Monday, January 25, 2021

How I dealt with potential students for my adult program when they had previous training.


When I began teaching my adult program at the Derry Boys and Girls Club it was just for interested parents of kids in my youth program there. A few of the older teenage members of the youth program also joined with the adults. The program always was for the few and its maximum level perhaps only had 10 or so members.



When I was teaching in Scranton, one evening 3 adults approached me after class telling me they knew I competed with Kobudo (many program did not have Kobudo training at that time).  They informed me that I would teach them a Bo kata.


First, not being a Scranton native, I was surprised they knew of me or my youth program. I was caught off guard.


I responded, “Guy’s I am not teaching an adult program. However, if that is what you want, I will find a way to instruct you. You must understand that I only teach Isshinryu the right way. And in order to study the Isshinryu Kobudo kata, you first have to learn all he Isshinryu empty hand kata first. Only then would the kobudo kata be taught. If you are ok with that then we can work something out.”


Hearing that as a group they turned, not saying a word, and they left.


I was always teaching for free, never looking for money.. And I was very fine with that.



So when I began my adult program, I was just teaching the same program as I taught to the kids. My Bushi No Te Isshinryu program. The only real difference is that the adults mostly learned at a different faster pace because they had made adult choices to train. They were just students I really had no intention of turning them into youth program instructors.


And as adults do some stayed with me, some of them moved on in time.

Many of them reach black belt level training with me and then averaged to train further at least 17+ years, my senior students staying 35 + years training.

I did not advertise I was training adults.  Each one of them had to work to find me.  That I had adults to work with was enough for me. And I could focus on their training always learning more and more from teaching. And as time passed they developed skill.



At times over the years adults with serious prior training approached me, may times having moved into the Derry area and not finding the style they had studied. Some approached me to train. I remember one 6th dan approached me to help teach.


Every time I followed the same pattern.


1.    First if they wanted to locate a specific school I would to my best to help them and then show them where to go.

2.    If that was not possible I informed them I understood their need.

3.    Informing them my program was Isshinryu not the art they came from. I always suggested if their art was their concern I believed they should open their own program to teach it.

4.    I always informed them that to move forward with the discussion they first had to observe a class to see what we did.

a.     My adult classes always were based on my application of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to karate instruction.

b.    When those potential students with prior training were observing the class, I always made sure it was a class that  it was unlikely that they have ever seen. Of course for my students that was nothing different from how they studied with me.

c.     The purpose was I wanted them to viscerally understand it was probably not what they were used to.

5.    Only after all that would I ever discuss the idea of their joining further.

6.    Then I informed that I only taught one way, they would be expected to learn what I taught from the beginning.

7.    I expected them to keep up their prior study, never to lose it, but it would be on their own to do it. For I only taught my art.

8.    Then should they join, I would tell them the first night in a year’s time they would begin to recognize the structure to these classes based on my interpretation of uncertainty.

9.    I also informed them out of respect for the rank they held previously I expected them to wear that obi, but until they progressed in my program past that rank, they would not receive further rank from me. The real purpose of my program was to train no rank acquisition.

10.                       Each time those who joined after a year I would ask them if they agreed I told them the truth from the beginning. Every one of them agreed I was telling them as it was.



Some stayed to join, some did not. I ever had a very good student who moved in from another Isshinryu background, he followed the same path as all my students.



I did not treat them any differently from my other students.



Later I would develop my program instructor standards. The first requirement was they have 15 continuous years training with me before being a candidate for the 5 year mentorship for the instructor.



Each of my students were special to me, even when adult decisions made moving on necessary for them. Those that stayed became even more special




This is how I approached potential students with prior training.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

What Karate came to mean to me

Discussion makes a point and draws a line in the sand to attempt to control the discussion. That is how so many discussions start however I would like to start someplace else, using a study I discovered in my study of Linguistic philosophy, that of General  Semantics 3 premises.


1.    The word is not the thing. Or the use of  the word karate itself does not really describe the reality which is referred to as karate.

2.    The word does not describe the whole thing.  Trying to describe what karate represents never really encompasses everything that is there.

3.    Words, by their nature are self-reflexive. The use of the word then itself becomes another reality a step beyond reality.


In simpler terms a discussion becomes a thing on its own.


When I began karate my only reason was to study karate. I was not looking for self defense training, I was not looking for physical exercise (at the time I was a construction laborer) and I was not looking for a sport to compete in. My instructors never referred to the training in such a way. It was just the study of Isshinryu.


In time I  saw such descriptions, Ad nauseum, in karate magazines. Frequently as a way to advertise commercial programs to attract specific groulps of students. All those descriptions can be found in a karate program but they definitely are not the whole


The best personal definition I found describing what Karate is came  from an article Patrick McCarthy wrote in a British Martial Arts Magazine, that “ Karate could be translated as Empty (or infinite as in space) Hand. Thus the Infinite Hand. I don’t want to argue the semantics of translation, but I have found that definition works best for me.


