Caveat: Please make note that this article/post is my personal analysis of the subject and the information used was chosen or picked by me. It is not an analysis piece because it lacks complete and comprehensive research, it was not adequately and completely investigated and it is not balanced, i.e., it is my personal view without the views of others including subject experts, etc. Look at this as “Infotainment rather then expert research.” This is an opinion/editorial article/post meant to persuade the reader to think, decide and accept or reject my premise. It is an attempt to cause change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs and values as they apply to martial arts and/or self-defense. It is merely a commentary on the subject in the particular article presented.

This article is mine and mine alone. I the author of this article assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and/or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this article. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding. Oh, and just because I wrote it and just because it sounds reasonable and just because it makes sense, does not mean it is true.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015




SPARRING (soft) vs. FIGHTING (soft)






TATCHI-GOKU-I (contact or touch)




I am a Marine Veteran who practices martial arts, specifically the striking arts of Okinawan Isshinryu. Most of my time teaching was spent on the physical aspects. It wasn't until later in my winter years and practice that I discovered a deeper and more meaningful aspect. I rediscovered the old tome of the Ken-po Goku-i (goku-i will be used for brevity in lieu of ken-po goku-i) which the developer of the system awarded to all his black belts, those Marines leaving their tour of duty on the island.

I spent many years studying this short and terse tome to find the martial philosophy that legend and stories allude to in the study of this art, this esoteric study of the brutal civil system of empty hand.

Recent (last ten) years provided much insight to my practice and teaching. My study of this terse tome led me to the more extensive study of ancient classics like the Tao Te Ching and I Ching.

This book will not be offering any direct lessons in technique but rather a view of the system and the applications from a spiritual/philosophical perspective.

The goku-i will be mostly generic to the martial arts as a whole in lieu of direct inference from Isshinryu Karate Goshin [護身] Jutsu Do, The Way and Technique of the One-heart System of Empty Hand.

Most martial systems are sport oriented; it is all about the individual. True martial systems of combative nature are centered on the individual in how to utilize the human body to overcome a threat. It focuses on the physical self; in today's classical or traditional form it gives more than "lip-service" to the ethical, moral, spiritual, emotional and intellectual aspects.

Your mind and spirit the unconscious mind or heart are all sources of imbalance. The martial systems I understand rely heavily on balance, balance: of the mind, spirit and body. This book is an effort to bring balance back to the force, the path, the way of the martial arts.

This book, I hope, will bring more to your practice than the obvious and bring out the more esoteric perceived as hidden aspects of martial practice and application.

It can be said the strictly physical of the martial arts without the spiritual is simply a brutal way to dominate other human beings. The spiritual aspect of martial practice is often overlooked, misunderstood or just ignored in favor of instant gratification, getting to the fun stuff.

" ... Sooner or later you're going to realize, just as I did, that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path." - Morpheus, the movie The Matrix.

This book is a means for the martial artist to achieve "walking the path" and not just "knowing the path." It is easy to spout out quotes of this or that, to read the book of five rings to students and to say the I Ching says to do this or do that but it takes great effort and due diligence to actually live the words, the quotes and the meaning of such ancient teachings. Humans have endeavored to do just this, walk the path, over thousands of years, this is my effort to walk the path and to inspire others to walk the path, not just talk the path.

"Providing a first step on a path to self-reflection." - C. E. James

I walk the path - mostly. In some cases, the fact that you achieve the path, and in others your efforts to walk it suffice, as long as you continue the effort to walk that path. We have many paths we take, like the many faces we assume. When we step off that particular path we learn things about ourselves and about life - good. Then we attempt to get back on that path and that effort can be challenging - just do it, just try and try and try.

As Morpheus told Neo, "know the path - good - now walk that path - better." You martial brothers and sisters forget the mouth and institute your actions in a manner that walks that path - no kuchi bushi (mouth warrior), more Neo.


It might clarify intent by mentioning here that this book hopes to remove the curtain between two worlds: the dream world and the world of reality.

"I, Chuang Chou, dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?”

In balance of martial systems we have the physical - the state of reality. We also have the spiritual aspects or those dream like mind states that speak to us metaphorically - the state of the goku-i. Much like the great Chuang Chou, are we to place our efforts in the real world of the physical or in the ephemeral world of the goku-i? This may be the question I am trying to answer but the answer may be in a balance - the martial arts shall only be practiced in a balanced state.


