The Quantum Karateka

…step outside the dojo.

Sudden Violence

I just got an email over the house listserve where I’m renting here in Seattle. It concerns a crime that occurred last week in the area in which we live (which is the University district near the UW campus). I’m posting it here because it’s a good description of “predator violence” characteristics, specifically that which is associated with “Resource Predators” (I’m using Rory Miller terms here). Now that I’m aware of it, I feel like I’m always struggling to explain this type of thing to people. I swear to God, you don’t know how many stupid silly responses I’ve gotten whenever this topic comes up. It’s always something like, “Oh, but you can just use your martial arts to defeat them, right?” Or, “If someone tried to rob me like that, I would just knock them out.”

Listen goddammit. This is not stunt fighting choreography. It will not be a duel, with you squaring off against your opponent. It will be you, caught in a surprise blitz attack, with no time to prepare, and no time to respond to what is happening until it’s happened. You are being hunted like a zebra on the savanna.

I don’t know why I get so annoyed whenever I’m talking to people about this stuff. I think it stems from feeling alarmed that their conception of reality seems way too innocent. I mean, do you really need to have your head split open on the asphalt to know how serious this can be? Did you forget that you bleed when you’re cut?

As you’re reading the incident description below, imagine that instead of her waking up with a bump on her head and material possessions missing, she found herself tied up and locked in a small room. And then ask yourself, “Do I train martial arts to shield me from reality or prepare me for reality?”

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Notification of a Criminal Incident – Seattle Campus
November 20, 2014
Robbery-University District

A little after midnight on Thursday, Nov. 20, Seattle police were dispatched to a residence in the north of 45th St. area to contact the victim of a robbery. The victim, a UW student, reported she was walking home alone from campus at approximately 11:45 p.m. Wednesday night when she was struck from behind by an unknown suspect, fell to the ground and was rendered unconscious. She woke up and found her bag missing. The bag contained a laptop, cell phone, other electronics items and her keys. She walked home and had her roommate call 911. The victim did not see the suspect. Officers located the scene of the robbery in the 5000 block of 19th Ave., N.E. The victim sustained a large bump on the back of her head from the attack. Following the interview with police, the victim’s roommate took her to the hospital.

This case is being investigated by the Seattle Police Department Robbery Unit, case number 14-387944. If you were a witness or have information regarding this crime or the possible suspects please call the Seattle Police Department at (206) 625-5011.  If you see the vehicle or suspects call 911 immediately; do not confront them.

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Note to self…

Always make it to class if you can.

Even if you’ll be late because your job keeps you longer than expected.

Because you might learn something unexpected.

– QK

And so it begins…

I signed up as an official new student today at West Seattle Karate Academy.

It felt kinda weird. Not weird in a bad way, but weird in like, “I guess I am really here, in Seattle, doing this thing.

I mean, it has only been 18 days here in the land of Oz. But it felt good to finally be official. I felt excited. I felt good about it. With all the things WSKA doesn’t do that I’d like, it does have one important thing: a good teacher. I’m just glad to be a part of it.

So my training schedule will be something like Tuesday and Thursday at the WSKA for the “adult” classes. And Sensei Wilder recommended I go check out the “Seattle Dojo” (which is the oldest judo dojo in the U.S.) for some supplemental physical training. So that’ll be on Monday and Thursday (if I like going there of course).

Sensei Wilder has an interesting philosophy regarding dan rankings. He feels that, just as universities don’t ask students who’ve already graduated from one school to re-take all the undergraduate/prerequisite courses if they desire to continue their studies at another university, he feels that a karate student who has already achieved black belt rank at another school should not simply be a “white belt” at his school. I said, “But I’m a beginner basically.” He said, “But you’re not a beginner. You’ve already learned the basics.” To which I said, “Hmmm. Okay, I see how that can make sense.” Guess I’ll be wearing my stanky-ass kuro-obi at Sensei Wilder’s school then.

You know it’s interesting: I guess I do think the martial arts are important enough in my life that I would consider moving to another place to be with the right teachers/schools. I did move to another place. Funny how I doubt that in myself. I mean, it doesn’t have to be about me seeking mastery or training to be professional. It’s about community and commitment. If I’m concerned with gaining rank and prestige with it, then I’m not doing it. If I’m having fun with it and it speaks to me and what I want to embody, then I’m going for it. Ambition is a life killer. I need to do what’s from within. Soul-authenticity.

I was feelin’ down a bit for the past few days. My mood has shifted now that I’ve finally got to move my butt around at WSKA. Those goju-ryu kata are fascinating man. Can’t wait to learn more. Can’t wait to check out Seattle Dojo. Glad I’m now starting to do what I came here to do. Grateful that I got a job so quickly and a decent roof over my head.

Just trusting the process.



Who are you? What are you doing?

No matter what anyone says, the martial arts are a serious and worthy pursuit. And I think they need to be pursued by serious and worthy people.

