Monday, February 17, 2020

Illusion versus Reality

I was an Isshinryu stylist and in my early years I competed in tournaments in Maryland, Deleware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.


That more than anything made me aware of the existence of other styles of karate. However at tournaments you only saw what you saw. My major other source of information came from the various karate magazines I read. None of which are completely reliable sources of information (as I gradually came to learn).


I was interested in almost everything, which also included Goju because of Isshinryu links to that art. In those magazines I learned of the existence of the most advanced Goju form, Suparimpe. But I never saw that form (or many advanced Goju forms) at those tournaments. I got the impression those outside of Goju were not to see them? Correct of not, that is what I observed over those years.


But the existence of that form still reverberated in my existence. There was a Shorin Group that used a form Super Empi (truly), which seemed to be a jazzed up version of Empi (but I wondered of the name was also cashing in on the Goju name (not an impossible thought).


That was also the time period I was training with many people, and learning impossibly complex Chinese forms too. So I built a fantasy version of Suparimpe in my head. Not based on reality just supposition and perhaps a bit influenced at all those Chinese forms I was studying.


Don Warner came out with a self published book on Goju forms. I sent away for it, but it did not show Suparimpe and I set it aside. I trained a bit with the Goju instructor at Ithica College, Ed Savage, and he did show me a number of forms, through Shishochin, But our time together was limited, because of distance. It never went beyond that level.


A decade later Panther came out with a Morio Hiagonna series on Goju kata. I sent away and purchased the Suparimpe VHS tape.


When it came I finally saw Suparimpe for the first time. Of course I was nothing like I had imagined. No reason my imagining should have anything to do with reality.


It was what it was, nothing less, nothing more.


I learned a very real lesson, it is better, far better, to see for yourself what is real than to imagine what it might be.


Of course since that time I have seen the form innumerable times. After all with YouTube how could you not find so many versions.


Right after that time in the 1980’s there seemed to be an explosion of Goju material now available. Nothing hidden.


But perhaps the past was more interesting, when there was wonder at what was.


Sunday, February 16, 2020

Kusanku Sai with 3 Sai

When I learnt Kusanku Sai I was taught the form using 2 sai (when the thrown sai was performed you didn’t really throw the sai, rather retained it and then continued the form).


Years later I saw it performed at a tournament where the competitor placed a foam block on the floor and then did the form with 3 sai (the third sai tucked in his obi at his belt). Then when he came to the throw he actually threw the sai into the foam block, then reaching behind his back extracted the 3rd sai and continued the form.


While I observed that form I did not attempt to practice it that way. Of course after 30 years I was content with what I did). But it was interesting to see.


I realize most did not practice it this way as many did not have 3 sai, or a foam block for throwing it into. Most dojo would discourage throwing a sai into the floor.  When working out in my yard I did throw my sai into the ground to learn how that worked out.


I remember once mentioning this to Sherman Harrill and the way he explained that change made sense, so this is how I remember that discussion going.


“Originally the kata was practiced with that throw into the abdomen of an opponent (or rather toward where their abdomen would be), then the dojo became more crowded and the sai could not be thrown safely that way. Then the Kusanku Sai throw was changed to the floor.”


I can understand that, the stories that the sai throw was into the foot of the attacker to pin them to the ground I always considered a very strange use for the sai, even if you were carrying 3 sai. A throw is a high risk move which would not always work, and who wants to throw their weapon away. But throwing a sai into the body of an attacker is a sensible move.


So my question is how many practice Kusanku Sai with 3 sai?


Monday, February 10, 2020

One Moment in Time

One evening I went to a nearby town outside of Scranton, to train with friends in a Japanese style most of you have never heard of. The instructor ran two programs in the area, one at Marywood College and this other program.

I attended for the sweat workout with friends, not to really learn that system.

 The evening I recall he called for everyone to work in pairs. Then one person got atop the other person’s shoulders and the individual on the bottom was to work across the gym floor throwing front kicks. Then reaching the other side the people were to change places and the other person was to kick back across the store.

 I am not a small man (and never was), I drew the other large individual to sit on my shoulders to start then I began to throw front kicks across the floor.

Next we changed places and I was now on his shoulders, Sitting there I rode him as he did his front kicks.

As I remember it, it was very trying to kick down the floor with someone on my shoulders.

But it was more trying to sit atop him as he kicked himself. The entire time I was sure I was going to fall as I made him work to do it.

That was a one time experience. Never did it again anyplace else.

