Featured Budo Brother: Kyoshi Dave Kovar



Several years ago, I read a book written in the early 17th century called "Hagakure". It was part of my black belt test in Iaido under Shihan Mikio Nishiuchi. I had heard of it before, but had never taken the time to read it. Since then, it has worked its way into my book rotation. Much like "The Book of Five Rings" and "The Art of War", it is filled with timeless wisdom. If you ever get a chance to read it, I strongly recommend it. It is filled with gems of knowledge regarding the warrior mindset. With that said, it was written in entirely different time and is politically incorrect by today standards, so you will probably want to use a filter while reading it. One of the quotes that I love was:


“If you are caught unprepared by a sudden rain storm, you should not run foolishly down the road or hide under the eaves of the houses. You are going to get soaked either way. Accept that from the beginning and go on your way. This way you will not be distressed by a little rain. Apply this lesson to everything.”

— Yamamoto Tsunetomo

In this book, Author Yamamoto Tsunetomo, talks about living the warrior (samurai) lifestyle and the importance of applying these principles in everyday life, not just on the battlefield. The book got me thinking about things that I can do daily that are in line with living a warrior lifestyle in the modern world. After lots of thought and experimentation, I came up with 6 words/concepts that I try my best to apply in my life every day. Here they are:


Posture - Good posture is important for several reasons. To begin with, it is very martial. Good posture projects confidence making you look less like a victim to any potential predator. Secondly, when your posture is good, you are working with gravity not against it, causing less wear and tear on the body and lowering your risk of injury. I guess my mother knew what she was talking about when she would tell me to sit up straight. Also, having good posture allows for better breathing which is our second concept.


Breathing - The type of breathing that we are referring to here is abdominal, or diaphragmatic breathing. This is done by taking deep breaths through the nose and into the belly.  This type of breathing is most healthy and should be practiced daily. Diaphragmatic breathing is generally associated with being calm, centered, and alert.  The other alternative is chest, or thoracic breathing, which is generally associated with stress, fear, and anxiety. Although we start our life breathing correctly, somewhere in our youth, most people switch to chest breathing. For this reason, it is important to consciously work on diaphragmatic breathing at least a couple of times per day for a minimum of 10 breaths.




Stride – There is some research that points to the fact that people with a longer stride are healthier and live longer. The question is, are they healthier because their stride is bigger, or is their stride bigger because they're healthier? I don't know the answer, but I do know that it makes sense to try to increase your stride. An easy way to test your stride is to measure how many steps you take over a given distance. Next, simply try to go the same distance with one or two less strides. On top of getting places sooner, someone with a longer stride projects more confidence and will draw less predatory energy.


Balance – There is an excellent quote that says, "Concentrate on your balance, lose you're upset. Concentrate on your upset, lose your balance.” It is important to remember that physical balance and emotional upset are like oil and water. They don't mix. When you are upset or angry, your balance suffers. So the key is, the next time you find yourself angry, irritated or upset, try standing on one foot. One of two things is going to happen: The first is that your balance is going to be terrible and you're going to have to put your foot back down quickly. The desired outcome however is that you focus on your balance and you become less upset. I practice this while waiting in line at the grocery store, before I do a presentation, or when I find myself irritated with a person or a situation. The results are remarkable.


Agility – I haven't yet quite come up with the exact word to describe what I'm referring to, but agility is close. Think about the grace and suppleness of a cat or an eagle, or a parkour master for that matter. Everything they do seems smooth, relaxed and effortless. I try to apply this concept when going up stairs, doing the dishes, or getting groceries out of my trunk. I continuously think about how can I practice agility, grace, and economy of motion during my daily routines.




Intent – What I'm referring to here is the mental energy we bring to any situation. This concept is about being present-focused in all that we do. It is about bringing the spirit of friendship and contribution to every interaction we have. Intent is about giving your best to any situation or challenge. Whenever I find myself distracted or not paying attention, I try to remember the quote, "Wherever you are...Be there.” That often helps to bring me back into the moment.


After 45 years of martial arts training, my body is different than it was when I was 12 years old. In some ways, it is a lot better but in other ways, not so much. Age and injuries have put a bit of a damper on my training. I can still practice pretty much every art I've learned and I can still do most everything I ever could. I just can't do it for as long or as hard as I once did if I want to continue training. With that said, one of the things I like about practicing these six concepts is that it allows me to train in martial arts virtually all day, every day.


I challenge you to apply these concepts in your life as well. Or, come up with your own list if you don't like this one. I believe the key is to live and train "on purpose" and these six concepts will help you do just that.


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