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Book – Zen Combat

Jay Gluck may just have been the first Westerner to write about ninjutsu, with a chapter on the emergence of modern shinobi schools in Japan in his 1962 book, ” Zen Combat”.

It predates the first articles by Arthur Adams in Black Belt, and the publication of You Only Live Twice. It isn’t a cover feature during the boom, isn’t a lead piece designed to sell copies of anything, so it has a raw honesty.

Maybe too raw — Gluck didn’t debunk ninja history, but he surely had no use for the 1960s Japanese ninja boom nor any of the modern practitioners of what he called “dirty weapon” martial arts.

This is an essential read and a little-known chapter of ninjutsu’s exposure in the West.

About Shorinjiryu


Spiritual development of individuality in mind and body is the motto of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo and expresses its philosophy.

In modern karatedo, where violence is tightly controlled, techniques should still to be executed as if it were a matter of life or death. The body is thus taught to react with all of its power at once under the complete control of the mind. In order to reach this stage of complete harmonious discipline of mind and body, techniques must be practiced thousands of times under all kinds of circumstances. The body will then have gained an automatism, which will free the mind of the task of controlling the execution of the technique.

The road to this state of complete harmony with the universe is certainly a long one, but in this quest for the absolute, practitioners can build a strong and healthy body; they can learn to know and control themselves through the physical and mental exertion required by Karatedo training; by confronting their will against others in kumite and shiai they will develop fortitude, humility and respect for their fellow man; they will not be afraid to stand for what is right. All these qualities will make them a better person and they will be able to transpose them into all aspects of their everyday life, helping them to fulfill their commitments to themselves and to society.

The founder of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karate, Kaiso Masayoshi Kori Hisataka (Seiki Kudaka in Okinawan) wanted to prove the effectiveness of his Karate. Before World War Two, he travelled throughout Asia and Europe and often fought in matches against other martial artists to test his skill and effectiveness. Legend has it that he never lost a match. Kaiso Hisataka was unusual for an Okinawan/Japanese as he was almost six feet tall, where most Okinawan/Japanese of that era were usually only about five feet tall (if even that). It would have been amazing to see him in action during his prime.

Through the teachings of Kaiso Hisataka, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo utilized and incorporated into its style of karate many other martial art forms such as, throws, locks and chokes of Judo, the grappling of Jiu jitsu, and kobudo/weapons training since it’s creation in 1945. This along with the specially designed protective gear which allows the use of full contact striking techniques, offers the student the most realistic simulation of life and death situations.

Kaiso Hisataka knew the importance of all levels of fighting. I think that it is a great thing that Gracie Jiu-jitsu showed the modern world the effectiveness of it’s style and strategy. However, over time, Kaiso Hisataka’s students moved away from the grappling aspects to concentrate more on striking aspect like the conventional Japanese Karate styles. In hindsight, this wanting to blend in, was the psychology of the Japanese mindset. Free thinkers would have worked to develop both simutaneously.

Shorinjiryu has also always included weapons training as part of the regular curriculum. It was very strange to hear the criticisms of our style years ago, saying that … “Karate is ONLY empty hand. Weapons do not belong in Karate and that it should be something separate”. Funny enough , today of course, there is hardly a karate school that doesn’t teach weapons and almost every Karate tournament has a weapons competition.

Through the teachings of Kaiso Hisataka and his son, Hanshi Hisataka, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo utilizes and incorporates into its style of karate many other art forms such as judo, jujitsu, kobudo and grappling. This along with the specially designed protective gear which allows the use of full contact techniques, offers the student the most realistic simulation of life and death situations.

Spiritual development of the individuality of mind and body is the motto of Kenkokan Karatedo and expresses its philosophy.

I think that it is a great thing that Gracie Jiu-jitsu showed the world the effectiveness of it’s style and strategy.

Shorinjiryu has always included the throws, locks and chokes of Judo since it’s creation in 1945.

The founder of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo, Kaiso Masayoshi Kori Hisataka (Seiki Kudaka in Okinawan) knew the importance of all levels of fighting.

However, over time, under the leadership of his son, the style moved away from the grappling aspects to concentrate more on striking,  like the other conventional Japanese Karate styles.

