Monday, September 30, 2013

Extreme Funakoshi Throw

The throw shown by Funakoshi Ginchin  in 1926 and then more clearly demonstrated in 1935.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Karate Jutsu

from Funakoshi Ginchin 1926 “Retan”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Mabuni 7 Count Kicking Drill

Somewhere in my files I have notes on a 7 point kicking drill developed by Mabuni Kenwa.  Unfortunately I can’t source it at this time.

I did locate Marc Fryberg doing a low level performance of this drill. Most of the time I save these performances to show the technique but not to define the drill as to where it goes at higher level performance.

The Mabuni 7 Count Kicking Drill

1.      Right knee strike
2.      Right front kick ball of the foot to the groin
3.      Right front kick ball of the foot to the abdomen
4.      Right front kick heel to the solar plexus
5.      Right back rear side kick toward the knee level
6.      Right back kick to the rear
7.      Right front forward side kick toward the knee level

When You Are Having A Bad Day

There are times where you need more than Karate.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Several Advanced Lower Body Kicking Techniques

From “Fukien Ground Boxing Nan Shaolin Leg Techniques” representing drills used in our studies from Isshinryu (Tom Lewis lineage) , and select Tristan Sutrisno (Tjimande) Drills. They are also present in the Ernest Rothrock  studies in Chinese Arts.

Friday, September 20, 2013

An Older Version of the Okinawan Front Kick

There  were different ways to perform a front kick in Okinawa’s past karate. Egami Shigeru, a senior student of Funakoshi Ginchin, in his marvelous book “The Way Of Karate Beyond Technique” vividly describes one of them.

“The form of the foot in the front kick when I began practice was with the toes folded down.The part of the foot that struck the opponent was the first joint of the big toe. Since the toe had to be strong – otherwise they might be broken – we were made to practice standing, and even walking with our toes folded, as shown in figure 96.  Having mastered this, we practiced jumping with our toes in this position, and I was eventually able to perform a double kick (ni-dan geri) in this fashion. Although this kick was performed in demonstrations because of it’s interest, it had no relevance go training, and few practiced it because it was so painful”.(1)

One believes this was a method of older style kicking from when karate developed. Placing the entire force generated by the kick into the first knuckle joint made for a smaller more intense kicking surface. Stories of a kick, making a student on the receiving end ill unto death, seem more credible. Then the change of karate to train young men in University or secondary schools made new kicking forms, such as the ball of the foot, less painful and less dangerous to one kicked, a most rational change.

Engami describes other changes in karate, when more must have been similar to the Itosu origins.

This is not the only older method to kicking.  Christopher Caille in his article on his site describes another tradition.  . Other traditions still use these older kicking traditions, Ueichi Ryu karate comes to mind. However in most contempory karate the newer kicking traditions predominate.

I should note if you are inclined to experiment with this kick there is obvious danger to the performer. One should attempt to gain competent instruction and practice slowly.
(1)    Page 53

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Okinawan Sumo (Shima)

Okinawan Karate developed alongside Shima, Okinawa’s own grappling tradition. This has been described in Nagamine Shoshin’s “Tales of Okinawa’s Great Masters”. No doubt this influenced karate’s development to some extent.

Shima competitions are a favorite Okinawan festival pastime to this day. This video allows us to observe what this tradition offers.

Then I found this posted by  Jim Prouty on Bill Glasheen”s site at 

Many folks treat the nukite as strikes to the body. Yet, if we accept the premise that Goju means "hard/gentle' or is a study of opposites, many folks dismiss the pulling action of the arms as being important. In this case, the hands close as in a grasping movement, the next action is that both hands turn in a pulling action; it is this movement that I suggest to my students is a skin grab of your opponents side. Which is extremely painful. Here is an old photo of Miyagi Sensei performing an omote or gyaku bunkai to Miyazato's attack. (This application is found in several Goju kata):

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

George, did you see this? It is why I want to jump up and down and scream when the vast majority of Uechika speed through those 3 thrust-and-squeeze motions before the three circle blocks. No dynamic tension in the squeeze is like doing the thrust-lift-turn motion in Seisan with lightning speed. It just doesn't make physical sense. It is in fact NONsense.

