach. Karate and kempo isn’t designed to contain an opponent without some pretty radical physical damage. I worked in the mental health field. As a mental health professional I wasn’t allowed to punch or kick a patient into compliance. Taking that into consideration I began to teach more of the jui jitsu and aikijitsu that I had studied over the years. Even in the streets every situation doesn’t require us to beat an opponent into compliance.
As I got older other areas of my life were reshaped by my new found wisdom. Like many advanced martial artists I am often referred to as doctor or professor. I have several honorary degrees in the martial arts but those two titles are real. I have actually earned graduate and post graduate degrees in several subjects and I’m a provost professor at one of the universities in the Chicago area. Most of those degrees I earned in my fifties and sixties. I have two doctorates but I’m contemplating pursuing a doctorates in one of the behavioral sciences. Also as my body considers to age I’m probably going to have to explore the benefits of one of the internal martial arts.
Through the years my martial arts have gone through any number of transitions. Much of this was because of the knowledge that I accrued along the way. My arts changed as I found more practical and efficient ways to do things. Nowadays transition is being forced upon me by my own limitations and by the challenges of aging. I have lost some physical prowess along the way but what I’ve lost in physicality I have gained in knowledge and wisdom. That is transition as it should be.
As a pastor I have done more than a few funerals. I have been there to lead in the celebration of a life that has transitioned to the next phase of existence. Tends to make me aware of my own mortality. My mother passed in her late eighties and my father is edging into his mid nineties. We are generally pretty long lived in my family but I realize that I won’t be here forever. Eventually I’ll make my own transition. This too is only as should be. I pray only that the life that I have lived and the legacy that I leave behind will pave the way for those who come behind me. Perhaps the lessons that I have learned will help them in their own life transitions.
Blessings, my brethren.
Rev. Dr. Donald Miskel
Sticking to the Facts
I’m impatiently awaiting this weekend. We will be in our Black Dragon convention again. The fact is it was rather doubtful that I would be able to make this one because of various health issues. One problem I’m dealing with is mobility. I remember the old mummy movies from the earlier part of the twentieth century. While I thrilled with the horror aspects of the movie I could never buy into its premise. I mean, come on. How could the Mummy catch anyone? He ambled along dragging one leg behind him. If you can envision that image you have me in a nutshell. I’m a martial art master, one of the deadliest creatures to walk or in my case creep upon the face of the earth. I’m dangerous if I can catch you but I’m like the mummy. Unless you’re frozen in terror you’re in no danger of me catching you. You can amble along at a leisurely pace and run rings around me. Couple that with the fact that I’ll be reaching my seventh decade in a week and you get the full picture. No problem there though. The pen or in this instance the keyboard is mightier than the sword (though in a life and death struggle I’d rather have a sword). So keeping that in mind and overlooking my present disabilities let’s proceed with this dissertation.
Sitting here I glance over at my cane. For years I carried nice fancy canes for style and fashion. Now not so much. I carry a cane now because I need it. Not all the time but enough that I try not to let it stray too far from my reach. It’s a frustrating situation for someone who has trained in and taught the martial arts for sixty years. Hobbling around on a cane may not be the best case scenario for a martial artist but as they say, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Anyone who knows the thought patterns of the martial art enthusiast knows that you don’t give him a stick. Not unless you want him to hit something or someone with it.
Aside from being a martial artist I was educated, trained and worked as a psych professional. That training has become part of my understanding of the combative arts. Understanding kinesiology and psychology will give us a deeper understanding of human combat. In times of stress and under extreme duress we tend to yield to what Psychologists used to call the hind brain. That term refers to our more primitive side. With all of our intellectual capacity and spiritual acuity we are still animals biologically. Yes we are (relatively) intelligent and we have souls but biologically we are still primates. I’ll probably get bombasted by some of my fellow ministers on that issue but if you examine our DNA you’ll quickly discern the truth of this matter. We may be advanced intellectually and spiritually but in times of danger we become the primitive creatures that our physicality implies.
Looking at mankind in his infancy we see a very primitive creature. We also see a relatively weak creature. God created us without the fangs and claws of some of the more predatory creatures that we share our world with. Man very quickly realized that since he was slower and weaker than just about everything else he encountered except maybe slugs and earthworms he needed an equalizer. The first and most primitive weapon he came up with was the stick. It wasn’t especially affective against lions, tigers and bears (oh my) but it discouraged the occasional wolf and it worked wonders on the skulls of his fellow men. The first weapon was born and as necessity sometimes dictates it endures unchanged until this day.
