Blue Belt Concepts


When attempting to manipulate and control another individual it is necessary to press or pull them in various ways to get them to move where and how you would prefer. But opponents are not always particularly cooperative. You may meet resistance to your attempts at manipulation.

The innate natural instinct of most people is to then employ power and strength to overcome the resistance. A struggle of strength naturally ensues between the two parties. The stronger and faster person will probably win out.

This is not what we want. We want to guarantee our victory to the extent possible. Leaving a contest up to a struggle for muscular superiority is not, in any way, a guaranteed path toward success.

We need a different strategy.

If you push or pull some portion of the opponent’s anatomy and they immediately resist your manipulation attempt, then you must learn to immediately curtail your movement and move the opponent in some other direction – a direction in which they are now weak. This will often be in the direction directly opposite to your original movement attempt, or at 90° to the initial movement. The opponent cannot be strong in every direction. Since you now know where they are strong (they are strongly resisting your movement attempt), then you know they will be weak somewhere else. You want to move toward their weakness, and not fight against their strength. In this sense, a person’s strength betrays his or her weakness.

The ability to both recognize and quickly react to resistance on the part of an opponent is referred to as Abandonment. This is a very hard concept and skill to master because it is in direct opposition to our learned instincts to press harder when encountering resistance. Instead, we must retrain ourselves to immediately react in a completely different manner when we encounter resistance from an opponent. Resistance is a very good thing for it points us immediately in the direction of the opposing party’s weakness.

This is a key and essential Tensoku Ryu concept. You will encounter it throughout your training and will ultimately be good at Tensoku Ryu only when you have mastered this often frustrating concept. Work to ensure you can recognize when abandonment is (or would have been) useful. Now work to shorten your reaction time so you can more quickly and ultimately unconsciously react to an opponent’s manifestation of strength.

Look Only to the Future

Philosophically it would be nice if we could only look ahead to a brighter and more prosperous future. But of course, we have memories, both good and bad, that cause us to constantly look back as well. That’s hardly a bad thing. Except in the martial arts.

We have often described a scenario in which someone has thrown a right punch, which was blocked. But during the time it took to block the first strike, the opponent has delivered a second one. That’s how things happen in a real conflict. Things happen concurrently. While you are blocking, the other person is striking. And nobody is going to simply extend their arm and then let you execute a complicated technique involving eight different movements. No, they’re going to hit you.

Before we get too far off base let me say that blocks are not always ineffective. There are times when they work well, but they work only in specific circumstances. The same is true of a technique. They can work, but only in a very limited context and if you are very aware of how your movements will affect your opponent. But generally speaking, blocking and using techniques are ineffective in a conflict.

So, if blocking a strike doesn’t really work, and if a technique doesn’t work, what is one to do with that incoming strike? The answer is simple really; ignore it.

When someone launches a purposeful strike in your direction they have already computed the direction, speed, power, extension, and posture they intend to use for that strike. Once the strike is initiated they will not make changes to the strike. This means the strike will travel along its planned trajectory, extend as far out as was planned, and land with the intended force. There is little you can do about any of that other than block or parry it. Otherwise, the strike will go where and do what was intended. If you are in the way you will be hit. If you block the strike you may be hit with the next instantaneously delivered strike. It seems you cannot win. But in reality, you cannot lose.

The moment that strike was initiated history was being made. You now move so the strike cannot impact you and use aggressive defensive tactics to disrupt the opponent so they cannot deliver a follow-up strike. The first strike is ancient history and you do not want to focus any energy or thought on that strike. Your goal is to look toward the future and to prevent that next strike from occurring. In the time it would take you to address the first strike you will be struck by a second. This is a losing strategy. Instead, you want to ignore the past and look only to the future.

Use the time and energy you would have spent to block the strike to instead disrupt your opponent’s structure so that they cannot deliver a second strike. Any existing strike is historical in nature. Look solely toward preventing all future strikes. You are, in essence looking to thwart the opponent’s secondary strike before it has even begun to occur. You do this during the same time period you may have spent blocking the first strike. Only your time is much better spent thwarting the future strike.

Once you have begun to thwart the secondary strike your mind moves forward to the future. What you are doing to thwart that secondary strike is now history. You need to move on. There is no benefit in focusing any further attention or effort on your thwarting attempt. You need to have another plan in mind. You develop the plan by assessing, usually unconsciously, how your opponent is oriented structurally. You then move or strike the opponent so that his or her future position and structure will be to your benefit.

And that’s the way it goes. Every action is designed to position yourself and the opponent for some future purpose. Everything in Tensoku Ryu is oriented toward the future. The past, as beneficial or regrettable as it may have been, is now irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the future. Always think of where you are going and immediately forget about where you have been, even before you have been there.

