Friday, May 27, 2016

The Wheel Turns On Chinto Memories

It is said that time is a river flowing to the ocean, and at other times that time is a circle that repeats itself. I find both statements have truth to them.


I also like the definition of Isshin as the term “Concentration”.


Last evening all of those statements became clear to me.


It was an Ending


It was my next to last class, I was working with Andrea, a new junior black belt of my tradition.  As a parting gift, in part, I was showing her the opening of Chinto kata. It will be some time before she is shown the rest and I won’t be the one teaching her. But after class it brought back memories of when I was shown that same section.


When I was a student I have memories of a brown belt doing Chinto between to bo placed on the floor to symbolize a bridge.


Then it was August just before I was moving to Scranton Pa because of a new job. Lewis Sensei had just promoted me to green belt, and that last night he showed me the opening of Chinto kata. It was of course bittersweet for I was moving away. In Scranton there was no Isshinryu. I kept up my practice, but to train with people I joined Frank Trojanowicz’s Tang Soo So Moo Duk Kwan program and began that study.


When I got Chinto


The next summer I had a weeks vacation, and we returned to Salisbury for I was on a mission. I visited Salisbury and told Sensei I wanted to study more Chinto. So he showed me some more. The next night I visited another of the IKC clubs and there I studied some more. Then I visited Reese Rigby’s school in Dover and got another section. The following night I went back to Salisbury for the next class, and Sensei showed me the rest. Some how in those 4 days I learned Chinto.


Returning to Scranton, I returned to the Tang Soo study, but continued my own practice of Isshinryu, now including Chinto. That Labor Day I had a phone call from Charlie Murray. It was that he took a church nearby. Not giving him an option I started studying Isshinryu with him. His own version of Chinto was slightly different from the one I studied. He told me to remain the versions I studied in Salisbury, and just learn his versions for the kata that were to follow.


Then I made Black Belt and Charles returned to the USAF. My practice was on my own. I began to teach youth at the Boys Club in  Scranton. 2 of them, Roy Blackwell and Michael Toomey, made their own Black Belt ratings. But again after 5 years I had to move for work and that program ended.


Up the Hill, Down the Hill and Over the Bridge


Chinto did become a more interesting practice. The Club would close in the summers, but classes did not stop. I held them at nearby McDade park. There were hills, a bridge over a culvert and plenty of other space to train. We would do Chinto on the hills. Going  up and down the hill. It gave a lot of insight to how you could train the kata.


But the most interesting highlight of the park was the bridge that they had over a culvert (which was dry). It was about 6’ wide and provided a great place to practice Chinto. No one was in danger of falling off that bridge, but we used the practice to try and remain on the centerline of the bridge. In part a tribute to the bridge history of Chinto kata.


Relocating to Derry, almost immediately I began the program in the Derry Boys and Girls Club. Shortly thereafter I also began an adult program there. After awhile I was again teaching Chinto Kata.

The guys did Chinto Kata very quickly, It was as if Chinto was an energy pump, allowing you to go faster and faster. Then when I would admonish their speed, I would join in the practice, and it would go even faster. It was work to get everyone, myself included to slow down.

Here is the earliest record I have of the brown belt performance of Chinto, Young Lee from 1990

I also had the brown belts do Chinto in opposing directions. This was not for performance, but to engage their sight and hearing in their practice.


          . The Eyes Must See All Sides

          . The Ear Must Hear in All Directions

From 1989

This is where Chinto was at the newer 2nd dan Black Belt level in 1992

Now there are other versions of Chinto kata in other styles. Where Isshinryu’s version is descended from the Kyan Chotoke kata, and is done on a 45 degree angle, other styles go straight for their embusen of the form, and there is a Tomari version that goes side to side. But pretty much they have most of the same movements.


Chinto between the Walls


I found for many students that the 45 degree angle made it more difficult to learn the form. What I did was have them face off in the beginning on a 45 degree angle for the rei, and then to do the form straight between the school walls, better to allow them for their alignment of the kata. Then after they had some proficiency they would do the form normally. It has proven to be a successful way to teach the form.




I imagine I saw this in Salisbury, but performing Chinto while blindfolded is a good way to help the student understand the kata. I have even placed two bo on the floor for the performance of the kata, to help them remain in the center while they are doing the form.


