The Pressures Of Competitions (Part 1)

In the next few days, 19 members of the SKA will be participating in an open tournament. For the few, this is their umpteenth time on the competitive tatami, but for the most of them, this will be their first time.

Competitions (to me a form of test) brings pressure to all involved. For the coaches, it is the pressure of preparing the team. For the team manager, it is the pressure of getting the logistics (& everything else!!) ready. For the seasoned team members, it is the pressre of improving their track record, or moving up to a new category. For the newbies, it is the terror of stepping on an unknown tatami to face an unknown opponent, and last but not least, for the supporters (family members, friends, sponsors, etc)  the pressure of watching their team endure what would normally not be ‘civilised behaviour’ ; attacking an unknown person unprovoked. So you get the picture, pressure cooker all around.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of competitions.

But, it is a necessary evil. Though I do not like to enter competitions (personally, I hate the attention when standing in the middle of the tatami and having tons of people watching…… as an instructor, I hate allocating training time to train the few who are entering competitions , time taken away from training the on how to better use their body (& mind) in perfecting their technique and making each technique as a defensive.. and offensive tool at any scenario), it gives an extra dimension to a students martial art development that dojo training, no matter how intense can provide. We all like to think we give the best training, compared to other dojos, but the reality is, peer to peer ‘fights’ (for lack of a better word) among dojo mates (no matter how competitive) does not give that same edge, that same adrenaline rush we get during a fight (kumite or kata) during a competition. In a dojo session, we worry about hitting our friend too hard, or a kohai (junior) intimidated by a senpai (senior), or reversed, a senpai worry pushing a kohai too much. A smile or a snicker from our dojo opponent will also get us smiling.

This is not lack of discipline, this is human nature.

The dojo is not a battle ground, it is a place of learning, a school.

Then competitions becomes necessary, to test the skills of our modern day weekend samurai. Imagine this, a soldier spends his whole life shooting at targets on the practice range experience a different psychological hurdle when staring at a live human target down the barrel of the same rifle he (or she) has used thousands of times before. Lobbing a live grenade into a practice bunker is different than consciously lobbing a live grenade a group of enemy hostiles. Some handle the transition easier than others. Some, not all.

So there we stand, into the shadow of the valley of death (forgive my moment of dramatisation) either staring at an opponent on the opposite side of the referee, wondering what kind of fighting experience he has (or not), or, as in kata, staring inwardly, focusing all our will and training not to cock up our well rehearsed kata, ignoring the facial, body and verbal language of all those around us, so that we may execute our routine as hoped.

But before we can get there on the tatami, we are at the dojo, training. Competition Training, Squad Training.. whatever you call it. The focus of such training is not only to give your team a fighting chance, but a chance to actually bring back some faux silverware to adore the dojo walls. The majority of the ‘OPEN TOURNAMENTS’ run of the rules defined by the Word Karate Federation (WKF). So preparations are made to give the participants the best chance to win within the rules set by this organisation (the following view is made from a perspective of a Shotokan instructor):

[KATA TRAINING] Heian and Tekki katas for the most are out. Face it, no matter how brilliant your Heian Yondan or Godan, it can’t compare to the like of Seipai & Seinchin (unless your opponent performs them really badly). So you have to do the 4 Shotokan Shitei kata – Kanku-dai, Jion, Empi and Bassai-dai. In a normal dojo (my yardstick for normal dojo is a dojo that follows the JKA/SKIF style training syllabus), it’ll take sometime around a year and a half to two years for a student to have gone through the 8 kyu levels before to start learning the Shotokan Shitei Kata. That is, in this world where time is now measured in nano-seconds,  a long time for someone to stand aside and watch his/her ‘senior’ pack up their gear and travel to kingdoms far far away in search of glory and fame. What option is there left? One, the newbie enters the competition with his exceptional Heian kata and lose. Or in the words of a certain ‘life coach’ (whatever that means); gain experience. Two, the coach/instructor has to teach the relatively new student an ‘advance kata’ do that he has a fighting chance. Either way, they lose. I don’t know about other instructors, but my students, have been pressuring me to teach them an ‘advance kata’ so that they have a chance to win. And these students have still yet to come to grips with basic kata. So, to either keep the student from walking out and joining a dojo that can fulfil their needs, or to satisfy their own inner ego and to stop the losing streak and not be patient while the students gain ‘experience’, we teach them one advance kata. Then it snowballs, two kata, three kata……….. no matter the result, they both lose.  Soon the dojo forgoes the Heian katas altogether and other unpopular kata for having no ‘return value on investment’ and the decline starts. It is wrong to teach a 6th Kyu Bassai-dai or Kanku-sho?? It is wrong if it is meant to bolster the dojo’s competition chances. It is not wrong (my own opinion) if it is used as a tool to show the student the possibilities of kata training (lets face it, the Heians are not the most exciting kata on the Shotokan roster).

