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The Five Principles

by Nodan

c. 2013 Lighthouse Productions
All rights reserved


Introduction and History 1

Five Principles 8

Blocking and Kicking 26

Kata and Kumite 31

Makiwara 36

Board Testing and Breaking Difficulty 44

Street Defense 54

Warning !

The breaking and self-defense
demonstrations shown in this book
can be dangerous and should not be
attempted without the supervision
of a qualified instructor!


This book is for YouTube viewers who have requested
more information about techniques seen at the nodankarate
channel. While it is not a comprehensive analysis of my
teacher Quan Lis karate, it does nonetheless provide a
standard against which practitioners can compare their own
techniques. The Five Principles are foundational to all the
martial arts and are not unique to any particular style.
Quan Lis methods were especially effective because he
applied all five principles to every aspect of his art- to
every step, block, kick, and strike.
I have included a number of breaking demonstrations to
illustrate the extraordinary strength in Lis one strike
methods. Readers should bear in mind, however, that my
demonstrations are unimpressive when compared to the
power that can be channeled from the spirit realms. My
teacher, Sensei, possessed supernatural strength and was
the most powerful martial artist I have ever seen but, he
lived an unhappy life and, by his own admission, he died
without hope. Some martial artists may be tempted to seek
these paranormal powers as I did, unaware that they come
from the dark side but, what will a man exchange for his
soul? The story of my own occult involvement in the
martial arts is told in The Power of The Way: A Spiritual
J ourney. I hope you will read it.
I have trained in a number of striking arts and there are
many variations to the techniques shown in this book. So, I


advise martial artists to test these techniques for themselves
to see if they are sound. Keep an open mind. Practitioners
from all styles can benefit in some way from a serious
consideration of these five principles.

Master Quan Li

Quan Li trained in kempo, taekwondo, Kyokushinkai,
Shaolin, and Shotokan karate, along with judo, aikido, and
kobudo (traditional Japanese weapons). He earned his
black belt in Senseis karate-do in the early1970s.
His brilliance was in his striking technique, which I
later named The Five Principles. These precepts are not
new to the martial arts but, Lis radical 1-2 Timing and
emphasis on the Extension of Ki (Mind Principle) set him
apart. Ki (chi) is the dynamic energy that is in all living
things and, to extend ki one must mentally follow
through every movement.
In Lis interpretation of the 1-2 Timing, the hips are
rotated before the arm or leg moves. This increases the
terminal velocity of the strike and generates more power.
The human body has 206 bones, 187 joints, and more than
640 skeletal muscles. Lis method maximizes body lever-
age through precision bone alignments and a refined firing
sequence of the major muscle groups in the legs, hips,
abdominals, and upper torso.


Although I trained with heavy weights and practiced
karate for many years before meeting Quan Li, I could not
have performed any of the horizontal breaking demon-
strations seen in this book without makiwara training and a
proficiency in Lis five striking principles.
I believe my five years of intensive training with Master
Li enabled me to double my striking power.

The Five Principles

Proper Bone Alignment (the stances are centered
in the hara, a point two inches below the navel)

The 1-2 Timing (the hips are fully rotated before
the arm or foot is extended)

Extension of Ki (the Mind Principle, or follow
through of every technique)

Correct Breathing (inhale through the nose and
exhale through the mouth using the diaphragm)

Soft and Hard (maintaining the right balance
between relaxation and focus)


In the video, Nodans Teacher, Quan Li can be seen
leading two students through the Heian Yodan and Heian
Godan katas. His speed, power, and precision are a
benchmark of excellence for the traditional striking arts.
Lis five principles are summarized in the YouTube video,
The Five Principles, at the nodankarate channel.

Foundation Principles

These five principles were originally developed by
Asian martial artists in order to maximize the leverage of
their techniques. Today, few practitioners are familiar with
these precepts, while the non-martial sports world has
advanced them to the level of a science for perfecting
their own striking methods.
For example, to generate power, tennis players rotate
their hips first and then follow through with the arm and
upper body. A grunt or yell (kiai) can be heard on every
stroke, and speed and endurance are a function of the Soft
and Hard principle.
In baseball, a batters hips are fully rotated before his
arms and torso are extended with follow through. For
maximum power, the batters stance is centered.
In golf, Proper Bone Alignment and 1-2 Timing are
critical for distance and accuracy. The Extension of Ki
(follow through) and correct Breathing are essential for


managing the complexities of the swing, and the applica-
tion of Soft and Hard generates speed and fluidity.
How ironic that so few martial artists today are familiar
with these five principles which are so foundational to the
traditional martial arts.