I guess it was the season.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The past mirrored my Boys and Girls Club Isshinryu program

I had not seen this photo in the past. However it closely mirrored the youth karate program I taught at the Scranton Boys Club and the Derry Boys and Girls Club.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

"Isshin: Writings on Martial Arts and Life" by Victor Smith - contents

When Jim Keenan created the book “Isshin” as a surprise for me, he took the time to select some of the over a thousand posts I had made, to represent my thoughts on many martial matters that I wrote on.

This is what he selected for the contents of the book:


Foreword by Tom Lewis

Foreword by Charles Murray

Foreword by Ernest Rothrock

Foreword by Joe Swift

Preface by Jim Keenan


Isshin definition

Isshinryu Karate Classic vs. Traditional Bushi No Te Isshinryu no Kobudo

Viewing Rank Thoughts on Old Style Karate Isshinryu

Standards On Being a Black Belt

Passion Being a Black Belt - Knowing When to Fold

 Lessons on the Road to Mastery Student

A Saturday Morning in New Hampshire

Some of the Underlying Principles Forging the Black Belt Is Karate Really About Testing?

Your First Time The Art of Conclusion

When a memory occurs what you may remember is a gift

The Value of a Karate Lesson

The Salisbury Years - part one

The Salisbury Tales - part two

The Salisbury Tales - part three

The Salisbury Tales - part four

The Salisbury Tales - part five

The Salisbury Tales - part six

The Salisbury Tales - part seven

Walking Karate Breaking a Memory in Three Pieces – Section One, t

he Salisbury Years Section Two - Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan training

Section Three - Youth Conclusion

Veni, Vidi, Vici Pleasant Isshinryu

Happy New Year 2014 Repetition Should Children be Black Belts...or more interestingly should anyone? T

he Art of Correction

The Art of Communicating Teaching Children –

the role of Bushi No Te Isshinryu For Friends Long Gone

An Instructor Thoughts on training the young Texture

The Instructor's Burden Structure of a program

Why I did not go commercial with my karate

Conversations with a Ghost

The Ghost Departs

The friendly Ghost!

Some thoughts on Ghost Techniques

Just a step back - the simplest of Ghost Techniques

If you don't write it down it didn't happen

Kotekitae an art to Isshinryu Body Pounding

My Isshinryu and Weapons Study Attending a martial clinic - the student's options

Brown Belt-itis

On Power

The Applications Unlimited Toolbox

The theories behind blocks Kata a Lifetime Study Forearm Strikes etc.

The Fluid Movement of Kata

The Value of Keeping Notes on Training

On the uses of PAIN

Bushi No Te and the Knee Strike

What ever happened to Mae Geri?

The Art of Kata Beyond Technique

Environmental Karate Training

Notes on Close Range Combat Before it was called Cross-training

Breathing to Slow Down

The Sai's of It

Breathing Patterns Time

Kata Study for Life, a personal journey

Sanchin Boogie


How many forms are enough?

The Wheel Turns On Chinto Memories

Karate and Tai Chi - Part One

Tai Chi and Karate - Part Two

Hidden Moves

The Place of Training

One Step at a Time How

To Learn as a Black Belt seeing things one time

The Weakest Possible Technique

A Descent into Darkness Injuries, Illness, Disability and Aging Considerations

Diabetes, Cancer, Paraneoplastic Neuromyopathy & Neuropathy,

Falling and More Beep...Beep

I am disable but I still train

Extremes Kata Study for Life, a personal journey

Intent The Journey

First you have to want to get better, they you have to make the effort

Lessons from a Life Martial The Body, the Minds and the Spirit


The Worst Thing

When in the Desert


These were so many things from my private martial study. Most of then I never had time to share in class but I wanted preserved for my students. Of course it shows I was interested in many things.


It is for sale on Amazon if you are interested.


"Isshin: Writings on Martial Arts and Life" by Victor Smith



Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Chia Fa my story

Every post in time seems to become another post about the rest of the story.  IN 2012 when I posted

 I was sharing this with my students as a source comparing some historical videos with the Isshinryu of Shimabuku Tatsuo.


About 1977 I was a brown belt studying with Charles Murray. One day he approached me and said Victor, I borrowed, from Mr. Lewis, the Armstrong movie to work with my own bo kata studies.  But he told me “I have an idea I want you to take my movie film editor and teach yourself the form Chia Fa on that movie, then when you learn it you can teach it to me.”


