"One's True Heart Method"


The meaning: "one's true heart method, or school"

The concepts of devotion, honesty, and "one's true heart" are contained in the word "shisei". These concepts are precisely what we want to convey both in the method and in our teachings.

We want to find our "true hearts" through the forging process on the mat, connected with our training partners and perfecting ourselves. Shisei Ryu is a "path", not a destination; it focuses on the whole person, developing them over time - body - mind - spirit through self discovery.

"Shisei" is a universal word with the Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and Korean Hanja all identical.

Shisei, , also has another meaning; in Japanese, the word for attitude is also "Shisei" 姿勢, which is made up of two kanji meaning shape, forces. In other words, it is our attitudes, which shape the forces we come into contact, in our lives. At the foundation of proper attitude is the belief that you are guaranteed victory as long as you do not quit, however this belief must also be accompanied with the proper technique and understanding of a given method or ryu. The classic saying "nana korobi ya oki" or "fall seven times get up eight", represents this indomitable spirit or winning attitude. Attitude is a major aspect in success in all matters, as is having a "true heart".

As a student develops confidence through martial arts training, he or she begins to demonstrate this winning attitude and true heart in a variety of ways, including speech, posture and deeds both on and off of the mat. During the forging process, the body, mind and spirit find the "true heart" which is the "Shisei" described by two kanji with the word being universal in Japanese, Chinese and Korean. These two kanji are the one's used by this Ryu-ha.

A Ryū (, literally "flow", with the derived meaning of "mainstream", or ryūha 流派, literally "mainstream school (of thought), is a Japanese word referring to a school of thought in any discipline. In English, the word is frequently used to refer to schools of Japanese martial art, although it can also be found used in other disciplines. In the original Japanese, ryū and ryūha are synonymous, with ha (originally meaning "tributary") being a smaller division than ryū (originally meaning "body of water").


It is no coincidence that it took quite a while, about two years after I received approval, just to select a name for the method, as it had to describe my "expression", or what I was attempting to convey in the art and its syllabus of training. The name for the method had to describe exactly what the method was all about.

Concepts within the Shisei Kai "family crest" or Kamon

The style "family crest", or Kamon of Shisei Ryu , illustrates three aspects



Three aspects (fire-earth-water) merge into each other, yet are separate, each one blending and yet balanced within its own "portion" of the whole. The three aspects are enclosed by a black circle to denote the balance of these three aspects within the person and the method. This balance is essential to well rounded development and finding the path to "one's true heart".


Budo trains mind and body, which has a "spiritual effect" on the whole person. Budo seeks to better the person, not just their martial technique. Many martial arts do not train in budo, they emphasize technique and its application only, this is not budo, its a collection of techniques with an applied strategy. This is neither "good nor bad" its just not budo in the common understanding.

Budo teaches key concepts, attitudes or "mindsets"; Shoshin: (初心) Beginners Mind; Zanshin: (残心) Lingering Mind; Mushin: (無心) No Mind; Fudoshin: (不動心) Immovable Mind and Senshin: () Purified spirit; enlightened attitude. Contained within many budo systems are the Seven Virtues of the Samurai Courage, Rightfulness, Benevolence, Truthfulness, Courtesy, Loyalty  and Honor. Some forms of budo teach a different set of principles or ethos, but the themes are the same. True budo can be applied in life everyday, not just in a dojo. Budo forges the spirit and enables one to find their "true heart". Applying budo principles to daily life is a goal for those on that path.


Yuki = courage, valor, bravery

Jin = humanity, charity, benevolence

Gi = justice, righteousness, integrity

Rei = etiquette, courtesy, civility

Makoto = sincerity, honesty, reality

Chugi = loyalty, fidelity, devotion

Meiyo = honor, glory; reputation, dignity, prestige


The Shisei Ryu instruction method teaches the three aspects (fire-earth-water) while taking great care not to "water down" either. We understand the concept of Tokui waza or "favorite/best technique" as well as "purity in budo". This concept (purity) is not new and has been expressed by many originators of various methods, both Ryu and Ryu-ha. It is our belief that various forms of budo can be taught separately and then allowed to "surface" intuitively when applied in practical situations and randori, or free practice and in a real "situation". We integrate our technique base in a manner that allows a person to realize each facet of our method in an intuitive manner to enable responses which come from the core of the person versus using a "decision matrix" to "find" the proper action for a given situation. It is an established fact that a person knowing "many" techniques, will "default" to a few "favorite/best techniques" that are uniquely suited and fitted to that person due to body type, psychology, training and many other factors. This concept of Tokui Waza combines with a "Budo-mind", setting conditions for "Riai".

