Rules For Giving Great Martial Arts Demos & Blast from the Past

Rules For Giving Great Martial Arts Demos & Blast from the Past

I found this old video (early 90s) and saved a few minutes of it. The quality is a little grainy - however you can hear the sound of the swords clashing, the hard falls etc - as we PLAYED HARD! Back in the early 1990s when I was still a "young punk"in my teens, and had been training under Sastri Sensei for about 2 years. Its so interesting to watch this as it was many demos like this that got the art established in South Asia even attracting many 4th dans and above to join the dojo. To this day many of these high ranking masters refer to their time with Sastri Sensei with humility and awe!  The "Original Group of 6" Oku Iris under Sastri Sensei followed his example as much as possible. Of the original group of six - two made Menkyo and actively teach. 3 made Moku Roku and one remained at Oku Iri.

Sasti Sensei rules for Demos as I remember them -

1. Never rehearse for your demos, just do your thing - show what comes naturally from what you have learnt. 2. Always use live weapons be it Tanto (dagger), Ken (Sword) or sticks. 3. Seek what works, and make it yours 4. "Play with what you know" and never be afraid of who comes to play. You will always learn something. We always invited people from the audience to come and play with us - and as its a tradition in Asia, they usually did  5. Showcase your art in the best way you can, and dont stop even if you have made mistakes. Keep moving, until completion 

On this video you can see Mahipal Lunia Sensei and Melvin Francis Sensei "playing and demonstrating" in one of our many demos across South Asia. Jeevan Gowda Sensei provides the narration the expert announcer. And througout you can catch a glimpse of Ramesh Jodige Sensei across the screen.

 — with Jeevan C. Gowda and 4 others.

Aikijujutsu Shugyo - Martial Arts on High Peaks & Forgotten Lands With Mahipal Lunia Sensei

Aikijujutsu Shugyo - Martial Arts on High Peaks & Forgotten Lands With Mahipal Lunia Sensei

This is the personal expression of Mahipal Lunia Sensei & an important teaching method of Mountain View Aiki Kai (MVAK) Dojos in the arts of Kaze Arashi Ryu 

Quaterly Shugyos (Astute Training usually in Nature) are an integral part of our syllabus and in learning the arts of Kaze Arashi Ryu at our dojo. This form of expression is in the spirit of the Samurai Warriors of the old days and Mahipal Lunia Sensei's ideal of finding a life of balance,as best expressed in his litany for the dojo

"Living A Life that embraces

Civilization and the wild

Present and infinite

Warrior and Scholar

Strength and compassion

Tradition and Self Expression"

This is a video montage created from about a dozen (quarterly) shugyos the dojo has conducted since late 2009 for its serious students. It is meant to share the goal, ideal, and attitude (High Intensity, Tenacity, and the Ferocious Resolve) of this form of training. In our opinion this form of training is very unique to us in the martial arts community. It's high adventure, deep discipline, a personal quest, search for beauty and meaning all rolled into one while using the body proper to experience the arts we study.

I would like to express my gratitude to my teachers who opened the doors of the art to me and guided me through. Srini Sastri Sensei (Menkyo Kaiden) for being my first teacher in the tradition, guiding me through the ranks as a wonderful Sensei, a cherished mentor, a reliable confidant, and above all, as family. Henri Robert Vilaire Sensei ( Menkyo Kaiden, Shinan) for being a martial arts genius and for generously teaching me what what is possible in the Martial Arts at the highest levels. To both my teachers, I have nothing but deep respect and gratitude!

I also want to thank all of the students of MVAK, esp. the advanced students for having the faith in me and my methods, and for constantly challenging me to newer levels of growth. 

For more information on Mountain View Aiki Kai go to

Twitter/Instagram @aikiarts #aikiarts

When Shit Hits The Fan - Training To Perform Under Duress with Mahipal Lunia

When Shit Hits The Fan - Training To Perform Under Duress with Mahipal Lunia

When Shit Hits The Fan!

What happens when all negotiations have failed and emotions start flaring? What happens when you end up in a real fight? In other words - what happens "when shit hits the fan?"

Over and over again I have seen even black belt ranks forget techniques and concepts when shit hits the fan. The reason is you react the way you train. Explaining this to some of my students has been hard. So decided to write about this a bit. Beautiful techniques are great fun to work on. Elegant concepts are fascinating and intellectually fulfilling. Embodying principles enable you to leverage nature itself. All this is awesome, and yet there is one all determining factor - how you react under duress! 

When under duress, the ability to remain aware, unleash the beast within and returning to a restful state is the difference that makes the difference. Most martial artists do not train for or under duress. I will share my thoughts and training methods of Mountain View Aiki Kai to develop this skill.

Situitional Awareness, evaluation of options and consequences will define your ability as a warrior. Key attributes to develop are 
1. Controlling of your mental and emotional states . Our brain is the biggest weapon and yet does not come with an owners manual. Learning how it works and the ability to take it into peak performance states at will are must have skills. Study neurpsychology and peak performance technologies, they will pay you dividends many times over
2. Manipulating the opponent's states mental and emotional states by
- Verbal Martial Arts to control the frame of the conversation (look up Milton model, Meta Model and Sleight of Mouth patterns from NLP)
- controlling his/her perceptions of threat
- controlling the choices s/he has

The next attribute (a quality or feature regarded as a characteristic or inherent part of you) is learning to unleash the beast within. This killer instinct is not a chip on your shoulder, but rather a state you can access. I always point my students towards studying big predators like pumas. You will notice they go from extreme relaxation into the kill frezy and back to poised relaxation in a matter of seconds. This flow between states has to become second nature. 

