By Dennis Nackord
The best martial artists know the value of strategy. They know that sometimes throwing their best technique simply does not get the job done. They know that in times like those, strategies that utilize effective set-up, delivery and timing can be more important than execution. They also know that one of the most efficient strategies is the fakeout.
The six faking strategies described in this article will serve you well whether you employ them in the ring or on the street. I can say that with confidence because they have been tested over the past four decades by Joe Lewis, my instructor and training partner since 1967, and me.
We started using them prior to and during the reign of our West Coast National Fighting Team in the late 1960s and early 70s, and we have used and taught them ever since. I certainly did not invent the strategies, but I have cataloged them into what I believe is a useable format.
The six strategies have built many fighters’ self-confidence and propelled them to national and world titles. They are so universally valid that they can be used in any sport, competition or armed conflict. For the purpose of this article, however, they will be discussed in relation to empty-hand sparring.
In sparring, deception refers to the ability to fake out your opponent and is often an essential factor in defeating. However, determining and implementing the correct deceptive strategy for the particular opponent you are facing can be a challenge. The key to success involves “probing.”
Each opponent you face has a tendency to act a certain way. He has favorite moves that make up his personal style of fighting. Some opponents charge in, some stay back, some like to kick, some like to punch and some like to use other approaches. Probing teaches you to use false leads to figure out your opponent’s preference. (False lead refers to extending a weapon toward your opponent without committing your body weight.) When you step into the ring with a new opponent, probe to see what he does, then choose a strategy that fits his style.
Before embarking upon an in-depth discussion of faking strategies, it is essential to review the role of perception. Does your opponent believe what he’s seeing is really happening? If he does, he will always react. Some opponents react correctly to minimize their vulnerability, but most make some type of mistake when reacting.
For a fake to be believable, three elements must be used correctly. The first is distance. You must be close enough to your opponent to actually hit him if your fake were a strike. A common mistake involves throwing a fake from too far away. For it to work, it must be executed from a realistic distance. The second element is angle. To threaten your opponent, a fake must travel along the same line as an actual attack. Another common mistake students make is to simply throw their hand in the air or stomp their foot on the mat. Since the fake is not angled toward any target, it usually elicits no reaction from the opponent. For it to work, it must travel along a realistic angle.
The third element is intensity. A fake must have realistic speed, intent and emotional substance. You must throw it as if you are actually trying to hit your opponent. Fighters frequently make the mistake of throwing a passive fake followed by an aggressive strike. If the opponent does not react to the fake, they are left vulnerable. For it to work, it must include the use of realistic intensity.
Strategies for Lead Fighters
At any given moment during a sparring match, you fall into one of two categories: lead fighter or counter fighter. Of course, you can switch from one style to the other or even merge them, but for the purposes of this article, they will be considered separately. When you are a lead fighter, you should not attack a strong position. You should first weaken your opponent’s position with a fake or deceptive action to make him pause. That will create an opening, and the hesitation can enable you to score. Remember that when you attack, you must make your opponent hesitate.
Indirect Angular Attack
This strategy is used against a person who stands his ground and blocks. It involves a fake of angle.
Example: Move into the range of your opponent with allow fake (on the half count—see sidebar) and follow with a high strike. This sequence can be reversed with a high fake and a low strike. These two combinations are among the most common indirect angular attacks.
This strategy is used against a person who is a counterfighter. That is, whenever you attack, he tries to counterattack. You need to draw his counter, then hit him while his weapon is returning from the missed counter. Example: You have determined that your opponent will try to counter punch. Therefore, you move into his range to draw his punch and move out of range when he delivers it. This action causes him to miss and allows you to score when he is out of position.
This strategy is used against a runner or a person who doesn’t stand still. This is the most sophisticated of the three lead-fighter strategies. There are many ways to stop a person from moving away from you. One is to reverse your direction and move away from him, thus drawing him toward you. Or you can immobilize him by grabbing him or obstructing his leg with a check or sweep. To be successful, immobilization attacks must include distance, angle and attitude. Example: Lunge toward your opponent, grab his sleeve or arm and pull him off-balance. Counter punch his body.
