Saturday, June 29, 2013

Embrace the Ground

One of the first studies I had in the Isshinryu of Tom Lewis was the basic kicking drills of our system.
The first  night I learned what to do if grounded by using front kicks and side kicks on the floor. It remains one of the first lessons of my students 40 years later.  When taking the ground intentionally or un-intentionally, you are far from defenseless.

Later Charles Murray showed me how to accomplish this in sport karate when he groin was a legal target, and as time passed other experiences shared by Ernest Rothrock (both Pai Lum and Fan Tzi Ying Jow Pai) and Tristan Sutrisno (Sutrisno family Shotokan and Tjimande)  added to the vocabulary I had with these motions. Eventually I came across a tract in Fukien Ground Fighting (Chinese Martial Arts Series 4 – 1993) by Cat Chu Xian, that clearly shows many other options.

IMO, these optional studies are only meant for those who have been deeply prepared for them. It becomes necessary to learn to cherish the ground, with an eye to recognize when unpredictability is called for, for these techniques to be successful.

Below are some examples from the text.

Finally let us see some examples in action.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Possible Motobu Choki SunNuSu Kata Connection

When Motobu Choki demonstrated his Karate-Jutsu in one of his early books it is possible these techniques were retained by Shimabuiku Tatsuo in his personal Kata SunNuSu (Sunsu). Perhaps this is also the confirmation Shimabuku did train with Motobu. Here are the techniques demonstrated by Motobu Choki.

read the photo's right to left as that's how it is done in Japan

It was Sherman Harrill, who had noticed this and pointed this out to me about 1990, Joe Swift obtained a reprint of the Japanese Edition and sent it to me to give to Sherman.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Challenge of the Different

Supple Dragon

A particular feature of Bushi No Te Isshinryu, is I’ve tried to preserve some of the forms from friends outside Isshinryu, This is to have the students become aware of other systems of study, to provide techniques to practice against, and to try to learn different movement flows found in other systems. In the case of Supple Dragon, or Lung Le Kuen from the Pai Lum system, it also jokingly gives my students a reason to hate me forever.
I had chosen Supple Dragon from my studies with Ernest Rothrock, out of his many systems of study, as a challenge for my students to learn an entirely different movement flow from Isshinryu, especially as they hadn’t studied the basics of the system. Then in 1990 Rothrock Laoshi visited us and helped correct the movements in better form.
This performance by Young Lee represents the form performance we are moving towards. Perhaps not exactly the one of a Pai Lum stylist but always a work in progress.

And something that gives my students a reason to dislike where they are pushed.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Kamae in Chinto

Imstructor Michael Cassidy in 1992

The version of Isshinryu’s Chinto I learned opens with you stepping back into a left cat stance, the left open vertical knife hand pressing out in front, and the right hand circling back and down to form a high ‘X’ block in front. 


This was explained to me as a ‘kame’ when I learnt the kata, a waiting point measuring the opponent and drawing them to attack your stillness.Yet as I went into further analysis  this came to me.


Your left hand presses forward as your right hand flows back (clockwise) to complete with your left hand simultaneously cutting back alongside your head as your right open hand strikes out towards the groin, while you remain in the cat stance.  Following that we slide forward with a left backfist and then a right reverse punch. 


Obviously it can be used to strike into the biceps as my previous post, and also it would be best to use it as an outside parry, but in my working some of this movements application potential I had several interesting experiences.


With the attacker stepping in with a right punch,


          1.      I deflect their punch from the interior line of defense

assuming my cat stance and using the high “X” block for that purpose.  Or the “V

2.      I then slide my left foot forward as my left arm presses out,

          deflecting their arm to the side, while my right hand rolls


3.      I complete this application with a descending right palm

          strike into their groin.


With the attacker stepping with a left punch, I first began as before, working the right palm strike into their left side. That works fine but obviously the real issue is what happens with their right hand which can strike.


The first answer I developed was to:


1.      Deflect their left punch with my interior “X” block, The “>”

2.      Then separate my hands, with my left hand sliding up to their

elbow and my right hand sliding back to their wrist.

3.      Following my kata motion, I simply grab on (elbow and

wrist) and rotate my right hand down and into the centerline. This makes for an exceptionally painful vertical arm bar.  Be sure to be careful. It is faithful to the kata motion, and as the arm rotates down their right fist is moved away from you.


Another answer is for the external line of defense.


1.      Deflect their right punch with the exterior “X” block. The “<”.

2.      Then separate my hands, The right hand sliding down to their wrist, the left to their triceps. Then press their triceps down and raise at the wrist, creating a downward force on their arm.

3.      Their center of gravity shifts to their triceps and becomes a Force Multiplier causing them to go down on their face.

This variation I use is shown below in an article on by Christopher Calle, on the old fighting arts of Hohen Soken.


My next answer gets even more interesting:

1.      Deflect their left punch with my interior “X” block, The “>”

Then attack with their right fist.

2.      I separate my hands as in the kata, my left hand pressing out

 deflecting their punch as my right hand flows to the back,

deflecting their left arm further outside. This opens their arms


3.      Next, following the kata, I take my left palm and slice across

          the side of their face to return my palm alongside my head.