This calls for starting in calm composed fighting in the atemi/striking range. And as you breach the tegumi or trapping/locking range going into an animalistic frenzy ready to finish, much like the puma. And then allowing well honed training to bring the precision of a quick tactical kill (if needed) or finishing move. And from here returning into the calm composed person - all in a matter of seconds. If you do not train for this killer instinct, your techniques most likely wont work. Reason for this is two fold 

1. Brain research has shown over and over again that all learning is state dependent. If you are learning techniques only in the safe environment of a friendly studio, guess what? They will work great in the friendly environments and will be unaccessable in the heat of a battle. Dont take my word for it - try it. If you dont want to try it research state based learning/response.
2. The absence of the killer instinct will most likely move you from being the predator into the prey. The person with the greater access to this instinct will most likely win.

So after executing the finishing move return to your calm composed self in a jiffy. Discharge all emotional content and return to the ability to use your prefrontal cortex or thinking brain. And with it returns the ability to plan and take meaningful next steps 

This is skill - meaning an ability gained through practice. IMHO the true purpose of all martial arts training is to move from extreme duress to relative calm by using your skills. Learning to perform under this duress is the difference between life and death.

To develop this skill we use the following methods in my dojo ( 

1. Shugyos where we head into wilderness for days and train at the end of long days of hikes. Why we do this? Look at any special ops teams - be it the US Marines, the Russian Spetznag or the Philipine ParaMilitary. their training begins at the end of big runs or massive tasks. The goal is to exhaust mind and body before seeing what you do when push comes to shove.

2. All sparring is one against many attackers. there are no rules other than fighting within redefined confined space. The fighting stops with tap outs or chokeouts. We sometimes up the stakes by using blindfolds, tieing up hands/legs or use other handicaps.

3. Training with live weapons - you response will change in the face of steel as compared to wooden replicas

4. The practice of Kokyu Ho/Neija. The essense of both these age old practices is to bring the body back into harmony and into deep relaxation. This beings about the right functioning of the 14 meridians, balancing the 5 elements and building up your chi/ki. 

5. All the advanced students work on understanding their prime weapons - mind and body. Models such as Neuro Linguistic Programming, Spiral Dynamics and Peak performance are deeply studied. As they grow in rank, they spend time studing the energy anatomy. This is essential to build "your own manual of the mind-body to tune optimal states of being."

Remember when shit hits the fan you will not rise to the level of your martial arts aspirations. You will drop to the level of your best trained techniques and attributes. Build the skills of working under duress - this will make your art functional. It could be the factor that enables you to make those martial aspirations a reality in the future. 

Your thoughts? Mahipal Lunia 

Brain Up Shifting and Pure Reaction in the Martial Arts - Mahipal Lunia

Brain Up Shifting and Pure Reaction in the Martial Arts - Mahipal Lunia

A lot of martial artist spend a major part of their training time working on skills. Kata, Kumite, 2 man forms, weapons, and self defense sceanarios. And yet I keep hearing of black belts getting their butts kicked in fights. I believe there the two main reasons for this are rarely discussed, let alone trained. These two attributes are what I call "brain up shifting" and "pure reaction." 

When in a fight- flight situation , the first thing that happens is your amygdyla hijacks the thinking brain. The neocortex process are sidestepped. Your emotional brain now steps in to deal with the threat. The ability to think is down shifted, and your survival mechanism kicks in. Whats needed is ability to gain control of your thinking brain and response potential. This is what I call "brain up shifting" - the ability to gain control/reverse the brain amygdyla hijack. 

Ways to gain control/reverse this hijack include 

1. Slowing down your breathing 2. Shifting from focal to peripheral vision 3. Moving into formless relaxation and 4. Controlling distance between you and your threat 

If the matter escalates into a fight, you need "pure reaction." Intuitive, formless, and in harmony with what is coming towards you. The attack determines an equal and opposite response so there is zero pressure on you. This is beyond a system or a prescribed method of fighting, and into the realm of pure expression. And the best ways I have found to train for this include

1. Training to deal with attacks from a variety of systems. We live in a multi cultural world, and no one attacks only in one way. Learn the biases of different arts/cultures. 2. Spending time working on energy/flow drills to learn to read and feel how energy flows 3. Making distinctions between principles, concepts, attributes and techniques. And then training to have harmony in all the 4 aspects of training. 4. Putting personal expression above system. Mans survival is more important than stylistic loyalty. Focus on what is natural to you. Hone that! 5. Killer Instint and knowing your limits

A skill is something you can acquire or lose. Both 'brain up shifting" and "pure reaction" are conscious process' and skills. This means they have to trained for in a conscious way. The way you train is the way you are going to respond. 

So how are you training to deal with amygdyla hijack and pure reaction?


Mountain View Aiki Joint training in India 2014

Mountain View Aiki Joint training in India 2014 Location - Bangalore, India
Dates - Last week of June 2014
Dojos represented - Bangalore, Mumbai, California and Texas

It was amazing to work pretty much in the same dojo floor where many of us got our initial grades and remember old time stories. We (Ramesh and Mahipal) still constantly say "Damo Arigato Sastri Sensei" for the gift of laying that strong that spirit two branches of Kaze Arashi Ryu - Wind Storm Aiki Jujutsu (Kaze Arashi Ryu) - Bangalore, Indiaand Mountain View Aikijujutsu got together for a few sessions of both private classes and group classes in Bangalore recently. Two branches of the same tree - a foundation laid byClaire Sastri / Srinivasan Sastri Sensei, Menkyo Kaiden, head of the Indian League and Sr. Advisor to the Kita Yama Dojo.

Sensei Ramesh Rao flew down from Mumbai to spend time with the MVAK students ( Jeevan C. Gowda and Allan Johnson) and Mahipal Lunia Sensei. Ramesh and Mahipal Senseis spent time alone working on Kaiden level forms and worked in group settings with others.