Strategies for Counter Fighters
When you are a counter fighter, you want your opponent to attack you. By making a certain part of your body seem vulnerable, you encourage him to attack that area. Sometimes called baiting, this approach can weaken his position by allowing you to know where he will attack. A skilled counter fighter has the ability to cause his opponent to use a specific weapon at a specific time to a specific target. Remember that when you are attacked, you must make your opponent miss.
This strategy focuses on redirecting your opponent’s energy. You can accomplish that by moving his weapon off the line of attack using a parry or by moving yourself off the line of attack using a slip. Most of the time, a combination of these two tactics is used. Example: You lure your opponent into throwing a fore-hand strike at your head, then slip it by moving off-line and counter to his body.
This attack interrupts your opponent’s energy by putting a greater amount of energy in direct opposition to it using a stop-hit. Example: The attacker uses a lunging punch delivered with his rear hand. As he crosses sides and enters, you execute a defensive back kick to stop his forward movement. You have moved into the line of attack.
This strategy revolves around absorbing your opponent’s energy. You can do that by employing what is called a “target fade, ” which refers to using a non-vital part of your body as a shield. Example: Your opponent throws a kick at your body. You fade away from the attack just far enough so the kick touches your shielding arm. You then counter with a spinning back-hand strike. You have moved away along the line of attack.
The six fighting strategies described above are tools you can use to conquer any skilled opponent. Because they enable you to make successful choices while facing a variety of fighters, they will also build your self-confidence in and out of the dojo.
Dennis J. Nackord About the author: Dennis J. Nackord has a tenth-degree black belt in kenpo. For seminar information, write to Nackord Karate System, Gateway Shopping Center, 125 E. Swedesford Road, Wayne, Pennsylvania 19087. Or call (610) 341-9900 or visit http://www.nackordkarate.com
Exposing the Myth by Joe Lewis
Note: This is the full text of the condensed article, "Street Fighting" published in Black Belt Magazine.
People pursuing martial arts have been for years conditioned to ask all the wrong questions. The classic misleading question, "What combat martial art is the best?" The real question should be, "Why do I need martial arts?" Martial arts is like dieting; it is not, "What do I eat," but more importantly, "Why do I eat?" When access to facts is withheld and we fail to investigate the unproven claims, myths arise.
Martial arts is flooded with myths. There are students who believe if they can emulate or fight like a snake or praying mantis or even a monkey, this method automatically grants them superiority. This accepted practice is as ill fated as the myth that all members in a martial arts class should execute techniques exactly the same. Short people cannot fight as if they are tall, small people cannot fight like they're big, and nor can slow people be expected to emulate those who are genetically quick. Also, small people are even taught to practice their drills standing directly in front of opponents who are often much larger. If you're short or small, you must learn how to fight like a short or small person. In the animal kingdom, snakes don't fight like birds nor do tigers fight like butterflies. Humans have many technical challenges to overcome without trying to learn to fight like some kind of bird or insect or other animal type. Learning to fight like a human is difficult enough.
Out of this abyss of untested nonsense surfaces another untouchable phenomena called the "streetfighter." Professional fighters and martial arts instructors are often harassed by this peripheral group who lack the same dedication, the willingness to train in public, or the confidence to compete. These types consistently claim that they are legitimate fighters, even better than those who compete in the ring. Unlike real fighters, they pretend to be immune to judgment. Some of their familiar self-endowments are, "deadliest man alive" or "king of the streetfighters."
Fighters fight and runners race. They each love competition. Records of wins and losses are administered and include dates, locations, and opponents. A small handful of the ambitious best become world-class professionals, called fighters. This status is earned, never self-proclaimed.
The only "records" streetfighters have are down at the police department. The seasoned officers with whom I've worked describe their many encounters with streetfighters, for the most part, as being nothing more than a joke. These officers report that in the end, all they have is a big mouth.