Ri-ai is the correct blending of these major elements of technique to produce a genuinely meaningful combative action (Don Draeger).

Riai - or intuitive integration of technique, occurs by applying principles and components such as: Sen (timing) in its three forms; ma-ai (combative engagement distance); tai-sabaki (preparing one's self to meet the attacker/partner), kuzushi (off-balance), tsutkuri (fitting), and kake (execution); fudoshin (imperturbable mind); zanshin (continuing awareness on completion of a technique); ishin (one mind) totally focused on the task ahead and aware moment by moment as a situation unfolds; mushin (no mind) when the rational mind steps back (or perhaps is suppressed) to allow the intuition to dominate the situation, making for simple, holistic and instantaneous responses without conscious analysis; kamae (correct body utilization) as well as many other elements. Riai is both simple and complex at the same time. Riai is something you can see and feel when it happens.


Two overarching concepts or principles of training and "climate" are; JITA-KYOEI - mutual welfare and benefit and SEIRYOKU-ZENYO best use of energy or maximum efficiency - minimum effort. These concepts transcend "art" and are universal in nature and are central to the instructional method and climate of the dojo.

All forms of budo should embrace these concepts, as they set "conditions" for both development and success.


Shisei Ryu strives to provide a "gateway" for the individual to find their own "true heart" in practice and application of budo, for their own needs and to better the art as well. A climate of creativity and "new-mindedness" is essential to finding this path. Part of this is to have a Shoshin: (初心) Beginners Mind, always wanting to learn. Shisei Ryu is a gateway, the Sensei is the gatekeeper. Students learn not but being drilled by endless repetition, but instead they learn by a shared mutual experience, between the older students and Sensei, and the younger student. We all "ride on the backs of our Sensei", meaning we learn from those who have preceded us in both life and budo.


Shisei Ryu has roots grounded predominately in three martial art methods; Orthodox Keichu-Do, Tomiki Ryu Aikido and Kodokan Judo as understood by this organization. The lineage of Shisei Ryu is solid and built on a hard earned foundation. The founding of this Ryu was "granted"; this is not a "rogue" martial art - it was approved by my Sensei after 19 years of study. I was a direct student of Marx Shihan and his uchi-deshi for a time, during the formative years of the art. I had more one-on-one time with Marx Sensei than the vast majority of his students and Sensei during this time period - personal time, his uke during demonstrations and time spent in the dojo.

In a letter (below) from Marx Shihan (Soke - Keichu Do) the authorization for my "own expression" - the founding of Shisei Ryu was granted in 1991. It took two years to formalize the art, set its requirements, kata (seitei gata) and philosophical concepts.

Shisei Ryu was brought into existence two years later in 1993.


Pictures during the early years of Shisei Ryu

21 March 1991 Letter

Personal instruction in other portions of this art such as Tomiki Ryu based Aikido was a direct 3rd generation lineage from its founder. Tomiki Sensei (founder of Tomiki Ryu Aikido) taught Geis Sensei (Fugakukai), who in turn taught Clark Sensei (Jiyushin Kai) who taught myself directly. I am not affiliated with these organizations, but previous association with Jiyushin Kai is a matter of record. Jiyushin Kai came into existence in the mid-1980s under the creative genius of Clark Shihan shortly (several years) after Geis Shihan founded Fugakukai in 1982.


Shisei Ryu is an American "Gendai" martial art, a modern form of martial art and makes no claims to being a "Koryu" (ancient system) of martial art. We are based on Japanese systems as well as Orthodox Keichu Do.

