Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Upper Body Chart and the Hook Punch

My first night as a student in Salisbury the green belts I was assigned too covered Charts 1 and 2. This began my Isshinryu education.


I remember myself and other white belts would show up for class an hour before class and practice them together.


For decades I had no idea there were other versions of the charts of the techniques on them. I was content to practice and teach as I had been shown.


Then when I became aware of different versions,

I was already content to continue what I had been shown.

(After all after a quarter century of work,  why not?)


Right now I am thinking of Number 13 as I studied it.


13.  LFF Right Roundhouse Punch, Left (Same)


This is where you step forward and strike to the opponent temple with a roundhouse punch (with the two lead knuckles) and then with a left roundhouse punch.


I saw what I was doing was striking towards someone’s temple with the strike.


Many years later as I was studying the application potential for this strike

I realized it could be a strike to the temple, or a strike to the side of the neck.


Further analysis made me realize the strike could be done with the two knuckles, or could be done with the thumb of the Isshinryu fist.

Of course this would have a different impact for the target.


With further analysis I also came to realize that the same strike could be with the edge of the first knuckle and the thumb of the fist, making a simultaneous double strike with the fist.


I had learned similar ways of striking from other instructors.


Where someone strikes towards you,

and you step outside their strike (to the left)

At the same time you strike into the side of their neck with a right ridgehand strike, alternatively with a ridge hand two finger strike to the side of the neck.


Two different strikes with different impact potentials to the opponents neck.

Of course these days I most often practice this with handheld sticks in my hand.

This newer understanding of what the movement could be used for

Offered new possibilities of choice when striking.


It is even somewhat similar to this drawing from the Bubishi.

Not the same thing, but a similar principle. IMO.



Anither detail to remember in Uchina (Okinawan) Guchi the area being struck could be the the face or Chira or the neck Kubi.


i. Credits- First I need to acknowledge the Isshinryu of Tom Lewis,

ii. The fist used in striking is the inverted vertical standing fist of Isshinryu karate. The striking is done with the two lead knuckles, you are striking with the ridge of knuckles. Other options involve the use of the thumb from the inverted vertical standing fist, and the combination of the lead knuckle and the thumb in a simultaneous strike.

                Do not add any tension into the striking arm until the moment of impact. This will allow the arm to move more quickly. The moment of impact, the impacting strike becomes the method to tighten the strike. Immediately upon finishing the strike the hand relaxes on the way out. This provides a secondary strike as the body snaps out to replace where it was struck. In effect this helps the strike become a shaped charge into the attacker’s body. Makiwara training increases this effect.

iii. The target of opportunity is the entire arc available for the strike, beginning straight down and ending straight up. Any point on that arc may be stuck. The actual choice depends on the desired result.

iv. The manner of stepping is either straight or curved. In my Isshinryu the manner of stepping always uses the crescent step. That is how I was taugjht, but straight stepping is also used by others in Isshinryu. Both methods work. In my tradition the step starts by stepping in alongside the opposite leg, then it steps out from there. A technique may be performed straight forward, straight back, or shifting into a line of defense crossing the attacking limb.

One advantage to the crescent step are found where the step into alongside the other leg, allow you to compress the energy of your movement. Then stepping out is accomplished more explosively conclude the stepping. This adds another force multiplier.

The manner of stepping also uses the knee release to drop the body weight into the movement. This increases speed and power and of course is another force multiplier.

v. Replacement Stepping is used to step away from a line of attack. The stepping leg moves first alongside the other leg, then perhaps because of the attacker moving forward too fast, the other leg steps back to conclude the crescent step. An alternate version has the 2nd leg kick out to form the stance on a different angle, across the line of attack. This can be accomplished by a slide shift if straight stepping is used.

