Sunday, August 22, 2010

Interview with a Grandmaster

The following interview took place on the University of Wyoming campus in 2004. Soke Hausel, then the headmaster of the Campus Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo Club, former instructor of martial arts for the University of Wyoming Department of Physical Education and Department of Kinesiology and Head of Mineral Resources for the Wyoming Geological Survey granted this interview. He has since retired and moved and currently operates a karate school and international training center in Mesa, Arizona.

Question. We are interviewing Dan Hausel and we have been looking at his many certifications and awards that he actually pulled out of his closet placed them on his desk so we could peruse them.

Based on your credentials, you are a Grandmaster or Sokeshodai with a 10th degree black belt in Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo and an 8-time hall of fame inductee. Looking through your certificates we found proof of 8 black belts, title of kyoju (professor of martial arts), kaiden (superior martial artist), JKI samurai, as well as several other certifications in martial arts and law enforcement training. We also see membership papers and affiliation documents with Juko Kai International, Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai, Zen Kokusai Soke Budo Bugei/Remnei, International Okinawa Martial Arts Union, World Organizer of Martial Arts and World Soke Head Council of Japan. It appears that you have considerable expertise in karate, kodudo, jujutsu, and a variety of samurai arts. How does one person get so much expertise in one lifetime?

Answer. 40 years of training, a love and dedication of the martial arts, giving up a lot of evenings and weekends and having one of the best instructor’s in the world – Dai-Soke Rod Sacharnoski.

Question. I have to ask this. Why are these all sitting in your closet?

Answer. Good question. To be honest, its because I don't really have any place to hang them. One day I hope to find a building and open a traditional martial arts school. When that happens, I will display many of these, but for now, it would seem inappropriate to hang them on my office wall here on campus, as this office is for my job as economic geologist for the Wyoming Geological Survey.

Question. We noticed that you have some very impressive awards and certificates in geology on your walls. Do you have any other geology or other awards in your closet? And I have to ask, how does one person do what you've done? To be so highly awarded in one profession is extremely rare, but two. I have not met anyone else on campus with such distinctions. Do you ever sleep?

Answer. Glad you asked that. Do you know of any doctors who specialize in insomnia? Just kidding. I sleep about 6 to 7 hours a night, almost never very well because I find myself thinking too much when I go to bed about what I would like to accomplish the next day, next week, or next month. It's sort of like developing and visualizing affirmations. A very close friend of mine and martial artist told me about affirmations and a seminar entitled Investments in Excellence, which is all about developing affirmations: what you want to do or accomplish in your future. After listening to a tape on this seminar, I discovered I had been doing this all my life. Besides that, I'm like my father, a workaholic. And yes, I have other awards in my closet for my artwork, writing, and public speaking.

Question. So this personality, to be the best of the best, spreads into several professions and hobbies? I must say I am very impressed. The University should take advantage of your accomplishments to help them raise more contributions.

Your certifications indicate that you are a grandmaster registered in the US, Japan, Okinawa and Philippines. Most of us have a general idea of what a grandmaster is, but in your words, could you tell us what is a grandmaster, and how does one achieve this?

Answer. A grandmaster is the individual who holds the highest position in a specific martial art. This is the highest honor granted to anyone in martial arts. It is a unique position – in that only one person in the world can occupy it – and it is typically occupied for life.
Question. When did you become a grandmaster? What might be comparable in our society?

Answer. In 1999, I was certified as the Soke Shodai, or first generation grandmaster of Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai by the Zen Kokusai Soke Budo Bugei Remnei. More recently I was honored by additional certifications as the Soke (or grandmaster) by the World Organization of Martial Arts in the Philippines, an affiliate with the World Soke Head Council of Japan.

I’m not sure what to compare a grandmaster to in our society – there may not be an equivalent position.

Question. How about a PhD?

