Saturday, March 26, 2011

On being a Black Belt Part 3

Still Chugging Along

When Tom Chan joined my program about 1988 he brought his knowledge as a Uechi brown belt and I tapped it to study the Ueichi Sanchin and Ueichi Seisan kata. In Uechi Sanchin I found a very clean energy release in technique execution. Over the years that didn’t change of course but one day I decided to make a change to my Isshinryu Sanchin and began with natural breathing and full speed execution.

The difference from changing my Sanchin dynamics was astonishing. Completing Sanchin that way let me charged to roll. No matter how drained I was before, the new Sanchin execution enhanced my performance.

Then I took the next step and started working the application potential for Sanchin and in turn discovered a very clean way to tear into an attack and disrupt the attacker.

Of course that is a paradigm shift and one of the re-occurring lessons from my training. It can take years and decades to step beyond the original way you were shown something and explore other potential. That does not mean the original is wrong, just that there are multi layers at using anything, whether you do so or not.

I decided to shift my Isshinryu Sanchin paradigm as a result of my tests and the new way is all I teach and practice today.

The Rock and the Hard Spot

October 29, 2006 John Kerker, one of Harrill Sensei’s senior students and the Head Instructor of the Carson City Iowa dojo since Harrill Sensei’s passing had a clinic in Western Mass. The day was cold and wet and a horrible drive. The clinic was an eye opening experience.

For one thing it was proof of the ability of Harrill Sensei, not just that he understand how to use Isshinryu potential, but as a instructor he did transmit those abilities to his students. The true test of an instructor’s ability.

Where I only had a partial understanding of Harrill Sensei’s art from his clinics, and confirmation from him there was a lot he could not share not knowing those in attendance, I now understood it wasn’t from a question of their character, but from not knowing at what they could take physically.

Watching John’s presentation that day I realized I had never seen anyone hit anyone has hard over and over through the day, each strike dropping his partner. I was a pleasure to meet John and he clearly explained the fundamental use of makiwara in the Harrill Sensei training and the manner in which they worked their applications, exactly as shown during that clinic.

I left that day truly inspired and when I got home wrote up the notes of what was shown and then sent a copy to John.

The same weekend in October a year later, 2007, I found myself back in Western Massachusetts for another clinic with John Kerker. It was another wet and stormy day for horrible travel. On top of that I wasn’t in very good shape as for 6 months my arthritis had left me essentially hobbling. Again I could only be there about ½ of the clinic as my son was attending school near-by and I was taking him and his friends out to lunch later.

John’s clinic was great, but especially as he focused on one principle Harrill Sensei had been working on the last few years of his life. Again when I went home, wrote up my notes and changed what I was doing.

Over the next year I kept going back to that principle Kerker Sensei shared. It became a solid tool in our studies. At the same time a paradigm shift occurred in my own studies, simply I began to work on kata application potential more strongly.

Each subsequent October I’ve returned for those clinics, always gaining new understanding and being able to observe his teaching style grow. Though I could spend few hours with him, I’ve gained greater appreciation for his technique and how use of the makiwawa is the instructor. Literally his strikes can drop an opponent no matter where they hit, making exact targeting less a goal. Furthere more it’s made me review makiwara time I spent in the past and what I gained for those efforts. In those days with no understanding of what was occurring.

About a year ago I asked my students what changes they’ve seen with me over the years. The consensus was that before it was more locks and takedowns and now I hit.

The Black Belt – Quantifying Change

With very small programs such as mine the largest focus is always beginner and then intermediate training.

Although I don’t look at movement potential this way I strongly believe there is no movement within my Isshinryu kata that I cannot use to disrupt attack. This work has resulted in other changes. My essential class structure is that true kata technique application practice does not start until Black Belt. Then the Sho-dan works on a study of Seisan’s opening applied potentials and their underlying principles for six months or so. Only at that point does the larger study begin.

I began sharing kata application potential this with the you and kyu program from the first night. I now show a way or range of ways a movement can be used. But I don’t train my students on them, instead giving them a tactical reason to perform the movements the way I’ve shown.

For intermediate students when they encounter difficulty or make mistakes I often allow them attack me and let them experience the technique the way I teach them. Quite interesting looks on their faces when that happens and they ‘get’ that the movement is more than just moving through space.

