I’m S1D3. What’s your learning strategy? (Steps in Accelerated Learning, pt. 1)

Would you like to accelerate your learning and skill acquisition?  This includes physical skills, as well as academic knowledge.

If you are an experienced martial artist, you know that skill development can be a long, and often laborious, project.  How many times did you kick the heavy bag before you final learned how to move the bag, rather than lose your balance?  And, how long did it take for you to finally figure out how to execute that throw effectively against all attackers?

If you are an instructor, how many students have you watched struggling to grasp the essence of a technique, and not just the motions?  And, how many good students dropped out because they felt stuck?  Be honest.  It’s easy to find other reasons for losing students.  But, the reality is that learning a martial art takes a lot of time, work and discipline —  something many people lack.  So, they lose interest and leave.

It’s easy to shrug our shoulders and say, “They weren’t cut out to be black belts.”  That may be true.  But, it is equally possible, that they might have been successful if the process was tweaked just a little.  How might their lives be different if you had been able to guide them to quicker successes in learning?

There are simple steps that can have vast impacts.  This is the first in a series on this topic. This is a video version of an article at ToolsForTheJourney.com, if you want more detail.

Qin-Na, the Chinese Sister Art to Kyushojitsu

Qin Na, or Chinese grappling, is not considered a complete art in and of itself, but rather an aspect of many traditional martial arts. Found most famously in ying jow pai or "eagle claw kung fu" it is also part of various crane styles (he quan, particularly zong he quan and shi he quan) tanglang quan (mantis) and my personal favorite gou quan (dog boxing). Shaolin san shi er shou or "32 catches" make up the fundamental techniques of qin na, with eagle claw having as many as 108.

Qin Na is not grappling in the MMA or wrestling sense, it is extreme close-quarters combat based upon seizing, subduing, or breaking the adversary. Many of the techniques are practiced from a starting position wherein the uke (receiver of technique- one who stuff is done to) has grabbed nage (executor or technique- one who does stuff) in some way. While this would be a perfect opportunity to apply chin na to the opponent, it is not a terribly common occurrence in street fights. It should be understood that this is only a means of setting up the technique for teaching purposes. In the real world, you would more likely apply chin na after dodging and seizing a limb, or once a fight has gone into "clinch" to use the sporting term. Chokes, bear hugs or waist grabs may happen sometimes, particularly in domestic abuse and rape attempts, so I do tend to deal with those more in women's self defense.

The techniques of chin na come in a variety of "flavors" if you will. I borrowed the following list off wikipedia because it included the (hopefully correct) Chinese terms, but I am adding my own descriptions. {note; after writing this I dusted off my copy of "Comprehensive Applications of Shaolin Chin Na" by Dr.Yang Jwing-Ming to show and discuss with my partner and found this same list in there}

fen jin/zhua jin- These are techniques which seize (zhua) or divide (fen) body tissues, primarily muscle and tendon. An eagle talon pinch and shake targeted at the love handles is a relatively safe technique you can use at home to practice zhua jin and see what it is about. First, make sure you have a partner willing and ready to let you try it. Prepare by bending your fingers sharply down and in, like making a tight C shape, then spread the digits apart just until you feel the bones in your hand shift into position (you should know it when you feel it). Next, using three fingers and the thumb (all but the pinkie) take hold of the"meaty" portion of your partner's waist, just above the hip bones (the area commonly known as the "love handles") and squeeze, hard, rolling your fingers toward your palm (like an eagle closing it's talons) while rotating your hands in a counter-clockwise motion (toward uke's back) and shaking like a dog tearing at an old rag. Make sure you do not have long nails before attempting this. The target is not just the skin but the musculature underneath. Done correctly it may cause the legs to buckle and should cause a good bit of pain, but should also subside rather quickly when released. A more serious and combat-oriented examples would be attacking H-2, L-5 or LI-12&13 around the bicep using the same "eagle claw" technique described above. Even a physically weaker person can temporarily disable the arm in this way and, with enough force, severe damage is possible. These points are often used in combinations to lock the arm.

cuo gu- these are techniques to displace, dislocate, and break bones and joints. The back of the elbow is a common target for this. Used in combinations with wrist techniques the effect is synergistic. By bending the hand of the uke into a "goose neck" and twisting the elbow joint will expose itself one way or the other, depending on how you apply the technique. Keeping the pressure on the wrist while applying pressure to the elbow simultaneously results in a crippling joint lock which can easily be transformed into outright destruction of the limb. Remember to think in "small circles" rotating the hand around the wrist, not the whole arm, thus you should draw the arm out and expose the elbow. Working the wrist and elbow in opposing directions of rotation can also help.

bi qi- any technique which interrupts or restricts breathing. While chokes are the obvious example, a bear hug or attack to the diaphragm would technically qualify. The "full nelson" is such an example. These are more dangerous knock-out techniques which, if not carefully monitored, could result in unintended death. As such, these are rarely discussed or practiced in conventional dojos. I believe I have mentioned the "scissors" or "crab claw" type choke before. It is a bi qi which also incorporates fen jin and dian xue. The thumbs press into the arteries at stomach 9 (the dian xue element) the fingers dig into the sternocleidomastoid and trapezius (fen jin, also, if your hands are big enough, you can hit points on the gall bladder meridian as well) and the bones of the thumb clamp into the trachea (bi qi). Both hands are held in an extended C shape, almost mimicking a crab claw, and the thumbs are criss-crossed at the base. As the hands dig into the neck, the wrists rotate slightly outward. Yes, I have actually used this in real life. Yes, it does leave you open to getting hit, but they also stop hitting pretty quickly. It also helps if you take them to the ground and grind your knees into their arms while choking from your center (lower dan tien) rather than with arms extended.

dian xue- These are techniques which target "pressure points" or, more specifically, those which correspond to major blood vessels located close enough to the surface as to be vulnerable to attack. Strikes to these points will often result in a knock out due to sudden drop in blood pressure. Chin na, however, refers to grappling and seizing. By squeezing these points in the arms and legs you can restrict blood flow and cause the limb to go limp or lose power. This can be handy when trying to apply a complex lock to an overpowering opponent. This is the secret of some arm locks which would have you bend the arm at the elbow by inserting your forearm into it. By applying pressure to the blood vessels there you can compound superior leverage (owing to your hopefully correct stance and positioning) with dian xue to weaken the forearm, thus ensuring your ability to maintain pressure and control at the wrist. Dian xue also targets nerve clusters (sometimes erroneously called "chi points" thus supporting the fallacy that arts like kyusho, dim mak, and chin na do not work because they are based on mystical thinking) which can cause disruptive electrical signals to be sent to the brain and body. Such is the case with the choke described above when the fingertips attack the points at the back of the neck. The brachial plexus, radial and ulnar nerves are also common dian xue targets.

rou dao- These are described as techniques which are "safe" for practice. Whether in a formal setting this means holding back force to protect uke, any technique which is not forbidden for safety concerns, or those which do not directly attack vital points, I cannot say. I can, however, attest to the existence of certain points which do not correspond to the traditional acupuncture points yet are very effective at controlling the opponent. One which I teach to beginners and children who may be tempted to abuse more dangerous techniques is actually between two points on the conception vessel (dividing the front of the body going up the center) -23 and 24 Ren to be specific- located at the tip of the submental triangle at the mandibular symphysis, or under the chin, right at the front. By pressing in and up, almost with a "come hither" type motion, the entire body is easily controlled. Striking this point with significant force at the prescribed angle will often result in a concussive knock out, but to use the hand or arm results only in profound influence over the uke's balance. This is a key point in many throws and take downs that involve a "clothesline" type of technique. Twisting the forearm in a small circle to activate this point while turning the body at the waist makes bringing them down much easier than turning or throwing alone would. So, learning to use this point in a most gentle way is quite safe, yet it can be exploited with "harder" techniques to cause significant damage. This, to me, seems a good example of rou dao.


