Thursday, October 8, 2020


Self-defense training in traditional karate in 

Many seniors and other adults assume they are too old for martial arts, and no schools are available to teach senior and adult martial arts. Nothing is further from the truth. In traditional (non-sport) martial arts, there are schools that follow the old Okinawa traditions of teaching martial arts to adults and seniors, and many will not take kids and teens under 16 years of age. 

Traditional martial arts are designed to improve a person's outlook on life, by keeping members healthy through physical and mental conditioning. The intense training of martial arts, often produces weight loss, and good circulatory systems, through proper breathing, stretching, meditation, and diet. Just take a look at the Okinawa people - they have many centurions because of their physical health and diet, more per capita than any other group in the world.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Karate, Kids, and Legitimacy

Recently, my grand-daughter started karate classes at three different dojos in the Phoenix valley. She obviously wants to train with grandpa at his dojo, but for some reason, her parents decided the other locations were better for her: guess they don't understand this is an insult, as it would be for any grandparent. I'm a very good instructor with considerably more experience than all of the black belts (if there are any) combined in these dojos.

Before I moved to Arizona, I taught my son and daughter karate at the University of Wyoming, and both became legitimate black belts. My daughter even had to use her training in self-defense from her Ex, who is twice her height and mass. He ended up calling the Cheyenne police department for help after trying to beat up my daughter. It's likely a good thing I didn't hear about this until later, as I would have provided him with a nice plot in my backyard, but still, I think it's entertaining my little girl beat the living - well you know. I also taught two of my grandsons karate. Their dad, a cop, often would attack the little guys when they were least expecting it just to be sure they were learning self-defense. Just imagine being doubled over by a 5 year old's mae geri (front kick). So, yes they learned well. Over the years, I've taught more than a thousand martial artists at four major universities, Gold's Gym, my own dojo, and elsewhere. I am a member of the black belt hall of fame, recognized as a Who's Who in Martial Arts Legend, and I am certified as judan (10th dan) by two well-known grandmasters - one from the US and the other from Okinawa.

Back to my grand-daughter. To make things worse, her parents started her at three local dojo in Gilbert, Arizona - all three could easily be McDojo, but I can't say that for sure, since I refuse to take part in this game. And after the first two proved to lack any form of legitimacy, she was recently sent to a Lifetime Fitness gym dojo. Last night, I saw videos of a training session taken by my wife, and if these people are legit, I would be shocked. 

The videos show complete chaos. Kids scattered all over the gym with no supervision, groups of kids standing in circles talking, and only one or two were doing any karate entire night. And the sensei, (apparently a sandan) continued to walk back and forth with his hands behind his back, and NOT providing ANY input or instruction the entire night. To be honest, I have no idea why he was even there?  Not once did he provide any instruction to anyone.

But the other two schools that my grand-daughter was signed up for, may have even been worse. One advertised they were MMA - a dead giveaway they most likely lack legitimacy (although a few legit schools have actually call themselves MMA because the name is popular). This is sad as MMA does NOT have values of traditional karate or any traditional budo, and anyone can claim to be yudansha (black belt) or instructor (sensei) in MMA, even though there only experience may be wrestling in high school. Remember, any one can walk into a martial arts supply house and buy a black belt for $5 or $10. But wearing that belt correctly requires years of training, experience, expertise, and a long lineage! 

Too bad parents have no idea what martial arts are? But this isn't surprising, as many North American martial artists don't even know. My own personal instructor, has told me a few times over the years that he often gets inquiries to join his Japanese/Okinawan/US association, and at least 85% of the people who apply have absolutely NO legitimacy. I never paid much attention to his statement until this recent incident with my grand-daughter. And I suspect, he is right, and it could be even higher.

Even though my grand-daughter is suffering through this, her parents are getting what they paid for. I just pray she doesn't end up getting hurt. People don't realize kids have growth plates; and fractures of these can result in serious problems down the road. In particular, joint locks on kids need to be limited and closely supervised - and it really appalled me when some years ago, I witnessed a kids class at the Chandler community center in aikido. Aikido is all about joint manipulation! 

And when kids are taught basic karate punches known as tsuki, they have to be closely monitored constantly, to keep their wrist straight, otherwise, they can easily fracture their wrists just by punching a bag. PARENTS - you need to be aware of this!!!

