Saturday, April 29, 2017

Staying Power

 When I was young, a long time ago.


When Mario McKenna suggested I start my blog as a reference for my students, I was not sure what it would become.


I had accumulated a great many training experiences with many instructors and had incorporated many of them into our training.


But as we are an Isshinryu program, first and foremost, there were many studies that never fit the time we had available.


Then there were many personal experiences I wanted available for their future reference.


And I had accumulated much knowledge  about a great many other things, that might have some future value for them. So I began accumulating all of them here. And over time it has grown a bit.


No specific order, just what strikes me at the moment.


As the blog automatically tracks the number of people who view it, I started to notice there were more and more following it, individuals from all over the world.


Much if it frankly makes no sense unless you have trained with me. I did not figure out I was giving any secrets away. If anyone takes the time to actually work out what we are doing, they deserve access to the material. For all the rest, frankly they probably will not take the effort to understand it.


So I did not restrict viewership, believing on sharing what I have seen


Apparetly others have been interested in viewing my thoughts. To date the viewership has reached 300,290.


That is something I never counted on. But almost never do any of them ever ask any questions, perhaps……….


So I move forward, every day. I am now much disabled, trying to preserve as much of what I have seen as possible.


And the beat goes on, and the beat goes on.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mabuni's writings in the 1930s

Mabuni Seipai Study 1934
Published 1934
Between themselves Funakoshi and Mabuni were engaging in a pretty neat bit of social engineering.
Look the average Japanese were not martial artists and their books were not written for them. The Japanese Martial establishments were not looking to replace their arts with Okinawan ones. But the University system would have been impressed that there were literate descriptions of these arts, even if they didn’t understand them. Making a more reasonable case to consider adding them to their programs. No doubt they did not research that these arts were not shared this way on Okinawa.
Then as Funakoshi shared a vision of Itosu’s arts, Mabuni decided to first focus on the Hiagonna Naha traditions.
A brief description of karate,
A book on Sanchin and Seiunchin then one on Seipai.
The briefest explanation of bunkai. Mario McKenna has explained to me in ‘Goshin Kempo Karate’ published in 1934 Mabuni Kenwa originally uses the term "bunkai setsumei" or "breakdown/apart and explanation".  Not a serious study of what a kata could be used for, but a simple teaser that it existed in the training.
Funakoshi incorporated some sections from the Bubishi, without translations, showing a link on older traditions. With his book Seipai Mabuni did the same with other Bubishi sections. And no expolanation what they were, but some older tradition.
Not surprising, even Japan acknowledged some Chinese roots.
Basically a show and tell that there was a serious tradition here.
So they could point to those books for the Martial Establishment to acknowledge they existed. More importantly those works helped them gain University ties.
The books while accurate, were not really intended for students. They had been taught on Okinawa, and although changes were being made for University students, the core value of direct experience still held sway.
As time passed of course later generations trying to have links with their past, incorporated these exercises as drills. That is not necessarily bad, But you should not assume that they were more that that.
As we look on such books we should consider them in this light. Not assuming they have a greater place in history. We get to see what they revealed, but are left to question what else was not said.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Free thinking

So other night I was thinking about a sudden attack, someone rushing in with a left strike followed by a right strike, considering what I could do in my current disabled state. My karate still works abet differently.

So I started thinking of things I might do. When Chinto’s opening came to mind. It occurred to me to shift my center to the left and form the rising ‘X’ block to the left interior of the strike. But I would use the ‘>’ of the ‘X’ for the block. The use of all the sides of the ‘X’ block something I had explored long ago.


Thus blocking with the ‘>’ of that block, to the inside of that strike. Then separating my hands, turning the left hand over to make a pressure block with the left palm and move the strike away from me. At the same time the right hand would begin the separation from the block of Chinto kata, and together with the movement of the left hand, the right would strike down to the top of the opponents head, or smash a palm into their eye socket or strike into the carotid sinus at the side of their neck with a shuto. Simply the easiest target of opportunity.
I liked this solution. The synergy of both hands separating resulting in another force enhancer making the stroke to the head/neck more powerful. Allowing follow-up as needed.
Another thought came to me. As the ‘X’ separates the two hands, the left hand could strike into the armpit with a fingertip strike as the right shears down to strike into their face/neck. Another potential force enhancer, the use of a strike into their chest to accompany the head/ncek strike.
Nor did I stop there. What next came to mind was a similar way to use Sanchin.

Against the same right strike, also use the interior line of defense and raise both hands as to make an ‘X’ block with the forearms formed as in Sanchin kata’s first movements. Time that to intercept their strike with the ‘>’ of the ‘X’ as you rotate to the left. Then continue to separate both arms, the left arm pressing outward against the strike, and the right forearm striking into the face of the attacker in a descending strike.

 All you have done is form the opening of Sanchin kata, deflected their strike and struck into their face with the shearing plane of your right arm. Again the synergy of both arms synchronized becomes the force enhancer to make everything more powerful.