Read below to to get a better idea of the meanings (taken from Wikipedia)

Gendai budō (現代武道), meaning "modern martial way", is a Japanese expression that is used to define the modern Japanese martial arts.

Koryū (古流) is a Japanese word that is used in association with the ancient Japanese martial arts.  This word literally translates as "old school" or "traditional school".

Shisei Ryu makes absolutely no absurd claims to being the "best system" of martial arts, or budo on the planet, we make no claims of combative prowess or any other statements of dominance over any other methods. We also do not claim a false lineage to ancient arts. We are simply one of many expressions of budo that exist today.

Budō is a compound of the word bu (武:ぶ), meaning war or martial; and (道:どう), meaning path or way.

We are simply one of many modern expressions of Budo created by both practical necessity and a vision for training as we see the need to accomplish it. We do however practice solid budo with a focus on principles, theory and making the techniques work efficiently for all regardless of size and athletic ability. We do this in a spirit of mutual cooperation and benefit.

Shisei Ryu teaches principles which are proven to work in self defense situations, as well as those precepts which form the basis for an educational process with defined objectives. We support and do our very best to follow the instructional model set by both Jigoro Kano and Kenji Tomiki as well as other Sensei who have influenced this method over time.

We follow a defined syllabus of instruction with our own ryu (seitei gata) and kata (forms) with adherence to high technical and proficiency standards. We train hard and strive to continually learn and to create an "educational and improvement loop" within our overall budo experience. The Shisei Kai teaches its method via Kihon dosa (basic principles and applied theories) using sotai seitei gata renshu (prearranged and ryu standardized forms practiced by two people in a more controlled setting) and then the application of these basics in randori (free practice) and kumite (free fighting).

Shisei Ryu teaches and practices "solid martial arts", its that simple -- emphasizing kuzushi, tsukuri (fitting or entering) and kake (execution), proper body movement and posture, timing (sen-no-sen, go-no-sen, ate-no-sen), control of ma-ai, or distance and the relationships between these factors and variations on execution of techniques. Shisei Ryu can be explosive or yielding based on application of its core techniques.

With a focus on basic principles and applied theory we are able to translate this into intuitive self defense against common attacks encountered in a modern society.

More importantly, our path, teaches us to become better persons and citizens.

Our teaching methods are modern and based on sound educational models. We also embrace the pedagogy, or teaching methods of the four primary Gendai martial arts founders.


Morihei Ueshiba



Kenji Tomiki

Tomiki Ryu Aikido


Jigoro Kano


Gichin Funakoshi




Two individuals had rather significant effects on my own journey in budo and a great influence on my own expression of budo -- Karl W Marx Shihan, and Chuck E Clark Shihan.

Each founded, or originated very unique martial art systems, or formulated methods of teaching. The first was Keichu Do, which was originated/founded by Karl W. Marx Sr, Shihan. Karl Marx Shihan formulated what was recognized later as Keichu Do, during the early 1970s (some accounts of this may vary depending on the source, as there is much "lore" relating to the true history of this martial art). Keichu Do was founded as a unique self defense system, claiming to be uniquely American, which produced both solid competitors and a good "base martial art for self defense" in my opinion. The system of Keichu Do was later improved with a focus on teaching good principles and adhering to a consistent methods of instruction and a complete syllabus of instruction. Keichu Do evolved from Judo and common sense self defense and was no doubt influenced by the Marx Sensei's association with Judo, as well as some other influences which will be addressed later.

Chuck Clark - Shihan - Jiyushin Kai Aikibudo, is in my opinion, another martial arts maverick who improved on an interpretation of an art (Tomiki Ryu Aikido), through a new method of teaching it with a focus on "effect" by following basic principles. Some would say its a more "aggressive interpretation" of Tomiki Ryu Aikido. I personally feel its one of the most real manifestations of Tomiki Ryu based Aikido. Clark Shihan went much further in development of Uke-Tori concepts and relationships, as well as teaching a very robust form of randori. There are many facets to this method, but one aspect of note is the focus on timing (sen-no-sen, go-no-sen and ate-no-sen) and (maai) distancing relationships; also the unique method of teaching as a creative process is noteworthy. Chuck Clark Shihan and the Jiyushin Kai Aikibudo system is without a doubt, the one of the finest aikido systems I have come across in over 35 years of training in various forms of budo. Its origination was in the middle 1980s (about 1984), just after Karl Geis Sensei formed the Fugakukai Aikido organization in 1982. The reason for the split may have been philosophical more than political. Shisei Ryu is not associated with the Jiyushin Kai or the Fugakukai at this time, but we continue to teach to the best of our ability, what was transmitted in the past based on personal experience, interpretation and our own understanding.

