Saturday, August 12, 2017

Goshin/Jissen



  I was asked recently by a student to define the difference between Goshin (“self-defense”) and Jissen (“real/actual or non-consensual” combat), types of Kata. Though (IMO) often being a matter of semantics, I believe that the differences are with how the motions are being interpreted. I've seen several articles that attempt to “categorize” Kata into one or the other of those groups, but I believe this to be a myopic approach to viewing the Kata.

I tend to consider any/every kata motion (regardless of the kata it is being illustrated in) as having multiple interpretations. This was how Oyata defined and exampled them to us. Viewing those motions (much less the entire kata) as being One or the Other, seems a little pointless (and extremely limiting).

The implication being, that a particular kata was assembled to only example motions that could be used for one or the other is ridiculous.

I believe this has more to do with the instructor, than with the individual kata. I could see individual bunkai for a kata being “categorized” in this manor, but to proclaim the entire kata (and all of the bunkai for that kata) as being one or the other is a bit drastic (if not simplistic and limiting).

That being said, Oyata had in certain instances labeled certain (weapon's) kata as being “Jissen” (kata). Weapons kata were (mainly) taught for their benefits in regard to “open-hand” applications. The manipulation of the individual weapon would often illustrate a particular motion that was (directly) applicable to a commonly utilized open-hand application. If/when the kata was being shown to emphasize the use of that weapon (and of the motions contained therein), he would commonly call it “Jissen”. Doing so did not “change” the kata (per-say), only in how the student should be considering the motion's application.

Numerous systems teach “simplified” exercises/forms for beginning students (IMO, the “Pinan” kata fall into this category). Though often defined as having (only) “basic” bunkai, those motions were extracted from the classic kata, so the bunkai associated to them should (also) have the same interpretations as the kata from which they originated. It is this avenue of logic that I apply to the Pinan kata. Though personally preferring to practice the classic kata, I can appreciate the motions contained within the Pinan kata (though I don't particularly care for the practice of them).

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Practicality





 Training with Oyata would commonly expose a student to numerous uncomfortable situations. The most awkward of those was the preference for a student's use of their dominant side/hand. Having watched Oyata (on numerous occasions) perform a technique, it was obvious that he demonstrated no preference in his use of either the Left or Right hand/side. It was also common to hear him ask a student why they could not do likewise?

It has always been my own belief that Oyata was born “left-handed”, and raised (as the majority of society's do) to be “right-handed”. I believed my own father (who was of the same age group) was raised similarly. Both of these men would perform the majority of their actions, using their right-hand. But demonstrated only limited (if any) awkwardness when using the other (Left) hand. Within both Eastern and Western society (during that time), being left-handed was considered to be a “defect”. Children were commonly instructed to use their “right” hand for any/all manipulations that required the use of a single-hand.

Speak to any “left-handed” person that you know, and they will readily point-out how much society has been developed to/for (only) Right-handed people. My son is left-handed and I became aware of this “side-preference” (by society) when he was very young. Though he was raised to use his left-hand (for writing, shooting, catching a ball, etc) he has had to make numerous “adaptations” to comfortably function in society. This has become increasingly obvious to me in the commonly utilized training methods that are utilized by many, if not most systems.

The most dominant example (for those who train in Oyata's methodology) is that he taught us to begin an altercation “square” to an opponent. The majority of defensive systems will preach about how doing so is (in some way) a disadvantage. This has more to do with how an aggressor is anticipating their own attack, than in how one should be protecting themselves (as the defender should commonly be doing).

The assumption of any (side-dominant) “stance” prior to engaging in an altercation (in fact) limits the number of possible responses available to that individual. By beginning a confrontation “square” to an opponent, the student allows for (any) motion (equally) in any direction. This is often awkward for (most) students, as they are commonly only considering how they will enact their own “attack” (using their dominant hand). The student's practice should be focused upon their defense, rather than their (own) attack upon an opponent.

This is how the concept of “Defensive Striking” is commonly emphasized within Oyata's methodology. By not having a “side”(leg) forward, one can move to either direction more readily. Defensive striking does not focus upon enacting a “knock-out” strike, it emphasizes debilitating the opponent's limb's (initially) as these are what will deliver the aggressor's potential to create injury (upon the defender). Once the student has completed their defensive action, they can more easily move to any direction that may be required (to deliver a defensive strike or motion as required).

