Monday, August 31, 2015

Differences Between Naihanchi Now and in the Past

While not our version of Nihanchi (Naifanchi) kata, it still is useful to understand how kata has moved, changed through time

Interviews with Respected Elder Bushi, Choki Motobu Regarding Real Self-Defense - (Jissen) Episodes

Ryukyu Shimpo, 9, 10, 11 November 1936

Collections of Wakukawa Seiei, Okinawa Prefectural Archives

Translation by Kiko Asai Ferreira

Edited by Naoki Motobu and Peter M. Kobos

Differences Between Naihanchi Now and in the Past

The way to make the fist is different now than the way we were taught in the old days when we were 12 or 13 years old. It was flat or open hand (hirate) in the old days. Today, they use thrust fist (tsuki ken) strikes that go forward and in  a downward direction (called running water), but in the old days there was no such hand technique. In the old days, it was a straight strike that went slightly upward. I believe that this was Matsumura's style from Shuri. Sakuma Sensei's kata and Matsumura Sensei's kata were same. These were old style kata.


We learned to pull back our fist on the side, directly under the arm after a strike. However, today when you pull back after a strike, you bring your fist back to your hip (the lower side of your abdomen). This never works during an actual fight. I believe that the proper technique is to put power and strength into pulling back your fist. Today this looks to me very strange, to put so much power into striking with your fist. I would use only 80% of power when I extend a strike with my fist, but 100% of power when I pull it back.


The Irony of History

At times modern martial discussion derides the changes to Karate sponsored by Itosu Anko as school boy karate. I believe the truth is quite different. He created a simplified and standardized training which was used in the schools and later many karate programs.

 Okinawa was a loyal part of the Japanese Empire. When Itosu Anko drafted his famous 10 precepts in 1908, He was trying to show officials of the Ministry of Education, positive values offered by training youth for eventual military service.

 While there were Okinawan’s who avoided the draft and visited China, most Okinawan’ s didn’t  do so. I imagine the goal was to teach youth to be used to follow orders and become stronger physically. Military training at that time was far beyond hand to hand combat.

Where Itosu wrote:

 “The purpose of karate is to make the muscles and bones hard as rock and to use the hands and legs as spears. If children were to begin training in Tang Te[1] while in elementary school, then they will be well suited for military service. Remember the words attributed to the Duke of Wellington after he defeated Napoleon: "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton."”

“When you train, do so as if on the battlefield. Your eyes should glare, shoulders drop, and body harden. You should always train with intensity and spirit, and in this way you will naturally be ready.”

“..then we will produce many men each capable of defeating ten assailants.”


It certainly helped make his case.

There were many instructors who taught school students.

Then Funakoshi made the case when he took karate instruction to Japan. There he worked with the Universities and the Naval War College making the same points.



Of course the Japanese military at that time was occupying Korea and Manchuria.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The hunt for Sinanju

The morning Sun peeks over the distant mountains in the East.
The morning Sun peeks over the distant mountains in the East.
The morning Sun peeks over the distant mountains in the East.


The Horns of Welcome embrace the sunlight.
The Horns of Welcome embrace the sunlight.
The Horns of Welcome embrace the sunlight.

The bee wakes is new sunlight.

The flower shimmers in the morning calm.


The morning Sun peeks over the distant mountains in the East.
The morning Sun peeks over the distant mountains in the East.
 The morning Sun peeks over the distant mountains in the East.


The Horns of Welcome embrace the sunlight.
The Horns of Welcome embrace the sunlight.
The Horns of Welcome embrace the sunlight.

The bee wakes is new sunlight.

The flower shimmers in the morning calm.

The hunt for Sinanju

Allow me to use my blog for a flight of fancy. As I have written about the Masters of Sinanju and their arts for years. I thought this would be fun.

This morning I am going to undertake a dangerous journey, to find the home of the Masters of Sinanju. It has been hidden from modern reference
, although it is on the West Korean Bay behind the Horns of Welcome

The exact location is unknown. There is a town called Sinanju somewhere nearby but that town is not Sinanju, rather a decoy for tourists. Nor is Sinuju the correct town.


