Kata (Alone) Will Never Build Internal Power

Trying to develop Internal Power by training kata (alone) in martial art is problematic.  On one hand, you may inadvertently have minor success in creating some internal connection over the course of 20-30 years of training, but you will most likely have no idea how you did it, no idea why it worked (minimally at best), and most importantly, no idea how to correctly transmit it to the next generation.  The only advice you will be able to offer your students and fellow seekers is to keep doing this (kata training) and somehow you *might* get the correct result.  This is insufficient and irresponsible, at best, on the part of the teacher.

Assuming that you want to stand out from the crowd as a powerful martial artist, and Internal Power/Aiki is your goal, then the scatter approach to trying (and for the most part, failing) to build IP through kata alone is a waste of a career.  I say this because there exist clearly defined, step-by-step processes that rewire the body for Internal Power specifically for martial arts.

Solo Training Precedes Kata Training

Power building models as solo training exercises have existed for hundreds (if not thousands) of years  throughout the martial arts from India to China to Japan.  Why anyone would try to reinvent the wheel by attempting to create their own hodgepodge of exercises or think that merely training kata would develop real Internal Power is a mystery to me.  The reality is that solo training exercises burn in specific ways of moving that are not normal which create a very stable, powerful structure capable of absorbing, re-translating, and projecting incoming force.


Internal Power training is a type of General Physical Preparedness (GPP) for budo.  The goal of regular GPP for fitness, athletics, or martial arts is enhanced work capacity. This is the ability to run faster, jump higher, and hit harder. When work capacity increases, it allows the budding warrior to adapt more easily to increases in both mental and physical demands. In other words, it increases your capacity and level of readiness to absorb higher levels of specificity.

The solo training exercises for internal power training change the way outside forces act on the body.  The structure becomes dynamically stable so that applied force can either be distributed throughout the chain and dissipated or, at a higher level, simply reflected right back onto the opponent.  When force is reflected back this is what is known in Japanese as Yamabiko, or Mountain Echo.

Just to help further differentiate the two practices, solo training exercises for building internal power (there are other types of solo training exercises, obviously) are always made up of the following: standing, open/close, winding, spiraling, and breathing – all supported by Yin/Yang Theory (the union of opposites) and 6 directions (Heaven Earth Man).

Kata are for the purposes of patterning correct martial movement.

These solo training exercises are trained BEFORE kata to condition the body for powerful martial movement. They are not martial movement drills in and of themselves like sanshin no kata, kihon happo, and kata.

Kata – The Slow Boat to China

The reason it is so difficult to train IP via kata is that the vast majority of students get caught up in learning the movements of the kata correctly.  They get caught up in the application of technique and the idea of trying to make it work correctly.  What they don’t realize is that having a correctly trained body built by solo Internal Power exercises makes all the kata work much better and easier.


If you have a choice – and you do, by the way – why not learn a step-by-step method of training Internal Power?










Integrated Strength Program <<========

Following a clearly defined path up the mountain is much faster and more effective than wandering around the base working on kata for 30 years and thinking you will somehow magically arrive at the summit.

Caution – While I did just say “more effective and faster” I by no means meant easier!!  Internal Power takes a lot of dedicated work.  Do not think it is a shortcut!

Gyokko Ryu’s Internal Power Training

There is no doubt in my mind that Hatsumi Sensei possesses unusual power in his budo.  Anyone who has trained with him can tell you that!  But what is it and where does it come from?  More importantly, how can YOU develop it as well?

Soke’s martial movement displays many of the characteristics associated with Internal Power training: ghostly movement, immovability (static and dynamic), shockingly powerful strikes with little windup, adhesion caused by movement, kuzushi on contact, and others. [Read more…]

We Were Once Warriors…

We Were Once Warriors…

For centuries the warrior has been the archetypical model of physical fitness and power.  This is due to the extreme nature of their training and overwhelming odds that they must have had to go through waging war in the ancient world.

The multifaceted development of skills required for the warrior’s brand of life and death combat is second to none.