What do I mean by that? I mean to say that, sooner or later you ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing authentic to who I am?” Or is it simply something my ego wants? Is it my heart that’s in this? Or am I pursuing the illusions of my mind? I think it’s true that martial arts are an acquired skill. Nobody is born with it. And that means any one of us is capable of reaching heights with it. But I also believe that each of us has an essential genius. Each of us has a unique contribution to the world that is only deliverable by us. I think you can be talented at the martial arts, but I don’t think that necessarily corresponds to your genius. Some people are more athletically gifted than others. Perhaps by virtue of this they seem as though they were destined for their role in the dojo. But again, are they following their heart? Or are they following predetermined maps set-up by themselves, their teachers or by people who want to mold them into their own image?

What does it mean to have heart for the martial arts? Or for anything you do for that matter?

I don’t know.

All I know is that you have to pursue what’s real. What’s honest. This can be particularly difficult in the field of martial arts because the major determining factor by which most of it is predicated on is physical violence. Fighting. And how many of us have gotten into enough fights (not in a ring with gloves) in our lives that we have a pretty good understanding of the way in which people attack each other (and that’s only a particular kind of violence)? And how many of us are willing to get into enough violent altercations so that we can walk away with a better understanding of those dynamics? And it goes without saying too that, should you be LUCKY (not to say it’s all luck but…) to walk (maybe you’ll be limping or dragging yourself; or someone’ll be dragging  you!) away from such an encounter, who’s to say you won’t also come away with some kind of trauma? In other words, violence and the threat of serious injury or death is not something that can be easily experimented with, without incident. No matter how close we simulate reality, a simulation is not reality.

So, I didn’t drive all the way up here to the Emerald City to just poke my nose around and dilly-dawdle and eat noodles and watch movies and work 8 hours a day. I came here to clarify for myself if karate is still a serious pursuit in my life. There are some things I’ve let go in my life. I’m not yet sure karate is to be one of them. I think physical health and culture is important as I age. But that doesn’t have to be martial in nature. I also know that I do not intend to be a “professional” martial artist, i.e. someone who is able to make a living off of this. I mean, that doesn’t mean I don’t strive to want to improve myself in the arts. It just means that in my life, karate is not something I’m striving to master. It’s not what I was destined to do. It’s something I wanted to do at a particular point in my life (and there was a Sensei there when I was ready). But my interest in karate has moved on into things not taught in my mother dojo. And my only option I feel is to find a teacher who does teach those things. It’s not about one teacher is better than another. It’s about, what am I trying to learn here? What do I think is important to learn here? Much of that has more to do with conflict communications rather than fighting. And if there’s anything I’ve learned about fighting (not from actual experience but from people who’ve been there), it’s that it takes considerably less skill to do that than talk someone down out of a fight (including yourself).

My point there was to say that, in resuming my karate training here in Seattle (albeit with a different teacher, school, and “style”), I hope to really understand for myself if this is an area of my life which I should continue to cultivate or just drop altogether (not ALL of the martial arts…just karate itself). Because honestly, it has been on the verge of dropping from my mind. After two years of being away from my mother dojo, I was beginning to actually forget the kata I had learned. This was due to my lack of practicing it and my focus on other areas of martial interest, like grappling and boxing. But it didn’t feel right to just let karate go. There were things I was reading and learning about that made me reimagine my own training and how I should go about it. The one significant thing to me about karate is the kata. And what grabbed me by the balls most about all of my reading was that, holy shit, the movements in kata actually had meaning! Not like esoteric, pseudo-spiritual-mumbo-jumbo-Oriental-mystic meaning. But like real, practical, applied meaning! It was then that I saw that my memorization of the kata would be important as a starting place for dissecting anything of practical value. And it was then that I thought to myself that I needed a teacher who had an understanding of these things. Not to say it’s not possible to learn on one’s own. But I believe everyone’s got to start by learning directly from someone else. And so that’s basically why I moved to Seattle. To be able to learn directly from a teacher whose approach I can agree with. There might be other things I find out in Seattle, but I don’t know that yet…

All I know is that the world needs us to be ourselves right now. Our unapologetic, unabashed selves.


Karate, straight up

I try to blog about what’s real in my life. Not just with karate, but in all the areas in which I endeavor. I’m interested in the truth of things and the authenticity with which we live our lives. I have little patience with instructors who believe in their own hype and the students who tag-along. Students need to be given honest and clear keys to mastery; not pseudo-science, not “because my Master said so”, not abstractions. Students also need to think critically and ask questions. This is imperative, especially because we want our martial skills to help us survive when our ass is on the line. Don’t we? (Even if that day never comes)….I’m sorry, what did you think practicing that front kick a thousand plus times was for? Spiritual enlightenment?

I’m not blogging about anything special here. Just about what’s real for me, on this path, in this life, at this time. But anyway, I’m still tryin’ ta figure shit out…

“…see for yourself…listen for yourself…think for yourself.”

– QK