I find when I’m teaching the students each new kata section I’m always seeing new ways the movement can be used. You reach a point of no fixed answers just open potential.

The past few years the instructor of the youth program moved to my senior student, Mike Cassidy. It is a pleasure to watch how his classes develop based on the pool of his previous training. We have the same base but he becomes his own person at the same time. He goes in directions I would not go, and that’s good for I get to observe what his teaching style shares. The art is so large nobody can do everything and many different choices still yield great results.

That has allowed me the time to focus on ‘technical’ corrections with the students as he runs the class. I’m also learning I have to slow down and also stop making corrections because the student’s level would turn too much of my points into a learning negative. In turn that is allowing me to watch and observe in greater detail how young people learn. I’m sure a future study will result from this.

The Black Belt – the Internet and the Scholar 2

From my beginning I always tried to learn more about Isshinryu and all the arts in general by seeking out books and magazines whenever possible. Along the way I collected over 3,000 magazines and 500 books. In the early 2000’s I destroyed most of the magazines, keeping a select few articles for future reference. Likewise about ½ of the books have gone into long term storage. I should get rid of them as their value is no longer needed by me, but I’m loath to do so, each one brings a certain memory and time of my life.

That leaves several hundred or so volumes for reference as I require.

I came to realize most martial publications are one time jobs, and many inexpensive books are now selling on ebay for huge prices. Once they’re published in most cases that’s it. Apparently there is little lasting profit in martial publication, except for Bruce Lee books bought by the General Public.

That then leads to private printings and distribution and even new presses lile Lulu that print one copy at a time when it is paid for, or even sale of .pdf copies.

Since I joined the internet generation I’ve built my own books and have dozens of binders with printouts of discussions, etc. all saved in plastic sheets. When I find material that is unique and I can use I print and save it, literally building my own books on topics as I wish.

Following Joe Swift’s suggestion I purchased some reprinted books directly from Japan, tomes by Mutsu and Nakasone, extremely valuable research tools. Furthermore Joe Swift and other friends like Mario McKenna and Patrick McCarthy have translated other works into English. Last year Mario McKenna’s translation of Nakasone’s “Karate-Do Taikan” was the most recent and perhaps personally one of the most valuable tools I’ve found.

Then YouTube started popping and suddenly everything one ever read about or wished about not was sitting there to watch. I’ve viewed over 50,000 of those video’s at this time. Many are of course awful, but some are incredibly in depth on every art, as much as a video record allows of course.

The hard work, the knowledge how to teach something, how to develop a student through lifetimes of layers of training, and many other points are not there, but you can still see what you can see, more than anyone when I started ever thought was possible.

McKenna Sensei suggested I start a blog and following his advice I began Isshin – Concentration the Art. Not for discussion but as a repository of what I’ve seen and learnt for my students future reference. Much of the material we do not have time to address in class, and much of the material from class that is referenced in a way that they can recall it at future times.

At times it even involves what I believe is original consideration. Last year I began doing research on Itosu for an article and in turn came to realize most of the 1920 and 1930’s publications on Karate in Japan were created by students of Itosu. Each of them had evolved into unique arts, but by taking Itosu as their instructor into account, gave more information that all of them shared, each work exploring perhaps a slightly different part of the same picture. A new way of piercing the veil of time.

Recently I started going through past discussions on the Bubishi section on Counters and Escapes. Old topics always get review and I’m seeing another way to look at the book, which I think may make a larger statement about the Chinese Martial Arts in the area where it was originally compited.

The Black Belt – What does it mean?

This is what this all comes down to, what does the Black Belt mean?

Dozens of days competing

7,600+ plus days training

Thousands of additional days thinking, researching, planning

Oceans of sweat

Hundreds and hundreds of students

Hundreds of books



Pain and Joy

What does the Black Belt mean? Just look in the mirror.

..... and the best part is just beginning

Friday, March 25, 2011

On Being A Black Belt - Part 2

So far I’ve covered my first 15 or so years, say about 3,000 days of training. Although I’m focusing on varied studies and roles in my black belt studies my first purpose was my own training and that of my students. It was in the early 1990’s the earlier work took hold.

My Derry program had developed a solid small adult program in addition to the youth program. The changes I had made to the kyu studies were now moving students into Dan studies. Things were starting to get interesting.