There are some inherent human traits one should be aware of when venturing into the realm of the philosophical belief through the goku-i or any other ancient classical system.

As a species, the human species, we have issues with ambiguity. We seem to be neurologically wired to feel discomfort with it. The brain will send out all these anxiety signals when we encounter any conflicting or confusing stimuli. When we do encounter such stuff we tend to create an interpretation that makes such ambiguity go bye-bye.

The human brain does not rely on the external data to create our vision of the world but rather what we create in our minds from our perceptions through our perceptive filters. In a nutshell we see what we want to see; we look at the world in accordance with our own worldviews, our perceptive filters and perceptions.

We also run into other people whose world view differs and we don't tend to just disagree but rather begin to change our view of that person as someone who is deficient or an-out-and-out villain. We will fight to the death for our worldview our beliefs.


Our memories are subject to the many ways the brain processes a huge amount of data received through our senses. These processes relate to past memories and build on that which sometimes takes relevant information and simply discards it without question. Our memories are undergoing constant changes as they are stored, retrieved and restored to the locations encoded in long-term memory.

This aspect gives a sort of credence to our minds and therefore our realities are subject to a Matrix like aspect where memories are both unreliable and subject to mixing reality and imagination. Are we living out a dream or are we living out reality and who is going to say which is which.

Keep this in mind as you study the goku-i and other aspects of martial systems. Test it out and test it again. Give it time to see whether it is something that works.


All human behavior is based on what it is to be human. There are a variety of ways to look at the world and a variety of ways to understand it, all driven by our mind's perception. Human perceptions and cognitive functioning are subject to doubt. The brain receives millions of pieces of stimuli every second from our senses. Our brains can only handle a small fraction so it comes down to choosing which is going to go through and which is not, this means the brain may or may not be providing an accurate view of reality. The brain therefore takes what it feels is relevant and then builds a model of the world. This is done under that heading you hear often: our ability to survive - survival instincts.


The brain takes shortcuts to get what is necessary for survival. It takes on what is important to survive and discards all the rest. Sometimes it is right and sometimes it is wrong.


Humans suffer from what has been termed, change blindness. This means we may miss something important even though it is right in front of us. Our brains are prone to making these errors in perception. The brain, thus us, can be conscious of only so much at any one moment. It is a fact of existence.


You should know that the one part of the brain we need for survival is also our most problematic part of the brain: the amygdala. It serves as the human cognitive handler. It is complicated and it takes care of all input. It can be viewed simply as the human bodyguard who dumps emotions and adrenaline while shouting loudly, "Danger! Do something now!" It is chiefly concerned with survival.


Knowing this, hopefully, means you will not allow the brain to color your view of what you read here but rather open the door to the fact that not all things are black or white. There is a gray area we can see and accept. See this as the out-of-the-box experience. We can, by this book in the study of the goku-i, reach a level where we utilize our subjectivity with an open mind free to inquire about anything.


Timing is mentioned and when digging deeper into the ken-po goku-i it was discovered that many aspects also speak to "time." The connectivity to the Universe, Earth, Sun and Moon find time to create rhythms and cycles in life that extends to human beings.

Two distinct times that humans will immediately relate to are "biological" and "personal" time. Where the goku-i speaks loudest in a silent fashion is on the subject of biological time.

Look at the nature of time: The ebb and flow of the tides; the rhythms of the seasonal changes; the cycle of the Earth in the heavens and the sun's influences. This is how man created time. This is how the clock we watch daily came into being. All of this nature time existed long before the watch, clock or timepiece.

Time is also connected by the changes in the Earth's atmosphere, the sun's spots, and the pull of the moon - all contribute to the rhythms of the environment which created time - timing.

When you read the particulars of the goku-i don't let it place your views into a cubbyhole where time is only that which appears as seconds, minutes and hours on the device worn about your wrist. Time, timing and how we make use of it all depends. This is something to consider when reading this book.

Let's discuss another aspect the fact that the environmental rhythms and cycles are what created life and opened the door to evolution. In the human body those same rhythms and cycles affect the hourly changes, shifts or cycles in the chemical aspects of the blood: blood circulates much like the cycles of the Moon, Sun, and Earth.

