Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fire and Ice

Sitting here under the blazing Arizona Sun in an area totally surrounded by desert, my mind often turns to memories of my past. This is one of my more interesting ones to me.


During the period from 1979 through 1984 I was moving at a frantic pace. I had the time, the resources and the interest. I was training and teaching Isshinryu, where my heart would always be, but I was able to train at the same time with a great many people from many styles.  Everybody loves the paradigm that their teachers taught them. But I learned that there were many paradigm’s, even ones diametrically opposed on the surface, that could also be devastatingly effective.


So I trained with Shorin instructors, Goju instructors and instructors from many other systems, and did my best to retain what they generously shared.


But a large part of my time I trained in two arts that were in my mind at that time, very different. From Ernest Rothrock in Yang Tai Chi and Northern Chinese forms from Northern Shaolin, Northern Eagle Claw, Northern Mantis, and Pai Lum. Only forms not applications of those forms, I saw him prepare for demos and working with his students, seeing many interesting applications but that was not my study. From Tristan Sutrisno he was sharing his family version of Shotokan, his family practice of Aikido. His practice went very deep into what he called ‘bunkai’, a very different use of the term from others I have observed around the world, and very effective use on aikido. Hundreds of neat applications.

Now I have trained with a number of very efficient, interesting instructors, each with different paradigms. They were too deep into their own arts, and never trained with each other.


In 1981 Tristan began a summer camp inviting a number of different local styles to train together. I enjoyed it.


 That next summer I convinced Ernest Rothrock to invite his students to attend that weekend of training.


Both Ernest and Tristan knew I was training with each other. But they never trained with each other.


At that summer camp at one of opening clinics Tristan began showing the location of pressure points on the hands, the fingers and the lower arm. Showing the points and techniques to work them. While everything he did used pressure points, I had never seen him present them in this way. When he finished the lower arm he invited Ernest to continue. Perhaps this was a challenge, I can’t say, but Ernest began working up the upper arm, onto the shoulder, the neck and the head. Doing the same at Tristan did showing pointe and then ways to work them. Remember when I trained with Ernest it was not for application study. This was a new way to see his art.


As I observed them coming from entirely different traditions, there was absolutely no difference in their understanding and using those points. It was as if they were the same tradition, and they were not.



Now Tristan had nailed me many times, I clearly understood he knew what he was doing. I had never experienced Ernest though I knew the range he represented. That was to change.


A little later Ernest had the floor (actually the campground field) and elected to show some Kung- Fu applications. He chose me to attack him with a roundhouse punch and stressed I should do so with vigor for that was how his instructors trained him.


So I stepped in with a strong strike.


He just stepped forward, on the interior line of defense, and lifted his hands up. He did not strike me, what happened is my arm struck into his immobile hands. And incredible pain followed.


Then Ernest made a comment “I thought you karate guys could hit harder that that.”


So once again with greater focus I again struck in his direction.


Once again, he just stepped forward, on the interior line of defense, and lifted his hands up. Again, he did not strike me, and again what happened is my arm struck into his immobile hands. Again incredible pain followed.


Taking mercy on  my arm, he then explained all he did was raise his knife hands, them the force of my strike did the rest. My roundhouse punch drove my forearm and my biceps into his knife hands. I was striking him, and the harder I hit the greater the pain would be.


That really works, but listen to me it is very, very painful.


Over the years that would be Ernest pattern, every time he did a clinic for my students, I was to be his partner. And every time I experienced a new level of pain.


In subsequent years I learned some of the Sutrisno family tradition of Tjimande. Then I saw the relationship of his arts to the Chinese arts, but that is another story.


I’ve seen Fire and I’ve seen Rain,

And I’ve experienced Pain I thought would never End,

But I always thought I would see you once before the End.


You know you could make a song about that.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Why Tai Chi?



I knew karate existed prior to attending college. The prior summer while at the beach in Ocean City I found a paperback book by Bruce Teger about karate. Then several years later my roommate, Richard Durich, began his own study of Shotokan at Temple University under Okazaki Sensei. He showed me a few things so he could use me for practice, but it would be years before I began my own study of Isshinryu karate.


