Friday, May 24, 2019

One perspective on tournaments

I have never been a tournament school for the kids I taught.


But I did see value in some exposure to what others were doing.


When in Scraton after observing how young competitors were lost at being able to be seen admist the larger adults I sponsored 3 youth only tournaments, and had solid attendance from competitors across the state. As I really did not take the youth I was training to tournaments I would spend 3 months to prepare them for competition. To know how they should act, to hone their skills and to allow them to be prepared. They all had fun, everyone who attended. Some won. Some lost. There were even divisions where my students didn’t compete because those areas were not taught in my program.


After the first tournament a group of parents approached me why their kids were not entered in the weapons kata division. I explained to them for a 2 night a week program, there were things I did not feel appropriate for young people to study. I never believed in child weight weapons and maintained that young people simply were not old enough, strong enough for kobudo study. Of course they were always free to join another program that offered such training. Perhaps that I was teaching for free and offering a tournament for $5.00 a competitor made them consider I might know what I was talking about.


When I moved to New Hampshire I was less interested in tournaments for my students, still we attended several one a year. Then one year a student, a yellow belt, won his kata division at such a tournament. Then beause he won he wanted to be promoted to blue belt. I had always explained that tournaments were not part of the class program. And truthfully he was not ready for promotion as he still had more to learn to qualify as a blue belt. My standards did not change in any case, they remained consistent.


Long story short, he discontinued training.


Now students come and go at their own desire. When it is time for them to move on that is what they do, and never has anyone discussed with me why they made that choice. I never expected otherwise. But I am sure his not gaining a promotion after that win had something to do with his decision.


Several years later I came to the decision to discontinue tournament attendance for my students. I moved the program into other possibilities. There are infinite ways to study karate after-all. And I certainly had more than enough to keep them busy. If fact no longer going to tournaments made no difference in my student population.


I never forbade them or their parents choosing to go to tournaments. That of course was their business. It just never came up in class.


 So many students start, most aboue 2 or 3 years into their training, then other things in their lives become more important to them. Of course that is what is right for them. We always want to encourage youth to learn how to make choices. Most of them choose not to spend the 7 to 9 years to shodan. And of course those that do so, still will leave as adults they don’t choose often to spend their futures in their home towns.


One time I had 3 brothers that all received brown belts (which happened a few times). One pushed forward eventually reaching black belt. The others choose to move on to other things (and that has happened more than a few times too. Then the brother who reached shodan left to go to college and later into the Navy.


But years later one of the brothers who left as a brown belt came to visit me. He was the only one of all my students who chose to move on, who ever did that.


And he took the time to thank me for spending my time for him.


That was the only thanks I have ever gotten. That was more than enough.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

At the beginning of School Karate Gymnastics


The year is 1904, and whatever Japan proper thought of Okinawans, Japan was an ordered society.

Okinawan schools, as a part of the Japanese school system, were controlled by the Japanese Misistry of Education. Local autonomy by the local school boards was not an option. , the martial arts were deemed inappropriate to teach in the school's Department of Education over twice, "the Gymnastics Report" (1884), "The School Hygiene Advisory Council Report" (1896). At that time, the Ministry of Education regarded the martial arts inferior from the physiological viewpoint compared with the gymnastics by irrational.  A part of the "Ordinance for enforcement of the Junior high School Decree" was granted by the Ministry of Education Ordinance No. 26 of Meiji 44 (1911), "gymnastics ha bashing (the military practice) and gymnastics.


To get the new idea of public karate instruction into the Okinawan schools some slight of hand was employed.
There already was a full time instructor who taught the soldier type Gymnastics (later bashing) and the physical education.


A kind of military training was done by the flexible gymnastics of the military type gymnastics, and it was a type of the army in the normal school though it was a core. At that time, there seemed to be a problem of the re-employment of the sergeants after it discharged, and sending them who discharged it to each school and having done military training was a stone in respect of the re-employment of the rich country soldier and soldiers. (2) There was no place in the current proscribed curriculum for any thing like karate. The order of Tatrei, REI, preparatory gymnastics, basic operation (foot, reversal, thrust, kick), form exercise, assembly manual exercise, adjustment gymnastics, seat REI, dissolution, in the method learned in the former army Ministry teacher (2)


By 1905 Iteshima Yasuyasu was the advisor at the Okinawa Prefecture Normal School, apparently instrumental in developing the curriculum of what appears to have been karate gymnastics. The concerns of the local group that sponsored the idea were that many of the more martial practices would be removed, to make sure what was being offered would not be seen as other than promoting health and well being.


