Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Treasured Memory from 1996

Charles Murray, Victor Michael and Me in 1996

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Step out of the Past

When I began my journey to understand how Isshinryu kata techniques could be applied I developed a tool in using one aspect of kata for investigation. Specifically I began to look into the use of stepping and turning in our kata.

In the mid 90’s, meeting Charles Joseph (Joe-san) Swift through the internet, we found that our personal investigations shared many of the same interests. Describing what I was doing with stepping he recalled an article he had read in “Gekkan Hiden” and in turn translated part of it for my use.

The article by Ikeda Hoshu on Joshinmon Karate was most appropriate because Joshinmon Karate was a descendent of Kyan Chotoku as was Isshinryu. I felt that their sharing the same kata origins lead to similar application potential.

Reading what Joe-san had translated mostly re-enforced my own researches, and I saved the article and set it aside.
This is common for me as it normally takes me a minimum of 5 years to understand how new material fit into my own understandings.
If anything the article also shows how much information is being shared in Japanese that most of us have no access to.
The other day going through my library I picked up my archive from Joe-san and re-read the article. As time passed it seems I’ve learned a little more and now there is so much there I didn’t fully understand before.
The lessons it contains are ones I’ve already learned, but now I see one’s that others are building their arts on too.
To show what I mean allow me to share a part of that article, with Joe-san’s permission.
From a partial translation prepared by Charles Joseph Swift of the article “Koryu Nana-kata and their Secrets” by Ikeda Hoshu in the July 1997 edition of the monthly journal ‘Gekkan Hiden’.
The article section The Importance of the Koryu Nana-kata in Joshinmon. Joshinmon is a system derived from the teachings of Kyan Chotoku and the Koryu Nana-kata are the 7 ancient kata from Kyan Sensei. Those kata being: ananku, wanshu, seisan, chinto, passai (dai), useishi and kusanku (dai).
“… In Okinawa there is an old saying: ‘Even if you teach kata, do not teach te.’ Te means the multitude of hidden and secret techniques within the kata. The reason that kata are performed as solo exercises is that if one were to teach all of the bunkai kumite there would be an infinite number of techniques from just one kata. The usage of the techniques will vary depending upon one’s physical traits and the demands of a real confrontation. “
The article goes into some of the special characteristics of ananku, wanshu, seisan and chinto kata. I will focus on Seisan.
Seisan utilizes the seisan-dachi (see attached Japanese page, 18). One can see techniques in this kata where one blocks and punches while utilizing the unique zig-zag footwork. At this time, one slams the heel down from its “floating” position. The application of this is to step in the zig-zag pattern to evade the attack and immediately step inside the opponent’s stance, hooking behind his foot, and then pushing with both palms as you slam the heel down, thus effecting a takedown. This technique can be seen in Southern Shaolin Quanfa, but is rarely addressed in karate.”
“The stances and footwork in kata are actually techniques. They also represent combative engagement distance or maai. Without this understanding, there comes the error of mistaken kata interpretation.”

Page 18. Seisan text

“The unique footwork of seisan. Stomp the heel down. This can also be found in Useishi (Gojushiho).

You can view the Joshinmon Seisan kata at the following Youtube location.
Seisan Kata from the Joshinmon Dojo of Joen Nakazato a direct student of Chotoku Kyan.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A lesson from the past

Thirty some years ago when I began studying with Tristan Sutrisno in his Shotokan program I had a chance to also study Aikido with him. His training came from his fathers studies in Japan in the 1930's.

Their beginning approach to Aikido was a series of defensive techniques against striking attacks. I studied the first 10 drills in their studies and teach them to this day.

While those drills are done against lunging punch attacks, one of my group Michael Cassidy, worked out the logic behind the movements against Japanese style knife thrusts. Where using them against a lunge punch is a training tool, their use against someone trying to thrust a blade into you made their use more apparent.

Then in the late 90's a friend Joe Swift helped me purchase a copy of Nakasone Genwa's "Karate-Do Taikan" and I was very surprised to see the section of Dagger disarming techniques presented by Otsuka Hironori, creator of Wado-ryu.

This is the same text recently translated by Mario McKenna (titled An Overview of Karate-do).
Mario provides a great translation of the techniques, but I'm not sharing to encourage you to obtain your own copy.

On the other hand this is a variation on the Sutrisno family Aikido drill 09, from my copy.



Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Lesson from Jion

Chomo Hanshiro

This morning I was thinking about what older kata performance may have looked like and then I remembered the article “An Outline of Kata Jion” by Chomo Hanshiro (b 1859 d 1945) from the 1938 “Karate-Do Taikan” of Nakasone Genwa. (Translated into English by Mario McKenna). Nakasone’s book contains actual photographs of Hanshiro performing many of the kata techniques, a detailed description of the kata movement and a section describing some of the kata movement’s application potential.

