Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Just make a minor point

It is not my intention to assume what obi anyone should wear, rather just note many things have changed in the past 100 years.


There was a time no one on Okinawa wore any specific obi during their karate practice. It is generally assumed when karate migrated to Japan in the 1920’s it’s use was adopted (along with specific training uniforms) appropriated in principle from obi use in Judo. Different colors showing where a student/practitioner was in their practice.


But many practices developed in Japan finally were adopted on Okinawa too. It is generally assumed dan rank was first established on Okinawa during the 1950s. Then dan any kyu rank became the standard, that and group specific obi traditions.


And from the use in Judo, the senior instructor began to wear a red obi (or in some cases a white obi.) But more time passed, and the entire world began to adopt their own karate obi traditions.


Some on Okinawa even went to Obi such as Gold Obi. The groups developed their own standards on that.


This is just an example that even on Okinawa, the martial art of karate is constantly changing.


"Since Karate is ever-advancing it is no longer possible to speak of the Karate to day and the Karate of a decade ago in the same breath...Karate in Tokyo today is almost completely different in form from what was earlier practiced in Okinawa...

Precisely because it has its own life, do is subject to the inevitable cycle of growth and decline. It is ever-changing, but only in its outer form. The basic nature of do remains immutable."
Gichin Funakoshi from Karate-do Nyumon (1st published 1925)


Sunday, November 11, 2018

A closer look at what is often not discussed

It is not entirely clear to be exactly what the earlier art(s?) which were re-named karate exactly were used for. But it is very clear by 1870 when Japan took over control of Okinawa, removing the king of Okinawa to Japan, the original purpose of those art(s?) was no longer needed.


So the training became more of a preserving our class type of thing. Not changing what was studied, just no longer for an actual function. And they were not studying karate because the people needed self defense?


Itosu Anko came up with a new idea. Namely that a version of karate could be taught in the schools because Okinawan youth needed better preparation for eventual service in the Japanese military, not for karate, but to be able to follow orders for training. So something new was tried and it found a place. In time others took the same approach, sharing a bit of their karate with youth.


But that a new idea could work gave rise to other new ideas. Not the first, but a focused disporia of karate training to Japan gave rise to another idea. Karate could make a new purpose, to train young men attending university. Various forms of karate shaped into something that could be learned in a 4 year program began to take form. Those graduates of course moved on into many careers, and in turn eventually formed schools  based off of those karate experiences. First focused on developing instructors to run those 4 year programs, then developing those programs for the few who could continue that training.


It was a new form of the former Okinawan art, now a Japanese art.


But on Okinawa as time passed, new things were happening. Some instructors after teaching children took the Itosu Pinan kata into their programs.


Among Karate research groups other simpler forms were created and adopted in some programs. Feedback from the Japanese karate community convinced them that Karate should be renamed Karate to not offend Japanese sensibilities. Other projects were looking into the development of simple karate kata to be used of possible public karate training. (the 10 kata developed are seen in Nagasone’s Karate Do Koyhan.) but they were not formally adopted by Okinawan karate.


Then WWII occurred, and many things changed. For one thing almost the senior generation of instructors perished, both on Okinawa and on Japan karate took on new shapes for new reasons in each location.


And as karate continued to move into the world more and more changes occurred, even to this day. Each insistent their way is right.


And while service is paid to taking the time to read what the earlier instructors of these developing arts wrote, there is literally no real discussion of those writings. Each group goes on continuing to find their way, but I question how deeply they take the time to look at what was shared of the past.?

A brief suggestion of some of what has been written about prior arts and what earlier karate looked like.


“The Secret Royal Martial Arts of Ryukyu”By Kanenori Sakon Matsuo

Itoman Seijin (Morinobu’s) book Toudi-jutsu no Kenkyu translated by Mario McKenna


Funakoshi Ginchin: The recent translation of ‘Karate Jutsu’
The translation of the Karate-Do Koyan
Motobu's books: Japanese reproduction and Patrick McCarthy translation
Mabuni Kenwa, translations of his 1933-1934 publications Mario Mckenna
Kobou Jizai Goshin-jutsu Karete Kempo
Seipai no Kenkyu (including the first publication of Bubishi drawings)
Mutsu Mizho’s 1933 ‘Karate Kempo’ reproduction

(Nakasone Genwa’s 1938 ‘Karate Do Taiken’ reproduction and M. McKenna translation

One example of my trying to understand these offerings

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The one time I attempted to show Sherman Harrill one of my studies.

I never spent enough time with Sherman Harrill to really show him many of the things I trained in.


One time in Western Massachusetts, during a lunch break, I did show Sherman the first row of my Yang Tai Chi form. He was interested because he really wanted to explore the uses of those movements. Alas, that was not to be.


Another time, during his clinic on Wansu kata in 1997, during a break of his presentations I did show him a part of an Indonesian drill I had learned. Specifically it was  a series of counters against a  left lead head punch, and right reverse head strike followed by a left uppercut delivered in a rapid 1-2-3 combination.


