Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Testing or Not

When my original instructor trained under Shimabuku Tatsuo there was not testing done by anyone. Shimabuku Sensei simply awarded new rank whenever he felt someone was ready for new challenges. The same held true for black belt, one night it was just handed to the individual.
In turn when my instructor, Tom Lewis and then Charles Murray taught they kept to the same paradigm about rank, kyu ranks were never tested just awarded as the instructor felt was appropriate. Rank was not given for attainment, rank was another challenge for the recipient.
Somewhere he made a change and the Sho Dan examination was added. The individual could fail it, but it was more than a test in my eyes, more akin to an initiation. After that rank promotions reverted to the Shimabuku standard, no some evening the individual just was awarded the rank, and gained new challenges to conquest.
I kept pretty much to the same standard, it did require me to follow each students progress, up, down and sideways at times. Then recognizing that individual was ready for new challenges, which I put before them. Over and over and over, No one ever was at an end. There were always decades of work ahead.
What an individual attained, was after all their choice.
Some just continued to train.
Some continued to train and move into deeper waters.
A very few chose to become instructors, a very different path.
Each becoming what their karate would be.
Step by step, day by day, week by week, month by month,
Year by year, Decade by decade I kept sharing more material.
And of course determining when they were ready for new challenges.
Which in turn meant I had to continue learning more and more about my art.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

This morning when I awoke......

With another birthday staring me in the eyeball,


“I Woke Up, Got Out of Bed, Dragged a Comb Across My Head…..”


 Of course “It Don’t Mean A Thing, If You Don’t Got That Swing.”


So is started today thinking about technique. What I do many mornings.

I may be old, but there is always something new to learn, and of course this comes from an old lesson. One I have already experienced use in many different ways.


But there is one reality that you cannot ignore.

“What you don’t practice, You can’t Do!”

 So the thought occurred to me that when something rotten is coming your way (a single hand push, a jab with the lead hand, a strike with the opposite hand, a double 1-2 punch, a double shove, whatever) you first raise your hands before you.

 But not as Wolverine,


 More like this



Or this


Even a simpler drawing



Your hands rising before you, forming a sort of wall against that attack.

Then whatever attack presents itself, the arms in any shape of the “X” that is present begins the defense against that attack.

For simplicity we are just going to consider the “X” with the palms open facing out.

Whatever is moving towards you release your knees, allowing yourself to drop and shift towards the left, Your palm forms a light block to the outside.


Then your left palm circles out and draws back using palm pressure to drag that arm back with it to your side,

At the same time you roll your hip to the left and the right palm shoots forward striking into the head (1).

The left hand continues to move in the circle, itself striking out to the head with the palm (2),

And the right hand then circles back and (3) strike out again to the head.


Of course there are many variations of what each strike is doing.



(1)a. A straight palm strike to the head.

    b. A circular palm strike to the head as a shearing plane of force.

    c. Using the bent knuckle joint of the thumb to strike to the temple.

    d. Using the bent knuckle joint of the thumb to strike into the eye orbit.

    e. Using the bent knuckle joint of the thumb to strike into the side of the neck.

    f. A straight spear hand strike into the throat

    g, A rising glancing strike to the center of the forehead with the outside of the hand.


Of course the options are endless


(2) a. A straight palm strike to the head.

      b. A circular palm strike to the head as a shearing plane of force.

      c. A straight spear hand strike into the throat.


(3) any of the above for (1)


An interesting multiple striking counter to the attack,
no matter what the attack.


Nor have I exhausted the options.


Not bad for a light mornings work.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Just a small movement

Let us consider something different.


A very long time ago I took the time to visit a school run by one I competed with and against and had interesting conversations with at karate tournaments in that day. Over time we became friendly, and then he invited me to visit him.


It was just an average class night for him.  I on the other hand saw things I had never seen before, and that would continue for a very long time when I visited him.


Class had begun by the time I drove there, it was a dark fall night and quite cold. They had finished some kata drills for the evening and were beginning a series of applied karate responded to attacks, Not from specific kata, rather useful ways of responding to an attack.  And I only saw this one time, but I had learned well to always take notes afterward, thankful I had learned that lesson.


All of them were interesting, but I am just going to limit myself to the first response.