“Then, why was the (karate?) adopted? This is the author's guess. Perhaps Dr. Yasuhisa Itoshima, etc., would have contacted the Okinawa Prefectural Academic Affairs Section about the possibility of adopting the shoshu of the Tang hand. At that time, the Academic affairs section, "because there is a national policy, Tang is impossible to employ as a martial art, but it is possible as a gymnastics," I think there was an answer.


“This does not violate the policy of the Ministry of Education. There is a form to practice by one person named "type" Fortunately, and it is a kind of Deconstructo law act. If it is "gymnastics", it is possible to make excuses even if it is found in the country if it is strong. However, there is an excuse that it is not truly a martial art when there are a lot of attack techniques such as thrust kick. It is also difficult for students to be used to fight outside the school by promoting their struggle. If it becomes a newspaper, the head of the Student Affairs Section staff might fly.


“So, in accordance with the request of the Academic Affairs section, I think that Mr. Iteshima did the creation modification of Pinann and existing type so as to dilute the aggression as much as possible.

“If such a change was temporary, and the Chinese hand was formally adopted as a martial art, Mr. Iteshima might have intended to return it to the original type. The reason is that "it is not necessary to save as it is and to add the moist color" to "Itasu ten lesson" because there is a wording.

 “However, before the policy of the Ministry of Education changed, Mr. Iteshima lay on the sickbed, and died before long. On the other hand, it did not teach these types in the normal school after Mr. Iteshima was deceased because it was not interested in Pinann and the alteration type from the beginning. It might have been thought that it was likely to disappear naturally before long even if it left it. However, students who were taught the modified type from Mr. Iteshima, without knowing the circumstances that have been modified, and then spread the modified type, largely replaced by the existing type, the circumstances that have been altered before long I have forgotten.


So the original thoughts were what survived and other instructors carried forward, and likely made changes as well. New experiences would suggest changes to something that was so new an idea.


It time what was brought into the Okinawan Schools influenced other instructors. Karate came to be offered to the population of Okinawa. Some instructors adopted the Pinan kata to teach their new students.


But it was the fact the Okinawan’s pulled some wool over the Japanese Ministry of Educations eyes that made so much that followed possible.


In 1908, Itosu wrote the influential “Ten Precepts (Tode Jukun) of Karate,” to draw the attention of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of War in Japan, reaching beyond Okinawa to Japan.”(1)

I am indebted to these sites which I have used to draw information from for this article.

I take full responsibility for any incorrect assumptions
on my part.


Monday, May 20, 2019

The time when Karate was introduced into the Okinawan schools.

I have never seriously considered others opinions about my own research. And this means much to me as I taught youth karate from 1979 to 2016, close enough to 40 years. First off I am not an expert on this topic I am discussing. Several years ago I found a Japanese site posting on Motobu Ryu from Japan. And of course not speaking or reading Japanese, I worked out to use mechanical translate programs to gain some understanding of what was being discussed. Those translation program are not perfect but sufficient to gain me some understanding of what was being discussed. The translations are often filled with problems probably with wordage not common in everyday Japanese.

Several months ago they began to share articles about the time karate was introduced into the Okinawan Schools. Very specific articles about just that time. It was really new to me. Prior what we had was basically Itosu’s students introduced Karate instruction in the Okinawan schools and that the Pinan kata Itosu developed was a primary tool of that instruction. And perhaps there was a bit more. But everyone who talked, wrote or pontificated about those acts simply repeated the same material, ad infinitum.

This was something new to consider,  a very different look at what occurred, and I with to propose a précis I have put together summing up what those articles showed. Of  course I may be incorrect to, this is just as I see it.

First a brief comment about earlier Toide (my choice of a word to discuss those earlier pre-karate practices.

Toide was not meant to be a career teaching kids or folks.  Toide specifically was a series of practices taught to members of Okinawan society who needed that training in their life jobs. Then Japan took over control of Okinawa in the 1870’s and there was no longer a need for that training, except as a way to hold their societal class together. And apparently Toide still was taught within the members of that class, but it no longer was a function of their lives.

Itosu had an idea that a form of that training could be used to strengthen the youth of Okinawa. First as a form of gymnastics for use in the schools. And another reason to share it with the young was to promote health and strengthen them for possible military service. A added benefit was they would learn how to follow orders useful if they were drafted, so they would better prepared for military service.

It seems to me that the karate being taught in the schools was not taught for martial skills.  Let’s look at what Itosu wrote in his 10 precepts :”


“Practice each of the techniques of karate repeatedly, the use of which is passed by word of mouth. Learn the explanations well, and decide when and in what manner to apply them when needed. Enter, counter, release is the rule of releasing hand (torite). “



It does make sense. But clearly it makes the point that karate techniques and by extension the kata were just to first be trained. Later the instructor would choose to pass applications for the techniques ‘by word of muth”. The instructor’s judgment would come into play as to which applications were taught. Nothing implied everyone was taught the same, for many reasons I imagine.



