Thursday, December 16, 2010

Free Self Defense Seminars

I offer free self defense seminars to schools, businesses, churches and other organizations throughout the mid-Michigan area. The purpose of these seminars is to educate the public in the basics of safety and awareness. 

Topics include:
  • General Guidelines for Safety and Awareness
  • Defense Postures
  • Evasive Maneuvers
  • Immobilization Management (Preventing/Escaping Grabs)
  • Recommendations of Local Training Facilities for Further Education
These seminars last about an hour and are completely free of charge. I only ask that:
  • At least 8 people be in attendance
  • Any attendees under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian
  • The seminar be located in or around the following Michigan cities:

Ann Arbor Brighton Chelsea
Dearborne Detroit DeWitt Dexter East Lansing
Eaton Rapids Farminton Hills Haslett Holt Jackson
Lansing Livonia Plymouth Mason Northville
Novi Okemos Saline Waverly Ypsilanti

To schedule a free seminar, please contact me, Dan Holland
If you are seeking in-depth instruction, please follow this link

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Ahh, the good old days. I have been teaching and training the marital arts six to seven days a week since the late 1990s, inspired by the focus and practicality of the Traditional Japanese Martial arts — Judo, Iaido, Nihon Jujutsu, and Aiki-jujutsu — and intrigued by the creative and powerful movements of the Internal Chinese Martial Arts — Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua Chang, and Hsing-I Chuan. 

I have also accumulated a bunch of odd and amusing experiences. Here are some that come to mind: 

• Once in the midst of a practice session, a scruffy, red-eyed, boozed-up man in a torn scarf and dirty coat emerged from our basement door. For a good moment he was entirely oblivious to his surroundings, but he froze in his tracks when he realized he was the center of attention in a room full of scrappers dressed in white pajamas and variegated belts. His solution was to apologetically raise his hands and quietly back out the way he came. 

Turned out he'd found his way in through an old Thai restaurant that shared our suite, but had been out of business for the last year. He never bothered us again, so apart from securing the basement door, we never bothered him either. 

• We suffered two thefts. First, in the middle of the day: Someone snuck in and lifted a pair of sneakers from the shoe rack; second, in the middle of the night: A window was busted open, and despite an expensive array of shinken, the culprit ran off with a pair nunchucks and some throwing stars. 

• I got Pepper Sprayed along with a buddy of mine. It was his idea. 

• Late one Judo night, after a satisfying romp of randori, I ended class. Just after bow out, a buddy of mine said, "We gotta go one more time!" Sounded fine to me. I ended up with the upper hand — I forget the actual throw, but when he went down his head bounced off the mat, and I lost my balance somewhere in the interim. As his head ricocheted up, mine descended, and we sealed the deal with a nasty headbutt that opened the skin beneath his eyebrow but amazingly left me unscathed. With a great sense of humor, he riposted all inquiries about his forehead by saying, "That's just what happens when you tell your sensei you want one more round!"

• To promote the dojo, I cooked up a bunch of flyers to post around the area. I also left a stack by the door in case anyone wanted to pass them along. Our dojo's name, the Institute of Traditional Asian Martial Arts, was printed in big block letters in the header of the flyer. After perhaps a year of circulation, someone pointed to the title and said, "Hey. Doesn't this say "Traditional Asian Marital Arts?" Whoops.  

• When we rented a suite in a strip mall, a night club moved in next door, and had a habit of raging death metal during Iaido practice.

• Long long ago, we teamed up with a local comedy group in East Lansing who filmed a scene of their movie in our dojo. I'm the guy in the white undershirt who gets face-planted and kicked. It was painful. 

• Perhaps against better judgement, I opened the doors one Friday night a few hours after close. At this point in history, the dojo was located just North of Grand River Ave in East Lansing, which is directly across Michigan State University campus. For those uninformed, Michigan State University has skillfully expended a gargantuan quantum of time, funds and effort to produce a student body that can booze like Olympic lumberjacks.

It led to a very interesting night. I have never distributed more business cards in my life. Unfortunately no one ever called back. 

• In my early days as an Eishin Ryu Iaido instructor, I was asked to prepare a swordsmanship demonstration for our dojo's anniversary. I made it as elaborate as I could, with eight people including myself performing a selection of kata simultaneously in different directions. While practicing a few days before the event, I swung my sword and gawked in horror as the blade went cartwheeling into the tight cluster of demonstrators. 

My most junior student, young and nimble like a bunny, hopped to safety as the blade impaled the matspace previously supporting his foot. My first thought was, "How the #%@ did I let go of my sword?!" My second was, "Wait a minute. I didn't." The tuska was still in my hands. The blade, full tang, had actually broken longways from ha to mune just above the seppa!

• And perhaps the very best:

One afternoon two guys strolled into the dojo. They said they were from Gaylord and introduced themselves as ninjas. Really. Following such an introduction, they naturally laid down a credit card and jacked its balance with some badass ninja gear, including, of course, a pair of proper ninja suits. 

So Sensei mentioned offhand he had a booth at a Gun And Knife show in Detroit that every ninja should be sure to visit, because it would be equipped with a plethora of ninjtastic equipment and gadgetry. Several hours later, this happened.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Small Things Matter

In the Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, there is a passage that reads: 
Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige’s wall there was this one: “Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.” Master Ittei commented, “Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.” 
 This is interesting, because we tend to behave the opposite. 

For the martial artist, the dojo is the setting to pursue this wisdom. Let the dojo be a place of meticulous focus where every breath and footstep bear heavy significance, where every motion and intention dominate the mind. Our time is so limited in the confines of the training hall, restricted by countless obligations of the modern economic climate, that we must aspire to make the best of every moment we have. It is a difficult task to be continuously present, without lapse of attention or admittance of distraction, and it can only be achieved with determination. 

Begin with the fundamentals: Formalities and repetitions should never be mindless. Too habitually they are! It is easy to stare off into space or pick at the nails during stretches and warmups — not out of disrespect, but ennui. Begin by destroying that stultified detachment. Begin by occupying the body with the mind.

When stretching, seek comfort in flexibility. When striking or standing for uchikomi, be stentorian in count. During ukemi, focus on posture before, during and after the fall, and when uke, remember that the ability to receive technique is equally as crucial as the ability to effect it. During demonstration be attentive, when bowing, be sincere, and when instructed, yell “Hai!” or “Yes, Sir!” and take the lesson to heart. Everything — every little thing — should be considered with serious regard.

Envision the outcome were this always the case on the dojo floor — 100% engagement 100% of the time. Improvement would be continually notable. Skill level would skyrocket. And this of course is the the obvious reason for such conduct. It is the reason it became a maxim on a daimyo’s wall. 

Now envision the outcome were this always the case, period. To propagate principle analyzed in the dojo to everyday life is perhaps the most valuable element of martial arts training. If we can muster the mental and physical fortitude to be wholly engaged in the interval between bow in and bow out, and expand that awareness to the interval between waking and sleep, we can tap into one of the most powerful techniques for character development and personal growth. 

This is the way to treat matters of great concern lightly. What is the big but a concentrated buildup of the small? The big can be overwhelming with a backlog of minutiae trailing unattended in its wake, but when the small things are mastered, the big loses gravity. To analogize, a test is no problem when its material has been personalized through diligent study; a physical confrontation loses its edge when the mind and body are integrated through methodical practice. Most importantly, the daily challenges we face in life become surprisingly manageable when we eliminate clutter and execute matters of small concern with full attention and ambition. 

Unfortunately the effort to lead a life of happiness and success is monumental in nature. But it is easy to fix the small things one at a time.