Philosophy and Martial Arts Practice



New members of the dojo often remark about the philosophy of our training. They see that it can be useful for life in general. I think that sometimes, however, they don't see how it is useful for martial arts development.


There are also some who feel that martial arts can be solely a practice of techniques, much like a sport, and have no interest in the philosophy of our practice. This, in my opinion, is an immature view and reveals a lack of understanding, not only of our particular style of martial arts, but of the nature of violence and preparing oneself for such situations.


The philosophy of any traditional (historic) martial art evolved along with the techniques. Philosophy and techniques go hand-in-hand. Philosophy provides us with strategy, informs us about tactics, and teaches us about character traits that can increase our effectiveness. The philosophy of our practice provides guidance for developing our tactical thinking. The mind, not a punch or a kick, is our greatest weapon. Philosophy helps us to get our mind, body and spirit working together. Body (technique) alone, isn't enough.


Below I have listed some aspects of my philosophy toward martial arts and life. I have shared these thoughts in the past.  But, for some of you these will be new. Tommorow* I will talk about where these statements come from. But for now, I’d like you to read through these statements and think carefully about how they might apply to preparing for a violent assault.



  • It is not essential that we take the enemy unaware, but only that awareness came too late to react effectively. 

  • An effective defense must assume an offensive character, striking at the moment of the enemy's greatest vulnerability.

  • We must be prepared to cope—even better, to thrive—in an environment of chaos, uncertainty, constant change, and friction.

  • In practical terms, we must not strive for certainty before we act, for in so doing we will surrender the initiative and pass up opportunities.

  • We must be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances and exploit opportunities as they arise, rather than adhering insistently to predetermined plans that have outlived their usefulness.

  • It will often be necessary to attack critical vulnerabilities simultaneously or in sequence to have the desired effect.

  • If we fail to make a decision out of lack of will, we have willingly surrendered the initiative to our foe.

  • In order to maximize power, we must use all the available resources to best advantage.

  • We should base our decisions on awareness rather than on mechanical habit. That is, we act on a keen appreciation for the essential factors that make each situation unique instead of from conditioned response. 

  • The essence of the problem is to select a promising course of action with an acceptable degree of risk and to do it more quickly than our foe. In this respect, “a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”



The corona virus is a considerable foe. It will challenge us in unique ways. But since martial arts are first and foremost about self-protection, we can use philosophy to guide our actions.

I now ask you to reread the above statements and to contemplate how this thinking provided Kim and I with guidance for our decision to close the dojo temporarily.


I hope that you will see that there is great value in embodying martial arts as a way of living ones life rather than simply practicing to learn self-defense or for recreation.


Okay, more on this tommorow. Now go and practice!