Answer. A PhD would not be comparable to a Grandmaster (or Soke). First, to become a grandmaster, it takes about 35 to 50 years of constant training, dedication and education, whereas a PhD can be granted after 3 years of graduate research. A grandmaster has to be the best in the art, has to be an extraordinary instructor, and there is only one person who can achieve that position. The position can be achieved by a Soke-Dai (grandmaster in training) who would inherit the position upon the death of a grandmaster. The only other way to become grandmaster is for a person to develop a new martial art that would be recognized by a Sokeship Council. So, in our society, I can’t think of anything that would be comparable.

Someone once suggested that an NFL coach might be comparable except that traditional martial arts are not sport and unfortunately no salary comes with being a grandmaster. It is a way of life. A Grandmaster not only has to stay at the top of his game – training constantly, but must also be an active part of that art. So, I don’t believe there is anything in our society that is comparable. It is part priest, coach, philosopher, artist, CEO, trainer, professor, fighter, peace maker and more.

Question. So how does someone become a grandmaster?

Answer. Again, much time is needed, as well as exceptional ability and creativity – even so, the position is only available to a select few. My sojourn to Sokeship began in 1964 when I first walked in the door of a martial arts school known as the Black Eagle Federation dojo in Salt Lake City. Years later, my training and education were accelerated when I applied to become a member of Juko Kai International in 1990. This organization is unique, in that it only accepts outstanding traditional martial artists and is headed by, in my opinion, the greatest living martial artist in the world, Dr. Rod Sacharnoski. You may have seen him on Ripley’s believe it or not, the Discovery Channel, or some other national TV program demonstrating martial arts.

After I started training with Juko Kai, I received appointments to regional, national and international posts in the organization. In 1998, I was promoted to 8th degree black belt. I figured this was the highest rank I would ever achieve and I was elated, for a very small minority ever reaches that level. However, Dr. Sacharnoski took me aside and recommended that I consider a Sokeship for Shorin-Ryu karate. After Dr. Sacharnoski suggested this I was astounded that I would ever be considered! Many people think that winning the Colorado lottery would be the greatest achievement of their lives. For me, becoming a Grandmaster is many times beyond winning a lottery, a gold medal in the Olympics, winning a super bowl, or the World Series. Prior to 1998, I only knew of a handful of grandmasters, and they all seemed to be nearly invincible super humans. I didn't see myself in that category.

There are verifiable stories of grandmasters that were able to rip bark from trees with their bare fingers, and one who killed a tiger with his bare hands. Grandmaster Sacharnoski is right up there with these extraordinary martial artists. He is well known for developing an extraordinary art known as Juko Ryu Ki Jutsu. In this art his students learn to accept full force kicks and punches to vital parts of the body with no apparent affect. Then they follow up by walking through the attack finishing the attacker with devastating force – there is nothing else like it in the world.

Just imagine how humiliating it would be to attempt to mug someone - hit them, kick them with everything you had with no effect and then later wake up on the ground wondering what hit you. This is what these martial artists can do – there is nothing like it in sport martial arts, or in any other martial art for that matter.

Several years ago, Soke Sacharnoski had members of the Dallas Cowboys including Randy White, Ed Too Tall Jones, Hershel Walker, Mike Saxton and others strike, kick and punch some of his students. These athletes did not hold back; they did not want to be humiliated in front of their teammates. These guys struck and kicked the JKI martial artists in the throat, solar plexus, groin, ribs, with absolutely no effect. We have a photo on our own website where I demonstrated this art by taking a force kick to the ribs then to the groin at a UW basketball game. I was actually smiling while receiving the kick to the groin, and was wearing no protective gear, and Donnette who kicked me was a 3rd degree black belt with 20 years martial arts training. She took out all her frustrations with men by kicking me so hard in the groin that it lifted me off the floor. And when it comes to Dr. Sacharnoski and some of this other students, I just a beginner in this particular art.