Warriors needed to be able to carry heavy loads over long distances on uneven terrain, wield heavy weapons while wearing armor, wrestle and engage in other forms of hand-to-hand combat, fight for hours or perhaps even days on end in mud, sweat, and blood, all while continuing to display power, coordination, agility, and speed.  This was not a game with a medal or trophy at stake, but their lives and the lives of their comrades in arms, not to mention the entire village or tribe who were relying on them for protection.  All of this placed immense demands on the warrior physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Today’s Training from Yesterday’s Triumph

The skills we know today as fitness, or strength and conditioning, depending on whether your term is all inclusive or a specific subset, all evolved over time from man’s need and ability to wage war.  In fact, one of the earliest examples of sport in the western world is from ancient Greece; we now call it the Olympics.  These early games were created as a way for warriors to channel their aggressive and competitive natures, while simultaneously allowing them to hone their battle skills, in times of peace.

So we can see from this quick look back in time that originally almost all athletics and sport competitions were based on the martial skills of the warrior and utilized as a way to sustain and practice those skills.

Now, working backward this time, is there a way to reverse engineer a warrior’s training regimen and use it to improve the components of martial skill, conditioning, AND athletic performance?  Absolutely!!

Try This Warrior Workout on for Size

1)  Heavy Sandbag Carry (Zercher carry, bear hug carry, over head carry) – 3 x 300 ft.

2A) Pike Push-ups on Fists – 4 x 10

2B) Mixed Grip Pull-ups (change grip each set) – 4 x SM

2C)  Loaded Airborne Squats (load up with clubbell, Kettlebell, dumbbell, or sandbag) – 4 x 5/5

3)  H2H Touch & Go Kettlebell Swings x 100

If you train in MMA…

NOW go punch, kick, knee, and elbow a heavy bag or have a partner hold focus mitts for 3 rounds x 3-5 minutes each!  How is your performance?

Or, if you’re really daring and want to test your mettle, now is the time to go spar with a completely fresh opponent for 3 rounds of 3-5 minutes!  How has your performance changed?

If you train in Bujinkan or other form of combatives…

Do the same as above but utilizing the basic techniques of your particular style.  For Bujinkan peeps that means try out all the Kihon Happo on a fresh uke!

Build your own Martial Power <<====

Martial Power Cover



Training Through Injuries

Four weeks ago I injured my ankle.  The diagnosis?  Peroneal tendonitis.  Walking was painful.  Squating was painful.  Lunging was out of the question.  Heck, even balancing on my injured foot hurt. [Read more…]

Training in the Elements

If you are a martial artist, it is essential to train your art outside in the elements.  Since most traditional arts were born outside, and not in a gym or dojo setting, it is important to every once in a while get back to the roots of your art.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I know most wars have been fought outside in the elements, through all different types of weather conditions, and on changing terrain.  I think we have all become way too spoiled and comfortable by training in a sheltered and heated (or air conditioned) dojo, on a flat, mat covered surface all the time.  Get out of your comfort zone!  Start to get comfortable being uncomfortable!  Get a little wet and dirty.  Have some fun! [Read more…]

The Ninja 300 – Advanced Level

Before proceeding onto this Advanced Level of my Ninja 300 Workout, make sure you have successfully completed the Level 1 Warm-up and the Level 2 Intermediate Workout! [Read more…]

The Ninja 300 – Next Level

Did you do the basic level of my Ninja 300 Warm-up?  How did you like it?  I’ve had several positive responses to the basic version, along with requests for the next level, so here you go! [Read more…]

Kettlebell Training for Bujinkan Footwork

Recently I was asked about how to use a single kettlebell to train footwork for Bujinkan martial arts.  Here is a video I put together showing a couple different exercises to enhance stability and mobility for footwork training using the kettlebell.  Enjoy!! [Read more…]

Are You a Martial Artist or Martial Hobbyist?

Sometimes the lines between martial artist and martial hobbyist get blurred.  How do you determine whether you are a true martial artist or just a martial hobbyist?  Here is a quick and easy way to find out…

Martial Hobbyist or Martial Artist Quiz

  •  Do you train only when it is convenient?
  • Do you train only when you feel good?
  • Do you train only when you have nothing better to do?
  • Do you train as a way to get out of the house?
  • Do you train to socialize?
  • Do you train only when it’s fun?
  • Do you only train when you are in class?
  • Do you only train when someone is watching?

If you answered YES to one or more of these questions, then congratulations, you are a Martial Hobbyist.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.



