Articles, Essays & Videos

The selected writings below are from SKKAA members and other sources, taken from articles and emails:
◊   2018 Beisho Spring Clinic, by Justin Sheehy
◊   World Tai Chi and Qigong Day 2018, by Mike Poole
◊   The Passing of a Master
◊   Weekend Seminar in Waltham, by Ido Diamant
◊   What can one expect if they are to attend SKKAA Budo camp? Here is my experience, by Ralph Arabian
◊   World Record Attempt, by Mike Poole
◊   April Seminar 2015 (essay)
◊   Sensei Jayne's Visit to Wyoming Dojo, by Heather Best, White Belt, Wyoming Karate Club
◊   Treuo Chinen Sensei has passed away at the age of 74
◊   Ohio State University to name residence hall in honor of alumni John Hideo Houston
◊   How to Be the Black Belt You Were Meant to Be, by Jesse Enkamp
◊   My Boston Trip, by Jan Hansen
◊   Meet Li Tianjin: Jack Ma's bodyguard and a master of Tai Chi
◊   Finding an Old Comrade 70 Years Later, by Papa Chris Clarke

Previous and Older Articles can be found in the Articles Archive

2018 Beisho Spring Clinic

by Justin Sheehy

In April I had the pleasure of participating in the 2018 Beisho Spring Clinic at True Martial Arts Academy. There are two main things that I hope to get out of any such event: to benefit from the teachings of a variety of sensei, and to have the opportunity to train with a broader community of fellow practitioners. This weekend was completely successful in both of those measures! I learned a great deal from the array of excellent instructors across the sessions. I appreciated that each sensei demonstrated their own way of thinking about the weekend's 2018 Beisho Spring Clinic theme of "push and pull." The variety of partners, both familiar and unfamiliar to me, participating alongside me added to these new learning opportunities. Working with these partners added to the experience both by allowing us to immediately experiment with the teachings of the instructors, and by providing us with the ability to train with people that would all push (and pull!) each other to improve in slightly different ways. It was immensely inspirational to be working with such dedicated people.

My teenage son also came and participated in the seminar, which was a unique treat for both me and him. He is fairly new to karate, having been training for about a year now. Being undaunted by training for so many hours in a room where he was both the youngest and lowest-rank person was its own achievement, and seeing his hard work and dedication made me proud. Everyone, from the sensei to the participants, were unfailingly respectful and encouraging to him. We both also received promotions at the clinic. Just as I felt with my own rank adjustment, the personal honor of his achievements being recognized as part of a gathering of such a group of luminaries made the experience even more memorable for him. Those events, and many others that made up the clinic, helped to make us feel even more a part of the Beisho community. My son has spoken since then about how the weekend was not only very good training but that the experience gave him new perspectives and opened up new possibilities of practice. As a result, he is even more excited to learn than he was before and has a broader understanding of the wider world of martial arts beyond his home dojo. All of this together is tremendously valuable to me since it provides another way to strengthen my bond with my son. I have benefited from my involvement in martial arts since I was a child, and opportunities such as the 2018 Beisho Spring Clinic are invaluable ways to share that love with my child, while continuing my own growth in the discipline.

World Tai Chi and Qigong Day 2018

by Mike Poole

Last Spring, I had a dream to do tai chi all over New York City on the public transportation. I pitched the dream to a couple people, who encouraged me to take up the cause. I decided I would fulfill this dream on World Tai Chi and Qigong Day. So, on Saturday April 28th, 2018, the dream became a reality!

At 9am, a bunch of us gathered at Great Kills. A couple of us were with Earth And Cup; Meghan Bryant, a Master Trainer with the Tai Chi Institute for Health, had come up from Virginia the day before to teach a Seated Tai Chi workshop; and a group of Wing Chun students from Staten Island. We started on the platform at the Great Kills train station. We did Yang 8, a nice beginning form that is stationary for the most part. We had two different variations of the form, so we worked on the differences between the two. On the train, we taught Meghan the form. She had it down by the time we reached St. George, the last stop.

While we waited in the ferry terminal, we ran through the Tai Chi for Arthritis form, which is a variation of Sun 30. There was a group of guys with a stand-up bass singing four-part harmony, old school Motown. It provided a nice background as with then went through Yang 24. We had a group of about 30-40 people watching us pretty intently.