Back to today, I had earlier conducted a private training for some students heading out for fame and glory this weekend. 3/4 of the training was on kata (OK.. I’m guilty of favouring kata to kumite… so shoot me). I have a shodan, practicing Kanku-sho, Hangetsu, and Gankaku, a nikyu practicing Bassai-dai, Jion and Kanku-sho, and a rokkyu practicing Kanku-sho, Heian Yondan and Heian Sandan.

My analysis : the shodan has to get over his insecurities on what makes a kata ‘hard’ and just execute (not perform) the kata from the heart and not be too analytical of his kata, the nikyu has to push herself the extra 5% in all her moves, and that kata has to come from good kihon and the rokkyu.. oohhh the adorable six and a half year old rokkyu (didn’t I say that she was only six and a half years old??) has got to stop comparing herself from her brother and sisters and just enjoy herself in whatever she does. But kids just don’t get it when we say, winning doesn’t matter… what matters is that you give 110% when you step on the tatami. The bigger battle is with yourself. If you have done your best, then you have won, medal or no medal…. And children, heed my warning, do not stoop to plastic and robotic kata movements, noisy breathing and body slapping.. you know how much I hate those. Make your kata come to life.. heart and soul… better to crash and burn that to fade away.

Unsu by Yahara Mikio Sensei

I’ve got to stop now, the word count on my typing editor shows 1300 words and counting.. that is more that I wanted to do by a thousand.  Tomorrow I will digress (or ramble) on the effect of competition on kumite training and my analysis of the remainder of the training I had with three wonderful kids earlier today…. or was it yesterday???



Karate Symbology

I’m going to moonlight as the esteemed Dr. Robert Langdon (for those who don’t know who he is and have lived in a cave for the past couple of years.. God have mercy on your soul!!!) tonight and open a discussion on the influence of symbology in karate. Now, I will be the first to admit, I am not an expert on this subject, and only offering my two cents on the matter.

There are certain symbols, designs if you please, that has become identified with certain organisations.  Karate symbology is heavily influenced by Japanese symbology, especially the way they create their mon. So most karate symbols tend to be minimalistic. One of the most famous symbol in in karate has to be the Tora-no-maki (a.k.a. the Shotokan Tiger) a symbol created to adorn the world famous book of Funakishin Gichin O’sensei; Karate-do Kyohan.

The first thing that crosses any karate-ka’s when coming across is ‘SHOTOKAN’, Funakoshi style karate. For any clubs having this symbol or variation(s) of it are immediately recognised as advertising it’s Shotokan roots (note that I say ‘recognise as advertising’, not recognised as.) Famous Shotokan organisations carrying this symbol are Shotokan Karate-do International Federation (SKIF), International Shotokan Karate-do Federation (ISKF) and World Shotokan Karate-do Federation (WSKF). Oddly enough, the two most eldest shotokan organisations, Japan Karate Association (JKA) and the Shotokai does not carry this symbol in their logo. Which brings me to another example, the famous JKA logo.

The rising sun symbol is another famous karate symbol, representing the JKA branch of Shotokan. It is similar to the symbol of the Prefecture of Okinawa (below). Most offshoots of the JKA (especially after the 1999 break-up) carries a variation of this design. Okazaki sensei’s ISKF carries the modified JKA logo with the shotokan tiger in the middle (from it’s legacy as the American branch of the JKA). The JKS, WTKO, KUGB, FSKA, AJKA-I and WJKA, to name a few, are others who sport variations of the logo. Anywhere in the karate community, if someone displays either the tiger or the rising sun, they will be associated with Shotokan, and if the second, specifically the JKA.

 Other prominent karate ryu (school) symbols are :

*Shito-ryu (WSKF) / Okinawan Goju-ryu (IOGKF) / Goju-kai (JKF Goju-kai)

These symbols identify the school and sometimes the sub-branch of the school. Use of the symbol or variations of any symbol automatically associates the said group with the originator of the symbol, no matter how far removed from the original family the group is.

Variants of Shotokan Organisational Logos/Symbols:


Variants of sub-branches of Shito-ryu using the fist symbol :

*Shito-ryu Hayashi-ha / Shito-ryu Kusano-ha / Shito-ryu Shukokai

OK… what does it all mean? And does it really matter? In the grand scheme of thing, IMHO, not really. But some symbols, like the IKGA & JKA symbols are protected by international copyright. And the main point of having a symbol is identification. By displaying the upturned fist logo, members of the karate fraternity will identify you as a student of Goju-ryuha. So if you use that symbol and then say that you are a Shotokan student.. people will be confused… to say the least. So, when designing a club logo, t-shirt or poster, be aware of the historical and symbolic reference of your graphical elements. It will not only make your presentation stronger, but make your dojo branding strong and to the point.




Finally got the time to post a report on our trip to Sabah for the Kota Kinabalu Karate Open Championship 2010….

