March 2012

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by Mike Roussell

What’s the biggest nutrition breakthrough for the next 25 years? Our vote goes to nutrigenomics—the study of the interaction between what you eat and your DNA. Researchers have recently uncovered a handful of common foods that crank up your fat burning genes.

Here’s how it works: Each cell contains the DNA for your entire genetic code. This master cookbook of proteins, hormones, and molecules remains relatively unchanged through your life. What does change is the recipes (or genes) your body is using. Drugs, foods, hormones, and other molecules can tell your body what recipes to use to create more of the specific enzymes, hormones, and compounds that you need.

So what foods can crank up your body’s natural fat-burning power?

Green tea. Green tea—both as a supplement or the brewed leaves—turns off genes that are responsible for fat cells’ sugar uptake and turns on genes that mediate sugar uptake by muscle cells. The result: smaller fat cells and more active muscle cells. A review from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that drinking green tea every day will trim up to an extra inch off your waistline in 12 weeks. (Caffeine and the antioxidant EGCG are also part of green tea’s fat-fighting arsenal.) Click here to learn whic  tea beat out 14 others and was named the best green tea when we analyzed the antioxidant content of popular brands.

Fish oil. Touted for its many health benefits, the fats in fish oil—EPA and DHA—activate a group of specific proteins in your cells called Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). PPARs interact with your genes and can increase the burning of fat for energy as well as improve insulin sensitivity. Researchers from University of South Australia showed that when men combined a supplement of 1.9 grams of EPA and DHA each day with regular aerobic exercise, they lost 4.5 more pounds compared to men who just did regular aerobic exercise during the 12-week study. (That’s one reason why fish oil was named one of our 18 Best Supplements for Men.)

Pistachios. Pistachios fight inflammation—a driving force of weight gain—by reducing the expression of the inflammatory gene IFN-stimulated response element by a whopping 78 percent. Researchers from UCLA showed that snacking on 1.5 ounces of pistachios per day instead of 2 ounces of pretzels helped subjects lose 2 extra pounds over 12 weeks. (Pistachios—which are higher in fat and protein—are also more satiating than pretzels, which could have helped subjects eat less overall.)

Pomegranates. Pomegranates are packed with high levels of a potent class of antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are famous for having beneficial effects on your blood vessels and your heart, and they are now also being show to be fat-cell killers. When exposed to anthocyanins, the growth of premature fat cells to full-blown fat cells is stopped. How? The anthocyanins down-regulate the expression of the pro-obesity and diabetes gene plasminogen activator inhibitor-1.

Olive oil. Subjects in a study ate on different days a high-carbohydrate meal and a meal high in monosaturated fats—including 2 tablespoons of olive oil. The high-carb meal suppressed the genetic sequence that creates adiponectin, a hormone that helps your muscles use sugar. The meal with olive oil, however, had the opposite effect.

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By Raymond Horwitz Photo by Rick Hustead

Richard Bustillo, a first-generation student of jeet kune do founder Bruce Lee, was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as the 1989 Co-Instructor of the Year. Devoting much of his life to preserving and propagating the teachings of Bruce Lee, Richard Bustillo was one of the jeet kune do founder’s first followers in Los Angeles and was partly responsible for training Bruce Lee’s children (Brandon Lee and Shannon Lee) in the martial arts.

Richard Bustillo’s beginnings in martial arts trace back to when he was 10 years old and joined a judo club. His martial arts training over the years went on to include boxing, kajukenbo, escrima, Thai boxing, wrestling, jujitsu, silat and tai chi chuan. Despite this wide array of martial arts experience, Richard Bustillo has always been a believer in Bruce Lee’s teachings and jeet kune do techniques. which he evolved into his own version for teaching at his IMB Academy in Torrance, CA.

In this exclusive video, filmed at one of Black Belt’s photography studios, Richard Bustillo teaches jeet kune do techniques based on what he calls “the six gates of jeet kune do.”

JEET KUNE DO TECHNIQUES VIDEO First-Generation Bruce Lee Student Richard Bustillo Shows You JKD Counterattacks

Richard Bustillo on Bruce Lee and Versatility

“When I was 24, I met Bruce Lee, and I studied with him at the original Chinatown school,” Richard Bustillo says. “I was one of the original students there. Bruce emphasized the importance of being well-rounded in all ranges, and now at the IMB Academy, we focus on that concept. We like to use weapons in long range, boxing strikes and kicking in middle range, and grappling and trapping up close. You have to know all those ranges to be successful in self-defense.”