The environment stimulates the human body with the normal rhythms and cycles of life except when external events cause changes and those changes cause a loss of synchronization to nature - the environment.

Our biological clocks seem to be directly related to nature's clock. Staying in phase with nature's clock is what connects us with the twenty-four-hour clock cycle of Earth.

Take a step further, those biological clock times connect to the times of the day as influenced by the position of the Sun and Moon as well as the orbit/position related to all three heavenly bodies at any time in space. These biological time connections will influence the energy levels of the body related to a time of day or night and this energy influences the intellectual activity we experience.

This book is my philosophy as developed through the study of the "goku-i" with the hope it will inspire the reader to study and develop their own martial philosophy. It is a hope that it will bring a balance back to martial arts.


The lines of the ken-po goku-i are set from an atomistic aspect simply because it is the manner in which the brain learns. Its nature is completely holistic and like, the I Ching, must be in a form that promotes learning and understanding so a person can see, hear and grasp the nature of a holistic system. The goku-i is a method to teach us how to be holistic. Its terseness is the best way to convey its holistic meaning.


The Americans, in the beginning, were first presented with the ken-po goku-i. The presentation was in the form of a silk certificate with the "goku-i" written in Japanese characters (note that Japanese characters are based chiefly on those assimilated from Chinese characters). The English translation, approximate, was presented alongside since most Americans do not know or understand Kanji.

This presentation is reminiscent of a Zen Master presenting a "Koan" to a disciple. Like the Zen Koan the goku-i also is a kind of "story or dialogue," a method of self-questioning, a statement that inspires one to think, consider and contemplate. Like the koan it is not readily or literally understood, it is not considered rational except in its "appearance" or literal meaning.  It is in need of the individual's intuition, the instincts created through study and meditation, both physical and motionless, to find an individual perception and meaning.

The nine lines of the goku-i are a Zen Koan for the martial arts. It is a sagely saying to teach. It was born of the larger and more complex documents, the I Ching and others. It consists of a grouping of words that, underneath the obvious, are perplexing, critical and concise, somewhat poetic but also a commentary on martial systems.

Again, like a Zen Koan, responses to the goku-i will differ with each practitioner. Different systems and Sensei demand different responses as to meaning and application to the system itself as practiced by an individual. It is fluid in nature and presents answers to questions that will vary by the circumstance, person and moment in time.

The idea is not to gain specificity to the goku-i but to look for a state of mind as expressed with each study and finding for the goku-i. There are no traditional answers as will be seen throughout this book. The goku-i is meant to provide a means to display the evidence of the system working by what is grasped by the individual each moment as they follow the path presented, the many paths of a martial system.

The greatest obstacle to Americans who study this simple, concise and complex koan called the goku-i is finding a qualified teacher who can judge the depth and breadth of attainment. The goku-i is a dynamic system to seeking an answer to the goku-i. It is an object that seeks the object with a relentless seeking of itself - man seeking the answer to the self, to break through the obstacles of the mind!


The nine lines are terse and of such a nature that a lot of crossover begins when attempting to put a meaning on any one line. As I write this book I find that it is convoluted and that seems to be the nature of a holistic tome (karate koan). As I explain perspectives of each line you will recognize that it bleeds into other lines, parts of lines and other esoteric and holistic rhythms. This is unavoidable and a part of moving from atomistic to holistic.

It is important that the atomistic, the physical teachings of martial systems, be maintained but drawn into and applied in a holistic fashion ergo the goku-i's main function: to provide equilibrium to martial systems whereby we learn an atomistic physical aspect, then supplement it with the holistic, through the teachings of the goku-i for a wholehearted system that becomes oscillistic, a functional holistic-atomistic system.

Be aware of the crossover: learn from the blending of the lines and achieve the oscillistic practice of martial systems. This is the effort and result this book is meant to achieve. It is fluid; it is ever changing and it is not meant to be linear in its path. A single path must branch off into multiple paths that cross over, blend and then move on as threads intertwine to make up a rope: strong, flexible and holistic.