Karate Jutsu

Quan Lis art is Karate Jutsu (empty hand technique)
and it is closely related to the Okinawan Shuri-te that
Master Funakoshi first introduced to Japan in 1922. This
style was developed during the middle 1800s and was a
dramatic departure from the Chinese kung fu that had
traditionally influenced the Okinawan striking arts.
In his provocative book, Shotokans Secret, karate
expert and researcher Dr. Bruce D. Clayton writes the
following about this new unarmed fighting art:

The new art, called Shuri-te, was fundamentally different
from traditional chuan fa. Compared to Chinese fighting,
the new art was shockingly ruthless. The new style made
no attempt to subdue the opponent through painful nerve
strikes or immobilizing joint locks. Instead, every element
of the new art emphasized destroying the opponent
completely in one or two seconds.


Soken Matsumura, the head of the Shuri castle gaurds,
was instrumental in the development of Shuri-te. In his day,
he was considered to be the best martial artist in Okinawa.
Former students have described him as being exceptionally
fast and deceptively strong, and he was especially known
for his terrifying piercing eyes. His student, Anko Itosu,
taught Master Funakoshi and is credited with creating the
five Pinan (Heian) katas that are still practiced today by
many traditional karate styles.
Dr. Claytons research into Matsumuras karate skills
leads him to speculate, Matsumura may have been the first
to appreciate that kinetic energy increases exponentially
with the square of the speed.
The following physics
formula is often used to illustrate the significance of speed
for the striking arts.

Force = Mass x Velocity

Proper Bone Alignment, the 1-2 Timing, and Soft and
Hard work together to increase velocity, which is
multiplied exponentially in the formula.
Thus, Force is a function of the amount of body weight
transfer (Mass) times its speed upon impact (Velocity)
multiplied by itself, and then divided by two.

Soken Matsumura (1797-1889)

Matsumura used strong hip rotations to generate
power and he was known for his piercing eyes.

Anko Itosu (1831-1915)

Itosu created the Pinan katas and was
known for his powerful thrust punch.


Gichen Funakoshi (1868-1956)

Funakoshi (on left) was a student of Anko
Itosu and the founder of Shotokan karate.

First Principle: Proper Bone Alignment

Quan Lis stances are upright and centered in the hara.
His Front Stance assumes a natural walking step. His feet
grip the floor, the back leg and spine are straight, the head
is held erect, the shoulders are down and back, and the
torso and rear foot are turned at 45 degree angles facing
toward the front.


Quan Lis Front Stance

His ready thrust forearm position forms a 45 degree
angle with the floor. 45 degree angles were integral
to Master Lis highly leveraged striking techniques.

Back Stance Straddle Stance

Stance Testing
The center of gravity of a stance is in the one point, or
hara, a point located two inches below the navel. Nodan
and his senior student, Yakov The Hammer, are assisted
by three former students in a demonstration in which
Yakov maintains a one-legged Crane Stance and then, by
moving in center, pushes the three men backwards.
Quan Li used this testing method to measure his
students progress in the first principle.

Yakov, Nodan, and three former students

Maintaining the Crane Stance

Pushing the three men backwards

Second Principle: The 1-2 Timing

Nodan takes a ready thrust position with his
hips and torso facing 45 degrees to the target.

Step 1- He rotates his hips sharply toward the
target while keeping his upper body relaxed.

4 Board Break from Crane Stance

Step 2- The arm is extended as his torso is rotated
strongly into the target. His elbow remains under,
his back straight, and shoulders down and back.

The Extension of Ki (follow through) sends
the excess energy of the strike into the bag.


Step 1- The hips are fully rotated towards the target.

Step 2- The arm is extended as the torso rotates
45 degrees into the target (the back and rear leg
are straight, the shoulders are down and back).


