The Quantum Karateka

…step outside the dojo.


As Confucius say: “To study without thinking is futile. To think without studying is dangerous.”

Maybe he also would’ve said, practicing without having done either is stupid. Maybe…

The following are some books that have informed my own practice. They are not all about martial arts. Two of them (Wheatley’s and Godin’s) were the inspiration behind starting this blog. I list them here in case anybody else might be interested in reading them.

Happy thinking and studying and practicing!

. . .

  “B-boying might have gone back to the living rooms, a dance to be taken out like a fading picture album late on a Saturday night after a couple of forties. Rapping and scratching might have remained a Bronx novelty, a curious musicological artifact. Graffiti crews might have been crushed like the gangs, its chief practitioners systematically rounded up and herded into prison. The flamboyant kids of the postgang generation might have grown up and moved on or disappeared or died, another five-plus years in the street life of a small part of New York come and gone in a flicker of the city’s eve.

Certainly that’s how the future seemed in the Bronx in 1979. But by the beginning of the new decade, brought out by commercial interests, pressed down by the state, and saved by traditionalists, the Bronx-born culture jumped its borders forever.” (pg. 127)

  “…All at once I understood the nature of creation: the way of a warrior is to manifest divine love, a spirit that embraces and nurtures all things. Tears of gratitude streamed down my cheeks. I saw the entire earth as my home, and the sun, moon, and stars as my intimate companions.” (pg. 27)

  “The Newtonian model of the world is characterized by materialism and reductionism – a focus on things rather than relationships and a search, in physics, for the basic building blocks of matter. In new science, the underlying currents are a movement toward holism, toward understanding the system as a system and giving primary value to the relationships that exist among seemingly discrete parts.” (pg. 9)

  “Art is not a gene or a specific talent. Art is an attitude, culturally driven and available to anyone who chooses to adopt it. Art isn’t something sold in a gallery or performed on a stage. Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another. Most painters, it turns out, aren’t artists at all – they are safety-seeking copycats (pg. 6) … If you knew what you were afraid of, if you understood where your art lies and how fearful you are to let it out, would you take action? Or is the risk just too high?” (pg. 197)

  “…in the twenty-first century I have come to appreciate (in the words of authors Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri) the value of the ‘singularities’ that compose the ‘multitude’. Our diversity is the source of our strength. We are not aiming simply to impact one election or one government. Rather, we are striving for long-term and sustainable transformation, and for that we need the wisdom that comes from many cultures, movements, and traditions.” (pg. 131)

  “Kata is not dance practice nor is it aerobic training. It is the fundamental basis of a fighting art. Like a textbook, it contains all the applications you need to defend yourself in mortal combat. To get the most out of your martial art, you simply need to know how to ‘read’ your kata like a book (pg. xviii) … Students cannot simply be told what to do; at some point they need to understand why…” (pg. 13)

  “…at the root of what the karate man fears is the boxing training method. The boxer is used to hitting people in the head full force and taking a few head shots himself, but the karate stylist most often has had no such training experience. You learn to box by boxing … It’s contact training; you take shots that rattle your brain, and you dish out the same as best you are able. On the other hand, you can study karate for years and never hit anybody or really get hit yourself.” (pg. 70 – 71)

  “Violence, for most of us, is unknown territory. Though martial artists have studied ‘fighting,’ and everyone has been raised in a culture where stylized violence is everywhere, very little of what we know is based on experience, and very much is based on word of mouth. It is, for many people, entirely assumption. If the source of information is good, the martial artist may be able to defend him or herself with the skills. If the source is bad, the skills taught can actually decrease survivability.” (pg. 17)

  “Instill competence. Train hard. If you play hard with actual moving bodies, actual impact, if you take hard hits and give them, you might still have this doubt before the fight … but once the fight is on, hoo-boy. After spending years training with college athletes, I thought the violent criminal in my first real fight felt like he was made of cheese. I’ve taken a hit to the face and thought, ‘Hey, my wife hits harder than you!’ If the competence is there, trust that the confidence will come.” (pg. 130)

  “With the focus upon form over function, kata became a vehicle through which to cultivate physical fitness and social conformity, in support of Japan’s war efforts during a radical era of military escalation. Kata practiced in modern karate have been so affected by the simplification process, the reverse influence of pre-war Japanese Budo culture, and its post-war rule-bound competitive agenda, that their introduction and practice throughout the 20th century has literally been without a realistic contextual premise.” (pg. 18)