The replacement stepping also moves your centerline from where the opponent desires to strike. This creates a new line to counter-attack. This also works as a force multiplier.

vi. The starting position for the defender in this study is with both hands down at their side. There are strategic studies with different starting positions, but at this time a blind attack is being used.

vii. The reciprocal hand is raised while the lead hand strikes. Not a part of the original upper body drills, it raises for practical reasons. One of which is a possible blocking/jamming function, another is practical placing that hand for secondary usage if the initial strike fails due to serendipity. Raising the other hand also results in better body alignment, another force multiplier.

viii. Force multiplier original definition :”A capability that, when added to and employed by a combat force, significantly increases the combat potential of that force and thus enhances the probability of successful mission accomplishment.’ In my context a number of technique enhancements which increase the power of the response. The more force multipliers which can be added to a technique the increase of it’s destructive potential. They are a product of the training methodology utilized.

ix. The method of attack used by the attacker is starting from a neutral stance they drive a punch towards the defender with great vigor. A stronger attack might be a boxing lead punch immediately followed by a cross. The stronger attack creates a better training set.

x. Perfect form may not be practical in defense, but in practice work to perform any technique as perfectly as possible. Incorrect technique instead of being a force multiplier might turn into a force detractor. Also the more perfect your practice, the more you have to draw upon.

xi. What you don’t practice, you will not be able to rely upon!


Monday, August 21, 2017

Seisan Kata the Applications to Infinity and Beyond

Although I am much less today, and no longer instructing anyone but myself, I have not turned off my thought process.


As it was I was watching another video of Oyata Seryu Sensti presenting a clinic. One where he would simultaneously strike someone with his kick and his hand technique, with precision, and put them down.  Later last night it got me thinking.


“Slowly he turned, Step by step, Inch by inch…..” as the old vaudeville routing went.


It is natural to see kata in pieces, what the hands are doing taking precedence, because that is what the eyes first notice.


So we use the hand movements, mix in several force multipliers such as makiwara training, striking with the ridge of the fore knuckles, and correct breathing, and we have an application that works.


And the idea of applications which are shown arises.


But of course there are many ways the kata can be practiced. Such as stepping forward with a straight step or using the crescent step,  and even variables like that present different application potentials.


Though human nature is that having a working explanation for a movement, we tend to stop there.


What finally registered was how Oyata Sensei was striking with his foot the same time he was striking with his hand. And of course this is just simple Isshinryu kata execution after all.


But to take advantage of it you have to look at the total execution of the kata movement, not just what the hands are doing.


As I have only done Seisan kata with the Crescent stepping movement,  that is where I will start.

And this involves nothing I have not known for a long time, just that I never addressed it this way before.


Now at the beginning of the 2nd row of Seisan kata, you have turned 18- degrees to the rear and both hands have swept down to your sides. Thus you are standing open inviting an attacker to attack.


Take the next motion where you :


1. Begin to take the compression of the crescent step by moving forward with your right foot in alongside your left foot. This movement is a compression for the movement the use of the crescent step represents, and it is about 2/3s  of the time of the crescent step. At the end the foot slices into the lead leg of the attacker with the inside of the foot, causing sharp pain.


2. As that is occurring your left open hand sweeps oven the attacker’s right strike and then flows down moving the attacking limb of the attacker down.

This motion generates a downward force to make the attackers balance begin to move downward, following the descent of the arm.

3. The right foot then continues to step out for the last 1/3 of the motion from the step of the kata. This is explosive in its nature.

4. As the step concludes the right open hand sweeps upward and becomes an ascending palm strike into the abdominal wall. So as their body is descending the upward force of the ascending palm strike generates a rising force moving inward and upward with their body.

As I see it those convergent forces, forward, downward and upward  all explode within the attackers body.

5. Then in continuation the right open hand can sweep up to strike as an outward ridge hand into their neck.  Another force inward toward the neck center.

6. Finally that right hand concluded by turning itself over to become a descending palm strike into their neck. Then the force is a descending shock toward the force of the rising force from the abdominal strike.


This is but one example, there are many other ways the crescent step can be used to also step and press down the foot, or perhaps a cutting sweep behind the lead leg (and what works for the lead leg can also be applied to the attacker’s rear leg too.)


This use of the stepping foot is then a force enhancer to strike with pain when unexpected.  Making steps 1-4 alone enough to disrupt an attack, and steps 4 and 5 icing on the cake, so to speak.


There are then a whole rash of possibilities, I have but documented one.



Take the Next Step

As kata applications were not a focus when I learned Isshinryu

This is what I saw the opening of Seisan Kata being used for.


A later time by 1982 or so I began to realize what power

Was to be had simply by re-defining every movement by

‘taking the next step’ of the kata as part of the definition.


I had also come to realize every kata movement could be

Inserted into any sort of attack,


Here is a different example which also uses ‘take the next step’.

Of course an entire range of other force multipliers

Are also involved:


1. the manner of breathing.

2. years working a makiwara.