On the ferry, we started to discuss what to do next. One person offered up Yang 36. Most of us didn't know it, so he showed it to us. The form he demonstrated I originally learned as Yang 44, which I have since come to realize is Cheng Man-Ching's 37 Postures. A rose by any other name is still .... I thought it was appropriate to by doing Cheng's form here in New York City. One of the participants noted that it was possible to match the flow of the form to the shifting of the ferry from side to side, as we slowed to dock in Manhattan. This gave an added dimension to their form.

Our original plan was to head to Central Park. There was supposed to be a large tai chi group up there. As we were docking, one of the Wing Chun guys got a text that Central Park was breaking up. So, we decided to go do Tai Chi in Chinatown! While on the subway platform for the 5 train at Bowling Green, we found some space to do Chen 36. On the train, we worked on some of the seated tai chi techniques we learned in class the day before. I found it was possible to get some decent movement, even on the subway.

While in Chinatown, we went to a couple martial arts stores. I was finally able to buy my little drum. You know, that drum that Miyagi gives to Daniel in Karate Kid 2. Now I can learn the secret.....

From here, the group decided to go in different directions. Meghan and I decided to go down to Battery Park. I had convinced her to teach me a new form. It was a beautiful day, so was a huge crowd at Battery Park waiting for Statue of Liberty tours. We found a little space in front of the Armory, on the opposite side of the line from the hip/hop dancers. They chuckled at us with our slow movements. We showed them that we could articulate to the music just like they could. They decided to move on before full blown dance war broke out. Meghan taught me the first half on Sun 73.

Meghan and I barely made the 3:30pm ferry. We decided to stay and the back deck. We started to work on Sun 73, when we looked over and saw someone taking pictures of us. It was one of the Wing Chun we started with, making his way back home. We did some of the form, with the City at our back. On the train ride home, we discussed our day. Throughout the whole day, we didn't have one person give us negativity about what we were doing. We tried to be mindful of space, and letting people pass as they needed. What we did find was at each location, we had a group of people who took the time to watch what we were doing. It seemed to bring the intensity of the energy down a bit. Now, it wasn't a Monday morning commuter rush, but for the moment, people seemed to be calmer than usual. We wondered if we came at a more stressed time, could the same effect happen? Could a small group of people, just dong tai chi, bring calm to a place, situation or circumstance? Maybe that is next year's project. Meghan is returning to Staten Island in August to lead a Tai Chi at Work workshop. I wonder if she will include some of our learned lessons from this experience in the curriculum. In places like Metro NYC, the commute is sometimes just as long as the workday. Could we give people something to keep their bodies healthy while they are commuting? Stand by as we continue to take tai chi to the streets, uuurrr the trains, or ferries, or buses, or planes, or subways, or the workplace, or....

The passing of a master

It is with a great sadness that we learned the Grand Master Shugoro Nakazato of the Shorin Ryu Shorinkan has passed away at the age of 97. Shugoro Nakazato sensei was a prominent and legendary Okinawan Karate master and a direct disciple of Chosin Chibana, the founder of Shorin Ryu. Click link Shugoro Nagazato

Weekend Seminar In Waltham

by Ido Diamant

In Waltham, Jim True Sensei hosted a weekend seminar bringing in instructors from Ohio, and student Ido Diamant wrote about the weekend.

Throughout the weekend, many interesting and insightful exercises were taught by the visiting sensei from Ohio. These unique lessons, many centering on connectivity to an assailant, or minimizing the moves required to defend one’s self in some situations. We took time to cement some kata (Jayne Butram Sensei), specifically Sanchin. We were able to learn more about the rhythm of the kata, the breathing required throughout, and how to make a strong, stable stance to base the kata on. Later on, we dissected basic techniques, such as high blocks, middle blocks, and chest punches. The focus on each of these basic parts was a valuable experience, and strengthening our skills and applying them to other more complex techniques was a beneficial use of time.

On some of the other days, we studied Tai Chi briefly (Sue Holobaugh Sensei), and talked about energy and connection to the earth. Another interesting lesson (with Terrence Tuy Sensei) was studying throws, and how taking an opponent down could come easily from a grappling situation, leaving you with the advantage in a fight. On Sunday, one of the most useful and interesting lessons (with Mike Pepe Sensei) was discussing and practicing what to do in a fight. Often, a fight can break out for the sake of fighting, not in a fatal situation, and learning how to deal with an attacker in self defense without overreacting was crucial.