This picture captures Nodans finishing position in the
Reverse Thrust Punch break. His rear leg and spine form a
straight line as his upper body is rotated 45 degrees into the
board stack. His shoulders are held down and back at the
moment of impact, in order to minimize the power loss
through the shoulder joint. His fist is rotated 45 degrees at
the point of impact, and his elbow remains under
throughout the movement of his arm. If the elbow is
allowed to turn outward during the thrust, power will be
lost through the elbow joint.
Master Li emphasized the importance of moving in
center whenever stepping forward or backward. This is
because power is lost when the legs are not firmly rooted to
the ground upon impact with the target.

Moving in Center

Quan begins an elliptical forward step. His
front foot seeks the right foot placement.


He maintains a ready thrust position
and keeps his hips cocked as he steps.

Step 1- Li rotates his hips sharply to the front.
Step 2- His arm and torso are strongly rotated.

Fore Fist Position

Nodan rotates his fist to a 45 degree angle in order to
maximize energy transfer through the forearm. This posi-
tion enables the interosseous membrane that connects the
two bones in the forearm (the radius and the ulna) to
maintain the proper tension and bone alignment.
Originally, I learned the traditional Okinawan punch
which utilizes a fully rotated cork screw motion. After
many years of training, this comes naturally to me but, the
45 degree angle shown below is more technically correct.
Besides properly aligning the forearm, the 45 degree
rotation makes it easier to keep the elbow under through-
out the movement of the arm.
To find the optimal fore fist position, extend both arms
against a solid wall and try to push it over. Then, form a
fist based upon your hand positions against the wall.

Third Principle: Extension of Ki
Ki, also known as chi or qi, is the vital energy and
vivifying life force inherent in all living things. Quan Li
learned this principle from Sensei, who took it from his
study of jujitsu and aikido and then applied it to his karate-
do. The concept of extending ki is fundamental to the
throwing and weapons arts, and it has an essential mind
component to it, in that it requires a concentrated effort to
mentally follow through with every technique- all the
way out to infinity.

4 Board Break with a low back kick

Nodan extends ki with follow through.


Extending Ki with the Push Break

This is a simple but very difficult test of thrusting
power. The challenge is to exert 135 lbs. of thrust (61kg)
on the board before the 75 pound suspended bag moves
(see p. 44-49 for board testing standard).
Nodans stance is properly aligned with its center of
gravity in the hara. His body is soft, with only enough
tension to hold the stance together. The rear leg and spine
are straight and the shoulders are held down and back, in
order to reduce power loss through the shoulder joint. His
head is held erect, as if suspended on a string, and his
elbow is held under.


Step 1: Nodan inhales deeply, then rotates his hips
sharply while, at the same time, keeping his upper torso,
shoulders, and arms properly aligned and relaxed.
Step 2: following this, he rotates his upper body into the
board and exhales with a kiai yell. This technique takes
only a split second using the 1-2 Timing, and throughout
the movement he follows through the board with a
concentrated Extension of Ki, as if projecting a stream of
energy out to infinity.
With the starting position of his striking arm already
fully extended against the board, the acceleration required
to overtake the movement of the bag must be generated by
a very quick and explosive hip rotation.

3 Board Break from Cat Stance

This difficult break requires a concentrated
follow through beyond the breaking point.

The Mind Principle: projecting ki to infinity.


Fourth Principle: Correct Breathing

Breathing must be controlled from the diaphragm.
Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
This same breathing method is used by boxers, professional
singers, and musicians who play wind instruments. For the
striking arts, it is essential to exhale sharply on every
focused technique.
Kiai means spirit meeting and is the union of mind,
body, and spirit. It can manifest itself in the vocalization of
the rush of air during hard exhalation on every focused
movement. When vocalized correctly, the kiai yell is a
ferocious primal roar from the depths of the hara.
In the video, Dagger Form, the kiai points are not
vocalized and a sharp exhalation can be heard on each
focused movement. This is breathing kiai.

Fifth Principle: Soft and Hard

This principle refers to the complex sequence of
contraction and relaxation of the more than 640 skeletal
muscles in the body. For most karateka like myself,
mastering Soft and Hard requires many thousands of
repetitions for each technique and it is the last of the five
principles to be perfected. For a few exceptional athletes
like Quan Li, this principle seems to come naturally.