The teachings of the goku-i: a gardener must reach down into the soil to cultivate, feed and protect the individual plants, bushes and flowers. A master gardener will fail if they do not step back and take a complete view of the entire garden. If the focus is so tight that they miss the infestations, the weeds, and the various animals, they miss the opportunity to protect the garden in order to smell and admire the entire space. A master gardener knows the particulars of their craft and has achieved a level of knowledge and experience that allows for the particulars, such as planting a seed, to overseeing and protecting all of the gardens plants, bushes and flowers; to achieve, to blend into a holistic approach to gardening.

The goku-i is a recipe for martial systems. It provides the important ingredients and then helps us mix them into a lovely frosted cake for our enjoyment.

One last point: the nine lines provide an impression of ideologies that are like the nine chapters in this book. There are nine places that present certain perspectives and nine lines that remain fixed, but they should be treated as different each time one experiences them. The perspectives hopefully provide the reader with a fundamental sense of this concept. It is this doorway that leads to the end result. The results are different each time, each moment and only for that present moment.

There is little I can do to help anyone achieve the rhythm and synchrony that is inherent in traditional Asian systems but hopefully this book will open the door and the mind, to allow outside-the-box ideas to enter our culture and our way.


The I-Ching refers to the four significant symbols - Heaven, Earth, Sun, and Moon, where the same references are made in the Ken-po Goku-i.

In the I-Ching Qian, stands for Heaven, Kun for Earth, Li for Sun, and Kan for moon. Heaven is also used to symbolize "emptiness."

Besides Heaven and Earth, Sun and Moon were the two most important symbols to the ancient Chinese. The sun and moon up in the sky were the first two natural objects they noticed that display the principle of yin and yang.

The Sun was a source of heat and light, or most yang, or the hottest, the brightest. The moon itself had neither heat nor light; its light was merely the reflection of the sun, or most yin, or the coldest, the darkest. The waxing and waning of the moon derived the principle of change and also that of the continuity of change.

Heaven, Earth, Sun and Moon were the four deities that the ancient Chinese revered the most. Heaven and Earth, respectively, represent the pure yang and the pure yin (note: In the Looking Glass God by Stiskin, heaven and earth are symbolic of the ultimate polarity of the created world). Sun and Moon represent yin within yang, and yang within yin, respectively. The ancients named these four gua as the symbols of the four cardinal directions - Qian for south, Kun for north, Li for east, and Kan for west.

If we read the words of the goku-i we see the connectedness to this belief system in regards to the references toward direction: hard and soft in extremes as well as the middle ground of hard and soft.


"People have habitual ways of thinking, ways that they continue to use because they have seemed successful in the past." - Richard J. Heuer. This must be avoided to achieve understanding of this book, this ken-po goku-i.

Why a prologue when you have an introduction? I decided that the prologue would provide some important information regarding the natural human traits that would not only govern how one perceives this book but to provide said information that may lead a reader to "open the mind" and allow this to prompt possible change to your beliefs with regard to the practice of martial systems.

This book is not about belief - yours, mine or anyone's. It is about the possibilities that one can gleam from a generic tome to a path in martial practice. It is a collection meant to promote thought. Not my thoughts, yours.

It is not about assumptions or expectations. It is about change of all kinds beginning with a simple discipline that can and does build on a "whole system."

First, it must be understood that humans have limitations. It is the effort of this prologue to provide the reader with some of the human limitations that may or may not affect how the goku-i is perceived, interpreted, and accepted or rejected as to its premise.

All beliefs are derived from individual perceptive processes. They are shaped by personal relationships, societal influences, and educational and spiritual pursuits.

Once a belief is accepted or established, humans tend to challenge any belief outside theirs and will tend to invalidate them even when they see, hear and grasp contradictory evidence. Know this; you will tend to take what is provided; if it goes against your grain, you will want to dismiss or disparage it. If you feel this, stop and take a moment. The intent here is to provide a point to consider with an open mind and without personalization or perception of forced change.

Know that what you may feel is simply human survival instincts. These instincts will tell you that this is an effort to change those beliefs. It says you will use what would be a propensity to reject any and all things that refute or cause you pause in your current belief systems, especially regarding martial arts.

Know this hesitancy is simply human nature; perfectly natural. It is not a matter of the world out there or the world we hold within; it is about knowledge and the possibility of change for the better.

Neurologically speaking, our brains are programmed at a seemingly DNA level to hold prejudice as a part of our nature. It then has a propensity to reject any belief that is not in accord with ones own view, perceptions and beliefs.