Another great grandmaster I was familiar with from Japan was Mas Oyama. Mas Oyama demonstrated his superhuman abilities by fighting enraged bulls with his bare hands and kicking and punching trees. Photo documentation of one battle showed Oyama chopping a horn off the animal with a knife hand strike and then finishing the bull with a punch to the skull. I'm sure PETA would hunt him down if they could.

So in 1998, when Dr. Sacharnoski suggested I apply for grandmaster of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu, I was elated but also concerned of what I might have to do. Being a Wyomingite, I had no desire to fight a bull with my bare hands. But, I was prepared to do anything to obtain that honor. So in 1999, I traveled to the Juko Kai training center in Murphy North Carolina with my one of my students, Sandy Stahl, and discovered that all I had to do was to be nominated. I can't tell you how relieved I was. I didn't know if they had a bull waiting for a barbecue or a mass of ninjas that I had to fight to the death. I accepted the title of Soke of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu and was promoted at that time to 9th degree black belt. Other than the birth of my two kids, this was the greatest day of my life.

Question. So what is it that makes your martial art different from other styles?

Answer. Good question and this is very difficult to answer and I've started collecting information for a book to explain this to the layman. A few of the main differences are a concentration on focus in techniques This was influenced by my early training in Mas Oyama’s Kyokushinkai karate. This means, when properly done, a practitioner of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu should get an attacker’s attention with a block by striking a nerve with a block that might feel like being hit by a small hammer and this is followed by a single strike to knock the attacker out. In addition, we strongly emphasize kata and the bunkai (or applications) of techniques in kata. Kata are forms that consist of numerous techniques, it is a method of shadow boxing. But to the untrained observer, it might give the impression of a foreign dance. This is what kata was designed to do originally. When Okinawa was invaded and conquered by Japanese Samurai in 1609, martial arts were outlawed: so the Okinawans practiced martial arts under their noses by developing kata that looked similar to traditional dances.

Many people do not understand that kata are the wisdom of many past grandmasters and masters and includes many of their favorite strikes, pressure point strikes, kicks, blocks, throws, etc. So unlocking these secrets is like having a dictionary of the best techniques developed over 400 to 500 years of martial arts evolution. As an example of the poor understanding of kata, several years ago I took some of my students to watch a tournament at UW and it became obvious, no matter what level or rank, the kata practitioners from the various styles did not understand 50% of the techniques in their kata. Even the late Bruce Lee had no idea of the usefulness and benefits of kata.

In Seiyo Shorin-Ryu, the students typically have 4 to 5 times as many kata to learn compared to other styles. They must also learn how to use ever move in the katas for self-defense applications. Katas also have the benefit of teaching respect and ethical value. Katas begin and end with a bow. The first technique in most kata is a block symbolizing that the practitioner will not use karate for anything other than self-defense and self-improvement, and the final bow in the kata symbolizes that the karate practitioner chose not take a life, but to preserve life. When practicing kata, these thoughts are always in place until they essentially become affirmations to help mold the student’s moral values.

Question. You’ve mentioned Shorin-Ryu several times - what is Shorin-Ryu?

Answer. In Okinawa, Shorin-Ryu is considered to be almost equivalent to the term karate. Shorin-Ryu is the original style of karate that evolved on Okinawa several hundred years ago. If one examines the kanji, or the Chinese ideographs used to describe Shorin-Ryu, they translate as Pine Forest style in Japanese. But in Chinese, they translate as Shaolin Style because the Okinawans believe that karate has its roots in China and in particular in Shaolin Kung Fu. The close association of karate with the Shaolin Temple also provides a connection with Zen Buddhism. Zen is a philosophy. Thus when the Okinawa karate masters were debating which Chinese ideographs best described karate; they chose the ideographs for ‘empty hand’. Many westerners interpret this to mean that karate is the art of empty handed combat. But nothing could be farther from the truth especially when one realizes that karate employs numerous weapons derived from various Okinawa farming implements.

