Monday, January 14, 2019


Charles Murray had driven me down to stay in his parents’ home on the weekend of my Black Belt examination by the entire IKC under Tom Lewis.
I passed/survived whatever is the appropriate answer, and that night I slept with my new black belt under my pillow.
The next day he drove us back to Scranton.
On that trip he asked me a question. “Not that you are a black belt, what good is that going to do you if you are flying in a jet whose engines fail at 20,000 feet. What good is being a black belt going to do for you?
At that time, not expecting a question like that I responded, “Simple, I would just jump up in the aisle and at the moment of impact would just punch to negate the force of the crash.”
Of course a dumb answer to what seemed a ‘dumb’ question at that time.
Life contains many turns, and now much of it seems like I am in that crashing plane. From the perspective that I have developed and am living with disabilities that have taken so much of my karate from me.
Yet, I still try to jump up into Sanchi stance (or very, very slowly assume sanchin) and attempt that punch (again more is much slower motion).
I do have all my memories of what I have experienced and I work to share them for my students, perhaps to guide their way.
Then the day will come that the ground comes up and smacke me. That is certain to occur.
Then I will know the quality of my punch.
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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Small steps

I am a black belt in Isshinryu through the Tom Lewis and Charles Murray Lineage. Especially from Charles efforts the entire Isshinryu system as he knew it was forced into my system. Then too soon I was alone in Scranton, no instructor, no training partners, it was where I worked and lived. The paradigm of Isshinryu I was taught was a powerful one, but having no training partners made it difficult for me. I began to use tournaments as a way to polish the apple so to speak.
I also began a program to teach the young of Scranton. And almost everyone I knew from every system thought I was crazy to do so. But Charles had beat into me that I should trust myself and so I did.
During that time I became curious that kata technique could be applied in self defense. That was not a focus of the Isshinryu paradigm I had learned.  So slowly I worked out the underlying principle how things worked. But I did not go further at that time.
Instead I used the free time I had to train everywhere I could. No matter what was offered, good, bad or ugly, I learned something. I would have been quite content to do Isshinryu exactly as I was trained, But I had to do something else.
And everwhere I trained, there was one constant force, none of them cared about my Isshinryu, They did care about me,  but only from their perspective. I was grateful for whatever they shared, but it only pushed me  to better understand my system.
So for a decade I learned as much as I could, especially from two gifted instructors. I learned a lot about their system paradigms. Especially how technique applications could be used. Very important skills, what actually worked and how those techniques worked.
Then about 1988 I began to work on my own paradigm about how to apply Isshinryu. But not jumping in and working out kata application after application.
Instead I selected themes and located techniques that fit that theme. My then students (the adults not the youth) assisted, but the resulting studies were for me, I did not teach them for my program.
Let me present one of those studies. I whimisically called it “Etude in Empi and the Arm Breaks”
Sounds more than a little gruesome, but both those instructors cautioned about techniques to be practiced softly, because serious pressure would break an arm. The theory is someone is attacking you and you can break their arm, they could not continue to attack you with that arm. So I gathered some examples for my back pocket, on that day I needed to focus students on breaking arms. A day that still has not arisen.
After completing a number of such studies, I moved on to a larger studyon the potential uses of Seisan kata technique.
But it began with small steps.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Naifanchi Kata vs. Chinto Kata

To me Naifanchi is but a tool to prepare for a real kata study. That of Chinto, and once that is entered, Naifanchi becomes far less useful.



Naifanchi is part of the Isshinryu system and it ought to be as it teaches many valuable things.

And this is not about kata technique application potential. There are multitudes of ways to use the techniques found in Naifanchi. And one of the individual I trained with in his Shorin Ryu used to perform the form with turns in its execution, opening a whole different range of applications.

I always considered it a valuable study for my students.

But back when I was first starting to consider the underlying principles of all my kata, I became struck at what a powerful range of techniques were often, IMO, overlooked with the continual use of turns in Chinto kata. The further I looked the more convinced I became that many were not looking at the full destructive potential in those turns. That focused me at how to incorporate the power of turning in all my kata technique application studies.

This was not the only way I looked at Chinto technique application potential, any more than the way I was looking at Naifanchi technique application potential.