Soft and Hard combination break

The entire body is relaxed before striking.

The first strike is a snapping back fist to the face.


The second strike flows from the first.

The two breaks take less than second
from the time of the initial movement.


Formal Blocking Techniques

Quan Li taught that the formal Downward, Middle, and
Rising blocks are striking techniques that must hit with the
entire body, and not just with the arm and shoulder. He
applied aikidos unbendable arm, a technique whereby the
arm is extended in a soft/hard position using the tricep
muscle in the arm and the latissimus dorsi in the back.
The formal blocking movements in Lis karate use a full
range of motion to develop form, speed, and power. With
proper training, however, practitioners learn to project
strength into the shorter and quicker street applications of
these formal kata blocks.

Formal Downward Block

Yakov defends against lunging punch in Sanbon Kumite.


5 Board Break with formal Downward Block

The hips are sharply rotated toward the target.

The unbendable arm makes Nodans arm like a
slightly bent steel rod wrapped in cotton cloth.


Practical abbreviated street application

Nodan waits in the surrender position.

He extends his arm into a Downward Block.


Kicking Techniques

Quan Lis kicking techniques also followed The Five
Principles. In the Front Thrust Kick, he taught that the hips
are rotated 45 degrees as the knee is raised. This opening
of the hips releases the hamstring muscle and allows for
greater speed and flexibility in the movement. While
executing the Front Kick, it is important to keep the base
foot firmly rooted to the ground at the moment of impact,
in order to minimize power loss through the hips and legs.
The down and in motion of the thrust gives this kick
its exceptional power and it is most effective when used
against the lower abdomen, the groin, and the legs.

Quans base foot and hips rotate 45 degrees as his
knee is raised. Note his upright centered stance.


5 Board Break with reverse Front Kick

Nodan throws a thrust punch to disguise his kick.

The down and in motion of the reverse
Front Kick leverages exceptional power.


Kata and Kumite

Asian striking arts use kata, the pre-arranged formal
exercises that train the stances, stepping, blocking, kicking
and striking techniques of the style. For the 19
Okinawan masters, kata and makiwara practice formed
the core of training (competitive sport karate did not
begin to develop until the 1930s).
Kata systems vary widely and I have studied Chinese,
Okinawan and Japanese styles whose basic training stances
differed significantly. Some were characterized by low,
elongated stances while others preferred taller, more
compact positions.
Ultimately, it doesnt matter what style you practice
because The Five Principles are foundational to all the
martial arts. Every system has strong and weak points, and
I have applied techniques from a variety of arts to my street
self-defense. Whether you concentrate on one style or
practice many, the important thing is that you make your
martial art your own. Master Funakoshi used to tell his
students, Art does not make the man, the man makes art.

Quan Lis katas closely follow Master Funakoshis
earlier Shuri-te style, in which his training stances were
shorter and more upright than the deeper stances that were
later adopted by the Japan Karate Association (JKA).

From Tekki Nidan (Naihanchi Nidan)

From Heian Godan (Pinan Godan)



Maintaining the center while turning

Li first looks to his left as he prepares to pivot and turn.

He maintains his center as his lead foot seeks the
correct position before shifting into a Front Stance.


Kumite (Sparring)

Quan Li taught formal prearranged Sanbon (three step)
and One Point kumites. Like the early Okinawan masters,
Li considered free-style sparring too dangerous. The
originators of the Okinawan striking art designed it to be
effective combat defense against untrained, multiple
adversaries who may be armed with weapons. So, free
sparring with another karateka who also possessed one
strike capability could pose a dangerous risk.
Karate jutsus introduction to the general public in the
early 1900s marked the end of karate as a true combat art.
Later, with the development of tournament competition in
the 1930s, the art quickly evolved into a competitive sport
with rules and safeguards to protect the players.
Today, after several decades of commercialization, the
public perception of this once ferocious striking art is more
that of a family friendly activity best suited for young
children. It is little wonder that MMA (mixed martial arts)
training and competition, which has so little in common
with real street self-defense, has become the ultimate
fighting paradigm for martial arts fans.
These are observations not criticisms. Today, numerous
family oriented karate schools provide much needed
structure, discipline, and exercise for adults and children of
all ages. Quan Lis karate teacher, Sensei, stopped teaching
his karate-do in the 1970s, believing that the ferocious


striking art no longer fit in a civilized society. In its place,
he began teaching Morihei Ueshibas aikido, a soft
throwing art that seeks to do as little harm as possible to an


The traditional Okinawan makiwara was a wooden post
wrapped in rice straw and buried three feet in the ground.
These outdoor striking posts were fairly rigid and, with
intense training, its users formed unsightly bone calci-
fications and large calluses on their hands.

