Monday, August 18, 2014

Atemi and the Art of Aikido

From Wikipedia (  “In Japanese martial arts,(not necessarily those lf Okinawa) the term atemi (当て身?) designates blows to the body,[1] as opposed to twisting of joints, strangleholds, holding techniques and throws. Atemi can be delivered by any part of the body to any part of the opponent's body. They can be percussive or use "soft" power. Karate is a typical martial art focusing on percussive atemi. The location of nerve and pressure points, such as might be used for certain acupressure methods, also often informs the choice of targets for atemi (see kyusho).

Some strikes against vital parts of the body can kill or incapacitate the opponent: on the solar plexus, at the temple, under the nose, in the eyes, genitals, or under the chin. Traditional Japanese martial arts (the ancestors of judo, jujutsu, and aikido) do not commonly practice atemi, since they were supposed to be used on the battlefield against armoured opponents. However, there are certain exceptions.


 In 1930  Ushieba Morihei published “Budo”. In it he clearly shows Atemi striking as a component of his techniques.
Ueshiba Morihei, have made it very clear that atemi was an integral part of his practice.

'Aikido is 99% atemi'. (Ueshiba Morihei as quoted in Traditional Aikido Vol 5 (1974) by Saito Morihiro, p. 38) 'In a real battle, atemi is 70 % technique is 30%'
 Over time ,and most especially the year after WWII, Usheiba moved the practice of Aikido away from using Atemi. (I am not an Aikido-ka, most of the information on which I base this came from my reading the Aiki Journal over the years.)

 When the English translation of “Budo” was published there were Japanese Aikido instructors in Europe that reportedly forbid their students from purchasing this book because it showed clearly the use of Atemi with the Aikido techniques and the ‘modern’ Aikido had moved away from this practice. In fact the vast number of techniques Usheiba showed were done with Atemi accompaniment.

Whether this is still the case I do not know. However as the following photos demonstrate striking was a part of Usheiba’s art. I do not see there is a difference between the strikes in karate, to those used in Aikido. They seem to most often be used to break the attacker’s conceration allowing the Aikido response.

Budo by Ueshiba Morihei 1935

“The second part presents 50 techniques demonstrated by Morihei Ueshiba in 119, 5.3 cm square photographs. The technical material covered includes preparatory exercises, basic techniques, knife (tantodori) and sword-taking techniques (tachidori), sword vs. sword forms (ken tai ken), mock-bayonet (juken) techniques, and finishing exercises (shumatsu dosa). Budo is the only work on aikido -— Ueshiba’s art was actually called aiki budo at this stage — in which the Founder personally appears demonstrating techniques.”  From  Stanley Pranlin’s

Atemi in aikido is a controversial topic.. And yet it is clear that the ethical basis of aikido forces us to evaluate atemi

as something more than simply delivering a high impact blow to another’s human being’s body:

'The Way of the Warrior has been misunderstood. It is not a means to kill and destroy others. Those who seek to compete and better one another are making a terrible mistake. To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst thing a human being can do. The real Way of a Warrior is to prevent such slaughter

— it is the Art of Peace, the power of love'.

(Morihei Ueshiba speaking of a vision of the "Great Spirit of Peace" in 1942, during World War II, as quoted in Adjusting Though Reflex : Romancing Zen (2010) by Rodger Hyodo, p. 76).

So how can we understand atemi and it’s place within the practice of aikido?

Basically we can understand atemi at three levels:

#1. Lethal contact atemi as a technique in itself which decisively ends an encounter by rendering an opponent unconscious, crippled or dead.

#2 Non lethal but painful atemi used to create distraction or distortion in opponent’s body.

#3. Non contact atemi which is used to create an opening in an opponent’s defensiveness thereby allowing for the application of a technique which neutralizes him without further injury.



Again from Aiki Journal, they describe the 1935 film “Budo” which shows Usheiba performing the techniques found in the book..


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Special Techiniques of Ryukyu Bojutsu by KATSUMI MURAKAMI

Title Special Techniques of Ryukyu Bojutsu
Author Katsumi Murakami
He is an expert on Shorin-ryu(7th dan) and Toon-ryu.He has published another Martial Arts book,entitled "Karatedo and Ryukyu Kobudo"

In the preface to this book,Katsumi Murakami says,"This is an sequel edition to my previous book,'Introduction to Bojutsu'The previous book was for beginners focusing on the basics.This is a commentary on Bojutsu deals with advanced techniques

One of the best books I have on bo technique.

While Bo kata isn't covered in this book here is Murakami Katsumi Sensei
                               performing- Sueyoshi no Kon Dai

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fractals 102

It is said a great tai chi text compresses 50 years of study into the text, but it takes 50 years to learn it. I had theFu Zhongwen text “Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan” for many years before I realized it had some interesting information on the use of fractals in Tai Chi.

I don’t want to make you enter the world of tai chi literature and most of the terms. But this is an important understanding. First my personal understanding of Jin. It represents those points where energy is released into the attacker’s limb, torso, head. And in the performance the points continually change and move. To me this is similar to the fractals of karate motion finding uses against attacks.

“The energy points  (jidian) of Taijiquan follow the movements and ceaselessly vary. There fore the movements must “continuous and unbroken” and “move as if drawing silk.” Now taking the components of Grasp the Sparrows Tail as our example, the following table indicates the location and the important features of their jin, as a convenient reference for the student to consider and intuitively comprehend.”

