Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Throat Choke

A subset of karate perhaps, but there are times that karate does use a throat choke. Of course there are a variety of methods to do this. I am just going to focus on one of them, when the windpipe is grasped by the hand to make the choke.

It can vary by style.

The choke can be a simper grab of the hand and squeezing to make the choke.

There are systems that use a special method of choking, grasping the throat with just the thumb and index finger in a pinching motion and using the bent knuckle of the index finger to also press into the trachea for additional pressure for that choke.

By far the strongest choke method, I have seen, was taught to me by Ernest Rothrock when he taught me one Eagle Claw form.

I am far from an Eagle Claw expert, I haven’t spent the decades working on Eagle Claw grip for one thing. For them, the formation of the Eagle Claw grip gives intense pain when it is employed. But I paid attention, and I understand how the Eagle Claw is formed, abet with an untrained hand.

I still work the grip formation as a method to retain as much hand grip as possible as I age.

 Properly done, the 4 bent fingers work together to produce one side of the grip, the bent thumb forms the other side.

This is what Ernest Rothrock looks like when he grips the trachea.

Not just a grab of the throat. The technique works like this.

1. The web of the open hand strikes into the throat, the fingers and thumb stretched open. This movement presses the trachea in.
2. Then after that compression, as the hand retreats the eagle claw is formed. Pressing into the cords at the side of the neck. The pressure is immobilizing.
3. Once formed the Eagle Claw is maintained, or other things can happen.

Personally I find this more powerful than just grabbing the throat.

And the grip can work well with whatever karate movement is selected.

Other articles about the Eagle Claw 


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Armed I Am !

400,000 and still counting

When I began this blog, it was at the idea of Mario McKenna, who suggested I should start it. For as much as I shared with my students who were over 20 years into their own training, there was much more that I never had time for in their classes. I had developed so each class I have taught was a unique event never to be repeated. Of course there were themes that did reappear from time to time, but as a flowing stream, you could never step in the same place twice, so were my classes.



I am nothing special. I have never done this for gain or acknowledgment. I am but a student of Tom Lewis and Charles Murray, and am whatever they have wanted me to be. I was fortunate to receive a bit of deep training by some other most gifted individuals, and worked at that. In turn they also trained with my students, becoming other role models for their inspiration.



Along the way I did study whatever I could, often finding that just because something was written, did not make that true. And the more I knew, the less I understood. That kept me looking.


This material was only meant for the handful of individuals who actually trained with me for decades. Only with the floor time, would they really believe what is here, But I do not believe knowledge should be hidden, so I allowed everyone access to make of it as they will.



There are no easy lessons. If anyone does the hard part and actually work at this and make it theirs, they deserve the knowledge.


That said there is information not here. I continue to share those things privately with my students alone. There are things best said privately.



So I guess I have become something as an expert, which was unintended.



I am far from that. But I have actually read the books and articles I write about. And read them many times, for better understanding someone has to actually do that.



So I have read and worked at material from some pretty impressive writings.

Some of which influenced my art directly. And much did not, there is never  enough time after all.



400,000 that many visitors boggles my mind.



The truth is the study of things martial is greater than we can truly grasp. Whatever we can find, there is always more to consider.



I gain nothing if any of you read these words. I have no idea if my students find them useful, that is up to them, that is how they were trained, to make their own choices.



I still have things I wish to share, things I have seen and not got around to sharing, details about our training that might prove useful.


So I will continue, as does the incredible journey I am on does.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Where I hang my hat

They say begin with some great poetry.


I grow old … I grow old …
shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.


The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock –T,S, Elliot


The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,

The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,

Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,

And after many a summer dies the swan.

Me only cruel immortality

Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms



Those two poems have always meant a great deal to me. But I suppose in this instant world very few will take the time to find out why they have been important to me, The disposable age of information.


I am simple to find, though no one will make that journey.



Just travel to Surprise.

Then leave west into the setting Sun.

Keep the mountains on your left,

Carefully make your way through the cacti and the desert bushes,



When you find green in the desert,

And water flowing over the land,

I am near, ever near.



I may be taking one of my walks.

A desert creature.



Sunday, March 18, 2018

Northern Tai Eagle

I had these T-Shirts made of as a gag gift for Ernie when I was training with him about 1981 of 1982.