While at Temple I became interest in Taoism and did my own independent study of that practice. During my reading I became aware of the existence of Tai Chi Chaun. But I never saw tai chi performed.


Then one day in August of 1979, the summer after I made shodan in Isshinryu, I saw it advertised that Ernest Rothrock, of his Shaolin School in Scranton, was doing a kung fu demo in his school the next Saturday, it said he was also going to demonstrate tai chi. I decided I should attend to watch.


I knew he was the husband of Cindy Rothrock and her instructor.  But knew nothing of his arts or of him. I watched his school performance of their White Dragon kung fu. But what I was interested in was his Tai Chi Chaun. It was the first time I had seen it demonstrated and once I saw it I was hooked, to speak.


A approached him after the school demo, explained who I was a new ShoDan in Isshinryu, and was it possible to take lessons with tai chi with him.


He looked at me, then said, “Sure, it would be a ½ lesson every Thursday evening at $7.50 a lesson.”


I did not realize most of his students lessons were individual lessons either. I could afford that so I said, “OK!”


That was how it began.


I did not realize what I was asking him to do was likely as much fun for him as doing Push Hands with a bag of wet cement. Karate prepares you not in the least for tai chi study, In fact you know less than nothing having to unlearn so much to make progress.


Interesting dichotomy as I never let my karate practice slip during the entire process.


I wasn’t looking for self defense, kung fu or anything outside of studying tai chi. I was only minimally aware there were different tai chi styles.


Ernest explained that what I would be studying was Yang Tai Chi.


When Thursday came around I showed up and paid for my class.


I believe I wore my karate uniform for I did not know what to wear. The associate instructor watched me warming up and I am sure they wondered what a karate guy was doing there? One of them came up as I was warming up while I was doing stretch kicks. He was about to speak when my leg rose above his head. I guess he got the answer he was looking for, as he just backed away.


I was waiting there, not knowing what to expect when Ernest came up to me.

I found out I was the only one studying tai chi with him at that time. He then began having me stand in a stance holding my hands up (what is commonly referred to as Play Guitar) but he just showed me what he wanted and moved my leg into the position and positioned my hands. Then he had me stand on the one leg with the other leg foot toes just touching the ground for 5 minutes. Not doing anything else, just holding the position. I felt it big time in my quads as I stood there. Then he had me change stance, another 5 minute hold. More quad pain. Being a black belt is karate brought me nothing to do that, I discovered you could pull one muscle of your quad standing still, and on each leg.


Next he showed me how to step, slowly, Moving my rear leg into the supporting let, then slowly stepping out till I would place my heel on the floor, then to slowly lower my foot and flow my weight to that foot, to become the new support leg and then repeat the process with the other foot. Then foot step following foot step, finally to learn a new way to turn around with tai chi stepping. It was explained this was also a necessary beginning drill, to learn how to move slowly across the floor, to be use in my Yang.


There were several other drills, all of them done with slowness.


Finally he began my study of the form, Just raise my hands. Slowly drop them down, shift my hands to the left, to allow my left hand to slowly drop down to hold a ball of air between both hands.


That was all, the entire class.


The next week that became the pattern, he would observe me doing my drills, making corrections when needed. Then another small piece of the form.


So it went week by week. Names were not mentioned for most of the movements, I was taught more by tactile feel as he moved my hands through each movement, and also shifted my feet.


Eventually I would learn the Yang form was broken into six sections for learning. Each moving a row of techniques in one direction. West, then East, then West, then East then West and finally East.


It was slow going but movement by movement I learned.


One day I finally learned the first section. Only then was I told I only had the beginning of that section. I would have to learn it two more times. One for the head movements-Eye focus to be used with each technique. Then one for the breathing pattern to be used for each technique.

Those following lessons were most difficult, but they were also the key lessons to the art.


When the head rolls with the movement, the eyes follow a specific moving point, and then the cyclic breathing pattern is established with the movement of the form, you are removing stationary head movement, use of gaze, and use of breathing as crutches to aid establishing balance. This forces you to internalize your balance within your center.


After learning that first form 3 times, you were expected to apply all of that with the subsequent lessons.


I was about a year into my study, having completed sections 1,2 and 3. I thought I as making some progress. In addition to the tai chi form Ernest had also taught me the stationary single hand push drill, the moving single hand push drill, and the turning and moving single hand push drill. I was also beginning the stationary double hand push drill.


