Monday, April 21, 2014

Will the Real Aragaki No Sochin please Stand Up

Today I would like to address the problem viewing YouTube kata video.


Especially with the rumored idea at times Okinawan Senior instructors would alter public their public performances of their kata so that they could not be exactly copied. I am sure this is true in some instances. However you cannot be sure it is intentional alteration, a ‘senior’ memory moment but still superb technique or a sign of aging capabilities. All are possible. Of course does it matter. Watching a video will not show the layers of training required for full performance. Nor necessarily give an indication of where you go next in your training.


An interesting example is of the Aragaki No Sochin kata of the Kyudokan, A most deserving system. The older video shows Aragaki Sensei performing one version of this Sochin kata. Later versions show a differing variation. I have seen Okinawan students performing each versions. The credible examples of later students around the world seeme to suggest his later performance should be the standard.

In one sense unless you are a member of the Kyudokan it does not matter. Each version has it’s uses. Each, IMVHO, has a logic to its structure.           


Of course one should not try and learn from a video. And then pass it off as your own study. However I have done so, first to attempt to learn their movements to work counters with my Isshinryu. A good intellectual study. However I do not teach them.


On the other hand, they are an interesting exercise in focus. When I was diagnosed with Diabetes II, one way I worked to get myself under better control was to attempt to learn the tomari no rohai kata, to push myself in new ways. It taught me a great deal about the kyoshi movement of this style, during this process I listened to Dr. Harper, increasing training, managing diet and walking additionally studying Tomari No Rohai, and even competed with the form for focus,  I began to get my blood sugar under control and lost 40 pounds in the process.


Then I was diagnosed with Colan cancer, Frankly it was less of a shock than the Diabetes II was. It required surgery, chemo, radiation. Without all of my Doctors were superb and I wisely followed all of their instructions. The next year was challenging with the treatments and post surgery changes to my life. As best I could I continued to walk, train and eat wisely. I also began the study of the older documented version of Aragaki No Sochin for another challenge.

 From the surgeries and walking, I was now down 100 pounds. The study of Sochin helped me with stronger understanding about kyoshi. Then there was the 2nd surgery required for my cancer healing. It time and more chemo the Doctor’s told me I had no more cancer, and my average blood sugar was holding under 100.

Of course into each life some rain must fall. At that same time I began to loose control of myself and my Paraneoplastic Neuromyopathy & Neuropathy began. I retained the ability to run my kata studies, though much weaker. I was tested and tested by the Doctors, but it seems this is permanate. The most unfortunate effect was the unstability made my work on Yang Tai Chi, for over 30 years, most impossible. The turning movements and stepping in Tai Chi were too difficult. So more work and it took about a year to learn how to modify what I knew to become that which I could do a bit.

 Now lets go back to topic. When there is change, be it intentional or inadvertent we might be pressed to do what we can. Within a style there may be a right way or versions of right ways, or perhaps mistakes. We can judge the style fairly only by their standards. But to make study for knowledge or personal challenge, our only standard is what we set for ourselves.


And as to the correct version, watching the video versions, I don’t have the slightest idea. Nor do I pretend to do.




Friday, April 18, 2014

Chibana on Osae while blocking

                from Transition by Pat Nakata Sensei

In the Chibana Shorin-Ryu Karate Kata curriculum, osae is taught and stressed in the Kihon Kata and the Naihanchi Kata, after which, the whole concept of osae is forgotten for the other Kata. As in Goju-Ryu, most Karate Kata have osae, but most Karateka do not know the concept of osae. For example; if one was to block and kept that block without releasing (hazusu / hazusanai) that end position and did a kick holding that block position, that block was then an osae. That being said, many Karateka do osae when practicing "fighting" techniques. Most of these Karateka question the effectiveness of Kata for real combat. Well, how can a Kata be effective, when there is no osae? In other words, there is no practicality for true combat situations, such as closing or entering the opponent(s).

Most Kata performances I witness are when the Kata performer enters one pose after the other. There is no concentration on the transition (be it osae, clearing, etc.) from one technique to the next. As soon as one technique is completed, there is an immediate transition to entering the next technique. This transition covers the "space" between the techniques. The transition is the fighting application of the techniques. So, the effectiveness of the fighting technique (within the Kata) is dependent upon the execution of the transition, other than just the technique. For an example, one can have a strong punch with good body mechanics, but will not be able to apply it without entering the opponent (osae).