There is no Northern Tai Eagle system, I just made that up.

Because I was studying Yang Long Fist Tai Chi with  him,


And form studies from other Chinese Systems.


Northen Eagle Claw  - Faan Tzi Ying Jow Pai

Hon Kuen,

Tam Tuie, Power Fist,


Northern Preying Mantis  Slip in and Hit- Sip Jow Jing- (Chau Chi)


Nothern Shaolin – Dune De Kuen, Peng Tsu Dune Kuen


Pai Lum – Pai Lum Kuen , Supple Dragon

A Leopard form, Staff  form, Short Staff Form


I was not studying a system, except for my tai chi studies,

Instead studying a range of forms to better understand the Chinese arts,

At first to become a more knowledgable judge, but in time just to study and learn.


I joked that he should have been teaching me a system,

So I created one using the names of my major studies with him.


Northern Tai Eagle

The Long Journey


I should preface this, acknowledging the debt I owe my wife for her love and support over the years as this occurred. That has meant everything to me.


I started karate, partially as I had some vague idea of what karate was about. The day the idea came to me I was working as a construction laborer as Staisbury State College constructing their new phys ed comples. One of the other guys told me about a karate school outside of Salisbury, so I went over there, and long story short began the training.


I was probably the worst beginner that ever was. The training was focused, hard and at times painful, but once I began, I just never stopped.


In retrospect I was probably the least of Tom Lewis’s students over his years.


About a year later when training at a nearby school run by one of the groups seniors he took me aside and told me “Victor, when you first began, I didn’t think you had a chance to survive. And you have and are moving forward.” Harsh, but true.


There was nothing special about my Isshinryu. But whatever I went through I kept at it.


Then when I had to move for work, Serendipity brought my senior Charles Murray to the Scranton area where I then lived. And I was able to resume my Isshinryu training with him. For one thing for the next few years I was used for target practice by him continually. Day of Night, Sunny of Snowing, In reality in those years I do not remember being able to hit him once. And he forced the remainder of the system into me as a ferocious pace.


Then I was alone, with no Isshinryu nearby. I had noticed that Scranton was filled with dance studios, almost on every corner. So I decided to try and teach youth. Almost everyone I knew tried to talk me out of it. But I choose to begin a program through the Scranton Boys Club, and over time learned a great deal.


The first lesson I learned was that I did not know how to teach youth. But my wife stepped in, a phys ed instructor herself, and slowly I learned how to learn something new.


I also participated in region tournaments, To associate with adults black belts, and to try and improve my skills.


My first black belt fight was against Sam Shockley, then 10th heavyweight in the PKA. Friends told me I was shaking like a leaf as I entered the ring, I was remembering he had once ko’d one of my senior instructors (a solid fighter), by mistake giving my senior the fight. Of course Sam whooped me, politely, as I was no threat. He was a gentleman. And surviving that I learned more about how to be a dan.


I used to compete against some of the National Forms and Weapons Champions. Week by week they became training lessons to improve myself.


And I developed my youth program. We were the first program to include girls into the Boys Club at that time. Eventually I held 3 youth only tournaments, a first in that region, to not have adults overshadow the kids accomplishments.


I had the time, and I started visiting friends I had made at tournaments to have places I could train with adults. I never went to learn their systems, but the manner in which Charled trained me, I did learn how to do what I saw. So  I was learning.


Some less than good. Some good. Some excellent.


But the thing I realized was that except for the belief in my efforts of Tom Lewis and Charles Murray, now both far away, no one really cared about what I was doing in Isshinryu. That was up to me. And the only Issshinryu that mattered, again was what I experienced from my seniors. That became a constant in my life.


Then I moved to New Hampshire, again for work. And started the youth program again through the Derry Boys and Girls Club. As time passed moved past tournaments. I always had good students, and I started a very small adult program.


I learnt more about what I was accomplishing.



For one thing most of the kids lasted 2-3 years, not the 7-9 to reach dan level.

I realized what I was doing was more in common with all the parents that ran the youth activity programs in my home town. It was for the kids.


The most important thing I could share with them was that they could learn though their own efforts. And if they learned that when they saw new beginners who could not do what they had learned, they would gain a lesson they could rely on for life. That they were responsible for their own selves learning everything. Every youth became a success story.