In group settings advanced Oku Iri forms were shown by Ramesh Sensei to the visiting students, while Mahipal Sensei worked with the Bangalore students on Yawara Holds and Self Defense principles. Later Mahipal Sensei also shared knife work and advanced Taisabaki with the MVAK students privately.

Lastly some older students visited with us privately, and were shown some kokyu ho methods.

Thanks Wind Storm India for hosting us and allowing us to share some of our methods too.

MVAK/Mahipal Lunia Sensei

7 Year old "Karate Masters" is not a possibility! Its delusional thinking

7 Year old "Karate Masters" is not a possibility! Its delusional thinking



A recent video of a 7 year old  “karate Master” has been making rounds. A friend posted it, another sent me a link and then a student sent me the same link. My student’s note also said how amazed and envious he was of this “young master.”  I decided to engage, and either be educated or perhaps shed light on the subject of mastery.

My flight was delayed a few hours, so wanted to invest this time wisely. Made a few phone calls and finally called my student who sent me the link. And after the usual pleasantries we got into the 7 year old karate master.

“She is so impressive Sensei, makes me very envious” he exclaimed with true admiration in his voice and he continued “don’t you think she is great?”

I paused for a second as the line at the airport Jamba Juice inched forward “What I think is that people posting this nonsense at best are doing the kid and the arts a great disservice and are grossly misinformed, and at worst are sheer liars.“  A few heads in the line turned trying to access what’s going on. I smiled and waited for a response.

“What? You mean to say she is not good? Look at her kiai and the picture perfect kicks. Sensei, perhaps you are being too harsh.”

 “Does she look impressive – Yes! Does she understand what she is doing – I highly doubt it. And is she displaying mastery – Absolutely NOT.  What I am saying is you are mixing a good performance of some coordinated moves – in this case a Kata (could have been a dance) with mastery.”  I said, and continued looking at the options at Jamba Juice somewhat amazed at how mainstream juicing seems to have become, They have at least 10 juices (not smoothies) though quite expensive.

“hmmm, I don’t know Sensei, it still looks like she has mastered those sidekicks which are my big struggle. Look at how her leg snaps in and stays in the air” he continued to idolize her form.

“Her form looks good, no doubt, but is it functional?”

“She is too young to test it out Sensei, if that’s what you mean.”

It was painful waiting behind this blonde as she wanted all details of the in/organic, sugar content, juice v/s smoothie details from the young cashier.  I was grateful to be having this conversation to keep my calm, “So what she has doing is a battle form, passed down as crystallization from an old master. And while she seems to appear all powerful doing it, does she have the understanding and strength to make it functional? I would say NO!”

“But she looks powerful and would be a great ambassador for martial arts, I think” he said hesitantly.

“Maybe or maybe not, just because she looks good does not meant she should have the center stage” and as I sad this, the blonde turned around and gave me a look. I smile and continue my conversation “looking good should not be the reason one should be given the center stage. This only makes them feel entitled, and is the absence of humility. True humility is also the hallmark of mastery.” And at this the blonde turns around and says “excuse me.” And then I realized she thought I was talking to her/about her, and told her, to take her time as I was enjoying my conversation with a friend.  I could tell she was not used to being ignored - She frowned and got back to taking her time to order the perfect juice or give the appearance of it.

“Let me ask you this question, would you say she stands a chance defending herself or transmit this knowledge to the next generation. Do you think she would be better ambassador as you say, to an art or someone like say my Sensei?” It was a trick question but wanted to get into the heart of the matter. I now paused, and looked at the Blonde girl ahead of me trying to decipher her decision strategy and let the pause work on the mind of the student. She turned around again; I smiled and asked if I could help her choose? She says no thank you and finally orders an orange juice. 10 minutes to get to an OJ.  I quickly ordered a green citrus juice for lunch, paid the $4 and get back to my call.

“So you want to study with her?” I continued

“Err no sensei, that’s not what I meant.” He protested

“I know, am messing with you but hoping that we both learn something in the process. She looks good doing a performance. But that’s not mastery. To me mastery is a lifelong striving, not a performance. Mastery is the ability to absorb, integrate, transform and transmit a particular intelligence. Here we are speaking about martial arts. So mastery is the ability to quickly ABSORB (learn the material), then INTEGRATE (meaning make it a part of your very being), TRANSFORM (bring your own expression of it, and have the knowledge change you as well) and finally have the ability to TRANSMIT (teach this to others elegantly) this martial knowledge. Mastery is the ability to keep shrinking this cycle with every new learning. That is MASTERY! You feel me?” and I walked and picked up my green juice, which magically showed up before the Orange Juice for the Blonde. She displayed her anger and asks the lady behind the counter why is her order not out yet even though she ordered before me. I could not contain myself, I blurted cheekily “Know what you want, go for it, and move on.” And I walked away to get back to my conversation on mastery and have my green lunch.

“I understand Sensei mastery is process and not a destination. And appearances can be deceiving.” I could hear him be precise in how he now communicated. He continued “How do you define mastery in when there are so many forms and so many expressions of the art Sensei? I tend to get lost in all the forms that exist, leave alone know who true masters are”

“Think about it this way – draw a two by two matrix. On the x axis have old and new, and on the y axis have form and function. So what you have is 4 boxes – old form, old function/application, new application and new form. Now you have people who have made religions of each of these our boxes, and see them as mutually exclusive. The old form people claim to preserve the way things were done for example during the 1500s. The old applications have found their niche is being the bunkai or applications experts. They tend to look for secrets in how the forms were applied back then; you will see this in the Dim Mak or Pressure point experts/seminar circuit. The new applications box is filled by personal combative experts who will help you draw your own best way to respond to situations. And the new style box is essentially a set of personal combative methods that are becoming established as a style.” I paused, and drank my juice as I checked the flight status. The flight was delayed another 2 hours. Oh well!