- Bill Glasheen

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Fluid Movement of Kata (from 2005)

Me in 1979 I am thinner today

About a year or so ago I began a search for ‘Seisan-ness’, trying to understand the underlying structure which binds the differing versions of Seisan kata together.  [Of course this applies to any of the kata, too.]

If you view the different versions propagated by Kyan’s students at one level it is difficult to understand how they all came from the same source.

On the other hand all of the divergent kata in the Seisan lineage do have a commonality that can be seen.  I can’t put words on it, but the had to be some original Seisan which triggered this process.

In Okinawa I do not believe there was a tradition of mapping the karate, or creating an eternal template The direct transmission from instructor to student the pattern.  As much of this pre 1900 was individual, there likely wasn’t a comparison process between different students to make sure they were all identical.

I suspect the process had multiple levels, such as:

1)      What were the individual student’s capabilities at the time of kata transmission.  The instructor may have been most interested in developing their individual abilities instead of  having them follow a map.
2)      Where was the instructors mind on karate at the time of the transmission.  As their own understanding of their art kept evolving, it is not impossible their transmission matched their current interests.
3)      How was the original instructor taught?  Were they taught in a fluid manner themselves. 
4)      There may have been outside influences, such as other instructors, or public demonstration which influenced these changes too.

For example in number 3 I was originally taught the Isshinryu system, in my original instructors dojo in a very fluid environment. Maybe 20 different dans would drop in on a regular basis and assist in the instruction.  Learning Seisan and Seiunchin kata, they taught many individual variations of the kata, each variation becoming a new kata so I had Seisan 1, Seisan 2, Seisan 3, or Seiunchin 1, Seiunchin 2 etc.  All under the eye of Sensei (who had taught those instructors too).

As a student we attributed this to the many tournaments we attended, and Sensei making small changes to the kata to try and assist the student win.  Now in the annals of karate, this might seem most trivial, but at the time this is how I was taught.  Woe to the kyu who forgot what an individual instructor taught them the previous week.  So we didn’t learn one version of the kata, but had to know multiple versions and execute them immediately on the spot.

Sensei never made a case for one variation over another.  Under such an environment everyone came to see a fluid possibility of kata execution, within a single school.

A number of years ago I met another practitioner, who began in Okinawa alongside Sensei, Sherman Harrill of Carson City, Iowa.  Among many other things, Sherman gives incredible clinics on the Bunkai application potential of the Isshinryu system. He can spend hours on any one movement showing dozens of applications inherent in the picture.

On first meeting him, discovering our historical link, and trying to grasp his explanations I saw in his Bunkai the kata variations I studied under my original instructor.  He only taught the kata as he studied under Shimabuku Tatsuo, but for the application potential he would become extremely fluid.

He also recounted (as had Sensei) that Shimabuku Sensei would teach different American students different variations of the same kata.  I began to see that Sensei wasn’t simply jazzing up his kata for competition, but choosing among the differing variations he originally saw.

This tends to bear back to the record I’ve read concerning Kyan Chotoku himself doing the same. 

In this sense Kyan began Shimabuku who began Lewis who begat Smith, all of whom received a more fluid version of what kata contained.

I believe this has some bearing on the discussion of fluid kata.  Now I cannot answer where this came from originally.  But, I believe we can see a clear lineage of this for the past 100 years, not arising on whim in more recent times.

When I began to teach myself, I decided I would not do that to my own students, and choose one version and tried to stick to it.  So I tried to keep a standard template.

I was totally on my own, and after my ShoDan examination, the amount of Isshinryu instruction I received for the next 15 or so years could be counted as minutes on my hand.
As my knowledge and understanding changed, most especially as I understood a different application of a kata technique, many times a change would enter my own kata to reflect that understanding.  In the more advanced kata of the system, which I do not teach as frequently, when the time to instruct a new brown belt would arise, often those new changes to my own kata template would be their standard.

I came to understand this best when older students would return to visit, and become annoyed at the changes, which took place after they left the area.

Eventually I did resolve this, when I fully took my own concerns to dan studies I no longer had any reason to modify the kyu development program which was doing what I wished, and I believe we’ve become set in the kyu kata curriculum since that time.

