Thursday, July 31, 2014

Black Belt Class Log 08_02_2002

Another memory of a past class.


After the past few weeks playing with Eagle Claw technique last night I returned to basics.


Mike Cassidy and I did work Chantan Yara No Sai a bit.  I’ve also turned the project to develop a more “Isshinryu” form of sparring technique over to Mike. We discussed possible parameters, etc., but the goal of course is to develop dominance in sparring technique ace but retain a distinct Isshinryu Kata technique style.


Tonight in class I spent most of the time returning to basics and self focus on same.


Personally I’m a fanatic in trying to become as precise as possible in kata execution, with the goal of using that more precise technique in application to deliver more energy into the opponent.


But training long term black belts, where individuals are  and must be responsible for their own training focus, its easy to find that people begin breezing through forms too frequently.  You could stay on their butts, but by giving them reasons to focus on their own training themselves, you end up with stronger results in the long run, IMExperience.


As we were in the gym last night (during the summer) I took one of the lines running down the floor and centered myself on it.  I demonstrated that Seisan should begin with the line coming into my center.  I then ran the form, discussing various techniques and how I was originally trained in Mr. Lewis’ dojo. When I finished talking I had completed the form. I then mentioned, if you look I’m aligned over the line as I was in the beginning. Then I gave them their lead to see if they could do the same. It was interesting seeing where they were ending and their efforts to  re-adjust and re-align their kata practice.


Now this is but a minor aspect of Kata, but still worthwhile. In large part we have no real technical vocabulary to fully discuss what happens when we’re turning, and adjusting our stances. Those turns and adjustments form powerful alignment during application and the kata is the tool to make them stronger.


Next, we used the lines (running before us from left to right) to run Nihanchi, trying to keep or execution parallel to the line.  From that exercise I then went to one of Carl Long’s Shorin exercises, doing Nihanchi with 2 180 degree turns. Carl’s Shorin practice descended from Shimabuku Ezio.  When you strike across with the spear hand and then step across, when the foot sets down you pivot on both feet (the direction the spear hand moved) 180 degrees to the rear and then continue the kata.  Then repeat on the 2nd spear hand to finish the kata. This becomes a very interesting exercise in control.


Next I re-inforced my Isshinryu movement principles derived from crescent stepping, where for all turns we move the turning leg alongside the other leg and then turn and step into stance.


Using the ending of the 2nd row of Seisan, where the hands are stacked right and you’re turning left 90 degrees. I first hand everyone just turn 90 degrees (without centering) with a partner touching their shoulder from the side, first with a slight push and the with a slight tug during the turn.  Next I had them do the turn by first drawing the left foot in alongside the right (as you turn your head to look), and then explode out into LFF Seisan from that movement. Again with the partner lightly touching or pulling the shoulder.


This is demonstrably stronger with the latter movement.  Now this is how I do my Isshinryu from my research and studies. When the individual feels a difference they’re more likely to concentrate on doing it correctly as time passes. But these type of drills are necessary to help long term focus. I need them and I know my students need them too, as we’re all less than perfect (or at least most are).


Then we moved onto the study of some of Chinto’s application potential, from ½ way in the kata, with the right outside knife hand block, left hammerfist strike, Pull down into Seiunchin and finally step away into kake dachi section.


Beginning very small, I first concentrated when you’ve been grabbed from your right side with a 2 handed grab.  We concentrated on centering on the grabbing hands, and then simply turning away keeping your grabbed hand in-front of your center during the turn. This effects a release from the  grab.  As many had difficulty relaxing and trying to muscle their way out of it, I showed them how if the left hand simply reaches under and touches the little finger, your body correctly aligns and with no more effort the technique will also work.


Then I showed how during the turn, if instead the left hand grabs (either the opponents right or left hand) how an entire range of Aikido techniques can lock, tie up, throw or break the attacker.


Next I took the initial motion to turn the attacker but then turn back into the attacker with the rest of the outside knife hand block (as in Chinto) and chose to close with the hammer fist into the attackers right arm, behind the elbow  as I grabbed and began pulling down with the right. Finishing with the two arm pull down and then stepping back with the right foot to break their arm (implied of course) across the left knee.


While not even close to a full study of the inherent technique in this movement, it gave enough to keep all busy, and re-inforced how the small details are extremely important.