This entering or osae is the transition "technique" that makes a Kata an effective fighting practice. What good is there in having strong techniques when one does not know how to effectively enter the opponent? In the teachings of Chibana Chosin Sensei, "there is osae in every move of the Kata".
In OSKA, Nakata Sensei would always relate how Chibana Sensei spoke of fighting rhythm as breathing rhythm.  Essentially, we inhale to expand and relax, and exhale to tighten. Inhaling as we move allows for flow, but at the end of the move, we exhale to set our stance.  Technically we don’t “take” stances, but it is simply the position we end up in during the execution of a technique.

from a post by Charles Goodin

Chibana Sensei said, although much of the Shuri-te techniques within the Katas are from Ti or Tuite, which encompasses many grappling applications, one should first concentrate on developing strong punches, strong strikes, strong kicks, and strong blocks. All the thrust, strikes, kicks, and blocks should be done with ippon Kowashi no waza. In many cases, a strong thrust, strike, kick, or block will set-up the opponent for an effective grappling technique, but then if the thrust, strike, kick, or block was strong enough, there would be no need to grapple. Chibana Sensei never turned to theatrics in demonstrating Karate, it was always thrust, strike, kick, or block. Most of the time it seemed too simple; close the distance (osae [press in]) and destroy the opponent with a single technique. Kata should be done with a natural fighting timing, which is one's breathing rhythm (iki no hyoshi). Chibana Sensei felt that learning too many Katas distracts from refining the Kata, because one would just be practicing movement with no time to work on refinements. On the other hand a limited amount of Katas is also detrimental, in that one would lack versatility.

When Chibana Sensei approached Itosu Anko Sensei about limiting the Katas for his teaching curriculum, Itosu Sensei told him to use the 12 core Katas, which were: Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan, Naihanchi Sandan, Pinan Shodan, Pinan Nidan, Pinan Sandan, Pinan Yondan, Pinan Godan, Kusanku Sho, Kusanku Dai, Chinto, and Patsai. After watching Chibana Sensei perform the Matsumura no Patsai that he had learned from Tawada Sensei, Itosu Sensei told Chibana Sensei to retain both Patsai. Itosu Sensei said, his Patsai should be called Patsai no Kata Sho and the Matsumura no Patsai be called the Patsai no Kata Dai. Chibana Sensei and many of his contemporaries called this curriculum the orthodox Shuri-te. Chibana Sensei maintained that Shuri-te techniques are from the indiginous Okinawan art of Ti, which in a distant past had its start from the Chinese martial arts. Later, Chibana Sensei developed a very basic series of Katas, which he called: Kihon no Kata Shodan, Kihon no Kata Nidan, and Kihon no Kata Sandan. This brought his complete Kata curriculum to 16 Katas.

Mabuni on Blocking



Master Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of Shito-Ryu, defined five principles of blocking. They are RAKKA (pulling or moving the attack downward); RYUSUI (moving the attack to the side); TEN'I (body shifting away from the attack); KUSSHIN (lowering the center of gravity); HANGEKI (meeting the attack with a counterattack)

RAKKA: (Blossoms fall from a shaking tree)
Analogous to a tremor of the earth that shakes a tree with such tremendous force as to knock the blossoms from its branches.

Primarily hard blocking techniques applying sudden maximum power with a twisting action of the arm to literally stop the opponent's attack and destroy his/her confidence. Examples include Age Uke, Yoko Uke, Yoko Uchi and Harai Uke.

RYUSUI: : (Two rivers join in harmony)
Analogous to the greeting of two rivers that ultimately create a force greater than each alone although doing so with little or no turbulence.

Primarily softer blocking techniques that absorb an attack and redirect it using circular or deflecting blocks or parries in a continuous and flowing movement. Examples include Ura Uke, Shuto Uke, Kakete and Sukui Dome.

TEN'I: (A Willow sways in the wind)
Analogous to the branches of a willow tree that sway to and fro in the wind allowing its tremendous force to pass seemingly effortlessly.

General concept of body shifting (taisabaki) or turning away from an attack to avoid the direct force of the attack, often utilized with Ryusui
defense (i.e. evasive maneuvers with a soft deflecting block).
KUSSHIN: (The Lion crouches low in the grass)
Analogous to a Lion that crouches unnoticeably in the grass with its body coiled for an attack on its prey.

General concept of disguising one's stance with the ability to either shift quickly out of one stance and into another or reflexively darting away and then back (typically at an angle) momentarily disappearing from the attacker.

HANGEKI: (A Flower greets the morning sun)
Analogous to a flower that opens its petals early in the morning to accept the rays of the sun for nourishment.

Advanced concept of reading an opponent's body actions to determine his/her intent prior to the opponent taking action. Response can be to greet the attack with a counter-attack (Go-No-Sen) or to precede the attack with a neutralizing action to defeat the opponent's aggression (Sen-No-Sen). 

These five elements should be combined for practical use. Whether you use a hard block (Rakka), a gentler deflecting block (Ryusui), or a counter-attack (Hangeki), always move yourself into a safer and more advantageous position without wasting movement or energy using Kusshin and Teni.

This information was located at