In addition to all these valuable lessons, the weekend was my opportunity to rise to the rank of Shodan. As a rising black belt, the weekend doubled as a test of my abilities as well as a learning experience. The opportunity to train with higher ranking adults provided me with insight I don’t often have the chance to hear, and I feel it improved my abilities to hear others’ advice and experiences. After studying at the dojo for many years, the experience of finally reaching my goal, in addition to the useful teachings of the Ohio teachers was a fantastic weekend. I feel I learned a lot from the seminar, and am glad I had the opportunity to attend.

What can one expect if they are to attend SKKAA Budo camp?
Here is my experience below.

by Ralph Arabian (Purple Belt)

I was initially encouraged by my sensei to attend this year's SKKAA summer camp. At first, I was uncertain and ambivalent about participat- ing given that the fact I am early in my journey and cur- rently at the level of purple belt. Selling the idea of a long drive for a weekend camp to my wife and family was also a consideration, and not an easy one at that. After many "conversations" and "discussions", I was able to "sell" my family on the idea. The first day at the camp, I quickly realized how valu- able this experience was going to be. While attending my first meeting, I was impressed by the expertise and knowledge of my peers, especially that of the senior staff.

I was truly amazed of how dignified, graceful and flawless they were as they demonstrated their mastery of kata. I was somewhat uncomfortable at the start, due to the realization I was "low man on the totem pole" by far. However, I was impressed beyond my expectations, of how welcoming, suppor- tive, friendly and encouraging everyone was. The sensei were extremely helpful and allowed me opportunities to discover their "secrets" as they are commonly referred to. All the partici- pants were very encouraging and generous with their time and patience. I certainly had more questions than most due to my experience level. It is great to have two excellent sensei at the dojo where I am currently studying; it was priceless to have so many sensei in the same room dedicated to helping and guiding you to refine kata and skill sets.

I also have a new appreciation for Taiji and its parallels with Shoryn-Ryu. By participating in the exercises each morning, I developed a better sense of the importance of grounding and being rooted. This concept was delivered in a method which made it interesting, engaging and easy to grasp.

As camp progressed, I continued to cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation for the diverse, practical skills I was learning. I was guided to recognize how these talents may be applied to possible real life situations. By the third day, I was more confident, comfortable and acquired a greater understanding of ideas, concepts, and philosophies of this refined "art".

With regards to my family; they had an excellent time at the resort. They enjoyed the use of the indoor and outdoor pools, which came in handy on the hot and humid 90 degree days. They also made a day trip to nearby Gettysburg and visited the National park. Most of all, they were very understanding of my commitment and enthusiasm to attend the sessions.

It was also great that all attendees, from seniors to beginners, were very easy to relax with during free time. Everyone was friendly and welcoming; a first-rate group of people, all work- ing towards the same goals and principals. In summary, and without hesitation, I would en- courage anyone, at any stage in their journey to attend. The people are welcoming, encourag- ing, and the experience, concepts and skills one will learn and attain will be unparalleled.

In short, if you are considering attending one of the future Summer Budo Camps, go for it!

World Record Attempt

by Mike Poole

I grew up a Lutheran. I learned very quickly what a potluck was (long before Garrison Keillor started revealing them to the world). About ten years ago, it was a dream of mine to set the record for World's Largest Potluck. My plan was to make it an event that would bring awareness to the issues surrounding hunger. The more I articulated my dreams to others, the more people looked at me funny.
I joined Facebook in 2008. Back in the day, it was used more to play games than it was to communicate. There was an app that was called "Dishes from the Church Basement". You could send other people strange potluck dishes (that had some basis in fact). I seminary classmate of mine called me up in December of that year and asked me what could we do to use the concept of potlucks to bring awareness to hunger. Eureka!! Someone who will listen to the dream and not mock. From that conversation, and grassroots movement was formed, which at that time was called A Month of Potlucks. It would later transition into Potlucks To End World Hunger.
The concept is we ask groups of people to have a potluck meal. As they gather to eat, remember there are those locally, regional, nationally, and internationally that are not able to eat. During the potluck have an awareness component that sheds light on the issues, both short-term and systemic, that leads to hunger and food-insecurity. We also ask to have information on how individuals can become advocates for the work to combat hunger. We suggest they have connections available that people may move to action on the local, regional, national and global levels. And we also ask that some donation be taken and sent to an organization that works in the area of addressing hunger. We also began setting up regional workshops called "Hunger Huddles". We bring people together on a regional basis to discuss the on-the-ground issues in a particular location. I have had the opportunity to travel the eastern half of the US attending potlucks and huddles for the last seven years.