Many will argue the effectiveness of the stick until it impresses its more practical qualities upon the nay sayer’s skull. In the traditional martial art weaponry (kobujitsu for us Okinawan/Japanese practitioners) the stick along with the bladed weapons make up its entire arsenal. I love bladed weapons and the last thing you want to do is face me with a knife in my hand but though I generally carry a combat folder I know that it’s a lot easier explaining hitting someone with my cane in a self defense situation that slicing and dicing them. Unfortunately in a society that seems to care more for the rights of the perpetrator than the victims we have to take such things into considerations. I’m so good with a knife I can reduce you to your lowest terms and almost make you appreciate the beauty and grace of your own dismemberment. I was an expert marksman in the military and I can still shoot the eyelashes off a gnat but there’s just something about a stick. Well one thing I always have one.
One of the advantages of a stick is its easy availability. There is practically always something that can substitute for a stick if you don’t happen to have one in hand. For the most part, except for the rather long ones and very short ones they don’t require a lot of skill and training to prove at least some rudimentary effectiveness with a stick. I have studied and trained extensively with blunt trauma weapons, namely sticks, in their various incarnations. I am good enough with one even in my unhappy state of physical inability but with my trust cane in hand I’m pretty sure I can dissuade the average miscreant from assault on my person. To all of you bad guys out there (none of which are probably reading this article) I have a stick. I am armed and dangerous.
Wrapping up this one sided argument let me encourage you as you blaze your martial path to glory I admonish you not to overlook the lowly stick. You’ll find that it’s the most easily attainable, most easily available and easiest weapon to master. When in doubt pick up sticks. Okay that was a bad pun that most of you younger people out there didn’t get anyway but you get my drift. Just sticking to the facts. My goodness, there I go again. Anyway, I rest my case.
Dr. Donald Miskel
The Reality of Combat
Let’s be clear about something. Martial arts and armed/unarmed combat isn’t the same thing. I’ll probably get a lot of flack from the traditionalists who have deceived themselves into believing that they are the proverbial lethal weapon. The reality of the matter is you probably aren’t as dangerous and definitely not as combat effective as you may think.
Some may discount my observations but most who do have little experience in real combat. If I can be allowed to be redundant let me review my qualifications for making such a statement. First off I’m not speaking theory here. I’m speaking what I know and what I have learned in the do or die school of hard knocks. I’m not talking about black eyes and bloody noses; I’m talking about being left dead or broken and bleeding in the gutter.
I’ve been involved in the martial arts for going on sixty years. I began my training in the summer of nineteen fifty seven starting with judo and western boxing. In my youth and my school career I never played baseball, football or basket ball. Since I grew up in the back allies and side streets of Chicago’s inner city (formally the ghetto) on the city’s infamous Southside fighting ability was a serious survival tool. I grew up fighting. In my youth a day without violence was like a day without sunshine. I not only fought, I excelled and reveled in it. All of my athletic ability was funneled into the combative arts. When my peers were playing sports I was involved in developing the tools to become a better fighter. The closest I came to being involved in sports was amateur and later semiprofessional boxing and high school wrestling.
Where I grew up combat couldn’t be theoretical and fighting had no philosophy other than what was dictated by survival. When I became involved in the martial arts I approached it with that mindset.
My father was a WW II marine MP and was stationed during most of his enlistment in Hawaii. He trained in the military’s hand to hand combat or as it was called in those days combat judo. During his enlistment he was also exposed to the martial arts of Hawaii so he had more than a passing knowledge of armed and unarmed combat. He tried to teach me his brand of unarmed combatives whan I was too young to grasp what he was trying to impart to me. What he did manage to do was wet my appitite to the more scientific approach to unarmed combat.
When I began my formal training in the martial arts it wasn’t because I was bullied or picked on. I was a good fighter even as an untrained kid. I had the strength and eye hand coordination as well as a nasty aggression that made me pretty effective in the streets even as a kid. I didn’t lose many fights and I was never defeated by the same kid twice.
My clarion cry these days is karate for everyone. Actually now days it would be more of a cry for martial arts for all since age and a lifetime accumulation of injuries has pretty much minimized my hardcore study of karate and kempo. These days I teach more combat aiki than the fistic arts. All the eye defying kicks and spinning, jumping and aerial techniques have been seriously curtailed by the physical limitations of a man who is rapidly approaching his seventies. Not that I was ever a big proponent of combat sports but whatever aspirations I may have had in that vein has yielded themselves to the expedience of age. That doesn’t mean I can’t fight. I’m an avid strength trainer and even in my old age I am physically powerful and while my kicks are seldom much above waist height, which probably lends them better to the expedience of combat, my hands are still fast. Aside from hand speed I can still hit with authority.