But then he added a twist, for I was told before I would learn the last 3 rows of the Yang form I had to learn the Yang Straight Sword form (I did not know for a decade that it was just the beginning of the form it was quite complex in its own right). So I obtained a wooden sword, and found the beginning was using the pattern of the 1st row of the Yang form in part, then things grew more hinky.


The thing of the Straight Sword was that the only control for the sword was your wrist. I was told in the Chinese Arts, they considered the Straight Sword the most difficult one.

Eventually I learned the sword form, and considered it the most difficult thing I ever learned. (But as Ernest knew dozens straight sword forms from many sources, this was a most simple one for him. I on the other hand….) In more time I got through it.


Perhaps I should mention here I also did considerable practice. As much my tai chi as my karate practices.


I should also mention never, ever did Ernest ever talk about chi in the study and practice.

Just the flow of the form, the eye movements, the breathing pattern. And there were times hand and I did practice together, Me just trying to match his speed. He told me his instructor did the form for 45 minutes. He told me he could approach 25 or 20 on his best days. I was lucky when I made it past 15 minutes. It is very, very, very hard to go slow.


So 4 followed 3,  then 5 followed 4  and finally 6 followed 5. I made it through the entire form.


Push hands training went further too. From the stationary double push hands drill, to the moving double push hands drill to the final turning and moving double push hands drill.

Things were starting to make some sense.


That was my training, the day came when I was told I now knew the Yang form, and I had the burden, joy to practice and practice.


Most of his students were only there for kung fu lessons. They did not have much interest in tai chi at that time.


Ernest told me I was the 2nd person that he had taught the form to.


What did I know, not so very much, it only took me 2 years of weekly lessons to get there.

The real lessons were just beginning.


Shortly after Ernest moved to begin another school in Pittsburgh. I did travel there to train. Along the way be became friends and I began studying forms to gain more knowledge about the Chinese systems.


The next few years, whenever I was able to train with him I always let him see my Yang, but did my best not so show my Yang straight sword. I was frustrated at how difficult it was for me, and felt I had made little progress.


Then I moved to New Hampshire. We still saw each but far less frequently.


I knew his studies in N. Eagle Claw progressed. His Eagle Claw instructor got him to study other tai chi including Wu Tai Chi.


One day after 10 years, not having worked tai chi together for many years, we worked together to demonstrate the first 3 rows. It was filmed and I was doing very much the same thing he was. My practice remained true.




One day years later he suggested I begin to practice faster. Unto doing my Yang at full speed.


Then one night after 15 years he demolished everything I was doing, in minute detail Then he showed what I had to do to correct everything. Very logical, very powerful, and he was shown that the same way after 15 years.


He never really showed me how to use my tai chi studies martially.


There are several reasons for that, for me because I had karate for martial use, and never was interested in that for tai chi.


But the world keeps turning, I had discovered the advanced tai chi books of Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming and his extensive uses for tai chi self defense.


I was working a great deal on my karate kata application studies, and I was teaching a small tai chi group as I was.


So one day I began to work after that class with the guys on tai chi application ideas from Dr. Yang’s writing. The simplest of moves called the Yang Roll back. I was working slow with my partner, and in slow motion almost caved his chest in, then not believing I did that, did it again also in slow motion. Nothing I ever expected.


I called Ernest and described to him what happened.


He replied laughing: “Didn’t I never tell you to do that to your own students?”

Him knowing we never discussed use of tai chi for self defense.


My self studies continued very carefully. Never my primary focus for tai chi, I could of course use it effectively. Another tool in the tool box.


I once read a good book on tai chi can compress 50 years of knowledge into that book. BUT it can also take 50 years to understand what was written.


Now having to have modified my Yang to continue my practice. I most often begin my day with Yang Row 1, and at times I do more.


But the more I practice, the more I realize I have more to study and keep plugging along.





Saturday, May 26, 2018

Chinto & Aikido 1 Revisited


When I began it was a very different world in which the Martial Arts existed. Books were few and expensive, and you had no way to verify what they presented. The most convenient source of martial information were the karate magazines. Movies were almost non existent sources.