Richard Bustillo on Safety When Practicing Jeet Kune Do Techniques

“These six gates can be used as drills or in actual application for street self-defense,” Richard Bustillo says. “Because [these are fast jeet kune do techniques], we try to emphasize not hurting each other [when training]. We always emphasize safety when practicing — touching the body and not the face.”

Richard Bustillo on Bruce Lee’s Approach to Jeet Kune Do Techniques and the Martial Arts Overall

“The most important thing I’ve learned from Bruce Lee is honesty,” Richard Bustillo says. “Every individual should honestly think for himself/herself, accepting only what works for himself/herself that makes good practical sense. The individual is more important than any style or system. Jeet kune do is Bruce Lee’s personal approach to fighting for survival in an uncontrolled situation. His art is founded upon body mechanics, simplicity, effectiveness and adaptability. It is based on his concepts, principles, philosophies and personal training methods.”

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by Matthew Lynch

Samurai Training: Toshishiro Obata and the Five Rings of Shinkendo Japanese SwordsmanshipIf you want to be a swordsman, you have your work cut out for you. For true samurai education, you must learn how to properly handle and maintain a real blade. You must master the basic body-sword mechanics and train safely and effectively in two-person and solo forms. You must study combat strategy, etiquette and the philosophy of the warrior — all elements of the samurai code of bushido. It’s a tall order, to be sure.

For guidance in this quest for samurai education, which is one of the most popular in the martial arts, Black Belt turned to Toshishiro Obata, a renowned master in samurai training who now heads the International Shinkendo Federation in Los Angeles. Before delving into the essence of samurai education and samurai training according to Obata, some background information will help put things in perspective.

The Beginning of Toshishiro Obata’s Samurai Education

In 1966 Obata left a small town in Gunma prefecture, Japan, and headed for Tokyo to begin a career in the martial arts. He found himself at Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo, the birthplace of aikido, where he became an uchi-deshi, or live-in student, under headmaster Gozo Shioda. Obata stayed there for seven years as a student and instructor, eventually teaching the Tokyo Metropolitan Riot Police course. During that time, his samurai education in Japanese swordsmanship began — specifically, when he observed several demonstrations by Taizaburo Nakamura, headmaster of nakamura-ryu.

Obata left the Yoshinkan in 1973 to pursue swordsmanship full time. He studied and achieved high rank in many other renowned Japanese schools, including ioriken battojutsu, toyama-ryu, yagyu shinkage-ryu, kashima shin-ryu and Ryukyu kobudo. He also joined the Tokyo Wakakoma, Japan’s elite group of stuntmen and fight choreographers, and was responsible for the introduction and increasing popularity of aikido on Japanese television and in movies. During this time, he also won seven consecutive All-Japan Target-Cutting Championships.

A Samurai Education System of His Own

Throughout his studies, it became clear to Obata that although each sword school had its own strengths, none of them taught a complete, comprehensive system. In Japan, traditional schools aren’t permitted to change or even expand on their original curriculum. Each art is considered a living, breathing historical treasure that must be preserved as faithfully and precisely as possible.

The inheritor of a traditional school is therefore duty-bound to teach techniques, training methods and ideals exactly as he learned them. To change anything would be seen as disrespectful to the art’s founder. It was for this reason that Obata, having mastered many of the old schools, came to America in 1980 to start a comprehensive samurai education system known as shinkendo Japanese swordsmanship.

For this samurai education system, Obata chose the name “shinkendo” for a variety of reasons. The word can be translated in several ways, but perhaps the most important one is “way of the real sword.” That doesn’t just refer to practicing with a real sword; it also means studying real, complete swordsmanship — a vital element in one’s overall samurai training.

In shinkendo, the major aspects of swordsmanship are broken down into five areas of study: suburi, goho battoho, tanren kata, tachiuchi and tameshigiri. These separate fields of samurai training are like five interlocking rings, each one relating to and providing context for the components of a student’s samurai education. This provides a comprehensive foundation and allows students to view all the techniques from a bigger perspective.

Suburi, the first ring of study in this samurai education system, teaches basic sword and body exercises. These include proper posture, effective movement and balance, and basic sword swinging. These essential elements are the foundation on which the other rings of samurai training are based.

Without an effective stance, you can’t generate power and you’re easily knocked off-balance. Without knowing the essentials of gripping and swinging the sword, all movements become as meaningless as dance steps.

