Friday, May 25, 2012

Borrowed from 2004 - On Power


I've been thinking on these discussions all day and would like to muddy the waters a bit.

First it is very difficult to follow the shorthand descriptions given for power generation, whether Chinkuchi, Sanchin Points or Nihanchi Points or others.  This is natural because the technical vocabulary to really transmit this material doesn't readily exist.  Individuals are taught in person, not by written word and without taking the time to share in person it's questionable whether we can really realistically understand even the surface of these conversations.

This is compounded by the fact that the verbal shorthand we use really never actually describes the full motion involved. Whether discussing the stance, the method of movement, the area of the body involved (hips, Koyshi), alignment, etc. all those answers fall short. They're  way to try and grasp a larger issue, that of what is actually happening, and focusing on a single area to try and use that focus to improve. In reality many of the different concepts people are vigrously discussing exist in each others grounds of argument.

For example I don't accept it at all that one can only follow one way or another and that's multiple ways just get in the way of each other. But then its a question of personal experience. I've trained with many artists who follow multiple paths successfully. That's not saying its easy, in truth it takes a full time committment and good instruction, but it is possible if one really wants to pay the price.

Now that may not be 'good' politically correct Isshinryu (or many other arts) but it can be done and is done by some. What is difficult is to do so with less than a total committed effort and great instructors.

Now when the debates get to power generation I've been trying to follow that from my own beginning studies.

First we should consider that power generation is only one, and perhaps even a minor aspect of what it takes to sell a technique. For with power comes tactical effort, too. A less powerful strike delivered at the correct tactical point and time can accomplish as much as a more powerful strike at a less opportune moment. But tactical study is often very short changed.

Power is also not just a component of how you generate it, when you have two bodies rushing at each other and you work on your kata applications you can disover some of them take the shortening distance between attacker and defender into account and sell themselves in those ranges, so fast the defender doesn't realize they've wiped the floor with the attacker.  Unfortunately for my students we've often discovered this when I've had another bright idea and tried to learn a new application potential at slow speed and end up picking the pieces up. In such cases the kata itself may be the answer.

I'm not against power generation study but I've seen many answer that all seem reasonable. Perhaps its the faith of the practitioner in their way that is the key. If they work and really believe it they'll sell it, if all the components are equal.

Among choices of power generation are:

1. Refinement of original basic kata instruction, developing cleaner technique execution, combined with correct tactical usage.

2. Tournament karate. Alas for its detractors I've seen many whose skills could transfer with correct tactical usage into solid defense.

3. Chinkuchi. Now one of my instructors, Charles Murray, trained with Shimabuku Sensei and Shinso a bit a while ago. You may have seen the notes he made when he returned to the states in the early 70's. One of the last things he shared with me before returning to the USAF was how he was trained in Chinkuchi, and over the years he's shown me his continuing efforts on those studies. But seeing and being trained are two different things.  I didn't have the chance to pursue the training with him and had absolutely no interesting in trying to work it out on my own... But I've felt what he does with those strikes.

3. Usage of Sanchin. Perhaps in part focusing on the linear power release. I agree Sanchin is increcibly valubable and can tactially be used to demolish any sort of attack. I'm learning to realize how it can be felt throughout the Isshinryu system a little.

4. Usage of Nihanchi.  perhaps in part focusing on the circular power release. Ditto. The source for so much power, the key to Chinto for example, but if one just did Chinto correctly the same power would be being taped. Where one choice is to focus on a fundamental concept and then keep the focus there, there is just as much logic in focusing on other kata similarity.

5. Knowledge of fractal movement application.  This is where sub components of our movement become weapons in their own right, and their usage is different from the large technique they come from. There are tools that help unlock their usage, such as the knee release to change the angle of application instantly.

6. One of my instructors at 3rd dan in his combined Shotokan/Tjimande and Aikido training literally changes the nature of their art's execution to dramatically increase the reaction speed of the dan. This becomes a more intersting component of power. If your movement generates more power but his nails you first, fastest, which is the most important. Never a simple answer.