Even Chinto between the Blueberries


In the summers, we turned to my back yard for the adult classes. Several unique training methods developed in time.


Outside I had a narrow path between some tall bushes. I used that space to work another story about Chinto Kata. That it represented a combat taking place on a narrow path. The pathway was not quite 2 feet wide.

I would have them attempt the form and they would end up in the bushes unable to complete the form.


Then I would do the form and stay in the middle of the path for the most part. There was one section where you are slightly off the center but the next turn returns you there.


Then I would ask them where I was different so I remained working the center line. I was making continual foot placement adjustments to do it there.


We also did Chinto Kata back in the area my hundred blueberry bushes would grow. Doing the kata between the lines of those bushes on most uneven ground also had lessons for everyone. Foremost understand the ground on which you are working the kata.


The Turns in Chinto Kata


The continual stance adjustments also started me thinking about what they meant. That taught me a great deal about doing the kata within a confined space. And, it lead to other discoveries.


The one thing that is most different about Chinto kata, in all its versions, are the continual use of turns in the form.Then doing the kata in a confined path to remain in the center so as not to be forced from the path, made me think about those turns even more.


I became convinced that the act of turning in Chinto kata, was also an application movement study that I followed. The performance in the tight space was a great tool to become more efficient at those turns.


Even discovery about Chinto when doing Tai Chi


One day at my Tai Chi group (we met for 18 years) an idea occurred to me about a Chinto application. We met on my driveway for the class all year long, from -20 to +115 as it was. I am sure being near that path I practiced Chinto on had something to do with it.


A new use for me of the opening of Chinto kata occurred to me. I grabbed John Dinger after the class and asked him to attack me, for I wanted to work on something. I told him I was going to do this in slow motion.


So he stepped in with a slow punch. I did the section of Chinto kata, and before I knew what had happened I knocked him out in slow motion. I helped him get up off the ground and apologized. I did not understand what had happened. So I requested he attack me again and I would go slower. Again I put him down and I did not understand why.

No, it was not that pressure point nonsense. Sherman Harrill had successfully proven to me the entire body is a pressure point to the well trained.


The long range practice of Chinto bears fruit 10, 20 and 30 years later.


Having students still training after 30 years, I continue to learn what long term practice offers the adept of Isshinryu. It is not as simple as just one level of performance. Seeing them progress in the kata year after year is enough of a reward.


Then several decades later we have Young Lee along and Rabiah doing Chinto


So the circle goes around again.


I learned the first movement of Chinto and I have taught the first movement of Chinto a final time.


Time for another road.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Self-Defense Techniques of Shaolin Red Fist

Self-Defense Techniques of Shaolin Red Fist (Part II) by Gene Ching (Xing Long).

Kung Fu magazine 2002 April, page 108-109


 Form vs. Function

When form and application is placed side by side, we clearly see how the fighting applications differ from the form. In combat, the stances are not nearly as wide as in the form, and  the hand positions vary. Even so the spirit of the movement is the same. This is the secret to unlocking forms – they are not to be taken literally. Forms are like sutra’s teaching the way of right action. Application is the action. Knowing the right action and doing the right action is connected, yet not the same.  Consequently practical teachings must be malleable, subject to individual interpretation, to fit any situation.


On a deeper level, forms practice serves a higher purpose beyond just self defense. While on the outside forms teach you how to fight, on the inside forms teach you how to harness your vital essence, your qi. Qi ‘by nature, is very difficult to explain how this process works. This requires some faith.


You cannot begin to penetrate Shaolin kungfu without awareness of fighting applications.  Even if you are practicing for qi cultivation alone, sine Saholin is a martial art, its qi always reflects combat applications.  Therefore, knowing the fighting methods is critical to understanding where to channel your qi.


 Fa├žade vs. Fighting

Interpreting forms into fighting hits even greater challenges with “hidden” movements. Occasionally, kung fu will hide its techniques within the forms. In this way, certain techniques could be kept secret from prying eyes, …  Although external position is changed, the hidden intention is preserved within the mind of the practitioner. 


