Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Instructor’s Burden

the I who once was
Part of the instructor’s burden is something that did not have as much presence in the past history of karate. I am referring to the availability of the clinic.
First, I am not suggesting what I believe is in any way right for your program. Each program has its own history and rationale.
However in my case, after intense initial instruction in Isshinryu, I went a very complex course of studies with a wide variety of instructors in many arts. And as a result of the forced instruction in Isshinryu I received, I worked really hard to remember what many others shared with me.
When I relocated to Derry, New Hampshire, I integrated some of those studies into my propran, even choosing to honor those instructors by having my students studies include a kata or  form from those programs. There were many other things that were woven into the students studies too.
Now at different times I attended clinics with other instructors to see first hand what they were doing (Shimabukuro Zempo0, George Dillman and Danny Insanto come to mind) those clinics were just for me. On the other hand those who I had trained with intensively, or had the utmost respect for, did provide several dozen clinics for my adult students. I rarely had the youth attend as the material presented was way beyond their studies.
What I quickly discovered that Tris Sutrisno was presenting material at a very fast rate, really teaching me. The others that gave clinics, Ernest Rothrock and Sherman Harrill were again more presenting material I would get more from in the long run, than the students.
By way of example, as my current program had a strong structure, even incredible material often required 5 years of personal study before I found a place to introduce it into the program. That was because the existing material was also good, and nothing was readily set aside, for the new material. Then in time as all became more skilled the time it became appropriate was found in the material they were working on.
A different challenge was material such as Sherman Harrill presented, He held nothing back as shared literally hundreds of technique studies. But the same problem existed, what we were already doing was also good, And again 5 or more years would go by before I could use what they had been shown logically in the program.
I literally have notebooks of notes from those clinics, and many additional video tape records of things that transpired. But everyone knew I would not forget, and then found it easier to set that material aside, not my choice but one they allowed themselves to make.
And so much great material, truly great, that I never found a place for in our studies together.
One of the things you realize is you can’t do everything, no matter how good it is. I could never teach out all the kata, forms I studied. No one has that much free time. And being in instructor is working with the possible, not the impossible, no matter what the reason.
How others deal with this I don’t know, There is nothing wrong with letting students ‘feel’ what others are doing. It just is not the way I choose to follow.
And even to this day, I am mining those old clinics and offering to many suggestions that they might make.
 The instructor’s burden does not end when you step aside from being an instructor.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

From “Ryuku Oke Hiden Bujutsu: Karate, Bukijutsu”

From “Ryuku Oke Hiden Bujutsu: Karate, Bukijutsu”
(Secret Royal Martial Arts of Ryukyu: Karate and Weaponry)
by Matsuo Kaneori Sakon


This sure caught my attention.
The secret of “Bu No Mai” the Okinawan dance, is the secret of his art.
The dance can be done with empty or hands,
Or the same movements can be done with weapons.
Bu No Mai” contains punches, kicks, throws, grappling and weaponry.
The point of origin of this secret technique is Tuidijutsu.
Tuidijutsu techniques compound on one another,
Making the possibilities virtually endless.
The structure of his art is as follows:
If the art of not injuring somebody is tuidijutsu,
Then there is that of tuidi-gaeshi (tuidi reversals)
And even higher is ura-gaeshi (reversal techniques).
Still higher ist the pinnacle, is Ajikata Nu Mekata,
Or the dance of the feudal lords.
“In other words, fully developed martial arts
Do not have corners or rough edges,
And look even smooth or weak to the eye.
But for those who have experience with Udondi,
There are frighteningly effective techniques,
that one’s hair stands on end.
Ajikata Nu Mekata
Ajikata Nu Mekata
Tada Omote Miruna
Waza Ni Waza Sayuru
Ukudi Yariba
“Do not make light of the dance of the Ryukyu Warriors,
For the technique compounds technique,
And the deepest martial secrets lie hidden there.”
 * This was translated by Joe Swift in 2005
Several useful YouTube videos
Tachiutushi / Goshin No Mai / Bu No Mai
Kobudo / Nuginata no mai
Uehara Sensei showing how some of the dance movements work
Tuidi by Uehara Seikichi shinshii
本部御殿手 武の舞 浜千鳥 Motobu Udundi Bunomai
Ryukyu Oukehiden Motobu Udundi - 40th All Japan Kobudo Demonstration - 2017
本部御殿手 - Motobu Udundi -
Uehara Seikichi - Anji-no-mai-no-te Kata
Not sure if these add anything to the topic?
Okinawan Ti Hand Positions in Transition
Karate & Okinawa Ti - hand techniques compared