In hindsight, this wanting to blend in, was the psychology of the Japanese mindset. Free thinkers would have worked to develop both simultaneously.

April 2014 is of special significance as it celebrates the Fiftieth Anniversary of the opening of the 1964-65 World’s Fair which was held in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, New York.

The World’s Fair of 1964-1965 was not an official fair sanctioned by the International Exhibitions Bureau (B.I.E.), an organization governing worldwide fair scheduling and participation rules. In spite of the fact that it was not sanctioned by the Bureau of International Expositions, several countries had pavilions at the New York World’s Fair.

1964 Japanese pavilion House of Japan

The Japanese government requested that a karate demonstration be presented at their pavilion, House of Japan, constructed for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. They selected Hanshi Masayuki Kukan Hisataka, the son of Masayoshi Kori Hisataka (Seiki Kudaka in Okinawan), the founder of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karate.

Shihan Masayuki Histaka along with Sensei Hisanobu Yamazaki and Sensei Nadyuki Okabe and their U.S. Shorinjiryu students participated in the demonstration and Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karate was introduced to the United States and the participating countries at the New York World’s Fair.

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The Quest for the Perfect Judo Flooring

The Quest for the Perfect Judo Flooring

by Paul Nogaki

If any of us has done Judo for any amount of time we have probably done Judo on a myriad of different types of surfaces. I have done Judo on sawdust covered with canvas, to horsehair mats, to wrestling mats to the latest vinyl covered tatamis made specifically for Judo. Our Judo club decided to re-do our floors after we noticed the foam under our tatami was starting to break down and our surface was becoming uneven and falls were starting to hurt more and more especially to us adults

In our quest for the “perfect” Judo floor, I started to do some research. I had the “let’s do it right” attitude with budget constraints being a major concern. I ended up talking to two structural engineers, a kinesiology specialist, mat manufacturers, gymnastic floor manufacturers, gymnastic coaches and many Judoka on this subject. I must give special credit to James Carmer from Denver Judo who was extremely helpful as he was also doing research on this subject and was great help in the area of suppliers. We both came up with the same conclusion as to the ideal flooring system and surface for Judo. Great minds must think alike.

A mat or surface system will only compress a certain percentage of the material itself depending on its density if laid on a hard rigid surface such as a concrete floor. This often leads to injuries as the mat themselves can not absorb and dissipate the energy from a fall adequately. In Judo it is necessary to have a sub floor system that will deflect and absorb the impact of a 200 pound plus person falling from sometimes above the head heights such as when being thrown from a standing Kata-guruma (shoulder wheel throw). Simply laying foam under the mats as we have found was better than nothing but negated some of benefits of the tatami itself. The tatami itself sinks too much under weight slowing the playing surface down and worse yet; the corners of the mat would sink too much in relation to the mat next to it causing broken toes. Manufacturers of the tatami mats will tell you they are not designed to take the impact of a Judo throw on a concrete floor. Therefore a “sprung” floor is necessary so that the mats are not taking 100 percent of the impact and a fast, firm surface is still retained. As James Carmer mentions on his Denver Judo website, “This will mean longer careers in both our competition and recreational workout lives.”

I don’t think anyone will disagree that the tatami mats manufactured by Bridgestone, Swain, Gee, Zebra, etc. are the best surface for Judo. They are used in Olympic and International venues and are a great surface. I am not too familiar with the puzzle lock, air foam type mats but I have heard and seen favorable reviews for some of those systems also.

The sub flooring system which I will refer to as the floor system from this point on was our biggest challenge. The only truly sprung floors I have done Judo on are a hardwood floor mounted on progressive rate springs in Japan and the sprung floors using tires. Our first floor was a tire floor. The progressive rate spring floor was wonderful but ridiculously expensive. The cost estimate to do a floor this way is over $40 per square foot. The springs have a different compression and rebound rate which is very important. One thing I have found is that for a floor to dissipate the impact of a Judo fall efficiently, the compression rate of the floor must be much faster than the rebound rate. If the rebound rate is the same as the compression rate, then the floor system and the mats on top of the surface will only absorb a percentage of the impact as opposed to a floor with a slower rebound rate. Equal spring rate floors are great for basketball, gymnastics and volleyball but not Judo. This is the major inherit flaw with metal coil springs or tires. Using tires as springs poses other problems such as inconsistent spring rates causing hard or soft spots, soft corners, and the general feeling of being too bouncy. Tire floors would be okay if you were using all brand new tires of the same size and make, but how practical is that?

