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Three Stages of Developing Expertise

What if the point of martial arts training was to become invincible, as opposed to impressing others with visually entertaining technique? What if we trained to attune natural movements to a wide variety of possible assaults, rather than developing complex techniques for one-upping other competitors in a contest? Accomplishing great things with the appearance of […]

Being Mindful of a Teacher’s Value

There is an old joke about a highly skilled engineer who was hired to solve a very challenging problem that folks had been struggling with for quite some time. As the story goes, this engineer showed up, assessed the problem in about 30 seconds, then pressed a quick series of buttons on a computer and […]


For a martial art that is dedicated to realistic, usable self-defense skills, we need to recognize that we may not be the meanest or strongest person in a confrontation. A true self-defense system has to rely on more than just hitting hard and fast in order to be useful in any situation. Not to discount […]

Manners and The Martial Arts

To say that manners are a lost art in our society today would be an understatement. Rudeness runs rampant but do we still need manners? Most martial arts still practice some form of manners but the reasons for it may surprise you. Manners were a form of self-defense. In feudal Japan there was no law […]

Mu-shin: Mind and “No-Mind”

A student once asked me, “Japanese martial arts books sometimes describe a state called mu-shin, or ‘no-mind’. If I were thinking of nothing, how could I handle an attacker who was thinking very hard about beating or killing me? I mean, with nothing in mind, wouldn’t I just be an easy target?” I told him […]

Chi-Shiki 知識 Knowledge

The second of our Twelve Keys of To-Shin Do training is all about gathering as much information as possible and then learning to put that knowledge into usable action. The more we know and understand about any given technique, the better we are able to fine tune our training experiences. This information gathering happens in […]

Lose to Win

When practicing kata or techniques very often students rush “to do” the technique without understanding why the kata or technique exists. Kata in our system are reenactments of battles or are they are drills created to pass on principles of survival. They provide answers to situations that teach lessons to us. They are not things […]

Ninja Festival 2014

This year An-shu Stephen K. Hayes’ Ninja Festival will be held September 26-28 in Raleigh, North Carolina. We have some exciting things planned, including some in-depth sessions from all three Shihan. Black Belt Workshop Friday September 26th, from 1:00 to 3:30pm, An-shu Stephen K. Hayes gives an advanced seminar. Train with An-shu Stephen, An-shu Rumiko, […]

The Science of “Not-Teaching”

I stood at the edge of the training area with one of the brown belt Trainers. She and I were watching a group of new students as they practiced punching into padded targets. “Look good, don’t they? Bodies moving with the arm extension. Hitting the targets well. Getting good results. Having fun.” She nodded silently […]

There Is No Finish Line

Recently I was refreshing my memory on some material by reviewing a course on video from a number of years ago. As I watched An-shu Hayes and studied the specifics of the lesson, and his movement, something became apparent. I noticed some subtle differences in the way An-shu was moving. I am not sure how […]

Sho-Shin 正心 Heart

You may have seen written in your dojo’s curriculum the list of the twelve keys for earning your next To-shin Do belt rank. If you haven’t seen them yet, not to worry; you will as you continue your training. If you have seen them, the richness of these concepts is difficult to convey in the […]

Do You Have A Question?

Mr. Hayes often reminds us at training seminars that we should have a personal training question we are trying to answer. I have found many people have a difficult time with this idea. They ask things like, “Can you show me this kamae?” or “I want to learn about this historical ryu.” or “How do […]