Saturday, December 29, 2018

Saifa a study

When I began competing at open tournaments in Pennsylcania I saw Goju being performed, I never tried to remember it, I just remembered how sharp and precise the students of Ron Merriman were, and I knew he was a student of Chuck Merriman.


Then about 1983 a student of mine (a yellow belt ) began to attend Ithica College and as she was a former diving students of my wife’s swim coaching days, she stayed in contact. She told us there was a Goju karate program at Ithica and that she joined it. When she returned home at Winter break, and for Summer, she returned to train with us. I became aware of how he progressed through that progam. Then one day she invited me to come and watch her train, and I did that. Drove up to Ithica, which was 2 hours from Scranton, to watch that program.


The instructor was Ed Savage. What was unusual because I was there he left his students to conduct their own training, instead spending the day with me. From the corner of my eye I saw my first Goju Hondo Undo training. He and I talked, then I showed my Isshinryu Seiunchin and he showed me his Goju Seiunchin. After that he insisted I learn his Saifa kata. We spent the remaining class time on that form.


And showing anything new, I continued to practice it.


The next summer Cindy heard that Ed was having a summer training session outside along one the lakes outside of Ithica, and she asked me if I would like to come along.


I did and again Ed ignored the students to conduct their own training. Instead he showed me how to do, Shiochin and Sansriryu kata. Even giving me some text printouts of Saifa, Seiunchin, Shiochin and Sanseiryu. Of course that meant I really knew next to nothing,


As the years passed I visited other Goju dojo, and when requested (possibly because they wanted to have some fun with me, I jumped into the kata being done, frequently Saifa. And they were surprised that I was able to follow along.


Of course all of those versions were different versions. I just did what that school did. Never attempting to keep to one pure version. I practiced what I am sure became a mutated version of Saifa.


I picked up an early Panther VHS of a Japanese instructor covering Saifa.\


Then when in Scranton, a local Goju school rented the Boys and Girls Club to hold a seminar with  Chinen Sensei, where among many other things he covered all his kata. His  Saifa was done to, again different from what I had learned. (irrelevant aside, the Goju school who had brought him in, after he departed, their students were told not to practice their kata that way,  but of course that is another story.)


Now this was way before the internet, very few sources for any Goju information back then except for the magazines. It was not very clear what Goju organizations there were.


Shortly thereafter I added supplemental mandatory training to my kyu progam. Those form studies were


Fyugata Sho Shorin,

Annaku Shorin,

Saifa Goju,

Nijushiho Shotokan and

Supple Dragon Pai Lum.


There were a number of reasons for this occurring.


1. I  wanted to honor my friends who shared with me.

2. I wanted to slow down the course for instruction for the youth I was teaching.

3. I wanted all of my students to touch a piece of those systems, thus with some knowledge of what others studied they might be a touch more comfortable should the day come when ever they might face them.


There was much more behind my decisions but these are sufficient for now,.


So in the case of Saifa I was no longer sure which version I was doing, and of course I didn’t care which if any tradition it followed. That I had a version was sufficient for me, and that in turn was what I taught. This would be about 1987 or so.


Of course over the decades I taught this Saifa, and studied it, the more I became to appreciate it Then when I went further into my Isshinryu application studies, I found many reasons why I appreciated it even more.


I never sought out more Goju training. That was not my purpose.


I came, I saw and I guess I conquered, whatever that means.


I am sure somewhere in my notebooks that scan of saifa is there. Somewhere. Someday it might show up. Perhaps it would be interesting to see how far I varied what I was originally shown. Perhaps in time.


So here is mine.




Advancing Kicking Skills for the Black Belt

First one must acquire skilled execution, then you have to think about how to develop how to use those skills you have developed.


Of course the way first must be to learn to execute the styles kicks, In my case that was the lower body chart my instructor taught, and it incorporated most of the kicks , or variation there of, of Okinawan karate too.


But it time, and of course a lot of practice, I came to recognize there was more involved.

For one thing the kicks must be done dealing with the attack of the opponent. And then learning how to maneuver around a basic attack to use the open space around that attack was required.


I developed a limited drill beginning at blue belt study, to begin to address this. It was not designed to be a complete study. Rather a long term skill building exercise, which also served to introduce the concept inth the student unto dan thinking.


Then at black belt I began the next step with more advanced kicking drills, Working the use of kicking around the attacker in a variety of ways. Again not a complete study, but useful tools all the same, and opening the dan mind that there were more possibilities to be learnt.


This is the first of those kicking drills.