BKI airportMy AirAsia flight from Senai International Airport (JHB) in Johor Bahru my late…. not much… 20 minutes I think… but late enough for me to take notice. But by some miracle…  it was a also 20 minutes early getting into Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI) arriving just before 12 noon. Kudos to AirAsia. The flight was uneventful… just the way I like it… to much “events” on a flight gives me high blood…. On arrival to at BKI I was met by tournament supremo Loh Beng Hooi  Sensei of Kobe Osaka Sabah.

At around 3pm, Fairuz Sensei (FS) of KSKA Sabah came to pick me up for a training session at his dojo in Sembulan on the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu (KK) about 40 of his students were there, led by Benson Sensei (BS), were gearing up for the training. As the team (who by the way arrived 1 day earlier) were on the river safari, they were unable to attend the first training session. FS had me take over the class for the day, and I decided to focus on kime waza for that session. The two main techniques focused were gyaku-tzuki and kizami-tzuki. being two of the most used waza in the karate arsenal, I believe that it is important, especially for the beginner and those preparing for black belt, to really understand the fundamentals that make up these two waza.

I started out with a slow execution of gyaku-tzuki. Attention is paid in keeping the dachi in place and on hip rotation and the hanmi.  I had the students do gyaku-tzuki in 2 counts (i) the tzuki itself & (ii) the pulling back of the hand. By executing this waza slow-mo revealed a lot about the fundamentals in which these kids were training in. The majority of the kids were trained in sports styled dojos before migrating to FS’s dojo, so a lot of them had to be tweaked in their kihon and had to be told to forget about jiyu kumite. The recipe I gave them was :




So I had them focus on what good karate is made of, sound fundamentals of the kihon. First i had them do 30 gyaku-tzukis slo-mo on each side. Second, i had them add a little more speed (50% I said… as if they could be measured by the human eye :p), 30 on each side, and last I had them do it with full power, 30 on each side, kiai on every count. Lo and behold, I had them do close to 200 gyaku-tzukis without realizing it. Along the way, there I pointed out various minute adjustments that each kid had to do. The beginners had to deal with the whole concept of gyaku-tzuki itself, punching from the of the opposite side of the front leg, while the more advanced belts had to deal with the hip rotation and also the pulling back of the hand (hanmi).

The same principles were applied when we practised kizami-tzuki, focusing on correct kihon.

This is all the time I have to write for now, but I will make a conscious effort to post a full report sometime soon. More photos will be posted soon, especially on my FaceBook page. So keep a look-out on this space.

Yoroshiku 🙂


Mokuso for Muslims

At the end of our training sessions, we follow the tradition of Mokuso (黙想, mokusō), the japanese term for mediation.  Mokuso (pronounced “moh-kso”) is performed before beginning or at the end of a training session in order to “clear one’s mind”, very similar to the zen concept of mushin. This term is more formally known to mean, “Warming up the mind for training hard.”

As Muslims believe it is not right to totaly empty the mind of all thoughts (a Muslim should alway keep the Almighty in his mind), we at the Academy has modified the ritual slightly. As we see our training sessions as educational & learning sessions it is then appropriate that we begin and end these sessions as we open each class with Surah Al Fathihah and end it with Tasbih Qifarah and Suratul Asr.

Tasbih Qifarah:

سُبْحَانَكَ اللَّهُمَّ وَبِحَمْدِكَ أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لاََإِلَهَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ َأسْتَغْفِرُكَ وَأَتُوْبُ إِلَيْكَ


Our non-muslims members may follow the Japanese method, or one of their own, as long as it is not intrusive.


If my memory still serves me right, it has been three weeks since my motorcycle accident. No biggie.  There are not that many scratches on me, but the few that are there are quiet deep. The wound on my left palm has yet to heal and the wound on the right elbow, is festering again. I went to the doctor this morning to have myself checked out again. My cracked tibia seem to be healing well, but no jumping…. shucks… no tobi-geris… for a while. I try to make to classes and present a strong front. The biggest problem is my left palm….. some one suggested gel therapy to make it heal faster… and to keep away activity on the palm.

My scooter’s is another problem. Ever since the accident, the gears’ sorta stuck. It won’t go into nuetral automaticcally. But it still gets me from point A to B…. 🙂

I hope to full recovery in a week…

Choosing the right threads…hhhhmm…Part 2

A . Choosing your belt

Choosing the type of Outer

There are basically three different types of outer material for belts to choose from. Each has its own particular properties.

  • 100% cotton
  • 100% satin
  • Silk

The advantage of the 100% cotton outer is that it is the most traditional. The colour fades naturally over time and the belt ages beautifully. It also has very good durability and tends to tie better as there is more friction so less slip of the knot.

The advantage of the satin outer is that it has a nice shiny look and retains its deep colour for longer. It also has good durability and doesn’t fade or fray as much.

The advantage of the silk outer is that it is undoubtedly the best looking belt and is truly a luxury. It has a nice shine (but not glare) and ages the most beautifully giving faded, experienced look desired by many. Because of the delicacy of the material it tends to sit the most naturally of the three types, and is the most malleable.