So, one thing that I like to do, though I know many will take issue with it, is try and condense a mass of information into more digestible bits for quicker assimilation, allowing the student to get a grasp of the fundamentals without having to learn each and every specific technique. This has been done in other martial arts as well. A prime example is the way the Filipino martial art of Kali, which contained many advanced techniques, weapons, and esoteric concepts (including alternative medicine and spiritual elements) was condensed down into Eskrima and Arnis where specific techniques are taught in terms of angles of attack/approach and weapons become analogous to each other- a sword, a stick or a hand all being dealt with in much the same manner. Such teaching methodology allows for much more efficient transmission of knowledge, in my opinion. Some may think it smacks in the face of tradition, but, in a fight, the person you are applying a technique to does not care what it is called or what grand master invented it while watching a hummingbird fight a bumblebee or whatever. As long as it works and it saves your life, then that means you can live to learn about it another day and tell the stories to your grand kids while you teach them in the traditional manner should you feel so inclined...

Please, do go out and learn this stuff properly, when you can, from a qualified instructor. Learn in the traditional manner, with respect to the traditions, and do as your master says without showboating or rushing anything. Understand that I am presenting an over-simplified version just to familiarize readers with the concepts and theories underlying the techniques. If you try and apply it without knowing the specifics of how to do so, or what the results will be, that's on you. On the same note, however, if someone threatens your life and you try something, not knowing for sure what it will do, and it happens to work, you may have lucked out, but knowing this at least improved your odds slightly, and that is why I write this. Traditionalists can disagree all they want, I am not at war with them, even though they may take issue with me.

Right then, now that we understand each other... Chin Na, like everything else, has certain patterns. Whether you know the specific locations of the points, or the anatomical features behind them, you can still find and exploit them (though, I remind you, doing so without this knowledge may result in unexpectedly severe injury, even death, so, again, I encourage sincere study before attempting anything). Here we go;

When attacking a joint, look to the points and creases. Anything that only bends up and down, like a knuckle, elbow, or knee, can be thought of as a "box" joint. The corners of a box can be crushed most effectively by striking them in an X pattern, and the box can be collapsed by driving down through the crease where two flaps meet. Wrists, shoulders and hips are all "circle" joints but even these have limits. Think in 3-D here. A clock's hands can go around and around all day on a vertical plane, but move them horizontally and they easily snap. The trick with circle joints is to hyper-extend them and force them in an unnatural direction. Body positioning is of utmost importance here, because you must trap the opponent or move quickly when you have the advantage before they can compensate for your movement as will be natural to them when the body is threatened. Again, getting into the creases will often reveal hidden nerve and blood points.

When attacking muscles, again, look for the creases. When you flex a muscle, lines form. The target points are often between those lines, or on the tips. The peak of the bicep is one, the tendons which connect it at the ends are two more. You do not have to be an acupuncturist to see these are vulnerable points, and you don't have to know what organs are affected by that meridian to inflict pain. This is all valuable knowledge, but irrelevant when it comes to protecting your life by taking someone down. Simply "divide the muscle" by driving your bony fingertips or knuckles into them and separating the fibers, like ripping up coconut husk.

The muscles which control the lungs are protected by the ribs, so you have to penetrate the ribs in some way to get to them. The suprasternal notch (they little key hole where your collar bones meet) is the most direct rout, and, lo and behold, it is one of those crevices revealed by the anatomy. Pressing into this hole will affect the breathing. Striking the ribs hard enough for the force to penetrate will do the same, particularly if you hit the floating ribs, or strike any of them in such a way that causes the connective cartilage to give a bit. The nerves which affect the breathing vicariously would be discovered accidentally by following the other tactics.

Use small circles. There are so many ways in which this simple concept applies. When bending a "box" joint, folding it in toward its "crease" as if making a small circle around it will control it MUCH better than using a wide motion. The same applies to "circle" joints. You can swing your arms like a windmill, but driving the shoulder in a tight circle will cause pain and dislocation. Likewise, when seizing a point around muscle or bone, moving your digits in small circles will apply variable pressure to the point, thus preventing the body from coping with it as easily as it would with constant pressure. Also, this makes it more likely you will hit the point at the correct angle at some point in your rotation. Using the correct angle, then making even smaller circles while applying it will make an even bigger difference, but you can refine the technique once you discover the point.

"A neck is a neck" someone once said. Any part of the anatomy which resembles a neck can be attacked like the neck. The same methods for an effective choke to the throat can be applied to the wrist. The "full nelson" hold applied to the neck via the head is exactly the same as the "goose neck" applied to the wrist via the hand. Choking the "love handles" uses the same basic motion as the scissor choke described above. Even the back of the knee conceals blood vessels and nerves which can be attacked with a "choke" as does the inner elbow. Using the thumb to penetrate into these channels while using the fingers for leverage is simple chin na. If you can find crevices in the musculature, tendons, or bones in which to place the fingers, that is even better chin na.

It can be difficult, if not impossible, to recall all the anatomical details in a serious self-defense situation. You cannot rely on fine motor skills to attack highly specific points in highly specific ways. You are not going to be thinking about the medical science behind how and why it works, nor the results of using it. Your first and only priority is to get out alive, not the safety of your assailant. Do not go too far, but do not hold back either. Neutralize, then get away. Even with formal training, it will avail you naught if your mind is reeling to recall so many details under pressure. These simple principles, along with practical training, will make it much easier for you to apply chin na techniques when you need them without too much hesitation. Toying with it unsupervised may be dangerous, but doing nothing when your life is threatened is dangerous too. Do not rely on simple words and theory. You can practice on yourself, or with a willing partner, and your own risk, or with a master who will have you sign a safety waver. Martial arts is about hurting people, so there is always risk. Better to take a controlled risk, however, than to find yourself helpless in a high risk situation. Chin Na works, and it can give a physically inferior person a remarkable advantage over much more physically capable assailants. It is not much good in a group assault, I will go on and say that. However, when it comes to one-on-one, particularly in close quarters, the kinds of situations where devious people try to take advantage of your trust, chin na can really turn the tables.

Training techniques

There are many methods of training for qin na which can be done rather easily at home. The most important things to train are grip strength, precision, and reaction speed. 

Getting a grip trainer (handle with a spring commonly found in exercise equipment sections) is a good idea because it's something you can do while sitting at a desk, watching TV, riding the bus, etc. It can also help reduce stress while building your grips strength. Once you can do it fairly easily the traditional way, try squeezing it with just your fingertips.

Clay pots filled with sand or gravel were are traditional "hojo undo" (Japanese "supporting training") tools called "nigiri game" in Japanese. You can also use large plastic drink bottles filled with water. Just grip the tops using only your finger tips and hold them for as long as possible with arms fully extended. You can also practice moving exercises with them. 

A simple brick can be used to build strength and reaction speed. Assume a "horse stance" position and hold the brick horizontally (palm down) in one hand at arms length using only your finger tips. Hold your other hand in the standard practice position at your hip, palm up, fist closed. Drop, don't toss, the brick allowing it to free fall toward the ground. In one swift motion shoot the resting hand outward and catch the brick with your palm facing DOWN using only your fingers again. At the same time draw the previously extended hand to the resting position at your hip. Repeat as many times as you can. For an added challenge, you can begin spinning and flipping the brick to catch it at different angles.

Tennis ball trainer; Take an ordinary tennis ball. Poke a hole in the top. Tie something to the end of a strong piece of cordage (I used a monkey fist knot around a marble, but a 1/2 inch wooden dowel or any number of other things would do) and stick it into the ball. The idea is to have something that "catches" on the inside so the ball stays on the string. Find a clear space and use an i bolt or other mounting tool to attach the free end to the ceiling. shorten the string so that the ball hangs about eye or chest level. Strike at the ball using various fingertip and single knuckle techniques to get it moving. Dodge the ball as it come swinging back at you. Practice dynamic footwork and angling. Use your claw techniques to catch and squeeze the ball. This is a great way to get your taijitsu (Japanese for "body technique") coordinated with your empty hand techniques. It is also good for precision, focus, and reaction speed.

