Friday, August 16, 2013

Menkyo Examination Board

NOTE: The term Menkyo (免許) means “license,” and indicates that the recipient is approved and authorized to act as an expert representative for a particular art or school.  This is an old practice which predates, (and sometimes augments) the kyu/dan grading system.

DKI is not a style-specific organization.  We believe that the application of kyusho-jitsu and tuité-jitsu principles to any style, reveals the true and original combative intent of that style.  Rank in DKI was never to be independent of rank in one’s source style, because kyusho-jitsu and tuité-jitsu are not “add-on” skills.  For this reason, DKI rank has always been about the full integration of kyusho-jtsu and tuité-jitsu into any given system.  This is the reason Sensei Dillman has always accepted qualified individuals into DKI at the rank they already held in their source style.

As DKI became larger, Sensei entrusted his most senior students to bring interested persons up to skill so they could become DKI members and be recognized at their held dan rank.  And this is where the problems began, because, we seniors have not always been evaluating candidates using the same criteria.    And over time, this has produced a situation in which dan ranks within DKI can vary in their requirements as broadly as dan ranks issued by completely separate organizations. To solve this problem, Sensei Dillman and I had been discussing the institution of a testing board that each member of DKI would be required at the Master rank (every current 4-6th dan, and all future Master rank candidates) to pass.  Only Grandmasters would be “grandfathered.”

The idea is that, with a number of Grandmasters serving together on the board, and all current up and coming Masters appearing before the board, standards and criteria will become more consistent.  Sensei has only been hesitant in making this mandatory across DKI because of the logistical issues it might create in a world-wide organization.

Believing board testing is a good idea, and wanting my students (and myself, for that matter) to benefit from this practice, I asked several of my collegues to serve on a board.  Not only are they willing to help, but several of them are making this test mandatory for their students, as I am making it mandatory for my students.  Our students will present themselves before this board, in order to verify that their skill and proficiency in kyusho-jitsu, tuité-jitsu, and the accompanying principles of bunkai and self-defense, are consistent with the best practices of DKI.

The board has the first examination scheduled during the daytime, on the Friday of the Indianapolis Summer Camp (with the intention of holding an exam annually at the same time).  In order to maintain consistency of evaluation, the Menkyo Grading Board will be composed of fundamentally the same members from year to year.  Those approved by the Board will receive a special patch, together with their promotion to the next dan grade.  While this exam is mandatory for my students, I am more than happy to invite the students of other instructors before the board for evaluation and approval (provided they have their own instructor’s permission, and have otherwise fulfilled all appropriate criteria for promotion as defined by their instructor).

What follows is information about the testing process (but, please note that I have not finalized this information, and I have not yet established the registration process).

Menkyo Examination Board: Candidate Information

1. Examination will be offered annually, during the daytime, on the Friday of the Indianapolis Summer Camp (additional Menkyo examinations may be offered at other times and places depending on the availability of the board).

2. Each testing candidate must provide 3 uke who will be part of an uke pool (uke will assist by rotation in the testing for two or three candidates during a one hour period).  One of those 3 uke may be the candidate him/herself.

3. The number of test spots is limited.  When demand is high, preference will be given to any who are retesting, and to those with greater seniority.

4. Each candidate will have up to 20 minutes to demonstrate mastery (it is not required that the candidate utilize the entire 20 minutes).  This is a test of competence, not content, so candidates will be expected to show competence in the following areas:
a. Perform Naihanchi Shodan and provide application (at least 3 techniques)
b. Demonstrate safe and effective kyusho-jitsu based on sound application of the principles
c. Demonstrate safe and effective tuité-jitsu based on sound application of the principles
d. Demonstrate an accurate understanding of practical bunkai and real-world application
e. Demonstrate proper revival methods
f. Demonstrate full integration of Dillman Method into all aspects of the candidate’s art
g. Demonstrate other appropriate areas of research or competence which further attest to the candidate’s mastery

5. Each candidate will organize his/her presentation in whatever manner best suits them, and they should not expect to field any questions or comments from the board.  The following general guidelines should be followed.
a. During the exam, the candidate will be expected to direct the uke in the attack, and give a brief description of the technique.  Then the candidate is to demonstrate the technique, with proficiently, against an attack delivered with intent.  
b. Candidate’s may demonstrate additional kata and bunkai (beyond Naihanchi) or organize the presentation in any manner which is appropriate to their art or practice.
c. Candidates are encouraged to keep explanation to a minimum in favor of demonstration.
d. The board will be looking for incapacitation and/or domination of the attacker/uke by means of joint manipulation, pressure points, and superior positioning.  One or two knockouts are sufficient to allow the board to evaluate revival skills.  
e. The board expects some techniques to fail,  Mastery includes the ability to recover from failure and maintain, or reestablish, control over the attacker/uke.
f. Injuring an uke is evidence of a lack of control and mastery, and will generally result in a fail.