The word, "streetfighter," always bothered me. It reminds me of the term, "killer instinct." There is no such thing as a killer instinct. Journalists conjured up the term to describe the boxer, Jack Dempsey. "Streetfighter" is a word in the dictionary; however, at age 57, I have witnessed many fights, but to date, never a single one has taken place in the street. I think of a so-called "streetfighter" as either being some hoodlum, terrorist, or immature kid often being the one who creates fights. Usually, their "records" consist of beating up some drunks, a few kids, and even probably a couple of poor bums. These types respect violence. When kids are exposed to adults using violence, such as a parent beating a child, they absorb two messages; one, that adults condone violence and second, that adults use violence to solve problems. This is where all world wars begin. If you're proud to call yourself a streetfighter, I hope, along with all our kids, that you never move into our neighborhood.
Two things about the streetfighter amuse me. What purpose is being served with a practice of suspending rational thought in order to self-appoint oneself the title of "streetfighter," and then with the same zeal, grant the streetfighter higher combat status, claiming ring fighters can't street fight? What major flaws does anyone detect rendering pro fighters helpless or at a disadvantage in a street fight when observing sport fighters, the likes of Mike Tyson or Frank Shamrock and others? There are those who claim ring fighting isn't practical or real. What is unreal or impractical or less deadly about a kick, a knee, or a punch that knocks a ring opponent out and sometimes kills? Also, what about a choke or joint lock, which could also kill or render an opponent instantly helpless?
From physical strength to mental toughness, there is no identifiable attribute of streetfighters unavailable to ring fighters. Sometimes, the technique mechanics are different. For example, if you research boxing's history, you would note that the bare-knuckle fighters kept their palms facing upward. If they had punched like today's gloved fighters, who learn to rotate their punches, turning the palms downwards at contact, then they would have destroyed their hands. Also, the intent of a technique can vary. I could strike you and abstain from hurting you, strike as if I'm abusing and spanking you, hurt, punish, torture, slaughter, or even bury you. Each of these elevating intents vary in degrees of effect. Sometimes, of course, your aggressor may show up with a weapon or others to outnumber you, but then these factors do not make streetfighters better. This only creates the old "what if" scenario. What if the ring fighter pulls out his own gun and so on?
Take 10 top professional fighters ("K-1," "U.F.C.," "Pride," etc.) and put them into a street context. Most rational experts would overwhelmingly select the outcome to largely favor the pros. And if you put the streetfighter in a ring sport context, I can't see anyone having any hope for the streetfighter.
Street fighting does have its place, but is street fighting nothing more than a well-timed trick or sucker punch? One of my older brothers had a nasty reputation back in his day. One night he sat down next to a woman sitting alone in some nightclub. Seconds later, her enraged boyfriend appeared at the table standing over my brother, demanding he step outside. My brother stood up with his beer bottle in his hand and said, "Sure, just let me finish my beer." As he put the bottle to his mouth, he suddenly drops it, simultaneously decking the guy, punching him with the right hand in which he had held the beer. During my younger years, my older brothers taught me a great deal about these types of altercations. This situation with my brother illustrates the oldest tactic known to man, "surprise attack."
Just because you put the word, "street," in front of the word, "fighter," does not make you omnipotent. The word has no magic powers nor does it mean that any untested combatant could automatically last 10 to 12 grueling rounds absorbing dozens of world-class educated punches and kicks or grappling maneuvers. Nor could the streetfighter maintain professional speed, power, and accuracy, which takes years of hard training to develop, working with tough sparring partners aided by profoundly smart trainers. Neither is one granted a winning composure at all times in the face of any struggle, fatigue, stress, or physical pain and be backed up with the fact that you have a long tested career demonstrating during all your fights a marked willingness to always remain engaged while maintaining an inner conviction to never quit. These are a few of the attributes real fighters acquire after years of hard work and consistent dedication. These can only come working in real scenarios against well-prepared world-class fighters.