It also defines torite as the rulos of releasing the hand.  “Enter, counter and release”.


 Having taught youth it would be reasonable to assume that the use of karate technique was not the purpose of the teachings in the schools. That would be the instructor’s decision when and if to teach that to any student. I would think that would not be a concern within the schools.


Assumptions on my part, of course, but I can defend my opinions.



Were their martial uses for the Pinan kata? Certainly and in the future those were or were no pursued by other people. Not necessarily what was originally taught in the schools.



Now I will get to my précis of the articles.


1.       I assume a quickie was pulled over the Japanese Ministry of Education to permit karate training, by using the name of karate gymnastics. At that time the Ministry of Education was not open to martial training in the schools. There was already military training of sorts taught by former soldiers from the Japanese Army.



2.       The instructor who developed the original curriculum and obtained the permission to teach karate gymnastics unfortunately died before much of his program was under way.What the evertnal karate in schools may have been is open to question.



“However, before the policy of the Ministry of Education changed, Mr. Iteshima lay on the sickbed, and died before long. On the other hand, it did not teach these types in the normal school after Mr. Iteshima was deceased because it was not interested in Pinann and the alteration type from the beginning. It might have been thought that it was likely to disappear naturally before long even if it left it. However, students who were taught the modified type from Mr. Iteshima, without knowing the circumstances that have been modified, and then spread the modified type, largely replaced by the existing type, the circumstances that have been altered before long I have forgotten.


“And, it was not left in the record the circumstances that it had been adopted by the Department as a gymnastics (Karate gymnastics) not as a martial art hand. The author had not read the document which made a convincing explanation up to now about the Karate gymnastics.



3.       The reason Naha Te was included at first was because there were concerns that it was too dangerous for young people to practice Sanchin.


“The opinion was expressed from the Academic affairs section each time, and the correction was requested. To give an example, there is a type of Chinese Kenpo called "Sanchin". It becomes the type of the rigid flow through "Naha hand" now. The first type of this "Sanchin" seemed to be in the list of the type of "Karate".


“However, there was a criticism of the one in the growth of the boyhood by the movement which squeezed the chest, and it was removed from the list.


“The above story was heard directly from author Cousin Tamaki Tomoyoshi (Tama Yu, 1890-1925, from Meiji 36 to 6 years in the Prefectural Junior High school).


“What is the point of the exercise that squeezes the breast of Sanchin? Sanchin at that time seems to be different from the current sanchin, but I feel a little doubt whether the academic Affairs Section staff made a professional judgment.


“Moreover, there is a theory that this was seen danger though Sanchin at that time was a hand. Although Mr. Higashionna seems to have resigned voluntarily to the members of the research group, he does not describe the reason.


By the way, the Naha hand also came to be taught at the school because it became a karate master of the Naha Commercial high School by Mr. Jun Miyagi. He also teaches karate at elementary School and Okinawa prefectural Daini Junior High School.

4.       We can know this about the karate gymnastics taught in the schools.



The local autonomy of the educational administration was hardly admitted before the war.   


It is said that "Sanchin" became a rejection according to the instruction of the Academic Affairs section.

Therefore, Mr. Higashionna resigned the member of the research group, and as a result, Naha hand was originally to deviate from the school karate.


Of course, the rule of attacking the eye and the gold is shown, too and "Thirteen" will leak from the selection. The type of the system of the Shuri hand, to crush technique to fist hammer.

The technique of the gold attack was changed to a high kick technique, and it was adjusted for the educational purpose.

Commands was also changed from "High, high......" To "1-2, 3......" "Hi, Hi......

The reason is to inform that the other party came. I think you'll know if you do, just follow the order and the attack came! The appearance might be the same in the one practiced in the commands ", but I think that the contents become a completely different movement" (Kinjo)

Seisan's rejection.

Modification of the type of Shuri hand.

To the fist Hammer, the gold attack technique to the high kick to the eye crushing technique

Below, it is a modified portion of the type of Shuri hand cited by Mr. Kinjo. The fist of the back fist of Naifanchi first stage was two hands for the eye crushing in old times.

Two stages and three steps are original idea of Itasu (Itosu).

The type of peace is the one that Iteshima original idea by referring to the type of patai and the public phase.

The technique of the handle has been altered to the hand sword receiving.

Passai (large and small) is modified for educational purposes, and the degree of "large" is greater.