The Black Belt as Researcher 4 – How to use Isshinryu

While my friends had shared their arts with me freely I didn’t have the time or access to fully become their students and learning something about the depth of their arts didn’t want to settle for something less though they would have accepted me as their full student.

My love for Isshinryu remained strong, and seeing what those programs had only gave me inspiration to understand Isshinryu differently than I had studied. This was not because my original instructors programs were lacking. Their Isshinryu is very powerful in it’s own right, I was just interested in exploring the Isshinryu system in a different way.

The truth was at this time I had more than enough technique for my students to keep us busy for a lifetime.

I had worked up some preliminary studies on the use of Isshinryu technique but taking the step to do more was just around the corner.

Then one Saturday morning before class, which was being held outside, it occurred to me to investigate what a Minimalist system would entail. A Minimalist system being the smallest number of moves that can handle any attack. Today I would accept the answer as any one technique properly applied should be able to respond to any attack, but at that time it was a new concept for me. While I had studied many responses for specific attacks trying to find answer was a challenge.

In turn I developed a system with 4 ½ moves. My starting premise wasn’t to pick the strongest techniques I could think of, instead I decided to pick techniques from forms I felt were the most obscure ones I’d be least likely to use. I selected 5 techniques from different forms and systems and using a basic principle I had determined studied their applications against right grabs and strikes, against left grabs and strikes, against double grabs, against kicks. What I discovered was each of those movements worked against anything and were as valid as any of my earlier studies.

I was learning how to study movement potential.

I followed this with another series of theme studies, such as ‘X- Blocks’, ‘the Circular Parry/Strike’ or ‘Elbow Strikes” and many others. I wasn’t worried about specific kata, instead focusing on the uses of technique in general.

Then slowly I’d select Isshinryu techniques to continue to test what is possible.

The Black Belt as Student once Again

In 1994 I met Harrill Sensei and was left asking the question:

“Who was that masked man?”

“That was no masked man, that was the Lone Ranger!”

When Garry Gerossie visited my program he told me I was doing the same thing his instructor was doing.

Garry vastly understated where I was for Harrill Sensei has a 40 year head start. The underlying principle behind technique usage may have been the same but his knowledge and practice far exceeded where I was as I was at the beginning.

The first meeting was at a clinic where he probably covered 150 Isshinryu applications in 6 hours. I had to leave on a business trip the next day but my initial notes covered about 30 of those applications. An incredible glimpse into use of Isshinryu, where to hit, the range of applications in a movement.

The next year Garry and I hosted Harrill Sensei at our school. He asked me what I wanted to see and I asked to see how he’d use Chinto, Kusanku and Sunsu. The first 3 hours he covered some of the applications within Chinto’s fires movement and finally said “Perhaps I should move onto the 2nd move!”

My students and I took a group approach, cross comparing the experiences gained and especially felt. The following day we’d observe the strike marks left on one’s body and gained a great deal about where and how to hit as well as continuing understanding of technique application of Isshinryu.

Garry and I hosted Harrill Sensei until 1990 and when possible I traveled to Western Massachusetts and Rhode Island when he gave clinics there to experience as much as possible. I always made deep notes on what was covered. Those clinics in our school, Harrill Sensei graciously allowed me to videotape as long as he got a copy for himself.

While much of my time was always focused on my students and the developing Dan group I tried to work Harrill Sensei’s material into our studies too.

First a technique is only as good as your execution. Harrill Sensei’s were not better than my previous studies, but they were focused on use of Isshinryu.

Second, attending clinics one, two or three times a year is not the same as training with an instructor. You only get what is being shown, and assuming you fully understand what is shown you still require much time to get it down well. I find it takes me about 5 years to learn something well enough to work it into my program, and when you insert one thing you most likely have to deemphasize something else.

Harrill Sensei’s teachings proved challenging especially as not having deep experience with them I’d try them and damage the student because they worked. But hours of clinic video tapes are difficult to watch and my notes were detailed but again difficult to scope in the full picture. It was a work.