  1. As they attack, step back with your right foot and execute a left open hand outer parry (as from Seisan kata), then throw a right front kick into the left inner thigh of the attacker and immediately follow with a right cutting kick (the inward striking kick from Nihanchi Kata) to the back of the attacker’s right knee. This is a 1-2 kicking motion with the right foot.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Bushi No Te – The Subsidiary Drills – the Aikido Wazza

Back in 1980 when I first visited Tristan Sutrisno in his school, I saw him teaching his students 8 of these aikido dills. He also demonstrated an additional 5 drills and explained the whole set was 20 drills. After observing his students do them as a group exercise for 15 minutes, he then turned to me and asked me if I wanted to give them a try. He really did not know me and of course was ‘testing’ me. I then did all of them correctly. I was never present when they were being trained again, and was never ‘taught’ more. But as time passed I saw his students perform them at demonstrations. As time passed I was instructed in other of his aikido practices.


Many years later he was visiting me, when I was holding one of my adult classes. He then saw they were working on them, amazed that I remembered them. A while later he observed my youth students doing them. He then explained that he made a correction for what his students were actually doing, faking the technique, turning it into a version they could better execute.


What he called them were his students Aikido Drills, Later I recognized this was not how aikido was taught, and they were something else.  A combination of aikido techniques, karate and some other ‘stuff’ being taught to develop a range of skills. And as Aikido principles were being used the name that was attached to those drills was that of Aikido drills. By then I realized they were something else, a much more advanced process.


Taught as individual responses to a standard attack, when done as a group drill they became much more. Individually done they were teaching the concept of a complete technique series was one that finished with the attacker pinned to the ground, or thrown/projected to the ground. And done as a group drill, the defender was constantly taking the attacker down, then rising from the ground to enter another attack. There were a variety of skills involved, not just aikido skills. Together they were just the beginning of how he instructed. The skills were the thing, and developing a level of execution to build upon when dan training began.


The primary still was that of methods to enter an attacking line and then using that space to defeat the attack. Nothing very advanced, but then those skills were at the same time advanced.

The set I am showing is what the original first 6 drills were. Both in execution with a partner and then again how it worked with group practice.  That each attack followed each attack added another level of difficulty.

Aikido drills 1-6 1989


In time I changed to his changes, for much the same reason he made them Better develop skills the student could do, leaving more advanced versions for another day when they have further skills.


These drills also build on the earlier principles from those wazza studies.

Bushi No Te – The Subsidiary Drills – the Gerri Wazza

Bushi No Te – The Subsidiary Drills – the Gerri Wazza


Again introduced at blue belt, these kicking defenses against a standard attack were building specific skills.


For the first 4 drills, the attack is parried as you step back to allow more time for a kick. Then the kicks move in a progression upward, more for skill building. The fifth defense involves stepping outside the attack with your left foot and then kicking into their knee from the side (for practice we kicked behind the knee stepping forward).


Defense 1 using the top of the foot to kick up to the groin

Defense 2 using the ball of the foot to kick into the groin

Defense 3 using the squat kick into the ribs

Defense 4 using the roundhouse ball of the foot to kick into the side of the head

Defense 5  stepping to the outside kick their knee with the right side kick

Defense 6 using a Chinese sliding parry block to redirect their strike, then slide into them

            To deliver a ridgehand strike with the thumb into their solar plexus. Having used

            That strike to slide forward then adjust further forward while outside their attack

            And finish with a left stomp to their rear leg (in actuality to the knee, but in practice

            Down towards their calf.

Blue Belt Wazza



Again more for skill building on basic kick execution, then on a series of right/left brain hemisphere drills with kicking.


The Chinese style sliding parry is also something being introduced.

Bushi No Te – The Subsidiary Drills – Beginning Wazza

Bushi No Te – The Subsidiary Drills – the Te Wazza

I had trained with many friends in many styles, all of them had developed different ways of teaching their students. Many of them had specific self defense drills at each student level of training. Some of them used very extensive drills. Many of those styles followed a use it then lose it approach to those drills, moving past them as the student progressed.


That was not the method I had learned for my Isshinryu.


I originally taught Isshinryu, to my youth students, identical to the way I was taught. But the more I saw the more I considered very specific self defense drills could be utilized.


I was not changing the Isshinryu content, for I still would teach everything I was taught. But there were other ideas I wanted to develop for my students. For those ideas I developed my subsidiary drills,


I developed the Te Wazza to first be taught at yellow belt. Students were of course just given simple reason for the practice. But there was much more behind their design.


They were actually black belt candidate requirements. By that time I expected sharp, smooth focused execution. That of course is not an unusual idea. But their main purpose was to teach the student unto adept to enter the space around an attack, control that attack then move through that space and eliminate the attacker. That was the most important purpose for me.