I learned something new, thought on it a lot, and came to greater understanding of our arts because I was there that night.


Everything has to start somewhere, in this case the attacker just stepped forward with a straight punch aimed at his solar plexus.  Something all of us have seen a thousand times before.


He did not do much, just slid back a ½ inch, so the attackers punch just fell short missing his solar plexus. And as that happened he just punched them in the face.


It is as simple as it sounds. Actually profound in its simplicity.


Drill after drill followed, each of them worthy, but I remember as I wrote this up the next day, how different it was from the way I was using karate. And in time, much time, I worked out why and how it was different.


About that time I was also  receiving instruction from another instructor in a very different art. One of the things he shared was a small piece of his advanced students supplemental training. It was in a body of knowledge referred to as ghost techniques, or by a different naming methods of evasion.


A number of years later I used some of them against my students, telling one of them to step in and strike me. When he completed doing so he discovered I was standing 20 feet behind him.


Of course I was, it was magic. Rather misdirection, for attacked where he thought I was going to be standing. And ‘knowing’ I was standing there did not observe the way I shifted away from his attack,


I had gained an entire body of knowledge about ways this could happen.


But the one movement I recalled was not in that knowledge. It was another sort of technique, using the same underlying principle.  Which is most important, understanding the underlying principles and using them in different ways.

The attack was to where the attacker ‘thought’ I was going to be standing. He was working on automatic, just a slight shift back and I the target intended was not there. But fully able to respond.


Does this fit every sort of attack, no, nor is it intended too. But there are many, many other answers which can be used too. This requires serious perception of the abilities of the attacker, and when possible exploiting them.


I recall reading a quote by who I am not sure at this time ,it went something like ‘it was most important to size up the attacker and the attack, first’.


An attack depends on many factors:


1. Where is the world as attacks on a whole start differently in different locations.

2. Who is the intended target? Are they larger or smaller, are they male of female, or even a child.

3. Why is the attack taking place?

Some of the variables behind the attack.


It the attack a strike, a push, a grab to the wrist, a grab to the body? More possible variables.



Training at the beginning is often done against a standard strike, but when you consider what type of attack there could be, it can be a faster attack for training, and fits all of the possibilities.


Of course this does not involve many other sorts of attacks, other choics may be more appropriate.


So simple a solution, just slipping back a bit. Quickly placing yourself just out of attack range.


Most systems included basics done when retreating rearward. Currently there are those who discount this as rational defense. One reason an attacker barreling forward can move faster forward, than you can move backward.

The key is that they are moving forward as a response to your moving backward.

For this slight rearward shift, you are not in motion at all, in effect you are just standing your ground. They can not key a slight shift as reward motion triggering a different initial response, IMO. Certainly there are innumerable other angles (Interior line of defense, or Exterior line of defense ) available.

But your choice not to employ them can be as rational an answer as taking them is.


Then the follow up response to that shift must be considered:


1, It might be a strike with the blade of the knife hand rising in ascension into their forehead.

2. It might be a slashing downward back hand across their eye orbit.

3. It might be a strike to the face.

4. It might be a strike into the joint of the striking arm.

5. It might be a fingertip strike into their neck.

6. It might be a compression palm strike into their solar plexus.

7, It might be a spear hand strike into their solar plexus.

8. It might be a strike into their solar plexus.

9. It might be a multiple or layered strike

And then there are a variety of possible following strikes, just in case they are needed.


What seemed pretty simple becomes a whole cloud of possibilities.


Just one small movement opening into endless possibilities.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Everyone starts someplace, this is where I started in the Chinese Arts



I was a Sho Dan in Isshinryu. Without an instructor near me. I began visiting dojo of those I competed with in Black Belt divisions at local tournaments, to have black belts to train with in anything.


Back when I attended Temple University one of my interests was Chinese Taoism, and I read numerous books about that. Gradually I became aware of the practice of Tai Chi Chaun, But never had the chance to see or experience it.


One day I saw an article in the paper that Ernest Rothrock was opening a school in downtown Scranton where I lived and that among the demonstrations would be Tai Chi. That got my interest and I went to the opening demonstration. I did know who he was as he then was Cindy Rothrock’s husband, and I knew he from those tournaments.


I knew literally nothing about the Chinese Arts, and even less about the main study of his school, Pai Lum. Just watched seeing how different it was from my Isshinryu.