For sure in the false Sinanju there is a train station.

The home of Sinanju would never let such a smelly thing into the village pure.

What we do know is that “The Horns of Welcome rose above the bay. Two great curving arcs of stone that had for countless centuries acted both as welcome and warning to those who dared visit the Pearl of the Orient. Framed between the horns; far out in the black waters of the West Korean Bay, the oblong blot of a submarine sat like a steel island amid the rolling waves”  Destroyer 128 The End of the Beginning.

I believe more is unlikely to be known.  It has been rumored that various surveillance satellites have been lost making the attempt, rumored by children playing games.

At this I stop, my search, fearful I make a mistake and by accident reveal the exact location. There is a CURE for that and I would not like it.

The above web site discloses some of the secret techniques of the 37 steps of Sinanju training.

  The Secret Is Still A Secret

Chiun teaches these steps to Remo early on in his Sinanju training, and Remo uses them often. On friends. On enemies. To shut up annoying females. Even the movie mentioned the technique. Note that it alternates left than right, each alternate step being closer to the heart (left side.) Here is what has been revealed so far of the Thirty-Seven steps...

Step one: Tapping the inside of the left wrist, in time to the heartbeat. Increase the speed of the tapping. The tapping will increase the heartbeat to 150 beats per minute.

Step four: Massage of the small of the back

Step five: Massage of the inside of the left knee, followed by the right knee

Step six: The perimeter of the Right armpit

Step seven: The perimeter of the left armpit

Step eight: Massage the inside of the upper right thigh

Step nine: Massage of the inside of the upper left thigh

Step ten: "Mountain climbing" the fingers over the right breast

Step eleven: Trailing the fingers over the left breast to a peak that was hard and vibrant

- At this point she usually is jelly, and Remo jumps to step thirty seven

Step thirty seven: Penetration

Do not attempt them. They are most likely not the techniques used in Sinanju training. In any case the world does not need more mindless individuals.


In the sunlight

        The bee begins his labors

In the sunlight

        The bee begins his labors

In the sunlight

        The bee begins his labors



The flower waits patiently.......

Friday, August 28, 2015

A personal memory when I was a beginner in Salisbury Md. in the mid 1970s

East of Salisbury Maryland was the Dojo. It was built to resemble a barn in appearance but inside it was all dojo.

This was my original instructor Tom Lewis.

Mr. Lewis in his office off the dojo floor.


             Some of the many instructors and friends who would assist Sensei in our instruction.

Dennis Lockwood who was Sensei's right hand man in the dojo.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Marvin Jones and Bruce Venables

When I was a beginner in Salisbury, one of the Brown Belts who trained there was Bruce Venables. He trained under Marvin Jones who had the Laural Club of the IKC.

Tiger Upperut

Times change, reasons change, arts are born, arts die.

Times change, reasons change, arts are born, arts die.


I just saw a series of documentaries on Hong Kong Martial Arts that makes some interesting points. I suggest you would lears something while watching them.




Of course the topic is simplified for television. Details are not offered as to which arts are extinct, but this is happening.


My friend Ernest Rothrock, Laoshi, has told me the same over a decade ago. His own art, Faan Tzi Ying Jow Pai Northern Eagle Claw, is facing this ame extinction in Hong Kong. However I doubt it is just because children have shorter attention spans. The adult reason is employment. The requirements for making a living take more time away from lives, leaving far less time to train.


So faced with increasing school rent fees, decreasing students with the time to train, arts to fade.


It is interesting the same seems to have occurred on Okinawa.

Prior to 1972 almost all the instruction on Okinawa was for adults. After control of Okinawa returned to Japanese hands, there was an increase in employment and accompanying mainland Japanese practices. Work became the standard of life, and time to train almost became non-existant. The attendance at most dojo decreased dramatically.


Of course things did change, For one thing in Okinawa about 1994 Okinawan teachers with martial backgrounds began a phys. Education program in the schools based on karate. Then teaching karate to children became a large phenomena on Okinawa. Today there are more dojo for children than adults.