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Above are myself (right) and the Keichu-Do Founder, Karl W. Marx, Sr. Soke - 10th Dan (left). This photo was taken at a promotion ceremony for 6th degree black belt at the USKA Grand National in New Orleans, La on 24 Jul 93.


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Pictured above are myself (right) and  Jiyushinkai Founder, Clark Hanshi, 8th Dan (left). This photo was taken after promotion to 4th degree black belt (Jiyushin Kai Aikibudo) at a Jiyushin Kai  seminar held at Enid, OK on 28 May 93.



Keichu-Do - My perspective

Soke Karl W. Marx was my first long-term Sensei starting in late 1972 after training in Chung Do Kwan for a few years previously. The art of Keichu-Do and his influences permeate a great deal of my own martial art, however Shisei Ryu selected a focus on more "coherent methods of instruction" based on proven educational processes and a lot less emphasis on martial arts as a venue for spreading religion.

Budo is no doubt a path to improve the person; however, Shisei Ryu Aiki Budo does not endorse any particular religion over another.

There is much "lore" associated with the "origins of Keichu Do" as it is known today. Keichu Do has also recently been the discussed in depth on wikipedia and on, but some of that "investigation" was tainted with personal overtones and possible prejudice due to a myopic focus on MMA as the only valid "martial art". Here is what I personally observed regarding Keichu, the only history with which I can personally agree with, due to direct observation; here is a synopsis -- Marx Sensei taught Judo in Alexandria, La in the late 1960s, at several locations.

Soke Marx has stated that Keichu was founded in 1960 at the Recreation Center in Crowley Louisiana.

The Keichu Do system is now in its fourth generation and certainly passes the traditional test for any Ryu, or Ryu-ha. Its unquestionably a legitimate martial art, despite any arguments to the contrary.

Keichu, "as a young martial art" had roots in early associations with USJA (see Figure 1 below, taken around 1969, note USJA patches) and its association with other entities such as Dr. Sacharnoski, who is the founder and current president of Juko-Kai International. Keichu Ryu, later Keichu Do, was no doubt effected by these ties. Marx Sensei also pulled on his boxing knowledge and what he terms as "Cajun Karate". Most likely, early Keichu was deeply effected by the Goshin Waza of Judo as well as Marx's personal experiences, gathered by study with other martial artists of the time, in collaboration; whatever the origins may have actually been (again, there are so many legends and lore, there is no coherent history), my focus is on facts, which can be supported by some visible proof.

Figure 1

Figure 2

 Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

  In Figure 2, you can see a young Marx Sensei, doing the early stages (taken in the late 1960s) of what later became known as the "Self Defense Kata of Keichu" (again perhaps influenced by Judo), Figure 3 shows the first Keichu manual used in the very early 1970s, this was required reading for all students and had the Gyo-kyo-no-waza of Judo, the Five Self Defense Kata and a few of the first "karate kata" of Keichu as a budding art,  in Figure 4 you can see a sample rank certificate with references to the art, its standards, etc for promotion, in Figure 5 you can see the early stated purpose of Keichu as a martial art. This was no doubt influenced by Marx's college studies at Louisiana College, in Pineville La, where the focus was on seminary for future Baptist Ministers. Figure 5 also shows the focuses of Keichu as a martial art -- Marx graduated in 1974 with a Bachelors Degree (BA) in Psychology, this course of study also affected Keichu's early development.

During this time (1970s) and the 1980s, Soke Karl W. Marx is credited with origination of the concepts "martial arts therapy" and "mental self defense" which he wrote about in several books he authored.