Of course attempting to describe infinity to a beginner or a student with a single focus does not work. So temporary simpler definitions are used until their  training matures till they can understand what is there.


There is but single movement in motion or in stillness, then the ability to insert it into an attacking situation to conclude the opponent. In reality all yon need is one. But to acquire skill many kata are studied. In essence they do not change that reality that all you need is one.


It helps to work to understand the infinite number of ways that technique can appropriately be inserted into any attack. It also helps is you maximum unpredictability as how that technique can be used.


But we really can’t deal with an infinity of answers.


Instead the long study of kata works to keep our minds open, to realize newer ways those techniques can be inserted into an attack.


There is a place for sport to work on developing how to insert those techniques used into an attack. But the reality is that karate is much more than mere sport.


All sport  had rules which must be followed. Life however really has no rules as to how you might respond. Yes there are legal consequences but you can choose to factor those into your response or not.


An Olympic swimming champion is attempting to swim faster and faster. But the reality of swimming is to get from point A to point B.


Likewise all forms of athletic are based on following strict rules. For how long would any football game (of any sort) last if rules were not enforced.


Comparing the artificial rules of sport (karate, MMA, judo or wrestling)

Are never the range of what karate might employ.

Friday, January 22, 2021

From “Doka: Poems of Usheiba Morihei


From “Doka: Poems of Usheiba Morihei


There are several Aikido techniques that move directly into the attack, avoiding collision, and emerging behind the attacker. There is a similar teaching in the Shinkage-ryu sword school.



The poem reads:


Furikaburu tachi-no shita-koso jigoku-nare

Mi-o-sutetekoso ukabu se-mo-are



Beneath the raised sword/ is like hell,

Throw yourself away/ there may be a way out

“It is like Hell standing beneath a raised sword, be willing to sacrifice yourself, there may be a way out.”



One can imagine the poet watching a leaf flow downstream only to be pulled into the rapids and then appearing later below the falls. Could this be “irimi-ho,” the entering method?



A poem that reflects the fundamental element of martial art is probably the following by O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba:

Martial Truth


 Martial Truth

There are times I see something that is outside of my ken, and I too often make comments about it’s potential effectiveness.



But I think I must do a better job to understand some things.



1.It is a wide world after all. There are many things I do not know.

2. Many times truth of one art, finds other arts with diametrically opposite standards can yet be extremely effective, There are many ways to thread a needle, and the needle pulling the thread still works.

3. That said there are those who take liberties with what they are really doing.

4. That said I do have more important things to focus on than play martial policeman, If what they are doing is not credible, I should be happy for those so trained ought no be threats to my own students.

5. There is something to be said that individuals can make choices that make them happy even if it is not something I can believe in.

6. My own reality is to continue to work on what I have and improve every day. Age also being a reality the choices I make in training may be able to offset some of the effects age brings.



Therefore I must work harder at being a better martial artist.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

My brush with Goju Ryu Karate


When I was a beginner no one discussed other systems. We did compete against them at many tournaments.  What we focused on exclusively in our own training.


Then I began reading the magazines, and their I heard Isshinryu descended from several traditions. For the most part the Shorin tradition of Kyan, from the tradition of Motobu and the Goju tradition of Miyagi. And that was about it.


I saw Goju at tournaments, which only gives you what is seen. I once remember a NJ Goju practitioner request all movie cameras be turned off before he did his kata.  There was no Goju school with convenient  driving distance.

And this was the time before videos,dvd’s, YouTube and all the rest.


Eventually I found a Goju kata book published by Don Warner, that gave me some idea what the system was about And that was that,I came to understand their Seisan kata was a 3rd Dan form and less about the more advanced kata. But besides looking at those kata, I really did not use it much, noting more that Isshinryu and Gojuryu kata used much of the same techniques.


It was about 4 years into my first program at the Scranton Boys Club that my wife returned to training now with me. One of her diving students Cindy Robinson also joined the karate program, the summer before she went to Ithica for college. Then at Ithica College she joined their karate club and it was Goju ryu. When she returned home for breaks or summer’s she would resme training with me. Over time she progressed in Isshinryu and Goju ryu.


That following year she invited me to dive up to Ithica and see her class and meet her instructor. I did and he was  Ed Savage. I got to see their warm up Junbi Undo. Then he ignored the class letting them run it, and he turned to me.


We talked for a while I explained Isshinryu had a Seiunchin and Sanchin kata,  then I showed him my Isshinryu Seiunchin kata. and he showed me his Goju Seiunchin kata. We discussed the differences.