A basis example is the palm strike. In forms, the heel of the palm is external focus point.  The fingertips are pulled back, creating a powerful isometric in the forearm that presses power deeper into the palms. But in application, the focal point can shift from a palm push to the collar-bone into a finger jab to the throat.



A study in Chinto

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Thoughts on Miyagi and Rank

I just ran across something Gary Gablehouse posted some time ago, a quote by Miyagi Chojun, Sensei on Martial Arts Titles.

"I believe that when Dan ranks are awarded in karate, it will inevitably lead to trouble. The ranking system will lead to discrimination within Karate, and karateka will be judged by their rank and not their character. It will create inferior and superior strata within the Karate community, and lead to discrimination between people."

Which is even more interesting when you think about what Miyagi Chojun did to move the study of karate forward.

 He studied and shared within the Okinawan martial arts community. He traveled to China to try and understand the Chinese Martial Arts, he was an innovator for his own style of karate training. He worked to gain recognition of the Okinawan Martial Arts in Japan, receiving recognition

From the Japanese Martial Establishment for his efforts and he observed first hand how the use of rank was working within Japan.

 I recall reading how Funakoshi Ginchin remarked how many with rank were coming forward at martial events. Individuals he had never heard of. I think it was within such context that Miyagi’s opinions were framed.

 On Okinawa, at that time, you were just an instructor, or a student or adept training. Rank was not unknown on Okinawa. Rank was a social function. Most or all of the karate-ka in the 1800’s were from noble families, it was something done with the structure of that society, Even when it was proposed for the schools I expect most of the students were from that stratus of society. Your family rank or status did not change because of your karate.

 Then when the export began into Japan, the structure was applied to be more Japanese in nature. After all I was for the University system that the art was taught, and there the structure of rank made it seem more like what individuals knew.

The idea must have appealed to many Okinawa’s as Miyagi had requests to grant rank to students. However he declined to do this with karate.

 When he died soon after the War, one of the first actions by his students was to ignore his suggestions and adopt rank.

 Now the tradition was when you became the instructor, as there were no rules written, you had the authority to make your own decisions. So changing to having rank in karate was not incorrect, just different.

 But is Miyagi’s suggestion was followed, how might the shape of karate be different today.

I just happened to run across this quote by the late Don Draeger in H.E. Davey’s book “Unlocking the Secrets of Aiki-jujutsu”. (which has a great deal to say about the Japanese martial arts.). Don Draeger was renowned as an authority on the martial arts of Japan.


As it happens it was sheer happenstance that I ran across that quote by Don Draeger. But I am not going to let chance stop me from using it.

It does seem consistent that Miyagi knew what the contemporary Japanese martial establishment was saying about the kyu-dan business developing within Japan. And that gave him reason not to go along with it. Also as he was from a family of distinction, it is reasonable to assume he didn’t find value in changing things.

That others didn’t see things his way also seems to be that they were concerned that the Japanese mainland was going that way and they felt that it would make sense to do it.

Of course speculation on my part.

The use of Kyu did IMO prove successful. It was a useful tool to develop beginners.

As for the rest, I recall Funakoshi started promoting people with one year training, back in the beginning of his time in Japan. Then things changed, I imaging to fit the then current Japanese University structure and then grew into what is today.

Setting that aside, the Okinawan must have been impressed at some level with what it showed.



Friday, May 20, 2016

The Last Gasps

Back at the beginning

My time as an instructor is drawing to a close. Only a few short classes to go. I have done my best to pass my system of training on to my senior students. They are instructors themselves and have placed their own stamp onto the program, and of course will continue to do so.


Not that I have been taking it easy for I put just as much effort into my adult classes as ever, documenting the lessons too.


Our Isshinryu is grounded in what I studied with Tom Lewis Sensei and Charles Murray Sensei. Some of the other studies I made are also subsidiary studies in the program.


I will continue my research into the origins of karate, and many other topics.  I continue to remain a karate-ka and train daily.


I have created a blog for my students, which share some of my research should any future student find it useful. Some of our studies are saved on YouTube. Some open, some just for them. I have done my best to pass along what I have seen to them.