Suburi drills include assuming basic kamae (ready stances), making simple cuts and practicing hard stops, follow-through swings and transitions from one cut to another.

Samurai Training Methods: The Second Ring of Shinkendo

Goho battoho, the next ring of study in Obata’s system of samurai education, is based on the five methods of combative drawing and cutting. Here, you learn how to handle the sword and wear it properly. You also learn how to swiftly draw it from its scabbard and cut down an opponent in one move. After that comes the act of returning the blade to its sheath.

The five basic draws of shinkendo are the following:

  • nukiuchi (horizontal)
  • migi kesagiri (right-to-left diagonal)
  • kiriage (rising cut)
  • hidari kesagiri (left-to-right diagonal)
  • hineri tsuki (thrust)

Advanced forms of goho battoho include drawing in multiple directions, making multiple follow-up cuts and block/attack combinations.

Samurai Training Methods: The Third Ring of Shinkendo

Next in Obata’s samurai training system is tanren kata, which is composed of solo forms designed to refine and reinforce your technique. The word “tanren” refers to the phase of sword making in which impurities are removed from the steel and, through repeated hammering and folding, an even, flawless blade is created. In the shinkendo system of samurai training, these kata teach you how to effect smooth transitions and advanced, dynamic body-sword movements. Balance and agility are also emphasized, as are insight into combat strategy and the effective application of techniques.

Exhaustive repetition of the basic forms helps you build muscle memory and instinctive reflexes. The more complex forms focus on developing total concentration of mind, body and spirit — the evidence of a comprehensive samurai education in action.

Tachiuchi, the fourth ring of study in the shinkendo system of samurai training, roughly translates as “strike and response” and refers to partner-practice drills. You train with other students to learn about distance, agility and timing — and to experience the power needed to strike and block effectively against a living, moving opponent.

No armor is worn during tachiuchi, and students use bokken, or hardwood sparring swords. They’ve been proved more effective than light bamboo shinai because the latter don’t mimic the feel of a real weapon. Although using hardwood swords might sound dangerous, it’s not because the effort you’ve put into mastering the other rings enables you to engage in the drills with a controlled body and mind.

When you’ve thoroughly worked the basic levels of samurai training and can strike your target with pinpoint accuracy — when you can stop your strike instantly and redirect your weapon and your body with equal ease — you can practice tachiuchi with great speed and power while remaining safe. Even better, you’ll be keeping your partner free from harm during samurai training.

Samurai Training Methods: The Fifth Ring of Shinkendo

The final ring is tameshigiri, or using a real sword against a real target. At this stage of samurai education, when done properly, it serves as an unforgiving mirror with which you can measure how well you’ve learned the essentials of swordsmanship in your samurai training: blade angle, grip, power, control and so on.

It must be stressed, however, that tameshigiri has no practical value when done outside the context of disciplined samurai education. Whether you’re using a bokken or shinken (real sword), you should treat the weapon with respect, never handling it casually or showing off. Unless all facets of shinkendo are taken seriously and used to improve each other, target cutting is nothing more than a circus act — a display considered far outside the tenets of the samurai code of bushido.

The Mind

To really comprehend the samurai sword, you must understand the mindset and attitude of the samurai warrior cultivated through samurai training. Obata teaches these ideals through the 12 precepts of shinkendo and what he calls the eightfold path. Together, they define the philosophy of Japanese swordsmanship and provide insight into the samurai code of bushido that can lead to better martial arts abilities and ultimately a better life. Explaining those 20 principles of samurai training is beyond the scope of this article.

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Dear Karate Practitioner,

Anyone who’s loved films like The Karate Kid (especially the 1984 original starring Ralph Macchio and the late Pat Morita) or watched an old Chuck Norris action flick in which he wiped out multiple bad guys with a series of awesome kicks and strikes knows that karate looks pretty … “cool,” for lack of a better word that we can print without various expletive markings.

Well, karate is still cool. Because it’s often the generic/default term that children use when they ask their parents to study martial arts, though (After all, when was the last time you heard a kid say, “Mom, I wanna take baguazhang classes! Can I, Mom? Can I go to baguazhang with Timmy?”), karate can be taken for granted or misunderstood because of its usage as an umbrella term for martial arts.

Karate is not just a bunch of punches and kicks — a collection of “wax on, wax off” drills — nor is it simply guys in white outfits trying to learn how to kick and strike like Chuck Norris or become the next “karate kid.” Talk to serious practitioners and students of the art’s history, and you will you find a devoted group of men and women whose lives — spiritually, mentally and physically — have been shaped by studying this martial art.