Then he performed some of his Yang Tai Chi, and I was hooked, It looked so much as what I had imagined tai chi would be.


So after the demonstration I approached Ernie and asked him if I could study Tai Chi with him. He agreed and that began a lesson a week for the next two years. But that is not this story.


I had much free time, my wife worked evenings at the YMCA as an instructor. That and Saturdays. I was not from the area we lived, So I kept busy.


I was practicing my Isshinryu. I had begun a youth program at the Boys Club.
I had that one class (1/2 hour) on tai chi with Ernie.


 trained at several other dojo on a rotating basis, I was also competing frequently at local tournaments in the Poconos of Pennsylvania, New Yore state, New Jersey and Maryland. More and more frequently I was judging and had on occasion to have to judge kung fu stylists. And I understood I knew very little about what I was judging then when I did so.


So I came up with a plan, and approached Ernie and asked it if it would be good for me to study some of the Chinese Arts so I could be a fairer judge.


I was aware I was probably an experiment for him, considering the impossibility he was already doing teaching tai chi to a karate guy who had nothing of the basic movement to work with, But I was sticking at it, then this request. I remembering him sitting back in his chair, considering what I had asked. Then he responded, “Sure, what do you want to study?”


So Ernie turned to a chart on the wall behind his desk and asked which form did I want to learn.


The chart was a list of over 200 forms he had studied, In addition to teaching Pai Lum, for years Ernie studied with a group of instructors from a variety of systems sharing each other’s forms.


Of course I knew nothing of Chinese systems or their forms, and could not pick anything. He just replied” just pick one”, I replied I had no idea what to pick. So he regarded the list and pointed to a name, “Ok, then I will start you with the Northern Shaolin form, “Dune De Kuen” (my phonetic spelling – it was not a spelling lesson. And he agreed to start another ½ lesson after my tai chi class the next week.


No kidding, Ernie knew a humongous amount of forms. As he was a professorial instructor, and most of his classes were late afternoon or evenings, he spent hours a day practicing what he knew, He had developed a program where different form studies were taking place each day of the week.

This was in addition to his then current studies in Eagle Claw.


I didn’t know it, but the forms I studied with him were mostly not forms his own students studied. Mostly they were focused in Pai Lum. The rest were his personal studies.


And I started without extensive study of the basics of Northern Shaolin. I was not trying to be a Chinese stylist, just more knowledgeable about the Chinese systems.


Just like my tai chi study. Step by step, week by week, Over a month later I finished the form, It was quite a large study.


Then I continued to other forms, Northern Mantis, Northern Shaolin, Northern Eagle Claw and even some Pai Lum. I did gain some idea about what some of the Chinese arts were about.


About a year later, after a lot of practice, I decided to enter a soft style division at a large tournament in Baltimore, Ernie used to go there, because he was only interested in tournaments were there were Chinese style only divisions. I just wanted to say I did it, and see if I could actually do it.


When I told Ernie of my intentions, then he began an intensive series of sessions on the finer points of the form, More what to look for when I performed.


The day came, we drove down, I asked the tournament director if I could enter the Chinese style division, telling him what I would be competing with. He replied, “You paid, you compete”


Then I was standing there in my karate uniform amidst the others with their style uniforms, sticking out like a sore thumg.


Eventually my name was called, and I went forth and did  my form. I finished it without mistake. When the scores were announced I was not the winner, but I was not either at the bottom. I was in the middle of the division scores. More victory that I thought possible.


So I talked the talk, walked the walk, and done it.


I went on with many other form studies with Ernie, Eventually he had to move to Pittsburh, starting a new school there. I still trained with him, on those times he came back there, and at times I traveled to Pittsburgh.


More time and I had to move for work to New Hampshire. Different time requirements, different available space, I had to make choices, slowly setting forms aside, At times Ernie would visit and give clinics to my students on various aspects of the Chinese Arts, They got to see what he could do.


I was no longer focused on tournaments as when I had lived in Scranton. Nor interested in judging anyone, much less Chinese styles.


The day came when I traveled to Pittsburgh, Ernie specifically had me do the form to video me. He had no copy of the form (this was before YouTube) and wanted a copy of it for his records.