You had to believe in your instructor. Now I was fortunate my instructors trained on Okinawa. You knew there were different systems, but not what that meant in detail. Most of the reliable knowledge about karate was just what your instructors told you.


Let me give an example. I did not understand there was a difference between karate on Okinawa as compared to karate on Japan. And it was many years before that made sense to me.


This also was before things could be discussed on the internet.


Back in the 2000s when I was on the Cyberdojo of YahooGroups I wrote up my ideas of Chinto and Aikido. This was prior to Youtube, and most of my sources were from books in my library.  YouTube began in 2005, and changed the dynamic of available sources evermore. I always realized these notes would be difficult for others to interpret. But that was ok, I intended them more for my students memories than instant answers for others.

But nothing was hidden, just would require a lot of work to realize.


When I wrote these pieces on the relationship of Chinto kata to Aikido, I was not being style specific as to which Aikido I meant. I did my best to cite sources (photographs from books) to make my case. I realized this would mean work for anyone to really follow what I wrote. So be it.


However I am going to attempt to recast that initial piece, in order to show what I then could not.


Thia is not an attempt to revise this, but a chance to show what new photos would add.



Chinto & Aikido 1
Note: This is literally a time trip how I tried to share what I was seeing 10 years ago. It may not be easy to follow but as a reference I believe it retains value.

Chinto and Aikido 1

I thought I'd begin my thoughts on Chinto and Aikido by looking at one technique.

It is my belief that referring you to available 'Chinto' texts and to 'Aikido' texts, we shorten this process.

[Language disclaimer. After a quarter of century of practice, I will mostly utilize English in my discourse, except where specific terms are discussed in a text. I most assuredly know nothing about how Japanese/Okinawan or other Oriental languages are used correctly. Especially after Joe Swift of Kanazawa Japan graciously explained how I don't practice Gerri Wazza but instead practice Kerri wazza. I'm sure if I attempt otherwise you would find a lot of Gerri in my attempt. I strongly admire those whose practice includes strong language ties to their original instructors. [Mine was a former U.S. Marine so I am being traditional.] but as I look forward, I truly see English being the strongest future in my students studies.]

If you look at Nagamine (my choice as the kata source for this review) or Long and Wheeler (a standard Isshinryu (cheap) reference) for Kata Chinto you'll find the section I'm chosing.

Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do - Nagamine Shoshin Chinto Kata Pgs 223 and 222 pictures 23 – 26
Not the same, but as close as I could find.

Dynamics of Isshinryu - Long Howard and Wheeler Allen Chinto Kata Pg 81 pictures 19, 20 and 21

Beginning after the Elbow Strike, Nagamine shifts back into a back cat stance with both hands up before him. He then strikes back with both hands into two descending knife hand strikes. [in my Isshinryu Version, I drop back into horse stance with the two descending knife hand strikes]. Next Nagamine steps forward with his right foot and as he pulls his two knife hands alongside his head..

This is enough of the kata movement to compare to one Aikido concept.

[Another of my notes. This is an incredibly rich section of Chinto Kata to find Aikido comparison, IMVVVHO.]

Of course comparing static Nagamine photographs to my own Chinto practice, I don't doubt there may be difference in timing, flow, etc, and the comparison to the Isshinryu Chinto (even though both are from Kyan traditions) may be only incidental, I still feel they may be overlaid with Aikido techniques.

To do this I'm offering a number of possible Aikido texts which I believe are showing the same technique. To do this wide open (not sticking to one text) you find different authors have different naming classification systems for what appear to be the same technique.

Rather than attempt a complicated explanation at this time, I'd like to suggest some of you check an example out, and we can begin discussing from that point. I believe you will find different movement in how the Aikidoka uses the Chinto movement, but with work I look forward to your observation in the

[Note on practice. Linking techniques from books is ok, but the practice floor is where you prove or disprove them. Many times it takes more work than it looks to put some of this into practice. Sometimes you don't like the results, sometimes you do.

Aikido Sources to Consider

Budo Usheiba Morihei Page 78 Yokomen-uchi

This text is difficult to use, as much isn't photographed and you have to supply a great deal of interim movement to the demonstrated examples. In this one Usheiba Morihei is performing the technique from Seiza (on his knees), but I think it captures the essence of this discussion.
Not the same, but as close as I could find.