I was not trained in the method but Tristan Sutrisno allowed be to observe him training hin senior students in the entire drill. The sequence was not very long for both sides, just 7 moves or so, so I acquired it. Observing that set I began to see where his fighting ability came from, and I was very interested.


Then when I returned home from that  trip I decided to try it out on my students the next Saturday morning class.  I showed to them and everyone began to do it hard and fast. It was painful. Then when we went harder and faster it hurt ever more.


So the attackers started pulling the strikes to avoid the pain, and it immediately got sloppier and sloppier. Not what I wanted to we put it aside into my notes.


About a year later I bought a VHS tape on Indonesian technique. Waching it I saw the same first three movements executed as an attack against three defenses working off of the same movement. I paid attention to that, but again something for my notes, not for practice.


Then at a summer camp Ernie Rothrock showed a simple way to stop a roundhouse strike to the head. He just steppd in and raised his hands before his face as he turned into the strike. I was chosen to be his attacker. It was very painful. Then ‘playfully’ he began to say “Karate Boy, is that all the harder you can strike?” So I attacked with a harder, quicker roundhouse strike to hie head. Again he did the same thing, and it hurt more. I tried again and again, and all I accomplished was to turn my arm into hamburger.


But when he explained what was happening, how the mere motion of raising his hands became my arm striking the forearm and the biceps tendon into those unmoving hands each time the faster I went, the harder it struck.


I started to understand what power was inherent in passive movement, which was behind those experiences. As a result I began to see new uses for kata kamae, as well as thinking of a new method to instruct that drill.


So we began with softer attacks and just used light slaps for the defense, to get used to where the contact was coming from. Allowing the attackers to get used to being struck in those places.


At the same time I began exploring different ways to use just those 3 defensive movements for the triple attack.


The original defense:

            1. against a left incoming punch, the left hand rotates right and strikes across the body with an open knife hand, the knife hand striking into the biceps of the attacker stopping the attack.

            2. Then against the right incoming punch the left hand rotates left and strikes back across the body with an another open left knife hand, striking into the biceps of the attacker stopping that attack.

            3. Finally against the left uppercut, the right knife hand strikes down into the rising uppercut into the biceps causing more great pain. (Alternatively both hands could also strike down into the rising uppercut, the left knife hand into the biceps the right knife hand into the forearm.)


A second approach uses the leopard paw.

            1. Against a left incoming punch, the left leopard paw,  strikes across the body, a strike with the finger fore knuckles. Strikes into the incoming biceps causing pain.

            2. Against a right incoming punch, the left leopard paw, then strikes with the forefingers of the leopard paw into that punch biceps, again causing pain.

            3. Finally against the rising uppercut that follows, both hands strike down with leopard paw strikes. The left paw striking into the biceps, the right paw striking into the forearm.

            The ridge of knuckles striking into the unprotected biceps or forearm as a ridge of knuckles, causing pain as a result.


Then the third approach using a punch for the strike.

            1. Against the left incoming punch, the left punch strikes across the body into the biceps of the attacker. But the punch strikes with just the middle knuckle of the fist. This causes even more intense pain as the strike is done with only a single point of the fist for greater penetration.

            2 Against the right incoming punch the left punch then strikes into the biceps of the attacker. Again the strike is done with the middle knuckle of the fist, becoming a single striking point for the pain.

            3. Finally against the rising uppercut that follows, punch down with both fists, each striking the rising biceps or the rising forearm with a single middle knuckle of that punch.


What happens, where you always striking into the exposed vulnerable area of an incoming strike, working against that strike from the space that strike contains. The first counter series uses the plane of the knife/ridge hand to cause pain. The second counter series uses the ridge of the fore knuckles the leopard paw creates in cause even more intense pain. The third counter series uses the single point of the fist, the middle knuckle, to cause again more intense pain, The single point of the knuckle focuses your defense into an even smaller strike into that most vulnerable place which has presented itself.


Principle involved: While the attack is focusing its force on the end of their fist, they present opening as that punch comes in, and you are moving into the opening their attack creats to attack them to what they have provided.


So I had worked all of this out myself, and of course showed my students. It was of course up to them to use what they learned. The complete Juru 1, which they learned they did get down, and this is discussing just the first 3 moves.


So as it turns out I took time at that clinic to show this to Sherman, going through all 3 defenses, explaining them. Sherman watched and then he offered a 4th option, just using the forearm for the counter strikes. (and I could see the logic, especially when attacked as you are very close to the attacker.)


I thought I might show him something new. Of course I had no idea, and never would, what Sherman may have worked himself. He had shown so many different things over the years. But he did instantly show there was also a 4th option.


Of course I did not explain every step of the motion involved.I was focusing on where the ending defensive strikes involved. This is Tristan Sutrisno performing the complete motion for  the first example defensive movement involved.


The complete Juru 1 follows
With Young Lee and Mike Cassidy:


Sunday, November 4, 2018

A Rememberence for Sherman Harrill

Sherman Harrill

Born: May 11, 1941

Died: Nov 04, 2002


While Sherman left us then

I offer this as a short memory of what he was.


In 1997 during a clinic

Exploring the uses of Wansu kata,

He would always take the time

To make a simple concept clearer.


