Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Glimpse at Bubushi Escape Techniques

scan from Mabuni Seipai No Kata (1934)

[Note a Presentation I originally prepared in 2003]

It seems a long time ago now I began to look at the Okinawan Bubishi, its translations and possibilities of meaning to its text. I always found its existence interesting, but I also came to the conclusion it is almost universally ignored when it comes to training practice.

Of course almost none of us can hope to read/translate the original text. That leaves us to deal with specific translations. It’s practices may or may not be reflected in our own studies. Sure the Big ‘8’ for Isshinryu came from there, but which version?

I’m going to take a little time to look at one section of the ‘Bubishi’, Methods of Escape. My source will be the recent translation of Funakoshi Ginchin’s ‘Karate Jutsu’, translated by John Teramoto.

My reason was Funakoshi was first to share the Bubishi’s existence to outsiders, and he included this material both in his original book and later in his Karate Do Koyan, but left it in the original Chinese. One wonders if the emergent JKA from Funakoshi Sensei’s teachings ever paid attention to what was shared?

Methods of Escape

  1. If you want to attack east, first strike west.

This section is an obvious reference to the use of diversion. If your enemy is looking to the east they may not be checking out the west, leaving them vulnerable.

I attended a seminar by a senior Judo-ka, long ago. He presented a technique his Japanese instructors waited 20 years to show him, but he didn’t keep the same restriction. While grappling, he would use both hand to really pull the opponent downward to the right.

The opponent would automatically counter pull to the left, and then he fell backwards throwing them over his left shoulder. First East then West.

  1. If you want to stamp forward, bring up the rear foot as much as possible.

I interpret this as inching forward on your opponent. Keep your front foot stable as your rear foot inches forward. That means you have to cover less distance when you stamp forward and can do so more quickly.

Kata leads us to standardize our technique, but when facing an opponent subtle shifts and deceptive openings to set up our response are useful, even if not formally seen in the kata.

Of course I may be assuming too much, such that the stamp is with the back foot, it may be the front foot. In that case sliding the rear foot forward actually places your center closer to the attacker allowing the front foot to reach in further.

What does stamp mean? Is it a cross stomp kick?. Stamp might be interpreted just as is says, a stamp to the instep of their foot. Trying to break it and paste them to the floor. That stamp may be accompanied with upper body technique done at the same time, and becomes a force multiplier among other uses.

Even more simply, the stamp might be nothing but a big owie, creating a distraction to escape (keeping with the section title.

  1. If you want to rotate your body, intensify the soft power.

Keeping your body rigid inhibits your ability to rotate, slows you down and decreases the power that can be emitted from the technique. A great example are the turning techniques in Naifanchi Kata. Keeping the torso soft allows quicker rotation.

In fact the turning technique developed in Naifanchi is the same turning technique used with greater rotation in Chinto.

Rotation is much more subtle than the large turns. It also involves the smaller turns used in technique movement. An example are the rotations of the knee during knee release to move a technique into the optimal zone of entry to an attack Reinforcing that soft becomes hard.

Interesting choice of words, intensify the soft power? Sounds like a contradiction doesn’t it.

  1. If your hair is being pulled, use kyogeki (literally a large halbred. Kyogeki here might mean “Spear Hand”. Another suggested reading is “Thumb Attacks”.)

Several time’s I’ve been shown how to press both hands on the hand grabbing your hair to neutralize their grab, but putting your hand into their throat works for me Thumb attacks seem too complex when your head is being jerked around, imo.

  1. If you want to strike your opponent, destroy his tenchuu (Ch: tianzbu, this is central supporting pillar, ... here the meaning might be to attack the opponent’s center line.)

Again sound advice on how to strike. I was shown no matter where you face an opponent find the centerline of their body and strike towards it. At times trunk rotation can spin off attacks to the bodies outsides, but the center line as a target remains true. You also have a great many targets of opportunity on the centerline.

  1. When the opponent falls to the ground, pin his head face down and you will win.

A common approach in many arts is that an attack isn’t countered until the opponent is immobilized on the ground. Face down, kneeling on their arm is a good way to conclude their attack. One of the Sutrisno Aikido concepts is as the individual is going down, utilizing a wrist lock to roll the opponent into that position no matter which way they originally fall.

