Wrist Lock
Competitors 1991 Demura Canada Cup
John Montgomery Grand Champion
1st in Kumite (front center)
Edmonton Karate instruction since 1976 



It was during my early years as a new black belt in my Sensei's dojo that this story refers to.
During one class, I was called up to practice kumite with Bill M. Now, that's BIG Bill M. who for a living, worked in construction and I seem to remember he worked with concrete as well. In any case, he was an imposing figure over 6 foot tall, black handle mustache and a healthy 220 pounds. I was 21 years old, 5 foot 8 and 130 pounds light. Well, at the start of the practice sparring I was already in trouble when he grabbed for me and easily ripped off the left sleeve of my karate gi. Undaunted and perhaps foolishly I ignored this embarrasing moment and remained focused on trying to maneuver BIG Bill into an advantageous position. I then shot out my quickest back leg front kick when Bill brought up his knee to block it. I returned my kick back to my stance and immediately noticed without taking my eyes off of Bill, my foot didn't feel right. I had to call time out to look at my foot and found my toe next to my big toe was pointing up at me.  Big Bill came over to me to check out what was up with my foot, when I reached down and pulled on my toe which caused it to snap back to its normal position. Now, when I looked up, here was this huge guy turning white in front of me. I laughed to myself and thinking... I believe I won!   


KUMITE Part 3:Kata, Mushin, Zanshin, Breath (Spirit) December 2013
(Earlier articles following)
In this next piece, I examine the relationships of Kata with Mushin (no mind), Zanshin (perfected finish) and Ki ( spirit) via Ibuki (breath) and how they all connect to Kumite. There is another aspect called Fudoshin (immovable mind) I would like to introduce into this piece as well.

Shihan Demura says “Kata is the bibliography, history, and encyclopedia of Karate and karate techniques. There is no other point to make other than one should practice, practice and practice being mindful of the spirit of Kata as well as the expression of techniques.

First, there is a Zen story of “emptying your cup” which, in my opinion, is much more than what has been logically surmised by some. There are subtle aspects of what the phrase implies that has the greatest impact on kumite training. Even, just practicing kumite by itself,
the win or lose notion is pervasive in kumite training. This process is slow to develop the mind, body and spirit connection for advance kumite.  Anyway, the story is of Nanin, a Zen master who meets with a professor of philosophies and religion and the professor wanting to further his knowledge of Zen. The meeting of the pair is during a tea ceremony. The professor is engaged in his assertions of his in-depth studies of worldly religions as well being well read in Zen. All the while, Nanin is artfully and attentively preparing the tea. As the professor continues with his dissertation and while holding up his cup to receive the tea, Nanin continues pouring tea into the professor’s cup until overflowing. Well, the professor reacts and exclaims “the cup is too full, no more can go in!” Nanin, then says, “Like this cup you’re already full of your own ideas and beliefs. How can I SHOW you Zen unless you first empty your cup?” So...what I’ve read by some interpretations of this story is of a logical conclusion. How can you learn something new if you don’t empty your cup and open your mind? Certainly there’s logical truth in that statement, however the point of Zen, is not to empty ones cup only to fill it again with more empirical discernments of “This is...then, therefore ...” The professor missed his Zen moment. The transformation or revelation of the mind that dual opposing notions can exist simultaneously defies logic. As I mentioned earlier in my articles, the coexistence of opposing time distortion of seeing in slow motion and executing in blinding fast action, hearing to recognize a technique about to be thrown by your opponent, and to see and act (not to be confused with reacting to some future event) multiple offensive and defensive possibilities simultaneously in the moment.  To empty your cup is to quieten or transcend the conscious minds activity which allows what I call the subtle mind of perception, intuition and creativity to come to the forefront. There is a connection or union of the conscious mind and subtle mind. If you will, it’s the centering of self. This type of experience is by no means a onetime and “I achieved” it event but a series of ever fleeting experiences of clarity. The sense of: not knowing of outcomes but but of knowing (without ego) with clarity that brings on the warrior spirit of Fudoshin (I'll discuss more of this further on). As one black belt said to me as I was providing guidance to his Kata practice, “I see,” he said...”to go fast... I go slow.” Well, how can this be logical? How did he see it? Definitely, it’s not from the logical stand point; however, this black belt understood the meaning immediately. What was interesting was that he was unaware of his illogical statement until I pointed it out to him. For him it was a truth of intuition and perception and not of surmising logic even though he consciously understood.
The conscious mind, by its nature, will not easily relinquish its dominance since we live in a world of time, space and change. The subtle mind is the quiet self but profound in perception, intuition and creativity. As with karate training, it takes patience and regular practice and awareness to allow the subtle mind to come to the forefront. How many times has one gone to Karate class feeling fettered by the day’s activities only to leave feeling refreshed with renewed positive outlook? On the surface, we agree that systemic karate training helps us to release mental tensions and brings about mental and physical health. However, much more is happening at a deeper level. Each time we experience center-self in our Kata training, we retain more and more of the subtle mind presence which we utilize in kumite and in our everyday activities. This, in my opinion, makes us whole and integrated and gives us a sense clarity and purpose. We, then, can lead our lives through right mind, right thought and right action.