My adult program developed dans who invented decades in their own training. Allowing my studies to go further and further.


I developed a method to create instructors over time. Skilled in the system and how skilled how to pass it along and retain their own creative side at the same time.


So more time passed, and I became less callable, The youth class often was given to the other instructors, where their creativity shined. The adult classes always stayed under my control. Not that I didn’t have other teach, they were qualified, but each class was another learning experience for me as well as them.


The one thing I insisted was that each beginner group was instructed by me.

Their first day(and for the next 6 classes) was an explanation of what karate was, and I wanted to get that straight from the beginning, then when they forgot, and the always did forget, they could be reminded that was what they were taught at the beginning.


I also felt it most important that my understanding of what their karate was should be made a plain to them as possible.


Each beginner is a most precious chance to get it right. Should they choose to do something else in the future, it was not because they did not get the real karate.


One time I had a father with previous karate training, watch his daughters first class, and then he came up to me and told me. “Why were you teaching them karate, That is not what the other school around here do.”


I responded, “I don’t keep track of what the others do, I just was trained in Isshinryu, and that is all I know how to teach.”


No student has ever made me feel lost when they moved on.


Whether after 1 day, 3 years, 9 years, 30 years. Each of them learned the most important lesson after all. We are what we choose to be by our choices. That must be celebrated when they decide to do other.


And the few that stay and stay, of course they must be celebrated for their choice too.


Now I live on the edge of a desert, still trying to preserve what I have learned for my students. My personal practice is slower, my tai chi is slower.


There is still so much to do and learn.


An Experiment in Sharing Energy

An Experiment in Sharing Energy



This is something you might want to try in your own dojo.


Beginners, kids or adults, are often filled with doubts as to what they can do.


This is a way to inspire confidence in their own abilities.


For maximum effect do this in front of the whole group.


Take a beginner who knows their first kata, but does not have confidence in their ability to do the kata.


Ask them to do the kata before everyone. Be sure to congratulate their efforts no matter how they do.


Next select two black belts, or two brown belts, who are quite expert at the kata.


Place the beginner in the middle of the two black belts.


Then have them do the kata as a group.


What you will find is that the beginner performs like a black belt.


By having accomplished seniors beside them, they no longer feel like everyone is watching them, because they know that everyone is watching the black belts.


The reality is in group performance everyone is sharing a communal energy of the performance together. The reason to incorporate group kata practice.


So being amidst senior students, they draw confidence and energy from those students, And begin to function at black belt levels of performance.


Then congratulate them for stepping up, knowing the form and acting like a black belt.


Finally remind them that they must continue on in that way.


Of course they will not but that is not to be mentioned, it is just the nature of reality.


But you have helped them touch what is most important to them. In turn that will help them progress.


Everyone saw it, So let other’s join in the fun and all get the lesson.


The simple karate class has more happening in it that you often realize.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Naifanchi as I have experienced it.

Back in 1975 of so, when I first learned Nihanchi (Naifanchi and variant spellings), not much was said except  that it was our next form. This was of course long before there was an internet, few books were available on Isshinryu and those that were just showed the kata. It just was another kata to work on.


When I began training with Charles Murray, it also became just one of the kata we incessantly drilled on. I know we had some discussions about the manner of kicking/stepping involved, but that was about it.


So incessant practice, time and then black belt testing.


I knew Naifanchi was infrequently seen in open and other tournaments used as a black belt form. And around the many styles I visited there was almost no discussion about Naifanchi kata.


The one exception was when I trained with Carl Long, a shorin ryu stylist in the Shimabuku Ezio lineage. I recall he used Naifanchi in a  variety of different ways. One of them contained  two 180 degree turns, showing some of the potential for the kata technique in a different manner. That was interesting and I remembered and retained that in my curriculum for a black belt practice. Another variation was he used to see who could do Naifanchi fastest. Say in 11 seconds, all the time maintaining technique not devolving performance into slop. A true speed drill. Suggesting still more possibilities.


As years passed I became convinced that many black belts did not enjoy Naifanchi kata, spending less time on it. I almost never saw it in tournaments.