6. Candidates will be informed of the Board’s decision before training has concluded on Saturday.  Candidates may ask for and receive direct feedback from Board members after the exams are complete.

7. Testing costs $400, which includes the cost for the DKI diploma/plaque and the Menkyo patch.  The fee for retesting is $100.  Information on registration and payment will be provided at a later time.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Posted a New Video on Naihanchi

Sunday, January 13, 2013

KJK Annual Gathering 2013

For many years now, we have had an Annual Gathering of students who consider themselves part of my school, the Kyushojitsu Kenkyukai (or, KJK for short).  Credit for the origins of our Annual Gathering lie with Matt Hayat and Mark Gridley (so, ongoing thanks and gratitude go to them).

This year's gathering is scheduled for March 15-16, in Madison, WI.  We will engage in in much of the training that characterize our practice, including, body mechanics, randori, pressure point theory, tuite.  We will also have amazing instructors, including Grandmaster Dustin Seale, 9th dan.  Two special features this year: first, Sifu Miles Coleman will do a session on herbs (many of us use his iron palm formula).  Second, there will be a special session on the use of the sai.  If you have never trained sai-jitsu with me, you will be amazed at how the weapon is to be used.

For more information and to register, go to this link

Also, for those eligible for sandan testing, be certain to fill out the test registration form at the kjk website.  Remember, the cost for the test is $300 for the first attempt, and $50 for subsequent testings.  Questions about testing can be addressed to me.

So, this time I can say, not only "Go train" but also, "Come train."  Hope you can join us.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Happy Brithday, Sensei!

My mom needed some eye surgery (which went great, by the way) so I was taking her to and from the surgicenter, and it took us passed a small shopping center.  Though the façade had changed, the sign was the same, and I recognized the place where I had first begun my training in March or April of 1970.  In that little shopping center had been a downstairs dojo.  (Interestingly, it is a martial arts school today, a WTF dojang.)  Needless to say, this had me going down memory lane.

Sensei George Dillman is turning 70, so I have also been thinking back to when we met.  It was 1988 (as best I can remember).  At the time, I had been training 18 years, and held nidan in JKA-Shotokan (proud to say that I was flunked in a dan exam by none other than Masatoshi Nakayama, and that I was passed in a dan exam by none other than Masatoshi Nakayama), and sandan in Isshin-ryu/AOKA.  My experience at the time was that I found myself in various seminars and trainings not really learning anything because I already knew it.  I remember how strange this felt, and how I missed the feeling of being a white belt – the feeling of enthusiasm and excitement.

The exception to my "I already know it" experience back then was trying to do stick work with guro Dan Inosanto.  Stick drills give me a headache (partly because I have no rhythm.) Even today, I have the same problem training Arnis with my friends GM Ken Smith and GM Gaby Roloff [Gaby, who reassured me, over my protests, "Oh, Chris, your not a white belt"]. 

Jack Gustafson (an old acquaintance from the Shotokan organization I had been part of in the 70's) invited me to a Dillman seminar he was hosting.  I attended with another Isshin-ryu practitioner (my kohai, for those of you who understand the meaning and implications of the word).  When sensei saw our mizu-gami (the emblematic patch of the Isshin-ryu style) he exclaimed, "You're Isshin-ryu.  You know this move from Seisan?"  Yes, we responded.  At which point, sensei grabbed my kohai and knocked him out.  

After training we went to a Chinese restaurant.  I sat at a table near sensei, and waited.  I knew someone would bring up one of my recent articles in published in Black Belt.  Sure enough, and sensei overheard.  "You wrote that?"  He asked.  "Yes, and I would like to write an article about you," I replied.

I have just revealed a secret to you, if you care to pay attention.  If you want to learn from a great teacher, you need to figure out how to gain access.  Writing, I had learned, would give me unprecedented access, and I was never shy about that – I was determined to learn.

I remember how I felt going home after that first seminar – wonderful, like a white belt again, with so much to learn.  But, the remarkable thing is that, today, nearly a quarter of a century later, I still feel the same way (ok, maybe more like a green belt), still so much to learn.

After that first meeting, I trained with sensei whenever I could and began to write about him immediately.  When I sought to become his student, I did not expect him to accept me at sandan – I fully planned to put on a white belt and earn shodan under him.  But, he simply told me, "You already know more than other sandans."