The formation of the ‘X’ is a momentary movement in the opening of the kata.
One is not better that the other, they are just options of choice from your kata.
It then occurred to me they were similar ways to use the movement from Yang Tai Chaun known as Play the Lute.

Which took me to Wansu kata. The section after the right front kick where you assume a kamae with both hands.
In fact that is also where the opponent leads with a left strike and your right hand intercepts it as it parries the strike down and off center, while the left hand strikes out into the face/neck with a left shuto strike. Simply the reverse application from the Chinto one.

The same applies to the same movement in Sunsu kata.

Of course the opening on Sunsu kata used the same potential as the opening of Sanchin kata, previously discussed.

And regardless of attack, the technique works on the interior line of defense and the exterior line of defense with almost no alteration to the technique.

So I found an interesting relationship between Chinto kata, Sanchin kata, Tai Chi Chaun and even Wansu kata.

As I was originally not taught much for specific kata applications for any Isshinryu kata, and originally not even for tai chi as I just studied it as a form at that time, I do not have any specific rules that bind me.





Sunday, April 23, 2017

Thinking outside of the box

One of the things that attracts me to kata application principle is when new application potential arise when you think outside of the box.


I realize many people visit my words, but the parts of the blog which I consider most important are the descriptions of techniques from our actual training. Most people will never take the time to work them. That is real work. Especially as over 290,000 visitors have shown not one request for clarification.


It really is something those why have had actual training, can use this to jog your memory as you have done these applications.


Remember when I showed the destructive potential for the inside of the horizontal Elbow strike from Wansu kata.


Let me use a portion of the Wansu Kata as performed by Andy Sloane, because of the clarity of the technique.



The standard way of looking at the technique is as an elbow smash to the face or chest of the opponent, But when you consider what the inside of the elbow technique can do something else emerges.


I wrote about this quite a while ago.


These days I spend more of my time thinking so.


Not bound to standard Isshinryu applications, because in my day we did not study them.


I intend to share some other thoughts soon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hard Sweat, nothing like it.

Way back in time
Mike Cassidy and Young Lee
being schooled in a Chinese technique
by Ernest Rothrock, Laoshi.

1982 Boys Club Youth Karate Tornament

In 1982 I held a youth karate tournament at the
Scranton, Boys Club.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Training for life Against a Typhoon






Many of us have heard of standing on the roof on Okinawa in a typhoon and standing in horse stance working at maintaining the stance in the winds.


Here in Funakoshi Sensei’s own words is likely a source of many of those stories.



Against a Typhoon


Perhaps it would be more modest to let another person describe one’s youthful feats than to do so oneself. But resolutely swallowing my sense of shame, I shall here quote the words of Yukio Togawa, the author,taking no responsibility for them beyond assuring my readers that the incident described is a true one. The reader may see a touch of madness, but I have no regrets.


“The sky above,” writes Mt Togawa, “was black, and out of it there came a howling wind that laid waste to whatever stood in its paths. Huge branches were torn like twigs from great trees, and dust and pebbles flew through the air, stinging a man’s face.


“Okinawa is known as the island of typhoons, and the ferocity of its tropical storms defies description. To withstand the onslaught of the winds that devastated the island regularly every year during the storm season. The houses of Okinawa stand low and are built as sturdily as possible; they are surrounded by

high stonewalls, and the slate tiles on the roofs are secured by mortar. But the winds are so tremendous (sometimes attaining a velocity of one hundred miles per hour) that despite all precautions the house shiver and tremble.


“During one particular typhoon that I remember, all the people of Shuri huddled together within their homes, praying for the typhoon to pass without wreaking any great damage. No, I was wrong when I said all the people of Shuri huddled at home; there was one young man, up on the roof of his house in Yamakawa-chõ, who was determinedly battling the typhoon.


“Anyone observing this solitary figure would surely have concluded that he had lost his wits. Wearing only a loincloth, he stood on the slippery tiles of the roof and held in both hands, as though to protect him, from the howling wind, a tatami mat. He must have fallen if the roof to the ground time an again, for his nearly naked body was smeared all over with mud.


“The young man seemed to be about twenty years old, or perhaps even younger. He was of small stature, hardly more than five feet tall, but his shoulders were huge and his biceps bulged. His hair was dressed like that of a small sumõ wrestler, with a topknot and small silver pin, indicating that he belonged to the shizoku.


“But all this is of little importance. What mattes is the expression on his face: wide eyes glittering with a strange light, a wide brow, copper red skin. Clenching his teeth as the wind tore at him, he gave of an aura of tremendous power. One might have said he was one of the guardian Deva kings.


“Now the young man on the roof assumed a low posture holding the straw man aloft against wind. The stance he took was most impressive, for he stood as if astride a horse. Indeed, anyone who knew karate could readily have seen that the youth was taking the horse riding stance, the most stable of all karate stances, and that he was making use of the howling typhoon to refine his technique and to further strengthen both body and mind. The wind struck the mat and the youth with full force, but he stood his ground and did not flinch.”


Now I have looked for a while but I can find no photos of anyone on a roof in Okinawa in a typhoon. In fact no one seems to stand outside in typhoons taking photos of their houses.