Choosing the Belt Width and Thickness

This is controlled by the properties of the inner core. All three manufacturers offer a range of belts based on the width and thickness of the belt. Please see each manufacturer’s belt types for description.

The normal belts are of normal thickness (single cotton core) and are usually 3.5cm wide. The thinner normal belts have the advantage that they are cheaper and easier to tie and keep in place.

The upper range belts tend to have a double thick cotton core and are usually 4.5cm wide. The thicker, wider belts have the advantage that they look much better and are far more durable. Long term, they are a much better investment.

Choosing a Manufacturer

All major manufacturers produce the highest quality of products and choosing the manufacturer is again down to personal choice. This can be based on personal preference, club standard or recommendation. Many people will try to match their belt with their dogi.

Choosing the size

For the standard thickness and normal belts, I recommend using the formula:

  • (Waist in cm) x 2 + 110 to 120 cm (depending on if you want a standard length belt or long hanging belt. This can in turn be dependant on the amount of embroidery.)

for the extra thick and wide belts I recommend:

  • (waist in cm) x 2 + 120 to 130cm (depending on if you want a standard length belt or long hanging belt. This can in turn be dependant on the amount of embroidery.)

This is because, as the belts are thicker and wider, the knot tends to be bigger and the belt will hang shorter when tied.

Getting Embroidery

Getting embroidery done on belts is standard practice in Japan and very common elsewhere. It is the best way to show recognition of one’s achievement, or respect for ones style or associations (besides looking fantastic).

All these manufacturers pride themselves on their embroidery. On the special order made belts in particular, the belt is made after the embroidery is done onto the material. Thus the embroidery does not go through the belt (as seen on cheaper belts sold by other companies). This is a sign of true craftsmanship in the eyes of these manufacturers.

Each manufacturer uses a different standard font to distinguish themselves (but other fonts may be available on request). The standard colour is golden brown but all manufacturers can do a range of colours.

Regarding the type and language of embroidery, again this is based on personal choice or the standard within the club or association.

B. Caring for your belt

Contrary to popular belief, you can actually clean your belt! There is no need to possess an old smelly, mouldy belt in order to prove your dedication to training or your seniority.

If you follow some simple rules you can have a quality belt which will serve you for a long time.

Cotton Belts

These belts are machine washable though I personally recommend hand washing and gently spinning in a machine.

1. Wash as needed

You do not need to wash your belt so often, but regular washing is viable. Depending on your training frequency, I recommend about once a month for frequent trainers. In summer and humid climates it is better not to let sweat dry on it too often, so more frequently might be advisable. Be aware however that the more you wash, the more likely your belt is to fade.

2. Wash seperately on a delicate cycle

Do not wash with your belt with your dogi unless grey is your preferred dogi colour. Also washing with a lot of clothes will cause it to be tangled and mangled with the clothes. Satin belts may be damaged by mangling with the fibres of rougher cloth.

3. Do not hot wash

As with dogi, only cold wash. This not only preserves the colour of the belt, but also prolongs its life. Note: It is easier to cold wash by hand.

4. Use mild detergents only

Obviously don’t use detergents with bleach. “Hand wash” or “delicates” detergents are best and you only need a little.

5. Do not use commercial dryers or tumble dry

I recommend a light spin and hang drying outside. Stretch and flatten the belt before hanging out, but not in direct sun..

Silk and Satin Belts

As the outside covering is more delicate, I recommend only lightly hand washing with “delicate” or silk detergent and not machine washing at all. A delicate spin cycle can be used to dry the belt a little, before hang drying. See above.

Frequent wiping with a lightly damp cloth/towel after training and allowing to fully dry by hanging outside, will prolong the lifespan of your belt as well as negate the need for frequent washing.


Should you wish to ignore the recommendations above then, again, I suggest soaking your belt in acid overnight then drying in bright sunlight. I then recommend purchasing a new belt from me and repeating the process every month!

Choosing the right threads… hhhhmm…. part 1

A. Choosing your dogi

How to Choose the Right Dogi

A luxury dogi from one of the major manufacturers is an investment in yourself and your karate. So choosing the correct dogi is extremely important. I assume most people who are considering these dogi have karate experience, and are looking to replace, upgrade or try another brand of dogi.

If you are a beginner (or child) then I recommend starting off with the light beginner dogi and then investing in a more expensive one, once you have decided to continue your training long term.

1. Think about your needs :Think about what the dogi is going to be used for. Purposes include:

  • Top level competition i) kata or ii) kumite
  • Kata specific practice

  • Kumite specific practice

  • General purpose for everyday training

  • Summer training in hot climates

  • Winter training in cold climates



Heavy weight

Good for Kata, instructors, demonstrations, cold conditions, heavy contact training

Medium weight

Good for general purpose everyday training and where comfort and good mobility are required.