Third, the more I studied with Harrill Sensei the more I came to understand that the underlying principles were far more important than the actual techniques because those underlying principles could be applied to anything with result. As time went on I worked on my own understanding of how a kata technique could work against a range of attacks and developed my own techniques. Now I’m sure I didn’t do anything Harrill Sensei had worked out himself, but by doing it on my own the value of Isshinryu became more apparent.

I should note that my brief association with Harrill Sensei was the first time since my original instructors I had any association with other Isshinryu. I had met Isshinryu karate-ka at many tournaments, but not beyond that level. Harrill Sensei’s work presented a new picture in my Isshinryu knowledge.

The Black Belt – the Internet and the Scholar

During the later 90’s I entered the Internet age. I discovered the joy and the horror at what the internet had to offer.

On the Original Isshinryu List I discovered other Isshinryu karate-ka to discuss their Isshinryu studies.

I made friends on every continent (except Antarctica) and we shared ideas, experiences, knowledge, translations and stood with each other. I also discovered how the anonymous nature of posting led to excess, and often would weigh in for truth, justice and basic politeness for all of us.

Those friends went out of their way to share video tape of a huge number of systems and topics for grounded discussion.

Then Joe Swift discovered I had studied French he requested me to translate Mabuni Kenwa’s books published in 1933 from their French translations. Eventually that led to Patrick McCarthy making similar requests for books by Roland Habersetzer and Kenji Tokitsu.

By asking I discovered how wide a range of practices Isshinryu actually held. This access to information got me thinking about many martial subjects.

I began trying to understand what the Bubishi represented in regards to Okinawan karate. I worked up a series of analysis papers on the topic, shared them on various discussion groups and a friend published them on a web site he created for me. My analysis was based on logically reviewing the available English Bubishi pulications (those of Patrick McCarthy and Ken Penland) and asking a long series of questions. A few others who had their own studies shared their own thoughts, but on the whole I never got the discussion I was seeking.

Then I turned my eye on the history of Isshinryu. I never trained on Okinawa, as had my instructors and Harrill Sensei. I did question, however, if I looked at Isshinryu founder Shimabuku Tatsuo’s instructor which lead to a series of articles on Harrill Sensei helped my research efforts on Isshinryu kobudo too.

I founded several private discussion groups, “Bunkai Unlimited” for a small group of instructors, and “Pleasant Isshinryu” a group of focused Isshinryu karate-ka sharing with each other. Those discussion have extended 10 years now.

I shared articles with on many topics. Joined discussions at the CyberDojo, various Isshinryui discussion groups, private discussion groups, with Bill Glasheen’s Ueichi Ryu discussion, Martial Talk, Traditional Fighting Arts forums and many other locations.

Always I was sharing and writing to clarify my own thinking, and seeking the occasional focused discussion on many martial topics.

The Black Belt – Jambalaya

I realize this section covering the 1990’s seems a logical flow from point to point. The reality is there were many layers of things happening continually. This occurred in my karate program as well as my personal ongoing Yang Tai Chi Chaun study and with my Tai Chi Students studies. The adult classes were spent ½ of the time in kobudo studies.

In the early part of the decade I discontinued training with Tristan Sutrisno, but the wide range of studies he had shared formed a bedrock of my own program. I continued to gain understanding from his teachings and most amazingly discovered the intersection of his studies motion within Isshinryu itself. The one study truly supported the other. His family methodology to instruction formed much of the basis of my developing program. This his aikido and tjimande drills were already present within Isshinryu once I took the self imposed blinders off of my eyes. My understanding of Isshinryu vastly improved from those studies.

I also found I had to learn to set aside many of my studies. I had learnt so many kata and techniques I couldn’t stay on top of them all, nor would any student ever be able to learn them. Always Isshinryu I began to boil off those studies to find the more meaningful long term projects.

Rothrock Loashi shared an extremely important teaching regarding the use of body alignment in technique application. Together with my long term study on the use of the lower body (really the whole body in turn) I began to work a specific dynamic to my system movement and application. I specifically chose the crescent stepping with exactitude as the foundation of those studies and that had changes to our Isshinryu execution in kata as well as Force Enhancers to merge practice to application potential to actualization.

As the years passed Rothrock Laoshi visited many times sharing his study of the Wu Tai Chi Chaun teaching form, and many drills in Jing Wo and Faan Tzi Ying Jow Pai with my students. The material was extremely credible but very difficult to integrate into our studies. There was only so much time. But going back to his body alignment study it became a core principle behind everything we use.

