Mother’s Wisdom

“To search for the old is to understand the new.” – Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate My mother, an immigrant from Lebanon, taught me, my brother and my sisters good values: humanitarianism, self-control and mindfulness. And while she brought those principles from her home country, she wanted us to be American while reflecting her … [Read more…]

Zanshin – “Remaining Mind”

In traditional karate, once formal training exercises are completed and before the student bows to indicate they’re finished, there’s a short pause. In Japanese that interval or pause is called “zanshin”, or “remaining mind.” This is a very important part of Japanese martial arts. Zanshin is when the practioner takes a second to reflect, takes … [Read more…]

The Paradox of Distance

In 1988, I watched my teacher practicing a weapons form in a university gymnasium nearby. He went from one end of the basketball court to the other, back and forth, repeatedly. This continued for 45 minutes. At some point, he dropped the weapon. I didn’t know if his hands were sweaty or he had been … [Read more…]

The Balance of Relationships

I’ve long felt that the martial arts needs a solid teacher-student relationship in order to function fully. It’s a consciously-cultivated approach that takes our training from simply an activity into the domain of a mature study. That relationship is treated differently from classroom to classroom, and from country to country. When I visited Japan, I … [Read more…]

Black Belt, White Belt

There’s a common phrase in the martial arts – “a black belt is a white belt that never quit.” I don’t agree…. …entirely. See, I believe that every every serious beginner’s minimum goal should be black belt. Not just because of what you get but what you become in the process. It’s just so much … [Read more…]


When we’re working with a partner, there are times when we hold onto a technique too long. It becomes the sole object of our intention. We have it in our minds that the goal is within our reach, so we form an argument and a standpoint and we insist. When this happens, we don’t realize … [Read more…]

You’re Good!

Back in the in the late 1980s and early 1990s, every Friday night I sparred with an Olympic Tae Kwon Do gold medalist. And it’s an understatement to say that it was arduous training. His main objective, truly, in every single round, was to knock me out cold – that was his sole purpose. And it … [Read more…]

Empty Hand

When I was taking karate growing up, one of the things I loved about it was the translation of the word itself: the two characters mean “empty hand”. It helped me to understand that I didn’t have to hit someone over the head with a stick or cut someone with a knife. That idea was immensely … [Read more…]

The Last Word

In the past, I’ve said that when it comes to teachers, my personal preference is to have a very rigorous and strict one. I want someone who can be at the helm of my progress. I don’t want it to be any other way, because I know that in order to get to the next … [Read more…]