My fourth dan promotion came in my basement.  We had finished a day of shooting pictures for one of our books.  Sensei started to privately show me some new material, and said, "This is what I want you to work on for yondan."  I thought he meant that I was to work on it to achieve yondan.  But, what he really meant (which I found out when the diploma arrived) is that he was showing me what he wanted to work on as a yondan.

I don't really remember being promoted to 5th or 6th dan, but I do remember 7th.  I found it to be an unsettling indication of my own ego, how quickly I became accustomed to wearing the red belt.

In the early 2000-sies, sensei asked me if I wanted to be an 8th dan.  My exact response was, "Why would I want that?"  He promoted me anyway, at his 60th birthday celebration in November, 2002.  My promotion to 9th dan came October, 2010 (though it wasn't publicly presented until May of 2011).

Sandan – December 15, 1988
Yondan – August 1, 1991
Godan – July 25, 1993
Rokudan – September 29, 1996
Nanadan – January 15, 1998
Hachidan – November 23, 2002
Kudan –  October 8, 2010

42 years of training – 24 of them with Sensei Dillman.  Rank-wise, I've gone far enough by a long shot.  And, if sensei told me today, that he was reorganizing DKI, and wanted to knock me back to white belt, I wouldn't care.  I got into this to learn, and I've learned more than I ever imagined was possible – with so much to go.  And I've gained far more than just knowledge, I've gained wonderful friendships, and an extended family.  And for nearly a quarter century, I've been able to count George Dillman as my dear friend, and my family – and that is maybe the best part of all.  

Funny how life works, how pursuing a passion brings so many unexpected blessings.  So, I wish George Dillman a Happy 70th Birthday, and my love, and my thanks.  And I wonder what this journey has yet to bring.  Whatever, comes, I know one sure way to face it – just keep training.

So, thanks for reading.
Now, go train.

Chris Thomas

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Just Doing What I was Taught

Sometimes a student will come to show me a technique he's worked out.  "Excellent!" I'll tell him.  Then, about a half hour later, the same student will come back and say, "You taught me that, didn't you?"  And, he's correct, I did teach it to him, usually about 3 years prior.  But, when I taught it to him, it was my technique he was trying to learn.  When he "discovered" it, it was his technique.  This is what true learning is all about – discovering for oneself what someone else has already taught you.

Of course, the same is true for me.  All of the techniques I've "discovered" really came from my teachers.  For example, I have a practice of Naihanchi kata I call "Shiho Naihanchi.."  Shiho Naihanchi is a Naihanchi linking form that has a square for its performance pattern (embusen).  I developed Shiho Naihanchi to help myself work a bunkai concept that I learned from my teacher, sensei Dillman.  For me, Shiho Naihanchi is derivative in it's very being.  Sensei said that looking to the side meant that I was to orient myself sideways to my opponent.  So, when I did my bunkai, I stepped and turned to the side.  One day, I wondered how my kata would be if I did the same thing in the solo performance, what the kata would be like if I simply made what was implicit into something explicit.

Anyway, nothing special, just me following sensei's teaching.  Students saw me practicing once, and wanted to learn it, so, I taught them.  Suddenly, their understanding of the bunkai greatly improved because they were practicing the concept explicitly.  Cool.  But, suddenly they had an impression that somehow, I am some kind of martial arts genius.  Hardly.   I'm just doing what I was taught.Now, no teacher has ever thrown my punches or kicks.  Only I can do that.  No teacher ever did my training for me.  But, all I have ever done is what I was taught to do.  I get credit for doing it, but not for inventing or creating it.  

This is why I am always stunned by martial artists who act like they didn't learn what they know.  They act as if they somehow created it on their own, as if they are God's gift to the martial arts.   It's like these ridiculous zillionaires who act as if they are self-made men, when in fact, they inherited from daddy.

Here is my truth, I am the product of my teachers, without them I wouldn't be much of a practitioner.  If I had never met sensei Dillman, I would still be working on my blocking skills, and wondering how to approach with grace the realities of being an aging martial artist.  

I guess this is a sermon of sorts – a sermon based on these words from Deuteronomy 8: Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God... otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God... Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’  But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth.

This insight applies to all of life.  Nothing I have, nothing I have accomplished, nothing I have "discovered" is somehow on me.  The knowledge and skills came from somewhere else, from someone else, from someOne else.

So be ever mindful, grateful and respectful of your teachers.  Never pretend you have gotten anywhere on your own.  And remember, no one can throw a kick for you.

Thanks for reading,

Now, go train.


Saturday, July 21, 2012