Left- Photo believed to be of Mas Oyamas right hand.
Right- Master Funakoshi training on a traditional post.


To protect my students, Yohan and Yakov, from long
term hand injuries, I designed a flexible, rubber padded
striking post based on the principle of graduated
resistance. Over time, this proved to be a safe and efficient
way to develop powerful striking techniques. Besides this,
callus formation is not essential for effective self-defense.

Flexible indoor makiwara

After several years of makiwara practice and instruction
in Quan Lis five principles, my student Jason, a former
high school track athlete, broke three suspended boards
using his strong side reverse punch. Without this kind of
training it would be difficult for an adult karateka to
duplicate Jasons 3 board break using 130 lb. test boards
(see p. 44-49 for board testing standard).


The post is made from two 1x8 inch wide boards.
Layers of soft rubber padding protect the hands.
Resistance is altered by changing the post width.

Post holder is made from wood and framing
brackets, and is attached to inch plywood.


Board holder constructed with inch plywood
and could hold five 1x12x10 inch wide boards.

Makiwara develops striking power

The Shuri-te masters used the makiwara as their primary
tool for developing powerful striking techniques. The
relationship between flexible post makiwara training and
suspended horizontal power breaking should be apparent in
the following power breaking demonstrations.
For instructions on how to construct an indoor makiwara
see the video, How to Build a Makiwara and Board
Holder at the nodankarate channel on YouTube. For an
excellent guide to board breaking, see Karate Breaking
Techniques, by Jack Hibbard.


Resistance increases over distance.

5 Board Break with Reverse Punch

Nodans 5 board stacks will support a 650 lb.
(295 kg.) barbell placed across the centerline
running parallel with the grain (p. 44-49).


Striking from side Straddle Stance

4 Board Break with Bent Wrist Strike

This proved to be Nodans most difficult break.


Striking from Neutral Stance

4 Board Break with Palm Strike


Striking with the elbow

5 Board Break with Elbow Strike

This proved to be Nodans most powerful
suspended horizontal breaking technique.


Board Testing and Breaking Difficulty

Board breaking was never a part of my teaching or
martial arts training but, in order to provide tangible
evidence of the extraordinary power in Quan Lis striking
method, I needed to offer some kind of dramatic visual
proof. After some experimentation, I decided to use un-
spaced, suspended, horizontal board breaking because it is
notably difficult, requiring both a substantial transfer of
body weight into the board stack and enough speed to
overtake the movement of the 75 pound bag.
The boards were cut from 1x12 inch wide (actual mill
size is x 11 inches) Common White Pine boards, which
are found at home improvement centers and lumber yards
throughout Canada and the United States. The ideal pene-
tration distance for a horizontal strike is approximately two
inches, or the equivalent of 3 boards (2 inches). So, the
four and five board stacks are more difficult, at least in part,
because of the increasing thickness of the wood. A five
board stack is nearly 4 inches thick, almost twice the ideal
penetration distance. This means the terminal velocity of
the strike must be greater.
For experienced martial artists who wish to replicate
these breaks, it is important to establish and maintain a
uniform standard of board strength in order to measure
relative breaking difficulty. Wood strength varies widely,


depending on size and moisture content, and a sample from
each donor board should be tested beforehand to deter-
mine board strength.
Because of the soft supports, suspended stacks of
wood must be broken in a fairly straight line. So, use
pieces that have been cut from the same donor board and
align the grain patterns so they face in the same direction.
In addition, since the boards are not rigidly supported, the
stack must be struck accurately along its centerline in order
to distribute the force evenly across the board holder.
Before assembling each board stack, strike test each
board against a rigid surface to expose unseen weak points,
such as cracks or splits. Holding the board in one hand,
strike downward with the grain along its centerline.
Finally, avoid boards with knots along the centerline
because the circular grain pattern will make them nearly
impossible to break.
Downward breaking is considerably more powerful than
suspended, horizontal breaking because it follows gravity,
has a longer arc of movement in which to generate hand
speed, and the rigid supports eliminate the power losses
that naturally occur when using a suspended bag.
Nodans karate is self-defense oriented and suspended
horizontal breaking more closely represents the kind of
striking techniques used in real street situations.