After numerous phone calls, emails and in person conversations and then more research; I came to the conclusion that a special polyethylene closed cell foam used in gymnastic flooring and specialized packaging had all the characteristics I was looking for. After numerous calculations were made, I had decided that 2.2 pounds per cubic foot density foam laid out in a pattern of 33 blocks per 4’ x 8’ sheet of ½ inch plywood was the way to go. The foam had the fast compression and slower rebound rate I was looking for. James Carmer gave me a great source for the foam. Of course the gymnastic flooring people didn’t want to reveal their source and offered to sell us the foam at a 5 time mark up. The foam blocks were glued to the sheets of plywood. Another layer of ½” plywood was placed on top with non over-lapping joints between the sheets. The top layer was screwed down to the bottom layer in essence creating a one piece quiet, rigid, non-creaking floor. We tried using Velcro to attach the layers of plywood to each other but we didn’t like the movement or creaking when we did.

Velcro was glued to the bottom of the border tatami mats and stapled to the plywood sheets. The mats are tight and do not move.


We are extremely pleased with the outcome. Even we old “geezers” are happy to take falls on our new floor. I am extremely grateful to all the advice I received from the numerous sources.


We’re gluing the 4”x4”x3” foam blocks to the sheets of ½” plywood. Notice the template on the left that was used for marking placement of the blocks. The girls were very helpful in getting the blocks into place.


Here is the plywood with the blocks being laid down with another layer of plywood on top of the first. The two layers are screwed together.


Here’s Dave the “screwman” with his power screw driver.


The sprung floor is completed. Now the tatami mats have to be put into place.


The border tatamis are velcroed onto the plywood. After two hard workouts the mats have not moved. We all love the new floor. Falling is now a dream.

(See for more information about this mat system.)

Mr. Nogaki’s research and instructions very helpful. Basically, the sub flooring is meant for the high falls associated to Judo (or Aikido), and uses a very simple method: foam blocks under two layers of 1/2 inch plywood. In the article, Mr. Nogaki explains the rationale and science behind this approach, and I would not attempt to paraphrase. However, there are some details that need clarifying, and these are details one needs if there is an intention to build a similar sub floor.

Shopping List:

1. 4″x4″x3″ Trocellen Polyethylene foam blocks 2.2 lb density per cubic foot. (purchased direct from manufacturer at less than $1 per block: Tim Lang works for Wisconsin Foam Products, and has extensive experience providing services to Judo Clubs.

2. 1/2 plywood (you need one layer to apply the foam blocks, and the second layer to tie it all together-remember to overlap the joints). – You can either apply 27 or 33 foam blocks to each 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood. The general pattern is 3 blocks across 4′, spaced evenly, with subsequent rows offset. The pattern for 27 & 33 block configurations was provided by Wisconsin Foam Products, and a template with measurements will be included in the next post.

3. Wood screws (Outdoor deck screws are great).

4. Spray adhesive (not damaging to polyethylene – there are several options for application and strength of bond).

5. Tatami mats (I bought new Zebra 1.5 inch Judo mats, however, there are several other brands that are very good as well. I chose Zebra because the mats are German made, and are excellent quality).

Optional Items:

a. Sub floor adhesive (Stronger bond, prevents the screws from popping, and reduces/eliminates squeaking).

b. Under padding on top of the sub floor to reduce movement, and to protect the bottom of the tatami from the wood screws.

c. Mr. Nogaki used Velcro to keep tatami mats attached to the sub floor. I was not too keen on applying a permanent adhesive to my tatami’s, and so I plan to use 2″x6″x8′ to create a frame around the sub floor. The frame will be attached to the interior garage wall, and prevent the floor from shifting.

47 Ronin

The true story of the famous 47 Ronin (masterless samurai) revenge on the death of their master, Lord Asano.