The second school my grand-daughter attended is located in Gilbert not far from Lifetime Fitness. My wife told me some lady in street clothes walked around the dojo screaming Japanese and English words, while a couple of older students in yellow belts (keep in mind, a yellow belt has practically no experience) taught kids how to hop, skip, jump, tumble, do push-ups, etc. Yes, can you imagine that, the martial arts school was not teaching them more than 2 minutes of karate. In the 2-minute period of karate, my wife told me the kids were taught a high block (jodan uke), a front kick (mae geri), and an outward block (soto uke). PERIOD!!!

Google Earth air photo showing our location at the traffic light marking MacDonald and Baseline.
Click on photo to enlarge.

So, the next time you check your dojo or instructor, do a search on the internet of his/hers dojo or of his/hers name. Next, look inside the dojo for a dojo license (this should be provided by a legitimate international martial arts association), and look for copies of his/hers diplomas. This is where it gets a bit challenging, knowing what is a legitimate, and what is not. Take a few notes and do some internet research. Most high-ranking martial artists know what to look for, but we keep some secrets to ourselves to be sure  illegitimate martial artists don't get wind of it. For example, some years ago, a German martial arts association gave me a diploma for the rank of judan (10th dan) in jujutsu. I kept the diploma to show my students some phony characteristics of a McDojo diploma.

So, the next time you shop Walmart (Baseline and Country Club Road), snack at Culvers, or shop at Gilbert Costco (South Country Club Road), you will be near my training center. So, stop in, I would love to meet you. We reside in the 60 W. Baseline Road complex at the northeast corner of Baseline and MacDonald. Sundevil Auto is right across the street from our school. 

I'll be waving at you from under our simple sign - "KARATE" over our door, and Shorin-Ryu on our window, and we teach much more than karate

I have certifications in many martial arts and teach traditional Okinawa karatekobudo (the art of Okinwan weapons), Samurai arts (if you are a Kill Bill fan, this is the place to be), Jujutsu (actually a samurai art), and self-defense. And each one of these arts includes several individual traditional martial arts. Some are initially overwhelmed by the amount of martial arts taught, but it only takes a short time to realize all of the basics you learn in karate including stances, forms, hand and leg movements, are all employed in each art, thus when you learn one, you are actually learning all of them, and I start everyone out in Shorin-Ryu karate.

We have a comfortable gallery with free cold bottles of drinking water, and you are very welcome to watch our classes and ask questions before or after class. 

Soke Hausel, the world head of Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai has been training and teaching martial arts for nearly his entire life. He is not only a hall-of-fame martial arts instructor and a Who's Who martial arts Legend, but also a hall-of-fame geoscientist. You can find all of this information on the internet.

Before moving to Arizona and opening the Hombu dojo in Mesa in 2006, I taught classes, clinics, and seminars in karatekobudo, self-defense, women's self-defense, samurai arts and more at the University of Wyoming for three decades along with researching mineral deposits. So, I love talking to people. My experience in martial arts is extensive, and I was awarded one of the highest honors for any westerner in martial arts in 2013 - that of Meijin Wajutsu which translates as martial arts genius.

You can try calling us at the above number, but we have been plagued by hundreds of robo and telemarketers making our phone almost useless. So, much of the time, it is easier to stop by and see us. And no, we do not hire salesmen and we do not try to pressure anyone. We only want those people to sign up who are interested in learning traditional martial arts. We hope to see you soon.

Oh, and I almost forgot - if you are tired of running into questionable martial arts teachers and schools in the Phoenix Valley, be sure to Google or Bing us, and please do a search of my name (Soke Hausel) - I have nothing to hide like apparently some  other schools in the valley. Copies of my certificates are posted so anyone can see my lineage and legitimacy - see if any other dojo does the same?

Monday, November 11, 2019

Be PREPARED! The Way of Karate

Being prepared (kitai) for self-defense is very important in training in karate. When I started training in karate in the Black Eagle Federation kyokushinkai dojo in the 1960s, we were taught to do many repetitions to imprint muscle memory so that we would not have to think during a crisis situation - just naturally react. In addition to constant blocks, kicks and punches, we trained over and over with foot sweeps (ashi barai), jujutsu throws, and ending up in the proper stances. To get to the point where one can naturally react with good proper technique, one must train in full contact as this builds lightning reflexes - but at the same time, few people today (as it was years ago), can handle full contact, so as an instructor, your dojo may be close to empty.