In the military, we also emulate the success of armies that win, not those who only talk. My blackbelt fighters acquire through action the ability to go 8, 10, 12 rounds with a well-prepared world-class fighter and to be able to look him in the eye and let him know five things. One, he can't handle my speed; two, he can't handle my power; three, he can't hurt me; four, that I will never get tired; and five, I will never quit. If you have never endured the experience standing toe to toe with this type of world-class fighter while having him fire educated punches, kicks, elbows, and knees with cold-blooded, world-class accuracy and conviction, then you can't speak from knowledge or with any confidence, nor have the slightest clue about what you're talking on the subject of fighting.
Lastly, I can assure you that a much greater number of ring fighters have tested and proven their skills in the "street" than the number of streetfighters who have ever entered the ring. If you took 10 top ring fighters and 10 top streetfighters and let each group test their skills in the other's forum, who would have the higher winning percentage? A ring fighter's abilities will always, hands down, work far better for him in the street than a streetfighter's abilities could ever help him in a ring fight.
How to Calm Your Mind
The last thing your ego and emotions want is to be harnessed: they revel in the day-to-day circus of sensory entertainment and emotional turmoil, even though this game depletes your energy, degenerates your body, and exhausts your spirit. Meditation can free you from this turmoil.
The following is part of my system called "The Way of Three". This section is one of three types of meditation that can be helpful when things seem crazy and you need to calm your mind. This is especially useful now with the Covid 19 situation.
Mantra Meditation - Sometimes the resources of our conscious mind are unable to help us find solutions to questions or problems that we may have. The resources of the conscious mind may have reached their limit. It is the subconscious mind that can supply the necessary resources.
But, although being in touch with our subconscious mind gives us access to its vast resources, we usually do not pay much attention to it. Most of our learning and problem solving has come from conscious thinking.
Mantra (repeated sound) Meditation, using internal or external auditory cues, leads us to use our subconscious mind and allows us to contemplate, daydream, find answers, address problems, discover self-knowledge, and more. This trance like state helps to center the mind and stimulate circulatory systems of the body.
Mantra Meditation is the easiest and perhaps most effective meditation. Here's how to do it.
Find a quiet spot and sit in a comfortable position. Sitting in a chair is fine. No need to assume the Lotus Position.
Choose a word or phrase which you will use for your mantra. It could be a single word like "Ocean" or a phrase like "Life is Good". This is an important step since once you use this word or phase, some people find it difficult to change.
Close or relax your eyes and begin to slowly say your mantra in your head. Do nothing else. Do not focus on your breathing or anything else. Just say your word or phrase. It is that easy.
Say your mantra between 10 and 15 minutes. You will have a physiological change to your body. You may open your eyes to look at a clock. No problem.
The only 'rule' is that if you discover you have stopped saying your mantra, start saying it again. This realization means your mantra is working. As with any skill the more often you do your mantra, the more positive effects it will yield.
Dennis Nackord, Grandmaster
10th Degree Black Belt
For 40 years, Malvern’s Dennis Nackord has unassumingly forged his legacy as a martial arts master on par with the world’s best. In these uncertain times, his message of self-empowerment is as relevant as ever.BY J.F. PIRRO
Published in MAINLINE TODAY MAGAZINE
Every man has belts, but few have dozens of the sort hanging in Dennis Nackord’s closet. Black is the predominant color, but some of them are so worn that the beginner-white shows through. For Nackord, that proves how cyclical martial arts—and life in general—really are.
“We’re back to where we started,” says the 63-year-old ninth-degree black belt. “It’s all part of the flow. This is a nonlinear art.”
In today’s world, sustainability, self-preservation and self-defense are everything, and the Nackord Karate System embodies all three. With over 40 years of professional karate training and teaching experience, Nackord has flocks of devotees. He’s contributed to the opening of more than 20 schools and promoted nearly 150 black belts. In the 1970s, he owned four of the 15 American Karate Studios locations he founded. Many are still open. These days, his sole Nackord Karate System studio in Wayne is thriving despite the recession. “People have no money. They’ve lost—or may lose—their jobs,” he says. “When we live in fear, we want to take better care of ourselves.”