Aikido - Usheiba Kisshomaru
Page 48 - Irimi-nage (Entering Throw)
Not the same, but as close as I could find.

A good 'standard' example.

Aikido and the Dymanic Sphere - A. Westbrook and O. Ratti Page 241 Projection No. 1 - Kokyu Nage (20 year technique) Projection No 1 against attack No. 13

Note the difference in terminology. A good example.
Not the same, but as close as I could find.

Total Aikido Shioda Gozo Page 126 Shomen-uchi shomen irimi-nage ni (front strike: front entering
throw 2)

In my opinion this might be the best photographed Aikido text, clearly showing great detail I each technique. The photograph from above, captures the turning movement being demonstrated well.

Omiys Shiro - The Hidden Roots of Aikido - Aiki Jujutsu Diatoryu Page 62 Irimi-nage
Not the same, but as close as I could find.


This is such an interesting work I'm including his text for his irmi-nage for your consideration. Of course out of kindness to the author for drawing on this work, I suggsest you all purchase copies to repay him . You will note this text refers to a pressure point on the neck being worked, and it also defines that point further.

"Uke attemps a shomen blow to tori's head. Tori steps in with his left leg, receives the blow with his right hand -sword and then sweeps around to uke's right as shown. Tori raises his right hand and cradles uke's head in both his arms while pressing on the dokko pressure point on uke's neck (dokko den). Tori then steps forward on his right leg while bringing his right arm downward toward the ground to effect the throw."

"Dokko den
In the execution of irimi-nage it is important to control your opponent's entire body, and not just his head and neck. Pressing on the dokko pressure point on the neck just below the ear weakens uke's entire body, which means that he can be controlled and thrown."


- - -

Further Chinto / Aikido thoughts for Nagamine Chinto pictures 23 - 25

Aikido by Usheiba Kisshomaru Page 98 Tenchi-Nage (Heaven and Earth Throw)

The Principles of Aikido by Saotome Mitsugi Numerous examples such as page 65 Shomenuchi iriminage

A very good text with examples against many attacks

Takemusu Aikido by Saito Morihiro (Translated by Kimura I and Pranlin S) All of the Iriminage from pages 124 through 170

Incredible depth of variations

Finally I would like to try to explain the Sutrisno Tris example.

His Aikido training format was against the Right Foot Forward Right Lunge Punch. As part of his kyu karate training, the student would stand in the middle of a circle of attackers, who would attack one after another with focused punches toward the student.

The defender would shift, redirect the energy of the attacker and control or project them as the technique required.

[After years of practice and teaching the technique, one of my dans remarked how false the attack was. All of us could easily shift away, regardless of how hard the punch was. This caused me to reflect on his true statement. What I realized was most likely the real attack would be a likely grab (with a punch following). Training with punches forced us to work against a higher level of skill for better technique acquisition. Several years after this we realized all of
these defenses were most likely training against tanto (knife) thrusts. The shifting and style of energy re-direction really was keeping the knife away from one's body. All of which forces one to work harder. ]

Further update: everyone has to start somewhere. The opening technique study hs a great deal of additional work for realization.

Against the 5th attacker in the circle, the defense was to step forward, with your foot in front of their foot (to end up behind/outside their foot) and sweep both arms up and to your right rear as you were stepping in (just as in Chinto). Your left arm swept up rolling their punching hand over to the left side. Your right arm strikes into their neck (going from front to the back) which rolls their head counter-clockwise.

This head rolling, your leg beside/behind their leg, and your completing the turn counter-clockwise, robs their center and drops them on the floor, where you ride them down to your right knee.

In affect they throw the punch and finish looking up to the sky., and you flow through them. There are many variations of speed and angle of insertion of the body and arms. Fastest was a tjimande variation with a very flat double circular arm motion and body spin (all counter-clockwise). As In all of his techniques, correct use of the hip during turning was the key to selling the technique.

To show you how slow I am, I've been running these techniques for almost 20 years, and only last weekend did I see the cross-association with Chinto kata. IMVHO.



Some examples of later work I have done on the use of Chinto kata, not just from an Aikido point of view.