Other important aspects are bunkai (self-defense applications) done with full force and acceleration. In this case, one must strike at the air instead of their partner to be sure they are striking with considerable energy and also to be sure that their training partner shows up again for training. In years past, when I trained at the Juko Kai national yudansha clinics, I typically sought out a training partner - R. Smith, who blocked as hard as I did, and hit just as hard and fast as I did - it helped build technique, muscle memory and confidence.

Another important aspect is training in Kote Kitae - or body hardening. We did this intensely when I trained in kyokushinkai karate as we do in Juko Kai. Taking full-force blocks, kicks and punches will hurt at first, but after some time, it become a unique form of mediation that allows one to block out the pain and also anticipate the strikes.

And when ever you train in your martial arts and your instructor tells you to do 10 repetitions and he or she does not stop you after you've done the given number of reputations, think of this as a bonus, and do as many as you can until you are told to stop or move on. If you don't, you will never be an outstanding martial artists.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


To those who train constantly in martial arts, the positive benefits are not surprising - good health, feeling good, and self-confidence. And now, scientists are just beginning to study the benefits of these effects.

For instance, some scientists are now looking into links between emotional well-being and physical health. Its vital to note that martial arts has been shown to improve a person's emotional well-being, according to a recent 2018 article from Bangor University in Wales. In one study, older adults, aged 67-93, were asked to take part in: (1) Karate training, (2) Cognitive training, or (3) Non-martial arts physical training over a 3 to 6 month period. The results showed that the "older adults in Karate Training had lower levels of depression and greater levels of self-esteem after the training period, compared to the other groups".

In one Italian study, a sedentary group was compared to a group which trained in karate. The Italian researchers found that "taking part in karate improved a person's working memory".  

Researcher, Dr. Ashleigh Johnstone at Bangor University reported - "There is far more to martial arts than its traditional roles. Though they have been practiced for self-defense and spiritual development for many hundreds of years, only relatively recently have researchers had the methods to assess the true extent of how this practice affects the brain".

Now that scientists are performing imagining scans of people's brains, I suspect it is just a matter of time until a study is done to compare increases in size of the hippocampus by karate practitioners compared to other groups. This is because karate provides an constant influx in oxygen to the brain through intense training, and traditional (non-sport) karate practitioners are constantly being challenged by learning new techniques (waza), applications (bunkai) kata, kobudo and samurai weapons. In addition, these are taught to both sides of the body providing a means to enhance both sides of the brain. Even after training in martial arts for 55 years, I find I'm still constantly learning. It's been said by previous grandmasters in Okinawa karate that there is "No end to learning in the martial arts". And we are now seeing the scientific fruits of our labors.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The 'Art' of Karate

Sometimes a martial arts instructor, other times a
geoscientist, writer, public speaker, or artist
About 1989 to 1990, Soke Hausel was not only teaching karate, kobudo, jujutsu, and samurai arts at the University of Wyoming; but, also employed as a research geologist at the Wyoming Geological Survey and periodically took leave of absence to work as a consulting geologist for various mining companies around the world. In 1988 and 1989, six geologists including Soke Hausel discovered a giant gold deposit in Alaska. The company hired a draftsman at the Wyoming Geological Survey to produce professional quality maps of Soke Hausel's maps of the Donlin Creek gold deposit in Alaska.

One day a geologist, the next a martial artist
One day, this draftswoman mentioned while working on the the maps that Soke would be a great artist. He responded, "I can't even sketch a stick figure". Fiddy, the draftswoman disagreed and said all Soke needed to do was to focus and sketch small areas in detail just like his maps. 

That comment actually made sense. So, he tried sketching and was surprised by this hidden gift given by God to him. So, he did my first sketch in 1989 or 1990. But, without that one comment, he likely would never have discovered pencil art..