Chinto  has not altered the type of the original tradition so much.

                54 step, the hand to the face is modified to the middle.


In addition, the upper part of the top of the four hands against the face to beat the upper hand sword, the lower kick is modified to the upper kick with a lot of momentum.



5.       We do have a press report on that original karate program. There was some criticism of the program too.


“School Karate and Criticism from Ryukyu Shinpo News Paper".

In January 1905, karate (Tang) was adopted as a an extracurricular to old system Junior high School in Okinawa prefecture.


Junior high School staff's Tang At the end of last year, the staff of the school had to start immediately to think about what should be taken to the Tang hand, and now the result is to be spared


An orderly explanation is necessary for us to the teacher, and it is satisfactory, too, and the reason for which it is sufficient after the skill is gained is to be invented by the staff, and I hope ("Ryukyu Shimpo" on February 5, 1905).


The article above is hard to read because it is an old Japanese, but the meaning is roughly following. At the end of last year (1904), the junior high school staff decided to adopt the Karate in class and started immediately. The only regrettable point is that there is a point which cannot be consented enough because an orderly explanation is scarce in the teacher now the result is good.


Perhaps, one month after the karate was adopted in the junior high school, there might have been some announcement meeting. A journalist was invited to the presentation meeting, and the class which taught the Tang Hand (karate) was visited. However, the only regrettable thing is that the teacher's teaching was not reasonable enough.


Or, the teacher was not able to explain a reasonable explanation to the journalist why the Chinese Hand (karate) was adopted at the school. The staff or the teacher might be a teacher of the Chomo Hanashiro of Hanashiro who was a gymnastics teacher at that time (karate), and Iteshima Yasushige (Anko Itosu) was a commission. At that time, the class of the physical education was called the gymnastics, and the Tang Hand (karate) was taught at the gymnastics hour. Naturally, the time to teach the gymnastics that the Ministry of Education has set is sharpened and the Tang Hand (karate) is taught. Is it really a merit? The explanation which was able to be consented about it was not enough.


At that time, the Ministry of Education had not admitted teaching the martial arts in the an extracurricular of the school as having seen up to now. Kendo and judo had not been taught in the mainland yet either. Okinawa was a dogmatic researched and taught the Tang (karate). It is a kind of de-constructabe act. What made this possible is the view of the Okinawa Prefectural Academic Affairs Section, "Karate is not a martial art but a physical exercise."


At that time, it might be for such a reason that the designation "Tang Hand (Karate) gymnastics" was born.


In order to adopt the karate in the school, Iteshima (Itosu) teacher set up a research group and promoted the gymnastics of the Chinese Hand (karate) while following the instruction of the Okinawa Prefecture Academic Affairs Division each time.


What he saw was the early pin-Ann that Itosu Sensei taught to Chomo Motobu. The question came out from the reporter, "is it too long and too complex for junior high school students?" and the Itosu teacher was able to have made the present pin-ann first stage by shaving the latter part from the early Pinang? Or, "It is dangerous for the junior high school student to see the Promise Assembly Hand (Yakusoku Kumite) that the Flower Castle (Hanshiro) teacher created.


Was it thought that gymnastics was safer? "




Personal note:


 This was Pinan Shoday the first kata taught in the Okinawan schools mentioned in the article.

This is the pinan shodan discussed.


6.       We might consider one technique the Age Uke from the Pinan kata and look how it changed from the original technique. More simply stated the original was probably done on one best (defense and attack simultaneous), and the new version was done on two beats (first defense followed by an attack.) This  was most likely in accordance with the safer design of the karate for gymnastic health purposes and not so much for martial effectiveness.

The author believes that this lateral response (Yoko Uke) is not a pure lateral response (Yoko Uke) but a "thrust (Tsuki Uke)" that serves as a jaw-butting. ….. Does that mean that the speed of the thrust is simply fast? It is likely to do the receiving and the thrust at the same time. Instead of dividing it in two beats, the defense and the attack are done in one time.

Iteshima (Itosu) teacher changed this passage to "raised (Age Uke)". And, Iteshima (Itosu) teacher increased the operation of the type of Pinang, and was closer to the gymnastics.


This is likely not a clear as it could be, for I included parts of my translation effort in the précis.

However I think it also gives us a lot to think about.

No doubt the program and then other programs changed over time. That they worked gave more incentive for the school boards to offer them too.

Then karate was introduced to Japan and the idea of a public karate took even more hold there with Funakishi and Mabuni establishing programs in the Universites there. I doubt they were credit programs, more extra curciular programs. But they established karate in Japan. Then there were other programs also established too.