But beginning on seeing what I saw, I also saw one way Naifanchi could be used to better prepare the student for Chinto. One way was the use of striking from side to side in Naifanchi developed the  oblique abdominal muscles to more stronger work the initial Chinto spin turn as a stronger offensive weapon. Then there were other sections within Chinto kata, where the work on those same muscle groups increased the capability of turns and striking within Chinto too.

This is only a small section of the strength of Chinto kata technique, but build those strengths and other things follow.

Where one focuses in the long run determines exactly where you are leading your students.

I was never just looking at technique application potential, and its greater hand in hand study that of technique application realization. There was so much more to me.


Friday, January 11, 2019

As opposed to 3 years on one kata, there are other possiblities

In 1934 Itoman Seijin (Morinobu’s) book Toudi-jutsu no Kenkyu was published. In it he presenged a description of Toudi Kempo, apparently the older Okinawan traditions which became karate. For such an early martial work when it was published, it is most amazing how few consider what it shared. Perhaps it was based solely on earlier traditions, perhaps it was influenced by the developing karate. Reading alone cannot answer that question.


But it presents enough material to be worth listening to.


In particular I find the section about kata interesting.


“That said there would be little point for a writer like myself to hope to convey the 600 techniques that comprise Toudi. Instead, I will try to explain the main techniques of the 600 and give a sense of their contents. Also, Toudi training is incomplete if it does not include the practice of kata. However, today there are approximately 60 kata in Toudi and if it takes about three minutes to perform one kata, then you would need three hours to practice them all.”


Kata Name Romanized
Kata Name Kana or Kanji
1. Sesan
2. Iha-shi Sesan (Iha’s Sesan)
3. Kyan-shi Sesan (Kyan’s Sesan)
4. Sepai
5. Niseshi (Nijushiho)
6. Sanseru
7. Kyan-shi Useshi (Gojushiho) (Kyan’s Useshi)
8. Itosu-shi Useshi (Gojushiho) (Itosu’s Useshi)
9. Suparenpe dai & sho 
一百零八歩 大 小
10. Toma-shi Ryuho (Toma’s Ryuho)
11. Rokishu 
12. Unshu dai & sho 
雲手 大 小
13. Ryushu dai & sho 
龍手 大 小
14. Nanshu dai & sho 
南手 大 小
15. Pinan shodan, nidan, sandan, yondan, godan 
平安 初段 二段 三段 四段 五段
16. Kusanku dai & sho
 公相君 大 小
17. Wanshu 
18. Naifanchi shodan, nidan, sandan
 ナイファンチ 初段 二段 三段
19. Passai dai & sho
 パッサイ 大 小
20. Tawada-shi Passai (Tawada’s Passai) 
21. Jitte 
22. Chinto
23. Tomari no Chinto
24. Chinte 
25. Niwon 
26. Unuibu 
27. Nuichue 
28. Jin 
29. Juumu 
30. Kokan
31. Yoshimura-shi Channan (Yoshimura’s Channan) 
32. Seyanchin 
34. Jion 
35. Wandau
36. Rohai 
37. Motobu-shi Sochin (Motobu’s Sochin)
38. Aragaki-shi Sochin (Aragaki’s Sochin)
39. Pichurin
40. Hanashiro-shi Kururunfa (Kururunfa) 
41. Wankuwan 
42. Seshun 


Even more interesting is there is not a suggestion that only 3 kata should be studied.


From other books there they suggest that the older traditions were in 5 lines of service or Okinawan samurat traditions. I have found nothing about what exactly was studied for each of those traditions. But it does suggest things.


1. that the martial traditions were shaped by the familits obligation of service. Not all of which was for military purposes. I infer that meant the martial practices were an adjunct capability for the services to be rendered. Then in all cases the martial tradition was to be able to be used. It was not studied to teach the general population. It was not studied to become an instructor.


One might infer the families would want someone who survived a long time to be the one to train their family youth, in those traditions. First proven by their service and their experiences. Very different from what todays karate instructor often represents.


It just as the more we look toward the past, there is a different possibility that emerges.


I don’t doubt that Funakoshi Ginchin was taught that 3 years on one kata. And passed that concept forward. It’s just that I have no idea if that was the general standard of the Okinawan past. So many things changed when Toudi became karate, and karate was opened to the public and the young.


It is something to consider when attemping to know what the true past may have been.





Myquotes from  1934 Itoman Seijin (Morinobu’s) book Toudi-jutsu no Kenkyu came from the Mario McKenna translation of that work, It is available through Lulu press.