The Real Purpose of the Martial Arts:

Learning How to be Humble

Being humbled, or some would say humiliated, is an experience that most people would avoid at all costs, or at least shy away from. However, in the training that is required of a martial artist humiliation, or public embarrassment, may be a frequent occurrence. How the student responds to this essential aspect of training will determine the quality of his or her martial arts experience.

The capacity to learn requires that the individual have an open attitude about what happens to them in class. If they are predisposed to judging incidents from a “civilian” point of view they will miss the “lesson” inherent in every martial arts interaction, whether inside or outside of the dojo. In order for martial arts training to have a “life changing” impact on the student, they must allow it to change their perspective as they progress with their training, which can be tough at times.

These challenges are most evident in sparring (strategy) class where the difference between ego and confidence is often blurred in the intensity of the moment. Nonetheless, It is very important for the student to trust the process and to “...strive to concentrate only on the martial arts...and to leave behind any problems or animosities which could be counterproductive”. Sometimes students hit too hard and the natural reaction to that would be to hit back harder; yet, Mudokai students are expected to show self -control: the response required is different.

Years ago I promoted a kickboxing match between Dennis “Mad Dog” Downey and Paul Ellis, in which Downey picked Ellis up and threw him over the ropes and out of the ring. Ellis calmly picked himself up, stepped carefully back into the ring, took a stance and proceeded to skillfully counter Downey’s next move, winning the match with his focused determination and superior skill. While Downey’s purpose may have been to intimidate Ellis through publicly humiliating him, Ellis chose instead to respond with integrity and technique, which won the match.

Sensei Robert H. Mason c2001


To Be Fluent In the Martial Arts…

Let’s stay away from Karate “Gibberish”


Mudokai literally means “void way association” and is extrapolated from Mugendo which means “unlimited way”. As the name implies, our system enjoys a freedom of technical development far beyond most other Martial Arts styles. This freedom, however, falls within a discipline that follows a strict set of basic principles. Freedom without principles constitutes chaos and is the antithesis of our purpose in the Martial Arts.

In order to clarify the point being made, let me offer an analogy. Languages are sometimes very primitive consisting of only a limited number of words and expressions Languages may also be extremely sophisticated permitting the communication of intricate concepts and the expression of subtle emotional feelings. Most people would agree that a sophisticated language allows greater freedom of expression than the primitive grunts of a prehistoric cave dweller. However, if you were to study a foreign language, you would not feel entitled to invent new words or to make up your own style of conjugating verbs. If you did this, either you would not be understood or you would be laughed at by those who already know the language. Your homemade language just would not work.


For very much the same reasons, when students of Mudokai play at Karate by making up their own kata, it doesn’t work either. It could be called Karate “gibberish”. It is only when persons are fluent in a language that they may exercise that freedom of expression, perhaps using what is called “poetic license” in order to give their prose or poetry a special power of communication, or a unique perspective.


Similarly, it is only after the achievement of Black Belt that a student would have sufficient grasp of the basic tools of Mudokai to allow meaningful expression of their talents through innovation. In fact, it is not usually until after the attainment of the Third Degree Black Belt that such talents can be uniquely expressed, in a balanced and harmonious manner, consistent with the principles underlying the practice of Mudokai.

I have been asked by parents of six-years-old students why their children are not allowed to add this or that move to the Kata, or why they are not allowed to invent their own form. “After all,” parents say, “our child is so talented.” Kata in Karate are like poems in literature; they communicate subtleties within a sophisticated mode of expression. Just as you can’t take two lines from an ode by Keats, run them into the middle of a sonnet by Shakespeare and finish up with a lyric from Madonna’s latest hit, so Kata cannot be cobbled together from bits and pieces of unrelated technique and still be expected to have any meaning.

The internal integrity of Mudokai, and the practice of Mugendo within the U.S.A., are my responsibility as Chief Instructor. I hope that all students, parents and others who support our program, will understand the importance of discipline and integrity in Karate practice; and will appreciate the development of patience and loyalty necessary to bring such practice to a point of fruition.

Since I began my Martial Arts training in 1962, I have found that it is through discipline, patience, and perseverance that character can be developed. The “hot shot” approach of talented, but shallow personalities does not lead to the attainment of goals that I seek to instill in those I teach. I wish all students to have the opportunity to learn and to develop themselves through Martial Arts training as I have done over the years. For that reason I am forever turning back to remember the lessons of my teachers and forever looking forward in applying what knowledge I have absorbed to every aspect of my life. In this way I am in touch with the reality of each moment, and I am connected with that knowledge within myself. Herein lies the freedom within the “unlimited way” of the Mudokai. Sensei Robert Heale Mason c1990