They say (no idea who they are) that you never forget your first time. Perhaps they are right. As I was sitting today I began thinking about the journey and a memory came to me.
The paradigm which Lewis Sensei taught Isshinryu in Salisbury was somewhat different from what I do today.
The reality is there are many different paradigm in Isshinryu, all of which began on Okinawa, and I have no doubt that for all their differences they are still capable of doing great Isshinryu. To me I have come to accept something that Sherman Harrill believed as true, it is what we have in common which is most important, not the ways which we are different.
When I learned Isshinryu, the application potential for kata technique was not the idea behind the practice. And to be honest in most of the schools I visited and trained with kata technique application was not even a question. It was years later that the concept of ‘bunkai’ was even discussed.
In two of the many schools where I trained, I was learning Chinese perspectives for technique use (not the main purpose why I trained there), and a style where a very special form of bunkai was practiced. It was a blend of old style Shotokan, aikido, Indonesian Tjimande and kobudo studies.
Very different paradigms from each other. The instructors were incredibly skilled and at times I experienced what they taught in exquisite pain.
As good and interesting as those instructors were, and they shared so freely with me, the more I studied with them the more I wanted to do more with my own Isshinryu.
At that time I was not around others in Isshinryu.
I then moved to New Hampshire, and while I continued to train with my friends in those other styles, I began to consider what I could do with Isshinryu.
I had worked out my own paradigm to see how Isshinryu could be applied.
I first worked at determining I what I was seeing made sense.
I took the slightest of movement, from many styles I had studied and applied that paradigm to those movements in order to understand what they might be used for. I admit I was surprised for I found they had tremendous applications.
Then I extended those studies to taking a movement and exploring themes where they could be used. An example might be arm breaking techniques, and so forth.
All of them worked and I began to enjoy the explorations taking place.
Before long I had many technique studies. I then began turning to just one section of Seisan Kata, by many definitions the opening section. This became my focus for some time.
Now running a free program, I, at times, would visit one local school. They were nearby Karate program and I started going over there just wishing to be friendly as I knew the instructors, instructor years before. They had a strong program, but the paradigm they were using did not work kata applications as a study, it was much closer to the original way I studied Isshinryu.
When I showed up to visit, I was asked to share with the group. They had about 50 black belts there. As they were not interested in Isshinryu, I decided to first share a drill I had created for my students, called the never ending kata. A drill that just could go on and on and on. I shared it and then the instructor showed how a section of one of their forms could go the same way.
This is the section near the opening where you step into horse stance and spread your arms.
And the application that occurred to me was that against someone stepping in with their right foot and either striking with the right hand, or perhaps reach out with the right hand to grab you.
As they step in with their punch, you raise both your hands, then step in with your right foot, turning to the left becoming parallel to their strike. Your left hand/arm circles up and out, moving counter-clockwise, as you turn and move forward, so that motion becomes a deflection to their strike. The other hand/arm circles up and out in the opposite direction – -clockwise allowing that open hand to slice down into the side of their neck.
This is done in one fluid movement. The motion is both a deflection of the strike, and a strike into their neck. There is a good chance that this can do real damage to them.
As there were not my students, and I was concerned about someone becoming over zealous, striking too hard into their training partners neck, I gave instructions to do this softly with no power.
Done this way it is interesting how much this motion resembles the was tai chi or aikido moves.
So the group practiced the simultaneous deflecton and strike. \
Now not teaching, for a minute, I began to observe what was happening. When the defender moved forward and did the technique, landing their hand softly on the neck of the attacker the attacker’s head would turn away from the strike.
Now that was something I recognized from my aikido studies. The turning of the head destabilizes their balance, making many other things much easier.
So I stopped their practice and selected their biggest student to show what was next. I invited him to step in and punch.
Against that punch I did the move they were practicing, stepped forward and deflected their strike and the other hand sliced down softly into his neck.
And automatically his head turned away from that touch.
Which broke the structure of his balance. I then shifted my hand to the other side of his neck and touched it with a knifehand, softly.
This was something I was familiar with from my Tai Chi and Aikido studies.
I just did the next section of the kata. Where I step out with the left foot as I was in the process of turning 90 degrees to the left. The left hand returns to chamber as the right hand moves into a descending knifehand strike/block.
Young Lee’s version of the kata Sunsu, which is not identical to what I did, essentially shows a similar motion.
The motion of stepping, turning, moving the left hand to chamber as the right descending knife hand strike are all done at the same time.
This results in synergy of all the body parts working together.
The right hand touching their turned neck, The left hand pressing against their arm creating a drag as that hand begins to turn to chamber, The downward press of the palm against their nec, the rotation of the core from the entire movement, all combine to destabilize them further and they fall down.
Now either of these movements can be used as a strike. And that is what Isshinryu is about too. But done this way it offers another answer, a way to down the opponent without leaving marks on their body (of course there are times you want to leave marks too.)
This is rather non standard to my way of thinking, but it works for me too.
Oh the reason I selected the largest person to attack me, goes back to something explained to me long ago. Whenever a friend was requested to do a demonstration he always selected the largest uke he could find. Then he did his damndest to put them down. Hard.
That established in everyone’s mind that you knew what you were doing. After that everyone else would be a piece of cake, you had established your credentials in their mind, and you owned them from that point in time.