Class closed with Bando Stick drill, always preferring to hit people with sticks, etc.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A principle behind the Isshinryu Seiunchin Augmented Block


The more you look at something the more opportunity you have to learn.

 From the time Mr. Lewis used to drill us in Seiunchin kata, for a exhibition we were doing, this kata became speciat to me. From the mid 80s when I began my own study into kata application potential, and the uses of Seiunchin was one of the places I started.

 Now it is time for a George Dillman story. I was familiar with George from many tournaments he held in Penna. When I lived there. I recall when he met Oyata, and trained with him. About the time I moved away started reading stories in the magazines that he broke from him and now was doing his own ‘tuite’ and similar stuff. In 87 I had a chance to train at a clinic he was holding in Manchester, NH near my home. It was different. For hours he explained what he knew with many stories. While his histories by my recollection were perhaps flawed, I didn’t take notes and won’t get into them at this time. Most notable was he did show nothing for hours, just talked.

Then he turned to me and said “Aren’t you Smith from Pennsylvania, and you do Isshinryu?” I was unaware he remembered me. In my Pa. days I was a non-entity in Dillman circles. I replied ‘Yes”.  He then asked me to show how Isshinryu uses the reinforced block of Seiunchin kata, I imagine as The Isshinryu I experienced and knew did not do much with kata application studies in those days.

 Well it turned out this section was one of my studies. He had someone attack me with a Right lunge punch. I angled in at 45 degrees to the right, parried with the augmented block. My hands separated and the right hand hooked over the attacking wrist; while this was happening my left forearm pressed into the attackers biceps tendon; and then the attacker bent over from the pressure. I continued at that point to backfist into their face. My answer on how to use that section of the kata.

 George then went on with his lecture and didn’t address me further that day.

 Several hours later I had to leave, not seeing him perform anything. So the clinic brought me no closer to understanding what he had. I decided to purchase his video on Seiunchin to see what he had. Simply I have a vastly different understanding what kata and bunkai should be in karate. I later gave that tape away.

 The point is not the application given, for there are many answers starting at the block’s deflection.

 But beginning at that point to try and understand why the left hand augments the right block. The augmented block is not just reinforcing the right block for power, pressing hard. Actually too much power can be a hindrance to use the applications potentials.

 When the left hand touches the right forearm it draws the left side of your body forward. Increasing your body alignment, and increasing the power of the technique allowing the left hand mobility for other uses. Just a light touch has the same effect. This is an example of a force multiplier coming from superior alignment of the body.

 The same effect manifests itself whenever you touch the other arm in applying a technique.

 1.       When you reach forth in aikido drill #2 to adhere and pass along the attacker’s arm, you can use your left hand to touch the right forearm as a force enhancer which makes the right deflection safer for the beginner.

  2.       In Kusanku kata where the lead hand is extended, the reciprocal hand is placed back on the bodies centerline as the same force enhancer. The same effect is found in the Kusanku Sai Kata.

  3.       Likewise the kamae within Wansu Kata uses the same force enhancer principal.

These are but several examples found in the kata.

A similar effect can be used as a counter for grabs. Where a slight shift of a hand undergoing a wrist lock, to the side, makes it very difficult for the lock to continue. (All locking techniques require exacting alignment to work).Even a slight touch to the hand or even the arm attacked, disrupts the attacker. Even a finger tip brush alongside the arm.  By that touch the alignment of the body strengthens.

Okinawan Kama


Monday, July 28, 2014

Memory of a Karate Tournament

The Open American Karate Tournament was established maybe a decade before I began training.

Some schools live for tournaments, some schools never attend. Others do so on occasion. People love them, hate them and everything in-between.

On a personal note, they were a challenge for me from my earliest days. To go and compete in forms and kumite (sport sparring) against unknown opponents and judges. After my Black Belt and totally on my own, they helped me find focus to my training. I was in Scranton, Pennsylvania area, and we had some of the greatest forms and kobudo technicians in the nation competing in that region.

Going out in open competition allowed me to focus my abilities, and push myself harder than I would have done just teaching and training. No I was not a great competitor, but competing against them gave definite goals for myself at that time.

If I had to pick one tournament to describe the entire experience, it would be the one held by Joe Brague in Williamsport, Pennsylvania about 1980 or so. Not because I was a champion, for I wasn't, but because of the nature of the competition and the real lesson I discovered by accident at the end of the day.