Monday, November 13, 2017

Oshiro Sensei and Multiple Striking

Back in 1980 when I first began training with Tristan Sutrisno and his family study of Shotokan and other arts, among the first differences I discovered was a series of drills using multiple striking techniques.
They are brilliant, and I incorporated them into my instruction, abet with Isshinryu techniques, with no effort, and I have been teaching them ever since.
The concept is quite simple, every strike can change into another strike, flowing from one movement to the next. They were practiced as a 5 count striking drill, and over the years I worked out a number of different versions for my own use.
Their use is also simple to understand, although karate striking wants to conclude an attack with a single response, at times that is not going to happen. These techniques shift the countering strike into a 2nd strike to finish the job, while their focus and concentration are fixed on that first strike which perhaps they countered, or perhaps you were less than perfect (something I have mastered, being less than perfect.
I trained many placed and many styles, but I had not seen this sort of training being done. This was a time before Video availability, long before the internet or YouTube. And while I followed the karate magazines rigoriously, I had never seen this there either.
Then one day Panther video and then Tsunami video came on the scene. Many things were now available to be seen.  For example I had heard of the Goju kata Suparempi, but had never seen it. So one of my first purchases was just that kata. Not to attempt to learn it, but just to see it for myself.
So one day I saw a series of videos by Oshiro Sensei on Unichandi. I was intrigued. I got the tapes, not so much for the kata, but to see what it was about.
And the first technique being shown was a multiple strike, in a different system from what I had seen before.
There are no secrets, just practices your system might do, yet. Everything old is new again. (Maybe I should write a song about that.)
This is what Oshiro Sensei showed:

Prior Post from my blog on Multiple Striking:


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Enter Stage Right, Exit Stage Left