In those days the Isshinryu taught by Tom Lewis did not contain the tonfa form. It was not taught in Agena when Sensei trained there. When in 1971-72 when Charles, a new Shodan, trained in Agena himself, tonfa was not something he studied there either. (in fact the sai was what he was taught there ‘Chantan Yara No Sai’. Along with many other things.Often training with the Okinawan students who trained there, I cannot recall him mentioning he ever saw them performing tonfa.


Minor note, in those days there was a real lack of information about Isshinryu. No public review for the Armstrong Shimabuku movie. So what you saw was what you saw.


So I took that film editor and the movie home. The film editor allowed you to view the movie frame by frame. So I began to view it and attempt to work out what Shimabuku Tatsuo was doing with the tonfa for that form. Over and over, frame by frame until I went ‘blind’ trying to work out what was being done.


Then attempting to do the same with my own set of tonfa I had previously purchased. It was a most difficult time, but somehow I worked out something. I got to the point I could not view the movie again. What I had was what I had. (another note I from that time forward was unable to bring myself to view that form again. Lasting for decades. Later when I saw the  Uzeu Angi tonfa form video, outside of that one time viewing I could not view it in detail either, I just noted it was similar to what I was doing and then moved on.


Then I ‘taught’ Charles the form I had worked out and of course in a week he was doing it better  than I.


As the movie labeled the form as “Chia Fa” that was what I referred it to ever after. There was no credible Isshinryu source I had access to that would suggest otherwise. In any case I made no difference to my practice.


On the day of my black belt test, Mitchum Sensei held two clinics at Mr. Lewis’ dojo. Between the brown belt clinic and the black belt clinic. Charles had me perform my Chia Fa for Mitchum Sensei and Lewis Sensei and the rest of the group. I did so and afterwards Mitchum Sensei remarked that the tonfa form was not part of his studies on Okinawa. My form was not part of my black belt test.


Then for decades the form was just part of my practice. Again and again. Much later I taught it so my senior students. At no time did I face attackers armed or  otherwise and needed those tonfa skills for personal defense.


Again in time, having seen more than a few versions of the Isshinryu tonfa form over the years, not studying with any other Isshinryu I kept to what I worked out. While I observed those versions, I had no context as to whether one was right as compared to the others.


In fact having seen different tonfa forms, to me what I saw did not seem the best way to use the form. Gathering my thoughts on Tonfa I created my own Wansu NO Tonfa 
Not for performance as I had no interest in that, just to work on my own thoughts.


After about 20 years at the time I was newer training with Sherman Harrill he asked to see my tonfa form. I showed him what I did with my ChiaFa form. After watching it he remarked what he did was somewhat different and then he showed me his form. He just observed my different form but just to understand where I was , not to comment. My time with Sherman was mostly in those clinics. It never was to study his versions of the forms.


Many years later I came to a different understanding of the value of Isshinryu kobudo. Not for performance rather as a force enhancer to strengthen our karate. The variety of the forms, even my Chia Fa, was to each form work on a different variety of skills to then strengthen our karate, especially as a way to fight against aging. The correctness of any version was much less than any version being used. The key fact was that it was being used.


Then the internet happened and with the Isshinryu discussion groups. I was informed I was all wrong. The form I had studied was wrong, it was named wrong, etc.


None of that made a difference to me. I had no reason to accept anyone elses answer as correct. I was not associated with anyone but Mr. Lewis (then mostly retired from Isshinryu) and Charles Murray (then in the USAF), meaning effectively on my own. I accepted them might be correct, but that it made no difference to me. I had my own years of experience and as the form I learned was labled Chia Fa, that is what it would remain to be called by I. (all of which I explained to my students and they were content with that.) My Isshinryu is first and foremost the Isshinryu I was taught by my instructors and what I practiced.



Never filmed our tonfa Chia Fa form as such. Then I discovered this on one of my saved videos which has a walk though demo version some of my students did for a visit from my friend, tai chi and northern Chinese forms instructor, Ernest Rothrock. It has many demo and what he shared at that clinic for them. At the end of the clinic we shared some of what we were doing.


Here is another valuable video



On this tape at 18:46 minutes Young Kusanku

 At 25:10 Mike and I do opposing Sho twice

 At 21:08 the team does Chia Fa tonfa

 And at 22:10 I do Chosen No Kama Dai

                I even to a brief piece of the opening to my Mantis form “Slip In and Hit

The remainder of the tape is Ernie doing a variety of his forms.

Ending with a very nice eagle claw form.


Things are what they are.


For those trying to understand the concept of 'sen' a little better..

Liberally "borrowed" from the internet.
However it is worth thinking about.