I remember some verse I wrote long ago:


I’ve been the beginner learning my right foot from my left.
I’ve been the student learning the tools of my craft.
I’ve been the practitioner increasing the scope of my skills.
I’ve been the adept taking responsibility for the breadth of my art.
I’ve been the instructor.

I guide the beginner.
I focus the student.
I encourage the practitioner.
I explore with the adept.
I draw out the instructor.

My vision is without bounds.
My abilities are less.
History but one tool in my arsenal.
My studies have been vast, but my grasp of the circle is small.

I’ve found friendship and betrayal, joy and sorrow and loneliness.
And the utter certainty that I cannot pass my entire vision along.
None can walk my way, and their efforts are driven by their own needs.
Especially as I cannot take their freedom but can point the way.

I remain the beginner as my body must be faced anew each day.
I remain the student learning the tools of my craft.
I remain the practitioner seeking to increase the scope of my skills .
I remain the adept trying to hold the sea in my arms.
I am the instructor.
I am senior.

Perhaps I’ll be like Prufrock.
“I grow Old, I grow Old,
Shall I wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled?”


Some how that pretty much sums it up.


 And as it turns out perhaps I will roll up those trousers.


I as a new black belt, with my first black gi

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Power of Aikido

In1960 Lancer Books published Thomas Makiyama’s book, “The Power of Aikido”.  Other books published by Lancer were ‘Combat Judo’ The Kashi-No-Bo (Stick Fighting) Technique’ and Super Karate Made Easy. Each of which was a paperback book. This was a time before there was much public awareness of Oriental Martial Arts.


Listing the Chapters shows the depth of this publication


          An introduction to Aikido

          A brief history of Aikido

          An Explanation of the word “Ki
          Aikido for Women

          1 Proper Posture and Stance for Aikido

          2 Special Aikido Forms Concerning Co-oridination and Balance Exercises

3 Special Aikido Forms Concerning Standing and Conditioning Exercises

4 Executing an Inverted “V” Wrist Elbow Lock Combination Throw

5 Methods for Defense against Blows from Overhands

6 Methods of Defense against an Opponent who holds one of his hands to grip or hold onto only one of your wrists

7 Methods of Defense against an Opponent who employs both hands to grab one of your wrists

8 Methods of Defense against an Opponent who holds you by gripping one lapel, or similar holds

9 Methods of Defense against an Opponent who grips your lapel with both hands or similar holds

10 Defense methods against punches to the body

11 Examples of Defense Methods against Various Tactics and Forms of Striking and Grasping

12 Methods and Examples of Defenses against an opponent who attacks with a club or knife


This has to be one of the earliest works in America describing Aikido. It is a good book, even more surprising for the time in which it was published.


Thomas H. Makiyama (1928–2005), born in Hawaii, was an aikido teacher and founder of Keijutsukai Aikido and the Keijutsukai International Federation (Keijutsukai Kokusai Renmei), based in Tokyo. The organization teaches Keijutsukai Aikido and Keijutsu (a specialized method of defensive tactics for law enforcement personnel).

Thoughts on training the young

In many senses I have been a pioneer for training youth. This is a general observation from those times not specific toward any particular style.

When I began many program taught kids, but they were mixed into adult classes. Often they were the children or siblings of the instructors. Many times they learned karate at a very skilled level.

But generally most of the instructors I knew thought I was daft. Real karate was something you did with adults.

I remember visiting some programs that had youth programs, and the instructor let them run around playing, actually functioning as a baby sitter.

All I had was the Isshinryu I had studied, and all I did was teach karate, not play. My wife was a physical education teacher, and she taught me a great deal about understanding the pace of instruction for youth. The ages were between 7 and 21, all working together. Which coincided with the ages for membership in the Boys Club and Boys and Girls Club.

And as in every dojo I have known, students passed through the program, many not staying. Just a handful making the Black Belt. The average time for the young was 7 to 9 years, and then they left town to get on with life as young adults do.

Of course the longer I taught the more I wanted to have those who trained that distance to become qualified. I also wanted to make the program have more meaning for the rest of the students, the short timers.


Age is not a restriction to learning, nor are any other factors, in time everyone gets better, in time. That is different for different people. Many of them who have the most difficulty in the beginning become the better students over time.