Got hedges to trim? Do it the kung fu way! Targeting and snatching individual leaves, one at a time, is an excellent way to build up precision and speed. Once you have stripped all the leaves from the branch, grasp the stick with three fingers (thumb, forefinger, and second finger) then snap it off with a quick flick of the wrist. Bring in some spiral motion from the hips as well for larger, stronger branches. It sounds silly, but I really and truly have pruned my hedges and trees this way.

Use chopsticks! No, I am not telling you to catch flies like Miyagi San. Using chopstick in your everyday life (not just as a novelty at Asian restaurants, which is kind of mildly racist) is a good way to train your hands and fingers. You will also find them to be incredibly practical. You can cook with them, they are easy to clean, and there are many ways of using them besides just the "shovel" technique most Westerners seem to use if they even bother trying to use them. I eat spaghetti, whole roasted chicken, salads, pretty much everything with my chopsticks. They are, in my opinion, the absolute best tool to use when cooking bacon. When you learn to pinch, stir, entwine, cut, spear, select, and scoop with chopsticks you will have taught your hands to move in extremely refined ways without any thought or effort. Remove the chopstick from your hand and do the same movements with more force and you will find yourself using spiraling, jabbing, turning and squeezing techniques needed for qin na and kyushojitsu.

Learn tui na! There is a school of massage called tui na which is kind of like the healing version on qin na. In the East it includes things like acupressure, chiropractic adjustment and herbalism. In the west it is mostly taught as a supplemental method for massage therapists, who's license does not cover bone setting, so that part is typically left out. In any case, practicing massage is a good way to develop a good grip. Learning to manipulate the points to heal also makes it easier to find and correctly approach when attacking them for self defense. Even if you don't learn bone setting, you will develop a keen "feel" for the arrangement of bones and joints through massage, giving you a better sense of how to unseat them in cuo gu techniques.

The egg test;

Fragile as egg shells are, they have an amazing ability to withstand compressive force. Before starting, remove any rings you may be wearing. Place a raw egg in your palm horizontally. Wrap your fingers around and squeeze. Don't press in with your fingertips, rather use a "handlebar" grip with all your fingers pressing evenly against the surface of the egg. My junior high (back when that was a thing) science teacher said it was "impossible" to crush an egg in this way. In reality, it is just very difficult. It requires a grip in excess of 90psi to make the egg "pop" and shoot its contents in all directions, so be sure to do this outside! If it just cracks and goes "smush" in your hand, you used uneven pressure by hyperflexing a knuckle or something. Once you can pass this test, you can most likely apply effective qin na!

Soft Style, Hard Style; Which is Better?

On the General Classification of Martial Arts

Martial arts styles are usually grouped together based on their nation of origin- Filipino martial arts or “FMA” like escrima and kali, Chinese martial arts commonly lumped together as “kung fu” in the West, and of course familiar Japanese martial arts like karate, aikido, and traditional jujutsu… This distinction is of particular import to those whose primary concern is the protection and dissemination of tradition in keeping with the culture and heritage thereof.From perhaps a more technical perspective, martial arts may also be classified as “internal” or “external”, “hard” or “soft”, “linear” or “circular” and this is the view of many practitioners whose primary concerns are about execution and application- how a technique or style expresses itself and is used in actual combat.

There is significant overlap of the above terms, as well as variable levels of each, from style to style. Western minds still tend to work in a very Manchaen fashion (where things must be one way OR the other; black/white, manly/womanly, good/bad, with little to no grey are in between) and so tend to struggle with the fact that the world just isn’t that way.Starting with what may be easier to understand, “hard styles” tend to focus on  “external” development -muscle mass, speed, power output- and tends toward linear movement. These are your typical punching and kicking arts – Tae Kwon Do, Muy Thai, and Western pugilism or boxing.

The “soft styles” tend to focus on “internal” development – balance, subtlety, inner peace – and tends toward circular movement. These arts also tend to incorporate more grappling, wrestling and throws. Taijiquan, JuJitsu, and Aikido all exemplify this fairly well.That being said, MOST styles are a mixture of all of these. Even Taiji seeks to express “yin” and “yang” in its movements, and, when applied to actual fighting, there are “hard” strikes and blocks that move along the line of attack just as much as there are circular throws and redirection of offending blows. Wing Chun tends to move in a line, and utilizes great force, even defending by striking at strikes or “defanging the snake” as they would say in the Filipino martial arts, and yet there is still great emphasis on internal power and circular movement.

The “ju” in “jujitsu” and “goju ryu” means “gentle” so some people seem to think that means being “nice” to the opponent and avoiding serious damage if possible. This idea is especially prevalent in aikido, and is completely false. Almost all “soft” styles use vital point striking  and joint manipulation (kyushojitsu, in Japanese or qin na in Chinese) which are not only quite painful but can easily lead to severe injury or death. Aikijujitsu almost always moves in circles, strikes at vital points, and often seeks to destroy limbs as part of its defense.

This is a soft, circular style with a much more external expression than aikido or jujitsu, and actually came first rather than being a combination of the two as the name seems to imply.Qigong is primarily used for the cultivation of internal power, and development of the ability to regulate and move the flow of energy within the body. It helps to promote vitality, flexibility and organ health. It also develops physical strength and flexibility, albeit in a more subtle way than say push-ups or splits. Qigong is used in many esoteric healing practices, not unlike the more well-known Japanese practice of Reiki.

At the same time, Qigong is also the key element of “iron body” practice, an esoteric martial art technique of making the body less vulnerable and more resilient to attack or damage. If you’e heard of “iron fist” “iron palm” or “iron shirt” also known as the “golden bell cover” these are all types of HARD qigong, even though qigong itself is an “internal” art therefore commonly associated with “soft” styles. Like yin and yang, internal flows to external and vice-verse.

Understanding hardness and softness leads not only to deeper comprehension of martial arts, but translates to more effective technique by knowing how to attack and defend with the appropriate energy format. One can move in both circles and lines simultaneously- using a small circle joint lock while moving the body along a line to drive the opponent to the ground, or stepping in a circle to move off the line of attack while countering with a direct linear assault as is common to mantis-style kung fu.

Martial arts is not stagnant, it is an art of motion. Like all things in nature, there is a constant exchange and interplay of forces which spiral around one another in an endless dance.So, when classifying martial arts, or looking for a new style or technique to study, remember not to be too limiting. Don’t put things into boxes and assume complete understanding based on a superficial label. No style is better or worse than any other. It is all about your personal mastery, and how well that art works with you and for you.

Ultimately, all fighters end up cherry-picking techniques and blending them together anyway. Some bodies are more suited to emphasize soft styles, others work better with hard, yet both will employ both to some extent. Internal arts will always enhance external arts, and external work will make your internal power more effective.As always, seek BALANCE in all things…

Regarding Criticism of Traditional Martial Arts, and “Soft Styles” In Particular.

I am constantly seeing people claiming that traditional martial arts do not train you for practical self defense, that none of them deal with the threat of multiple attackers, or that MMA/UFC type styles somehow better prepare you because of their heavier emphasis on ground fighting…

First of all, people need to try and remember that MOST martial arts “styles” were in fact born of things like warfare and revolution. Just because the way they are presented in most schools today is a watered-down, whitewashed, diminished representation of what it was doesn’t warrant bashing the “styles” for being “unrealistic” because it is the teachers that make it so.