On Okinawa karate became more open, instructors often choose to incorporate the kata being taught in the schools into their own programs. Perhaps some of their students studied in those schools. Perhaps their experience led them to believe they would be a good place for beginner to begin. Of course every instructor did not follow suit.

Still this gives much to think about when karate first entered the Okinawan schools.

My analysis on this issue came from my translations of the following articles:


Anko Itosu  

"Yabu Kentsu and Modernization of Karate".

The Educational Section of Okinawa Prefecture and Birth of Modern Karate".

"School Karate and Criticism from Ryukyu Shinpo News Paper".

"Age Uke of Pinan and Yoko Uke of Shirokuma".


I wish to thank the Motobu Ryu web site for sharing these articles. Of course any errors are my own fault.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

On obtaining a bit of my former martial effectiveness.


When my disability began  the hardest thing to deal with was my loss of so much of my former martial effectiveness. I was weaker, most unstable, unable to speak clearly all of which contributed to my frustrations. I still was able to make my applications have a bit of sting at the most intimate of ranges. But so much was no longer. Stances, kicking and much striking for power.


What hit me hardest was the inability to practice my tai chi. For I could still go through my kata abet with changes. But the stances, stepping and rolling head movements from my tai chi were too much to handle. It took a year but I worked out a method to partially recover my tai chi form. I changed stances far less, swayed through some movements instead of the stepping I was taught, but what I came up with was close enough for my practice.



The overall loss of martial effectiveness with everything was a very different matter.



I began to study how sting could be regained through the use of small hand held sticks. Acquiring different ways of striking that originally taught, then work, work, work, slowly over time experimenting with my own actions.



I now have gone far enough in my study to have a degree of confidence that I have regained some martial effectiveness.  It does not address my core instability, for I must continue to be careful in how I can move.


But I have confidence in my motions I have restored more that a bit of sting.


Today I used the two sticks with the first row of the Yang tai chi form, with the first row of the Yang tai chi sword form, and as I started karate with Seisan kata, I have worked up a double short stick version of Seisan. Then Sanchin and Naifanchi too.


Not today, but in the past I have worked out to use Seiunchin,Chinto, Kusanku and Sunsu.


I am very far from what I was, but making progress as to what I can be now.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Big Owie

The Chinese designation of that point 1/2 between the testea and the anus is an extremely sensitive area.
Tris Sutrisno a Shotokan/Tjimande instructor I was once assisting for a demo. struck me there from him being on the floor. A simple middle finger strike.
I learned a new definition of pain as well as learning how to fly.
The kick being shown is a toe strike to that same area.


Friday, May 10, 2019

A Study in personal Isshinryu time travel



I have written before on the advisability of keeping notebooks of what you experience in many different ways. Today I have a large box of them, too many in fact, and no convenient way to store the, So I have begun a project to review them one by one, and transcribe notes from them to be able to recall what I once experienced.


Not that I referred to them much but the task of keeping those notes the first time helped me retain them in my thoughts. They have so much material, material I have never had the time to share, but having undertaken those studies helped me shape my thoughts and my program a great deal.


This is what was in that first notebook, I picked it at random and it was most likely from the year 2000, which makes that about 20 years ago.


At a high level this is what it contained.


1.      Some notes on how Oyata Seryu viewed the use of kata technique.

2.      Notes Joe Swift and I made on the net about an analysis Chris Thomas made of a Seisan Kata bunkai. It got tech-y into which meridian points were struck in what order. I elected not to go the Meridian route, similar to the way Sherman Harrill didn’t do it either. But back then I spent some time looking at that.

3.      Demura Fumio application notes I made as what I saw interested me.

4.      My own analysis of how to improve Isshinryu power.

5.      A private memory Dr. Paul Harper made to me about an area to consider striking. He was both my dan student, and my physician and a surgeon.

6.      A section of 37 Wansu kata applications that Sherman Harrill shared at a clinic there 2 years before. Though later included in the Sherm-pedia I compiledm it is interesting seeing them again.

7.      That was the year I first met Jim Keenan, he came up to watch my tai chi program one Sunday morning. He was originally an Isshinryu student back in Pittsburgh in the 1960s, Later he studied many Chinese arts and in his work for the Department of Defense traveled the world as a Chinese and Japanese translator. He made interesting points after that class, and as he described them he would draw on the driveway in chalk. He even went into the Chinese meaning of Seisan.  I have photos of those notes which included drawings of what he described.

8.      There was a pretty extensive section of French translations I was making on French martial texts at that time, I did not include them in my notes.

9.      Finally I had notes of Sherman sharing his sai kata he designed.



And that was just one of my notebooks.

This exercise allows me to travel in time and see what I was looking at back then.