In November 2013, I turned 50 years old. I decided I would wear a kilt every day for a year, from my 50th to my 51st birthday. I would do this to raise awareness, advocacy, action and funds for two national organizations, one being ELCA World Hunger. It was a great year as I took the story of the hungry and food insecure to a new level. My kilt collection grew that year from 6 to 13!

I gained a one-of-a-kind Kilted 50 For Charity kilt. The same kilt maker made me a karate gi kilt!
I still had this dream to break the potluck world record. In January of 2015, I started to put the plan in place. People started seeing the same dream. The date was set for November 21st, 2015. It would be held at a civic center in Cambridge, Ohio. The current Guinness Book of World Records record for World's Largest Potluck is 1, 240 people set by a church in Chandler, Arizona. So, our target number was 2,000 people sitting down for a potluck.
For the advocacy component, we would go to the Statehouse, and see who we could talk to. On Wednesday November 18th, 2015, a group of people held a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse. Several news services attended. The first question asked of me was what if we don't break the record? I stated that the record was a residual thing. The day won't be about setting a record. It will be about bring awareness to hunger; advocating for the hungry and food-insecure; food people; connecting people with local pantries to meet their needs; providing items for local pantries; sitting down together around a meal. We then visited with the staffs of six legislators. All in all a good day. The Columbus Dispatch had a two-page article in the Friday November 20th edition of the paper.

The day when dreams come true was Saturday November 21, 2015. We gathered early to set up display tables and food tables and to get ready. And people showed up. And they brought food. And they met others. And they talked. And they had a great time.

Sensei Jan Parton Hansen (Hansen Family Karate) brought her whole family to participate.
At the end of the day it was a dream came true! Did we break the record......... no.... But it wasn't about the record really. At the end of the day 385 came and ate, including residents of a local homeless shelter. There were 12 local hunger organizations present to make a personal connection with the people they serve. 1,442 non-perishable food items were collected for local pantries. AND, everyone stated we should do this again. Dare we dream??

To read the Columbus Dispatch article:

April Seminar 2015 (essay)

The best thing about Karate is that everyone immediately knows how bad you are at it. I know we're supposed to say that our belt shows how much we've learned. But, since I'm uncoordinated enough I've given up on ballet, step, belly dance, and any yoga that doesn't emphasize the word 'slow,' I appreciate the freedom to be bad at something. 'Being bad' isn't an excuse to give up, it's permission to say "I don't have to do this perfectly, I only have to try and get better."

It helps that Sensei Marisa is very patient with us. She encouraged us to give the seminar a try, repeatedly pointing out that both that we didn't have to attend every session and that attending would be easier than one of her belt tests, more than half of us - myself, Kristen, and Kayla - came. (We were the ones holding down the fort on the left side of the room.)

Only going to what you can was important, because for the week prior, until 2:30 am Saturday morning I was the only adult in the house. And, as much as I'd have liked to abandon my children to go hit someone or something, this is generally the sort of thing that gets CPS called.

Still, I attended three sessions: Saturday morning, covering defense using a bunkai of a kata none of knew, but we muddled though; Saturday afternoon introduced a basic aikido technique (I'd always though aikido was about flow, and grace, but it turns out, even if you can only follow though step three of a dozen step process, it's really about horrible, horrible, pain); and the Sunday review.

"Even if you only remember one thing, that's OK," is something that I'm usually told when I'm at Saturday practice across from the 5-to-8 kids lesson. And it's something that was repeated at least once a session. Best of all, it's true. Weeks later I remember about three things: how to practice falling, turns in excess of 180 degrees in a kata are usually substituting for a throw, and if someone grabs your collar you can stabilize with a chest block (although I have no muscle memory of what happens next, so I'm pretty sure the next move is I get hit in the head).