There are lots of styles out there with lots of aspects that are either under-publicized, or under-appreciated. More importantly, it isn’t the style so much as how you train it. Most styles can be adapted to real world environments and reality based defensive situations just by approaching them in that way and practicing more reality-based scenarios.

As to the styles themselves; There is a little known kung fu style called Gǒuquán or “dog fist” based (as many kung fu styles are) on the observation of animal behaviors, in this case, dogs. Now, if you go you-tubing all you are going to find is Chinese acrobat performances, like you do for so many other animal styles. These are NOT performances of the actual fighting techniques. It is a problem of cultural context. In Chinese “kung fu” just means “advanced skill from born from diligent, devoted practice” so it is not always a fighting art.

“Dog style kung fu” is not necessarily Gǒuquán, just like having “knife kung fu” could mean you are really good at slicing vegetables OR you are a good knife fighter. I bring this up because Gǒuquán is known for heavy emphasis on ground fighting, takedowns, and joint locks… much like BJJ… only this style was developed by a Shaolin nun who was tired of being harassed, whereas BJJ was born of sport. The takedowns and “locks” found in “dog kung fu” are really designed and intended to destroy the opponent’s limbs rather than bring them to submission as one would do in “the octagon”. So, here we have a traditional martial art with focus both on ground fighting and practical self defense, yet hardly anyone in the West has ever heard of it because it hasn’t found expression in popular sport.

A traditional part of aikido is the “randori” which is an exercise involving multiple attackers coming in from all angles, with completely random attacks, while one person defends for as long as they can. Someone said to me, when I brought up randori, that the “attackers” only use one or two types of attacks, and are obliged to immediately throw themselves upon contact… all I can say, is that is NOT how it was done where I learned aikido, nor would I even remotely consider practicing/teaching in that way.

Proper randori serves many functions- it teaches you to deal with the chaotic energy of combat. It teaches you to keep in the “flow” of combat. It teaches you awareness of space, and how to move your body in space, even without always being able to see or look at what’s going on. I am not saying it is the absolute best in the business of preparing for real combat against multiple attackers, but that is the basic idea and function. So, yeah, traditional martial arts DO teach you to deal with multiple threats, at least sometimes.

Ultimately, it comes down to a lot of denigration and doubt regarding the things that are commonly called “soft style” martial arts, which happens to be primarily what I have trained in and what I teach. They are not “soft” because they are weak, or cause less harm, but rather the manner in which the energy flows and is transmitted. “Hard” styles meet force with force, “soft” styles redirect it. “Hard” styles are also harder on the body, whereas “soft” styles can be practiced by people of any age, will avail you longer than “hard” styles can, and actually contribute considerably to longevity and better health well into old age.

In truth, all styles use both principles to varying degrees. Fundamentally, “softness” is meant to deal with “hardness” and vice-verse.


A subtle part of being able to take a punch is the ability to absorb the blow. Now, you can toughen your abs all you want, but a hard enough punch will still cause significant damage. However, you can learn to cave the body a bit and lift the heels so that the force goes through you rather than just taking it. That is the principle of softness at work, and even boxers can use this, and I know SPETZNAS used to train for this, so that says something for combat effectiveness.

As I have addressed before, people tend to assume “tai chi” has something to do with a mysterious (or imaginary) energy called “chi” (which actually means “breath/vitality”) when, in fact, it is “taiji,” a principle exemplified by the common “yin-yang” symbol (properly called a “taijitu”) which refers to the complementary flow of forces of extreme polarities. Taijiquan is probably considered the “softest” style ever conceived, yet, even this, uses hardness. Quite often in fact. In the beautifully titled movement “parting the wild horse’s mane” is an obvious element of hardness directly following softness, because this is really the fundamental nature of taijiquan- the exchange of energies between polar extremes.

There are many variations of martial application of this movement, but, to give one example; let’s say someone throws a right cross, this is a power punch from the away-side that throws the entire body into the strike by pivoting the rear foot and turning the torso with the punch. The first part of “parting the wild horse’s mane” will receive this punch and pull the opponent off balance, utilizing all that momentum and force they are generating from the pivot. The second part of the movement will utilize that split second in which the opponent is off balance and their full force and body weight are being propelled forward to throw a fist, forearm, or elbow into the opponent while propelling them in the opposite direction.

This back-to-forward and soft-to-hard type of application is quite typical of the combat applications of taijiquan. In case you didn’t catch it, the grabbing and pulling off balance part is the “soft” half, while throwing the elbow into the ribs (or whatever you do) while reversing direction, that’s “hardness.”

Now, because so much of what goes on in “soft styles” is more felt than seen, SOME teachers will have more advanced students train with less advanced ones so that they can “comply” or go with the technique as it is MEANT to be performed so that the lower level student can get a feel for what should be happening. The advanced student can then offer pointers and advise subtle corrections to the less experienced student, and gradually increase the level of resistance offered. -That’s how things were done where I learned and I continue that tradition in my own teaching career.

Perhaps too many students decided they could be teachers before they learned any better, or perhaps the standards were lowered to make classes more “fun” and inclusive. I simply can’t speak for the motives of others, nor do I wish to “bash” other teaching styles, I’m just saying that more responsibility for how various martial arts “styles” are expressed, and how functional or not they are in actual combat, lay with the teachers than with the arts themselves.

As I teach now, I have come to insist on more resistance early on, and we hardly ever practice “planned fights.” When it comes time to teach techniques, I simply ask someone to “come at me” or “advance” and I deal with whatever they throw at me, then break it down and commence practice. I allow for innovation and modification too, but we always test and re-test the efficacy thereof.

Even in drills, like tui shou, it begins with simple, planned movements to get the student used to sensing the opponent. It won’t do to practice even this basic step without properly directed intent, ie moving toward the student as you would if going for a choke or a punch, etc. What many do not realize, though, is that the real practice is completely random and progresses into application of locks and throws. It may begin like a “dance” of sorts, but it quickly becomes less predictable and more combative, or at least it should, in my opinion.

If I learned in this way, and then progressed to teach it in an even LESS compliant fashion than my own teacher, I can’t believe I am the only one who has gone this path.

In the end, I would think that making generalizations about what styles are and are not effective would be avoided by real martial artists, who would know that each teacher will teach in a different way and each student will use it in a different way, even if they learned from the same teacher. This happens because what is more effective for one may be less effective for another. Furthermore, teachers and students may have different goal for study and practice. Ultimately, it falls to the practitioner to seek the knowledge and skills they need, and to strive for efficacy in the aspects they value and which coincide with their training goals.

Basically what I am saying is this; work to progress your own art in whatever manners suits you, and stop judging other styles with which you have little or no experience. Martial arts are physical in nature, so if you want to be able to talk about it, you have to experience it first. If you go into something expecting it to be worthless nonsense, that is all you are going to get. Your mission isn’t to learn, it is just to find enough “evidence” to support your preconceptions and prejudice. Those are easy to find regarding anything. If you approach dramatically different martial arts in earnest, however, you might just slip up and learn something that will make you a more effective fighter, maybe even a more mature, open minded, and well-rounded individual…

Stay humble my friends.

Misconceptions About Aikido

These simple geometric shapes contain the whole essence of aikido.

So much gets "lost in translation" from East to West, it seems, and Aikido has suffered considerably from continual passing down of FLAWED material. Today, I am to rectify some of these wrongs.

As a Certified Yoga Instructor, I have struggled to get a foothold teaching here, and it took me months to figure out why. Most people in the USA think of yoga as a sort of low-impact exercise to develop fitness and flexibility. These, however, are only a BYPRODUCT of yoga! Real yoga is a science of holistic healing and spiritual development. There are 8 limbs, of which asana ("poses") is just one, and not even the first step at that! The 7 chakras are not descriptive, but prescriptive (which is to say they are not fixed objects in our spiritual bodies but rather things installed into the energy field), and it is not even a traditional system! Traditional chakra systems may have as few as 3 and as many as 114 chakras! Also, a REAL yoga instructor should be doing client intake forms where a medical history and list of physical limitations for each student are documented so that the teacher can assess the goals and needs of the individual and tailor lessons to help the client reach those goals in the safest way possible! Teaching "cookie cutter" yoga where everyone is expected to just follow along is absolute madness, and potentially dangerous to participants! 