Thus we can get a better idea of what the ideographs are through Zen. A Zen term for empty or emptiness is mushin, which implies nothingness - this has profound meaning in Zen. It is a state of mind that some Zen practitioners and karate masters reach where nothing physical or mental can affect their well being, but it also suggests that to properly use karate for self-defense, one’s mind must be empty, and he or she should just react to an attack. Such philosophy is still an important part of traditional martial arts but is somewhat subdued or eliminated in sport.

Question. You mention Traditional – how does this differ from the sport karate that we see in competitions and on TV?

Answer. Well, in many cases, it is the difference between night and day, but in other cases it is not so easy to differentiate since there have been blending between the two, and there are many hybrids. But if you remember the movie the Karate Kid. Mr. Myagi was the character who portrayed a traditional martial artist from Okinawa. The karate bullies in the movie, played the part of sport martial artists (although these characters were the worst of the worst).

 Many years ago, a weekly TV program staring David Caridine entitled Kung Fu was popular. It focused on Zen Philosophy and there were morals to each story. Karate has its roots in China. According to legend, a Buddhist monk, Boddidarma traveled from India to China in 520 AD. Boddidarma taught the monks of the shaolin temple Zen meditation as well as certain movements that mimicked various animals that became known as kung fu. Thus the blending of meditation, philosophy, moral and ethical values and self-defense was the beginning of kung fu. This is thought to have been the first martial art in history. It blended fighting techniques with philosophy and moral value, which is the basic difference between traditional martial art and street fighting. Street fighting, boxing, wrestling, etc. have no moral or philosophical value.

A few centuries later, kung fu was adopted by some Okinawans and modified to form a more pragmatic form of self-defense we know today as karate. Thus karate had to have a moral and philosophical value; otherwise, it would not be a martial art. Instead it would be nothing more than street fighting without this moral evolution.

In 1933, some Japanese students modified traditional karate into sport, and limited the value of moral education. Unfortunately many of the sport equivalents to karate have almost entirely eliminated the philosophy and moral values, thus one can argue that many of the sport martial arts are not true martial arts – but rather pseudomorphs. Sport martial arts on first impression provide the appearance of traditional martial arts – but most are not, because the ethical, moral, and spiritual values have been either attenuated, or removed all together and replaced by the goal of achieving a trophy.

Our goal in traditional martial arts is to improve ourselves as people.

Question. For self-defense, which would be better – traditional or sport?

Answer. I’ve done both. By the nature of sport, you try not to hurt your opponent- otherwise you will be disqualified during competition, thus many of the potentially crippling strikes and blocks used in traditional martial arts have been eliminated and replaced with fast and flashy strikes and kicks designed to get a point and ultimately win a contest. It actually teaches a person not to hit, and this can be dangerous when defending oneself against an aggressive attack. There is at least one former world champion in sport martial art from North America who learned this the difficult way. He was attacked in a bar and the attacker put the champion in the hospital for several weeks.

When I was younger, I fought in sport marital arts for a period of probably 5 to 7 years. However, sport in those days was much different than today – there were no trophies. Usually, the last man standing might receive a promotion, but most just won the honor of the day, and usually took home a black eye or two. We did not have any protective gear other than a cup: we had no gloves, footpads or headgear, and the strikes and kicks were done with full force. Periodically people were knocked out. Even so, my power and focus were restricted because I was trained not to focus my techniques.

I was concerned that I may not be able to defend myself and I lacked confidence. About 3 years ago, I taught a self-defense clinic to a group of about 20 taekwondo martial artists ranging in rank up to 5th degree. These guys were extraordinary people, some of the more professional and courteous I have ever met – they all had a great attitude, but this was their first real exposure to self-defense. In most traditional martial arts, you are taught to build focus in your technique and develop power to finish an attacker with just a few strikes. This is why there is so much emphasis on moral and ethical value, because when we teach these techniques, we want out students to be outstanding members of society so that the art will not be abused. It you take a look at the Japanese martial artists, these people are very respectful. Our society could use a major dose of this kind of training.