  1. When you fall to the ground, take advantage of your opponent’s sense of superiority.

There are so many variations of the lower body combinations. The one I began with included kicking from the ground with front thrust kicks and side thrust kicks. If you’ve been downed, they have to reach down to get you, and if they didn’t ride you down to remain in control, their inexperience can be used to counter them.

  1. If grabbed from behind, attack to the rear with your elbow.

All chambering is a rear elbow strike. The double roundhouse strikes in the upper body combinations (from the Lewis lineage) are as much double rear elbow strikes as roundhouse strikes.

  1. If grabbed from the front, attack his testicles.

Works for me.

  1. If someone grabs your [head], attack his throat. (v.s. - perhaps related to concept 4.)

Note there is a principle here. The throat is extremely unprotected.

  1. If your opponent forces mud into your mouth [as a final insult after your defeat], attack his throat.

An opponent who is using defeat to punish is making a amateur mistake. If they were professional they would just finish you off. If they haven’t their hubris might be used against them, and the action described might well leave their throat open for attack.

  1. In close combat, use your elbows.

One wonders if the addition of elbow/forearm strikes in Wansu and SunNuSu were specifically added for this reason.

  1. In distant combat, use a reverse stamping kick.

The reach of the leg being a deciding factor to use the kick. Note the use of stamping, as if the use of the kick is to immobolize the opponent. It really reminds me of the kick being used in the To’on Ryu Seisan Kata. A whole body leg stamp, very different from any other style.

  1. If you want to damage the opponent to your right, lower your right arm.

I presume this is tactical thinking. If your opponent is on your right, lowering your right arm might be an invitation for them to attack a perceived weakness. In turn you create that weakness to counter that attack. More a tactical theory than a tactical lesson.

  1. If you want to stamp forward, use the spear hand.

This is similar to the concept shown to me in our version of Wansu. In this case the spear hand would appear to be too short for a scoring stroke, but a following leg underneath the arm has a much longer reach if they go to attack against the spear hand.

  1. If you want to kick high, first bring your rear leg up as much as possible.

I think this might be interpreted in the sense where the knee points the foot follows. So to kick higher the higher you first raise your knee, the higher the foot will go.

  1. If your hand is twisted, bend your elbow.

This is advice how to counter a grab. Grab’s work when they are applied in a very specific angle of attack. Often bending the elbow will remove that line of attack, allowing further counters.

  1. If someone grabs your sleeve, use gekisho (literally, tip of halbred).

I would suggest a counter fingertip strike to the throat against an arm grab.

  1. If someone grabs your hem, use your knee to escape.
  2. If he tries to stomp you, just use a strike.
  3. If you want to kick him, by all means use your knee.
  4. If he is short, do not use your legs.
  5. If he is tall, then slip inside.
  6. If grabbed from below, attack him from above.
  7. If grabbed from above, lower your body immediately and attack from below.
  8. If he pulls your hair, raise both arms as if removing armor (and seize him by his pressure points).
  9. If he is choking you, attack with shuto (spear hand).

  1. If someone approaches with shoulders swaying, be prepared to block his kick.

I see this as interpreting the swagger as a sign an attack is coming. Professionals work not to give out signs, so there is less chance of counter.

  1. Your hands and feet (stance) must never fail to be aligned in the proper direction.

I find this most interesting. This is the crux of the alignment theory we follow, to increase the power of our techniques, to give no sign of weakness for the opponent to support. This doesn’t just apply to the hands and the stance, it covers the entire range of motion potential. Even the eyes looking in the wrong direction affect a correct technique.

I don’t find this a surprise. My own understanding arose from my tai chi studies and then was applied to my Isshinryu. But the secret is just doing Isshinryu 100% correctly every time.

Each imperfection decreases from your power. Kata then becomes the most important tool to help craft our shape in response. But it still is just a tool and other tools are required, that and never ending work.

So some sound tactical theories, IMO, from the Bubishi.

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