Suspended horizontal breaking is considerably more
difficult than rigidly supported downward breaking.

Nodan used 1x12x10 inch wide pine boards in all his
breaking demonstrations. Testing showed that each board
could support, on average, a 130 lb. (59 kg) barbell placed
across the centerline of the wood running parallel with
the grain. When testing a boards strength, the full weight
of the barbell should be rested on the board for no more
than one second, because the actual contact time during a
break is but a fraction of that time.
When the boards are un-spaced, the resistance increases
proportionally. For example, the five board stacks used in
Nodans suspended power breaks could support at least
a 650 lb.(295.5 kg) weight (5x130 = 650). Board strength


can be adjusted up or down by changing the width of the
boards (five 8 inch wide boards @ 130 lb. test strength are
equal to five 10 inch wide boards @ 130 lb. test strength).

Placing spacers between the boards changes the physics
of breaking, making it considerably easier. Spacing the
boards is breaking them one at a time in rapid succession.
Breaking can be faked by first scoring or baking the boards,
or by inserting thin spacers. In the YouTube video, Board
Strength and Breaking Difficulty at the nodankarate
channel, 53 seconds of un-edited film (2:14-3:07) show that
Nodans breaking demonstrations are authentic.
For those who are serious about testing their striking
techniques using suspended horizontal breaking, I offer the
following advice: do not underestimate the increasing


difficulty of adding one additional board to a board stack.
For example, Going from 4 to 5 boards requires a 25%
increase in striking force, which would be somewhat
analagous to raising a bench press lift from 400 to 500
I lifted heavy weights for seven years during high school
and college. Although I never used steroids and did not
develop large muscles, I believe this strength training
significantly contributed to my ability to perform these 4
and 5 board suspended power breaks.

My college weightlifting coach performs a one
arm bent press with 150 lbs. This illustrates the
leveraging strength of Proper Bone Alignment.
(At the time, Coach weighed in at 148 lbs.)


A barbell was used to measure board strength.

The average board broke with 135 lb. (61.4 kg).


Training Both Sides

Developing both the right and left sides of every tech-
nique is an important part of karate training, because an
injury to one side or the other can occur before or during a
street confrontation. Also, street attacks are fluid and un-
predictable, and having the option of using either hand is a
strategic advantage. One of Master Funakoshis admon-
itions was to always strike the makiwara with twice the
number of repetitions using the weaker hand.
In order to emphasize this point, I performed all but one
of the four and five board horizontal power breaks using
my weak side left hand. Also, the fact that I was in my
late fifties when performing these breaking demonstrations
highlights the advantages of technique over sheer physical
As already noted, downward breaking is much stronger
than horizontal breaking because the boards are rigidly
supported, the strikes are moving with gravity, and the
longer motion of the arm increases hand speed. 7 board
stacks are 5 inches thick and could support at least
910 lbs. (413.6 kg) of weight. My weak side left hand
broke 7 boards with relative ease using a downward bottom
fist strike but, I failed to break 7 suspended boards with my
strong side right hand because I could not generate
enough speed to overcome the movement of the bag.


7 Board Break with left hand

7 Board Break with right hand


7 board failed attempt with
my strong side right hand

The bag absorbs the full force of the thrust.


4 board breaks with left and right
palm strikes from neutral position

One strike power from a neutral

is a strategic advantage in street defense.


Street Defense

The self-defense techniques shown in the following
demonstrations against guns and bladed weapons require a
high level of skill with many repetitions of practice with a
variety of training partners.