Women tell Nackord that he looks like Omar Sharif with less hair, but he’s not buying it. At 6 feet tall and 210 pounds, he does have a low-key charisma, with piercing hazel eyes and a chiseled chin. He’s been dubbed the father of Philadelphia Kenpo Karate. Today, 90 percent of those in the region practicing Kenpo—often called “the mother art” because many others derive from it—descended from Nackord, though most don’t realize it. Kenpo provides a support system and structure for physical, mental and spiritual strength. The goal is not only physical training, but also the education of the individual. It’s a way of self-defense, self-discipline and self-knowledge.
Regionally, Nackord is on par with West Philadelphia’s legendary Teruyuki Okazaki. A 10th-degree black belt and a native of Fukuoka, Japan, Okazaki has been far more guarded with his teaching. The common belief: Save your secrets, save your country.
Through the overt exposure Bruce Lee brought, martial arts in America began to emerge in the 1960s and ’70s. Nackord surmises that Lee’s willingness to share, and profit from, the art may be why revenge was taken on him—that is, if you buy the conspiracy theories that swirl around his mysterious death at age 32.
“He shared too much, and the traditional Chinese community from which Lee came wasn’t very happy about his teaching to the general public,” says Nackord. “He commercialized the sacred. Before him, the art was to be respected and protected.”
If you judge a man by the company he keeps, Nackord’s martial arts lineage is indisputable. He’s the highest-ranking student of Joe Lewis, who is to karate what Muhammad Ali is to boxing. Last August, the former two-time world heavyweight karate and kickboxing champion moved from Wilmington, N.C., to Chesterbrook and uses Nackord’s school in Wayne as his base. A 10th-degree black belt, Lewis won four U.S. Championships and three international championships. In 1983, he was chosen by his peers as “The Greatest Karate Fighter of All Time” in Karate Illustrated magazine.
“He has a good abstract mind,” Lewis says of Nackord, with whom he’s worked since 1968. “He likes to think in principles. Most martial arts studios don’t teach anyone to think, only to obey. But go to a Nackord school, and they do. The other schools say they teach self-confidence and self-esteem, but they don’t know the first thing about either of them.”
Nackord also aligns himself with Dr. Maung Gyi, who brought American kickboxing to the United States in 1963 and also founded the American Bando Association. Since 1970, Nackord has trained with Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame trainer Marty Feldman of Broomall. His first serious martial arts mentor was the late Ed Parker, founder of American Kenpo Karate. Both Lewis and Gyi were on hand last September to promote Nackord to the rank of ninth-degree black belt, the first in the 40-year history of the Joe Lewis Fighting System.
At issue these days is the direction the discipline is taking. In February, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission followed the lead of other states and approved bouts in Mixed Martial Arts—or extreme fighting. The state anticipates regulating four to five events per month to generate $80,000 per year in revenue.
Lewis and Nackord’s approach has always focused on inner drive. “Martial arts are in a transition,” Lewis says. “What I dislike are the tattoos. [Some MMAs] look like cartoon characters, then they go on national TV and do all that cursing like it’s professional wrestling. It’s created a home for the tough guy who’s teaching kids to challenge another person and to condone and respect violence.”
By definition, Lewis says, “violence is the loss of self-control—the exact opposite of what martial arts teach. There’s only ever been one reason to fight, and that’s to preserve, protect and dignify that which you are.”
To Nackord, mixed martial arts is a sport, not an art. Now, he and Lewis have the unenviable task of dispelling the notion that traditional martial arts are violent. “Martial artists don’t act like animals,” Nackord says. “It’s totally contradictory to what I’m doing. Our clients are here for self-improvement. I don’t want to be negative—or to criticize—but it’s not what I’m doing.”