As to the power generated, it is reported in a study on the physics of karate that a karate punch and a kick can generate 700 and 2100 pounds of pressure, respectively. The 700 lbs of pressure is equivalent to a 10 pound bowling ball falling from a height of 70 feet. Now I don’t know who they used in this study, but I am willing to bet that that the force of a punch could be increased with proper striking. I would love to see someone measure the force of a strike from Dr. Sacharnoski or from Tadashi Yamashita (the martial artist who taught Bruce Lee some of his martial art) – the power of both is awesome!

Question. So what happens when you retire from the martial arts – who takes over as the grandmaster?

Answer. My martial art is a traditional Okinawa martial art. This means, based on tradition, I will most likely die as the grandmaster. Okinawa tradition also provides a will indicating who will take over in my place to be sure the art continues. Usually, a family member takes over as grandmaster. Basically, Okinawa tradition suggests that one of my children should accept the grandmaster ship on my passing. Thus, I have two other potential grandmasters – my daughter Jessica and my son Eric . After they reach a certain level of proficiency, one of them may be selected as the next grandmaster by either myself or by my Soke-Dai.

Question. You were recently promoted to 10th degree black belt – is that right?

Answer. Yes – this is the highest recognized rank in karate. Last year, I made a very interesting friend. One of the Royal Family members of Saudi Arabia befriended me. Sheik Ali Al-Atiq, a 6th degree black belt.

I provided him with an honorary lifetime membership in my martial arts association because of his background and because he was a charming individual. Then out of the blue, my friend sent me a rank recognition for 10th degree black belt certified by the World Organization of Martial Arts and the World Soke Council of Japan dated February 22, 2004 - I was surprised and never expected anything like this.

Later, I was also certified at the rank of 10th degree black belt by Dai-Soke Sacharnoski on June 12th of this year in Dallas. Having my own instructor give me this rank was a great honor.

Question. Who do you feel that martial arts should be taught to?

Answer. If traditional martial arts were taught in the public schools today, we would not see the unrest in schools, the drugs, shootings, etc. We would see more respectful teenagers and better scholars - the students would be more respectful of their teachers, themselves and others. We would see a dramatic improvement in society! Traditional martial arts teach self-respect, self-confidence, and respect for others – something that is lacking in our school systems today. Take a look at Japan. The Japanese students (particularly those who practice some form of traditional martial art) are very respectful and courteous.

Question. Has the university thought about instituting such programs?

Answer. To date, there has been little support other than from UW Club Sports. In the past, I taught classes in jujutsu and karate in the Department of Physical Education and Kinesiology. These were popular classes, and we received many very positive comments from the students. Every year I restricted the enrollment in karate to 50 and would always end up taking more – we had 100+ students in every class. Jujutsu was restricted to 20 because of limited mat space. Unfortunately, the pay was poor and I ended up donating nearly all of my time. It cost me more to drive to the class and to take out liability insurance than what I got paid for teaching the classes. When I pointed this out - my teaching contract was terminated by the Department head. Politics unfortunately a real problem on university campuses.

Even so, I am willing to develop an entire program to educate students in martial arts. We have had several students tell us that they selected UW because of the martial arts training in the UW club. I would love to see a program that offered a degree in martial arts which included training in traditional martial arts, philosophy, history, as well as business management in the operation of a martial arts school.

Even though we don’t have a formal martial arts program or college degree, Pat Moran and Michelle Williams and the UW Clubsports have open some doors for martial arts – I teach a minimum of 6 classes during the week during the regular school year through the club as also teach special clinics around the state. We have also brought in people such as Tadashi Yamashita in 2003. Yamashita is a famous martial artist, movie star and Hollywood stunt coordinator. Some of the students also had an opportunity for special training in Okinawa with Tadashi. In 1996, we brought in Dai-Soke Sacharnoski and attracted martial artists from around the world. This was a great clinic. The club was organized 27 years ago, and since then, we have trained more than four thousand students - many of which are now very successful professors, teachers, engineers, geologists, psychologists, martial artists etc.