These are high risk self-defense
techniques that should only be attempted in life or death

The Best Martial Art

Today, the mixed martial arts (MMA) have taken center
stage as an entertainment blood sport. At the highest level,
world class professional athletes compete for fame and
fortune in heavily promoted cage matches. This latest
expression of the martial arts embraces a very different
philosophy from that of the early Okinawan inventors of
karate. For them, the martial arts were primarily for health
and self-defense, and practitioners were encouraged to
embrace these proverbs:

To win without fighting is the highest skill,
A man learns to fight so he will not have to fight.

Discussions about which is the best martial art should
begin with the question, best for what? There are traditional
arts, sport oriented fighting styles, and practical street
defense systems. Each approach develops its own unique
set of tools and strategies.


Ultimately, the best martial art is the one that best
addresses your needs and goals. There are good and bad
practitioners in every art and each style has its strengths
and weaknesses.

Nodan Karate is Street Defense

For me, karate was always an exercise in survival, not a
sport, and my main interest was in learning how to apply
the techniques in real situations. In the 1960s, I decided to
concentrate on street self-defense and began to work out
with Tex Barnes, a college classmate who studied a style of
combat jujitsu. Tex brought a metal training knife with a
dull, rounded blade to our first practice session together. He
succeeded in killing me a number of times and afterwards
I had large red welts all over my body.
This became a wake-up call for me, exposing the fact
that real street defense was something quite different from
the traditional training I was receiving in the dojo. My
formal blocks were ineffective, my body was out of
position, and I lacked a strategy for defending against a
skilled knife fighters flowing combinations.
Tex taught me wrist locks and joint holds that were
effective against close quarter knife and gun holdups. We
also practiced against moving knife and club attacks, and
the kinds of grabs and holds that street criminals were


likely to use.
This early jujitsu training was the most important
influence in my future approach to the martial arts. Not
surprisingly, Tex Barnes went on to become a high ranking
jujitsu master.
I stopped training in karate for six years after the life-
changing events I experienced in late 1985. In 1991, I was
brought back into karate by two young men who asked for
self-defense lessons. Yohan and Yakov trained with me for
five years and were awarded the rank of black belt by an
independent panel of experts in 1996.

Yohan and Yakov (front center) pose with test judges.


Then, in 1999 I received another request for self-defense
instruction from Jason, a former high school track athlete
who had previously trained in karate. Since there was only
the two of us, I became his practice partner for five years.
This training, along with regular makiwara practice, kept
me strong in karate into my late fifties.
For me karate is about self-defense, and deception and
understanding the predatory nature of street criminals are
essential for good strategies. In addition, each traditional
martial art must be specifically adapted to street defense
because what you practice is what you will do when
confronted with a real attack.
There are no rules in the street. Spear hand strikes to the
eyes and throat, grabs and strikes to the groin, and biting
are among the many effective defensive measures that are
not permitted in sport. Also, sport fighters do not face
armed or multiple opponents, and having one strike
power can be the equalizer in those situations.
The following examples illustrate how strategy and one
strike power can combine to produce a formidable array of
street defenses. These are hypothetical scenarios that are
not intended to be how to instructions. To effectively
learn to do these defenses requires a trained instructor and
many repetitions of practice with a variety of training


Defending a front choke with a Palm Strike

One strike power from a neutral stance position
is advantageous in street self-defense situations.


5 Board Break with a circular Palm Strike

Because of its power at close range, the Palm
Strike is effective one strike street defense.


Double spear hands to the eyes and throat are effective
defense techniques not permitted in sport competition.

Yakov applies a joint hold and uses a front kick
counter attack to thwart Yohans knife holdup.


Lunging Knife Attack

Yakov waits for Yohan to commit to a lunging attack.

Then, he simultaneously blocks and angle steps away,
positioning himself for an immediate counter attack.


Gun holdup from the front

Nodan raises his hands in surrender and distracts the
gunman by asking a simple question. During this tactic, he
subtly moves his head out of the line of fire.
When his assailants attention has been diverted away
from the weapon, Nodan applies a wrist lock to the
gunmans hand and then follows up with a snapping side
head strike to his face. After stunning the attacker, he can
use a follow up counter attack and disarm him.
This kind of gun defense utilizes deception and
misdirection, and requires much practice with a variety of
partners in role playing scenarios. Its effectiveness is
predicated upon the element of surprise.


