Monday, September 1, 2008

But is it Bunkai? Part III

I think where I really started to understand what kata application potential could be was when I started thinking about what a minimalist system could be.

Of course if you’re good enough one technique can be enough to stop any attack. While I believed even a single punch was enough it would be another 10 or 15 years before I understood how correct that truly was.

I wasn’t content to just use the hundreds of techniques from my friends systems, but I had to prove my theoretical approach had merit. So I thought I’d try to find a system, that had the fewest possible techniques to counter any attack. It seemed an interesting exercise.

I had several basic principles to work with, a solid understanding of what a technique application could be, and an understanding that it needed to be explored against any attack. I called the later my unlocking principle, simply you needed to understand the technique as basic application:

1. An exterior line of defense against an attacker’s right attack.
a. Moving forward
b. Moving rearward
c. Turning clockwise into the attack
2. An interior line of defense against an attacker’s right attack
a. Moving forward
b. Moving rearward
c. Turning counter-clockwise into the attack
3. An interior line of defense against an attacker’s left attack
a. Moving forward
b. Moving rearward
c. Turning clockwise into the attack
4. An exterior line of defense against an attackers left attack
a. Moving forward
b. Moving rearward
c. Turning counter-clockwise into the attack
5. As a defensive move by attacking into your opponent’s rear

It was simplistic, lacking the other underlying principle dimensions that would come later, but an interesting way to know if you could make a technique really work.

Then to make it interesting I decided to choose those movements in kata and forms that seemed the least likely to have value. Just picking a punch lacked dimension to my way of thinking, might as well make it challenging.

Well it turned out it worked.

I started one Saturday morning on my driveway (during the summer’s my adults often meet at my house to train outdoors). I took the hammerfist to the hand technique from Goju Saifa kata and found my principle analysis really worked. If they stuck it out I could really take someone apart with those movements.

Next I decided to take a tai chi movement, Lu (or rollback) and really found it was a great way to put someone’s face on the ground in any circumstances, either interior line of defense or exterior line of defense. Especially with this study I began what I would eventually call the study of fractals of the movement. On the surface it seemed if you didn’t move fast enough with the tai chi pull back you’d really get nailed, well that’s only on the surface for if they’re really, really fast, they discover there is something else there that really disrupts their attack, and it works just as well with the head/neck as with the arm……

Now on a role, two movements, just to keep them guessing I figured I should have several more. I thought I’d really have some fun and use movement. Ernest Rothrock trains his advanced students in an obscure body of movement studies he at times refers to as Ghost techniques. I decided to take one and use it’s turns as a weapon, cutting out an attackers lower body from the rear. That’s where the concept name came from, they strike towards you because they know you’re standing before them, but when they get there you’re standing behind them.

I decided to finish with a more direct counter and because I wasn’t practicing tai chi for it’s martial aspects I decided that a palm strike would be my concluding technique. I was stuck between the brush knee and the Fair lady works the shuttles, finally deciding to include both of them.

An annual summer camp was coming up that was inter-discipline and I thought I might have some fun presenting this material. I was sure how I’d apply them but to take another group and share it with them and get results seemed a good test.

To have fun I thought I’d give the minimalist system a name – Smith Te, the system of 4 and ½ movements (counting the last two as 1 and ½ because both shared a palm strike.

To have more fun I gave the movements new names.

The hammerfist strike study from Saifa became ‘The Eagle Swoops Down’.
The pullback became ‘The Snake Retreats’.
The ghost technique became ‘The Ghost Departs’.
The brush knee became ‘The Bear wipes it’s Claws’
The fair lady works shuttles became ‘The Bear wipes it’s Nose’.

And finally I created a form with the techniques.

I had a lot of fun showing the application potential for those movements working to make my case they could stop everything. Afterwards a ex Marine, at least 6’6” came up to make a point he really didn’t believe it could stop his attack. I said ok, attack me. He came driving in with a hard right but didn’t complete his attack for some reason he felt it wasn’t a good idea to drive his eyes into my fingertips, for I was using the Lu (or my Snake Retreats) as my counter. He stopped getting the point as I reminded him, remember I said Snakes can also bite.

What I was learning if you really trusted your technique and really worked to apply it, it would stand up for you every time.

The next summer I added another worthless technique I was playing with, Sanchin Kata’s closing Mawashi Uke (or Tora Guchi if you will), finding a true minimalist system of one perfect movement study. I also renamed the system Smith Te II and slightly modified the form and renamed it ‘The Return of the Son of Magnetic Monster”, a tribute to Frank Zappa.

I never really did Smith Te after that (except as further tools in my toolkit), but continued the studies looking at ‘The Ascending/Descending Palm’, the variety of ‘X’ strikes (X Man, X Woman and X Child), studies in elbow (Etude in Empi), the study of hammerfist strikes (The Hammers of Doom), the Breaking Arm a study of many pieces, Flower Arranging and so forth.

Sure I had some fun when I shared them with a few friends schools, but more so I was starting to really understand what a technique could be used for.

I began to enter the study of Isshinryu kata technique applications using these underlying principles, was discovering that almost everything I studied with Tristan in aikido and Siliat was also already present in a deeper study of Isshinryu’s potential, and starting to get a grasp where this might go.

Then I discovered how much I was still in Kindergarden and what a glimpse of the big leagues would look like. Garry Gerossie dug my small program out of hte woodwork and totally helped refocus my efforts from that meeting.

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