I am just scratching the surface here, but you should be getting the picture now; Western preconceptions of some Eastern practices can be so skewed as to make the genuine article unrecognizable. Such, I believe, is the case with Aikido. So, without further ado, here's a list of the top 5 misconceptions about Aikido.

1. Aikido is ineffective, and relies on compliance from the training partner.
- first of all, the "uke" or "recipient of technique" is only "complying" so they can get a feel for the technique. Secondly, a good school will have students practice with increasing resistance. Lastly, aikido absolutely IS combat effective, but people think it is not due to reasons which shall shortly be explained.

2. Aikido is all about pacifism, non-violence, and philosophy.
- True, Aikido became more and more philosophical over time. It became something taught almost like yoga, as a system of cultivating harmony and mindfulness. However, as it was a system derived from samurai combat techniques at its inception, to remove the combat element is to remove at least half of its identity, not unlike removing the holistic healing from yoga.

3. There is no striking in Aikido.
- There is an entire body of knowledge in aikido designated as "atemi waza" or "striking techniques" which are designed to interrupt an assailant's attacks ("if an opponent approaches, move in to greet him" to quote the founder himself). To anyone with knowledge of Kyushojitsu it is glaringly obvious these techniques target the vital kyusho points, which is why we talk about it here.

4. Aikido is meant to do no harm.
- The aikidoka is meant to conduct themselves without anger or *intent* to harm in their hearts. It is considered that when someone has resolved to attack, they have already harmed themselves. The aikidoka simply brings the assault to its inevitable end, and no further. A clear example can be made by the fact that most aikido techniques will result in the opponent on the ground and the aikidoka standing up. If the aikidoka were to mount the opponent and proceed to beat them mercilessly (ie "ground and pound" ala UFC) THAT would NOT be aikido.  However, breaking the arm or knocking them out could be if that's the way it played out. The way I was taught, many techniques traditionally ended with a simulated cut or thrust of the tanto. A grim reminder that the roots of this art are in warfare.

5. Aikido techniques are like dancing.
- The "techniques" of aikido are not actually aikido, and this is the point I really want to stress here... The codex of aikido "techniques" are literally nothing more than *exercises* designed to teach a set of principles in a very visceral way. Aikido is best learned by experience, because much of what you see looks exaggerated and unreal. Sadly, it often is in the modern West especially, but not always. Feeling it for yourself is the only way to be convinced, and it is also the best way to absorb the concepts being taught and learn to apply them.

Aikido came from Aikijujitsu which means (roughly) "joining-energy-soft-technique." Aikido means "joining-energy-way" so it is inherently undefined by technical skills (jitsu). It is meant to be vague and fluid. True aikido technique is no technique. It is simply the application of certain principles, namely blending, breath control, kinetic linking, mental focus, dynamic positioning, interruption and redirection of attacks, and a handful of joint locks and strikes. These are the "chi" or "ki" elements of aikido, by the way. It is not about mystical energy, but real energy and physical principles. ( Read more about that HERE )

I have designed a class wherein I can teach the fundamentals of aikido in as little as a day depending on the skill level of the students and their willingness to learn. However, mastery could take years. The key being the complete absorption of the *principles* and the ability to apply them *outside* of formalized, pre-planned practice! You aren't a "master" of aikido until you can apply aikido without relying on technique!

To see it all first hand, contact me on the KJWA - USA Facebook page

Sensei Rae Heskett has been practicing kyushojitsu, qin na, aikido and taijiquan for over 20 years. She also teaches yoga and qigong.

REAL Ninjutsu! Does it even exist?

There are two majorly conflicting camps when it comes to "ninjutsu" and I think just about any martial art when it comes down to it.

1. Tradition is defined by an unbroken lineage, and the only "authentic" martial arts MUST have a traceable lineage.

2. Martial art is defined by its effectiveness in combat. Tradition doesn't matter if the techniques can't be applied in a practical way against a fully resisting attacker.

Most "ninjutsu" would seem to fall outside of both categories. There is no fully verifiable lineage of ninjutsu out there. Even Hatsumi Sensei's is questionable. Most "taijutsu" (which really just means "body technique" so literally every martial art has taijutsu and changing the name was just a marketing technique) is either ineffective, or impractical.

...but what is a "ninja" really? Well, the words "ninja" and "ninjutsu" don't even show up until AFTER the days in which the people to which they refer were active. The word itself means something like "the art of stealth" and it was originally more about espionage than combat. 

In simplest terms, ninja were just a form of early special forces, not unlike today's marines, army rangers, SAS and so forth. If you choose to reduce it down to just the combat characteristics, the original ninja would have learned budo, which in turn gave us the modern arts of judo, jujutsu (traditional Japanese), and aikido, as well as the various weapons systems of the time (naginata-do, kendo, etc). 

My theory is, like modern special forces, ninja would have been given some additional, specialized combat training. Because they would commonly be deployed singly, or in small units, and their missions were more intellegence gathering than full-scale combat, the focus would be more on quick neutralization and escape.

This is actually very practical in modern application of "self-defense" because we will not have a full garrison at our backs when attacked, and our job is to create a window and get out as quickly and efficiently as possible.

So, ninjutsu CAN be practical, but we can't depend on an unbroken lineage, so we have to focus instead on combat effectiveness.

Keeping as true to the original model as possible, the methods should be as direct and efficient as possible. So "economy of motion" should be a key principle. In addition, because we know they learned budo, we can look to their offspring- aikido, jujutsu, and judo, for inspiration and techniques.

I shouldn't have to make the case that kyushojitsu is present in jujutsu, and aikido's atemi waza. Suffice to say anyone properly educated in these schools will know immediately, unless they are deluding themselves, or are woefully misinformed as to what kyusho really is.

Add to that some escape and evasion techniques, maybe a few concealable and improvised weapons, and you have yourself a functional modern ninjutsu system.

Boshuriken made from hardened, sharpened nails. "Shuriken" literally means "hand-hidden blade". These are thrown using a no-spin technique. They are also used as a nasty cqc surprise, and are long enough to pierce vital organs unlike the more well known hira shuriken or "throwing star"

Commonly sold as "self defense keychains" the "monkey fist" is a knot which, in this case, holds a lead weight. The shorter ones are commonly sold at gun shows and survival expos, but are relatively useless. The longer ones shown here can be used for a variety of trapping, locking, and choking techniques, not to mention striking from a distance, seemingly out of nowhere as the can be concealed in the palm, pocket, or sleeve. Compare to William Fairbairn's "kosh" or "cosh" used by british special forced in WWII.

Before my transition, I founded a system I called "Hatchie-Ryu Ninpo" based on my personal experience, and things I had learned over the years. I wrote a book which you can find HERE on Amazon.

From my 2 years living in the wilderness I drew stealth and survival techniques. From my training in aikido and kung fu I drew throws, grappling, and the fundamental principles of power through "softness" and blending. From my experience with real-world self defense, I drew my efficiency, and more direct approach than I learned from any formal training. Kyushojitsu was a big part of this.

It is my belief that kyusho was always a part of traditional Japanese martial arts, and that it would have been emphasized in the training of special operatives of the time. Applied correctly, it imparts a significant edge against a physically superior attacker. This makes for a much more effective and efficient neutralization of threat. There are certain principles which must be taught in person, such as flowing movement and chaining attacks, not to mention all the elements of internal power and blending.  Nonetheless, I consider a foundational knowledge and understanding of kyushojitsu to be critical to the would-be modern "ninja"

Join the Team! Become a KJWA certified instructor, then contact me, Sensei Rae, to learn weapons and survival skills, and more!