7. Bushi No Te Isshinryu. Over the years I've developed my own signature use of the body incorporating driving all technique power off of the centerline incorporating knowledge of body energy point alignment and even the manner of breath execution in technique. The words don't do what I mean justice. But in my students own manner we work at trying to ring the maximum return from our technique.  I make no claim what I teach is right, it's just what I do and I'm satisfied with my students return on the effort. 

8. Yang Tai Chi Chaun. Develops power with a rolling center and correct energy point alignment in the flow of technique.

9. Wu Tai Chi Chaun. A different, more subtle energy flow and release from the Yang, in my initial studies to date.

10. Countless other exist too.

It seems rather pointless to pound one's chest. If you have a path that works, fine for you. If not work harder.

These concepts are not words. They're Isshinryu of Tom Lewis, Reese Rigby and Charles Murray, The Kung Fu and Tai Chi Chaun of Ernest Rothrock, the Shotokan, Tjimande and Aikido of Tris Sutrisno, and the sweat my own students have offered too.

The interesting thing is they all intermingle too.

The energy I observe in Chinkuchi is suspicously similar to the release of Hsing I, a Chinese system IMO.

The energy in Nihanchi is found througout Chinese systems.

The alignment theories (of various types including bows and energy points which both seem to describe similar things from different points of view) exist in all arts when a technique is correctly done. This just explains why they work, more effectively than if they are not done this way.

The softest Tai Chi and the Hardest Karate intermingle at those fractal points of similar energy flow. There is where the synergy of cross study becomes evident.

And sounder tactics are still more important than all of the above.

The funny thing is there are no shortcuts for any of this. NO clinic will ever replace long term instrution under a good instructor. No internet discussion will make anyone believe anything, you have to feel and experience it, and then believe it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Data Mining and Serendipity to Kobudo’s use for Karate



I always maintain it takes quite a few years to understand the place new information can have in your training. Whether from a good book or from a clinic experience.

I have to classify the vast amount of information I received from Sherman Harrill in that category. While I have definitely found a home for some of his teachings, there is so much it’s easy to loose sight of what we saw with him.

This started from looking at thumb strikes in the previous week, including information others shared on Pleasant Isshinryu.

I started with a clear goal, I remembered a specific type of ridge hand strike taught by Harrill Sensei, or actually two different versions. The first involved touching the thumb with the tip of the middle finger during the strike. The second involved touching the thumb with the tip of the ring finger during the strike. Each had a different sort of impact.  But outside of remembering them they hadn’t been anything I had worked extensively, so I wanted to locate my notes on them.

Not linking them directly to a kata (in my mind) I thought I‘d start with my notes in what I call the principles section.  And then I started to get blown away. It was interesting to see how many of those principles are in my actual practice at this time.  A good example would be how I’m using little knuckle strikes on a regular basis, as a tool to cause great pain.

BTW, I refer to this type of study as data mining (something I do as an analyst to locate specific test subjects for testing in system development), or a search for a specific data stream in a deep source of data.

I also found how much (and how little) I had in my notes. Some of the technique descriptions need more material to make them understandable. They made sense at the time, but I’d have to dig up the video and redo the description to be sure of what I was trying to describe (a project for another lifetime probably as there’s more than enough material there to keep me busy forever).

But the process got so deep, serendipity came into play. To give myself a mental break I grabbed on of the notebooks I put together from old karate magazines and ran across an early article comparing Dillman to Oyata. Several of the Oyata pictures became crystal clear, as different ways to use some of the strikes I had been using too.

So here are a few of the topics I found.





Thumb strikes

1. Specifically Harrill Sensei described a grab defense (I believe against a cross-hand grab) with turn of the wrist to allow a thumb strike into the anatomical snuff box . He also described this as a favorite strike of Shimabuku Sensei.

Technical point: The anatomical snuff box is a depression on the back of the hand, just beneath the thumb, that is formed by two tendons. When snuff was popular, this small compartment could be used as a place to hold the tobacco for snorting.

The two tendons it consists of are the tendons of the muscles extensor pollicis brevis (which is closer to the palm), and extensor pollicis longus. The bodies of these muscles are quite thin, and are in the distal half of the forearm. The radial artery runs on the floor of the anatomical snuff box. The carpal bones, scaphoid and trapezium can be palpated within the snuff box, so can the styloid process of the radius.