Often hearing I will have trouble with ‘that’ one, I simply pay no attention to that, and just teach, Being at the Club has an advantage, I do not have to punish them. If a handful of pushups doesn’t settle them down, we just dismiss them from the class, and send them downstairs, to play or whatever. No one has the right to disrupt others who are training. And this happens extremely rarely, as they know we will do this.

As I am focused on their becoming skilled in the next 7 to 9 years, there is plenty of time to get them perfect. Less than skilled performance at earlier ranks is not the purpose of training. By the time they are preparing for their Sho Dan examination, we have addressed their earlier imperfections.

Now times have changed. Many schools are using the income for teaching the young as their primary income flow. There are very few programs which have remained adult only programs. Many schools also have ‘kinder kids’ programs, of differing sorts. Programs that are not karate. Change is the world.

What has not changed is that entering a martial arts program is often a one time and out event. I have seen very few of those who chose to stop training ever successfully return to training.

I am not referring to those who have to stop for medical reasons, or events outside of their control. But for most people (and regardless of age) when they chose to set training aside, they have chosen to do that forever. There are reasons for that, but that is not what I am addressing now.

On the whole, students who remain a month tend to stay 2 or 3 years.

I became more interested in having that experience be something that could be useful to them. And in doing this I was just going to use karate instruction as designed to teach them something of value.

What karate means to me as that we accept that our own efforts give us additional abilities. Ones we did not have before we began training.

Each student learns themselves that their efforts affect their ability. They see new students starting and they can do things the new student can’t do. They learn how their choices to learn increase their ability. Then we do reference this is not true just in karate, but in everything they learn Linking it back to their studies in school, for one thing.

But they are also learning how to make decisions. That to is part of what karate training makes one do. Decide to continue to train and learn new things. And in time, most will find something else is more important to them. Then they learn choices also have a consequence.

 So when they choose to move away from karate training, that is also a choice that they make. All life is making choices. Being able to choose what is necessary for yourself is an important part of growing up. That their training helps them make such a choice, is something to be proud of.  Regardless of what stage they make the decision.

To me, this the most important lesson you can share with them. Of course when most make the choice, they could have gone on to be credible students. It is not for my satisfaction they should make their choice. But for their needs.

When I was a boy, many adults ran programs for the young around town. Summer Park programs, Youth fellowship programs, Youth center programs, choirs, little league and etc. They were not for themselves but for the greater good of the youth of the town. I realized that what I was doing was for much the same reason.

No I do not consider what youth (or beginners of any age) doing karate, rather preparing to learn karate, which by the time they reach Sho Dan.

That does not mean they are not learning real karate, for they are. Rather until they have prepared their body and mind for it. They are in formative stages.

 While I do like karate, it is not the only to train the young.

And I often think that people do not realize the instructor is not the most important person in a youths life. First are the parents. Their getting them to class, and picking them up after class are more important. That they are spending time with their kids, has a far greater influence on them in the long run.

IMO parents, school teachers, ministers all have far greater importance in the long run.

Of course part of my program is to move forward in my own Isshinryu. Those that participate in that are on a different track.

Time has also brought about another change. Parents often see karate is an activity for their kids. I have had mothers and fathers approach me about their kids as young as 3 an 4, who are interested in them training.

 At that time I suggested dance class. The parents looked terrified.

But here is my logic.

 Karate tends to be a one shot experience for most people. If they start younger there is less chance they will continue with it. Then the experience is past.

On the other hand I am convinced there are other activities that offer more for the young.  Those who share other activities, have influence in that activity and share an impact in time, but are hardly the only influence in kids lives.

When my son was young (5) we enrolled him in dance class along with his sister (4). Dance is great movement education for the young. When I was young I too was in dance class for a few years. Finding the best movement education for the young means more in the long run.

Another superior activity for the young is youth soccer. Everyone is getting stronger by running. Swimming and pre-gymnastice also come to mind for the complete body workout they provide.

IMO, there is no right age to begin, Of course as a rule students tend to learn faster if they are around 11, but I have seen plenty of exceptions to that too. As karate tends to be a one shot experience, and I do like karate for youth, having them begin older makes them appreciate what they are learning IMO more.

A more complex idea than many think of, instruction of the young, and also real karate.