A Tool is Never Just a Tool

I remember having a discussion years ago with a friend as we talked about Asian philosophy in general and Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination in particular. We were wrestling with the question of whether a thing was simply and fully itself. For example, a was a tool like a saw simply itself or was it…

More on Satsujinken: What’s Wrong with It?

On a certain level, nothing. Skill acquisition is something we as humans do automatically and value highly. Skill is useful and martial skill is no exception. In a world of conflict and bad actors, being able to fight back is a positive urge. This is what I call the “pacifism is fine, but what about…

Shoshin: Picking Up the Sword

Continuing my meditation on walking the martial path and whether (or when) our journey allows us to set the sword down (in a metaphorical and actual sense). The utilitarian aspect of martial training is encompassed by the label Satsujinken–the Sword that Takes Life. It’s an acknowledgment that this particular skill set is, at its heart,…

Sword and No-Sword

Thinking about Katsujinken and the implications of following a Martial Way. Does it embody a progression from a search for skill and combat efficacy, to a valuation of discipline as a way to cultivate the spirit. I hope so. And at what point, like Sekishusai, do we lay down the sword and, free perhaps from…

Means and Ends

A new blog post on the various ways of pursuing the Way of the Sword, done for my friends at Koryu Crafts.  

Keppan: The Blood Oath

A little sampler from my new work in progress–the latest in the Connor Burke series. Daytime brings its own challenges. Saturday morning and they were all there: three ranks of expectant, eager students in the deep blue uniform of traditional Japanese sword arts. They kneeled, motionless, the white oak training swords resting by their left…

Picking Up The Sword

Just completed a short piece for my friends at Koryu Crafts–a new source for fine sword-related items. Check it out here.

The Burke Series

It’s an exploration of the world of the martial arts. Decades of experience has given me insight into real martial arts training and how that can shape a person. There are no shortage of popular books and  movies hyping the martial arts–everything from the Karate Kid to the Ninja to the Matrix. My books are shaped by real experience….

The Writer’s Dojo Concept: Shu-Ha-Ri

It’s not unusual for martial artists to talk solemnly about “the Way” and how the life lessons that have been created through training spill over into the rest of our lives.  These lessons are important ones yet, at the end of the day, they are not unexpected ones. Even the most elemental list, while unobjectionable, is also…

Shu

Shu is the first phase. The word itself means “to obey.” In the martial arts context, it  obviously refers to the need to follow the instructions of your teacher. But in a larger sense, it also suggests the need to bend your will to the dictates of the system you study. Those of us who have spent…

Ha

Ha is the next phase of the learning process. It means “break.” Here we find one of  celebration of conundrum.  If we invest tremendous time and effort into the mastery of form and technique suggested by shu, what then are we to make of a subsequent phase that insists that we “break” something.  Break the rules? I thought…

Ri

Here, the trainee finally reaches a place where things simply flow. Watching a great martial arts master go through his paces, seeing the confident fluidity in the performance and  noting as well how the master imparts a certain distinctive original flair is a “ri event.” So too with great writers. They’ve internalized the conventions of their…