My wife, Maureen, was born in Williamsport and she came along that day to show me her hometown.

One of Joe Brague's students was Gary Michak, who at that time was ranked by Karate Illustrated in the top 20 in Mens' Black Belt Kata, Kobudo and Kumite. Garry had made quite a name for himself in Open Kata Competition with his form set to the music of 'Superman' and his all Blue Gi.

As the day progressed, there were an incredible number of forms competitiors present.

I remember Gary and his brother George Michak among the other Goshin Jitsu Kyu Juo competitors, John Hamilton and Vince Wards fine Shorin No Tora competitors, John Chung from Jhoon Rhee's School, Ron Martins' Goju students, Cindy Rothrock from the Shaolin School of Wilkesbarre, Dale Kirby and his Iaido from Kentucky as well as many other fine competitors my memory leaves out. Truly among the finest in the country at that time.

There is no way I can recall all of the fine performances taking place. Gary's 'Superman' performance always stands out in my mind. Then John Chung doing a flying side kick in the midst of his Tae Kwon Do form and seeming to hang in the air forever. Cindy Rothrocks double hook swords, and all the rest.

One notable event took place during one of the Black Belt forms divisions. The division head judge was Jerry Durant, founder of the Goshin Jutsu system, and Joe Brague's instructor. One of the competitors completed his form and after scoring, Mr. Durant stood up and began to walk off of the competition floor. Joe went running after him saying " Sir, you can't leave the division isn't finished." Whereby Mr. Durant replied, "Joe, my kidneys have voted and the division waits." Leaving the entire tournament chuckling.

An other unique event of the day was Victor Moore, an early 60's karate kumite champion, was present a chimpanzee named Trudy. He was promoting the chimp for some possible movie career as he had taught it karate.

It was a long tournament, and following the old pattern, the finals were to be held as a separate event in the evening. Then there would be the Grand Championship competitions, demonstrations and even a show with the Chimpanzee.

My wife and I were planning on leaving, but I was approached by Cindy Rothrock. The students she rode with had to leave early, and she was going to be in the evening finals. She inquired whether we could give her a ride home.

I had been training in Yang Tai Chi Chaun with Cindy's husband, Ernie Rothrock for about 9 months at that time. Ernie was husband and her kung fu instructor, of course if you haven't read the magazines since about 1980, you would not find reference to that fact sine their divorce. He was running his schools and rarely attended karate tournaments.

I looked at my wife, she looked at me, our eyes may have rolled but we both said 'Sure, we'll stay and take you home."

So after the day's tournament my wife gave me a long tour of Williamsport and we took our dinner, and went to watch the evening festivities. The competition was very good. I have no idea who won, but it was among the best divisions I've ever seen.

Trudy the Chimp during the show, stood amidst gyrating go-go dancers and did nothing. The chimp had been hanging around for the entire day and was too tired at that point to listen to their handler.

Finally we picked up Cindy and were riding back towards he home south of Wilkesbarre, and our own home, too.

Along the way, Cindy was tired and discussed the day from her perspective. After a while it was obvious she was upset by some of the comments being given to her.

As an aside, there is great psychological warfare taking place between senior competitors and their instructors most of the time. As in all warfare, anything to give you and edge.

Cindy explained she was getting tired of hearing comments from the Judges like, "You really weren't trying hard enough today, you weren't giving you best stuff."

Now Cindy was among the best competitors in the region at that time. A year later she would enter the national circuit and for 5 years dominate weapons and forms with her skills. Eventually she moved on to the world of Martial Arts movies, as many of you are aware.

She continued, "They just don't understand you don't stand up in front of the judges and try do take it easy. Every time you compete you're giving 100% of what you have on that day. Some days' 100 is different from other days."

And that is the lesson. Not just Cindy Rothrock, everybody always gives 100%, every time. Its just a fact that that 100% differs from person to person. You don't judge the person's effort, you judge what they do with it. You don't judge the student's commitment, you judge their performance on a given day and hour.

The names and people fade each year, but the lesson remains.

Advanced Karate by Masutatsu Oyama

One surprising find over the years was the book "Advanced Karate" by Masutatsu Oyama. It holds a treasured place in my library. More so for what it shows how he saw karate's potential for use.

Saturday, July 19, 2014