“I think I am following you Sensei, so there are 4 ways of doing MA, and you can have mastery in each box?” he enquired.

“No – to the contrary, these are four boxes to understand phases – though IMHO people overspecialize and get stuck in a stage. To me the old form box is about ABSORB the knowledge – be it a set of forms or ways of doing your strikes.  The next box of Old function/applications, one learns how those moves were used by old-time warrior or teachers. This is INTEGRATION of the knowledge, and as you gain proficiency in this, you start to make new connections. And your own genetics and personal learnings start to inform your own new interpretations – this takes you to the third box of New function. You find to ways to adapt and bring your unique expressions to the moves, styles etc – to me this is true TRANSFORMATION. Finally as your expression finds more ground, and people start wanting to learn how you do it – you begin to teach this and gain a small following. This is TRANSMITTING of your truth. A new way of doing things emerge. “

I walked around the airport to find a place to sit, and noticed quite a few people were getting agitated with the delayed flights. I found a quiet corner, booted my laptop. I wanted to give the student a few moments to absorb this and waited for him to say something. Things had begun to click for him, and he said “aha it makes sense – so you are saying that mastery is process, it’s almost cyclical. You may start in an old style like ours, and learn the applications. Over time I may find new ways of doing things based on the same principles. And then I share that with others, we might find a new style of doing things. So this is mastery – a whole cycle.”

“Yes, to me this is the cycle, and when the new findings infuse the old ways as well, the new ways becomes standardized. Think about JKD – Bruce Lee started this as a personal expression, over time it became a style of sorts, and now is almost a system. You tend to hear things like SIgung Bruce or Guro Inosanto does this etc. In other words, new becomes old and old becomes new. This is the cycle. All personal expressions that made sense /survived became systems. And new teachers came along infused old systems and created new styles. This will go on forever. “


Another 90 minutes before I fly to the Sin City. My old-time student was excited at learning this. And in this discussion I opened up new distinctions. To sum it up – true mastery for me is the ability to Absorb, Integrate, Transform and Transmit elegantly. And as mastery increases the time between absorb and transmit shrinks drastically. I signed off with the student, read a novel for a while until it was time to board the plane. Once boarded it was time to capture this conversation for some other students along the way. And the seat next to me was now to be occupied by the same Blonde who was agitated with me throughout. This will be an interesting flight! Enough, for today.

Verbal Aiki Over Coffee - A Personal Method of Finding Students who resonate with the Old Ways

Verbal Aiki Over Coffee - A Personal Method of Finding Students who resonate with the Old Ways

Potential students find me or the dojo and always want to "talk over coffee" before they commit. I try to weed them out early so I meet them. They have the same questions usually and I politely answer things about style, rank, belts etc. Every so often, just like earlier this month a student wanted to know what i am capable of doing, as though it would be potentially transferred to them. And it also highlights a fundamental difference IMO about two differing approaches and modes of being. I would be curious to hear any/all thoughts on this.

But first a little context and typical conversation (this one happened earlier this month). What follows is about 20 minutes into the conversation after the usual questions have been answered, and he inquires about my own training regiment.

The potential student " You are a Sensei, so why do you still train with different people?" Me "Because I can and it keeps me humble" Him "Is it also because you are not confident in your skills?" Me "I would like to think I can handle myself, but one must constantly sharpen the blade." Him "Have you been in real fights? Does this stuff work?" Me "unfortunately yes I have had to fight many times, and have had my ass handed to me growing up. Not easy being small, different and smart ass - trust me. When I could not take the beatings anymore I started training hard." Him "but have you used your training to fight and beat them up?" Me "who is them? And the purpose of the training is arriving at a place where you dont have to fight but if you ever need to then you have some skills." Him "so you have used your training, tell me more about it pls" Me "what is there to know, i am here in one piece, thats all there is to it." Him "I dont understand, what did you do? how was the fight?" Me "The outcome is I am here, and for the how - well you got to train for that and pay the price" Him "I dont understand what I will be able to do if you dont tell me" Me "I dont know what you can do and more importantly should do, unless I see you train consistently." Him "This is not going anywhere" Me "Where do you want it to go?" Him " I want to know in how many ways will I be able to kick someones ass if I train with you" Me "you just need to do it one way well, and besides thats not what its about for me" Him "Then what is it about" Me "Its about not having to ever fight" Him " What ? Then why go and train with different teachers and teach consistently" Me " One must embrace violence to be at peace, embrace it so you can transform it" Him " I am confused, why train if you dont want to fight" Me "I train in order to be at peace, and peace is the state of being. A state where fighting is NOT - atleast for me" him "I am still confused" Me " When you train hard enough, you become very conscious of the consequences of your skills, and are less prone to use them. This can become a deterrent for you and others. And the end result is usually peace. Heavens forbid, if a fight breaks out then the skills will kick in. Either way the result is still the same" Him " ok, so will I get hurt and be in pain if I train with you?" Me " Pain will become your friend, and yes you will have loads of it" Him "So I will be in pain no matter what.. weather I fight or not" Me "Well, yes thats one way of seeing things" Him "whats the difference?" Me "intention and consciousnesses" Him "I think Kenpo is better suited for me, but thank you for your time" Me "Yes I think so too, maybe we will see each other in a few years.." Him "To fight?" Me " Perhaps to fight the notion of fighting" Him "I am confused" Me "I know, enjoy the coffee and relish he Kenpo, it has some wonderful things to teach us all" Him "You are not going to tell me why your fighting is better than Kenpo?" Me " Styles are not better or worse, the practitioners are" Him "I dont understand" Me " Its ok, I speak funny sometimes. Enjoy the coffee"