I now had a credible methodology to use to develop and correct a student, a way to analyze what others are doing, and a methodology to look for incorrect body alignment to exploit against an opponent.

As this was happening I was now teaching almost an entirely black belt program for the adults. It gave experience at what a black belt could become and ran up against the real needs of real students.

On the whole my adults were permanent part time students who trained for years and years. That they all worked for a living controlled how much time they could train. There was no limit to where they could go,

I didn’t draw lines, they taught me that wasn’t necessary. I didn’t provide goals I shared in my studies, allowed them to train with the instructors who taught me, directed their own efforts a bit and slowly discovered each of them worked towards their own needs, none of those needs mine in turn. I came to the understanding you develop the kyu to enter dan training where they must address their own needs first and foremost. The young will leave home not to return. The adult will train according to their world view. You can’t make them anything you can only share, direct and step back to see what the outcome becomes.

My understanding of what my own studies became was never to be theirs. That was right.

The Black Belt – When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed

Among the most difficult Black Belt Lessons was to be the death of your student’s and/or friends.

It was 2002 and one of my students, John Dinger, and my friend, Sherman Harrill, both passed on within months of each other.

A year before John Dinger stopped coming to class. We thought it was just his time to move on in life. Eventually word came to use that he was experiencing a rare genetic condition causing him to loose control of faculties. When possible I would visit John and continue his studies in tai chi and martial discussion. This would remain almost to his end. In the fullest sense he embraced his martial studies with his wife, his church and his friends until the end.

It was also the time for Harrill Sensei’s passing. He had many physical problems over the years. His Isshinryu gave him focus to fight against them. Many times he’d begin a clinic so you were afraid for him and hours later, deep into the zone of his art, he end as strong as a Tiger. But his time also passed. He had been hoping I could bring John to meet with him that fall in Western Massachusetts for John had been his favorite uke from my program. It did not happen.

Let me draw from Walt Whitman writing about Abraham Lincoln

When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,

And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,

I mourn’d – and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever-returning spring! Trinity sure to me you bring

Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,

And thought of him I love.

Harrill Sensei’s passing affected me greatly. I was not his student and he had been very fortunate that he shared so freely what he could in a clinic setting. Sherman always told me he could only present a small part of his teaching in an open format where he really didn’t know who those in attendance were. I had maybe spent 40 or 50 hours with him during the past 8 years. They changed me.

After several months I knew I had to do something more. With a passion I pulled out each note, each email he sent me, each video tape and I started documenting what he had shared. I ended up with a document of 800 application studies from Isshinryu’s 8 kata, notes on the underlying principles behind many of those applications, and historical records for personal study. I finally printed them out for myself and found they were a book on some of his Isshinryu and named it the Sherm-pedia.

I sent a copy to John Kerker, who was selected to continue Harrill Sensei’s dojo in Carson Iowa and told him he was in charge if it was to be distributed to others. After John reviewed it he commented it looked correct but there were about another 500 or 600 applications not shared in our settings.

It brought me some closure with my friends.

The Black Belt – After

2003 brought a change in the adult programs. For different reasons my older students moved onto other activities. The next year, 2004, it was only Mike Cassidy and myself training on any regular basis, which of course meant we could work at the highest levels. Mike had been with me now almost those 15 years and he began to assist with the youth program.

During our training I was able to integrate some of my friend Joe Swift’s translations into our study. Additionally my studies into the force enhancers of our technique improved. I was able to link the exceptional grip strength Rothrock Laoshi developed with his great depth in Chinese weapons studies. This allowed me to look how the study of Kobudo was another force enhancer in the development of application potential. The need wasn’t for kobudo usage, the need was dan kobudo study for core development.

Each weapon required different handling skills. Bo, Sai, Tonfa, Kama, Stick, Tanto and Tai Chi Sword. A small core curricula was all that was required for long term dan development. The entire course build towards many subtle energies for advancing development.

The program as it developed required all of it’s aspects for best personal development.

As much as was coming together, much more was yet to come.

To be continued.