MARTIAL ARTS were uncommon in North America in the 1960s, but they peaked our interest from 1966 to 1967 as Kato fought a variety of villains on the Green Hornet TV series while espousing Zen philosophy. Martial arts took center stage again from 1972 to 1975 as Kwai Chang Caine preached harmony in the Kung Fu martial arts TV series. In 1975, a Shaolin monk named Lee fought a renegade martial arts monk who broke the code of ethics of the Shaolin Temple in the movie Enter the Dragon. And who could forget that likeable character Mr. Miyagi in the 1984 Movie, The Karate Kid. Miyagi preached Zen while teaching Daniel san pragmatic karate exercises to defend against a group of teenage thugs. Even though fictional, these programs espoused a code of ethics to live by while following the premise of "No First Attack" - a philosophy of traditional karate and 'traditional' martial arts.

Martial Art, by Soke Hausel
Many have the erroneous impression MMA (mixed martial arts) is martial art. Ever hear MMA competitors espouse positive philosophy, harmony, a path to enlightenment, or even concern for another human being? This is one of several characteristics that separate traditional martial arts from street fighting & combat sport such as MMA, boxing, cage fighting and sport martial arts. Traditional karate is not sport, it is a way of life as well as a weapon of self-defense - it is about perfection of the practitioner!

So, what is martial art? Visualize a boxer. A trained boxer is taught by a friend how to kick someone in the groin. Wow, so now is boxing magically transformed into a mixed martial art? Is it that simple?

Actually, it is much more complex than one could imagine. And just because someone advertises that they teach mixed martial arts usually means that they have boxing, wresting experience and usually only minor (if any) martial arts experience. Mixed martial arts is a catch-all phrase for people who want to be martial artists likely have no martial arts credentials. 

The Shotokan tiger by Soke Hausel
In traditional martial arts, there is an established lineage and history of certification and credentials - but there is nothing really writing down about the procedure, nor any government regulations (thank goodness). So, we need to first examine the words 'martial' and 'art' to try to get a handle on what a martial art really is.

Martial is defined as 'military-like' and is pragmatic; however art is more difficult to grasp as it is an 'esoteric expression' meaning different things to different people. When researching martial arts dictionaries for a definition of martial arts, it is difficult to find one that provides any kind of meaning - and in most cases, it is obvious that even those martial artists who have compiled martial arts dictionaries were unaware of what a martial art is, as in most cases, a definition is not included. 

The Overlook Dictionary of Martial Arts defines martial arts as "... an encompassing term usually reserved for the Asian fighting arts, although it can refer to any fighting discipline with or without weapons". This definition for martial arts is incomplete at best. More enlightening is A Dictionary of the Martial Arts which didn't even try to define martial arts, the very basis of the dictionary! The authors likely felt it was too difficult of a task to summarize martial arts because of its esoteric aspect. In the Overlook Martial Arts Handbook the author writes, "The term 'martial arts' means those arts concerned with the waging of war"

Defending castle - sketch by Soke Hausel
By separating the two words - 'martial' and 'arts', some insight occurs. Martial has several definitions. One that stands out is "characteristic of, or befitting a warrior". When discussing martial art we refer to bushido, the 'way of the warrior'. This is an important concept because 'way' used in this sense refers to 'path'. But what is path? “A path is a course of action, conduct, or procedure: the path of righteousness”. This definition implies a path should lead to righteousness: a concept common in traditional martial arts.

Dictionaries provide several meanings for 'art' including, "... the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance". Another definition: "Skill in conducting any human activity: a master at the art of conversation”. Also, “a branch of learning or university study, especially one of the fine arts or humanities, such as music, philosophy, or literature".

Based on these concepts and incorporating philosophy of Gichin Funakoshi and Shoshin Nagamine, two well-known and influential Okinawan Shorin-Ryu karate martial artists; martial art should lead to righteousness (this is why it is rare to see politicians in traditional martial arts). Some might point out that the Russian Premier trains in judo. But there is traditional judo and there is sport Judo. Putin trains in sport judo. But still, it is an anomaly.

Tai chi in the Arizona sun, sketch by
Soke Hausel
Martial arts should be beautiful, stir the spirit, and involve higher learning and should lead to a lifelong path of self-enlightenment – like religion. It should complement religion and not contradict religion.