After that with great enthusiasm showed me his Saifa kata, then instructed me how to do it.


By that time class was over, and as I drove the 90 minutes home I kept going over those two Goju kata in my mind.


The next summer Cindy returned home, also returning to train with me. During that summer she told me she hears her karate group was having a training day at the lake  near Ithica Colletge, and she invited me to attend with her.


It turned out that she also told Ed I was coming along.


Again while the rest trained, he ignored them and spent his time training me. I can only assume other instructors likely did not visit and he wanted me to better understand Goju Ryu.


He started by reviewing Saifa kata. Then proceeded to teach me Sanseru kata, to then move on to Shisochin kata. After we completed those kata then he gave me photocopies of those kata from his Goju kata book.


I thanked him, realizing that this was priceless. It would enable to work on these kata on my own.


And I did, though at that time I was working on Isshinryu, an entire group of Chinese forms and my t’ai chi. Good selection of Shotokan kata and Sutrisno Kobudo. Some Shorin Ryu and some other things. I never intended to master those other systems but I wanted to know more on how to approach judging those styles at tournaments.

So two days and I got the core kata studies up to the Goju black belt, I was never a qualified black belt in Goju, but I understood what a competitor showing those forms should know.


Years later I was able to attend a clinic by Chinen Sensei held at the Derry Boys and Girls Club which the host school had rented the club to hold it in. I attended as the representative of the club to see things ran smoothly for the club.


I was able to observe what Chinen Sensei ran them through and watched while he ran his kata in reverse order, Supreimpei through Sanchin.


It was most interesting and I appreciated Chinen Sensei’s skill.


Shortly after I chose to include the supplementary Goju kata  Saifa in my student curricula. I had originally learnt it from Ed Savage, then worked it with Bob Cook, I had acquired a Panther video of the form, somewhere I worked with another as well as having seen Chinen Sensei’s performance of Saifa. All of them had slight variations on the technique and the kata performance.


What I chose to teach was how I was working the form. I am sure it is not exactly the same of any of the versions I was shown or saw. However it was sufficient for my purposes with my students.


I was not attempting to make them over in any Goju tradition. But as Seiunchin was a longer kata,  After their acquiring Seisan I wanted to give them a shorter kata before Seiunchin and Saifa fit that bill. Then over many years work I developed a greater appreciation of Saifa, seeing the application potential for its movements.


I  wanted my students to have some appreciation of Goju, and knowing they even knew a small part of what Goju used, they would not ‘fear’ Goju’s existence if they should compete against them in a tournament.


Further value came about later, for as I got deeper into my own Isshinryu application study.  Then  my black belts having developed skilled execution of the form could work their application studies against those techniques. Not play attacks, but skilled Goju style attacks……


Then more years rolled by, several Goju dans chose to join my program.

One of those students showed me Seipai, I acquired it and that gave me more insight into Goju.


When VHS karate videos became available, I remember purchasing the Hiagonna Supreimpei VHS tape. For one thing I really wanted to see that form. I remember it contained two variations of the form.


One Sunday morning how having a solid execution for Supreimpei available to view, I decided to teach myself the form. Again I wasn’t trying to be Goju, rather I was interested to learn the form for it had several techniques I wanted to work application studies against.


Now I has long before learnt forms of vast complexity and length if compared against karate kata.


I had also remembered reading a British karate magazine interview with Chinen Sensei where he added if he was going to restructure the manner in which Goju forms were studied, he would begin with Sanchin then teach Supreimpei next. He said he felt students might be better served learning it 2nd as it contained so many of the Goju techniques.


So it took me about an hour or so to learn the technique sequence. Then I went outside before my t’ai chi group was scheduled to begin. The student who taught me Seipai came and watched my efforts. He then asked me what I was doing. I told him I had just taught myself Supreimpei and was trying it out.  I recall his eyes bugged out, especially as he never had studied it himself.


Outside of teaching my version of Saifa, I never taught any of the other  Goju forms, that was never my intent. But I learned so much by that effort.


While my purposes were my own, I do have a story. One time I was visiting a Goju program. I jumped into the class and worked with them. Later in the class the black belts were running Shisochin and I joined in. I believe they were astonished an Isshinryu black belt could attempt the form, much less know it. Then again I rarely forgot what I was shown and then worked on for a long time.



Footnote: Separate but related, I was shown the Kyokushinkai version of Tensho kata one time by Jesse Knowles.   And of course I practiced it from that time on. Again for my own reasons, At times I had my black belts drill the form, for a variety of reasons. I never formally made it a supplemental kata.


------- the Sanseu kata scans given to me by Ed Savage in 1984  ----------

Friday, January 15, 2021

The other part of my life when i was not doing necessary family duties or karate.