Usually beginner suits but also suitable for kumite practice or hot climates

Super lightweights

Ideal for fast action kumite and hot conditions.

They can also be divided by material type:



100% cotton

Traditional material used, has advantage of durability, breathability and natural comfort. In my opinion, cooler in summer

Poly-cotton blends

The new age material of dogi offer increased comfort, mobility, sweat absorption / diffusion and easier care.

Please note that the material grade or type used may vary between the manufacturers.

2. Decide which brand :Factors to take into account are:

  • Purpose
  • Brand loyalty
  • Price
  • Recommendation of others
  • Personal preference

3. Decide the size

The most important point here is to read the size charts carefully. Do not just go by your old dogi size, especially if it is a different manufacturer or cut. Also bear in mind that if your current dogi size is now too small, the same size will likely meet the same fate sooner or later. Remember all dogi shrink to some extent so you need to take this into account. (100% Cotton dogi shrink more than poly-cotton dogi.)

My philosophy is that since it is going to shrink, it is always safer to go bigger than smaller as something (adjustments) can be done about a bigger dogi, but if it is too small then it will make a set of very expensive dish-cloths.

4. Decide if you need adjustments or tailoring

Adjustments : As mentioned above getting a bigger size is always safer, however as the arms and legs may be too long, I recommend getting them professionally adjusted by the manufacturer. They make a small charge for this, but it is worth it as they will calculate the length that you will need to take into account for shrinkage. They will also make the stitching perfectly the same as the original.

If you require this service please write down THE FINAL LENGTH (in cm) YOU WANT IT TO BE after shrinkage.

How to measure : Please use an old dogi that you have and measure from the seam to the tip of the cuff for sleeves and from the top of the waist to the tip of the cuff for bottoms. Then make your adjustments based on that. Remember give me the final lengths you want it to be, and the manufacturer will take into account the shrinkage based on the type of dogi.


Full tailoring is available for all the dogi and you can see that there some exclusive tailor-made dogi.

Points to consider before getting fully tailor made are the extra cost, the extra time it takes and the possibility of errors from your measurements. I usually don’t recommend this option to the average karate-ka unless they have a very disproportionately sized body. However for the elite world level competitor or master then this may be a preference.

About shrinkage

According to the manufacturers:

  • 100% cotton dogi tend to shrink about 5-7cm (over a period of 2 years). This measurement is given based on the assumption that you do not hot wash or tumble dry (commercial dryers).
  • The poly-cotton blends tend to shrink about 2-3cm (over a period of 2 years). This measurement is given based on the assumption that you do not hot wash or tumble dry (commercial dryers).

5. Decide if you want it personalized.

Most people who invest in a top of the range dogi tend to have it personalized with their name embroidered on. This goes just above the label on the Jacket and next to the label on the bottoms. Embroidery is available in Alphabet, Katakana and kanji.

Not only does this give your dogi a personalized, unique touch, but it looks incredibly good. It also gives it a security feature, should anyone try to claim your dogi!

B. Caring for your dogi

How to take care of your dogi

If you purchase one of these high quality dogi then you can expect quality and durability. However, with proper care you can get many many years of service out of them. Here are a few simple rules to follow in order to get maximum satisfaction from your dogi.

1. Wash your dogi regularly.

Regularly means ideally after every session or realistically after every two or three sessions max.

This is not just for personal hygiene reasons or for the benefit of your co-trainers. Buy not allowing your dogi to become over-soiled, dirty or yellowed with dried in sweat, you will also be able to follow rules number 2, 3 and 4.

2. Do not hot wash your dogi

On the label it says to “COLD WASH ONLY” the dogi. This may not be possible in western machines but use the lowest temperature setting. Not only does this minimize shrinkage but it also minimizes damage to the material. Go easy on the spin cycle. A slower spin is less likely to damage your dogi. If you follow rule number 1 and 4, then hot washing is not necessary.

3. Do not use Bleach

If you follow rule number 1, this should never be necessary. Even blood / soil and other stains can be removed without bleach if it is done right away, rather than allowing it to dry for a long period.

4. Use milder detergents without bleach

If you follow rule number 1 this is very feasible. For stained dogi (eg. blood), I recommend spot removing by hand with a small bit of detergent or for heavy soiling, soaking a few hours in a lukewarm detergent solution, then washing as usual.

5. Do not use fabric conditioner

Fabric conditioner not only blocks the pores in the cotton material thereby locking in dirt and sweat, it also contributes to damaging the fibers of the material. Avoid using it.

6. Do not tumble dry

It clearly says on the label of every dogi “DO NOT USE COMMERCIAL DRYERS” yet people insist on using them. Not only does this shrink the dogi (reducing usable lifespan), but it also damages it such that it gradually becomes stiffer and more likely to rip. Hang dry your dogi (but not in direct sunlight)!