Q: Pain in the anatomical snuff box should make you suspicious of what injury?
A: occult fracture in the scaphoid.

2. Oyata Sensei also showed a reverse ridge hand strike into the neck from the front with  a thumb strike. This is the same tumb strike I was previously disucssing with the thumb against the pad of the hand. The angle of which,BTW, is identical to the 2nd row of Seisan kata where you step forward with the lead hand bent wrist block, which can be the thumb strike into the throat (about 1” off of the center line).
Inner Knuckle Strikes.

The first clinic I attended with Harrill Sensei at Garry Gerossie’s group had Harrill Sensei showing how to use the lead finger to slide a strike into the arm with the inner bent knuckles (striking into the radial nerve, and also using a 2 finger guide strike into the median nerve of the arm. This was a stand alone technique, not shoing its kata signifance. The same technique really was the Tai Chi Sword ‘secret sword’ strike and I discussed with Harrill Sensei’s direction how it could be used for the finger strike to the throat KO of Oyata, where you’re actually striking with the bent knuckles, but the observer doesn’t see that.

1.      Reviewing my notes I came to see this is a great way to use stacking both hands for the strike.  Such as in Seisan Kata, the left hand parries and grabs to pull in. The right hand can use the striaght finger strike to guide the bent finger strikes into the arm (to cause pain) and then set up the backfist strike, which really works using the closed fist little knuckle strike into the throat.
2.      That same Oyata article showed him striking to the face of an opponent with the same index finger extended strike (or perhaps extended first 2 fingers). The strike looks like its descending into the sinus cavities, and I’m sure the back of the knuckles are the actual striking area.

And I never did find those two ridge hand strike I was looking for, but more than enough to keep me busy for a while.

Working with the Group on Saturday, I also discovered where I could readily make the strikes work, their efforts caused less pain and  didn’t work as well.

Upon observation what I saw was my strikes were done with a rolling motion into the striking area. They were doing the strikes flat in.  But showing them and getting them to do it are sometimes two different things. So I went to our earlier work on Sai and Kama, and showed them how the weapons are rolled into positinon a strike, and they had to use a similar use of the rolling hand to fit the strike into the point intended for best result.

While I’ve maintained the value of kobudo to assist karate development, I’m finding it interesting how it can be used to assist with these strikes from Harrill Sensei. Seems like another layer of our study.
In fact these techniques best describe how fractal analysis of full movement yeilds results.
Standard Harrill Sensei Disclaimer: “if pressed I’d just blast them”.

Standard use of Isshinryu is superb karate, and if responding in an instant it is what we’re all going to use. But there are times, even when randomly attacked, you have the ability to control which response you will use, these adavanced studies are the sort of techniques you may choose to respond with, if the circumstances permit, because of the response they genrate in the attacker (perhaps to set other things up).

Friday, May 18, 2012

The 9th Rule and Shimabuku's Code of Karate

There is much more involved to understanding than just reading something and comprehending the words.

Isshinryu’s Code of Karate is such an experience. While I learn it decades ago, recited it for my sho dan examination it is only recenty after brief meetings with John Kerker the past two years that it is really becoming meaningful day by day in my practice.

So much so, today it struck me there is a 9th rule that should be added, and it comes from the USMC in a round about way.

Rule 9 must be “Slow is Smooth, and Smooth is Fast”.

I was John making a similar observation (not with those words) during his last clinic on how to respond to attacks of different speeds, and then watching extra material on the movie ‘Shooter’ dvd, on sniper training. They really tried to make the sniper work in the movie as accurate as possible according to USMC Sniper doctrine. In the extra material they explained why this is the USMC Sniper motto.  The movie is a gem and that extra material you owe it to yourself to see to fully understand the concept.

That explanation fits 100% into the points John was making too.

I’m going to leave it to John if he wishes to expand on this further, on how Harrill Sensei made this work for his art. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, if you really want to experience something, you should train with John Kerker, or other students of Harrill Sensei.