To be continues KUMITE PART 3: KATA & MUSHIN February 2014

John Montgomery Genbukai Yudansha


Practitioners of martial arts train to sharpen their basics, combination skills, timing, rhythm and distance (maai). Many Genbukai students who attend Shihan (Master) Demura seminars have witness in awe, the suddenness and smoothness of Shihan’s execution as he demonstrates a self defense or bunkai (application). The movement seemed to be devoid of transition from start to finish.  The expression Bruce Lee used in his book “Tao of Jeet Kune Do”, “It’s not just how fast you are but how soon you get there...”, which conjures up more subtlety than just going as fast as one can from point A to point B with blinding faith. What are other tools of “how soon you get there” does a practioner’s need to further their ability? Of course, someone with good timing, rhythm, and speed of delivery can be effective. But, all things being equal there are other finer details to take into account. One should consider reducing telegraphic messages of technique, facial expressions, breathing, and strengthening mental state Mushin (no mind) and Zanshin (perfected finish). Other advanced skills incorporate the opponent’s lapse of concentration and mental guard. One, for example, can accomplish this by getting the opponent to believe the attack or defense is happening on one plane while disguising the real intention on another. Well... of course, one would say, this is just your standard deception of attack or counter. As I say, all things being equal, there are further subtleties to these ideas than meets the eye. I look forward to discussing these in a little more detail in part two of Kumite: Bridging the Gap.
 My next dissertation, I’ll discuss what I mean by proper training to Mushin. Give this some thought…Mushin is not an attainment!

KUMITE Part 2a:  Bridging the Gap: Mushin:

From the movie the Last Samurai, during a sparring match with wooden samurai practice sword, a captured union captain played by Tom Cruise, is knocked to the ground several times. While on the ground, humbled by his defeat by his expert samurai opponent, Captain Algren is given this advice from one of his watching Japanese captors,  “Too many mind…mind people, mind sword, mind enemy…too many mind.”  What is that state of no-mind that the Japanese martial artists call Mushin?
As we go about our daily lives, we engage our conscious mind in endless chatter. We live in a world of differentiation where we and things around us are defined by differences. We’re separated by class, color, income, fashion, education, and the list goes on.  Our mind, thus, is consumed with mental actions of grasping, reaching, planning, resisting, pursuing, asserting, soothing, berating, inferiority, superiority, and that lists goes on too. There seems to be something missing; something out of balance. There exists a feeling of disconnect, not so much with outside ourselves but deep within.  At times, feeling liken to a leaf blowing around by the wind here and there as we live the life of incidences.  It appears as an outside force acting upon us. This is not a bad thing as long as we realize where that force comes from. Most times, we assure ourselves we are in control and our conscious mind is filled with subtle agreements, assertions, observations, and assessments.
So, how do we go about bringing together mind, body and spirit as one?  A process of integration by some means, subtlety bringing together mind, body and spirit as a whole. Perhaps a method of meditation which transcends the conscious mind chattering to a state of “being “. It’s the “in the here and now moment” without any of the conscious mind gyrations. And when I experience this quiet state, the mind is clear and reflective making time seem to slow almost a standstill and yet at the same time the action is blindingly fast. Definitely an asset in kumite, I would say. I’m connected with my opponent with a profound feeling of one. It’s hard to explain a sense of you and your opponent and the match all as one but I’ll try. There’s no conscious evaluations, assessments, judgements going on in your head. You’re there in mind, body, and spirit with no thoughts of past or future. In fact, no thoughts. There is a spirit of unshakeable belief and trust (fudoshin) in your unconscious mind to do what it’s meant to do. This not by any means an ego thing. It's a feeling of settling or letting go, a quiet calm and positive resolve. It simply comes down to who has prepared their subconscious mind and who can utilize the full potential of their subconscious mind without interference from the chatter self.
 It’s seems to me while in the elusive state of Mushin, my subconscious mind comes to the forefront and my conscious mind switches to the background. The two mental realms reverse roles. This doesn’t mean that my conscious mind is disabled, but rather it becomes an observer while the unconscious mind takes over the duties of action and reaction, as it should. Of course, since training is directed to the subconscious mind in the first place. When I'm in the the observer role, during these very fast engagements, suggestion of strategy become apparent in  various intuitive manners. One of these is a visual lines of engagement that show up as straight and/or curved lines to their respective targets to my opponent as well as those to myself. These are not lines I see visually see per se, but rather perceive or sense them all at once. At times during kumite, I’m watching as my techniques happen suddenly without my conscious  decision and surprise me. Sometimes I direct my techniques according to some subtle recognition, but once the technique is launched, the resulting flow  of attacks, counters and riposte ( a counter to a counter) happened so fast has left me perplexed as to what I just did.
 Mushin has been experienced by many during kumite but I feel that this has occured here and there during matches without the combatants recognizing what it was. I know this because I was one of those who really never paid attention to it until recently after my forty some years of training and thirty some  years of competing. During matches, the experience of Mushin is fleeting and subtle and is usually lost during the conscious melee of win or lose.  The Samurai long have known the truth of Mushin and "What is the sound of one hand clapping" (Zen koan or Zen puzzle). Well... unfortunately this is not something you can call upon with will (in fact the opposite) nor can it be bottled up and presented with a guarantee.  However, similar to the development of skill through consistent training, carefully guiding the mind's attention to the "here and now", the transcendence to mushin is also cumulative. As the Karate training evolves towards this balance of mind, body and spirit, one realizes … this is moving Zen.