My current student who listened in on the whole interaction laughed out loud and said "Sensei, you are chasing away prospective students" I responded "Am I? Or am I saving time for the students who are already paying the price? Besides there is such a fundamental difference between the students who truly want to learn and thosewho want to fight for the sake of fighting"

"What is the difference Sensei?" "Well those who want to truly learn seem to ask about the philosophy and transformations within themselves and those who want to fight ask about what changes they can do to their opponent. At this point I am interested in teaching the  former group. There are plenty of places that teach the latter. This is where I am right now. Ok lets train"

Different Paths, similar Sequences, Same Goal

Different Paths, similar Sequences, Same Goal

Sometime last year afraid of possibly offending me a senior student was being cautious on how to have this conversation. Sensing his
hesitation and the issue I asked him how his other training was going. He looked very surprised, The tension eased and he said good, and quickly was apologising. He added that he does not have any one else to train with and hence needs to do this. And then asked me "How did you know? Who told you Sensei?" I told him that his movements had changed, and I had adumbrated the hallmarks of another familiar system. I asked him to ease up "Its a free world, and you are allowed to go train when and where you want. I do not own you! No need to apologize. Besides, trying different things out is also the only way to know to which tune you move/dance the best. Choosing to cross train or training exclusively in another art does not negate our system of Aiki nor our teaching. In many ways its perhaps enhances what you do. And in the process if you do find something even better suited for your unique needs then good for you. Keep me informed of your discoveries." 

I told him about my own cross training in both Chinese Internal Martial Arts (CIMA) and Filipino Martial Arts (FMA). " I LOVE and TEACH Aikijujutsu, and the cross training has only added to my own understanding of Aiki. I am able to see both the problems and solutions in combat with a different sets of lenses. The cross training has served to make my study of Aiki even more conscientious and informed - esp the genius of Aiki In Yo Ho. This kind of cross training does not take away from any art, it infact increased my appreciation for them all. And more importantly pointed me towards a sequence of learning/being" - 

Step 1 - the pursuit of technique (Religion of Style) Step 2 - the pursuit of specific principle/s (Religion of SYstem) Step 3 - the pursuit of spontaneous response (Religion of self expression) Step 4 - the pursuit of generalized harmony (A state of religiousness, generalized principles and mirroring) Step 5 - Empty Mind

(I do draw a fundamental distinction between religion and religioussness. Religion ties you down to a set of beliefs and methods of interacting with those issues greater than yourself (including but not exclusively combat), whereas the state of religiousness is about embracing all the fragrances, commonality across all ways of knowing while interacting with that which is greater than self.In the context of martial arts religion is about adherence to a very strict interpretation of what can/cant be done, usually coming from a source outside of yourself - this IMHO usually blinds you to a LOT... Religiousness is this context is the ability to spontaneously respond to what ever emerges, and aligning oneself to whole - in a way that enhances everything everywhere. I can keep going on this but do not want to diagress...if the model/ling itself is of interest to you, ping me privately)

Fast forward a few months, An email from another senior student made me smile. IN a relaxed manner he started opening up about his effective application of Aiki Principles into his other training, and the beginnings of seeing the unity of the arts - based on generalized principles. And it makes me happy that in this sharing, and open acceptance has solidified not only our relationship, but  also pushing them towards that state of generalized harmony, and ultimately emptiness ... which are also my own pursuits at this time.

So this is specifically for two of the senior students working on other arts in addition ot KAR Aiki with me- go at it with all your heart, and explore them fully. This is perhaps one of the best ways to validate what you have learnt from me, refine your understanding and restructure what/how you do things that work for you. Cheers on your journey, you have not offended me, on the contrary am very proud that you have taken your growth seriously into your own hands.

You may/may not end up choosing a very different route, and means however I look forward to seeing the same horizon together, and hear stories from your journey to the same destination!

Mountain View Aiki - The Approach to Martial Study Defined

Mountain View Aiki - The Approach to Martial Study Defined

I frequently get questions on what the so called "MVAK approach" is all about. A recent semi-private conversation bought this to forefront, and I wanted to make this available to a wider audience of students and friends for thoughts.

A few senior students and I were having an in depth conversation on all things: Martial Arts, Life, Philosophy, and Individual Expression. One students spoke to me privately and said, “Sensei, the way you approach things has changed. I see the same things and yet... they are very different. What is the right way?”

I answered, matter of fact, “Well, which one works?” He looked confused for a second then said, “Both work Sensei." I responded, “Then they are both right are they not? Focus on what makes them both work, not the mere sight of them.” This student is particularly cerebral and thinks deeply about things. After a few minutes he nodded and said he wanted to learn the two "ways". As I demonstrated the the two "ways", I also brought in a 3rd and 4th "way" to do the exact same technique – the first variation of Irimi Nage/Entering Throw (the first throw one learns within the first month of training). 

I could see the sparks fly and confusion begin to set in…and of course this is the perfect ground for allowing true expression to emerge and an understanding of new principals. I saw the look in the student’s eye and I knew exactly what that meant. I have experienced the same bewilderment and magic with my own true teachers. For this is where true learning begins- I tread this ground very carefully and deliberately. ( I have learned from many teachers, but I only consider four of them as my true teachers- among them Sastri Sensei, my root/core/principal teacher)

“There is no 'one way' to do things, and extending that line, there is no one system or style with all the right answers...what remains constant through the whole process is YOU! Doesn't it make sense to learn how to access that YOU and its interaction with all pressures (combat or life) put on it. The systems you study give you tools to deal with life, however the system won’t solve the problem – YOU have to! Hence the focus is to expose you to Natural Principals. Those principals give rise to Natural Techniques that emerge from them, and those belong to YOU and only YOU.” 