Then I finally saw a panther video of Angi Uzen where he was doing Naifanchi kata. And he was superb. Not necessarily the same version I was taught, but it bolstered my opinion that great Naifanchi kata was necessary to fully understand the system. In those years I was just teaching youth, and working on my own practice, continually 7 days a week.


I was not associating with others in Isshinryu, just observing them via tournament competition.


The more I trained, the more convinced I was that to fully advance into dan study of Isshinryu, the more one should improve Naifanchi kata, even if only for the lateral movement it provided.


Then I relocated to New Hampshire, a result of a job change. I began my youth program again, and started a small adult program too.


Mike Cassidy performing Nihanchi kata about 1989


Work on Naifanchi was still a keystone. In a short time I had a very highly skilled group of teen students. And being teens they had too much energy to burn. So I created a variant version of Naifanchi kata for those teen students.


A version of Naifanchi which included 2 jumping turning crescent kicks done within the kata. A very dynamic drill.


Then  to not let the adults be left out of the fun, I crafted another variation which included 2 back turning stepping inward crescent kicks with the form. Not to replace Naifanchi kata, rather to become an additional drill to expand thinking about the form.


Then time passed as some of those adults became black belts. Several continued to do great forms with all of their studies. I discovered that many of the black belts preferred to spend less time on their Naifanchi kata practice.


Of course I had a response for that. I just increased the Naifanchi workout as part of class, (We had become mostly a black belt adult club.) I also incorporated Naifanchi kata drill in a stack formation (one behind the other…) Putting whoever was doing the best work on Naifanchi at that time at the head of the stack, to drive everyone behind to stronger performance.



Young Lee, Rabiah Abiaad, Don Normandin


All told, I had many Naifanchi drills to fall back on keeping everyone fresh on their Naifanchi kata.


At the same time I was going deeper into what the use of kata movement could be used for.


Where much of my work was on Seisan kata, I also had a preference in Chinto kata. I began to realize it had more in common with the Chinese forms I had studied, Not that they were similar, but a feeling that of all the Isshinryu kata, it contained the most Chinese feel of the kata.


Then after structural analysis of the kata, I became convinced the strongest reason to continue to press for great Naifanchi kata performance was because to me, Naifanchi kata was likely a preparatory form for Chinto kata.

The rotation between strikes going from side to side, building a stronger core movement allowing stronger, faster spin turn in Chinto kata.


That became the most important lesson from Naifanchi kata for me, building toward a stronger Chinto kata.


I was early into my own kata technique analysis at that time. There was so much to work on, I had only touched a small part of Naifanchi for those studies.


Now I was not just figuring this out, this was to become a core of my dan studies with my students. Walk the walk.


Then I met Sherman Harrill.


That first clinic he used application potential from Naifanchi kata footwork that blew  me away, But as that time I was more focused on Chinto, Kusanku, and Sunsu kata. Eventually over a few years we got around to what he was doing with Naifanchi kata. Of course it was as eye opening as all the rest.


Of course it was consistent with how he had found the same principles for kata application.


Now this was all before I discovered the internet was coming into existence.


I soon began reading about how Naifahchi was one of the cornerstones for Isshinryu, and in time all the stuff about Motobu and those that considered what he was about was good.


I read all of it, shared such with my students at times, I honestly believed everyone who stated that was so felt that way, and many put that into their practice.


But while I have larned much from book larning, It was on the floor, and from my own experiences that held the greatest sway over what I felt.


I never doubted that the study of Naifanchi kata was important throughout our martial lives. But never accepted that it was the most important training either.


The longer I went the more convinced I became it was the necessary step to build for fuller utilization of Chinto Kata potential.


My own efforts showed me how Naifanchi kata was contained there in. Also how much tai chi potential was utilized. How much baguazhang potential was there, How much Aikido potential was being shown.


Of course  it never replaced my contention that Seisan was my kingpin, or that if pressed the same strike Sherman Harrill showed was the answer too.


But the deepest study I had was focused on the never ending potential of Chinto kata.


I continue to look at as much as I can, consider as much as I can and I understand I know less and less and I move forward.


Of course I am a product of how I was trained, and I am a product of what I have experienced. And I am also a product of the work I put into my studies.


And the ravages of time have taken its toll.


I never have stopped working. This is what I can do with Naifanchi kata today.