Enter Stage Right, Exit Stage Left
 To fully understand this story, you need to understand an old device used in classical Greek Theater. When a play grew so complex that no rational answer could be found to resolve whatever tragedy was taking place, the author of the play always could resort to ‘Deus Ex Machina’, which translated roughly as God in a Machine.
In those plays they would employ a type of crane to lift a ‘god’ onto the stage, and that ‘god’ would use their powers to then set things right, providing a happy ending to a tragedy.
Not just in classical Greek theater, for one Shakespeare used that idea in Hamlet, where the Prince of Denmark shows up at the end and sets things right. Even unto today’s movies, where someone just shows up and resolves things.
HG Wells used in in War of the Worlds, where germs saved the day. JRR Tolkien used it when the Eagles would show up and set things right in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Everything that was old is new again.
So, this is an example of Deus Ex Machina in my own life story.
I had moved to Scranton Pa. for work. I entering banking and Maureen becoming a Swim Coach. Not being from there I also knew no one except my wife, and that was fine. Unfortunately I had to leave my Isshinryu behind, and I had just made my green belt.
Several months later my wife heard of a Tang Soo Do school nearby where we were living.
It was not Isshinryu, but it was a hard workout, so I signed a two year contract to train and started over as a white belt. Because of my previous training, not because of my knowledge of that art, in a few month I jumped during my first testing from 10th white to 5th green in that art. The next spring I competed in a tournament they sponsored and had my successes there too. At the same time I privately continued studying the Isshinryu I had learned.
Then that summer on my vacation, I returned to Salisbury for training and to finish learning Chinto kata.
Later that summer I tested in Tang Soo and earned my 3rd red belt there.
Then the crane of life lifted my own Deus Ex Machina into my life and provide a most happy ending, so to speak.
It began with a phone call that Labor Day Weekend, Maureen let me know I had a phone call, I was visiting my neighbor at the time. I answered the phone to discover it was Charles Murray, he was informing me that he had taken a Church to be the pastor, near Scranton, and would I be interested in getting together and train sometime.
Before he could hang up, I was over at his parsonage, telling him I was ready to return to Isshinryu. (not that things were bad in Tang Soo Do, just that personally Isshinryu meant way more to me.).
Long story short we began working out together, read I became his favorite practice target. He was way above me on the Isshinryu food scale, and when we sparred (and we always sparred) I could not even touch him on my best day.). A lot of sweat followed.
My contract was still in force, so I continued to train in Tang Soo Do twice a week, and their training did a lot for my kicks) but my heart was in the workouts with Charles.
After he watched what I had, he told me to keep the kata I had learned in Salisbury as I had been shown, and my new kata studies would be in his way. (Note- over the years what Mr. Lewis taught was not steady state Isshinryu, but many different versions with small variations. Depending on when one trained, there were differences in kata. But Lewis Sensei  was only concerned with how you got better with the version you did. That your Isshinryu would kick butt (my words). And many of the black belts who taught me, would be using different variations on kata, from my beginning. You had to remember and execute those kata their way when they were teaching. For example Seisan was not one kata, but maybe 5 kata, when I was a beginner.)
Charlie set a swift pace, almost a new kata every month, and lots of sparring. And I was continuing my Tang Soo Do studies at the same time.
It was the best of times, I was being pushed.
In no time I was both a Brown Belt in Isshinryu and a Red Belt in Tang Soo Do at the same time. But by that next summer that was causing some conflict. Perhaps I felt I might reach Black Belt in Isshinryu and Blue Belt in Tang So Do at the same time.
However the arts were also very different. The Isshinryu I had studied, was full body contact sparring, where the TSD was no contact sparring, even with protective gear. And I drew criticsm for making slight mistakes and ko’ing my opponent, or striking too hard knocking then down, or using ground kicking attacks Charles was teaching me were those I sparred in TSD had no defense for them.
The conflict continued when that next summer I returned to Salisbury again on vacation, to let Mr. Lewis see my progress. What he told Charles, was I was not sparring intensely enough.
The conflict between the two different ways of training was holding me back, My school contract in TSD was up and I  choose to depart from that training, I had learned a great deal that would always remain with me, but I decided to part ways. I explained why I was leaving to my TSD instructor and just trained with Charles thereafter.
And train we did, continuously. We trained at midnight, on Bank Holidays, in Blizzards, you name it.

And before I knew it he took me to Salisbury and the whole IKC association, Mr Lewis and guest Harold Mitchum tested me one Saturday evening in January, 1979.

I made my black belt (and yes I slept with it under my pillow that first night.)
On the drive back to Scranton Charles asked me: “Victor, if you are in a plane that is crashing, what good is your black belt going to be.” I gave a response, something like I would just jump into Sanchin and punch on the moment of impact negating the force of the crash. I cute answer, but I was a long term question I retained.
So I was a black belt, and Charles continued to push kobudo kata into me.
Then one day the crane began to lift him away from me.
“Victor I have something to tell you, for personal reasons I have decided to return to the USAF and enter officer training.”
Of course I was stunned, and this would occur in two weeks time.
We continued our training, and he began to teach me the only Isshinryu Bo form, Shi Shi No Kon.
That last day came, he and his wife were packing up their things. I came over and he came outside in the back yard to show me some more of the form I was learning.
It was a sunny day, at the same time lines of thunder clouds and storms were passing through the region.