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Greatest Secrets of Martial Arts REVEALED!

"'The time has come' the walrus said 'to talk of many things. Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax. Of cabbages and kings!"

-Lewis Carrol, "Alice in Wonderland"

The Walrus in the poem was trying to keep the carpenter distracted and preoccupied. In the Tao Te Ching the "shoes and ships and sealing wax" would be described as "ten thousand things" which is to say the illusions of the material world and of the ego...

Ego is a plague on the martial arts community. Ego has people bickering over which "style" is better and what techniques will and won't "work on the street." Teachers and students alike succumb to their egos and boast of their power, prowess, and "secret knowledge".

Well I've had it, and I am blowing the lid off! So here are the biggest "secrets" of martial arts lain bare for all to see... The time has indeed come!

1. There is no ultimate martial art

Like it or not, modern warfare is the closest thing to an "ultimate martial art" and that's why it is used by militaries. Bombs, drones, poison gasses, tanks and shells and bullets are more efficient at destroying human life than anything hands, feet and elbows could ever do. Even in ancient times primitive firearms were used. Spears were favored over swords in the iron age because of the length they put between you and your opponent. Basically, nothing that people like to think about martial arts is true. From a strictly military standpoint, we are at the top of our game now. There has never been "honor" in warfare, that's just the indoctrination they give you so you are willing to die for someone else's ambition. 

When it comes to civilian combat, ie "self-defense" there is no form. It is all chaos. Training hedges the odds a bit, but it does not guarantee a "win" and even if you survive the encounter, you may still have lasting and unforeseen repercussions to deal with. Practice for 200,000 hours and you can still be beaten by someone with no training at all. Yes, even if you "roll" even if you spar with the best fighters, even if you have won trophies and cage matches. In the real world, there are no rules, there is no honor, there is only chaos. Your best bet at hedging the odds is to square with that.

Now that I got you warmed up, lets get to some of the "good" stuff...

2. Chi is real, but it's probably not what you think.

The word "qi" or "chi" or "ki" is a concept which simply does not translate well into English. It is similar to concepts like "prana" (Indian), "mana" (Polynesian) and "ond" (Old Norse). Indeed it has been hinted at by practically every culture but our own! We have concepts like biomagnetism, kinetic linking, fascia and the extra-cellular matrix which describe parts of it, but not the whole, so it remains foreign to us. The tendency with Western culture is to make Eastern things seem mystical, almost like magic, whereas back East they are utterly mundane. 

The word "chi" can mean a number of things in Chinese, and all are interconnected. In English, we like things to mean one thing, especially if they are foreign... yet we have words like "bow" with several meanings that have nothing to do with one another, and have the nerve to say other languages are complicated... Chi in martial arts refers to several different elements all working in tandem. You might call it "synergy" of the body. 

3. The "Golden Bell Cover" and "iron shirt" are not the stuff of fantasy

You may have seen the video of the guy getting punched in the face while trying to use "chi" to generate an invisible shield of sorts. This is the kind of ego I was talking about in the beginning. Chi is real, but it's not what this poor fool thought. Likewise, there is a method of protecting the body using chi, but it isn't going to deflect blows like magic. "Jin zhong zhao" or "golden bell cover" and "tie shan" -iron shirt, are two distinct practices that produce the same result. One is "internal" the other "external" but just like the martial arts "styles" described the same way, it is only a matter of where one starts that serves to distinguish one from the other.

In either case the tissues and fascia are made to adapt through rigorous conditioning and training exercises. It is a long and intricate process which essentially forges the body into a completely new machine. There is not shortcut or simple way to do this. It has to do with "chi" only in the Eastern, traditional sense, not the way it exists in the Western imagination. The "internal" aspects have to do with the fascia which holds the organs in place, and the effects the breath has upon it. Watch any "iron shirt" or "golden bell" demonstration and pay attention to the way they breathe, the timing of the breath, the subtle movements of their face and skin, and the alignment of their bodies. All of this is "chi" being put to work. It isn't magic, it's just the product of many generations worth of study of body mechanics and the adaptability of living tissues.

4. "Empty force" is real, and also not what you think...

This is mostly due to publicity and marketing than linguistic failures as described above. More ego... Okay, so you may or may not have heard of "empty force" but the term has been co-opted by some the biggest scams in the whole martial arts world. These have invariably been debunked and brought great shame to their proponents and the martial arts community as a whole. It would be easy to make a scapegoat of this single concept as the reason why all "internal" and "soft style" martial arts are the laughing stock of the martial arts world...

but, instead, I am going to reveal the truth!

Empty force is NOT hypnotism, it is NOT telepathy, it is NOT telekinesis, it is NOT magical or mystical at all!!!  It has its roots in "wu wei" or "effortless effort" which applies in many ways to martial arts, both in the philosophical and practical sense. 

Philosophically, it is the state of peace and serenity that comes from mastery of self and emotions. It is the eye of the storm, the stillness amidst the chaos. It is something we become intimately familiar with through the practice of aikido. It comes with letting go of expectation and flowing effortlessly with change. The ideas that "empty force" can influence an attacker without even touching them comes from the very real effect that kind of calm can have on other people around you. Have you ever felt uncomfortable around a complete stranger for no reason at all? Have you ever felt inexplicably comfortable with someone, as if you had known them for years though you just met? It's the same thing. When a real life threat is present, sometimes the situation can be de-escalated just by changing the "energy" in the room. You do that with your reaction, or lack thereof. This is literally the foundation of the training for crisis councilers, psychotherapists, and negotiators. If it didn't work, these jobs wouldn't exist.

"Empty force" applies to physical techniques as well. Think about when a threat first presents itself. Before any contact is actually made, there is already anticipation of escalation. Some drunk gets angry, they expect someone to fight. The challenge is accepted and reciprocated. Escalation continues until something ends it, one way or another. Just like how the verbal cue prepares one for the physical altercation to ensue, so too can physical cues initiate physical preparation... 

Let me simplify this a bit. An untrained person will likely flinch if someone raises a hand with the intention to strike them. Flinching is a primal reaction that causes the muscles and fascia to arrange themselves in such a way that felt impact is reduced, and the internal organs are partially protected. The body does this naturally, and the more one trains, the more the body learns to anticipate, adapt, and counter. The way "empty force" works in a physical encounter is that it goes with what is happening, not against it, nor does it follow its own prerogative. There is nothing for the opponent to anticipate or adapt to because you are just blending into whatever they are doing. When you blend with their energy, you can also cause it to continue in a given direction in spite of their intentions to perform another movement. This is how many taijiquan (Tai Chi) and aikido techniques work. You don't follow form in these martial arts. You don't perform scripted techniques. Those are all just training exercises to teach you the underlying principles of blending, timing, and internal force. Once you have that, you don't use your own technique, you use the opponent's technique against them. We have all heard those words, but this is what it really means. It is all about empty force!

5. "Pressure Point" techniques work in real fights, but don't make you an unstopable killing machine

and why would you want to be? Let's stop and analyze this for a moment. Why is everyone so obssessed with how much damage a technique or weapon can inflict? Bombs and poisons can do massive damage, but I don't use that knowledge! There are numerous ways to end a human life, but I have never killed anyone! Yes, striking vital points can have an impact on the deeper systems of the body, but there is no secret combination that will result in the "delayed death touch" of legend, and why on earth would you want there to be?!?!?! The simple fact that you learned this thing would be more than enough to constitute an act of premeditated murder. You would do life in prison, or get the death penalty, and your teachers may well be tried as accesories to the fact! 