I feel that everyone should have access to and some rudimentary experience in the martial arts. All of us don’t train for the same reason. Everyone isn’t interested in being a trained killer. Some study for the art or for a little physical activity. Some others are interested in competition and the sports aspects of the arts. Some of us study for ascetics or for almost esoteric reasons. On whatever level we pursue our training we are still martial artists. We all have a right to seek our own path. Taking that into consideration none of us should find reason to criticize any of the rest of us.
Personally I am interested in the combative aspects of the arts. Not that I’m that combative or aggressive these days. I’m a minister and pastor and therefore a semi pacifist. By the way the emphasis there is on semi. I’m not easily provoked but I’m not a person to back into a corner. Everything I teach has its inception in realistic combat. While I feel that I’m pretty cute and the economy of motion of true martial arts has its own grace I am neither interested in my techniques looking pretty or graceful. Combat isn’t designed for ascetics.
Let’s get down to the reality of combat. Back in the day the martial artists sought to train until he had reached a constant semi meditative state of ‘mushin’. Mushin is one of those words that don’t translate well into English. The best definition I can give is the one that was given to me. Mushin is like the state of still water. Still water can reflect light. Troubled water on the other hand refracts light and can give no good picture of what exists around it. Mushin is a state of imperturbable calm. When we are threatened or go into the fight or flight mode our bloodstream is flooded with adrenaline and our heart and breath rate increases. When this happens we lose that detached dispassionate observation of our dilemma that allows us to use all of those fancy techniques that we perfected in the dojo. Mushin takes a lot of time and complete immersion in meditation and training. Most of us aren’t professional warriors and few of us have the time or the inclination to reach that rarified state. Taking that into consideration we become aware that those complex techniques won’t work when we most need them. For that reason gross motor movement and simplicity is the key to success in realistic combat.
Most of us don’t want to beat our hands into war clubs and for good reason. I’m sure that we plan to do more with our hands that break concrete or knock someone’s chin through the back of their neck. Even so some conditioning of the hands is still necessary if we plan to hit someone with them. A broken hand could spell disaster in a life and death confrontation. Hitting that sweet spot on an opponent’s chin with unconditioned hands is probably going to do you more harm that it will him. Even with trained and conditioned hands be prepared to dance around your felled opponent in exquisite pain. Which, by the way, might suggest that we learn the right weapon to use against a particular target. A good rule of thumb here is to hit hard with soft and soft with hard, the goju or yin and yang principle of striking. You’d probably do better striking that chin with a palm heel rather than a fist.
Expanding on that idea I suggest that all of the dim mak and advanced pressure point techniques you’ve studied be relegated to the gym. Trying to hit several points the size of a quarter where the force and angle of access differs with the time of day, month and year isn’t practical for the average combatant. Let me enlighten you to the Don Miskel school of pressure point striking. If he can’t see he can’t fight. If he can’t breathe he can’t fight. If he can’t stand he can’t fight. If unconscious or dead he can’t fight. All, of course, to be applied with expedience and conscience. Fit those concepts into your own system and you’ll find yourself taking a realistic approach to combat and target acquisition.
Another consideration for our weekend warriors. You have to train to maintain any level of combat effectiveness. I don’t care how much you know if you’re unable to implement that knowledge because of poor conditioning you’ve lost before you’ve started. Strength training and some cardiovascular training is a must. You have to keep your weapons sharp.
This effort is getting a bit lengthy so I’m going to put a cap on it with one more point. For all you nice a clean cut would be warriors out there you can’t go gently into combat. You have to channel all of the killer instinct that you have (hopefully) developed and bring it to bear in a fight. Generally you’ve been singled out for violence because your opponent has perceived some kind of advantage. Generally he’s going to be bigger, stronger, more violent, better armed and probably a whole lot crazier than you. Often you’ll be outnumbered and outgunned. Given such a scenario you’ll probably be fighting for your life. You have to fight to not only to survive but to prevail and if survival isn’t possible give your life dearly. Go down fighting like a warrior. There’s no shame for a warrior to die in combat as long as he gives a good account of himself.
Winding up this long winded dissertation let me say that you have to be realistic in your capabilities. You can’t be what you aren’t but you can be the best that you can be. If you are going to train for self defense or combat train hard and train realistically. If you don’t have the tools develop them. If you don’t have the conditioning work for it. If you don’t have killer instinct put your civilized sensitivities on the shelf at least for the duration of a life and death confrontation. If you fight fight like your life depends on it. Your life may very well depend on it.
Lastly, for those of you who are still in the early learning stages; if you want to learn to fight train with someone who knows how to fight. Too many people are trying to teach people to fight who have never been in a real fight in their lives. If you’ll excuse my language, bad asses train bad asses. Who you train with will determine how realistic and how effective your fight skills will be.
So now I can get back to my gentle priestly persona. God bless you, my brethren and fellow martial artists. Train realistically, train hard and go with God.
Rev. Dr. Donald Miskel