Friday, January 27, 2017

"And then there was One"

Of course I borrowed the title from a tv show.


It occurred to me that much of what we think of as our traditional arts is quite different from what they were in the past, and that applies to many arts. So I am going to review a few memories.





When I began kicking in our Dojo was first the kicks listed on the Lower Body Chart on the wall.


But I quickly learned from kumite in the dojo, there were many, many more. Of course everything required those kicks on that chart was a big goal for everyone.


But Lewis Sensei encouraged you to kick to whatever potential you had. And those I saw most frequently were the dojo greenbelts ,their range was very large.


One that was popular was the back turning side kick also called the spinning back kick. The  guy’s were very good with that.


One of my friends Buddy Sommers, made it his speciality. And literally spent hours before the heavy bag working on his kick. He developed great control. He could blast you with the kick, and not knock you down at the same time, because he choose not to do so.

On the other hand it did not do him any favors in tournaments. There most ofter when he used it, the judges rulled that all spinning kicks were ‘wild kicks’ not eligible for scores as being controlled. But his use always was very controlled. Just the judges did not choose to believe that.


Then moving, spending two years in Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan, then training with Charles Murray my own kicking developed far beyond that I originally had.


I used the same approach to kicking, the chart was most important, and wildly important for the Dan examination. But I also encouraged my students to develop their kicking ability as far as they could. And they did.





I remember one day I learned am important lesson, just because something is in a book, that does not mean it is true,


When I was a beginner my father gave me his copy of a book he had picked up. Nakasone’s “Dynamic Karate”

I knew it was about Shotokan karate, and was aware Isshinryu was a different sort of karate, but in those days I did not know what was different between different styles of Okinawan vs. Japanese karate.


One of the kicks described as I remember it (my book is packed up and unavailable for me. It also was different from what today’s internet searches show up. But as I recall it was the Reverse RoundHouse Kick. What the photos looked like as I remember was sort of a crescent type kick where the hower leg and foot struck out to the outside. As where a right kick would strike out to the right as it was thrown. Of course who knows if I interpreted the photos correctly.


The closest I can find to the kick I remember is a little like the following diagram. But the kick would hot be to the front, rather with the ball of the foot turned out to the right side.

Then I found the kick

 So one day I decided to do it before Tristan, to show I knew something.

He saw my kick and just told me “That kick is not in Shotokan.’


And of course I disagreed , citing the book Dynamic Karae.


There on he told me “My father studies with Funakoshi Sensei in the 1930’s and that kick was not in the art which is as my Father taught me.

I later learned that the organization Funakoshi founded had sent students (such as his son to other Karate instructors) (and Nakiyama to China, to study those arts.) bringing new ideas in the new JKA.


So I was confronted with a reality different from what I had presumed.


It time I read of how the Japanese Shotokan sent out various peoples to collect information about other instructors and arts to research and decide if they were to be included in their art. Apparently at the time Sutrisno Sensei’s father trained, that kick was not part of what became the JKA.


And as there was no clear mechanism of sharing information of changes or why they were adopted, to former still practicing students/instructors I can understand why such variances occurred.

Of course the question as to whether changed are good or less than good remains.



Different art and a different time.


Agaain this is from my memory, and I am not certain the kick I am going to describe was the one mentioned from the past, But the central idea of change remains.


Today it is taken that the Korean arts have a common kicking core, among them the spinning side kick (or back turning side kick).

Jhoon Rhee, commonly is referred to as the father of American Tae Kwon Do. He certainly was the most famous early TKD instructor in the states. Instructor, Innovator, Movie Star are all titles with describe his contributions.


However Tae Kwon Do is noe one system, rather a title applied to a variety of different Korean systems which banded together under General Choi, long ago.


And Jhoon Rhee’s art was the one Choi taught.


So as the story went, there was no spinning back kick in the art Rhee originally taught. It was in this Country where he first saw the Spinning Back kick being used  by another Korean TKD competitor, from a different TKD style.


But it was certainly added to his style with great effect. And many other styles adopted it too, and not just TKD.





So change occurred, and many times, in many arts, time after time.

No doubt this happen more in the modern era, with improved communications, public tournaments and demonstrations, Movies and Books.




Nor were my students immune from this. One of them Young Lee, I believe impressed by some movie, began to add a different technique to our club. One where he would run up a wall to do a side kick. Back in his younger days he taught this to several of the other teenage students too. It did not last the test of time and aging but is a small example of change occurring.




So a series of memories to bring me to the central story, one about Okinawan Karate.


Now I heard this 2nd hand, and can offer no proof, but it seems reasonable to me. I trust the individual who experienced this, that is enough for me.


As the story goes out in Remo, quite some time ago, there was a Clinic on various arts. One of those present was a very senior Okinawan instructor, who was mostly watching what was being taught that day.


Then a time came where he was going to answer some practitioner questions.


Some instructor had a question about the round house kick. The instructor thought a bit then answered, with the assistance of a translator.


In all my years of training I have only learned and used one kick, and the roundhouse kick you mention, was not that kick?


As I heard it, there was no further explaination.





Now I am going to take that statement and engage in some speculation..


If there was only one kick in his karate what might that be?


The first kick that comes to mind, is the front kick.


Most possibly the first kick for all of us.


Yet not necessarily the front kick execution of today, which is varied from instructor to instructor.


As an Isshinryu stylist I am partial to the front kick as done by Shimabuku Tatsuo.


Here is an example of what I mean.





Note how he fully chambers the kick first, raising the knee, and only then delivers the kick.


Just a front kick. Let’s think what that means for a few seconds.

What can se do with a front kick as that.


Sever possible front kick targets in no particular order:


1. The Abdomen

2. The Jaw

3. The Groin

4. The Hip Joint

5. The side of the torso

6. The Solar Plexus

7. The inner thigh.

7.a. The knee (front, side, or rear)

8. The Lower leg (straight on)

9.The lower leg from the outside using the return of the kick.

10 The lower leg from the inside using the return of the kick.

11. The ankle

12. The instep.

13. The foot.

14. The toes.

15. The head.

16. Lead Leg front kicks to the side.

Perhaps enough for now, I think we can come up with a few others with no effort.


Having addressed targeting let us consider the ways the front kick can be delivered.


1. With the toes in a variety of ways.

2 With the ball of the foot.

3. Striking with the heel.

4. Striking with the toes then a heel thrust.

5. Striking with the ball of the foot then a heel thrust.

6. Several ways of using the toes of ball of the foot to both enter the abdomen above the groin and then slide down with the toes, or the ball of the foot raking down the groin.

7. Use of the chamber of the knee as a knee strike a variety of ways.


Again I am sure there are more varieties to be found.


So with so much variety to be found within the simple front kick (and I realize the term simple is incorrect). Why the need for other kicks?


I suspect the answer is a simple as someone said to themselves wow!


Then worked on what they saw, eventually adding to what they taught.


In the past with less communications available, the instructor was free to teach whatever they thought appropriate. The goal of developing new students, nad no concrete set of rules to follow.


Change does not imply it is bad, just new ways continually being added.  If effective for you then it is fine.


On the other hand I am feeling more and more that what once was, does not mean that was less either.

Perhaps we might still find value in One.