Sunday, August 7, 2011

It's All My Isshinryu!

Occasionally I receive a private communication questioning why I spend so much time writing and researching topics outside of Isshinryu instead of focusing solely on Isshinryu itself.

Each time I receive such an inquiry I try and explain all of my studies relate directly or indirectly to my Isshinryu studies. At the very least understanding what other systems practice gives concrete examples to work for defensive engagement.

As I’m in surgery recovery mode at this time perhaps my current studies and thoughts will explain this more clearly. Since I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in January and then Colon Cancer in May I’ve realized what is keeping me going is the lifetime of martial study and have been using the tools I’ve learned to rebuild my body to make my life strong.

In February I choose to begin a new study to push myself back into training harder now I knew what had been holding me back the past few years. I choose a form from information shared a decade ago by Charles Joseph Swift, the Tomari No Rohai of the Gohakukai. About 5 years ago I met Mario McKenna who had studied in the system and viewing my efforts he proclaimed I was doing a nice Isshinryu version of the form, not understanding the hip shift they use, which he told me is very hard to get. As I was just trying to understand the form for my own purposes I wasn’t interested in trying to do more. But when I need a physical challenge this year I choose this form because of the kicking requirements to push my training. I understood I wasn’t going to be doing the original but it was sufficient to build my health. Then with two months time I even competed with the form and made it work for me.

Now I’m recovering from surgery and rebuilding myself further, having lost 60 pounds since February, I know an new challenge is required so I’m selecting another form I admire, within my physical abilities and beyond my understanding the Aragaki Sochin, with it’s complicated hip shift use. This time I have a credible series of youtube video showing me both the form keeps changing with the time and performer, but also clearly shows the large motions being used. My purpose is not to pretend I can do the original but to push myself again. There is a side benefit I strongly believe that the Aragaki Sochin hip shift is related to the Tomari No Rohai hip shift and if I have any success will help me understand the power of that form better too.

What I have found so far is that I do understand and use that shift, It’s been present in my Yang Tai Chi Chaun study for 34 years in the Roll Back/Press section, and I have that done well. On the other hand to try and move it to the Aragaki Sochin movment is not a simple task, but at least I already have a guide to work with.

Can you learn from self study without an instructor? Sure with great effort and a lot of subsidiary experience. But my goal is not to teach this, but to push myself into a new study.

All of this caused me to look at my Isshinryu instruction a new way. I was originally taught Isshinryu was to be done with Crescent Stepping and don’t recall the issue being discussed there after. About 25 years ago I came to realize good Isshinryu was being done with Crescent Stepping, partial Crescent Stepping and Straight Stepping. Mr. Lewis had retired from active participation at that time. Mr. Murray was full time in his Air Force career and I was somewhat in inconclusiveness of what was right. I finally settled that I trusted my original instructors and was going to follow their original teachings to the letter for the rest of my life and use of the crescent stepping in all kata and kobudo became my standard forever.

In time I realized the many different force multipliers incorporated in movement and found the compression and explosion contained within crescent stepping were sound principles to base my art upon, but even though you teach for precision (on the principle the greater precision in training the more you have to draw upon in conditions of extremis) it’s easy to not see everything happening.

What I discovered last week is how the use of the crescent stepping incorporates a subtle hip shift in its use, just wasn’t paying attention to that until I started breaking the movement into fractals a subsidiary to my current looking at the Aragaki Sochin.

As I said everything I study ties back into my Isshinryu studies too.

Next my searches discovered Bob Maxwell posted a video of the Bando Horesdeman Bo Forms – Bohan/Nemira Memorial tournament in 2008

I practice and teach this form, which I first learnt in the late 70’s. I was trained by Charles Murray who obtained the form from one of my seniors Reese Rigby who studied it at a Bando summer camp and later used the form in regular competition alongside his Isshinryu bo.

These Bando versions are +90% of what I practice, a somewhat different flow and some of the techniques have been modified a bit. My practice remains exactly what was taught, and Mr. Rigby one took first place at the Bando Nationals with his form. It’s interesting to observe the tidal flow of form over the years.

What I find interesting is that the Bando staff form incorporates some of the movement flow of other Okinawan staff forms and IMO eliminates my desire to study further. Of course I no longer worry about kobudo for self defense and consider it a supplementary necessary practice to build stronger skills for kata application study over your decades of work.


Several examples of my current study.

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