In a discussion of the martial art of karate, Nagamine (2000) wrote, "If there is no kata, there is no karate, just kicking and punching". He emphasized that since, "... kata is karate, one must then embrace 'do mu gen' proverb which asserts: There can be no end to learning". He concluded "karate begins and ends with the study of kata". So if we are to believe Nagamine (as well as other Okinawan masters) karate must contain kata and kata must be the primary curriculum, otherwise it is not karate and not martial art. And kata contains exercise, self-defense, interpretation, philosophy, and moving Zen.

The blending of Zen with empty hand (kung fu and karate) and weapon's training resulted in Shaolin monks becoming formidable fighters and resulted in the world's first martial art. So if one agrees this was the beginning of Chuan Fa or martial arts, it is apparent Zen, meditation, self-defense exercises and forms (kata) are necessary ingredients to be a martial art.

Many martial arts attach the suffix 'do', such as aikidobudo, kendo, judo and karate-do. By doing so, it translates as 'way' or 'path' suggesting that the martial art will lead to a path of enlightenment. There are also just as many martial arts that attach the suffix 'jutsu', such as bujutsu, kenjutsu, jujutsu and karatejutsu. These are considered martial combat and most lack kata. However, in every case, the "jutsu" systems have traditions and also provide ways for self-improvement, unlike MMA.

Okinawan sunrise by Soke Hausel
Peter Urban (1967) wrote that martial arts refer to fighting arts and suggested a more valid interpretation came from the word budo which translates as 'the way of the fighter'. Urban further wrote that the integration of techniques with the spirit are important. The way or path is intended to lead to the attainment of perfection or what is often known as self-realization, enlightenment, or simply maturity. Be it karate, kendo, judo, jujutsu, iaido, kobudo, aikido, kyudo, Urban (1967) wrote that "based on the idea of virtue, the followers of martial arts are in effect descendants of samurai of old. It is the aim of all martial arts instructors to work toward promulgating this spirit of ancient Zen warriors, a spirit which is more than mere knowledge of fighting techniques - it is the attainment of a virtuous way of life!"

Geisha, by Soke Hausel
Martial arts incorporate the term ryu. Ryu is a traditional system or style of martial arts that implies family. This means Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai members are a family of traditional martial artists with a soke (Head of Family). It is peace of mind we seek through martial arts training. "There are many paths to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, but only one peak".

Karate Aerial Photo by Soke Hausel
Traditional karate and other Okinawan martial arts were kept secret on Okinawa until the 20th century when karate was introduced to mainland Japan in 1922. Within a short time, the Japanese modified the effective self-defense art into sport. To this day, traditional Okinawan karate is still considered a weapon rather than sport (unlike Japanese karate). Traditional karate focuses on (1) junbi undo (warm-up and strength exercises), (2) kihon (basics), (3) shitai kori (body hardening), (4) kata (forms), (5) health, and (6) bunkai (practical applications) - but it's most important aspect is the perfection of its participants!

A bunch of Junk, by Soke Hausel

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Arizona Karate Instructor - a Who's Who in Martial Arts, Science & Engineering, the World & a Little More

So, what does karate, kobudo, samurai arts, self-defense, art, martial art, writing, geology, public speaking and astronomy have in common? We can only think of two things - Grandmaster Hausel & Who's Who.

2017 was another good year for a valley martial arts instructor and geologist. Grandmaster Hausel of Gilbert was notified of selection for awards acknowledging his lifelong dedication to martial arts, geology, writing, and more! 

Along with General Colin Powell, Hausel was selected for the Albert Nelson Marquis Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement Award and with Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, he was selected for Who’s Who in Martial Arts. 

Earlier, in 2017, the Hall-of-Fame martial arts instructor was notified of his selection to (1) Great Men & Women of Science, (2) the Cambridge Certificate for Outstanding Scientific Achievement and now for (3) Best Martial Arts Teachers in Phoenix for Expertise. And we can now add (4) Who's Who in Martial Arts, and (5) Who's Who Lifetime Achievements.

Grandmaster Hausel taught martial arts for more than 3 decades at the University of Wyoming prior to moving to the valley to teach at ASU before opening the Arizona Hombu dojo in Mesa. But overall, he has been training in martial arts for more than 5 decades and teaching for nearly five along with writing more than a thousand books, articles, professional papers, maps and scientific abstracts, presenting about 400 professional talks around the continent, sketching, lecturing about geology, martial arts, and astronomy. 