4.      Simultaneously with that slice my right palm strikes into their   

5.      In the next technique is a left backfist, I alter it slightly and

          use a left back palm strike follow-up strike into their face.


This  application is quite interesting. I’m using a shearing force with the face/groin strike very akin to those used in Indonesian Tjimande. The left hand slicing back literally snaps the persons face to the side as they’re trying to get away from the pain.


Finally consider the bottom of the “X” block.


1.      Against the strike form the kamae with both hands descending down on the strike. You are using the”X” block formed, the “^” this time.

2.      Separate your hands, the left open hand pressing their arm down with a counter-clockwise flow, pressing their arm away from their centerling, This results in their rotation with the arm flow.

3.      The right flows back, as in Chinto kata, and strikes back into their groin with a descending shuto strike to their groin.


Of course this does not exhaust the potentials of this movement. Rather suggests possibilities to explore.


Friday, June 7, 2013

The Carotid Choke

It is important to understand what occurs when a cartoid choke is applied to the neck.

Carotid Sinus:  the following extract from my Clinically Oriented Anatomy textbook, 3rd Edition 1992, by Keith L Moore. ISBN 068306133X. Publisher: Williams & Wilkins. Page 799 on, ....

Carotid Sinus: This is a small dilation of the proximal part of the internal carotid artery; it may involve the common carotid. A blood pressure regulating area (editor's emphasis), the carotid sinus is innervated principally by the glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX) through a branch called the carotid sinus nerve..... the carotid sinus reacts to changes in arterial blood pressure (editor's emphasis) and effects appropriate modifications reflexly...... 

the carotid sinus responds by slowing the heart, owing to the parasympathetic outflow from the brain through the vagus nerve. Pressure on the carotid sinus may cause syncope (fainting) (editor's emphasis), and if the person happens to have a supersensitive carotid sinus, it may cause cessation of the heart beat (temporary or permanent

The commonly held theory that the blood flow is stopped to the brain is wrong. The decondary arteries provide enough blood to keep it awake. You are stopping the heart and causing the blood to stop accordingly.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Basics of Energy Point Alignment

This principle did not come from Isshinryu, but since I was shown this I have found it to be applicable.
The basic theory behind energy point alignment is that when the parts of the body (symbolized by the energy alignment points) are correctly aligned, the bodies power is more fully harnessed in a technique.

The points used for alignment are on the front of the body. They are:

  1. The 3rd eye
  2. In the front of the right shoulder
  3. In the front of the left shoulder
  4. The Solar Plexus
  5. In the front of the right hip
  6. In the front of the left hip
  7. The groin
Basically I think of alignment of a triangulation of lines coming off from the points.  If the shoulder points center on the centerline (from the solar plexus) they are aligned.

The example we used, your stepping out with a left front side block, required the block stopping aligned with the left shoulder and hip points, A fraction of an inch off, and a simple touch to the left shoulder point causes you to buckle, where as correct alignment remains solid when touched.

Even the placement of the eyes (to be on the centerline) can affect the alignment.

Essentially a correct technique will be aligned, not open to body buckling if an energy point is touched, and the alignment increases power behind the technique.

How to teach

First keep it non-verbal. When somebody is doing a technique wrong, touch a point and prove it to yourself, then correct their position and touch again, proving they’re now in alignment.

Eventually you’ll recognize the alignment scheme you’re using for your art from sight (btw you likely already are doing this when you correct a student, this just gives you a tactile overview why you’re making the correction.

But basic technique correction  is only the opening to the story.

Next take a basic kata, (not an advanced one) and make sure the students are executing it 100%, or begin working towards it. There you begin working alignment in more advanced motion (than just one technique). I use Fyugata Sho for this as I really like the technique series.

In time you can vary the timing, breathing patterns, even techniques, but keep renforcing correct technique (alignment).

Wait until they begin really getting that kata down, then slowly transfer that to their other kata studies.  Consistence in movement pattern, alignment and breathing all will help move towards better technique.

Subsidiary values

I discover anytime the two hands are together (as in Chinto’s ‘X’ blocks, or Seiunchin’s augmented block) what actually is happening the 2nd hand is keeping the body alignment correct, increasing power correspondingly. 

Likewise, when working a lock, having the 2nd hand involved (even with slight touch) keeps the body alignment more correct, increasing the power of the technique. This also is where you discover keeping the eyes and the centerline focused on the area being locked, and rolling the center to counter and then work into the attacker, increases the power too.

The touching hand is an automatic countering device against grappling, the slight touch keeps your alignment, and disrupts the perfect touching of both attacker and defenders bubbles of focus that must be perfect for a lock to work. Couple that with the knee release mechanism, and  almost instantly an automatic grab counter is born.

In the very complex book on tai chi chaun, “Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan” by Fu Zhongwen, he goes into incredible detail on a very small piece of the tai chi movment, showing how the energy point (the focus of the alignment points IMO) moves around in technique execution. What I take from this, is the moving point is actually changing the alignment for an incredible array of different fractal uses, within a simple technique series.

Thus this can be a simple or as complex as you wish.