That isn't to say I wasn't exposed to at least ten times that many concepts, or managed to practice somewhat more, but that's what stuck. Some were practiced on my own (falling), some with my peers (responsiveness) , and some with the black-belts that filled at least half the dojo. I don't know if it benefitted them, but while I might not have learned what was being taught, the one-on-one time we spent practicing helped identify, and work on, my bad habits. (I lean forward ALL the time. And I did, in fact, get hit in the head. Lightly. They knew what they were doing, even if I didn't.)

I think that as humans we all fear public humiliation; at being labeled the worst, at being singled out. But before I ever walked into the dojo for the seminar, my belt already proclaimed that. I think because of that, because of the freedom from false expectations, and because of the genuine love of karate - including the obligation to teach and pass on - shown by all of higher rank, the willingness to show up and try was the only true prerequisite.

I feared being laughed at and I feared getting hurt. Neither happened, unless you count waking up feeling like I'd overused muscles I didn't know I had Sunday morning, and that was resolved by more practice on Sunday. I'm so pleased that I overcame these worries and came, in no small part because at the end of the seminar I watched as my own teacher - Sensei Marissa - receive her first promotion in a decade.

Sensei Jayne's Visit to Wyoming Dojo

by Heather Best, White Belt, Wyoming Karate Club

I want to give a special thank you to Sensei Jayne Butram for coming all the way out to Jackson, Wyoming the first weekend in October, and for sharing her knowledge and wisdom with the Wyoming Karate Club. She is a truly amazing and gifted teacher and we are so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with her.

It was a bit intimidating at first... being the only beginner/no belt in a room of purple belts and higher, but I soon settled into a groove with a "Bring it On" type attitude and still have the bruises to prove it. I realize that it can be scary at first, but there is something about Sensei Jayne's demeanor that can put you right to ease from the get go. I never felt out of place or not advanced enough. She brought important details of the basics to the table. Everything that was taught was fundamentals that could be used in the dojo or throughout everyday life. The way you stand; what you observe; how you react...

I was and am still excited that I ended the clinic testing for my white belt. I am taking away many great points that Sensei Jayne brought to the table and I will continue to train and focus on my technique until it becomes muscle memory and I am aware of the energy flowing.

Treuo Chinen Sensei has passed away at the age of 74

A huge loss to the martial arts world and the Goju Ryu community as Treuo Chinen Sensei has passed away at the age of 74. He had been one of the last surviving students who had learned directly from Chojun Miyagi and founded his own karate organization called Jundokan International. He is considered the best Okinawan Goju Ryu teacher outside Japan and is admired and respected throughout the martial arts world. He will be sadly missed.

Ohio State University to name residence hall
in honor of alumni John Hideo Houston

John Hideo Huston was a Captain in the US Marine corps and a trained helicopter pilot however he was also a martial artist training at Ohio State back in the late 60's and early 70's, with many of Beisho's luminaries, who remember him fondly. He was a serious student and even vowed to wear a rope belt until he received his black belt. Sadly during a 1984 training mission in Korea his helicopter crashed and all were killed. He was just 34 years old. It is great news the hear Ohio State will honor him by naming a residence hall in his name. Read about his life below.

How to Be the Black Belt You Were Meant to Be

by Jesse Enkamp

Interesting article about being a better black belt,

My Boston Trip

by Jan Hansen

Editors Note: Mike Pepe sensei recently hosted Jan Hansen sensei (3rd Dan) and Mike Poole sensei (2nd Dan) at his home for a weekend of in-depth training. Jan Hansen sensei shares with you her experience.

It all started in January when I received an alert from Southwest Airlines. Akron, Ohio to Boston, Mass for $70 each way! I called Mike Poole (Earth and Cup Dojo) excitedly, "We can go to Boston and workout for 140 dollars!" Mike, of course, was all in. The dates were set with a few complications. Rapid changes were made and we were off at 3:00am Monday Morning on April 13th.

We arrived in Boston at 8:00am and Sensei Pepe was there to pick us up by 8:15. We grabbed a bite to eat and we were off and running. If you have ever spent time with Sensei Pepe you know that we never stopped. I apparently couldn't get changed fast enough, so when I came downstairs they were already working out!