The body is also the reflection of the opposing dichotomies of Mushin. The muscles of the body are strangely in balance. It’s between having spring like tension coiled up inside and a feeling of total physical looseness on the outside. The tension is pushing outward but the same time the looseness keeps it inward. This, however, without strain! How can this be? Anybody who has experienced kumite has unknowing experienced some aspect of Mushin. This is the unique residual feeling after the match that I speak of. Your body is in total relaxation yet the mind is more alive and awake than any other time. 
The more one tries to explain these experiences, the more farfetched it sounds because of its simultaneous existance of opposing notions. These dichotomies are illogical but make sense to the conscious mind of an experienced practitioner of karate-do. Because of the subtlety of Mushin, the experiences during ones training, albeit, are fleeting moments without the practitioner realizing its significance. In the foregoing, I will bring attention (pun intended), to the aspects of training which is largely underutilized.

To be continued KUMITE Part 2b:  Enhance your training of Mushin .  In the next segment, I’ll discuss the relationships of focus, attention, effort and non-effort to Mushin. Give this some thought…Less is more!

KUMITE Part 2 continued: Mushin: Week of October 20/2013

The following comments represent the various moments in kumite I have experienced from time to time. I, in no way profess that these experiences are the true path to Mushin. Like the training path of martial arts, each person travels their own experiences. However, there’s no doubt in my mind that training in traditional karate-do is ... moving meditation. Mushin, no mind, is the spirit of readiness. The state of readiness is more waiting in repose than the pursuit of it. It's to quieten the conscious mind by transcending thought and allowing the mind's attention into the "here and now moment."In this moment, a cascade of non-sensible dualities become apparent. A sense of stillness is pervasive yet there's a simultaneous sense of flow within the moment. During kumite, the not knowing of outcomes is logically apparent but there is a illogical knowing of clarity that brings about calmness. During the course of kumite, unusual events take place where the hearing and seeing take on each others roles. Ive experienced hearing an approaching attack without seeing it, and see a variety of potential attacks and defenses that haven't been executed yet and simultaneously ready see multiple responses. The attention is both far and near rather than focusing with the exclusion of all else. It's worth noting that the smaller the point of focus, the more attention expands to include all else. The perfect moment in kumite is when there is no notion of you and the opponent; of winning  or losing; but just the harmonizing of flow in the moment of you, opponent, referee and the surroundings. A quieted mind picks up on the slightest nuances of your opponent's movement and intent. No conscious thought is fast enough. Here, once again, an experience that defies logic. It is the recognition or perception takes place in a slow dimension within the realm of reflexively fast dimension. During those moments, there is the strange notion "It's you...and it's not you" participating in the kumite match.

