Tag Archives: Advincula

Make It Work!

581865_4881958959508_1434331787_nWhen teaching his students, Sensei Advincula can be heard saying, “Make it work.” This means that sometimes an individual needs to adjust a basic, effective principle or concept in order to make it work for them. This could be as simple as blocking and countering with groin strike rather than a strike to the throat if you are much shorter than your attacker. Why would I reach up when my target of opportunity (the groin) is closer?

Adjusting, adapting, and overcoming doesn’t only apply to martial arts, it applies to life. And writing…

Each year Scott and I send for Sensei Advincula to come stay with us for a weekend of martial arts training. During one of our sessions this year, Sensei taught us knife-fighting techniques with the Flesheater, the combat knife he designed.

Something during our training session (Perhaps the mention of reaming?) sparked a question about a technique I used in my book, CAPTIVE. When I asked Sensei about it, I learned I goofed up my sword fight choreography. That night, over a cup of tea at the kitchen table, I read the scene to him and learned something important about Claymores.

A Claymore is a long sword with a heavy, straight blade that was used in Scotland, especially in the Highlands, during the 15th – 17th centuries. The word Claymore was derived from a Celtic word meaning great sword. Its average length was 55 inches. Because of its weight (5 – 8 pounds), it had a long hilt for a two-handed grip. I’d learned all this from my research. However, I had imagined the hands were positioned one on top of the other like you’d hold a baseball bat. Sensei explained this wasn’t the case. The hands are positioned further apart to give leverage to hold and maneuver the weapon.

Hand position makes a difference when writing about how the weapon is used.

Sensei explained Claymores were wielded mainly against multiple opponents with sweeping and slashing movements. The weight could penetrate through armor. It was not typically used for thrusting or piercing or fighting one-on-one.

Fortunately, my futuristic gladiators used sweeping and slashing techniques to try and kill each other. Unfortunately, they were fighting one-on-one and also used thrusts.

Okay. No big deal. I’ll just adapt and change their weapons to broadswords instead. The art on my book cover already displays a sword with a smaller hilt. (Side note: I think the art department cut the length of the Claymore’s handle in order to downplay the Historical feel to the cover. See version 1 and 2 below.)

1st draft

1st draft

Final cover

Final cover

After Sensei left, I researched some more and got myself confused with all the conflicting information I read. It appears to me that broadswords don’t have quatrefoils (the four circles on a Claymore’s cross guard) like you see on CAPTIVE’s cover. And that broadswords have basket hilts. Yikes! I don’t want to ask my editor if the art department can redo my cover because I goofed up. Who wants to be known as that author? I also don’t want to keep a mistake in the book. Now what?


I decided to make up my own name for the sword so it can look like what’s already on the cover and do damn well what I want. After all, I’m writing fiction. If I want my gladiator’s weapon to be a long, one-handed sword with a Claymore inspired design, than so be it. 🙂

Now I just need to come up with a name. I thought about Gladmor or Gladimor. It’s a shortened form of the Latin words gladius mortis, which (according to Google translate) means Sword of Death. I like that it kind of still sounds like Claymore. But my husband thought it sounded too happy.

Then I thought about one of the moves in our kata and suggested Dragon Tongue.

What do you think? Do you like Gladmor, Gladimor, or Dragon tongue? Or do you have a better name for this sword? I’d really love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

~K.M. Fawcett

Having Fun in Okinawa – Okinawa Part 4

Today’s post is a picture potpourri of some experiences we had on our trip to Okinawa. Click here for Okinawa Part 1, Okinawa Part 2, or Okinawa Part 3.

We went to Tsuken Island, which is Sensei Advincula’s wife’s home island. While she visited relatives and friends, and prayed to honor her ancestors, we enjoyed time at the island resort swimming in crystal water and soaking up the sun. We also took some karate pictures in our gis by the coral rocks. A man came over and took some pictures of us, so I took a picture of him taking a picture of us. 🙂



One of the unique things for me was getting to drive on the “wrong” side of the street. I’ve never driven anywhere but the USA, so it felt odd to sit on the right side of the car and drive on the left side of the street. My co-pilot (my husband) wore a crash helmet. Apparently, he thinks he’s funny. (I wish I could find the picture.) I did well driving. I only turned on the windshield wipers once. I was informed that if you hit the wipers instead of the directional signal, you should immediately yell out that it was intentional. Since it wasn’t raining, I’m not sure that anyone would have believed me anyway.

Our friend and fellow instructor, Erik, is a police officer. So we made a point to find a police station so he could take a picture with Okinawa police. The officers were so nice, and happy to pose for pictures.