Hausel teaches karate, kobudo, self-defense and samurai arts to adults at the dojo at the 60 W. Baseline Center. Grandmaster Hausel began martial arts training in 1964 as a long-haired member of a rock n' roll band known as the Churchmen. Since he started training in martial arts, only a few days have passed when he has not trained or taught martial arts during the past 50+ years. Even when he was in the Army, he trained at night in the barracks, and when he worked as a geologist from a tent in Montana, Wyoming, Australia and Alaska, he still trained in karate.

He attended an international diamond exploration conference in the Western Australian outback and accepted a challenge from the Japanese geologists-martial artists to break tops off of silicified termite mounds using a classical karate chop known as 'shuto' - it was every termite for itself. 

In Alaska, training was challenging. At night, he would return to camp and practice kata until mosquitos covered him from head to toe. Never harassed by bears - but one other geologist was treed by a bear that ran off when another camp geologist shot it between the eyes with a .357 magnum. The bear left with a red streak and headache. 

Then there is the other side. The Hall-of-Fame geologist with 45 years experience found gemstones, gold and diamonds and authored hundreds of books, papers and abstracts. His geological expertise helps in breaking rocks and teaching his students about rocks and what types of rocks are breakable with the bare hands and which ones are not.

According the Hausel, "Ok, ok, I'm crazy about martial arts - I love to teach martial arts and it is rewarding to me to see  my students progress, and enjoy what they are learning. We have a fantastic group of adults at the Arizona Hombu dojo in Mesa that includes accountants, research professors, professors, scientists, engineers, school teachers, retirees, physical therapists,  nutritionists, personal trainers who range in age from young adults to retirees. All my life I've taught adults at four different universities".

In the 1980s, Hausel mapped 1,000 square kilometers
of complex geological terrain at South Pass, but in the
evening would return to his tent and practice karate.

Inducted into Who's Who Legends in Martial Arts
Hausel in 1988 in search of gold in Alaska. When he wasn't digging for gold
he was fighting millions of mosquitos just to practice karate every evening.
In the Australian outback, Hausel would compete with Japanese black belt-
geologist to see who could break the tops off these termite mounds in diamond
In recent years, while exploring for gold and copper in the Silver Crown district of
Wyoming, Hausel found time in the evenings to train in karate.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Breaking Rocks or Breaking Hands

When it comes to tameshi waza (breaking techniques), I’ve seen martial artists break re-breakable boards, boards, roofing tile, sheets of ice, cinder block and rocks. The most impressive to me is rock.

Decades ago, many in the US were under the erroneous impression that karate required constant training of the edge of one hand. According to this urban legend, this training was designed to develop a callused surface that could be used to break through most anything - and this was all there was to karate! In this respect, one didn’t need a gi or even a sensei, all one needed was to beat the side of their hand on a hard concrete surface every day. Then at some point, they would walk into their local police station to register their hand(s) with local law enforcement agencies as a deadly weapon. And if ever challenged, they would have to warn the challenger that they were a karate expert and their hands were registered and considered deadly weapons. No, I’m not making any of this up - ask any senior in your dojo who is from the Baby Boomer era.

I can still remember a drama we watched on our black & white TV, where a bad guy was trying to kill a good guy with his “judo chop”. The hero of the show barely got out of the way of several strikes that destroyed chairs and tables, until the hero shot him. My mother explained to me and my brother, in order to get a karate hand, one had to constantly hit concrete for years until their hand was callused, ugly and deformed.

Rock breaking at the University of Wyoming Campus Shorin-Ryu karate club. 
Note the Casper Formation limestone slabs and blocks on the brick wall and 
in Soke’s hand. The wall itself, consists of Fountain Formation friable 
sandstone mined from quarries around Laramie.
The next day, I started training my hand on our concrete porch in the backyard - this lasted for possibly a couple of minutes at the most until I quickly lost interest because it hurt and was boring.

Today, we know that karate has much more to offer - and no matter how long we train, there is still more to learn. And when it comes to tameshi waza, this is a very minor part of karate. It’s not breaking that’s important - it’s the confidence building that’s important, whether it comes through breaking inanimate objects and training in self-defense in the dojo.