Third Eye

The Third Eye is not a physical eye at all. It is a mental construction that suggests there is a central point of consciousness that is located and focused on the forehead between the other two eyes (and sometimes in other locations). The exact location of the third eye is up to significantly different interpretations, depending on the cultural, religious, and philosophical perspective of an individual. So there is no exact and precise definition of the location for a third eye that would be accepted by everyone.

The third eye can be deeply entwined in religious and spiritual thinking and is quite common in various cultures around the world. It is often associated with meditation, clairvoyance, and out of body experiences. Such uses for the third eye are outside the realm of our training.

We use the concept of a third eye as a means of defining focus. From our perspective, we define the third eye to be the region generally located between your two eyebrows. If you focus your attention somewhere then the third eye is what is likely directed toward the area of interest. So in this context, the third eye might be thought of as a mental targeting tool.

But in martial arts, the third eye often has a broader context. This is in part derived from the spiritual and philosophical aspects previously discussed, but it has a more practical nature. In this context, the third eye represents your intuition. If you feel that someone who has approached you on the street is quite suspicious then, from a martial arts perspective, your third eye has detected something that warrants further monitoring.

If you are simply walking somewhere and the hair on the back of your neck stands erect then this, again from a martial arts perspective, is your third eye notifying you that you should be more aware of your surroundings.

Some schools and martial arts styles actively promote the concept of the third eye. They may have occasional drills and exercises where they focus on developing or improving these abilities in students. Sometimes these skills are practiced while participants are blindfolded or in some other way deprived of one or more senses.

Does any of this work? Can you really practice to improve the intuitive powers of the third eye? Is this entire third-eye thing nothing more than a psychological sham?

We have all experienced times where our intuition has proven very beneficial. And perhaps we can train in ways to pay better attention to our intuition. But intuition is not always accurate, so is this training simply teaching us to be hypersensitive? Who knows for sure?

In Tensoku Ryu we train to use the third eye as a method of focusing on a task, individual, or escape route. We do not feel there is any specific benefit to focused training on third eye intuition. This clearly does not mean we think improving our sense of perception is a waste of time. Naturally, we want to be as observant and as perceptive as possible. But we do not think developing a deep-seated spiritually-related intuition has much concrete relevance. But if you think it has relevance and it enhances you as a person then we do not discourage exploration of this aspect of the third eye concept.

Within Tensoku Ryu the third eye is closely related to the concept of centering. But there are times when our center and our third eye will point in different directions. Think of a Mawashi Geri. At the moment the kick strikes the target your center is at local octagon angle 3 while your leg and third eye are focused at local angle 1. You may also find the third eye and your center are concurrently aligned as might happen with Gyaku Tsuki. So in essence your third eye represents your area of focus. Your center represents your area of structural alignment. The two may temporarily be pointed in different directions, but this should be a temporary condition. You will want to have these two concepts coincident except for those times when you purposefully and consciously point them in different directions.

It should be noted that your eyes and your third eye may not be focused on the same object. While your eyes can move within their sockets to look in different directions your third eye is essentially fixed. As a result, your third eye, eyes, and center could be all oriented in different directions. This will happen as you work to achieve different purposes, but much like stances, this condition should be transitional.

Fall Seven Times, Rise up Eight

The Japanese proverb “Nanakorobi yaoki” means “Fall seven times and stand up eight.” It refers generally to never giving up. No matter how many times you are knocked down, you simply get up again. It is about perseverance.

Despite its potential numerical inaccuracy (if you fall seven times you will only need to stand back up seven times), it suggests that life (and by extension, the martial arts) is full of setbacks and the only way in which you reasonably deal with them is to keep going. To not stand up that last time is to concede defeat.

As you work to develop new skills you will experience this concept a great many times. It seems no skill in the martial arts comes easily. Everything is, to varying degrees, a struggle. You only become accomplished at a skill if you keep practicing it. When a practice attempt does not go well your only choice is to try it again. You repeat the process virtually indefinitely until you have become quite adroit at the skill. You will eventually overcome any obstacles and achieve success at the skill. If you give up, you will never be able to do that particular skill well.

This is also applicable to training and conditioning activities. When you feel you have reached the point where you cannot continue, strive to do the exercise at least one more time. Push yourself to do more (but naturally do not push yourself if you begin to feel ill, unexpectedly weak, or experience pain). The point is to strive to improve your conditioning by continuing with the training exercise one more time.

The same is true in a match or actual physical conflict. If you are losing you have not lost. You lose if you quit. If you keep going you are continually improving your chances of a successful outcome. Never give up, especially if the outcome may cost you your life.

The same is true in everyday life as well. If you embark on an adventure you will likely succeed if you stay at it and take that next step or stand up again after the latest setback. If you give up you will never achieve your end goal. If you keep going, you have not lost.