In sports, there are rules. But if you’re in a fight for your life, there are no rules. Survival, too, is an art. In the end, this is a story about the men trying to preserve the “art” in martial arts while defending the dignity of their own careers.
Dennis Nackord was raised on the San Francisco Bay peninsula. His grandfather was a city councilman and mayor of San Carlos, but most of his family was in the building trades—including his father. He studied architecture before his life changed course.
At 20, Nackord began taking classes at a local karate studio. By 1966, he was working there. Three years later, he moved to Philadelphia to expand Tracy’s Karate, a system that still exists—though it’s a mere shell of what it was in the early 1970s.
The first East Coast Tracy’s was on Cottman Avenue off Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia. It’s still a karate studio today—one franchised to American Karate Studios, a corporation Nackord formed and ran until 1980. One American Karate location is run by Mark Schiffman, a student Nackord promoted from a fifth- to seventh-degree black belt in January.
Schiffman first met Nackord in 1975. After completing an introductory course, his parents couldn’t afford additional lessons, so he negotiated a deal with Nackord. Since he was working at a local gas station, he figured he could afford to pay $10 a week. Nackord asked if he could rake leaves. Schiffman said he could and recalculated what he’d pay per week.
“Then he asked if I could cut lawns,” Schiffman recalls. “He told me to be at his house the next day at 8 a.m. For the next few years, I cut grass, raked leaves, cleaned out flooded basements, repaired lawn equipment—and took full advantage of our agreement by training almost every day.”
After the initial course, Schiffman never paid for lessons again. In 1983, he became a black belt. From 1986 to 1993, he was ranked among the top 10 in the country in his division of the United States Karate Federation. He bought his own school in 1987.
Nackord’s most popular site was at King of Prussia Plaza; before that, he had schools in Havertown and Ardmore. At first, his family looked at him “like he was a zombie” when he entered the karate business. Then, with a hint of encouragement, his grandfather asked, “Well, what kind of business is it? Can it be profitable?”
Twenty-three years later, in 2007, Nackord moved to Gateway Shopping Center.
The advantage to starting a martial arts business can also be a disadvantage: It doesn’t take much capital, and there isn’t any licensing to regulate who starts a studio. “You can’t license artists,” Nackord says. “Anyone can [start a martial arts business], but most don’t have any context, so they can’t correct problems.”
The notion that everyone is a master in karate is “baloney,” says Nackord. “They all say they do what I do, but what’s their lineage?”
Nackord was an eighth-degree black belt for years, despite heading his own system. If he was like others, he would’ve formed a board geared on self-promotion. Karate, it turns out, is an insular art full of nepotism. Proponents promote their own within their own unregulated, unlicensed systems. “I just stayed where I was,” Nackord says. “I didn’t care. The number didn’t make a difference.”
Tenth is the highest black belt, but Nackord says almost every rank is too high, including his own. “It only exists because of the structure,” he explains.
Right now, two of Nackord’s students are eighth-degree black belts. At some point, he’ll have to expand his own hierarchy. “You have to create space below,” he says. “But what rank you are is no indication of what skills or knowledge you have. Certificates don’t equate to skill.”
Performance does. In the 1970s, Nackord and Lewis were on an undefeated five-man national fighting team that battled the likes of Chuck Norris’ team and the Canadian national team. “In those days, we fought bare-handed, and many battles were quite bloody,” Nackord recalls. “One had to be pretty fast at getting one’s head out of the way. One year, I fought in 10 tournaments and KO’d nine opponents. The experience of that era gave me the ability to teach the correct use of the bare hands. Today, almost all sport karate uses some sort of gloves as well as other pads.”
These days, Nackord’s workout regimen involves four rounds of boxing and riding a bike for 45 minutes to an hour three or four times a week. He also hits the heavy bag for four three-minute rounds with 30-second intervals. And, of course, he practices his martial arts moves. “I’m a student first,” he says. “Every day, I’m studying and learning more so I can teach my students more.”