  • Do you train regardless of whether you feel like it or not?
  • Do you train when you have a headache?
  • Do you train when other people are relaxing?
  • Do you train when it’s raining outside?
  • Do you train even when there is a new episode of Big Bang Theory on TV?
  • Do you train every day no matter what?
  • Do you train for life?
  • Do you train even when there are better things to do?
  • Do you train when it’s boring, repetitive, and dull?
  • Do you train on your own without supervision?
  • Do you constantly strive to get better each time you train?
  • Do you define yourself through your martial practice?
  • Do you look at everything else in life through the lens of your martial training?


If you answered YES to 3 or more of these questions, then congratulations, you are a Martial Artist.



This post was inspired by reading about a dedicated yoga practice earlier this morning and what it takes to achieve a committed, dedicated practice.  Hopefully no egos were bruised in the reading of this post!

By the way, if you want to move from hobbyist status to artist status, here is great article on How to Train More Every Day.  Enjoy!


Protect. Break. Leave Behind.

How can we train for the friction and chaos of battle when following a set fitness routine?  Physical preparation for combat readiness must be, by its very nature, a multifaceted approach.  If the combatants have to be ready for anything, shouldn’t their fitness regimen reflect that?  Surely the idea of training random workouts each and every day must help better prepare the person to face any challenge, right?

Well, yes and no.

As with all things, fitness is a skill.  The body must be adequately prepared at a baseline level through rigorous training AND practice to establish a solid foundation of GPP.   To suddenly subject a trainee to an onslaught of arbitrarily selected workouts is only a recipe for creating a shallow level of skill in a bunch of random areas.  It is also a great way to cause injury rather than seek to prevent it.  Random training produces random, haphazard results.

The Warrior Fitness Training methodology follows the Shu-Ha-Ri model of teaching prevalent in schools of traditional Japanese martial arts.  Shu-Ha-Ri translates to “protect the form, break the form, leave the form behind”.


Usually within schools of traditional Japanese Budo this is a linear model where at the beginning of training the student is taught to carefully protect the form without deviation so as to template themselves to the teacher and to the martial system.  After becoming proficient in the exact techniques of the school the student is then encouraged to begin breaking the form.  And then slowly, very, very slowly, after decades of practice the student finally begins to transcend the form and leave it behind thus moving at the level of principle.

The Shu-Ha-Ri model is slightly different in the Bujinkan tradition that I study.  Rather than a strict linear progression, the model is not quite as fixed.  It may be Shu-Ha-Ri, Ri-Ha-Shu, Ha-Shu-Ri, or any combination of the three.  In this way, the student does not have to wait until he has trained for decades to learn how to break the form, nor does he always leave the form behind.  Instead the training progresses in an upward spiral where the teacher may start with the basics, circle up to breaking the form, and finally leave the form behind, followed by working again on the basics.  The same material is always looked at with fresh, new perspective and greater depth each time it is taught no matter where in the cycle it falls.  This allows for better all-around development and faster progression while still inculcating the basic forms and instilling a respect for technique.  It also gives the student the freedom to adapt to the friction and chaos of combat by learning how to both break and throw away the form when required yet still conforming to the strategic and tactical principles of the art.

How Does This Relate to Fitness?

What I have done is take the Shu-Ha-Ri model as taught within the Bujikan martial arts tradition and apply it to the programming in my Warrior Fitness Training System.  This means that within a complete training program, the student will undergo GPP (general physical preparation), SPP (specific physical preparation), TS (technical skills), and MT (mental/emotional toughness) to fully and completely prepare them for the task, goal, or mission at hand (For a more detailed description of each, please see my post on The 4 Levels of Preparation). Following the Bujinkan model then, the progression of training may not necessarily be a straight line.  Depending on the level of the student, GPP will most likely form the bulk of the training but it will be cycled out of and back into throughout the duration of the program.  As the student progresses and increases in the skill of fitness, their training becomes blended at a higher level of SPP maybe only cycling back into GPP to shore up certain weaknesses and then coming right back out again.  This insures that the student is constantly progressing and also constantly prepared without having to resort to a random workout generator model of training.

Ready to experience some real Warrior Fitness Training?  START HERE! <<=====