Finally, this concept is especially relevant for those who wish to eventually achieve their Black Belt. It is not easily accomplished, but if you take it one step at a time, always strive to do things one more time, and get up again after every setback, you will achieve your goal. As the common saying goes, a Black Belt is merely a White Belt who never gave up.


Throughout the world, the word Zen has mixed connotations. In western societies, it is sometimes thought of a something that is done spontaneously and without thought. Sometimes this extends to the ability to do something that is relatively complex without applying any thought to it at all. Phrases like “becoming one with the machine” reflects this line of thought.

In the martial arts, this line of thought is also relevant. You will ultimately become so practiced at movements that you will not give more thought to them than the thought you would use to pick up your toothbrush in the morning. Conscious thought is unnecessary when you know intrinsically how something is done.

But this line of thought is in truth an extremely small, if even relevant part of Zen. Zen is a school of Buddhism that stresses meditation, contemplation, and simplification. Adherents are taught to envision the world around them without adornment. A tree is just a tree.

You will find some aspects of Zen in Tensoku Ryu, but we neither teach nor practice Zen Buddhism. You may find that we concentrate on how we breathe and that we use some meditative practices to help us understand how to achieve a clear mind. These are also practices within Zen, but within Tensoku Ryu these are not religious exercises. These are exercises to teach us how to behave or conduct ourselves in times of immediate stress.

This does not mean we are opposed to Zen teachings. Students might well find these teachings relevant to their life, just as they might find the study of any other religion, psychology, philosophy, astrology, or any other branch of study relevant to their life. If you explore any branch of study you will find connections between those studies and the martial arts. But astrology does not define the martial arts, and the martial arts do not define astrology. So it is with Zen.

Alcohol and Drug Use

What you elect to do when you are not in the Dojo is really none of our business (usually). We are not here to discourage you from consuming alcohol or taking any legal compound. But we are not here to encourage it either. Each individual should make their own decisions and choices in such matters. We take no position on them.

However, there are potential consequences from these practices that you must consider. If you consume alcohol or take certain drugs your cognitive skills, temperament, balance, and motor skills will likely be negatively impacted. You will not think as clearly as you would normally. You may have difficulty standing or walking properly. And you will not have the same speed and dexterity that you would in normal circumstances. This has been known and proven for perhaps thousands of years. It should come as no surprise to anyone.

Yet people still go out to a crowded bar, become quite inebriated, and then turn hostile, attempting to pick a fight with the first large person they encounter. It’s laughable. There this person is, unable to balance properly, not thinking clearly, not able to control their motor functions well, and they want to fight. Good night, my friend.

There is usually not much risk if you are in this condition at home. It is quite another matter if you are behind the wheel of an automobile, in a crowded bar, at a social gathering, or even walking home along the streets of a busy city. Now you, and perhaps others, are at significant risk. You will be virtually helpless to avoid any unexpected circumstance.

In the final analysis, you are responsible for what you do. If you consume these substances then you need to ensure this is done in a responsible and rational way that limits any associated risks. Moderation needs to be considered if you are in a social setting. Abstinence needs to be ensured if you will be driving or operating machinery of any kind. You need to remain aware of your condition, current situation, surroundings, and future plans so that you do not place yourself or others in unwarranted peril.

Due to the factors involving judgment, temperament, balance, motor control, and responsibility we insist that students not come to the Dojo if they are impaired in any way by these substances. We do not wish to see you injured and we do not want an errant action on your part to injure another. You will be asked to stop training immediately if you are discovered to be impaired by such substances. We will ask the police to become involved if we are concerned that you will somehow represent a risk to others, especially if we think you will get behind the wheel of a vehicle while you are impaired. Our responsibility to the safety of the local community and others in the Dojo supersedes any perceived loyalty to an individual student.

Optimizing Your Location

If you believe you may soon be involved in an alternation and find escape impossible, then your next best option is to find an optimal position within your current location. As discussed elsewhere, take note of the location of objects and ensure you are positioned to avoid them or to use them to some strategic advantage. If outdoors during daylight hours, position the sun so it is behind you and in your attacker’s face. A bright spotlight at night may serve the same purpose. If there are swimming pools, rose bushes, or snowbanks nearby consider how you can avoid these yourself while introducing them to your opponent in a close-up and personal manner.

Try talking your way out of a possible confrontation. While you are talking, also consider positioning yourself so that any attack will occur while you are in the best possible position within your local environment. This may take a bit of quick thinking. You need to consider what you will say, how you will express it, what is in the area that would be of strategic benefit or detriment, what posture you will need to adopt, how you can keep all of these considerations hidden from your opponent, and what you will do if the other person attacks before you’ve figured all of that out. This is hardly an easy task, but the more you can accomplish here the less difficulty you will have in dealing with an attack.

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