I began training in Kokushin Kai karate as a teenager a couple of years after I tried hitting my hand on our backyard concrete porch. In Black Eagle Federation dojo we often heard stories about Mas Oyama. A powerful man who could destroy piles of boards and roofing tiles, bulls, or anyone who wanted to fight him with their bare hands.

Oyama loved to fight! In one instance, he fought 300 full-contact kumite matches in three days (no pads or gloves, just bare hands & feet). The fourth day, he was battered and bruised but showed up to continue fighting. But the contest had ended: no one else showed up. We all figured Oyama was super human who could walk through walls or quickly change into his gi a phone booth. In addition to Oyama, there were stories and legends about other amazing martial artists, such as those affiliated with Juko Kai International as well as those from Okinawa such as Chojun Miyagi, Gogen Yamaguchi, Mirio Higaonna. At the time, we didn’t know who Bruce Lee was, but he would later grab our interest after the Green Hornet show made its way on TV.

Many great Okinawan martial artists are described in a book by Soshin Nagamine entitled “Tales of Okinawa’s Great Masters”. Another book entitled “20th Century Warriors” by various authors, published in 1971, provides accounts on some other martial artists. And then you will find other examples on the internet.

Outcrop of cross-bedded Nugget Sandstone 
near Red Canyon, Wyoming. These are actually fossil sand 
dunes and thus consist of sandstone.
When it comes to breaking objects with bare hands, some hand conditioning and finger strength is helpful, but not necessary. Tameshi waza requires proper technique under a qualified instructor: otherwise you might break something besides a board or rock. If you plan to break boards: like rocks, not all boards are equal. The greener the wood, the more difficult it is to break. Dried boards are easy to break, and plywood is impossible to break since it is layered with wood grains set at different angles to make it very tough and strong - like jade. I suspect the best board breakers in the world are employed at lumber yards, as wood isn’t cheap - the same for roofing tiles, cinder blocks and blocks of ice.

"Twirling is for marching bands & cheerleaders, not for kobudo" – Soke Hausel

A few years back, our dojo set up an information booth at the Islands in Gilbert business fair, and a Gilbert taekwondo school brought in their crack black belt demo team. Their kobudo demonstration left much to be desired - the less than deadly twirling with ultra-light-weight plastic bo pleased youngsters in the crowd, but for anyone with martial arts or fighting experience, it was clear this was useless. Then the group brought out boards and I do not exaggerate when I say I had no idea that anyone manufactured slabs of wood so thin. I wish I would have picked up a piece of a discarded board fragment just to confirm these were only about 1 mm thick! So, what is the point of breaking boards so thin? Luckily, no flying insects ran into the boards, as I suspect a well-fed flying grasshopper could have split one of those. I really don’t mean to be negative, but this was a poor martial arts demo. Even so, it had kids flocking to their dojang which may not bode well for the future of traditional martial arts.

When you decide you are ready to break your first rock, learn a little about rocks, it may save your hand. Even though rocks are cheap (unless you buy from a landscaper in the Phoenix valley), they vary in hardness, toughness and break-ability. For instance, friable sandstone is one of the easier rocks to break (but it may leave grains of sand stuck in your forehead if you decide to try atama waza - breaking with your head). Friable and cemented sandstones can be found by using geological maps for your area. For instance, examine the geological map of Wyoming and search for the Chugwater Formation. A similar red-bed sandstone occurs in Arizona, Colorado and Utah known as the Navajo Formation. If you are familiar with the John Wayne westerns; spectacular buttes of Navajo Sandstone were used as backdrops in some of his movies. As for the Chugwater Formation, it is easy to spot along the edges of mountain ranges and hills. It has a distinct reddish color that will stain your karate gi with rust (iron oxide).

Cambrian trilobite in Wheller Shale, House Range, Utah
If you drive on highway 287 north from Rawlins, Wyoming; immediately north of town are Chugwater Formation red beds. Or if you visit Red Canyon between South Pass and Lander, Wyoming, the base of the canyon is blanketed by Chugwater Formation sandstones. But the roadside is surrounded by gray, cross-bedded, sandstones (fossilized sand dunes) of the Nugget Sandstone that are also great for breaking. The Nugget Sandstone forms thin beds that weather to sand and to flat, elongated pieces of friable sandstone perfect for breaking.