Street assaults happen every day. Keep your self-defense training fresh, simple and pliable with this Free Guide — How to Win a Street Fight: Four Self-Defense Moves From Combatives Expert Kelly McCann.


“It’s important to study karate in the modern day for personal development — whether it’s for self-defense, exercise or for the mental aspect,” says shotokan karate expert Kyle Funakoshi, fifth cousin of the legendary Gichin Funakoshi. “Without a stable mind, it doesn’t matter how fast you can punch or kick — so you need to be balanced mentally and physically.”

Part of the mental training involved in the study of karate is an orientation with its terminology. The words used in traditional karate training — such as bunkai, bushido, dan, dojo and kata — when properly translated and understood in their full dimension, serve to progressively shape the mindset of the practitioner.

Not delving into the kanji characters of each term can significantly water down a karate student’s experience, says goju-ryu karate expert Chuck Merriman. “The misunderstanding comes from just physically training in karate and not really studying karate,” he says. “The important thing is the kanji. They can mean a lot of different things depending on how they’re written. The true meaning of these words isn’t important if you only practice karate for exercise or sport, but for karate-do — the physical, mental and spiritual study of karate — it becomes very important.”

Marrying the philosophical understanding with the physical application and execution makes for a richer experience in karate. Kids, of course, may not be able to focus right away on the philosophical aspects, preferring instead to get going with the kicks, the yells and the breaking of boards.

However, even that part of the equation — the sheer physical component — requires patience and discipline before any benefit can occur. Otherwise, karate can end up being a bunch of movement without meaning. “When you learn the basics of karate, you have to learn correct stances, proper foot positioning, hip rotation, pivoting of your feet — and, of course, your posture,” Kyle Funakoshi says. “So after you have learned all that effectively, then you can learn the advanced techniques. … You must learn the basics correctly from a reputable instructor.”

Black Belt proudly celebrates the traditions of study, discipline, practice and progress each month in the pages of its magazine — a publication forged over five decades by editors and artists committed to their own journeys of study, discipline practice and progress.

And for our loyal readers who have taken the leap with us into the world of digital newsletters, we are offering a wide array of discounted karate books and DVDs in our online store: karate DVDs for $9.99 each and karate books for as low as $4.99 each!

Join us in celebrating this popular traditional martial art by picking up karate books and karate DVDs by karate masters such as Chuck Norris, Fumio Demura, Takayuki Kubota, Tom Muzila, Teruo Chinen, Kiyoshi Yamazaki, Marlon Moore, Ray Hughes and Paul Godshaw today!

And be sure to see what else is in the “on sale” section of our online store! You may find treasures such as Bushido: The Warrior’s Code by Inazo Nitobe — now available for only $4.99!

Study deeply and train with meaning,

Raymond Horwitz

Director of Digital Media

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By W. Hock Hochheim

Three Knife-Fighting Myths That Can Sabotage Your Execution of Self-Defense TechniquesAnytime martial artists get together to discuss defensive techniques that employ the empty hands against a knife in a real-life scenario, arguments ignite. Then proclamations start: “There’s no way you can make that work against a real attack.” “Do that and you’ll get cut for sure.” “That move will get you killed.”

So goes the banter in discussing self-defense techniques, and the debate often gets hot when practitioners are talking about knife fighting. It’s interesting that very few of the speculations about knife fighting are based on criminal case studies or military research. Instead, the speculations about self-defense techniques employed in a knife attack revolve around anecdotal observations and shortsighted, nonscientific testing.

Which “get you killed” self-defense techniques incur the greatest wrath of martial artists? The arm grab and the knife disarm are usually the first to go. Other tactics — such as verbal skills, footwork, strikes, blocks, passing and takedowns — are frequently relegated to the trash bin even though such self-defense moves are just as likely to come back into favor next year.

The debates about the dynamics of knife fighting really hinge on three critical points on which all false arguments are built. They are:

  • the myth of the first event
  • the myth that all knife attackers are experts
  • the myth that all knife victims stop and drop on first contact

Knife-Fighting Myth #1: The First Event

When a martial arts instructor declares that certain self-defense techniques won’t work against a knife, it’s usually because he’s tested it against a prepared, trained, athletic student. In this format, the stab or slash is the focused, first and main event of a staged knife-fighting experiment.