Note on the Minimalist System developed in 1992 – Smith Te

The techniques I chose were:

  1. The descending hammerfist strike to the other hand from our Goju Saifa kata.
  2. The Yang Tai Chi da lu – pullback <>
  3. One of the evasion movement patterns from Rothrock Laoshi
  4. Yang Tai Chi
    1. Brush Knee and Press
    2. Fair Lady works Shuttles

I then renamed them:

1. The Eagle Swoops Down

2. The Snake Strikes

3. The Ghost departs

4.a. The Bear wipes it’s claws

4.b. The Bear wipes it’s nose

Obviously I was having some fun but at the creator of the system I retain those rights. Who said you can’t have fun doing something? But those techniques can disrupt any attack.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The use of the armbar against random attacks

From notes on Black Belt Class 10.15.2002

Note 03.24.2011 – These notes present the opening study of the use of the Isshirnyu armbar. It doesn’t try to cover every possible use, or the full range of force multiplier options that might be used. It does however incorporate Oooops study with use study.

Definition: The armbar is not what one would consider the classical use of an arm bar, but the essence of creating the hyper-extension of the arm, elbow and shoulder. The arm bar is applied from the external line of defense, where you’re moving from outside of an attack into the opponent’s centerline.

1. Defenders opening position is standing aware, both hands down at one’s side.
2. Attackers opening position is any sort of grab, strike or combination from the front or the side.
3. Defenders opening consideration, no matter what they stick out, you’re going to use it.
4. Defenders source for the ‘armbar’ movement (several potential sources out of multitudes):

a. Isshinryu Seisan: from the opening left side block, and retract the left hand as you strike with the right.
b. Shorinryu Ananku: from the opening side block, twist both feet to the front corner as you chamber that hand and reverse punch with the other. [the twist of the balls of the feet is extremely important]
c. Ueichi Seisan: where you turn the right open hand over and pull back as your left [palm up] nukite (spear hand) strikes out.
d. Isshinryu Seiunchin: where you turn the right bent wrist open hand block over and pull back as you deliver a left [palm up] nukite (spear hand) strike.
e. Goju Sanchin: concluding ½ to their mawashi uke/uchi/tora guchi, the circular double bock/strike
f. Yang Tai Chi Chaun: Wave Hands Like Clouds section where the hands switch positions at the sides of the motion.
g. Indonesian snake technique: where the use of the pulling hand and the striking forearm are to break the attackers arm
h. Aikido: our opening #1 technique, where the pivot on the balls of the feet to move out of the way and then the 180 degree pivot in the other direction moves the person. This use of pivot is extremely important to sell the full armbar motion.
i. Wu Tai Chi Chaun: its use of the full sole of both feet to pivot (an older Yang method) coincides with the motion needed to sell the arm bar.
j. Tjimande basic drill # 2: essentially is using the same motion.

Not done in the fashion we normally practice the arm bar as in Aikido #2, which uses a different entry and takedown.

Application analysis principle used:

Where a full technique sequence can form one application, and any of the motions mentioned above can each be used in various armbar fashions, using fractal analysis it is the essence of these kata movements, where the one arm pulls back as the other slices across the triceps insertion and that forms the technique for this analysis. Using the full kata motion, is simply one of multitudes of technique conclusions after the armbar is formed.

Physical action created by the technique use;

1. the defender’s rear inner arm rises and deflects the attackers strike towards the attacker’sc enterline, as that arm does so that hand turns over and hooks or grabs.
2. the defender’s lead arm rises and as the deflection/control of the attackers arm takes place with the inner arm. In this it is a force multiplier for the initial deflection of the attackers’ strike. The lead arm them slices across the defenders triceps insertion (where the triceps is attached to the arm immediately behind the elbow) with a forearm rub/slicing or sawing motion.
3. the defender is utilizes a rolling centerline, shifting their center away from the attacking limb as the arms are raised and then shifting their center into the opponents centerline as the armbar is sold. At this point the double ball of the foot pivot can be added for greater effect so the centerline crosses across the line of the attacker’s arm.
4. The attacker can:
a. Have their arm hyper extended to be locked straight down.
b. Be projected in any direction the defender pivots and releases them towards
c. Can have their joints painfully locked to the point of joint damage
d. Can have their arm broken

Movement considerations with the armbar usage:

1. For full self defense it can be accomplished with just roll of the defenders center away from the attack (slightly) and then back into the attack.
2. The use of the lower body to step into or step away from the attack forms tactical considerations, as to how one wishes to control and/or project the attacker from the armbar’s result.
3. In particular, correct use of stepping away, hyper-extends their arm in such a fashion as to facilitate the arm breaking potential for the technique.