KUMITE Part 2b continued:Enhance Your Training of Mushin November 10th 2013

Mushin, the spirit of readiness, the simultaneous pervasive stillness and yet sense of flow. I call this, the centering of self. It’s the balance of a quiet conscious mind and the subconscious perceptive and intuitive mind. The balance of karate movements is the result of a balanced state of mind. Anomalies in balance during karate movements are reflective of anomalies in the state of mind. 

As I have mentioned in earlier examples of this article, the cascade of non-sensible dualities occur simultaneously from center self. How does one enhance the training of Mushin? I liken the attention to standing while holding a brief case at a bus stop. It's light and subtle awareness of both standing and holding the brief case. We know we're holding the brief case but we're not concentrating on it. We know we are standing but we're not concentrating on it. What if the brief case is heavy? The result is we focus more on the brief case to deal with the heaviness. Now, here's an opportunity to practice Mushin. Continue to remain undistracted by gently, in your mind, transcend your thoughts to regain attention on all else. You're aware of the brief case but you essentially don't differentiate whether it's heavy or light. Careful here that you don't employ the conscious mind's tool of ignoring, since this belies effort. Careful too, not to turn this exercise into a mental struggle. Quietly and calmly transcend.  Another example is when you're trying to recall a memory and the more effort in trying to recall the further away out of reach it seems. However, when you let go of the effort is when the thing you were trying to remember pops into your head. These examples show the subtlety of Mushin and the repose of non-effort to being in the here and now moment. Allow me to relate a story of a Zen master and of a student monk. When a Zen master was asked by a novice monk when he would reach direct experience of Zen, the Zen master would reply “Attention”. The monk then asked another question related to his training and the master would reply “Attention, attention.” The monk, again asking yet another question and the master replied, “Attention, attention, attention.” Here the monk was making assessments, inquiries; judgements et cetera which are products of the conscious minds activity.  While one is training in karate, so should the karate student avoid the pitfalls the monk. Avoid employing any qualitative or quantitative view of your training or of others while in progress of drills, kata or kumite. The goal will always be imminent with continued practice, but, what is important is to transcend thought. Bring attention into the moment. It’s to connect you, the karate drills and your environment around you as a whole. Avoid self-indulgence. Interestingly, training in a dojo atmosphere does lend itself to this balance of mind. Students of karate may be unaware that they are training for Mushin but in small doses. Here’s are my recommendations for enhancing Mushin training. During drills, direct your attention ahead of you on a far wall. Position your eyes slightly downward but remain looking ahead. Gently and constantly quieten your thoughts through the duration of your drills until the far wall is reached. Avoid stopping to self check your technique. Instead, make necessary adjustments through body awareness. Of course, as thoughts will keep popping into your mind ,gently clear your mind and return your attention. This exercise maybe a struggle or it may not. As I mentioned earlier, avoid any qualitative or quantitative assessments. Avoid trying to focus on attention as this is an oxymoron. It's like using a rope to push instead of pulling a load. Focus, is when concentration is used to a focal point with the exclusion of all else around it. Attention is not the product of trying, but rather a state of being, which is the inclusion of all else. When a student is centered, both focus and attention exists simultaneously. The exercise of returning your attention gently (non force) is in chorus with focused executed physical effort (force).  If you will, hard - soft.
Okay, you’ve reached the far wall in your drill, what happens then? Continue with your attention. Just because your body has stopped does not mean your attention should stop. This is called Zanshin, remaining spirit or perfected finish. This state is an exercise in mind over body. The mind is the master and the body is the slave and not the other way around. Actually, when centered, the body is stopped but poised in readiness without tension. Zanshin allows us to perceive the next three, four, or five possible offensive or defensive moves without loosing the moment. The body’s state is also a reflection of Mushin. Now back to the training drill. When turning about face, mawate, maintain your attention and turn your eyes to the far wall. Avoid just mechanically looking in that direction. Instead, SEE what you're looking at. When the drill is over, draw your stance back to hachiji dachi (standing natural stance) but continue with your attention until you release from your drill. Now, any adjustments or self checking of your technique is okay, however, refrain from any assessments of how you did. The development of your technique is imminent through disciplined training and it’s not cause for contemplation. What is the cause, is how the path is traveled. 

To be continued KUMITE Part 3:Kata, Mushin, Zanshin, Breath (Spirit)

  " Respect one another."
Hitotsu... Ai shinji te wasuru koto