Additionally the 4 technique was for an additional purpose, the development of the brain right hemisphere/ left hemisphere integration. Where you move forward outside the line of attack using the left stepping, defend with the right then counter/disrupt with the right to then end the attack with the left across the body. That is much more complicated to do without training. I have shared just that technique in a variety of different schools when asked for a clinic and found at times even the black belt students and even the instructor had great difficulty doing just that. Of course that was because it was not a part of their studies.


I had several reasons for including this. One many of the techniques I had studied used just this principle. Two I had come to realize one must work both the interior line of defense as well as the exterior line of defense against an attack. The key is integrating both hemispheres of the brain (in normal times the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body.) when practiced becomes skilled. And practice is what I wanted.


The final technique had a variety of different executions. For the beginner one stepped back from the kick, and blocked with a parry slap (to avoid injuring their partner). When more skill developed it changed to moving into the attack and striking with the knuckles of a low block into the leg.


All of them at more advanced execution involved striking into the attack, creating a pain shock to redirect the opponents mind to that strike.

Yellow Belt wazza


A simple drill. One with no so simple purpose, development of black belt skills for other uses.

Bushi No Te – The Subsidiary Drills – the Jutsu Wazza

Also studied from the beginning were the Jutsu Wazza. After the Te Wazza. 

These were not a specified series of techniques, for many possible releases were taught.

Simpler ones for the beginner. Stronger skilled ones as the student advanced. The goal was by black belt they could obtain release from a random order grab attack.

 Because there were not specific grab defenses, we never filmed them

The Attacks used were:

            Single wrist grab

            Double wrist grab

            Single arm grab from the side

            Double chest grab

            Double neck grab from the front

            Double neck grab from the rear



Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Seisan Clinic in the early 2000’s


A long time ago I spent a lot of time considering that there was a core Seisan kata. Perhaps best expressed as a “Seisan-ness”. 


I looked at Seisan (Sesan and variant spellings) from many perspectives.

            1. Isshinryu Seisan
            2. Goju Sesan
            3. Uechi Seisan
            4, Shorin Seisan
            5. Shotokan Hangetsu


Considering that there might have been a Seisan Prime which all might be linked to.

Of course Logical Analysis only goes so far, and in and of itself is never ‘proof’.


But back when the internet was new to me, I discussed the possibility many places, and found some interest in the idea.


Then I proposed a clinic to discuss the idea from several perspectives, and found a few in New England were interested. I put the following clinic together, these are my notes for that clinic.


The clinic was a one off, more for myself to pull some things I was working on together.

I realized most would not retain much because of the technique of no technique. They were not my students, but I still hoped this would prove useful to them.


Now this later day, I still believe it is interesting, and I follow with a blog post and a video that I made several years later. Some of this is seen there too.






First demonstrations of various Seisan Kata,

Both from my experience, and what others did too.


My Basic Theories of Application Analysis

(or ways to consider what any technique means)


First explain the difference between using

The internal line of defense and the external line of defense.



            1. Basic Application Study – a method to introduce the new student to a reason

                        Techniques in kata could be used.

            2. Kakushite – Hidden strikes not seen in the kata.

(eg, a strike that folds the elbow to become an elbow strike)

            3. Hidden Hand – Sutrisno stule applications studies

which have nothing to do with the kata per sae.

More a mnemonic to remember the application string of techniques.

            4. My own effort of logical analysis


Discussion of how Tai Chi Chaun techniques could be applied 

for the first section of the Yang 24 (from Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming)

            1. Every movement could be seen as striking Pressure Points

            2. Every movement could be seen as Locking (Chin Na)

            3. Every movement could be seen as a Takedown


            Isshinjitsu (a theory I developed to explain how kata technique could be used)

                        Each Block can be followed by a lock which can be followed with a strike

                                    Which can be followed by a takedown.

                        I would refer to this as a method of Movement Flow Analysis


            Take the Next Step (my theory) where after each technique the following step of

                        A kata would be used as a takedown. You control what the kata techniquE

                                    consists of.

                        (ie. Starting in the middle of a ‘movement’ to conclude in the middle of the

            following movement.)


            Angular Displacement

                        The kata technique does not change, rather you shift to perform the

                        Movement say on a 20 degree across the line of the attack.


            Examples of Sherman Harrill Analysis I had experienced


Those theories of application study were explained.


Drill Studies


1. Left Foot Forward then Left strike (Block)


            a. LFF Left Side block

                        i. Right Foot Forward (internal line of defense) with a Right Punch (options)

                                    Strike into the Arm.

