Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Early notes on meeting Sherman Harrill

Early notes on meeting Sherman Harrill


July 1996,


I was describing my efforts to remember what I had learned about Sherman Harrill to a friend from extensive Northern Chinese Systems. His were very different traditions than those of karate. This came from that discussion.



One of my ongoing project documenting Mr. Harrill’s technique. I thing I may have 300 technique applications documented, and I still have 5 hour of video tape I was permitted to film from that clinic to covery. An I’m fully area that that is but a fraction of what your systems cover.


The process applied by Mr. Harrill as I’m beginning to comprehend, is he takes a look at every piece of the movement. Besides looking at a technique from both sides, he examines every portion of striking surface, every location that the technique could be landed, plays with the timing of the sequences too.


I’ve compared the application he showed for kata Naihanchi (Naihanchi Shodan) (as an intellectual exercise) to those documented by George Dillman in his texts. There isn’t much by way of comparison. Mr. Harrill’s applications are more extensive and in far greater grasp of the movement potential of the kata.



I tried to describe how he saw one kata movement as having many applications.



The movement to be used was the descending lower X block from kata Chinto. This was the movement from that first clinic that I chose.


     1. Slide into a forward left front stance and deliver a descending X block

     2. Turn 180 degrees on a pivot on the right foot, the left leg in a crane stance as           you pivot.

     3. Slide into a forward left front stance and deliver a descending X block


For the most part in those days we did not study kata applications, However, for this movement Lewis Sensei did suggest two different methods of execution could be used as a descending X block


Against a right front kick coming toward you one method was to cross the arms at the wrist and use the top of the X formed to block into the kicking leg.


A different method against a right front kick coming towards you was to perform a left low block to that leg, then as the left arm performs the block, the right vertical knuckle punch strikes into the middle of their shin. This then is a class of augmented strike, which looks like an X block. Performed at very fast speed, anyone observing what was happening would see the X block as what was being used, but the actual technique was the augmented block and strike, at the same time.


Two different things all together, but they do resemble each other.


Fine uses for the movement, but Sherman explored different possibilities.


1.)  First he began with an attacker stepping in with a right punch as if towards your solar plexus or abdomen.


The defender steps in with his left foot and uses a right over left X block on top of the attackers arm, below their elbow. The right arm goes across the attackers arm. The left arm just blocks straight down, at the same time.


The defender then turns 180 to the right, while rotating their left arm up and around the attackers arm, bending their elbow. The defender draws their arms into their chest during the turn, and at the completion of their 180 they have locked the attacker’s arm and taken them down to the floor.


2.) Next he explores variations of that takedown, against the attacker Right foot forward right punch or the left foot forward left punch.


The defender uses the double hand descending X block wind up motion to parry the attackers first punch on the inside.


The defender can then:

a. Take the left arm and block/strike down as the right hand strikes across that arm into the abdomen.

b. Take the left hand and on the interior line of defense, strike into the ribs as the right strikes into the solar plexus.

          c. Use the descending X block to strike to the top of the right

punch then finish with number 1. above.


3. Explore the X block on the interior line of defense as an inside parry of the attackers first punch, then the options of the X strike.


-Deliver a right punch into the abdomen with the left hand strike hitting above the right punch.

- Deliver a left strike into the abdomen with the right hand punch after that strike immediately following it.


          Mr. Harrill showed a greater reaction to those double strikes using the

descending  strike in a staccato 1-2 manner instead of striking simultaneously.


4. Then Mr. Harrill went into greater detail on other options and potential followup movements to these strikes, parries, etc. Such as performing the rolling lock within the X block one-handed with the left hand  and using a

Right reverse punch at the end of No 1. Etc.


All in all, it is interesting knowledge which fully fits the Isshinryu system. It man seem simple and often is, but it falls within that vast category of things right in front of your face which you were never shown and haven’t taken the time to explore.


Well Mr. Harrill has taken that time, and does those applications.


Although I have conducted some explorations, once you discover a new facet of a technique, its too easy to stop there. He didn’t he just kept going and going and going.


Most interesting, my own discoveries, I haven’t seen in his explanations. Now I know I haven’t seen but a fraction of what he’s developed, but I thing it’s more the same. I’ve tried to follow tai chi movement explanations I have seen, and applied those explanations to Isshinryu movement, with some results. Where he did not come from the same perspective.


He’s also spent far more time hitting people than I have.I am sure that gives him a different perspective than I use.

*** post script ***


That is what I wrote then, over the years I learned a bit more about what Sherman Harrill was doing. But that is not what this piece was about, just those earliest impressions.


Also today looking back at what I wrote, I realize the number of techniques shown was my approximation at what Sherman was showing.


Years later on hearing of his death, I underwent a sort of possession, and for three month mostly non-stop I pulled together all the notes and things from 10 years of attending clinics with him, Then I wrote all  of it up by kata. The result the accumulation of 800 applications for Isshinryu’s 8 kata, and other things. Then I printed one hard copy out for myself, I called it my Sherm-pedia. These are photos of that book.

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