I saw some heads shaking, and one student even looked puzzled. I turned to him and said, “No one will come fight your battles, YOU have to. These are a set of tools, but ultimately they have to be YOUR tools. If you align yourself with those natural principals, you don’t have to remember techniques, you will want the Right Response To Emerge. That is the game we are after. It just so happens we are using a system which is VERY good at dealing with many combat situations, however it (the system) won’t fight your fight, YOU have got to do it, YOU have to have the heart to jump in. I don’t care if you know 10,000 techniques and every variation to them... if you lack heart to apply them, to try them out in real life, then as far as I am concerned the techniques and time spent learning them are useless.”

I sensed a little frustration in another particular student- he likes things laid out in black and white, as a model that he can digest and “vomit back.” Nothing is wrong with that approach, but if you are learning with me from that approach, get familiar with frustration. As anticipated he asked, “Sensei – so what are we really doing here at MVAK ? Is this not KAR which has been handed down for generations?”

We had to come to this point, it’s a good, a valid question.“Yes what we do is KAR, and KAR is a particular approach to combat. I teach it almost exclusively BUT I also bring my own understandings from other fields of study, martial and otherwise- for if you follow natural principals, they will always be complementary to one another, not opposed. (Both of my KAR teachers talked about learning natural principals and applying that to what we do in the dojo, and in life.) Align with them, and do not fight against them. THAT's what we do to the extreme level. For the only thing constant in nature is change. The only thing that was constant, that IS constant in my training is change. I don’t know how many variations & techniques I have forgotten because every time I hit the mat with HRV or SS Sensei there was something new. And if you had studied for any length of time with both of them you would know exactly what I mean.”

“Therefore, techniques by themselves are not the endgame. What we have to focus on are the principals and process of learning. So you ask me what are we doing here at MVAK, let me be very succinct and clear about this," (I paused to get complete attention), “MVAK is not a static thing, it is a process, always growing towards mastery, striving and yet never arriving. We have learned the only thing constant in nature is CHANGE, so we aim to harness that and to be at home with that one constant. In other words I am interested in a Game called YOU and how YOU deal with what shows up. Techniques are just a starting point – the process of learning and unfolding is where the magic is and THAT is what MVAK is about. KAR provides me with the tools to do just that. Understand?”

They nodded and I concluded, “Where systems and well carved paths end, you begin to emerge! That’s the game I am after, and MVAK is the process of doing it, while we use the fantastic combat skills of KAR as tools on this journey.” With that we ended class.

Deep down, I know this, my approach, is NOT for everyone. Especially in this day and age where sound bites, 7 pre-defined steps to mastery, and quick fixes sell. What I offer is for those few who choose to become real Apprentices to power: Apprentices to a natural order, Apprentices to the process of unfolding, unlearning and, when required, unleashing the power of combat. THAT is what we are about. The Game is You, the rules are natural processes and the system(s) we study are the tools.

What the tools are for? If your answer is just combat (or, even worse, you say, well that is what was done 1000 years ago by some holy monk on the mountain) then it’s a very small game you are playing. 

My dojo is NOT the place for that small game. 

I am interested in the Big Game, and, paradoxically, becoming ever smaller in it. If you understand, if this calls you, we should talk. I'd rather take 10 students a 1000 miles into themselves than taking 1,000 students one mile down the road.


The Poetics of A Martial Education - Training Under Sastri Sensei

The Poetics of A Martial Education - Training Under Sastri Sensei

The Poetics[i] of A Martial Education

His knife sneakily came in from behind the shield hand, and made its way to my neck.  Instinctively, I rolled into the #6 taisabaki[ii], “adhering to the weapon hand” while moving the body to be “where the knife is not” and applied a lock on his arm. We both laughed as he then executed a rather elegant internal “turning palm change” and was out of the kansentsu waza, and thrust the knife with the other hand towards my belly. I slammed this knife hand while dropping my body weight to the ground: the “marriage to gravity[iii]” saved the day again.

We continued this for the next 45 minutes. Think of this as counter for counter[iv] and sticky weapons[v] put together.  He brings 25 odd years of training in Kuntao[vi] and Silat[vii] where I usually rely on my training in KAR Aikijujutsu. We ended our session as always with some green tea or chai/Indian Tea and discussions.

Whenever our schedules permit, my friend, a very high ranking member in another school, and I  enjoy comparing our concepts and techniques as well as figuring out solutions to the challenges posed by each other’s systems. We do this with the hope of discovering what works and what are the problem areas to work on. Over our chais he asked, “where did you learn those counters, I have never seen anyone do those things in my 25 years in martial arts!”

“From many places, however I predominantly credit my learning in KAR under Sastri Sensei and Vilaire Sensei for most of what you see me do plus some very personal expressions. And it was the time with Sastri Sensei in particular that opened my mind to what is possible and what one can accomplish. He put the art in the martial for me and he has always been more than a martial arts trainer to me- he is  a Sensei in the truest sense of the word.”

“It’s rare to find a true teacher of art. Tell me more, what was it like learning from Sastri Sensei?”

It’s a question I get often, and can’t answer often enough. Today I decided to try and unravel that question. “I don’t know where to start, it has always been intense. We trained 5-6 days a week in the heyday, and the learning went on for 90 minutes on the mat and equally long off the mat.”

We laughed as my friend added, “Same with my Master, these guys love to teach and talk, don’t they?”

