Friday, February 2, 2018

Another Beginning - Quest for Understanding Application

Lately I have written a bit about what I see application potential of kata technique. That has brought many things to my mind’s surface. Old thoughts of an earlier time.


For 8 years I had been an Isshinryu Black Belt, now relocated to NH and reestablishing my youth program there, along with establishment of an adult program, I felt a need in my being to take a far closer look at my own Isshinryu.


For those 8 years, I had been acting at my own direction. My bedrock was my own Isshinryu practice, that and teaching my youth program. As I look back on that time I was proceeding forward at a frantic pace. I had the time, the opportunity.


I was literally training with almost every instructor in my area in many different systems. For the most part I was going there, not to learn any specific thing, but to have people (adults) to work with. And I worked to remember what I was seeing. Most of my time was split between Ernest Rothrock in deep study of the Chinese Arts, and with Tristan Sutrisan and a variety of different arts.


Moving did not change that I still found a way to visit them, or them to visit me and those studies continued. Quite different studies, along the way I gained more than some knowledge how form movement could be used to finish an attack. That did represent a lot of good material in it’s own right.


But the more I learned about other systems of study, the more I became committed to learn and practice more of my own Isshinryu.


Specifically, none of those people I trained with did care about my Isshinryu. Nor would you expect them to. But it did drive me to more study. Of courseIwas in different circumstances, no longer had unlimited time available. So I chose to cut back on many of the forms I had learned and was practicing, Instead focusing on practicing those which interested me most. As well as increasing the number of classes I was teaching a week. 2 youth karate classes, 2 adult karate classes and 1 tai chi class a week became the standard for over the next decade.


I had started thinking of random kata movement application possibilities.

For one thing I found my kata warping to somewhat new execution when I understood new application possibilities for that form. On one level I was ok with that, for I had originally experienced a cloud of kata execution possibilities. But as I came to understand more, I started reverting my kata back to the original versions, not letting my growing understanding re-shape those kata.


Then one day I decided to make a more serious effort to understand what my kata could accomplish. My first problem is I really didn’t know how to start.

And no one was looking for me to try. I really discovered what it was to be on your own.


So I began by selecting the movements from several forms, Isshinryu, tai chi, and other arts. Ones I felt I had the least belief in using. I decided to see what I could do with my own least.


As I have  described that effort on my blog:


Then to make it interesting I decided to choose those movements in kata and forms that seemed the least likely to have value. Just picking a punch lacked dimension to my way of thinking, might as well make it challenging.

Well it turned out it worked.

I started one Saturday morning on my driveway (during the summer’s my adults often meet at my house to train outdoors). I took the hammerfist to the hand technique from Goju Saifa kata and found my principle analysis really worked. If they stuck it out I could really take someone apart with those movements.

Next I decided to take a tai chi movement, Lu (or rollback) and really found it was a great way to put someone’s face on the ground in any circumstances, either interior line of defense or exterior line of defense. Especially with this study I began what I would eventually call the study of fractals of the movement. On the surface it seemed if you didn’t move fast enough with the tai chi pull back you’d really get nailed, well that’s only on the surface for if they’re really, really fast, they discover there is something else there that really disrupts their attack, and it works just as well with the head/neck as with the arm……

Now on a role, two movements, just to keep them guessing I figured I should have several more. I thought I’d really have some fun and use movement. Ernest Rothrock trains his advanced students in an obscure body of movement studies he at times refers to as Ghost techniques. I decided to take one and use it’s turns as a weapon, cutting out an attackers lower body from the rear. That’s where the concept name came from, they strike towards you because they know you’re standing before them, but when they get there you’re standing behind them.

I decided to finish with a more direct counter and because I wasn’t practicing tai chi for it’s martial aspects I decided that a palm strike would be my concluding technique. I was stuck between the brush knee and the Fair lady works the shuttles, finally deciding to include both of them.

An annual summer camp was coming up that was inter-discipline and I thought I might have some fun presenting this material. I was sure how I’d apply them but to take another group and share it with them and get results seemed a good test.

To have fun I thought I’d give the minimalist system a name – Smith Te, the system of 4 and ½ movements (counting the last two as 1 and ½ because both shared a palm strike.

To have more fun I gave the movements new names.

The hammerfist strike study from Saifa became ‘The Eagle Swoops Down’.
The pullback became ‘The Snake Retreats’.
The ghost technique became ‘The Ghost Departs’.
The brush knee became ‘The Bear wipes it’s Claws’
The fair lady works shuttles became ‘The Bear wipes it’s Nose’.

And finally I created a form with the techniques.

I had a lot of fun showing the application potential for those movements working to make my case they could stop everything. Afterwards a ex Marine, at least 6’6” came up to make a point he really didn’t believe it could stop his attack. I said ok, attack me. He came driving in with a hard right but didn’t complete his attack for some reason he felt it wasn’t a good idea to drive his eyes into my fingertips, for I was using the Lu (or my Snake Retreats) as my counter. He stopped getting the point as I reminded him, remember I said Snakes can also bite.

What I was learning if you really trusted your technique and really worked to apply it, it would stand up for you every time.

The next summer I added another worthless technique I was playing with, Sanchin Kata’s closing Mawashi Uke (or Tora Guchi if you will), finding a true minimalist system of one perfect movement study. I also renamed the system Smith Te II and slightly modified the form and renamed it ‘The Return of the Son of Magnetic Monster”, a tribute to Frank Zappa.

I never really did Smith Te after that (except as further tools in my toolkit), but continued the studies looking at ‘The Ascending/Descending Palm’, the variety of ‘X’ strikes (X Man, X Woman and X Child), studies in elbow (Etude in Empi), the study of hammerfist strikes (The Hammers of Doom), the Breaking Arm a study of many pieces, Flower Arranging and so forth.
This is includes Oyata Seryu using a similar movement in a demonstration.

Sure I had some fun when I shared them with a few friends schools, but more so I was starting to really understand what a technique could be used for.


So the race began: Having made  those  studies for application use, I then decided to explore applications by theme. Not by kata. As I related, also, in my blog


There were many others, now found in some manual as this was prior to pc availability.


One of my explorations was open ended, that of a minimalist system. The idea to determining what was the fewest techniques a system could have to conclude any attack.


Logically one, any one movement, might be the perfect minimalist system.

Then as fortune would have it, I was going to do a presentation at a mixed style summer camp.


Those studies worked, but they were also not total Isshinryu efforts. I chose to give then names like: the Breaking Arm, Etude in Empi….. Then their efforts rewarded with understanding and then they were set aside, not forgotten just relegated to some old file.




Other Theme studiesm much mor on Isshinryu followed:


The complete Isshinryu Elbow Strike

The complete Isshinryu Low Block

The complete Isshinryu Open Hand/Palm Block


Then to follow with


 Seiunchin Kata- an analysis

A study in the application potential in the Seisan Kata opening

Use of the lower body movement as an offensive technique

          The use of turning as an  offensive weapon

Chinto – Aikido – Tai Chi Da Lu

Sanchin a study in destruction


Then the day arrived I met Sherman Harrill, later still John Kerker

Then my education really moved forward.







A few posts I have made concerning

Sherman Harruill



A few posts I have made concerning

John Kerker






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