If you really really must use a dryer, then use a big commercial dryer (not home washer /dryers combos) and set it to the delicate setting and dry the dogi alone. Its much better to dry slowly at low temperatures that quickly at scorching temperatures.

7. Wash your dogi separately

If this is possible then I highly recommend it. The more room in your machine, the cleaner it is likely to be. Also there is no chance of colour-run accidents or graying. This may be obvious to most, but never wash your dogi with your belt!

8. If you Iron, do so carefully

There are people who follow the “body iron” rule that during the warm up of a session, their body heat and sweat will self iron the dogi. However, most people prefer to iron. Unfortunately because of the material of many dogi, high temperatures are needed. If possible minimize the temperature you need to use by stretching and flattening the material while it is wet, when you hang it. Hot ironing a damp dogi will make it go yellow.

9. Love your dogi

Independent studies (by a guy named Harry) have shown that the more you love your dogi, the more you are likely to take care of it and the longer it is likely to last.

The only time I would suggest hot washing and tumble drying is if the newly purchased dogi is too large. In this case a few cycles will help the dogi to fit with minumal damage compared to frequent hot wash/tumble drying.

For people who wish to disregard the above advice, then I highly recommend soaking your dogi in acid for a week to speed up the process and them purchasing new ones from me on a regular basis!

Bassai-Dai Bunkai

Last night 2 new students, Redza & Saiful, who are training to be cross-graded in Shotokan practiced their Bassai-dai. I emphasised on the bunkai of the opening movement. That practice took a better of of the hour. The Bassai-Dai they have been practicing was reather ‘unique’ and had to be tweaked to meet the requirements.

Eight Poems Of The Fist


The human mind is one with heaven and earth.
Our blood circulation parallels the solar and lunar cycles of each day.
Inhaling represents softness while exhaling characterizes hardness.
Adapt to changing conditions.
Response must result without conscious thought.
Distancing and posture dictates the outcome of the meeting.
See what is unseeable.
Expect what is unexpected.

A Stream Of Consciousness For Consideration By A Concerned Karate-Ka : Part 3

 < Continued from PART 2 >


I recommend that at least 2 senior karate-ka from different organizations be selected based on seniority and experience as non-partisan representatives and to advice on their respective ryu-ha. They may be nominated by their respective organizations. However, we have to acknowledge that there are some senior ‘retired’ karate-ka who are not affiliated to any organizations. These senior karate-ka make the ideal advisers as  they represent a non-partisan view on their respective ryu-ha.

Currently active in Malaysia are the following Ryu-Ha :

  • Japanese Disciplines : Shito-Ryu (MASK, Hayashi-Ha, Kusano-Ha, Shito-Kai, Itosu-Kai ) Shotokan (SKM, Kanazawa-Ryu, KWF), Goju-Ryu, Kyokushinkai
  • Occidental Disciplines : Kissaki-Kai, Shotoshinkai

This list is by no means the definitive list, as I may have left out some names due to my own ignorance on the existence  of the group.



I understand that it takes between 6 to 12 months to register a ‘sports’ organization. There are various support letters, lobbies and other bureaucratic requirements involved. For most part, the individuals that form these organizations are just a collection of individuals pursuing their passion for their chosen activity. The long procedures takes the fun out of it all. I understand that the Sports Commissioner processes thousands of applications a day so making the process simples by requiring less paperwork would surely be in it’s favor to lessen the workload of our overworked civil servants. They might even consider e-registration, like we do with taxes nowadays!!

Some may wish to affiliate to an NGB to expand their scope of membership and activities, but for most it is a group of people sharing similar interests. To lobby for support from certain parties would mean surrendering their independence and would require not a small sum of financial strength.

What would happen  if the principals of the two organizations, the NGB and the newly formed organization don’t see eye to eye? Or one just don’t like the way the other cuts his/her hair? Would one deny the other the aforementioned ‘support’ thus periling the other’s registration attempt?

I’ve read the Buku Panduan Pendaftaran Badan Sukan (Sports Body Registration Guidelines) cover to cover and never once did it mention ‘support letter required’. IMHO, this implies that the ‘support’ should be offered and not sought. Even if it is sought after, the absence of one should have no impact on the registration application other than acting as ‘icing on the cake’.



It is easy to criticize and amke suggestions. The burden of actual implementing any rules and procedures and affect change falls on the shoulders of the Sports Commissioner and the Ministry of Youth and Sports. They are the only ones able to compel MAKAF or any NGB to make the changes that are in the interest of the public. The Sports Commissioner has the authority granted by the Sports Development Act 1997 subsection 20(1)(e) : “…is hindering the development of the particular sport and it is in the public interest to revoke  or suspend its registration ” , and further in subsection 20(1)(f) of the same Act : “…has failed or neglected to remedy any malpractice, misconduct or irregularity on the part of its office bearers or its members ….”

Do we want to go the way of Karate England that remains divisive and after several reorganizations still fails to resolve the unification of ‘traditionalists’ and ‘sports-centric’ karate?