I sipped the delicious ginger chai. “I think you and I are guilty of that now, yes, we do love to discuss and philosophize about the arts. Anyways training on the basics was constant, and we did many variations/henka to the same technique. Sensei would never do the same technique twice in a row. Initially it was overwhelming, until the pattern began to reveal itself, to emerge…and that pattern was natural principles.  The variations and escapes always blew me away and it was much later in the training that I realized that Sastri Sensei would slip in Menkyo, or as you would call Master, level techniques/concepts into our learning regularly. This only became obvious to me when the formal training in Menkyo began many years later, and many of the moves/counters were already self-evident.”

He was listening intently, fascinated with both KAR and my time with Sastri Sensei in particular. He too has trained in “the old ways” under a very well-known tough master. Since his graduation he has been exploring his own expression in the art. He continued, “but that can’t be it, it’s not just showing you advanced techniques early… what are you holding back?”

“Not holding back, I just don’t know how to frame it yet. The physical aspect is the easy part. If one sticks to it, most can at least imitate the moves and do it reasonably well. Sensei called that mode of learning Monkey See, Monkey Do.” We both laughed and continued sipping the tea. “However his greatest gift was opening the minds of those students who paid attention. To me, being with him was always about being cracked open to Wonder, Magick and Possibility. “

“Now we are getting somewhere Mahi, tell me about the opening of the mind. And how are you using the term mind – the somewhat limited western way or the more encompassing eastern way?”  He put his cup down, clasped his hands together and leaned in to listen with a sense of fierce curiosity.

I pondered a little, as sometimes English is a hard language for me to explain the more “subtle felt aspects” of the arts. “I think of those two minds as a continuum. Let me explain. Sastri Sensei introduced all of his students to NLP in the early 1990s. Not all followed, a few did while I completely embraced it, as evident even today. The brain based pursuit of elite performance was an eye opener. For the first time, I started making the transition from pure brawn, to thinking about things…even though it was at that time in pursuit of even more brawn.” We both laughed knowingly.

He jumped in, “You think about things? Surely you are mistaken.”

We continued laughing hard, and everyone in the café turned to look at two sweaty guys with sticks and knives on their sides, talking about weird things. I continued, “So I devoured the whole NLP thing, especially the modeling aspects of it, as I wanted to move like my Sensei did. And I would take diligent notes from his lessons and build mental models to test. This was the opening of the small mind – the brain, or the western mind as you say. However the real lessons were always about how we become better human beings. He demonstrated the path, with integrity and character. He is one of the most moral/ethical men I have the privilege of knowing.  When he said something, I knew he meant every word of it. And his love for the art, for his students and for his friends was unbounded. Neither money nor fame got in the way his martial arts.”

We almost had finished our chai, and ordered round two. I confessed, “you know, I f****d up quite a bit. In hindsight, my immature behavior back in the early days made enemies both in the dojo and outside. At one point I almost quit, primarily because of my ego. However, I owned up to my faults and apologized to him in person. He was compassionate and he warmly forgave and forgot everything. I must add, that I know there were times when he was angry at my behavior but he never once stopped teaching or leading by example.  This was the beginning of the opening to the bigger mind, the way we Easterners think about it.”

The next cup of chai was here, and the sweet smell of Darjeeling tea and ginger just warmed up the environment even more. My friend continued, “Yes, the bigger mind is all encompassing, and  the heart is the way. Western Science is just waking up to the wisdom of the heart – especially how it has its own grey matter if you will, and a decision center. You are familiar with the work of HeartMath[viii] of course. But, continue, I am curious about the training.”

As the sweet gingerly taste and rich conversation woke me up even more I continued, “yes that’s the bigger mind, opening of the heart. And what has to be learned is the courage to follow its impulses. I think that’s what most of the true meat is, it’s the place where training gives way to an education. Come one, if you are training for 20 odd years, it’s NOT to deal with a punch, lock, knife stab or a simple squabble. To walk on one’s path, to listen to one’s heart, and follow those impulses, (many of which may seem irrational) require courage. That ultimately is the training I believe he imparted on the handful who stuck through it.”

“ He laid the path from defending the physical self, to defending one’s mind to defending ones expression.  I know you, like me,  see the oneness  of the universe. And that journey is one we go on ALONE. However the right teachers prepare you for it.  Discipline the body, teach the mind to discern and invoke courage to follow one’s heart and passions. That in my opinion encapsulates my education under Sastri Sensei.  From there you do have to walk alone.  Martial Arts is the metaphor, if you will, that we used and still do. It’s our love. It’s our language. It’s our expression. But the target is elsewhere… it’s not just in the fighting.”

With that I felt done, complete. I had never quite articulated the training quite like this.

We finished our tea, and he paid. We started walking out to our cars, and figuring out our next play date. He continued, “Your language was interesting. While most talk about learning techniques and esoteric secrets that only they have, you seem to focus on a different plane.”

“Yes. I think good teachers educate you, teach you how to draw from within. They teach you to learn for & from yourself.  And that is what he taught me how to do. He used to always tell us – do not be my vomit.  Find out for yourself, show me your creativity. In the two decades I have been with him, he never tested two students the same way…..  I believe any art in existence today, especially the classical systems we study were once a hypothesis that was tested and adopted. However people made deities out of the founders, and forgot the message. Don’t get me started on that thread.”

We both laughed. “So the training with Sensei was learning how to learn, and becoming who you are.  And martial arts, was how we explored this. I see effective fighting as one of the benefits, not THE benefit of the learning from him. I continue to learn from him to this day, when we speak every week. We may not discuss MA techniques directly every time, but that’s the thread that informs, instructs and binds us together.”

He nodded, and I knew he understood. He continued, “I want to meet him some day and lets swap notes on specific methods of training next time.” I agreed and promised him that next time Sastri Sensei is in the Bay Area, he would.  I had hoped to do justice to the training and methods, though capturing 2 decades of learning over 2 cups of chai is impossible.  