After a stunning head strike, Nodan can
thrust the gun barrel into assailants face
and then disarm him with a wrist break.

Board break with side head strike


Gun holdup from the back

Nodan raises his hands in surrender and distracts the
gunman by asking a simple question such as, Have you
heard if its going to rain tomorrow? He will turn his
upper body on the to syllable of tomorrow, because the
gunmans mind will naturally finish the question, thus
taking his attention off his trigger finger, even if only for a
Nodans quick turn moves him out of the line of fire. He
continues turning and traps the gunmans arm. Then, he
strikes before his assailant can react. This manoeuver can
be performed in either direction, depending on the location
of any bystanders.


Nodan strikes to the temple. Strategically, the One
strike techniques are intended to stun an attacker,
leaving the option for escape or a follow up strike.


Knife defense using a low side kick

Surrender position keeps Yakovs hands
out of reach from Yohans slashing attack.

He begins a pre-emptive counter attack by striking
toward Yohans face to draw his attention upward.


Yakov drops his hands in a guarding position and
disguises his intentions by not staring at his target.

Yakov can kick through his attackers knee joint.


The Twofold Gaze

The twofold gaze of perception and sight enables a
defender to sees everything simultaneously and not be
distracted by insignificant details or sudden movements by
his assailant. With a clear mind devoid of anticipation, he
can perceive his adversarys strength and intention.
The twofold gaze is especially helpful when defending
against moving attacks involving bladed weapons, because
it gives the defender a sense of having more time to react, a
phenomenon that perceptually slows down the speed of
the attackers movements.

Defending against a knife thrust

Using the twofold gaze, Nodan remains relaxed
as he patiently waits for his assailant to attack.


Nodan uses a sliding angle step to avoid the sudden
knife thrust. As he steps, he simultaneously executes
a middle level block and a hook punch to the head.
3 Board Break with Hook Punch


Simultaneous block with counter strike


Effective simultaneous block and counter
techniques require a higher level of skill.


Pre-emptive defense against a knife threat

For most street situations, Nodan preferred to defend
from a neutral stance position. Sometimes, however, the
circumstances may call for a fighting stance. In the follow-
ing scenario, an armed assailant is threatening. If Nodan
believes that a deadly assault is about to be launched at
him, he may determine that a pre-emptive counter attack is
his best strategy.
He assumes a relaxed fighting stance with his arms
floating in a lowered, non-aggressive attitude. Note that
he keeps a safe distance away- just beyond the attackers
effective lunging range.


Nodan surprises his assailant with a sudden head feint,
as if initiating his own attack. Then, he moves in quickly
with a sweeping knife hand block and continues stepping
through to strike his attackers face before he can react to
make a counter move.
The speed at which this maneuver must be performed
can only be appreciated by viewing the YouTube video,
Nodan Self- Defense (2:51-2:58) at the nodankarate

He moves forward while executing a knife hand block.
Once he begins the pre-emptive self-defense manoeuver
he must remain committed throughout the technique.


Nodans rear leg and spine are aligned
as he extends ki with follow through.



century karate jutsu was designed as a combat
strategy against multiple un-trained opponents who may be
armed with weapons. When its one strike techniques are
adapted to real street situations, the expert practitioner has
the confidence of being armed wherever he goes.
Martial arts expertise, however, will always be subject
to limitations due to circumstances beyond our control.
After my journey into the dark side during the 1980s, I
came to the conclusion that the best self-defense for
mind, body, and spirit is to practice loving God and loving
others because, in the larger scheme of life, everything else
is meaningless. In the end, only our love lasts forever.
I have described my life-changing experience in my first
book, The Power of The Way: A Spiritual J ourney. I hope
you will read it.

Peace be with you,



1. Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D., Shotokans Secret,
Ohara Publications, Inc., c. 2004, p. xii-xiii

2. Ibid, p. 43

3. Gichen Funakoshi, Karate-do Kyohan,
Kodansha America, Inc., c. 1973, p. 5

4. Jack Hibbard, Karate Breaking Techniques,
Tuttle Publishing, c. 1981

Nodans books are a FREE internet download at:

Nodans karate videos can be viewed at
the nodankarate channel on YouTube.