Years later I had set much of those form I studied aside. I remember telling Ernie how remorseful I was having to do so.


He replied, “Victor that is not the point, you did learn them, You may not remember the entire form, but you can never forget you did it, of the lessons you gained from that study.”


And of course he was right.


Since YouTube I have found Chinese versions of all those forms I studied. Different of course, but keeping the same essence all the same.


I did learn.


In December of 1984, 5 years after I began this study, the guy’s at the WilkesBarre school filmed some of my studies so I could retain them better.

This was my performance of Dune De Kuen that day. Not polished for competition, just what I did at that time.


Exactly where I began my studies in the Chinese Arts.

Okinawan Sumo

Another Okinawan tradition is their version of Sumo.
Widely practiced on the Island, and used for contest between the towns at festivals.
There are definite movements in kata which likely were there as a way to counter someone using Sumo against one.
From my point of view it does look like fun.

Indonesian Leg Drills

A small piece of my studies came from Indonesian martial arts, Not this per sae, but the overall shape of these jurus is similar to what I learned. Their is a lot of possibility on use of our footwork via these techniques.
They go well with standard Isshinryu technique, just additional options to accompany the stances used.

Distraction a Weapon to Use

True story, One of the schools I trained with was very ecletic in their training, however, it also was the only school I trained at where they actually sparred, Over time we became friends. Back then the Iran hostage crisis was all the thing on the news. About that time a young Iranian man, a student in the states, approached them about training with them. He had some prior training in Iran. So he joined and rose to green belt in that style. Then one day everyone decided to attend one of George Dillman’s katate tournaments to compete there.

The young man entered Green Belt division, and because it was  huge group, they split the group in two to work their way to final competitors. That young man found success, and won fight after fight (it was probably one of the largest divisions I have ever seen. He made his way through his group and then was to fight against the winners in the second group.

 Now by this time all of the winners were pretty tired, after all those fights.

Finally he was in the fight for next to the last round.

That fight began and it was pretty clear neither fighters had much left, but did their best battling back and forth. The time came where the young man had nothing left, still facing his opponent.

Suddenly he pointed behind the other fighter, causing the fighter to turn his head. When his head turned, that young man struck him in the abdomen with a reverse punch, Winning the fight.

But he truly had nothing left, and was readily defeated in the final contest.
Garnering him 2nd place.

It made a point for me what a distraction could do if at the right time.

As for the young man, he left at the end of the school year.

I never heard of him again,

But I decided to name that move for me, never to be forgotten.

The ‘Farahazad’.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

On Becoming Old and Decrepit

Age happen so all of us, can’t avoid it. Suddenly you are no longer what you were. Training and effort can delay it a bit..even then it will occur.


It had been coming for a long time, and though I remained training, other habits I developed were not helping. Eventually the bill for them comes due.


Illness, surgery, recovery all probably were contributing factors, I worked my way through then. Then a time arrived that various disabilities arrived and things changed, I entered a very different life.


My training was eventually adjusted to what I became, but much I formerly counted on was now gone. Martial effectiveness was mainly past, but pieces remained in place, however it would take careful planning on being able to use them. So training day by day remains a necessity.


Over the years I saw so many different things, until I started to believe I did understand what was there. Then one day I learned there really was more to consider and do.


I was attending an annual clinic in Chicopee, Mass. With John Kerker. I remember his using the opening side block then reverse punch from Seisan kata in a new way to me. When the attack began, a left punch, moving toward him, he entered the attack from the attack outside zone of defense. Bringing his left arm up, he then swept it down then up, performing a side block, That motion sweeping the attacking arm down an then away from him, Then his right reverse strike entered the opened space toward the attackers solar plexus, a clean strike.


With some thought I realized that motion/application was one  I already had in my Yang Tai Chi, He was doing the same thing with his Isshinryu technique. The power of the rotation of his hip with the technique becoming the fuel for the clearing of the strike and the power for the strike. The tai chi sequence was a little different, but the same forces were being used.


Under the right circumstances this still can work for me, ever the  slight rotational energy from the utilization of in ny Isshinryu hip movement making the Isshinryu and the Tai Chi application still possible for me.
Not kidding about becoming old and decrepit. This is the sequence from my tai chi I was referring to. I yam what I yam, but still I move on.