Consideration for the controlling arm/hand

As this hand parries and hooks over to pull the attackers limb in to your side, you can either use an open hand hook, or you can grab the attackers arm (at the wrist). In any case you don’t go for the wrist, but rather go for the forearm as the defender’s back hand goes for the middle of the upper arm (both from the outside).

After meeting the attackers limb, alignment of your body helps the arms deflect the attack. Then your arms slide down, the controlling arm/hand hooks over their arm. The hook itself provides a friction lock, and their elbow hyper-extension, their arm against your body as your other arm slices across their arm, alone is enough to control, lock or project.

I advise against turning the hook into a grab (unless you specifically are sure there are no other attackers about). A grab immobilizes your arm. An open hand hook allows you to instantly release and move into an other attacker, but you’ve not sacrificed anything as the open hand hook alone is fully sufficient.

If you do choose to grab for greater control, being able to complete the grab with an eagle claw grab, does create a stronger movement (FYI).

Consideration for the extending forearm

When you consider the Okinawan kata technique, this arm is in the practice of striking, fist or open hand. One thing necessary to make the armbar function, is use the full power of your strike, but instead of hitting with your hand, use that strike as a forearm rub/slice/saw across their triceps insertion.

The harder and faster the greater the effect on the opponent.

And with Isshinryu’s strike/retraction sequence, if correctly timed with the other hand the opponent sticks their hand out, you enter the armbar sequence, your pulling striking motion slams their face on the ground and the strike pullback, locks them down with a reveres armbar motion, fully using the Isshinryu striking potential, coming and going.

Of course if you choose to use less power and not project the opponent, the striking hand retraction still performs a secondary controlling lock for the armbar too.


1. The opponent goes to strike your face with their right jab. [the strike has to be focused through your head, not a jab that stops before your face, otherwise they don’t have the body commitment to use correctly without going out after them.]
a. You slightly shift your centerline off their attacking limb, as you rapidly raise both your hands (this raising motion ought to be enough to deflect their strike.
b. Now you slightly shift your centerline to the right of their centerline, as your right hand hooks over their arm, and pulls back, pressing their arm against your body.
c. Your right arm slices across their triceps insertion.
d. BE CAREFUL, this generates great torque and if the partner isn’t prepared you can put them in a whiplash situation. The faster they attack the faster they go down.
i. Depending on how fast you turn into them and deliver the armbar, ALL of the possibilities exist. Sticking their face in the ground, locking them with the armbar, etc.

2. Practice the same against the attackers left jab.

3. Practice in ERROR, where you make a mistake and go to the inside.
a. There you hook the arm and are slicing across their biceps. This moves them from center, but you don’t have an armbar.
b. Tactical consideration. At this point take your right arm and slice the forearm across their neck at the side. Believe me this will move them back away from your arm.
c. Then pull the right arm back and place it under their right arm, and roll from right to left as you pull down your left and raise it on the outside.
d. This allows you to go into your original armbar, having shifted from internal line of defense with the press across the side of their neck as an opening to move into the external line of defense you choose.
e. Based on tactical consideration that after moving them backwards, you strategically choose to move outside. Otherwise use an interior line of defense/attack as you’ve a perfect opening.

4. Practice in ERROR against the attackers left jab, where you end up on the inside.

5. Practice in ERROR where you raise your arms and your left is outside their attack, and your right is inside their attack.
a. Errors do happen, which is why you need to work on how to handle them.
b. Perhaps you will press inside with your left as your right hand strikes into their elbow joint, bending their arm (with pain)
c. At that time, a knee release will allow you to simply reach out with your right hand and then chamber your right, using the tremendous slicing potential of the chamber to strike into their body as appropriate.

6. Variation of the first example, but instead of projecting them, when they bend over, allow your left hand to strike into their face, or alternatively palm into the side of their face, around the eye.

Caution – Begin slow and work to slowly increase speed and power in both the attacks and the defense. Understand what your partner can take and don’t exceed their safety into damage.