My overall impression was the original templates of a kata, Passai, Seisan, Nihanchi, Wansu, Chinto or whatever gave enough for following karateka to work from.  In most cases their freedom for fluidity extended into individual technique execution, timing or some additional embellishments. At the same time that was most likely enough to keep their interest, instead of rewriting the initial template, they added (or subtracted) to it.

Looking at Shimabuku Tatsuo, when he did originate his own kata, it was comprised of segements of many of the major Okinawan kata themselves.  Where he did originate a new (er?) template, the pieces came from the whole, and instead he choose what he was more comfortable with, or more impressed with.

Does this gradual change in kata constitute drift? Was the drift part of the original teachings?  Unfortunately in New Hampshire I cannot answer that as I write.  I was raised to see kata as a fluid mechanism, and against that template of experience, I am not surprised to see its reflections throughout Okinawa Te.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Controlling the Neck – Revised Information

Controlling the Neck – Revised Information

Originally, I was simply going to describe the various techniques I included in this article. 

But to document the location where the techniques should be applied, I decided to look into the anatomical structures these techniques were working against. I was using the experience and material I’ve garnered over the past 25 years.  Well I’m now prepared to say, I was wrong about much of it.  The problem of an untrained person trying to interpret medical information.

Initially I had Dr. Paul Harper, a practicing Surgeon, review the neck locations I was describing, and he agreed what I had was substantially correct. Unfortunately I did not review the rest of my assumptions with him first.  I have the privilege of having a Surgeon in class.  His presence keeps reminding me how little I really know about anatomy, and how much I need to understand before I can make clear statements.

Frankly my material started with Joe Brague grasping my neck and my coming to on a locker room floor at a tournament where he was trying to demonstrate how neck locks could work.  His description of a blood choke through the carotid artery made sense to me (after all he did put me down) and this material has been covered in other places, the carotid artery and the Jugular vein are in that location. Likewise I’ve seen claims that those techniques could affect the vagus nerve and that seemed logical to me too.

So, using logic and various sources I tried to explain why these techniques were working.  Unfortunately, based on Dr. Harper’s descriptions I am quite sure I was not correct, nor, were the original sources correct either. 

Conversationally anything which sounds reasonable can be sold. On the other hand if you don’t actually do the detailed research, or have same done by certified researchers, reasonable doesn’t constitute proof.

Dr. Harper feels the only real player working the sides of the neck is the carotid sinus. This area (as described “Level with the top of the Adams apple, just on the course of the common carotid artery, on the anterior border (back side away from the front) of the sternocleidomastoideus muscle.” Where you have to reach around the sternocleidomastoideus muscle and press into the neck, as the various chokes described, is actually used by Doctor’s to stop a patient’s heart during heart surgery.  [Btw, this is also described in Montague and Simpson’s Encyclopedia of Dim Mak.]

Apparently when a heart goes into irregular rhythm during surgery, manipulation of the Carotid Sinus will stop the heart for a few seconds, then releasing the pressure the heart begins to re-beat with its normal rhythm.   Dr. Harper says this is most effective if done on both sides.  Also BTW, this does not render the patient unconscious when this is done.

On the other hand the vagus nerve is rather deep in the carotid sheath and he feels it very unlikely any manipulation would directly effect it. 

Nor will pinching off the Carotid Artery cause a person to black out.  Dr. Harper, on occasion, has had to close off the Carotid Artery during surgery, and there are secondary arteries which deliver enough blood to keep somebody awake.

On the other hand, non-ceasing pressure against the Carotid Sinus, stopping the heart, will stop the flow of blood to the brain causing black out.

Likewise the descriptions I gave of Rotating the Neck, affecting the vagus nerve to release one’s control of the body, do not stem from nerve manipulation.  Instead almost any pressure, or threat of pressure, causing or implying pain will cause the head to rotate away from that pressure.  The body following the head wanting to rotate away from pain causes the corresponding release of control.

Dr. Harper feels there is no nervous structure to explain this, only the pain response. Thus pressure against one side of the body causes a reaction in a different part of the body as the body is trying to escape from the pain.

On a reasonableness check, the aikido training I received from Tris Sutrisno was also based on the locks and throws working from the aspect of pain. Properly executed, there is very sharp pain (or impending pain) and the body throws, or locks itself trying to get away from same.  Hence the individual actually throws themselves when you apply the lock.

Then in much more detail Dr. Harper analyzed the neck grabs.