For one demo performed by University of Wyoming Campus Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo Club at half-time at a basketball game, I collected two, large, Fountain Formation sandstone blocks from an old rock quarry on the 9th street road north of Laramie once mined for building stone used on the UW Campus. For the demo, I broke one rock with my fist, and the second with my head. Breaking rocks are crowd pleasers simply because people know how hard rocks are and most people have a hard time believing anyone could break a rock with their hands, feet, let alone with their head.

Shales and mudstones are often found near or interbedded with sandstone. In western Utah, there is a thick succession of dark gray Wheller Shale in the House Range and Drum Mountains. Rock hounds scour these rocks to search for trilobite fossils. The Mowry Shale in Wyoming is also a good source for this kind of rock, and also a great place to get your vehicle stuck in bentonite in the Spring. Shale is easy to break and weathers to thin slabs. But be cautious and keep bandages handy because shale can produce sharp conchoidal fractures when broken. If you are from certain parts of Canada or Colorado, you may be also be familiar with oil shale - another type of shale. If in Florida - limestone is everywhere and is the reason why there are so many circular lakes with gators. Limestones in weakly acidic water often produces sink holes.

My favorite rock for breaking is limestone - mother nature’s concrete. Search geological maps for limestones and sandstones in the Casper Formation and gray limestones in the Madison Formation in Wyoming. In Arizona and Utah, the Kaibab Formation is a good source for limestone.

Mine back [roof] with copper-stained 
Naco limestone in the Good Enough mine at Tombstone, Arizona
Everyone has heard of Tombstone, Arizona. When we think of Tombstone, most visualize Wyatt Earp, when they should instead be thinking about Naco Limestone! The reason Earp ended up in Tombstone was because of the silver-lead-gold-manganese-copper mines dug in the Naco Limestone. Limestone is massive calcium carbonate mined in many places in the west for Portland Cement. Nearly all limestone precipitated in prehistoric oceans and slowly lithified and was later uplifted on continents providing geologists with physical evidence of ancient bodies of water. Much limestone is white or gray. The reason I like limestone is that it is very hard & often weathers to large, massive slabs perfect for breaking. And while at the University of Wyoming, great breaking rocks are found most anywhere along the eastern edge of the university, particularly near the UW golf course.

Sometime when you are out visiting the Snowy Range near Centennial Wyoming - if you know where to look, you can find stromatolites. Stromatolites are a form of limestone precipitated by cyanobacteria. Stromatolites at the top of the Snowy Range were deposited 1.7 billion years ago in an ancient ocean. Because of thin layering, these often form flat slabs great for breaking. A few years ago, I put together a website on gemstones that includes some down-loadable publications. So when in Wyoming, you can find a stromatolite outcrop by using a book, “Guide to Mining Districts, etc., of the Medicine Bow Mountains…” that will lead you to this rock. Imagine a 1.7 billion year old sub-tropical ocean sitting at the top of the cold, dry, Snowy Range mountains.

Side kick on 1.4 billion year old Sherman granite in Laramie Mountains
In this same region, are very thick successions of quartzite. Quartzites are ‘abused’ sandstones. Just like sandstone, quartzite is formed of sand (silica) grains. The difference is quartzite started out as a sandstone, was deeply buried in the earth’s crust where the overlying thick pile of sediments applied considerable lithic pressure that caused the temperature to increase. This resulted in the sandstone to partially melt with some silica from the sand grains cemented the sandstone to produce a hard, brittle, rock. The fact that quartzites are brittle, means they can be good for breaking - but don’t forget - they are very hard.

In the Phoenix Valley in Arizona, good rocks are hard to come by because of past volcanism. The valley is filled with very hard and tough igneous rocks that include rhyolite, andesite, and basalt. Most people know what granite is - well rhyolite is nothing more than a fine-grained equivalent of granite - and we all know how hard granite. All of these igneous rocks are hard to break because they are composed of a variety of crystals that have a variety of orientations similar to plywood.

I only discussed a few common rocks used for breaking. There are hundreds of other types of rocks, so after you break a sandstone, limestone, or rhyolite, you might try others. A few years ago, I published a book about rocks that also describes some minerals and gemstones. But always look for elongated, flat rocks - your hand will thank you.