For this technique

He first discussed the way the opening movement went.


Then he showed how it worked both left and right


Finally he demonstrated the movement of the technique series itself.



 At the clinics end Sherman  and Tom Lewis  got down with some of the attendees.



Gone perhaps, Never Forgotten



























Saturday, November 3, 2018

A Tonfa training exercise – Wansu NO Tonfa


 Long ago, when I was a brown belt, the Isshinryu tonfa kata was not in my instructor’s training. But when Charles Murray borrowed Sensei Lewis’ movies of Shimabuku Sensei for study of his bo kata, one night he told me he wanted me to take his movie editor (which can view a movie frame by frame) and the Shimabuku film, and teach myself the tonfa kata shown, then I was to teach it to him.


This was long before there was anything else available, before VHS, DVD and of course today’s You Tube.


So as Charles was training me (then close to 5 days of nights a week) I just did as I was told.

I just viewed that form over and over, slowly working out what I could understand. I went crazy over that form, and somehow I acquired something.


Then I showed Charles what I had worked out.  In his days with Mr. Lewis in the 60’s it was not taught, for Sensei did not study it on Okinawa (perhaps because Shimabuku Sensei had studied it with Taira Shinken himself), nor did Charles study it the year he was stationed in Okinawa in 1972 and was able to train under Shimabuku Sensei also).


Then again what I showed Charles, he was executing it better than I in a week.  But that didn’t bother me as I was a brown belt, and he was a 3rd dan.


After my ShoDan examination, in a short time he returned to the USAF for as a life career choice.


On my own I just practiced and practiced. It became one of my regular practices.


On a personal level I was a bit unconvinced it was how I would choose to use the tonfa myself.


Several years later my wife and I took a camping vacation at the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Out campground was amidst tall pines and very beautiful. Each evening I would be outside our campground working on my kata. I was then and always of the opinion vacations were always places to train. And that I did everywhere, camping at Niagra Falls, on a vacation at Disney World. Continually using any opportunity to train.


So I was practicing that kata, it was going well, but I continued to have thoughts that was not how I would chose to use tonfa.


I then went the next step, I decided to work up a form how I would choose to use the tonfa.

I was not creating it to compete with and had no thought of teaching it (for I was only teaching youth at that time . Just for me and me alone.


In those days there was less kobudo training in any tradition for many people. And often they would use other forms with a chosen weapon. I had seen many versions of Empi with weapons. Sai, Kama etc.


So I decided I would use  my Isshinryu Wansu as my base kata. And then I worked out what I wanted the techniques to be using the tonfa. Several days later I was finished.


I even gave the exercise a name, it was Wansu NO Tonfa.


Then roll forward several decades.


I had adult students and as they became advanced and skilled I wanted to share the tonfa I had originally studied. Not for tournaments, just to acquire skill with the tonfa.


One day I began with my Wansu NO Tonfa. Eventually when they had develop some skill with that exercise, I then introduced them to the Isshinryu Chia Fa tonfa that I had worked out long ago.


And they too got the form.


But after watching the Chia Fa tonfa so many times originally, I have never been able to view it again, those memories flood back every time, I never cared if what I got was the same as what Shimabuku Sensei did. Of course he was not my instructor, and I just followed instructions. Whether I was doing the same thing as he did, was not a concern, I just followed what I believe I saw.


I never remembered taking time to videotape their Chia Fa form, or even their Wansu No Tonfa.


Many decades later I decided to film myself doing Wansu NO Tonfa, for their reference. It is not a perfect performance, nor was that ever my intent. I see video as showing a step everyone should move beyond..That is how this video came about.


And I did film some of my students working that exercise.


Time rolls forward, I have located a video, long, long forgotten, where those students performed their Chia Fa for a visiting Ernie Rothrock. I had forgotten that.


----- Addendum


I had been working on my Chia Fa kata for over 20 years, and during that time  I was not associated with anyone else in Isshinryu. I had always assumed Chia Fa was the correct form, simply because Shimabuku Sensei did it.


Only when I joined the internet did I learn there was any controversy about the form.


I know a tonfa form was one of his studies with Taira Shinken.




It is different from the tonfa form Shimabuku Sensei did, his Chiafa,




I also did not realize others were holding the opinion he was not correct on the film, or that the name was incorrectly labeled.


1. Perhaps the only tonfa form Shimabuku Sensei taught was Hamahiga no Tonfa.

2. Perhaps he was older and less than correct.

3. Perhaps it was mislabeled.


Realistically, I had no way of ascertaining the truth of any of that.


But I also saw that was being used as a Isshinryu loyality test to determing who was doing true Isshinryu. I did not care for that in the least bit.


Then I realized


1. I was never trained by Shimabuku Tatsuo. Just by my instructors.

2. I taught myself whatever I did from that 1966 film,

3. What reality was did not concern me in the least, I was not trying to live up to any standards but those shown to my by my instructors.

4. What we did was sufficient for my needs and my students.


Whatever was reality was not what I was doing. I was just following what had been shared with me, and my lead after that.


But this is also interesting


Shimabuku   Tonfa vs Bo demonstration