MAKAF as the NGB with the mandate to oversee the Malaysia Karate Community must step up and prove to skeptics and critics that they have not only the interest of the Malaysia Karate Community at heart but also the willpower to to evolve onto a greater entity that it is now. It has a heavy responsibility, and my only hope is that one day, we all may sit down at the same table and share teh tarik.

As Dr. Martin Luther King once said : I have a dream…..


 Read < PART 1 > < PART 2 >

A Stream Of Consciousness For Consideration By A Concerned Karate-Ka : Part 2

< Continued from PART 1 >

To achieve the aforementioned objectives, the governing body need to be :

  1. ATTRACTIVE to all (so that they want to join!!)
  2. So undeniably legitimate that karate-ka simply have to join, with the full backing and support of the ENTIRE karate community, not just selected ‘majority’.
In order to secure the wide support that will give the body an immediate critical mass the sempai/kohai culture so ingrained in karate needs a ‘universal’ sempai. This figure should be a non-executive President that commands the respect of the majority. Figures such as Jamal Measara Kyoshi of Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Seibukan (currently residing in Germany), one of the most respected non-Japanese karate-ka even in Okinawa, Paul Chin Shihan of Sabah Karate Association or George Tan Shihan of Shito-Kai Malaysia would be suitable candidates. This ex-officio presidential post would serve to sense-check the decisions of the executive, whilst remaining non-political or non-aligned to any particular group or party.
Secondly, there should be a commercial/advertising & promotions officer. This post would undertake both duties that presents a publicity and marketing public face of Malaysian Karate, and acts as a creator of revenue. There are two alternative sources of funding : Government & Commercial sponsorship. Why not take both? The governing body should accept government funding stream whilst developing its own sources of income. For example : merchandising – using sales of logoed goods at various festivals, tournaments, or conduct their own commercial courses and seminars open to all, not just ‘affiliates’ and tournament levies on independent tournaments (as currently practices by AAA for road races), sanctioned equiptment sales.
This financial independence and technical credibility would create a strong viable Governing Body, embracing both sport and traditional, as well as the infinity of shades along that continuum.
The current membership structure of MAKAF consists of :
  1. Ryu based associations (Shito-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, etc)
  2. State based associations (Melaka, Sabah, etc)
  3. Royal Malaysia Police Karate Association
According to MAKAF, it will currently only accept new members who are State Bodies (at the moment, according to their website, the only states not included are Pahang, Terengganu and Sarawak) and are not accepting any based on ryu-ha. Those ryu-ha based associations are required to join the state ‘governing’ body. This poses certain questions :
  1. What of the associations granted national status by the Sports Commisioner? These are ryu-ha based associations that are granted to use of ‘Malaysia’ in it’s name and thus forming a national body for their association. What category do they fall under? What of ryu-ha based associations that are not granted national status, but are the sole representative of their of their ryu-ha?
  2. Why not carry a total restructuring of the membership structure? Meaning, leave only the state bodies and reassign the ryu-ha based associations to their respective states where they are domiciled. This raises another predicament. The domicile of such an association tends to be that of the ‘chief instructor’. If they same-said association also has a state based association registered in the same state, how then they stand in the state registration?
  3. Another alternative would be to have both state-level bodies and national-level ryu-ha based associations. The criteria in granting the national status must be crystal clear. To qualify as a national level ryu-ha based association, the organization must have state-level representation in at least 1/3 of the total number of states. Malaysia has a total number of 13 states plus 3 federal territories (Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya) : 16 constituents. I recommend that for any organization to qualify and be recognized as a National-level body it must have legal representation (registered with the Sports Commisioner) in at least 6 constituents. This raises the question of proxy registration, in which the state-level organization is registered only on paper, but have no physical presence (ghosts!!). IMHO, it then falls on the Sports Commisioner to ensure that these representations are genuine. The Sports Commisioner in it’s guidelines, specifically states that at least 7 persons are required to make up an association. I recommend that in addition, the majority of the group (4 persons) be practicing karate-ka and are domiciled in the state to qualify. This is to prevent proxy registrations. Ryu-ha based state-level associations may use the designation of X-Ryu Malaysia if they are the only and exclusive representative of the said ryu-ha in the country, but do not qualify under the 6 constituents requirement, and that status is not challenged by any other associations. One usable method is to announce intent to register by advertising in the newspapers (the way liquor licenses are issued). This provides some form of public scrutiny and only then in unofficial term. They may use X-Ryu Malaysia, but not X-Ryu Malaysia Association (or any form of its derivatives), and are not granted national status hence not qualify for membership in the governing body. If such organizations fall below the the required recommended 6 constituents, the Sports Commissioner then must not entertain requests for registration as X-Ryu Malaysia Association and any attempt otherwise should be punished swiftly and severely (ie, deregistration, no appeal). This is to discourage and prevent misrepresentation, intentional or otherwise by any organizations. For Example : X-Ryu has representation in Malaysia. The majority of it’s members and chief instructor are based in Sarawak. It can then be registered as X-Ryu Sarawak Association (XSA). XSA then must then register with the Sarawak Karate Association (SKA) to affiliate with MAKAF. 5 years down the road, X-Ryu expands to 3 other states. That still falls short of the required 6 states to form a national-level ryu-ha based association. It may use X-Ryu Malaysia but may not append the words association, federation, union or other forms of legal designation to it’s name. It cannot be officially listed as X-Ryu Malaysia Association.