Components of Grasp the Sparrows Tail

1.      Left and Right Ward Off (Peng)

2.      Roll Back (Lu)

3.      Press (Ji)

4.      Push (An)


The Grasp Sparrows Tale is this section of Fu Zhongwen’s Yang Tai Chi form.


Moving Jin
Figure Number
Right Hand Jin Point
Left Hand Jin Point
Principle Part
In the wrist, on the Ulna side
In the heel, of the palm, on the little finger side
Right Hand
Shifts to Ulna
Shifts to Radius
Shifts to Left Hand
Shifts to little finger side of the heel of the palm
Shifts to Radius, near the wrist
Left Hand
As it lifts up, in the region of the index finger and the thumb
While sinking the elbow, passes through the ulna to the heel of the palm near the little finger
Moves to Right Hand
Shifts to the Radius
Shifts to the heel of the palm
In the Right Hand
Shifts near the wrist near the Radius
Heel of the Palm
In the Right Hand
Shifts to little finger side of the wrist
Shifts to area of the index finger and the thumb
In the Right Hand
Shifts to near the wrist in the Ulna
Shifts to near the wrist in the Radius
In the Right Hand
Shifts to the little finger side of the heel of the palm
Shifts to the area of the index finger and the thumb
In the Right Hand
Shifts to the outside of the forearm
Shifts to the little finger side of the heel of the palm
In both Hands

Shifts to the wrist of the outside of the forearm
Shifts to the heel of the palm
In both Hands
Shifts to the fingers
Shifts to the fingers
In both Hands
Shifts to the little finger side of the heel of the palm
Shifts to the little finger side of the heel of the palm
In both Hands
Shifts to the heel of the palm
Shifts to the heel of the palm
In both Hands


Of course it is much more involved than just the points. Zhongwen states,” can coordinate all the movements of the “Hands, eyes, torso, methods and steps.””


The is a correlation to karate potential.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fractals 101

My training was perhaps short, and most intense, then I was on my own. Without much Isshinryu contact, and only being lucky to see my instructors maybe once a year there never was time for much discussion. For years the definition of Isshinryu as One Heart System was the answer. Then I read Trevor Leggett’s book ‘Zen and the Ways’ about the influence of Zen within various Japanese systems of combat (many regard lessons which are valuable for Isshinryu too) and one of the chapters defines Isshin versus Zanchin


. I am not an expert in Okinawan or Japanese, however the definition made sense to me. It became an way to think about what I was teaching, and periodic mistakes made by my students. Once I understood what was happening I developed a humorous way to begin to treat it. Brown Belt-itis


This became a key component on developing each students awareness that we cannot let any aspect of our training fail. For the failing components were also valuable tool useful in understand the fractal uses of our system.

Fractals 101
The term fractals is most commonly seen in mathematical terms, something like this on Wikipedia.
The feature of "self-similarity", for instance, is easily understood by analogy to zooming in with a lens or other device that zooms in on digital images to uncover finer, previously invisible, new structure. If this is done on fractals, however, no new detail appears; nothing changes and the same pattern repeats over and over, or for some fractals, nearly the same pattern reappears over and over. Self-similarity itself is not necessarily counter-intuitive (e.g., people have pondered self-similarity informally such as in the infinite regress in parallel mirrors or the homunculus, the little man inside the head of the little man inside the head...). The difference for fractals is that the pattern reproduced must be detailed.
Frankly it doesn’t mean much to me.
But my use of fractals was borrowed long ago from some BaGua discussion on potential uses for a movement.
 Let’s think of it in these terms.  If you begin with a reverse punch, you have roughly the following pieces of movement involved. The striking arm move out. It strikes and then returns. Where fractals of the movement come into play is that all of the movement can have use. In turn the smaller pieces of the movement also have potential uses. Let me give an example.
 1.       You strike the opponent with a reverse vertical punch.
2.       You use the outgoing motion of the forearm for striking.
a.       You use this motion for deflection of another’s strike.
b.      You use this motion to strike across the triceps tendon where it becomes an armbar
c.       Use of the movement as a strike to the arm or body
3.       You use the strike with the vertical fist.
a.       You strike with the first two knuckles of the flat vertical fist.
b.      You strike with the vertical ridge of the first two knuckles.
c.       The uses of striking with each individual knuckle (such as little knuckle strikes)
d.      The uses of striking with the thumb first knuckle
e.      The manner of striking with the fist moving from little knuckle to lead knuckle (like in Bando)
f.        The manner of striking with the fist moving from lead knuckle to little knuckle  (like in Wing Chun)
4.       You use the retuning motion from the strike
a.       You use the returning movement as a deflection against strikes.
b.      Using the returning of the fist for grabbing
5.       You use the returning fist as a slashing movement against the body or face
6.       Use of the chambering fist for rearward striking.
Of course this is but a partial examination of these potential uses of one motion.
 The various force enhancers must also enter the equation for use.
      1.       The potential movement of the hips during the striking motion
      2.       The alignment of the body during the striking motion
3.       The manner of tightening the fist on contact.
4.       The method of stepping throughout the strike.
Each of which can have an effect on the use of the strike involved.