Jigoro Kano, Mas Oyama, Ed Parker, Bong Soo Han, Chuck Norris, Gary Alexander — check out these pithy sayings and collectible quotes from these and other martial artists!

For cerebral students of self-defense, a favorite facet of the fighting arts is the accumulated wisdom that's conveyed in class, in books, in magazines and on television. These comments and observations tend to sum up much broader concepts, putting them in bite-size chunks anyone can digest. The following are a few faves from some martial artists you know, as well as some martial artists you probably haven't heard of. "Karate is not my hobby. It is my life."

— Mas Oyama, founder of kyokushin, from the Summer 1963 issue of Black Belt



"As instructors, we’re teaching children and young adults to respect others and their elders. We focus on discipline and doing the right thing, not just how to injure someone."

— G.K. Lee, chief master of the American Taekwondo Association


"The only way to become a skilled martial artist is to learn how to perform automatically." Jhoon Rhee, taekwondo pioneer


"Karate, as a method of combat, isn’t a bag of tricks or specific responses; it’s a series of principles, physically enacted, that allow for the freedom to implement a wide range of responses that are spontaneous." — Dave Lowry, Black Belt contributing editor


"Without the philosophy and spirituality, martial arts become meaningless and just a dangerous sport." — Bong Soo Han, hapkido pioneer



"Gain ground with every punch, kick and block. You don’t train to fight one way and then perform kata another. Your kata should support your fighting; all your movement should support the hit. You’re only as good as your ability to hit." Gary Alexander, isshin-ryu karate


"Channel the power from your back leg through your body and into your punch." Ted Wong, jeet kune do instructor


"The development of physical attributes, psychological conditioning and legal knowledge for the purpose of personal protection. The goal is to escape physical harm and protect loved ones by using whatever means are necessary within the boundaries of the law." Kelly S. Worden, when asked to define self-defense


"What is true for one person may not be true for another. The real truth for both lies in the moment of actual combat." — Ed Parker, American kenpo pioneer, as reported in Black Belt, 1979


"Each instructor is naturally biased toward his own style. Each will naturally say his style is superior. As has been said so many times before, however, an instructor is only as good as the students he turns out." Chuck Norris, writing for Black Belt


"Violence is rarely the answer, but when it is, it's the only answer." Tim Larkin of Target Focus Training


"Rules of engagement should apply to romantically involved couples, not battlefields." — Louis Awerbuck, firearms instructor


"Success boils down to having a reflexive response to an attack."

William Cheung, wing chun kung fu master



"There are two types of judo. Small judo is concerned with only techniques and the building of the body. Large judo is mindful of the pursuit of the purpose of life: the soul and the body used in the most effective manner for a good result." — Jigoro Kano, Black Belt, February 1971


"Without balance, there’s no control." — Gary Alexander, isshin-ryu karate


"A bokken (wooden sword) wielded by a more experienced swordsman might defeat another less skilled or less lucky swordsman who’s using a shinken (steel sword). Miyamoto Musashi defeated many swordsmen using only a bokken, but it was Musashi who defeated them, not his bokken." Masayuki Shimabukuro and Carl E. Long


"The ability to free-spar or fight well is the result of training and should not be the primary means of training." — Robin Rielly, sixth-degree black belt in shotokan


"So-called advanced techniques are really just basic moves coupled with speed and accuracy. Advanced training comes from one source: the performance of many, many repetitions." — Jhoon Rhee


"The best reason for learning karate is to develop character — to make a good man first and a strong man second. This must be understood to advance." — Mas Oyama, Black Belt, Summer 1963 issue


"Force your opponent to make his body rigid and lose his balance, and then when he is helpless, you attack." — Jigoro Kano, Black Belt, February 1970



"During free training, beginners will usually practice the last thing they were taught while advanced karateka will spend time working on what they learned first." Dave Lowry, Black Belt contributing editor



"The sword is more important than the shield, and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental." — John Steinbeck, writing in The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights


"It is said that a man's weapon was the sword and a woman's was the fan, and the fan did more damage." Rick Steves in his self-titled travel documentary series, talking about England in the 1600s, a period when the fan was a tool for flirting.
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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