One night four of us visited a bar owned by a friend of another American karate sensei we know. We were the only Americans in the bar, and truly immersed in Okinawan culture. We drank and ate with the local people and made conversation the best we could with the language barrier. The band invited us on stage to play the taiko (drum) and sanshin (3 string banjo). Erik did well, the rest us…not so much, but the people appreciated that we took interest in their culture and tried. Our group also followed along with some Okinawa dancing, and Erik and I sang karaoke.

There’s an Okinawan proverb “Ichariba choodee” which means, “Once we meet and talk, we are brothers and sisters.” I truly felt like part of the family on this trip from the courtesy and friendship of our host family to the propriety of the strangers we met (see Part 1). I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel back to Okinawa with Sensei Advincula, his wife, my husband, and my friends in Isshinryu.

~K.M. Fawcett

The Isle Of Courtesy – Okinawa Part 1

Gate of Courtesy at Shuri Castle

Last month Scott (my husband) and I along with a few other karate friends had the opportunity to travel to Okinawa, Japan – the birthplace of karate – with Scott’s sensei (teacher) and his wife for a Cultural Martial Arts Tour.

Did you notice the word Cultural before Martial Arts? There’s a reason for that. Though we did indeed have an opportunity to train in a dojo there, the number one reason for the trip was to learn more about Okinawan culture, customs, history and traditions. And by doing so, I have discovered more about myself, as well as my country’s culture and history.

Many people (especially Americans) believe karate is only about fighting or self defense. That is simply not true. Karate-do (the way of the empty hand) is a way of life. A philosophy. And you cannot truly understand The Way, if you fail to understand the culture of the people who developed it. The founder of Isshinryu karate, Tatsuo Shimabuku, stated in a 1960 interview in the Okinawan Times, “Even if we cannot promote friendship between Okinawa and America through karate, my true hope is that if karate becomes popular in the United States and Hawaii, then Okinawa would also become more well understood.” Since 1994, his student, AJ Advincula, has been carrying out the vision and wishes of his teacher by conducting these cultural martial arts tours.

Okinawan man stopped gardening to tell us stories of the old dojo

Okinawa is known as the Isle of courtesy. The people are friendly, polite and go out of their way to help. For instance, we were taking a walking tour of the area where Tatsuo Shimabuku’s first dojo was. The dojo is no longer there, but we wanted to find the property. An elderly couple out for a stroll pointed us in the right direction, but soon we came to a crossroad and took a wrong turn. They followed us and corrected us before we went too far the wrong way. I ask you, would you follow a group of foreigners to be sure they arrived at their destination? Then there was the man who lived across from the property we had searched for. He stopped working in his garden to talk with us and tell us stories about watching the foreigners (American servicemen) training at the dojo.

Another day, our car’s battery had died. Fortunately, we spotted a tow truck stopping at a red light at a nearby intersection and my husband ran to the guy and asked for help. The driver asked if we were members of whatever organization he worked for (Okinawa’s version of AAA?). Scott said no. The light changed and the tow truck made his left turn away from the parking lot and our car. A few minutes later, after going around the busy city block, he pulled in our lot. The man jump started our vehicle, and refused to charge us. We happened to have a nice bottle of awamari (Okinawan liquor) in the car and gave him the presento as a token of our gratitude.

Higa Bridge - We met a woman nearby who took time from her busy day to talk history.

I don’t speak the language, and only know a few phrases, however, the people we had come in contact with were patient, friendly and helpful. There was no anger toward us foreigners. No one yelled, “You’re in Okinawa, learn the language!” And it made me realize that Americans can stand to be a little more polite and offer a little more assistance to those in need. We can’t allow rudeness and disrespect to be the norm. It is my hope that one day America can be known as the Land of Courtesy.

Click here for Okinawa Part 2 – Courtesy, Kings & Castles, Oh My!

~K.M. Fawcett

The Devil Is In The Translation

This past weekend I attended another outstanding karate seminar given by my teacher’s teacher, AJ Advincula. Though I learned a lot while training, my biggest lesson came later that evening after dinner. I learned the language barrier is a tough wall to scale, and sometimes the things you believe you understand, you don’t really.

An Oni Mask

During a discussion of ghosts of Okinawa, the conversation turned toward oni. Oni are demons or devils from Japanese foklore. I first learned about them in 2008 on a trip to Okinawa. I had visited a relative of Sensei Advincula’s and saw hanging on the wall a scary looking mask of a red devil face with horns. His relative told me the name of the mask (my notes say “Yasamen” but I must have written it wrong as it doesn’t come up in Google searches), and that it was for good luck and a protector in the same way shisa are. Then she told me the mask was no oni. Umm, ok. If the nice Okinawan lady tells me the devil mask wasn’t a demon, who am I to argue? Right?