The art and science of kyushojitsu underlies many different martial arts, from Okinawan karate, to jujitsu, to myriad forms of Chinese Kung Fu (where it is called qin-na or dim mak) it is even found in Indonesian Silat and elsewhere. Numerous cultures and styles have their own variations of the same basic technology. It is nothing more than medical knowledge of the human anatomy combined with the will to exploit it for an edge in combat. That may sound wicked, but is it in any way different from using a knife, or a gun, or a bomb? When the stakes are "kill or be killed" then we use whatever we have at our disposal. 

However, when it comes to self-defens killing is NOT what we are going for. Our job is to get out of that situation as quickly as possible. It is about creating a window for escape, not destroying another human being. Kyushojitsu makes it easier to overcome an attacker who is physically superior, which will most likely be the case in a real attack anyway. It can increase your chaces of disabling, incapacitating, or even maiming an attacker, which can give you a bigger window for escape. Yes, it can kill, but the chances are not much greater than they would be with any other martial art. Judicious application of technique is key. Truth be told, you are more likely to kill someone accidentally by NOT studying kyushojitsu, because it gives you the fundamental knowledge of what areas are most vulnerable to attack, and which will produce the most profound results.

A person with no medical knowledge may not think stabbing someone in the leg could kill, but the femoral artery is one helluva bleeder! Everyone knows a blow to the head is more likely to result in a "knock out" but a sharp rap to governer 15 (the brain stem) could be instant death! By the way, this point is used "on the streets" in a technique known as "curbing" perhaps you've heard of it? 

The truth is, many of the meridian points that get "needled" in acupuncture do not respond well to touch, as in acupressure. Likewise, there are points that can be touched, but shouldn't be needled. In both disciplines, there are more points used than ar practical for fighting. Then, there are "extraordinary points" used in fighting that aren't to be found in acupuncture and acupressure text books! There is no "five point palm exploding heart technique" ala "Kill Bill" and the only reason we don't strike points full force in class is because we don't want to get sued! Practicing kyusho is as safe as any other martial art, perhaps even more so given that you have a truly knowledgeable teacher proficient in revival and healing techniques as well as martial arts.


"Little Alice fell down the hole, bumped her head, and bruised her soul."

It is time we relinquish our egos and succumb to experience. Let go of expectation, prejudice, and presumption. Pursue the arts in earnest, with an open mind, and a sincere desire to improve, evolve, and transcend. That's how we become artists rather than just fighters. So let us stop fighting one another and come together in mutual passion for martial arts!

The Principles of Power.

Power in martial arts is a more complex subject than it would seem on the surface. Most people think that being a being, hulking behemoth makes one more powerful. They focus on building mass and throwing hamfisted punches. These are elements of what we call "external" or "hard style" martial arts. However, it is actually possible for a smaller person to generate as much, if not more power than someone who is physically larger, and it can be proven mathematically!

F= M*V


These are the physics equations that describe the fundamentals of effective striking. Force equals Mass time Velocity (F=M*V) means that speed multiplies the amount of force you can generate based on your size. This is why "soft style" martial arts work better for smaller people. By focusing on flexibility, the development of lean muscle rather than bulk, and running speed drills we are able to generate as much, if not more power than our physically larger peers. By keeping the muscles loose using "soft structure" right up to the point of impact we are able to move much faster than those with stiff, bulky musculature.

P=F/A means Pressure equals Force over Area. This is why some of our "exotic" strikes such as single knuckle fists, "karate chops" and finger thrusts are able to do real damage. The smaller the surface area, the more pressure is exerted over that area relative to the force put into it. The simplest illustration is hitting a board with a hammer vs hitting a nail into the same board using a hammer. The hammer makes a dent, but does not penetrate because the head of the hammer covers a wider surface area. The end of the nail is a fine point, so when the same amount of force (mass of the hammer times the speed at which it is swung) is exerted over a smaller surface area (that covered by the point of the nail) pressure is increased and the nail penetrates the board. 

It takes a lot of training to execute powerful empty hand strikes. Most people do not hit as hard as they can because self-preservation kicks in and the body pulls back at the last moment out of fear from self injury. That's why we spend a lot of time conditioning our hands, feet, elbows, knees, and any other areas we may strike with.The whole concept of tameshiwari (breaking) is designed around the martial artist's drive to overcome these hurdles. Strength, proper body structure, striking the target in the correct way, with enough speed, and the mental fortitude necessary to drive through the target rather than fear it, are all demonstrated through tameshiwari. Boards may not "hit back" but they don't lie either.

Equalizers such as yawara, chizikunbo, kubaton, etc have many benefits to the novice practitioner of kyushojitsu, and can augment the abilities of experts as well. Firstly, by holding an inorganic object in the hand, the instinctive fear of self injury is instantly diminished. One is more likely to strike with full force and speed when something other than their own body is liable to take the brunt of the impact. Secondly, like our hammer and nail, the tool focuses the pressure over a smaller surface area, dramatically increasing the pain and penetration of the net force. Finally, these tools make it easier to execute a variety of techniques without the need for fine motor skills to change hand techniques/positions into more precise configurations. They are commonly sold as key chains, which makes them legal to carry and possess in most places, however, the advice to use them keys as a "mini flail" is no good, in spite of marketing. I recommend adding a quick release device between the keys and the tool so that it can be used without the keys getting in the way, not to mention keeping your keys separate means that if you happen to drop the weapon, or have it taken from you, you still have your keys as a means of escape.

Getting back to the main topic, one final principle of power I want to talk about is kinetic linking. This is a basic concept found in practically every sport, from martial arts to basketball, even golf. Essentially it involves utilizing the body like a whip- recruiting force from the larger segments of the body first, and transferring that power into smaller and smaller segments, thus concentrating and building it up to the moment of release. Now, in order to transfer the maximum amount of momentum, the muscles have to move loosely and freely. This is how "soft styles" end up producing seemingly impossible amounts of power. It may help to think of the body as a conductor for energy. Like a wire, there is a certain level of resistance as energy travels from one point to the next. If the muscles are rigid, the joints stiff, or the links "rusty" resulting in clunky movement, then power is reduced. When movement is fluid and the body is least resistant, power is maximized. Everything starts at the ground, which is why stance is so important. From there, every joint the energy passes through has the potential to add something from the preceding muscle groups. The hips tend to be most important because the legs are generally some of the strongest muscles in the body. If we stretch our legs and make them more flexible, we reduce the resistance in those muscles. Though we may never kick above our heads in a street fight, the ability to do so actually increases the potential power of our punches!

We talk of "dantien" a lot. Most refer to it only as the area between our navel and groin. There are actually three, the lower is between the navel and groin, the middle is in the solar plexus, and the upper covers the area from the neck and shoulders to crown of the head. Considered to be "mystical energy centers" similar to "chakras" in yogic teachings, they actually represent the 3 main junctions of kinetic linkage. Exercises such as qigong, which bring awareness to these energy centers and help us to move power through them in a very real way affect our martial prowess. By synchronizing our breath with flowing movements, increasing fine motor control, and making the whole ordeal into a sort of moving meditation we remove the need for excess thought or concentration. The end result is that maximum flow of power through kinetic linkage becomes completely natural and instinctual. Thus relaxed, seemingly "gentle" movements produce shockingly powerful results!

No Fundamentals?

It has been brought to my attention that people think kyushojitsu is overly technical, that we focus too much on striking specific points in specific ways rather than working fundamentals.

When we say “fundamentals” we mean things like stance, footwork, generating power, kinetic linking, speed and reaction time, maintaining guard, etc.

My immediate response to this would usually be “take a class and find out!” but one individual recently told me that they did exactly that, and felt they wasted a lot of time because they never learned anything practical… if this was in fact the case for any of you out there, then on behalf of the whole kyusho community, I apologize.