3. knuckle pushups.

4. a variety of different timing for the movement being used.

5. the manner the knee release is used.

And more.


A more complete explanation of the principle ‘Take the Next Step’

Can be found here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Kata Creep, the Movement of Kata through Time


When I was taught my kata originally, no one made a point about the starting and ending point of the kata should be the same spot.


A few years later I read this in the books by Funakoshi Ginchin, that this was the desired way to do the Shotokan kata.


But then when I studied with an instructor teaching Shotokan, this was nothing I recall was discussed.


A separate but related idea that I began to work on, was I came to appreciate stances and the manner of stepping even more as time passed. For one thing I became fascinated with the potential applications from the manner of stepping and the stances employed.


Then one night I decided to look at how close the kata I did with my Isshinryu were to that standard. What I found was the kata did start and stop on the same point for me for the most part.


But while the manner of stepping and stances became a focus of my teaching, performing kata to start and stop on the same point, was not something I worried about.


Among which I did not recognize any variation of the stances for kata. A Seisan Stance was to be the same Seisan Stance every time. Likewise the use of the crescent step was the only method of forward movement I taught. My reason was I cannot recall ever being told anything else was the way to step when I learned.


Now roll a few decades forward.


My adult classes were small, and frankly I was often less than I could have been as an instructor, too often using kata practice for my own practice.


Becoming disabled taught me many things. No longer able to perform most of the class, I instead was watching what was happening much more. And seeing much more too.


One evening my senior students, Mike and Young, were working on Wansu kata. They had very good technique, extremely good execution. They showed they understood what the movements were for in their practice.


But this time watching I saw something else. As they did the kata, they were gradually moving forward. Ending well in advance of where they started.


I understood what they were doing, so I had an idea. I issued a challenge.


At the back of the class we has a mat on the flool from the wrestling program.

It had a large circle impressed on it, and there were two parallel lines in the middle to allow the wrestlers to start their matches from.


Those two parallel lines were to be my challenge, the starting and ending point which I would perform Wansu kata from.


So I did my kata, and started and stopped in the same place, when I did it.


Then I challenged them to do the same.


They did their Wansu kata. In fact several times each. And each time they did it they moved forward, ending well in advance of where they started.


Only then did I explain the difference. What they were doing with each kick is putting their foot down well in advance of where they started that kick. So each techniques was moving them forward.


When I did the kata, as I concluded each kick, I put my foot directly down as it I had done one crescent step forward. That was the difference enabling me to keep my kata footprint smaller. And which I felt was more consistent with the application potential I wanted with the form.


Now their kata performances were fine, powerful and sharp. They were just doing something else from what I was doing.


I believe this explains were some kata creep, or movement of kata performance, comes over time.


Even slight variances of the original goal,  ends up changing the kata.  Not so it does not have value,  just a different value than what was originally intended.

Other thoughts on Wansu kata;

A different look at Chinto kata

One of the more interesting things about

Kata Chinto

Is that there are three basic  Okinawan variations of the kata.

I am being a little simplistic here,

I realize many different schools have variations on these themes.


First is what I refer to as the Itosu lineage.

Where the kata is performed on a straight line back and forth.

An example is

Nakazato Shūgorō 仲里 周五郎 - Chinto kata

Second are the variations of Chinto kata which descended

From the vision of Kyan Chotoku.

The kata is performed on a line of 45 degrees

An example is

The kata CHINTO (Tomari, Kyan version) performed at in front of Joen Nakazato sensei  (Shorinji-ryu), by one of his most senior students.

The third variation is that of the Tomari Lineage.

This is relatively rare.

The kata is performed on a horizontal line from the starting point.

An example is

Tomari Chinto  of the Gohakukai

The interesting thing to me is that though,

there are 3 different directions in which Chinto is performed,

The changes of the form line retained

much the same technique execution in the same order.

Each kata still recognizably Chinto.

So while they may have had different ideas

perhaps in how the techniques of Chinto, could be used,

They did not want to change the movements either.


And there are many derivative variations.

Those which became Shito Ryu and Shotokan came from what I refer to as the Itosu line. Likewise the Chinto preserved in the line of Hohen Soken follows that pattern.

Then the Kyan lineage spawned those of Matsubayshi Ryu, Shorinji-ryu and Isshinryu to name a few.

The Tomari lineage can be found in the Gohakukai.