Of course this is not well documented.


Change occurs. Instructors who would not share with foreigners may have seen their arts die out, as the Hong Kong story suggests. Some of the arts may have been too vast studies for anyone to attempt in today’s world. Times do change, life and death are part of that.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Karate Kid - a personal memory

The Karate Kid a personal memory


One day my neighbor in Scranton, Fred Meurty, a Senior Judo-ka came up to me and told me he was approached to contact all of the local martial arts schools to invite the youth training, to attend a private showing of the new movie “The Karate Kid”. I had no idea what it was about, but knew Fred was a Good person and thought the kids would enjoy it.


When the Saturday arrived it was for a 1pm show. We entered as a group and sat together. The kids were entranced with the movie. When it was done they were cheering, and I was too.


I had started watching martial arts movies since the early 70’s and had seen nothing like it. Ok, the karate wasn’t that hot, and the lack of contact rules for a youth tournament was impossible in real life. But the premise that this what karate was for was superb. Among the best stories ever made.


But leaving the theater with the kids I was teaching that day, I know it would never be better.


A rarity.  following movie was even better, not the karate, but the story.





Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thumb Strikes



One of the things that is less discussed is the use of the thumb for striking in karate.


This is a recollection of a personal journey, as many stories are.  As I learned Isshinryu, thumb strikes were not part of my art. Along the way I studied many systems but do not recall them being used either.


Thin around 1987 ot 1988, Tom Chan a Ueichi brown belt joined our program. He fit in very well, but did so because of convenience rather than dislike of Ueichi, which he adored. I made certain he continued his practice before or after class. From the first time I asked to see his Seisan kata, I noticed the thumb strikes within the palm strikes he was doing. He asked me how I saw them I just replied that I did. That was the beginning of this inquiry.’


A later discovered demonstration by Kilohide Sensei showing boshiken training in Uechi.


Back then there was no internet discussion, or many videotapes, being before youtube where everything is available if you know what you are looking for.  Many arts were unseen in many areas, Ueichi being one of them. It was found in pockest of influence around the country.


Within the arts were many practices, while not secrets, not often discussed with others. The use of thumb  striking, or boshiken strikes, being one of them, I hadn’t noticed them in the considerable martial arts literature I had collected.


Of course that got me thinking. I had experienced bunkai strikes from Shotokan, to the forhead at the same point Ueichi was striking with the thumb. At the same time that point was struck by Eagle Claw single finger strikes to destabilize an attacker.


That got me thinking, not to try an duplicate what Tom was doing, but to consider the obvious use of the Isshinryu fist I hadn’t thought of before.

The firse use I saw was striking into the solar plexus with the Isshinryu fist, and then continuing the strike by driving the thumb into the soft part of the under jaw, a variation on Sutrisno multiple striking applied to Isshinryu.


(Caution this should only be practiced with a partner softly because it is dangerous.)


Then I got to see the applications within the Isshinryu roundhouse strikes.

Strikes with the thumb to the neck and the temple. Hooking strikes from SunNusu kata to the kidneys and back and solar plexus.


Further uses in a double strike with the thumb and the bent index finger allowed a different variation, such as double strikes into the neck, Absolutely no difference in standard Isshinryu execution .Just how it was used to strike.

Then in 1988 my wife took the time to train with Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming in a 6 month clinic on Chin-na. I was working too far away to make it. I would arrive home and later on she came in and used me for a practice ‘dummy’ I came to understand pain a different way, especially with her finger Chin-na training. Including the thumb. It cast thumb potential in a different light.


Dr Yang Jwing-Ming

While I had studied Eagle Claw with Ernie Rothrock Laoshi in the past, it was just performance of the forms (for knowledge). I really didn’t work applications at that time. Later he went into some of them and of course they included use of the thumb.
Ernie Rothrock demonstrating  Eagle Claw

About 5 years later I began training with Sherman Harrill Sensei and after his death with his senior student John Kerker Sensei. There were a lot of uses of thumb strikes in those studies.