Question. You mention the possibility of a college degree in martial arts – are you visualizing an actual degree, or do you offer certification of rank?

Answer. Yes, I would love to see a college degree in martial arts. One of my first instructors when I was at the University of Utah, Sensei Osaka, came straight from Japan. Osaka Sensei had a degree in what I believe was Economics - but I'm not sure on this fact because Sensei Osaka did not speak any English at the time. From what I understood, this was basically a degree in the economics of operating a commercial martial arts program.

As far as certification of rank, being the Grandmaster, I offer rank certifications. Such certifications are only legitimate when they are issued by a Soke or his representative. Thus the university could not issue a legitimate rank certificate.

Question. You mentioned that the UW club trains at least six times a week. How many students are involved, and what do they learn?

Answer. Each year, we train about 200 to 300+ students at the UW club – I use to train about 200 additional students in the Physical education classes in the spring. In the club, the students can learn as much or as little as they would like. I teach classes in Shorin-Ryu Karate, Self Defense, and Kobudo or what is known as Okinawan weapons. I also teach Jujutsu, Women’s Self Defense and Samurai weapons. I also teach specialty clinics and teach a little history, philosophy, meditation and Japanese.

Anyone can start training with the club – we typically have about 30 to 50% female members and members range in age from 16 to 76. Most members never had a martial arts lesson before in their lives – but we teach them everything. In addition to myself, I have several very good black belts who assist in the teaching of the club members. I believe that we have a world-class program that few other universities in the world could match.

Question. We looked over your resume before coming to your office. It indicates that you have been inducted into some halls of fame and Who’s Who documents – could you tell us about these?

Answer. I have been inducted into 7 halls of fame and scheduled to be inducted into an 8th hall of fame – the US Martial Arts Hall of Fame in late July. These include the National Black Belt Hall of Fame, the World Karate Union Hall of Fame, the Universal Martial arts HOF, the Worldwide Martial Arts HOF and others. This is a great honor and has been humbling to be considered for these. I have also been included in dozens of Who’s Who programs such as Who’s Who in the World, America, West, 2000 Notable American People, 500 personalities of the world, and others. Even though professionally I am a geologist, the martial arts are my first love and one can study and train in them for a lifetime and only learn a small amount.

Question. I realize that you are writing a book on the martial arts – would you describe it?

Answer. The book has a working title of 'The Making of a Grandmaster – a Journey Through Traditional Martial Arts'.

The book will include stories of martial artists and self-defense situations; it describes my martial art and hundreds of self-defense techniques including philosophy, history, etc. It is basically a textbook on martial arts for martial artists ranging in rank from beginner to expert.

Question. One final question: what is your goal in the martial arts?

Answer. I have already achieved much more that I had ever dream I would. Now my dream is to find a way to build a martial arts institute and training facility in Wyoming or Colorado. A place where people from all over the world, specialty groups, etc, could learn martial arts, train in special aspects of the martial arts, conduct research related to the martial arts. This would be a place where people can also learn a positive attitude about life.

EPILOGUE. We checked on Grandmaster Hausel to find out what he was doing these days. Although he didn't end up building a martial arts training facility in Colorado or Wyoming, he ended up in Arizona where he has a very nice traditional Japanese karate school in Mesa, which sits in the East Valley from Phoenix. He retired from the University and Geological Survey but still travels to the university twice a year to teach martial arts clinics. He also still runs his international martial arts association and does some geological consulting. He indicated that he tried to get a similar program started at ASU in Tempe that worked so well at UW, but he said that after teaching two semesters, the university bureaucracy was too much for his blood. Too bad ASU didn't realize what they could have had.