Hanshiro’s Jion includes many unique features such as containing defensive stances leaning away from the attack and more importantly all of the strikes are to the head.

Those strikes to the head are what made me think of Jion. Where most kata use striking to the center of the opponent’s body the fact Hanshiro’s Jion went to the head seems to make a statement about the more important target for Jion’s creator.

The current versions of Jion closest to Hanshiro’s description are those done by the Kyudokan.

Here are several you tube versions especially at different angles to more fully show the technique movement.

Kyudokan Jion http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMwlmc9L9nI

Kyudokan jion http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emhlHiEgQ-Q

Kyudokan Jion http://www.okinawabbtv.com/international/karate/movie_page/i04022315_karate_jion.html

Then to allow you to see how the kata changed in Japan you can look at the Japanese Karate Association (Shotokan) and Shito Ryu versions. Note how the strikes dropped to the center of the opponents body.

Old JKA Jion http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jpC4jyHOFY

Shito Ryu Jion http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k__BYm__yqA

Of course those changes don’t make the newer versions less valuable, just ones with different application potential.

I like the idea that some of the older kata were to strike to the face. Then again all of the other strikes to the midsection of the body don’t preclude their use to the face either.

The most telling comment by Hanshiro Sensei comes at the end of his article.

“This concludes the basic explanation of the kata Jion. Budo is a living thing; naturally there are thousands of different applications and variations for each technique. However, for the sake of brevity I have limited my introduction of the kata Jion to a simple explanation of how to perform the kata and the meaning behind the technique it contains.”

It’s safe to say the elders of karate didn’t just have technique, but they had a true belief in the scope of their art too.

Note if you want to get the full article you need to get a copy of Mario McKenna’s translation. You can find information about it at Translations by Mario McKenna http://stores.lulu.com/bechurinatgmaildotcom The book I’ve been using is “An Overview of Karate

This is the first English translation of Genwa Nakasone's 1938 Karate-do Taikan. It is one of the most comprehensive books published during the golden age of Karate-do. The book contains chapters of a veritable who's who of Karate-do luminaries including: Shiroma Shimpan, Hanashiro Chomo, Mabuni Kenwa, Otsuka Hironori, and Taira Shinken. The book is richly illustrated and goes into detail about Karate-do history, philosophy, techniques and kata.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The manner of Isshinryu Kicking

Shimabuku Tatsuo using a kicking techinque from kata SunNuSu.
photograph located from Google images, owner uncredited.

Most of us will not face an kicking attack by an Okinawan trained karate-ka. Conditioned for modern kumite kicking attacks where an opponent launches kicks trying to break through or defense we are not necessarily prepared for the original kicking attacks.

If we were the lessons within the Isshinryu kata should be well to be understood, for they explain both kicking strategy and the key for basic defense.

The Okinawan use of kicking was in the range of striking. The kick might be launched exactly at the same distance you might strike, very close into the opponent. This necessitated a different method of kicking than modern competition. One good example is that found in Shimabuku Tatsuo’s execution of the Isshinryu kata. It also offers a very different perspective of how to defend against such close kicks.

Watching the kicking techniques of Shimabuku Tatsuo in his kata you see that the knee rises before the kick is thrown, and the kicks are targeted straight out from the knee towards the groin or thigh of an opponent in the case of front kicks. In fact in general the kicks are targeting the legs to remove the opponents base to down them.

Even the knee strikes are being performed straight into the leg of an opponent, not rising up. This makes these strikes at an even closer range than striking. As they are performed forward there is less time for opponent response.

I recommend closely viewing Shimabuku Tatsuo and his primary kicking techniques in his kata.

01 - Seisan front kick, cross over front kick http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N5Gr41IZnU

02 - Nihanchi inner kick http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHikzVCF638

03 - Seiunchin step as stomp at kata end http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fO9HJdf5z4

04 - Wansu Knee strike, side kick, front- front kick http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rehP_CviTSI

05 - Chinto front kick, jumping front kick, cross over front kick http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tW60Du0d8o

06 - Kusanku front kick, front - front kick, inner crescent kick, jumping front kick


07 - Sunsu side kick, front kick, round kick, cross over stomp, knee strike



1) The targeting of the kicks being shown. All are below the waist because of the implied range of kicking.

2)The use of the front – front kick at the end of Wansu kata as one plausible counter against kicks being shown. Raising the leg as a deflecting parry and then counter-kicking the opponents leg.

3) I have omitted the use of stepping as a lower leg attack from this discussion.

Of course this method of kicking is not unique to Isshinryu.