It began raining and he went back inside to pack.
I remained out there, practicing the form,  pouring rain, lightning and thunder all around.
I paid no attention to any of them.
Then it stopped raining, and I Charles looked outside his window and saw me practice what I was shown. So he came out and showed me some more.
It began raining and he went back inside to pack.
I remained out there, practicing the form,  pouring rain, lightning and thunder all around.
I paid no attention to any of them.
Then it stopped raining, and I Charles looked outside his window and saw me practice what I was shown. So he came out and showed me some more.
Repeat several more times.
Finally I finished being shown Shi Shi No Kon No Dai.
About that time Charles had to say farewell. For it was time to finish packing and then leave for Florida.
I remember that time very well, burned in to my mind.
The Deux Ex Machina having solved my needs was lifted away. (Ok I am pushing this a bit, but it fits.)
I went back home to practice, Practice was the one eternal thing I experienced.
Then for years we only saw each other irregularly, but for us it was as if no time had passed.
I followed my dreams in Isshinryu, he rose to eventually become a Colonel in the USAF.
We remain the best of friends.
He was my Deus Ex Machina in every way.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Rule for Senior Rank

I often felt the better rule regarding senior rank should be.
"If anyone remembers who you were 25 years after death, why then you must have been a Master, if anyone remembers who you were 50 years after death, why then you must have been a Grand Master. For other titles follow the same rule."
I for one have no desire to learn if I am any of them, rather prefer to keep living.

An issue of Alignment

Karate has changed a great deal to me over the years.
Originally it followed a very different, good paradigm, Among things, hard body conditioning, lots of kata study, lots of kumite, and lot’s of open tournaments in those days.
As a new black belt I often was called to judge forms I had not studies at open tournaments, It did get confusing. As a corollary seeking places to train and work out, I trained in many schools, Kung Fu, Shotokan, Shorin Ryu, Goju Ryu, Washin Ryu and many others, learning lots of forms during those training sessions, and remembering them as I was taught being a black belt means you don’t say I can’t.
In time, I often had knowledge of what I was judging.
At that time as much as I did not know there was a difference between Okinawan karate, and Japanese Karate, I also was unaware at how many subdivisions there were in Shotikan, Goju Ryu, Shorin Ryu and others. But I was somewhat informed.

Among things I found many judges would give higher scores to poor kung fu performances, probably on the belief not spoken but felt, that kung fu must be stronger than karate, and scores should be given accordingly. Not so much in black belt divisions where there was a different dynamic among those few giving scores. But that is a whole other story.
What threw me most was how to judge those custom built forms showcasing individual strengths? I am sure I gave many improper scores.
Then late one night my Tai Chi/Kung Fu instructor  gave me private instruction, totally tearing my tai chi form down after 15 years of practice and work Literally hundreds of corrections. Then he explained what I was doing wrong, just with a slight touch again and again that left me floundering each time. He then showed me what I was doing wrong and how to correct it, and a tool to use to do so, that slight touch. It was using correct energy point alignment.
Without going into the details at this time, later I quickly discovered the same thing worked with my students karate (and my own), where if they were incorrect the slightest touch would make them fall.
It caused a lot of cleaning up to take place, and a superior tool for class. And the thing was, it wasn’t magic, just doing the kata properly as originally shown (for the school involved).
But at that time I also discovered that energy point misalignment was a perfect place to attack, a weakness to be exploited.
By extension a way to judge anything, even when the system is unknown.
Every stance, form, etc. has a stronger alignment, where that touch will not destabilize the performer.
The better form a performer does, the higher their score should be, as they are making fewer possibly fatal mistakes.
The more flaws in their alignment, the lower their score should be, at they are making more possibly fatal mistakes.
I had discontinued tournament attendance and judging, but went a few times to watch and I stand by this opinion. Those custom built forms showing the performers strengths, most often also had dead moments where poor alignment was present. Where a simple touch could down them, I now had a method to know what I was awarding.
However, I was no longer interesting in judging anybody, just developing my karate and my students further.