He also fostered his art as a "Therapeutic, Recreational and Rehabilitative process" during the late 1970s while working on his Master's Degree (MA) at Northwestern University at Nachitoches, La (1979). A Masters Degree is the highest academic degree earned by Marx Sensei at an accredited institution, despite what is written. Concepts of "martial arts therapy", "mental self defense" and Keichu as a "Therapeutic, Recreational and Rehabilitative process" have created some controversy, as some professionals do not agree with them, or find them hard to validate. Fact may be, he is correct in his thesis, but research at the time of his writing was more limited. He attempted to express in simple terms, concepts which had roots in older methods, or in research that existed at that time (the 1970s and 1980s); in some ways he succeeded and in others he failed. Many of his writings/concepts were misunderstood, or simply were not explained in a manner which would stand the scrutiny of "academia" or other martial arts subject matter experts. Many feel that he should have better edited his works and updated them at the later printings. Regardless of "scrutiny" the concepts Keichu Do teaches are in my mind, "revolutionary" in their time and context and were not simply a "rehash" of older ideas.

Marx Sensei wanted to create an art which "fused" modern psychological concepts, Judeo-Christianity, martial arts and self defense - this was a pretty novel focus considering most folks were pondering "safety gear" as a the real innovation during the early 1970s. The risk of such a path was great during this time of orthodoxy.

Marx Shihan started the Keichu-Do system in the early 1960's, in Louisiana at a time when the martial arts "scene" was dominated by oriental instructors. I'm not truly sure of his personal motivations for "starting an art" but I can understand the need as some martial arts did not answer the needs of a modern society. At that time, both Korean and Japanese martial arts were exploding on the scene, but many had outdated self defense techniques. Marx wanted a "truly American" form of martial art. He fought many tough fights politically and as a teacher to get the Keichu-Do system "on the map". This was mainly accomplished via tournaments at local, state and national levels as well as dojo shiai. The Keichu Ryu system was "validated on the mat"- literally. Essentially, Keichu Do used tournaments as its proving ground for its kata and fighting methods and rose to some degree of notoriety, literally on the backs of the budding Sensei, who propelled this fledgling martial art into existence. Kata were literally generated between tournaments and then "validated" in contest, as were the fighting techniques of the new martial art - with great success I might add. These kata are just as valid as any other style.

Despite all the lore, the legend, the stories; facts show Marx Sensei, in my personal opinion, is one of a handful of America's first martial arts founders who attempted to create a truly unique American form of martial art based on the needs of a modern society.

The real fact is Keichu Do was created from "scratch" by trial and error, much like many other forms of martial arts that now are accepted as foundations for budo.

The Keichu-Do system is now used by many Sensei as a medium for teaching practical self defense and spreading the word of salvation through a unique form of martial arts instruction. Soke Marx is "winning souls for Jesus Christ" and providing the tools for mental and physical self defense.

I do not personally agree with utilizing a martial art for a ministry, but frankly all martial arts are teaching some sort of creed, ethos and set of principles. If Keichu Do desires to spread the "gospel" using martial arts as its venue, that is their own decision. I personally feel Keichu Do could have developed much differently if allowed during its formative years, but it has always been steeped in "Christian religious tradition". Again, this is neither bad, nor good, its just an observation.

Shisei Ryu heritage is intertwined with the old style Keichu Ryu as taught by Karl Marx - Shihan in the 1970s and 1980s, what some now call "Orthodox Keichu". I owe much to Keichu Do as an "influence".

My Personal Gratitude

I owe a great deal to these two men (Soke Marx and Shihan Clark). They have two distinctly different ways of elevating people to their true potential. Both master teachers, set in my mind, many methods for teaching and for transmitting budo to others. Though in some ways vastly different in experiences, perspectives and methods, there is a great amount to be learned from each. They are both part of my lineage. Next to my own father and step-father, they have provided the largest single positive influences on my life. Through their teachings and examples, I have learned what the journey to mastery of martial arts is all about. I only seek to emulate their examples and teach key concepts and tenets of their respective forms of budo.