This is probably the best-known story of the valor and ideals (the Code of Bushido) of Japan’s famous samurai warriors. On the snowy winter night of December 14, 1702 the 47 Ronin attacked the mansion of Kira while he was having a tea party. The 47 Ronin divided into two bands and stormed the mansion from the front and rear gates. In the great battle that followed, the 47 Ronin entered into battle against Kira’s 61 armed guards. At the end of the 1 1/2 hour battle, Asano’s Ronin had either subdued or killed all of Kira’s men without any losses of their own. Kira was found hiding in an outhouse. The Ronin brought Kira to the courtyard and offered him the same chance their Lord Asano was given to honorably commit seppuku. Kira could not commit seppuku, so the Ronin beheaded him. Then, to symbolize the completion of their mission, the 47 returned to Asano’s grave at Sengaku-ji Temple and set Kira’s head before it, thus declaring their Lord’s honor redeemed.

The Shogun ordered the 46 Ronin (the youngest was spared), to execute themselves not as criminals but as honored warriors. On February 4, 1703, the 46 Ronin all committed seppuku simultaneously, dignifying themselves in their valiant sacrifice. Upon their deaths, the 46 Ronin were buried side by side next to their master at Sengaku-ji Temple.

See the movie  47 Ronin (1941)

See the Keanu Reeves movie  47 Ronin (2013)

Itosu, Anko – The Grandfather of Modern Karate

Itosu, Anko – The Grandfather of Modern Karate

by Allen Yuen, Sensei

Funakoshi, Gichin is often attributed as the father of Modern Karate, having introduced it from Okinawa to Japan. However if Funakoshi is the father , then his teacher Itosu, Anko is the Grandfather of modern karate. The following biography is quoted in a number of different sources on the internet, for example .

The original author is undetermined.

Yasutsune “Anko” Itosu  was born in Shuri’s tiny hamlet of Gibo in 1831. Itosu, Sensei was small in stature, shy and introverted as a child. He was raised in a very strict home of the kemochi (a family of position). Itosu, Sensei was educated in the Chinese Classsics and Calligraphy. Itosu, Sensei worked as a high level secretary for the administrative office of the Ryukyu Kingdom in Shuri. A position of great responsibility and achievement.

Itosu, Sensei began his To-te (karate) study under Nagahama Chikudon Peichin. Itosu quickly matured into a powerful Karateka. His study of the art led him to Bushi Matsumura Sokon. Itosu became the “ichiban-deshi” or principal student of Matsumura.

Part of Itosu’s training was his makiwara practice. He is remembered as having broad shoulders, muscular arms and enormous callouses on his fists, products of relentless makiwara training. He once tied a leather sandal to a stone wall in an effort to build a better makiwara. After several strikes, the stone fell out of the wall. After relocating the sandal several times, Itosu had destroyed the wall.

Itosu, Sensei is credited with the development of modern Karatedo. He developed the “Pinan Katas” which are now the foundation Katas of most modern Karate styles stemming from Shuri-te.

Itosu, Sensei is responsible for introducing Karatedo into the Okinawan school system. In 1905 Itosu took a position of part-time teacher of To-te at Okinawa’s First Junior Prefectural High School. It was here that he developed the systematic method of teaching Karate techniques that are still in practice today.

Itosu, Sensei’s greatest accomplishment was that he was a man of peace, dedicating his entire life to the development of modern Karatedo. Itosu Anko died in Yamakawa village at the age of 85, on January 26th, 1915.

The following is additional research I have found about “Anko” Itosu”

Born in Shuri, Okinawa, Itosu trained under karate greats Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura and Kosaku Matsumora. His good friend Yasutsune Anko Azato recommended him to the position of secretary to the king of the Ryukyu Islands.
He was famous for the superior strength of his arms, legs and hands. Itosu was said to have even walked in the horse stance (from which he received his nickname, Anko). Itosu supposedly was easily able to defeat Azato in arm wrestling. Itosu had very strong hands and could crush a thick stalk of bamboo with his vice-like grip. It is said that he walked past the imperial tombs everyday and would practice his punches against the stone walls that lined the road. Itosu believed that the body should be trained to withstand the hardest of blows. In the tradition of Itosu, Shotokan Karateka train intensely to develop a powerful body and spirit. Under Itosu’s direction, Gichin Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan), spent ten years mastering three basic kata.

