Monday, September 1, 2008

But is it Bunkai? Part II

In 1985 I moved to Derry, NH, and while my studies with Ernest and Tristan continued, I slowly began to focus on my Isshinryu. Their arts were complete and credible, but I always have been committed to my original instructors. I knew I couldn’t spend the time to truly study those other arts the way they had to be studied and I didn’t want to be a part time student. I still used those deep lessons to understand how techniques worked.

Tris’s Shotokan blending Shotokan, Aikido and Tjimande taught me a tremendous amount about how techniques moved into an attacker, in multiple ways. The Chinese arts augmented the Tjimande and taught me how flow and softness were a necessary component of each technique too.

I believe I began my own study of Isshinryu applications as I worked on maybe 50 separate ways I could apply the opening of Seisan kata. This helped me formulate another rule, basically any technique should be able to stop any attack, whether it was an opponents right strike or a left strike, whether you were moving in our out, whether you performed it to the front or you performed it while shifting and/or turning.

This wasn’t an instant study, but piece by piece I worked at that for years.

In 1986 Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming published a very informative book, his Advanced Yang Style Tai Chi Chaun, covering his approach to analyzing tai chi technique applications, as well as his presentation of the Tai Chi Fighting Set, showing how one technique counters another as well as alternative counters to counters, etc.

To this day I’m unaware of anyone else showing a portion of their arts potential in such detail.

Now another rule comes into play, 5 years. If I find a book, a technique, a video or a great clinic of material, it normally takes me 5 or so years before I begin to know what to do with it. Dr. Yang’s book proved to be no exception.

He broke each technique down into a series of three general principles:
How to use the technique to down the opponent.
How to use the technique for grappling (chin na0 control of the opponent.
How to use the technique for cavity strike, or striking vital points on the opponent.

My own study of Tai Chi focused solely on the form execution, which is a very large study in its own right.

The day did come when I pulled out my book and tried a technique against one of my students attacks, and dropped them with it easily. So I grabbed another technique and the same happened. My studies with Tristan Sutrisno in tjimande (as basic as they were) did show me how to enter an attack and he had commented on the smiliarity to Dr. Yang’s book to his own practices, I was just confirming what I had heard but hadn’t experienced.

This led to me getting in trouble, after a tai chi class (with a small group of students) if I’d try karate applications I’d find I was hurting my students. Likewise after a karate class if I tried tai chi applications the same occurred. My students made the point I shouldn’t mix my arts with their bodies . I eventually understood what was occurring and was able to show greater control. The surprising thing was how much damaging power came from very simple tai chi technique. I wasn’t focusing on tai chi for self defense, but when I called on it, bang. I called Ernest up about one incident and he expressed surprise that he hadn’t told me not to use that on students, but we really hadn’t worked tai chi in that light.

None of this happened simultaneously, but as incidents and work spread out over years.

It was about 1990 I started to work out how viable my principles were. I hadn’t explored Isshinryu in a systematic manner, just bits and pieces that worked very well. Before I went further I needed to nail down my underlying concepts in application study.

I began to take the ‘dumbest’ techniques I found in kata (not restrictive to Isshinryu) and see if they would drop someone.

Boy did the fun begin!

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