Fast forward to this past weekend and our oni conversation. Sensei said the mask on his relative’s wall was an oni. “But sensei,” I replied, “she assured me it wasn’t.”

Well, with the power of the iPad, we did some research and sure enough I learned that not only was the mask an oni, it was a NOH mask. Noh is a traditional Japanese musical drama where the characters are masked. So all this time I thought she was saying that the mask was “no oni” (not a demon) when the mask was “Noh oni” (a demon mask from a play)!

So what does this lesson have to do with martial arts?

Many American soldiers stationed on Okinawa after World War II studied Isshinryu karate. Upon their return to the US, they opened up their own dojos (schools). Unfortunately, most of these first generation American pioneers of Isshinryu had been stationed on Okinawa for a short time. A typical tour of duty was only thirteen months. They didn’t have time to learn all the finer points and, therefore, didn’t understand how to make their karate work best. They also got much of the history and terminology incorrect because of language barriers. For example, the founder of Isshinryu karate, Master Tatsuo Shimabuku, created a kata (form) called Sunusu or Sunsu for short. Sunusu is translated to mean “father of the old man” or “father of the old man’s house”. Meaning that Master Shimabuku had named this kata after his grandfather. A marine student had asked the master about sunsu, and the master replied, “strong man”. To this day some Isshinryu sensei incorrectly teach that sunsu translates to strong man. What got lost in translation was that the master’s grandfather (for whom he named the kata) was a very strong man.

I had often wondered why there was so much incorrect information being passed down in certain lineages of Isshinryu karate. I now know it’s because what one person believes they understand may not, in fact, be understood at all. The devil is in the translation. DesiSmileys.com

~K.M. Fawcett

How Karate Came to the US

Today’s guest blogger is my husband and sensei, Scott Fawcett.  Scott is a godan (fifth degree black belt) in Isshinryu karate and owns the NJ Academy of Martial Arts in the Lebanon Plaza in NJ.  He blogs about how karate came to the United States.  Welcome Scott.

Scott and Kathy on Tsuken Island, Okinawa in 2008

Karate originated on the island of Okinawa. I had the opportunity to visit Okinawa with my Sensei, Arcenio Advincula for 10 days in 2008 and again for 10 days in 2009.  To fully understand Okinawan karate, one must understand and have an appreciation for Okinawan culture, customs, traditions and history.

Okinawa is a small island located about 200 miles south of Japan.  It is approximately 60 miles in length and about 15 miles wide at its widest point.  During World War II one of the most fierce land campaigns was fought on Okinawa.  This battle was known as Operation Iceberg or The Battle of Okinawa.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered the War in the Pacific with the ultimate goal of defeating mainland Japan.  The United States would use Okinawa as a strategic launch point to defeat mainland Japan. The Japanese realized how important Okinawa was and arrived there well before the American troops.

The United States arrived on Okinawa on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945.  At first the American troops advanced with little resistance.  The troops were later met with great Japanese resistance. The Battle of Okinawa lasted just under three months and resulted in 10,000 American casualties, approximately 40,000 dead Japanese soldiers and 1/3 of the Civilian population of Okinawa being killed.  This island of peace-loving people had their world turned upside-down.

US Navy SeaBee, Harold K Fawcett on Okinawa 1945

Following World War II, Okinawa was under American administration.  During this time, America rebuilt much of the infrastructure on Okinawa and also built a number of military bases.  Some U.S. Marines who were stationed on Okinawa in the late 1950’s and 1960’s became interested in Okinawan Karate (Kara meaning empty and te meaning hand).

Most Marines were only stationed on Okinawa for one 13-month tour of duty and therefore did not have time to fully understand this system, which takes years to learn. Tatsuo Shimabuku wanted Americans to learn more than kicking and punching.  He wanted them to understand Okinawan culture.  He is quoted in the April 30, 1960 edition of the Okianwan Times as saying “Even if we cannot promote friendship between Okinawa and America through karate, my true hope is that if karate becomes popular in the USA and Hawaii, then Okinawa would also become more well understood.”

Isshinryu Founder, Tatsuo Shimabuku

Today there are hundreds of Isshinryu dojo (karate schools) in the United States teaching Isshinryu karate.  Many have unfortunately lost the connection to Okinawa and appreciation for Okinawan culture, customs, traditions and history.  Sensei Arcenio Advincula is one of the few who returned to Okinawa many times to continue his studies under Shimabuku.  To this day Mr. Advincula continues to conduct annual Okinawan cultural martial arts tours to keep the true spirit of Isshinryu karate and his teacher Tatsuo Shimabuku alive.