The star pupil attacks, and the instructor fails to pull off the intended move. Then he declares: “See? You can’t do this!” Thinking he’s proved to his students that such self-defense techniques can’t work in real-life situations, he eliminates them from the curriculum.

But what if your countermoves occurred on the fourth or sixth event of the fight instead of the first? What if the first event was a chair or lamp smashed across his head? The subsequent knife counters, once impossible in the isolated dojo test against “Superboy,” suddenly work with a little kryptonite.

To experience this, try catching the weapon-bearing limb of the most athletic martial artist in your class. Hard, isn’t it? Next, hit him in the head with a lamp and try the grab. Not so hard, right? Stick your fingers in his eye. Easier?

Never dismiss self-defense moves to counter a knife solely on the fact that you can’t do them on the first event. First-event responses against blade attacks should be blinding and stunning strikes effected while you evade. Such self-defense techniques shouldn’t be complicated, multi-step sequences.

Knife-Fighting Myth #2: All Knife Attackers Are Experts

Beware the street fighter! He slashes tight and fast. He stabs like a pumping machine! His other hand strikes, pushes, pulls and confuses you!

How many times have you heard warnings such as those? They’re designed to convince you that your worst nightmare is the trained knife-fighting expert that has set you up for an ambush in the worst possible surroundings so he can exploit, yes, the element of surprise. The greatest armies of the world have been defeated that way.

The good news is, martial artists are usually forced to use self-defense moves against people who are referred to in professional circles as zero-to-moderately-trained opponents. Even then, real life has shown that they fall closer to the zero end of the spectrum.

Such nonexperts frequently make a host of mistakes in knife-fighting scenarios. In fact, they often do the opposite of what was described at the beginning of this section. They don’t plan. They’re overly emotional.

They overextend their arms in power stabs and slashes. They fail to adequately use their free hands for support. And worse for them but better for you, they tend to be out of shape, slow, uncoordinated, drugged or drunk.

Of course you should train and practice self-defense techniques for the worst-case scenario, but you should never dismiss a tactic based solely on the expert-attacker myth.

Knife-Fighting Myth #3: All Knife Victims Drop at First Contact

In a fencing match, one opponent’s epee touches the other person. The buzzer sounds, indicating a point. The toucher wins, and the touchee is theoretically dead. The crowd applauds.

The dirty little secret of the match? A split second after the winner touched the opponent with his weapon, the loser touched the winner with his. But the match was already over because of first contact. Hypothetically, both combatants would have died in seconds.

It gets even more complicated because in a street or battlefield fight, would either person have died? For an answer, let’s move that edged-weapon clash to the typical prison, where victims are stabbed and slashed 10 or 20 times but still manage to fight.

Consider the common street fight or, as the military calls it, close-quarters battle. Once again, multiple wounds and prolonged encounters are the norm. A modern-day knife-fighting situation is more like making contact in a football game than receiving a thrust in a fencing match. Rarely will a first-contact stab or slash put a person down. To be truly prepared, you should plan on fighting long after one of you is wounded.

Past the Myths

If those are the main myths, you’re probably wondering, How do knife-fighting encounters really end?

Research tells us that one common way is with an arm wrap that targets the weapon-bearing limb. Once the arm is slowed or stopped by a block or a successful stab or slash, it’s easier to effect an arm catch.

Other frequently used methods to end knife-fighting situations include the ones “dismissed” above. Yes, verbal skills, footwork, strikes, blocks, passing and takedowns account for most success stories on the street.

The best way to develop your counter-knife skills is to focus on realistic scenario training. Acting is essential. The latest trend in police training and some martial arts circles is force on force. It involves suiting up and fighting full speed, low drag.

The underlying idea is that if the self-defense moves don’t work in this rabid experiment, it won’t work at all. Not so, macho grasshopper! Such suits protect the attackers from realistic injuries that would stun them and break them down. If the man in the suit doesn’t act wounded, the value of this training method drops considerably. Realistic acting on the part of the attacker is mandatory when evaluating self-defense techniques for their usefulness.

As in all fights, knife attacks are situational. We live in a world in which an obese, 54-year-old New York City bus driver recently grabbed the weapon arm of a 20-year-old, drug-pumped passenger and disarmed him. How can anyone say that knife disarms and arm grabs are impossible?

If you get lost in the three myths, you might mistakenly remove viable tactics from your go-to list of self-defense techniques training and thus rob yourself and your students of the opportunity to develop real lifesaving skills.

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