I believe I know why.


Unrecorded History from Karate Do My Way of Life






Unrecorded History


Inasmuch as there is virtually no written material on the early history of karate, we do not know who invented and developed it, nor even, for that matter, where it originated and evolved. Its earliest history may only be inferred from ancient legends that have been handed down to us by word of mouth, and they, like most legends, tend to be imaginative and probably inaccurate.


In my childhood, during the first year of Meiji, as I mentioned earlier, karate was banned by the government. It could not be practiced legally, and of course there were no karate dôjô. Nor were there any professional instructor. Men who were known to be adepts accepted a few pupils in secret, but their livelihood depended on work quite unrelated to karate. And those who succeeded in being taken on as students did so because of their interest in the art. At the very first, for example, I was Master Azato’s

only student and one of the very few who studied under Master Itosu.


They’re being no professional instructors; very little emphasis was placed on written descriptions of techniques and the like, a lack that a man like me, whose mission in life has been the propagation of Karate-dô, has regretted very deeply. Although I obviously cannot hope to remedy the lack, I shall attempt to set down what I remember hearing from my teachers about the legends that have survived in

Okinawa. Alas, I know that my memory is not always reliable, and I am sure that I will make my share of errors. Nevertheless, I will do my best to note here what little I have learned about the origin and development of karate in Okinawa.


Napoleon is said to have observed that somewhere in the Far East there was a small kingdom whose people possessed not a single weapon. There seems little doubt that he was referring to Ryukyu Islands, to what is now the prefecture of Okinawa, and that karate must have originated, developed, and become popular with the people of the islands for that very reason: because they were prohibited by law from bearing arms.


There were, in fact, two such prohibitive decrees: one promulgated about five centuries ago, the second some two hundred years later. Before the proclamation of the first decree, the Ryukyu were divided in to three warring kingdoms: Chuzan, Nanzan, and Hokuzan. It was the monarch of Chuzan, Shõ Hashi, who, once more he had succeeded in unifying the three kingdoms, issued a command prohibiting all Ryukyuans from possessing weapons, even rusty old swords. He also invited the famous scholars and statesmen of the three kingdoms to his capital city of Shuri, where he established a centralized government that was to endure for the next two centuries.


In the year 1609, however, the reigning king of the dynasty found himself obligated to outfit an army for the sake of repelling an invasion of the islands that had been launched by Shimazu, the daimyo of Satsum (now Kagoshima Prefecture). The newly armed Ryukyuan warriors fought with conspicuous bravery and gallantry against the soldiers of the Satsuma clan, known and feared throughout the country for the fighting skill, but, after Ryukyuan success in a few pitched battles, a surprise landing by Shimazu’s forces sealed the fate both of the islands and of their monarch, who was forced to surrender.


Since Shimazu reissued the edict banning weapons, many Ryukyuans (most of them members of the Shizoku class) Began secretly to practice a for of self-defense wherein hands and legs were the only weapons. What this actually was may only be conjectured. However, it is know that, for many centuries, Okinawa engaged in trade with the people of Fukien Province in southern China, and it was probably from the source that Chinese kempo (“boxing”) was introduced in to the islands.


It was from kempo that the present-day karate evolved. It was first known as “Okinawate.” And I recall, when I was a child, hearing my elders speak of both “Okinawate” and “karate” (the kara in this case referring to China). I began then to think of Okinawate as an indigenous Okinawa fighting art and of karate as a Chinese form of boxing. In any case, I perceived a clear distinction between the two.



During the years of arms prohibition, inspectors were sent to the islands from Satsuma to ensure that the prohibition was being strictly observed, so it is hardly surprising that karate (which, as it developed, enable a man to kill without weapons) could only be practiced an engaged in clandestinely. As I noted early, this clandestine aspect of karate persisted through the early years of Meiji, in part because the ancient decree lingered on in the minds of the people


It is my own observation that Okinawan folk dances make use of a number of movements that are similar to those used in karate, and the reason, I believed, is that adepts who practiced the martial art in secret incorporated those movements into the dances in order to further confuse the authorities. Certainly anyone who carefully observes Okinawan folk dances (and they have today become quite popular in the large cities) will note that they differ markedly from the more graceful dances of the other Japanese islands. Okinawa dancers, male and female, use their hands and legs far more energetically, and their entrances onto dancing area, as well as their departure from it, are also reminiscent of the beginning and end of any karate kata.


Indeed, the essence of the art has been summarized in the words: “Karate begins and ends with courtesy.” As for Okinawa itself, its people for many, many centuries regarded their country as a place where all the forms of etiquette were most strictly observed.


The famous gate In front of Shuri Castle was called Shurei no Mon: “the Gate of Courtesy.” After the Meiji government came to power and Okinawa became a prefecture, the Shurei no Mon exists no more: it was totally destroyed during the battle for Okinawa toward the close of the Second World War. How ironic it is that American military bases now occupy the ground adjacent to that where once stood the gate that symbolized peace! [Since this was written, the Shurei no Mon has been reconstructed in its original form.]