“You know dude, we are both f****d.  Our schools will never be enrolled to the hilt, and most likely we will die unknown in the arts we love.” I wanted to end on a funny, humbling note.  We laughed hard at the irony of the whole situation.

Being a fellow philosopher and poet he said “Have you heard of Liu Yuxi[ix] famous epitaph -  Inscription for a Humble home?”  I know him well enough to know there had to be a point, and this was not a random tangent.


He stood tall, mockingly imitated an opera performer and began his preparation. I knew the poem meant a lot if he was ready to recite this “by heart.”  I stopped everything to pay complete attention to him for I knew there was going to be a deep point here.

Ever so softly, as though he was sharing a big secret he recited:


“A mountain is famous not for its height, but for its immortals.

A lake is magical not because of its depth, but because of its dragons.

This house may be humble, but it is fragrant with my virtue.

The steps are covered with green moss; the window screens reflect the verdant grass.

I laugh and chat with learned gentlemen; there are no illiterates among my visitors.

I can play the harp and read the Vajra Sutra[x].

There is no noise of string and wind instruments to disturb my ears,  nor any documents to tire me out.

Zhu Geliang[xi] lived in a thatched hut in Nanyang;

Yang Ziyun dwelt in a tiny shack in western Shu.

Confucius said, "How can that be considered humble?"


There was a deep silence for a minute.  We nodded, hugged warmly and said our good byes.  On my drive home the lines played in my mind, and I was going to soak myself in them. Poetry is the language of the mystical, and the more time you spend with it, the more it unravels. Much like the training with my Sensei, the more I go back to the lessons, the more they unravel.

That was the essence of the training with Sensei, sheer poetry.  Poetry that took hold opened the mind and heart.  Good poetry has layers, and layers. As the reader matures, the meaning of the poem transforms.  The lines sound the same, but are felt and experienced very differently. In the Martial Arts, the moves look the same, but feel and change one completely.  Hence I call it the Poetics of  A Martial Education – it is about how physical, mental and emotional education came together and was aimed to produce a higher ideal than just being an effective fighter. The language he used was martial arts, music, physics and ethics coming together to weave the fabric.

I hope to be able to impact those few students who come to my little dojo, in a similar way that my Sensei did in his.  Damo Arigato Sensei!


[i] Poetics is distinguished from hermeneutics by its focus not on the meaning of a text, but rather its understanding of how a text's different elements come together and produce certain effects on the subject


[ii] Tai sabaki (体捌き?) is a term from Japanese martial arts and which relates to 'whole body movement', or repositioning. It can be translated as body-management. It is a term used widely in kendo, jujutsu, aikido, judo, karate and ninjutsu. Tai sabaki is usually used to avoid an attack, such that the receiver of the attack ends up in an advantageous position and it is often wrongly referred to as evasion. The key distintion here, esp from a KAR perspective is moving from one circle to the next without interrupting the flow of energy


[iii] Marriage to Gravity – The principle of  Structural integration of moving body as one, while employing the advantage of gravity in all techniques. This is something that is deeply explored in Rolfing and related somatic disciplines, and certain schools of Kenpo. From a KAR perspective I have found a direct correlation of this is essential for executing good aiki, esp for the minimal use of force and multiple strikes. In essense this is Tai Ichi – Body as one and managing ones’ relationship to gravity


[iv] Counter for counter – it’s a drill where one person feeds a technique, and the other does this defense, with the aim of brining the person down. As he ends his technique, the other begins his defense against it. And this goes on and on. We use it specifically against different systems to help our own understanding of the system we train in.


[v] Sticky weapons is my variation drill of doing sticky hands with weapons. In essence one body part and/or weapon is always touching the other, to feel and to begin a series of moves once an opening is created or discovered.  To learn about sticky hands go to


[vi] Kuntao or kuntau (Pe̍h-ōe-jī: kûn-thâu, Tagalogkuntaw) is a Hokkien term for the martial arts of the Chinese community of Southeast Asia, especially the Malay Archipelago. It is most commonly practiced in and associated with IndonesiaMalaysia (particularly Borneo), the Philippines and Singapore. Over time, kuntao and silat have influenced each other to the point where the distinction between the two can sometimes be blurred.


[vii] Silat (Minangkabausilek) is a collective word for indigenous martial arts from a geo-cultural area of Southeast Asia encompassing most of the Nusantara, the Malay Archipelago and the entirety of the Malay Peninsula. Originally developed in what are now Indonesiapeninsular Malaysia, south Thailand, and Singapore, it is also traditionally practiced in BruneiVietnam and the southern Philippines. There are hundreds of different styles but they tend to focus either on strikes, joint manipulation, throws, bladed weaponry, or some combination thereof


[ix] Liu Yuxi (Wade-Giles: Liu Yu-hsi; simplified Chinese: 刘禹; traditional Chinese: 劉禹錫; pinyin: Liú Yǔxī) (772–842) was a Chinese poet, philosopher, and essayist, active during the Tang Dynasty. He was an associate of Bai Juyi and was known for his folk-style poems. Most famously, he is known for his poem Lou Shi Ming 陋室銘, "Inscription of a crude house". It describes living in a simple dwelling, following a life that is rich in character, refined in culture and learning.


[x] The Vajra Cutter Sutra (also known as the Diamond Cutter Sutra or Diamond Sutra) is one of most well-known sutras of Mahayana Buddhism. The Vajra Cutter Sutra is a discourse on the Buddhist concept of emptiness or “Wisdom Gone Beyond.”


[xi] Zhuge Liang (181–234),[2] courtesy name Kongming, was a chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. He is recognised as the greatest and most accomplished strategist of his era, and has been compared to another great ancient Chinese strategist, Sun Tzu.