Anko Itosu created the five Pinan kata and introduced it to the students of the Shuri Jinjo Elementary School. It was 1901, and this would be the first time Tode or what we call Karate would introduced to the public, through the Okinawan school system.

Anko Itosu took a strong liking to his young pupil Kenwa Mabuni who learned some 23 kata before the elder man died. Itosu’s death so grieved Mabuni that he built a shrine in front of the master’s grave and stayed close by for a year, practicing his kata daily.

Describing the art in his own words: “Karate means not only to develop one’s physical strength but to learn how to defend oneself. Be helpful to all people and never fight against one person. Never try to strike if possible. even when taken unawares, as perhaps meeting a robber or a deranged person. Never face others with fists and feet. As you practice karate, try to open your eyes brightly and keep your shoulders down, stiffen your body as if you are on the battleground. Imagine that you are facing the enemy when you practice the punching or blocking techniques. Soon you will find your own striking performance. Always concentrate attention around you. A man of character will avoid any quarrels and loves peace. Thus the more a karateka practices the more modest he should be with others. This is the true karateka .”

Itosu Sensei mat have sought out peace, but there are many stories of his fighting prowess. Even the letter below suggests contradictions. This letter preceded the introduction of karate to Okinawan schools and eventually to the Japanese mainland.

” Tode did not develop from the way of Buddhism or Confucianism. In the recent past, Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu were brought over from China. They both have similar strong points, so, before there are too many changes, I should like to write these down.

1. Tode is primarily for the benefit of health. In order to protect one’s parents or one’s master, it is proper to attack a foe regardless of one’s own life. Never attack a lone adversary. If one meets a villain or a ruffian one should not use Tode but simply parry and step aside.

2. The purpose of Tode is to make the body hard like stones and iron; hands and feet should be used like the points of arrows, hearts should be strong and brave. If children were to practice Tode from their elementary-school days, they would be well prepared for military service. When Wellington and Napoleon met they discussed the point that tomorrow’s victory will come from today’s playground’.

3. Tode cannot be learned quickly. Like a slow moving bull, that eventually walks a thousand miles, if one studies seriously every day, in three or four years one will understand what Tode is about. The very shape of one’s bones will change.
Those who study as follows will discover the essence of Tode :

4. In Tode the hands and feet are important so they should be trained thoroughly on the makiwara. In so doing drop your shoulders, open your lungs, take hold of your strength, grip the floor with your feet and sink your intrinsic energy to your lower abdomen. Practice with each arm one or two hundred times.

5. When practicing Tode stances make sure your back is straight, drop your shoulders, take your strength and put it in your legs, stand firmly and put the intrinsic energy in your lower abdomen, the top and bottom of which must be held together tightly.

6. The external techniques of Tode should be practiced, one by one, many times. Because these techniques are passed on by word of mouth, take the trouble to learn the explanations and decide when and in what context it would be possible to use them. Go in, counter, release; is the rule of torite.

7. You must decide whether Tode is for cultivating a healthy body or for enhancing your duty.

8. During practice you should imagine you are on the battle field. When blocking and striking make the eyes glare, drop the shoulders and harden the body. Now block the enemy’s punch and strike! Always practice with this spirit so that, when on the real battlefield, you will naturally be prepared.

9. Do not overexert yourself during practice because the intrinsic energy will rise up, your face and eyes will turn red and your body will be harmed. Be careful.

10. In the past many of those who have mastered Tode have lived to an old age. This is because Tode aids the development of the bones and sinews, it helps the digestive organs and is good for the circulation of the blood. Therefore, from now on, tode should become the foundation of all sports lessons from elementary schools onward. If this is put into practice there will, I think, be many men who can win against ten aggressors.

The reason for stating all this is that it is my opinion that all students at the Okinawa Prefectural Teachers’ Training College should practice Tode, so that when they graduate from here they can teach the children in the schools exactly as I have taught them. Within ten years Tode will spread all over Okinawa and to the Japanese mainland. This will be a great asset to our militaristic society. I hope you will carefully study the words I have written here.

Anko Itosu. Meiji 41, Year of the Monkey (October 1908) “.