A photo of Sherman Harrill that might be turned into thumb striking.



Borowed from recent article on Karate by Jessie


Something else to consider.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

A whimsical study of Giant Creatures to avoid

There are times that karate can provide no alternative but evasion for survival. These creature cannot be defeated with available resources…….Run is the wisest course.




Kronos from the 1957 movie

The original Godzilla  1954

Godzilla 1999





Godzilla 2000



Godzilla Tokyo



Godzilla Final Wars



Monster Zero


Space Godzilla

This in not a complete listing, there are many others. But facing such opponents your karate will do nothing, unless you are a giant alien yourself. 


Feel free to run and scream, perhaps to survive.

There are times you just have to have fun.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Way of Karate Beyond Technique - Shigeru Engami

Japan and Karate are not often popular with Okinawan stylists. Today many decry the different ways those arts differed.


But there is a remarkable work by one of Funakoshi’s original Japanese students, that asked many of the same questions we still ask today. And he acted on those questions, making choices based on what he found on Okinawa. While we might agree or disagree with his choices, or those of each other, we can still recognize the quest that drove him. For that reason alone he is well worth the time to study what he wrote.


In my beginning years there was little writing about Isshinryu or karate itself available in the book stores. There were magazines like Black Belt and others. But there was little of depth.


I knew there were differences between different systems but did not understand what those differences were. When I began my study I had a brother in the Jhoon  Ree system of  TKD, a brother studying a Chinese system in NH and a younger brother and sister in Shotokan in York Pa.


We did not live near each other and did not discuss our training.  Of all of them I was the only one who kept training.


When I began my training my father presented me his copy of Nakayama’s “Dynamic Karate”,  a superior book in its own right but as I was studying  Isshinryu it did show something of Shotokan it also didn’t mean a great deal to me.


Our study of Isshinryu was not from books (which came later) but that of sweat equity on the dojo floor. Several years later my wife bought me Funakoshi’s “Karate Do Koyan” for Christmas. Again a great book I would appreciate more as the decades passed.


But in 1976 I purchased a new book, my first, Engami Shigeru’s “The Way of Karate Beyond Technique.” As I read it I recognized it was something different. Did not exactly know what the difference was, but as the years passed it said more and more to me.


Now at the time the book was written in Japan, he was in his 40 year in karat (coincidently I am there myself as I write this).


The karate he studied was different from what the JKA had become, for many reasons.  Karate had changed (as it probably always did, even on Okinawa). For one thing the Karate-do that concerned Funakoshi did not seem to resonate within the younger man. He began to understand why some changes were made.


For one thing the original version of Knuckle Toe Kicks (one of many Okinawan variations on toe kicking) was discontinued because of the pain from training. He too (as many still do) traveled to Okinawa to understand what was being done there for his own reasons. Then he acted on those answers he experienced and changed the way he did karate. He also followed his own logic making other changes. Trying holding to the original traditions he studied from Funakoshi.


To seriously understand the difference from what Funakoshi originally taught, seeing his own observations of Okinawa, and then seeing what that knowledge did to his karate, and the reason for those choices, I recommend this book.


It was later reissued as “The Heart of Karate” perhaps slightly different but still the same book.


Shigeru Egami was a pioneering Japanese master of Shotokan karate who founded the Shōtōkai style. He was a student of Gichin Funakoshi, who is widely recognized as the founder of modern karate.


o    Born: Dec 07, 1912 · Omuta, Japan

o    Died: Jan 08, 1981 · Tokyo, Japan

o    Education: Waseda University

o    Written works: The Heart of Karate-Do · The way of karate


1912: Egami was born on December 7, 1912, in Ōmuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan.

1949: On May 27, 1949, he helped establish the Japan Karate Association under Funakoshi.

1957: Following Funakoshi's death in 1957, Egami began trying to change karate's poor reputation as a 'deadly martial art,' something Funakoshi had tried to do all his life.

1981: Egami died at 7:00 PM on January 8, 1981, in Tokyo.