How do we define a national governing body (NGB)? It must be transparent, accountable and open to scrutiny by the public. MAKAF has has done a great job so far, but even insiders agree that there is room for improvement. An qualified association should not be refused affiliation because it is the final say of the ‘supreme council’ with no avenue to appeal via the general meeting, to which the same-said council is answerable to (presumably). MAKAF, as an NGB should be accountable for any and all actions to the public, especially to the overall general karate community. If an organization has proper credentials and documentation, it should not be refused membership and any such membership application should be treated as a mere formality rather than a requirement. My recommendations for ‘proper credentials’ are:

  1. REGISTRATION WITH THE SPORTS COMMISSIONER : This should be current and active registration and any organizations being suspended, under investigation or has had it’s registration revoked must have it’s membership likewise suspended/revoked. This rule extends to the office holders in the NGB, as membership in the NGB is not a personal individual membership but held by their respective organizations.
  2. PROOF OF REPRESENTATION : Karate is a martial art of Okinawan and Japanese origin. But it since evolved into a worldwide phenomenon and many non-Japanese has gone on to form their own ryu-ha and association. As such, proof of representation either in the form of affiliation certificate or letter of appointment of representation must be included. This is to prevent the problem of an organization claiming to use the name of a legitimate ryu-ha, but in actual has no affiliation or the affiliation is not active and has been terminated and is not the proper representative of the said ryu-ha, and blocking the registration of appointed representative. Failure to provide the said document would render their registration revoked.
I respect and acknowledge that for some, karate is a sporting event, whilst for others it is a martial discipline. However for many, it is the combination of both. It is my firm belief that no matter their personal view of philosophy, the two ‘camps’ should unite under a common banner. The NGB, MAKAF, should function less as a regulatory body and more as a facilitator witha firm mission to unify the Malaysian Karate Community and not sacrifice the organic nature of karate that is ever evolving. No longer the ‘traditionalist’ shun the ‘sports-centric’ governing body.
< Read More in PART 1 and watch this space for upcoming PART 3 >

A Stream Of Consciousness For Consideration By A Concerned Karate-Ka : Part 1

The purpose of today’s post to to re-examine the need and function of a ‘governing body’ and if so why. The reader is welcome to accept or discard any or all of it.
It is my contention that we do need a single governing body for the various reasons :
  1. Karate is widely misunderstood (and sadly, often misrepresented) and there should be one point of reference that interested parties and members of the public can approach for information, advice and assistance.
  2. Karate practice encompasses a plethora of ethical and technical ideals. Disparate umbrella groups and self-styled governing bodies mislead and allow confusion.
  3. A central single body can set, and monitor standards (technical, ethical, financial, etc.)
There are some who advocates the idea of two bodies, one to manage sport karate and one to cater to the so-called “traditional” karate. I believe this inappropriate as many practitioners embrace both side of the discipline, and a great many respected karate-ka who consider themselves ‘traditional’ also support sport, and vice versa. By splitting the two, we risk potentially dividing the overall karate community. Even the sport of karate as endorsed by the major bodies (WKF , WUKO) embraces budo values.
It is important to consider the role of the National Sports Council in these plans. In my opinion it can be very simple : Unify, or no funds. At the moment there are too many karate associations left out of the loop due to many reasons. There is of course the possibility of forging ahead with independent commercial funding. This has to be considered withing the wider context of sport/education/social policy generally. Whilst it is perfectly feasible to imagine a financially self-supported body, the implications of running independently of the Government Agency responsible for what might be loosely termed ‘physical education‘ are not, IMHO, viable.
A governing body needs to :
  • Establish and maintain standards
  • inform and educate (members and outside parties)
  • Lobby outside bodies for support
  • Represent it’s members’ disparate needs
  • Deliver services for its members
  • Act as a disciplining/controlling force to control non-aligned or non-compliant bodies

All the above must be fulfilled in an environment of transparency and propriety. Due proses means that there will be accountability and scrutiny. There is no point in trying to run even a benign dictatorship or patriarchal democracy. One definition of democracy is that the leaders can be rid of. Thomas Paine, two centuries ago, warned that a democratic government must ensure that the will of the people is represented. That means constant reference back to the electorate (overall karate community). This has not been the case with MAKAF. I propose a trimmed down governing body with a lean, effective management that will include ALL the karate-ka in Malaysia in one body.

Read PART 2