I wish you to understand before you begin that human nature speaks to us saying that it does not matter what the facts are, for if they don't support a personal belief, they are dismissed. No matter what we feel, see, hear, think or do, it is all processed by our individual brains and thus builds our reality within, not out there in the real world.

In this, one needs to understand that every person has an innate need to build moral, spiritual, and scientifically-based beliefs that we use to explain our Universe. It is what I perceive from the scientific studies as a fundamental, essential component of the brain.

Beware of how our brains work; it can make the difference as you read this book.


It is also worth remembering that human assumptions are seldom accurate but they reduce through belief our fear and impart certain values that help us achieve group cohesion, which means survival. It is worth remembering that each person has the biological ability to stop detrimental or derogatory beliefs and generate new, more positive ones in this process - this is important to remember.

New ideas, as I propose in this book can assist the open minded into change that literally alters brain circuitry and, by that change, the way we behave and what we believe - to our betterment.

Knowing the brain's propensity to resist change opens us to the ability to change, but in an accepted and conscious manner. This is the hope I have for this book.


It is my hope to circumvent the natural tendency to want quick, efficient solutions that require little effort, they don't exist. There are no quick, efficient solutions to any truly beneficial process.


We have a propensity to believe that other people's values are misguided.

Prejudice seems to be rooted in human nature. The human brain has a propensity to reject any belief that is not in accord with our own.

New ideas can change the neural paths in the brain. They can change what we believe and thus our behavior - the goal of the goku-i.

We will automatically assume we hear truth when it appeals to our desires and fantasies.

We have a human propensity for effortless, quick and efficient solutions to our goals and strategies.

We are born with a natural tendency to trust what others say, but cannot take the time necessary to question every single piece of information our senses send to our brains.

Anger, bitterness, contempt, hostility and depression are serious compromising emotions detrimental to health and well-being.


There is a rhythmic frequency/wave in all things. The Heavens and Earth along with the second line of the Sun and Moon denote the rhythms of the Universe and thereby all those connections of nature that are also a rhythm. We find that those rhythms in Nature, Earth and humans is once again connected by threads that are frequencies/waves/energies that are either in synchrony or not.

Then we add in time. Not just the literal time we constantly view on the watch we wear but in nature's time. Time to humans is a type of organization and that equates to our human behavior. The goku-i is one method to re-introduce us to natural time over industrial time.

Research results in this area tell us, initially, that the self is deeply ingrained into and part of, rhythmic synchronic processes. Processes such as the person's heart and the blood circulation symbolize the energy of life that is naturally coupled with nature's rhythms and synchronicity. The rhythm that portrays natural organization of life or nature is a basic design function of human beings. This organization with rhythm results in human personalities. Therefore current research says that rhythm is inseparable from process and structure.

Our personality traits may find their foundation on rhythm, nature's rhythm. This rhythm/personality is unique to each human/person. The tenant of martial practice, both classical/traditional with Zen influences, to achieve balance of self and find the human rhythms that originate from our center, "hara", or the center of self. We have to have balance and self-synchrony.

Body movement is precisely synchronized with a four-level hierarchical series of rhythms which are shown in studies through wave analysis that provides intervals/rhythms of 1-3, 4-7, 8-13, 14-24, and 25-40 per second.


Confucius taught that human survival is dependent on social order. It is by the creation and support to the clan, tribe, society that we survive. When humans gather together and create a unified social system this strengthens the individual, one, into a whole of many, still one, that is greater than the sum of all its parts, building a strong whole that gives security, protection and human social connectivity.

The goku-i teaches the martial artist, through the direct influences of the physical. The mental and physical, the spiritual, crates a stronger whole resulting in a wholehearted effort that carries over to society, the group or the dojo for a stronger foundation giving the practitioner and the dojo strength, security and cohesiveness.

Confucius taught that this is achieved by knowledge through people's efforts to become educated. The mind leads the body and in reciprocity the body, through physical effort, teaches the mind. This process teaches flexibility. The need and ability to change. The mind is flexible, as is the body, as is the spirit, allowing change to bring about the one wholehearted human experience promoting life, serenity and enlightenment.

The martial system, in tandem with the goku-i, is the yang-yin whereby individuals learn the lessons of nature, the Universe, to achieve a greater, stronger and more secure whole. That is how life began and how life will continue.