I see another National holiday is upon us. But the truth was that none of them made much impact on me or my work.


 I had a variety of titles over my career in various companies.

I was a Special Assignments clerk and a Benefits Officer in Personnel. I was a worked on the phones as a Customer Support Representative for a Software Firml I was the manager of Payroll for a fortune 500 company, I was the Manager of Payroll Systems for another fortune 500 company. Then I became a Business Analyst for the company that took over that one.  I was a Contract Analyst for another software firm, and finally I was a Senior Quality Assurance Technician for another fortune 500 company.



All of which used skills I built over my career life, learnt on the jog and not because of my education at college . And in none of the above did my Job Description or Job Title really describe what  I actually did.



Essentially I was not told what I could do, I defined that for myself. In my functions I supported Personnel, Treasury. General Ledger and the Trust Department in my varied roles. Simply put I was an Individual Contributor who could get things done, many numerous things.



I worked into those positions by not following orders. Instead I got whatever was required done, on time. And frequently I did not follow instructions, just did whatever was necessary.



Over my career I only hired 4 individuals. Looking back on it those hires would fulfill all affirmative action dreams. But I only hired on competence and no other reason. I did not train anyone else in what I did, None of those companies wanted that. I had no control of what those individuals were paid, just worked to let them do their jobs.



All of those companies always observed all of the National Holidays. I was never told to work them, But I always got my job done, and have no idea of how many weekends and holidays I did work. I was always committed to getting the job done.


One of the positions I was hired for, they had been using the payroll system for 10 years, but in an exceptional minor way. The MIS group installed the system, but the use was up to the division and they had never understood what was actually required. They wanted to use the system for their entire payroll, which was not being fully used.  They hired me to do  the job. I oversaw the system coming up to date, worked with various MIS groups to feed data to the payroll system. Over saw a consultant to develop documentation for use in each payroll location around the company, then I developed a training program for those locations and ran the training programs to teach them how to use the system.



That system went live on the exact date intended. Then I was overseeing the system function. And of course that was only part of the job.



To get all of that done that first year I literally went to work 365 days, Ever national holiday in a row. I viscerally remember all of them, even leaving for work on Christmas Day. Losing knowing where I was driving home from work some evenings even to backtracking exits on the  Interstate.




And after that system went up there were even more challenging tasks. One night I drove home after picking up the W-2s at the MIS location to drive into a blizzard. Hours later I reached the Company Headquarters to stop there as the roads were almost impassable, to wait there for 4 hours, then to slowly make my way home for more hours, even passing uncountable abandoned cars on the interstate, till I finally got home.


And through it all I still did my share of work at home, and found time to teach 5 karate classes a week.



Then four months later I received an offer for a better job. When I told my superior about my leaving, he went to the Comptroller, to be told let him go he is not worth the money"". Leaving I still left detained instructions how to get  through year end processing and gave 3 people copies of what they had to do.


Later I heard they had to hire 3 consultants to do what I had been doing to keep the payroll going. Before they really never understood my competence with the system, so I built it to allow me to get the job done.

They later begged me to come back and help them through the year end processing. I told them my new position was to challenging to have any time to do that. I then reminded them of the 3 copies of instructions I gave 3 different people including my former superior. All three of then denied them having a copy.



I have had many other challenging experiences at all my employers. Each one of them unique and different.



All of them required my giving more time to those companies.



It is just what I did. That is why a mere National Holiday means less to me.



Up to the time I has to face disability, my record stood I always got things done.



Thursday, January 14, 2021

Aspects of Toe Kicks from my experience


I had been doing Naifanchi for over 9 years when my private training with Ernest Rothrock went around to my studying the Chin Wo version of Tam Tuie used by Northern Eagle Claw. 

There are many versions of that form in many Chinese systems. 

This version was a 10 row one. 

Tam Tuir was performed wearing footwear, and I immediately realized it mad the toe kicks of the form more practical when kicking with the toes. 

Or one thing I made toe kicks work in our reality. 

Different versions of the form use high toe kicks or very low ankle height toe kicks and all ranges in between. 

Here is I doing the form slow to have a reference for the future.

There of course is a 2nd version of the kick execution to generate even more power that I was once shown. 

I do not believe, as some have claimed, that Tam Tuie was inspiration for Naifanchi or the various Okinawan toe kicks. 

Of course with the shoe use the conditioning of toes to take impact is not required. But consider how strengthening the ankles does make sense with shoe kicks.


In a different light I was taught by Sherman Harrill, a different use of naifanchi footwork against the legs of an opponent, which included shin toe kicks, inside and outside sweeps using Naifanchi footwork, and te use of a Naifanchi toe kick on the outside of the thigh among other uses.