To promote thought I offer the following:

 Master Shimabuku's Code of Karate
 Bubishi – The Eight Precepts of Quanfa  (Patrick McCarthy translation)
Bubishi – The Eight Essentials of Kempo (Ken Penland translation)
Eight Important Phrases of ‘Karate’  from Karate Jutsu (Funakoshi Ginchin)
 translated by John Teramoto

They all should be considered. The translations of McCarthy and Penland show two different efforts to translate and present the original Bubishi material. Funakoshi Ginchin included this code in his books on his art, the first public acknowledgement of the Bubishi’s existence. Shimabuku Sensei’s use of the Code of Karate must be a fundamental core of our Isshinryu.

Master Shimabuku's Code of Karate

1.A person's heart is the same as Heaven and Earth.
2.The blood circulating is similar to the Moon and Sun.
3.A manner of Drinking and Spitting is either hard or soft.
4.A person's Unbalance is the same as a Weight.
5.The body should be able to change Direction at any time.
6.The time to strike is when opportunity presents itself.
7.The eye must see all sides.
8.The ear must listen in all Directions.

Bubishi – The Eight Precepts of Quanfa  (Patrick McCarthy translation)

1.The human mind is one with heaven and earth.
2.Our blood circulation parallels the solar and lunar cycles of each day.
3.Inhaling represents softness while exhaling characterizes hardness.
4.Adapt to changing conditions.
5.Response must result without conscious thought.
6.See what is un-seeable.
7.Expect what is unexpected.

Bubishi – The Eight Essentials of Kempo (Ken Penland translation)

1.Man and his mind are like the heaven and the earth.
2.The blood and the veins (rhythm of the circulatory system of the body) are like the cycle of the sun and the moon.
3.The law of the breath is hard (Go) and Soft (Ju), in and out
  a.Fu (to exhale): The air that is exhaled is like an arrow. When punching make sure you exhale one half of your air in order to release your Chi (intrinsic energy) properly
  b.in (to inhale):  The air that is inhaled is like a returning wave. When the punch is returning you should inhale and swallow one half of your air and one half of your Chi. One half of the air swallowed and lowered down into your tan tien (a point three inches below the naval).
  c.Go (hardness): While inhaling the inside of the body becomes like iron. You should learn to channel your Chi into the bones of your body using this strength to absorb the blows of your opponent.
  d.Ju (softness): While inhaling the outside of the body becomes like cotton. The body becomes relaxed outwardly so that movement of technique can come from the natural reactions and no muscles are tightened in order to have freedom of instant  movements.
  e.Goju (Hard/Soft): Combine hard and soft for true power. This is how to break your opponent’s thoughts by relaxing outwardly but becoming like iron inwardly. Anger and fear must be banished when facing an adversary. Always use your physical and mental strength combined. This will make you ready to win the fight.
4.Your body must harmonize according to each situation.
  a.Chi (Controlling your opponent): Make your opponent’s movements your own by flowing with his movements.
5.When your hands meet, you must enter Ku (emptiness). Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought. Face your opponent squarely and solidly without deviations, but not giving away emotion or intent.
6. Advance and retreat with the proper distance (maai) when the opportunity presents itself).
  a.Nen (Awareness): If your opponent comes to attack, move away with his actions. If your opponent moves back, follow his movements and actions.
  b.Sen (Attacking): All preparations for your attack must be completed mentally and not physically, otherwise your opponent will ready your actions causing you to fail in your attempts.
7.The eyes must wach all four directions (Left, Right, Up and Down). Do not become so engrossed in your ow techniques that you fail to observe your opponent’s actions. This will cause you to lose.
8.The ear must listen in all eight directions (Left, Right, Up, Down, Forward, Behind, Left Angles and Right Angles).


Eight Important Phrases of ‘Karate’  from Karate Jutsu (Funakoshi Ginchin) translated by John Teramoto

1.The mind of Man is the same as Heaven and Earth.
2.The circulatory system resembles the sun and the moon.
3.The Law includes hardness and softness, ingesting and expressing.
4.The body adapts to changes in time and situation.
5.Techniques occur when a void is encountered.
6.Ma involves advancing and retreating, meeting and departing.
7.The eyes miss nothing.
The ears listen well in all directions.