More often than not, people try to “learn” kyusho from youtube videos or books, which just isn’t going to work. Videos tend to present the aspects of our art which make it unique. Typically this is our precision targeting. We don’t put out free videos on fundamentals because, frankly, they aren’t all that special. A punch is a punch. Tai sabaki applies to every fighting art out there. Why bother presenting the same information seen a thousand times just to prove we use it like everyone else? Some books may go into these details, but most are actually written for those who already have foundations in other martial arts. In either case, book or video, one cannot attain the visceral experience of training with a live, knowledgeable sensei.

While kyushojitsu does apply to most martial arts, and its principles and targets can be utilized by anybody, using any style, at its heart it is an “internal” art. Sometimes called “soft styles” this family of martial arts focuses on the subtler dynamics which are best conveyed through direct experience and contact. “Kokyu-Ho” is an aikido technique that teaches the student how correct use of breath can influence power output. It sounds like magic and looks “fake” on screen, but when you feel a trained practitioner perform it on you, there can be no doubt!

I am a long time practitioner of these arts. I have spent YEARS developing my hand techniques, toughening my tissues, hardening my bones, building proper structure and speed with which to execute various “exotic” strikes. I practice yoga and qigong every day to build up my balance, flexibility, and internal power. Any sincere practitioner will do these things. We all run drills and spar like anyone else, at least this has been true of everyplace I personally have studied.

I hate to say it, but the only reason I can imagine a “school” would spend all their time talking about highly specific target areas without showing any real application of technique would be to mask the fact that their techniques do not work. I could see certain groups not going into fundamentals because they assume you already have them, but you should at least see evidence of this in sparring practice.

Because kyushojitsu is highly technical, it would make sense that some schools only teach people who already have solid backgrounds in other arts. I myself will be teaching all levels of students, which means we WILL be working fundamentals. Because my own background is in “soft styles” and “internal arts” we will be working a lot with those subtle principles mentioned before like shifting the center of gravity (“rooting” and “floating” we call it), using breath to augment power, “sticky hands” and “fa jing.” I haven’t done videos about these things because, as I said before, they are better understood when felt than seen. I have seen the commentary on videos demonstrating these principles and I know most people doubt their legitimacy. Why put myself out there to be ridiculed by those who haven’t the courage to step to me in person!? I am more than happy to demonstrate on someone willing to feel it!

I just want to say I have heard you, and I will do what I can to get some video of fundamentals and drills uploaded as soon as possible!

Remember, I am currently building a network through our facebook group (KJWA – USA) so if you are a Kyushojitsu World Alliance black belt or teacher, be sure to contact me there and get on the list! I would love to get some video of us working together to further develop and honor the name of out art!

Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course

Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course

Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course

Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course

Are you looking to learn more about the science of Pressure Point Self Defense? Finding qualified teachers in the real world is very challenging! In fact it gets harder all the time. This is where the Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course can help you!

Years ago, back in 2008 I created a DVD set that was called the Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course. It was created for the purpose of helping people get accurate information on Kyusho Jitsu. And believe me this is a challenge! Information is all over the place and much of it wrong.

Therefore about a year ago I updated the course and released it via Digital Download. But not only did I expand the Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course, Most of all I made it a FULL certification course in the science of pressure point self defense!

What Do You Get with Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course?
Course Outline:

Basic Anatomy – Vital Points

  • 8 arm points
  • 8 leg points
  • Meridian and their destinations
  • Cycle of Destruction
  • Cycle of Creation
  • 3 Power Principals
  • What are pressure points and their locations
  • Striking elements
  • Chi exercises – basic and advanced
  • 5 principals of Kyusho Jitsu
  • 24 hour cycle
  • Describe Yin/Yang and location on the body. (Which organs Yin/Yang etc)
Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course

Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course


Which stance to use when striking specific meridians and the purpose of the stance (Neutral, Forward, Reverse, Horse, Cat, Cross Over), thus increasing you chances of successful self defense!


Which type of strike to use when attacking a Meridian, therefore making each strike count!

Form (Kata)

  • Breakdown and pressure points attacked
  • 1st Level – Punching
  • 2nd Level  – Grab or Combination Punch
  • 3rd Level  – Grappling with pressure points
  • Resuscitation – Head – Heart – Lungs – (Both individually and together
  • Breakdown 3 self defense including pressure points and Meridians
  • Basic Joint manipulation with Power Stances and cycle of destruction and Meridian attacked. (3 only)

And much much more! The Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course will give you a SOLID working foundation in the science of pressure point self defense!

Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course

Kyusho Jitsu Home Study Course

Limited Time Opportunity!

Right now for a very limited time I am giving you a pure gold opportunity! This course sells for $797, which is about half of the cost of learning in my Dojo in Canada. But for a VERY limited time you can purchase the entire course, including grading for

ONLY $67!

This offer will end soon and without notice so don't wait!

Follow the link below for all the information!

If you missed our article on "How Kyusho Jitsu Works" you can read it right HERE! 

If you have any questions please comment below in the comments section. Questions asked in public help everyone!

Also if you have not yet read our updated article on Self Defense and Knife Attacks you can do so from this link! If you enjoy our content please share it with your friends on social media below!

Have a fantastic day!

Yours in the arts,
Grand Master Art Mason

Grand Master Art Mason

Grand Master Art Mason

Our Goals

Hello and welcome to the new U.S. branch of Kyushojitsu World Alliance! I just want to make a brief post to let everyone know what we are about, and our plans for the future.

First of all, kyushojitsu, for those who do not know "kyusho" refers to "vital points" of the human anatomy corresponding to those used in traditional Chinese medicine. These points lie over vulnerable blood vessels, nerve clusters, and weak points in the musculoskeletal system. "Jitsu" simply means "techniques" or refined skills. Kyushojitsu is a scientific approach to martial arts which utilizes medical knowledge of the body and its systems to neutralize a threat with minimal effort.

Chinese martial arts have "qin na" and "dian xue" which utilize the same underlying knowledge. These are not arts in and of themselves, but aspects of certain styles such as ying jow pai (eagle claw) and bai he quan (white crane). The legendary "Wubei Zhi" (bubishi) nicknamed "The Bible of Karate" contains much of this knowledge as well.

Simply put; kyushojitsu it the Japanese term for the underlying technology which accounts for many of the "secrets" behind various martial arts. Our first goal is to bring this knowledge into the open, refine and advance the art through pressure testing, and dispel the myths surrounding this controversial and misunderstood system of self defense.

We are in the process of trying to raise money to establish a brick and mortar studio in the Memphis area. This space will be used to train new students as well as allowing graduates of KJWA's correspondence courses to practice and refine the art with fellow enthusiasts. We will encourage members with backgrounds in other arts to share knowledge and experience to see how kyusho may apply and stand up against other fighting styles.

In short, our model is something of a hybrid martial arts school/club, more akin to the way traditional martial arts are practiced and developed in the Eastern world.

I, the Southern regional director for KJWA - USA, happen to be intersex, and I do not hide this fact. Assigned "male" at birth, I identify as female, so I am also "transgender" though technically speaking there was no "transition" in my case. Intersex people are among the most marginalized minorities in the world. I didn't even know I was intersex until I was an adult, so growing up was extremely confusing for me, and I was abused and bullied a lot... Martial arts saved me, both by giving me a means to protect myself, and by helping me to overcome the trauma of my childhood while cultivating balance and peace of mind.

Because I have personally experienced the difficulties of being "queer" in a community that can feel hostile, or at least uncomfortable for such individuals, I aim to make our studio a "safe space" for all LGBTQIA people. No gendered spaces, no judgment, no fear. We are a severely underserved community, which is sad because we are among those who need this knowledge most. With sufficient funding and support, that is going to change!

As a certified yoga instructor, and holistic healer with over 20 years experience, I will also offer those services on off days and between classes. These skills will also be taught should sufficient interest be expressed. We aren't trying to corner the market here. Our ultimate goal is to produce not only knowledgeable students, but also teachers who can go forth and spread this knowledge, preserving it for future generations. here...