The Eagle Claw is first striking into the larynx causing pain dropping the jaw making it easier to set the fingers into the carotid sinus.

BTW, Dr. Harper also described how the normal movie Sentry removal technique, where the head is pulled back extending the neck really doesn’t allow an easy slice into the carotid artery. Actually that pulls the carotid artery inside the musculature of the neck. The trachea would be sliced, however while eventual death would follow, that individual still may be able to work their gun killing you. Instead he points out that by pushing the head forward (the chin towards the chest) you actually open up the carotid artery making the  sentry removal more likely.  [This is simply offered as an example of common knowledge being less than optimal.]

In the case of Mr. Harrill’s grabs, with the little finger, or the little finger and the  ring finger, are stabilizing the larynx from the front, the spine of course stabilizing the back, and the fingers grasping in from the side with the twisting motion, this grab could easily crush or damage the larynx, if you’re using enough finger strength.

This makes me critically question much of what has been written regarding Sealing the Artery/Vein in the Chin Na texts. 

I suspect the real lesson is to never take anything on face value.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Forearm Strikes etc.

The art of studying kata movement application using the forearm

I start with kata as being an energy development study, where your practice intensifies and your ability to bind the energies used becomes more and more focused.

The application of those techniques isn’t bound by the practice of the kata, however. To more fully understand what any technique may do you need to look at as wide a range of ways you can enter an attack and deliver the technique.

When I began to understand this I created my ‘unlocking principle’, or a template how a technique might be used, not specific to just one technique.

Then meeting Harrill Sensei, I discovered a man who took this to the extreme from his own studies.

One of my favorite techniques is that of the elbow strike, or more frequently the forearm strike, the rear backarm strike and the chambering elbow strike.

The following set of drills come from Indonesian Silat, but the techniques are in Wansu, SunNuSU and every durn chamber you’ve ever used.

Of course this doesn’t follow the entire range of potentials, but it’s a good place to start.

By necessity of lack of a technical vocabulary to really describe many of the more subtle aspects of these techniques (leg checks, parries, how the forearm strike is often in effect striking towards your other hand, the resulting alignment creates a sharper strike.

1.      Attacker RFF Right Punch  (exterior line of defense)
a.       LFF side with left cross parry
b.      RFF (outside their right leg) with a right horizontal forearm strike to the right outside of the attackers head

2.      Attacker RFF Right punch  (interior line of defense)
a.       RF side with a right cross parry
b.      LFF (inside their right leg) with a left horizontal forearm strike to the right outside of the attackers head

3.      Attacker RFF Right Punch   (exterior line of defense)
a.       RF skip left as right open hand counter clockwise descending parry of attackers arm – and –
b.      LFF skip forward as a left horizontal forearm strike to the right outside of the attackers head.

4.      Attacker RFF Right Punch  (interior line of defense)
a.       LF skip to right as left open hand clockwise descending parry of attackers arm – and –
b.      RFF skip forward with a right horizontal forearm strike to the front of the attackers head (jaw)

5.      Attacker RFF Right Punch
a.       RFF small step to the right and then
b.      LFF skips to 11 o’clock while ducking (deep stance) under the attackers arm and keeping your body on the interior of their arm and delivering a left horizontal forearm strike under the armpit (side of the ribs)

6.      Attacker RFF Right Punch
a.       LFF small step to the left and then
b.      RFF skips to 1 o’clock past and inside the opponents leg while ducking (deep stance) under the attackers arm and keeping your body on the exterior of their arm and delivering a right horizontal forearm strike under the armpit.

7.      Attacker RFF Right Punch
a.       LFF on the outside of their lead foot, the right hand parries across your body as you duck under their arm
b.      Deliver a Left horizontal forearm strike into their ribs

8.      Attacker RFF Right Punch
a.       Jump RFF to left and LFF behind their leg while rotating your body clockwise so you finish facing the direction of their punch
b.      Left back reverse elbow strike to the rear under their arm

9.      Attacker RFF Right Punch
a.       Jump LFF to right and RFF behind their leg while rotating your body counter-clockwise so you finish facing the direction of their punch
b.      Right back reverse elbow strike to the rear under their arm.

Note: Wherever possible the leg leaping forward can check the opponents leg by locking it behind their lead leg