Right now, he’s learning the Chinese sword, an art form that integrates stillness within movement. “I don’t want to sound weird—and some martial arts guys do sound weird—but it’s not violent just because you have a sword in your hand,” he says. “It’s more about fluid movement and relaxation. It’s like taking a walk in the park and looking at—and listening to—the birds.”
Nackord doesn’t need vacations away from his Malvern home, but he takes them with his wife, Lorraine, a retired pediatric nurse. They have four children—Amy, Jessica, Elizabeth and Jason (a brown belt)— and six grandchildren.
With his family and at work, Nackord prefers not to over-manage. He’s a facilitator and a counselor, favoring dialogue over threatening consequences. This even holds true in the after-school program he began last fall for students at the neighboring Valley Forge Elementary School. The five-day program includes transportation, a homework period, time for a snack and rest, and a karate and exercise period.
“I talk to people about where I want them to be, not where they are,” Nackord says of his approach. “That has to be the consistent message over time.”
An unwavering truth Nackord feels compelled to dispense is that traditional martial arts are not violent. Initially, the goal is the external control of an opponent. Then comes the physical and emotional well-being of one’s self.
Lewis’ biggest gripe with extreme fighting involves the behavior of a handful. “I resent it—it’s insulting,” he says. “I’ve been a black belt for 45 years, and it’s ruining the image I’ve worked to create. I’d like to kick someone’s butt over it, to be honest. I have one message to these thugs: Clean up your act. You’ve made a mess of our art. It’s an insulting interpretation of a sport I’ve spent a career trying to dignify.”
Under the Nackord system, internal Eastern philosophies flourish. One, “The Way of Three,” stresses health, harmony and haven. Exercises focus on breathing, stretching the body, strengthening the joints and spine (“where all energy comes from”), and calming the mind. His teaching describes the evolution of movement through another three-part system he calls MotionScience. The first level describes form; the second gives the form movement and effectiveness; the third level teaches strategies.
“The weakest link is the footwork,” Nackord says. “With any of this, if it’s taught right, there’s a progression. What I teach is a system, not a style. Plus, it takes a coach who can look at each person and say, ‘This is where you are in your development.’”
His entire program is designed for self-development and enlightenment, for learning to protect oneself from stress and unhealthy habits, and not necessarily for guarding oneself against a physical attack. “If that happens once in a lifetime, it’s a lot,” he says. “In daily life, though, you have to deal with imbalances and learn how to better protect yourself against them.”
Of the two philosophies, Eastern stipulates that we’re from the earth, so there’s confidence in our ability to be healthy and to innately move in a positive direction. The body wants to be healthy, so how do we promote that? “Western says we were put on earth, so we’re alien to the earth, and so we have to constantly defend what could happen,” Nackord says. “Medicine tries to control all that.”
Nackord is a follower of Taoism, particularly with regard to the concept of duality. “You can’t have good without the bad,” he says. “Even when something horrible happens, there’s something good in it—even if you just don’t see it.”
All Nackord Karate System classes are taught by high-ranking adult black belts. With 250 students, Nackord has a 20-year manager in John Von Cleve, and 10 instructors teach as part of their own training. Sixty percent of his clients are adults, some in their 70s. A quarter are women. He offers a corporate training program in which participants learn centuries-old wellness routines proven to fortify the body, plus fundamental martial arts techniques to build character and hone self-defense skills.
“If I teach you not to keep your head down a center line, but to always keep it moving, that’s going to apply in a courtroom, too,” Nackord says. “When we teach principles, they can be applied in other arenas. I love to hear from former students who, decades later, took the skills to the boardroom.”
Most karate schools enroll about 90 percent children. And while NKS does offer classes for kids, Nackord has always attracted a more mature audience. At one time, when parents signed up their children, he offered free lessons for the adults. Now, like a well-run law firm, Nackord’s instructors bring in their own business year after year.
“Many of my guys could run their own school,” says Nackord. “We have a deep bench, and I like that we’ve created a community of martial arts.”