Mark S Williams, Kyoshi (8th Dan) - a brother in budo

Another person that has had a profound effect on my martial arts experience is Mark Williams Kyoshi.  He was a Shodan (1st degree Black Belt) in Keichu-Ryu when I first started martial arts in Alexandria, La in the early 1970's.  He has served as a "big brother" throughout my martial arts life and has given me a great deal of mentorship. In my opinion,  Mark Williams Kyoshi (8th Dan) did more than any other single person to put the Keichu Ryu (now Keichu Do) system on the map. He was instrumental in development of the early kata.

His tournament record is unmatched by anyone in the Keichu system. He has an extensive Karate-Do background as well as a very high degree of understanding in tournament fighting. His self defense techniques are "explosive" when applied. His method/system teaches very solid, "hard budo". It would be very hard to find a better master teacher of Karate-Do in my opinion.

Williams Sensei has since began to study and teach authentic Shorin Ryu Karate-Do. Williams Sensei has recently received recognition at the 8th Dan level. Williams' system includes the authentic Matsumura Seito kata; however most of the self defense and punch defenses taught are the traditional Keichu/Shin Keichu techniques with some variations along with traditional bunkai of Shorin Ryu Karate-Do.

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Pictured above are Mark Williams (left) and myself at our 6th dan promotion at the USKA Grand Nationals in New Orleans, La. on 24 Jul 93. It was an honor to be promoted at the same time as Williams Kyoshi.

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There is a great deal more to the history of Shisei Ryu and its influences. There were many training venues over the years, during my travels in many countries. This is only a synopsis of the high points and those points which I think are relevant to someone wanting a basic idea of what Shisei Ryu is about.


12 Aug 2011

Ducote Sensei visits Soke Marx on his 75th Birthday

Soke Marx was Ducote Sensei's first Sensei in 1974.

26 JUN 10

Shisei Ryu Aikibudo Kai summer training seminar

promotion of shisei ryu aikibudo's 1st 6th dan

  (Right to Left) -- Julie Short, promoted to 3rd Dan, Mike Kimball promoted to 3rd Dan, Darel Chase, Kyoshi - ICAJF President), Gary W Ducote, Kyoshi - Kaiso, Jeffery Lane promoted to 6th Dan, Shihan, Dana Cowell 1st Dan, Daniel Speirs 1st Dan, Scott Doerr promoted to 1st Dan, far right

Shisei Ryu Aikibudo Kai, now operational under its standing rules


Jeff Lane Shihan (far right)

First 6th Dan promoted in Shisei Ryu Aikibudo

Black Belt # 08

(Lane Shihan was the 8th Black Belt to be promoted by Ducote Sensei in 1984)


Black Belt #38

Scott Doerr - Shodan Shisei Ryu Aikibudo - 26 Jun 10

Black Belt #37

Daniel Speirs - Shodan Shisei Ryu Aikibudo - 6 Jun 10


Black Belt #36

Dana Cowell (center) - Shodan Shisei Ryu Aiki Budo - 28 Dec 09

Black Belt #35

Chris Kenck - Shodan Shisei Ryu Aiki Budo - 8 Apr 09


14 JUN 2008

Ducote Sensei gives Gilliland Sensei (6th Dan Keichu Ryu) Karl Marx's original Black Belt 14 Jun 08. Gilliland Sensei has exclusive rights to the Keichu Ryu system in Louisiana.

Black Belt # 34

Michael Kimball - Major, US Army - Shodan Shisei Ryu Aiki Budo - 14 Jun 08


Ducote Sensei - 7th Dan Promotion

After an association with Scudieri Sensei (10th Dan - Hanshi) for about seven years; Ducote Sensei received promotion and recognition as 7th Dan in the San Sai Ryu Aiki Budo organization on 24 Mar 08. Ducote Sensei received his Kyoshi Menkyo (full instructor status) from the San Sai Ryu Aiki Budo organization. With a martial arts history starting in 1972, this milestone represents a great achievement and honor as a teacher of Budo for Ducote Sensei.

24 MARCH 2008


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