We spent the next three days training in Kendo, Iaido, Jiu-jitsu, Karate and Tai ji. My head was spinning. In between workouts we talked about bunkai, bunkai and more bunkai! We watched videos on everything from the Okinawan Masters to me as a yellow belt. We really went deep into Gojushiho and Tensho!

Sensei True invited us to work out Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon. Actually he invited us Monday night too, but plans were confused (sorry Steve Tulimeri)! Sensei True asked us what we wanted to work on and I jumped in with "Tensho" and dynamics. He gave us way more than we could have asked for. Also, we got to train with some of his students. Mike Poole scored a red sox hat (Thanks Norm)! We continued this workout on Wednesday afternoon when Sensei True worked out with us privately and we explored more Taiji and dynamics. Thank you, Sensei True for taking the time to fit us in! Later Wednesday, Sensei Pepe asked us what we wanted to work on now.

Let me step back a moment, before the workout with Sensei True we went to Chinatown and explored Boston with Sensei Pepe. If you have never toured with Sensei Pepe, it's similar to running a 5K! So, when he asked what we want to work on now, because we had an hour before getting ready to catch our flight, we both looked at him with eyes glazed over. Nothing Sensei! Really, we are good for about a year! At which time, he goes to the closet and gives Mike Poole a Scully cap! I just want to add that I didn't get a hat, not that it matters, but ok!

Sensei Pepe, Kristen, Morgan and Nick were the perfect hosts! We loved Kristen's cooking, Nick's guitar performance, Morgan's humor and Sensei Pepe providing coffee every morning. Thanks again Sensei Pepe, it was beyond kind of you to take this time for us.


Meet Li Tianjin: Jack Ma's bodyguard and a master of Tai Chi

by Lucy Liu

A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that Alibaba founder Jack Ma, with a net worth of 28.3 billon USD, replaced Li Ka-shing as Asia's richest person. This week, however, the media have taken special interest in Ma's bodyguard, a coach at a Tai Chi temple in Hangzhou.
See pictorial article here:

Finding an Old Comrade 70 Years Later

by Papa Chris Clarke

When my Dad passed away in 1981, he left with me a little box about 5"x4"x2" in size that contained several dozen enameled pins. It took me almost 20 years to get around to investigating them, but when I did, I found that they were World War U.S. Army Distinctive Unit Insignia (DUI), special pins that were authorized for wear by members of battalions, regiments, brigades, divisions, corps, and armies. (See photo.) In the box were also two personal identification badges, one of a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the other belonging to Thomas P. Standridge, U.S.A.

My Dad came to own these DUI because between about 1940 and 1943, he was in charge of all entertainment programs at Fort Benning, GA, the facility through which almost all soldiers headed to the European Theater passed either for basic training or advanced training as paratroopers, Rangers, or other specialized troops. Almost none knew it, but many were being trained for D-Day. In early 1943, Dad enlisted (he had previously served in a civilian capacity), but continued to do "double duty," going through simultaneous "boot camp" and Ranger training during most of the day, then planning, rehearsing, directing, em-cee'ing, and occasionally performing late into the night in the entertainment programs for the troops, radio programs in the area, and War Bond raising appearances. (This double duty almost killed him. He collapsed from exhaustion and various related illnesses in July 1943 and was discharged medically from the Army. The unit with which he was training was sunk in the English Channel on the way to Europe.)

At most of the entertainment programs at Fort Benning, a representative of the unit or units in the audience would present my Dad with one of their DUI pins, and these were the ones I began to research almost two decades after his death, and more than 50 years after he had received them. I was able to identify most of the units, and it was sobering to think that many of the men who presented these pins to my Dad likely never came home from the War to marry or raise a family.

But that left the two personal identity tags. After desultory and unsuccessful efforts to locate either the original owners or their descendants-including contacting the Canadian Air Force-on Pearl Harbor Day 2014, I was finally able to track down the son of Thomas P. Standridge. After a phone call in which he was able to satisfy me that the pin actually belonged to his father, I am pleased and proud to announce that I am returning it to his son. It was a very poignant moment, especially on a day so replete with sad reminders of the cost of war, and will give both his family and mine a very Happy Holiday.

counter added August 17, 2011


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