                                    Strike with the middle knuckle into the biceps

                                    Strike into the tip of the shoulder

                                    Strike to the head with a backfist

                        ii. Right Foot Forward (external line of defense)

                                    and a Right Punch  then the right foot sweeps their leg

turning into a levered takedown

                        iii. Left Foot Forward (internal line of defense)

                                    Shifting  20 degress across the line of attack and deliver a right

                                    Backfist to the head.

                        iv. Left Foot Forward  (external line of defense) followed by a left punch

                                    Striking into the attacking arm

                                    Striking into the armpit       

                                    Striking into the ribs


3. Left Foot Forward then Left Strike (block)


            a. Above with the addition of a Reverse Punch

                        i. Isshinryu Thrust Punch

                        ii. Isshinryu Snap Punch

                        iii. Shotokan Twisting Punch



            b. Shifting 20 degrees across the attacking arm for all of the above


                        Principle of Angular Displacement

                                    (from Fire Dance by Steve Barnes)

                                    Movement forward is faster than movement backward

                                    But shifting 20 degrees shifts you out of his attack.

                                    “that  this comes from a book of fiction does not make it wrong”



The vertical strike (punch) excels

when the ridge of knuckles is used as the primary striking object.


3. Left Foot Forward Left Side Strike (Block) Right Reverse Punch


            a. Right Foot Forward Right Front Stance (Isshinryu)

            b. Right Side Strike (block)

Right Foot Forward Right Front Stance (Shotokan)
Principle of Take the Next Step


            Every kata application just using the following lower body motion as part

            of the technique application (almost always involves a takedown/throw)


            For example: (Isshinryu version)

                        The Attacker steps Right Foot Forward with a Right Punch

                                    1. Shift 20 degrees and the left arm side strikes the attacking arm

                                        The the right vertical strike to the solar plexus

                                    2. Step Right foot forward in Seisan, the fook stepping used

     as a sweep to their right leg as the foot is placed down.

3. As they drop take the following left foot forward step to break

    their elbow as you have retained control of their arm as they fell

    breaking their arm.


I concluded showing a several technique analyses of Sherman Harrill


All working against an attacker stepping in with their Right Forward and throwing a right punch.


                        1. (interior line of defense)

                           Left hand parries the punch, while the right hand strikes behind

                                    the elbow (bending the arm).  The left arm circles clockwise,

rolling the arm over to the right. This locks the attackers arm

And opens the attacker up for a right punch to the face

(becoming a rolling takedown,

                                    2.  (interior line of defense)

                                        Right hand punches across the attackers arm while the left hand

                                                Punches into the attacker’s right side (low).

                                         Then you left strike their arm with a right backfist

(or their jaw/body or the attacker’s left arm.. whatever you chose)

                                         Conclude with a right reverse punch. [timing 1,2 and 3]

                                    3.  (exterior line of defense)

      Right punch to the jaw, then turn their neck for a takedown

                                    4.  (exterior line of defense)

                                         Right punch into the thigh resulting in a charly horse for a



The purpose of this clinic was more on principles I was using for application analysis. It was not designed to go into the greater study which is movint towards martial application realization. That is something else all together.


The analysis and understanding a movements application potential is just that.

But everything sharts somewhere.


This  video explains a bit of some of what I have seen as the soft side of Isshinryu.


I know you have seen karate as having soft and hard.


I recognize the force and power within our strikes and kicks.


However there is much more, IMO, and I am sure everyone knows more than I do, but I have seen very little of it being demonstrated.


Now, to me, soft not without power, fluffy like a cloud. Rather soft is using the flow of the technique to end an attack. It uses great force, but perhaps in more subtle ways than the hard side. And the force is not from percussive force, rather from redirecting their attack and using other ways to end it.


In part my study of Tai Chi, Tjimande and Aikido opened my eyes to what was also possible, then I looked  to the Isshinryu kata in a different way.


The first key is intense work on your kata, paying particular attention to the force enhancement of breathing, body alignment, stepping and movement flow analysis. Becomig aware how rotation of the opponents neck and limbs can work with the kata movements too.


Using the first 1/ of Seisan kata I demonstrate:


1.How take the next step completes a defense.

2. How shifting 20 degrees increases the effectiveness of a movement

3. That a double rising block deflects a strike and the stop hit to the face each create

            a space to work, then taking the next step and turning downs the attacker.

4. How isn’t the exterior line of defense with the movement from the kata moves the

Attach allows the next step to down the attacker, by forcing their neck to rotate and further enhanced by shifting further.

            5.  A more unusual application from the ‘Seisan arm break’.


Just a few considerations of a much larger body of knowledge.


Not superior just a tool allowing appropriate choice for the attack.