When one assumes the (commonly used) defensive posture of “one leg forward, one leg back”, the person's dominant side is usually the rearward side. Though (obviously) done in order to achieve greater momentum with the striking hand, doing so additionally limits the available ways that a strike or any defensive motion can be implemented. Any additional ability's “Defensively” are likewise restricted.

Defensively, this lets the defender “recognize” how an aggressor is likely to attempt a strike, and with which hand. Tactically this is enormously useful knowledge. The defender is then aware of how the aggressor is likely to attack (and can arrange their defense accordingly). Being that a strike to the head is the most likely (opening) “attack” made by an aggressor, the defender can then perform their defensive action accordingly.

Numerous people have made the (their) argument that “they” have been struck in the arm's numerous times (often by person's who practice Escrima and similar arts) and are completely capable of continuing their assault. This (IMO) this is a false equivalency argument. Being struck by a hand is very different than being struck by a “stick”. The perception is that being struck by a “stick” is more debilitating, I would argue (and demonstrate) that the hand can be (much) worse. A stick is capable of delivering a focused blow (impact), a hand can add numerous variables to that impact (and with less “power” being utilized with that strike).

The fact also remains that the majority of individual's don't “walk around” with a single (much less multiple) “sticks”. It's awkward and in most cases illegal to do so. I believe those arts have (some) merit, but take the “long-road” to the development of unarmed defensive tactics.

Unlike those methodologies, Oyata's system focuses on the natural motions of the student's limbs. Weapons are commonly taught in relation to those motions that can (naturally) be accomplished without the inclusion of those weapons.

When student's of Oyata's methodology begin their training with us, the ability to begin a confrontation being “square” to an aggressor requires time to acclimate to (in its implementation). Many systems attempt to “skip past” this (initial) portion of a confrontation and/or train to actually “wait” until (what they perceive to be) the (physical) “attack” begins. Oyata strove to change that perception.

That methodology was much simpler than most students assume it to be. In its simplest form, the right-hand will perform actions to the right side of the student, and the left-hand will perform actions to the left side of the student. The concept is focused on efficiency (without any further implication of any dominance in regards to “side” of a technique's implementation).

People who trained with/under Oyata would commonly speak of how “fast” he was, it wasn't that he was (exceptionally) “fast”, more that he was efficient in the performance of the instructed motions. He did not “include” any motion that did not contribute to an action's efficiency. This efficiency was exampled in every aspect of his art, he considered every motion made, to be an entire body motion/application.







Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Video Inconsistency's




  I am occasionally queried in regards to the video series that Oyata released in the early 90's. Mainly in regard to how the kata are (now) being taught (in comparison to those videos). There is a number of things that need to be understood in regards to those videos. At the time of their release, Oyata was in the midst of converting to teaching his system of RyuTe. What he was teaching was no longer (purely) “Ryukyu Kenpo” and he wanted to emphasize that distinction. Those video's did not clarify those differences.
What was shown on those videos, was (more accurately) “Ryukyu Kenpo”. The manor that he (later) wanted the kata to be practiced included (numerous) changes that (in his mind) clarified many of the kata motions bunkai. Those motion's changes included many of the differences in how he wanted the motions to be performed, so as to emphasize the fundamentals that he felt were applicable to what he was teaching. He stated that we (his students) hadn't been seeing those motions (on our own, without his guidance).
By changing the name of what he was teaching, his goal was to stop students from referencing “old/other” examples (which he stated were “inaccurate” for what he was then teaching).
Oyata stated that those additions were always present in the kata motions and that (prior) instructor's had not corrected them (within their students performance of those motions). He additionally stated that some instructor's had performed the motions/positions incorrectly (or more precisely, inaccurately). In the case of one (famous) instructor/master, that person had an (anatomical) “defect”(?) that didn't allow him to perform a “horse stance” (correctly). That instructor was (naturally) “splay-foot” (he was unable to turn his feet inward/towards one another). By (his) example, this anomaly was passed on to the manor his student's performed the stance, and became “canon” for the system he taught.
To that end, Oyata rarely used himself as being an “example”. He would often demonstrate (how “he” performed a motion), but would commonly (only) correct specific inconsistency's in how a student would perform that same motion. Oyata understood that each student would motion (slightly) differently. Those differences wouldn't change the principles of the motion being performed, though how the motion looked may vary (slightly).
My (personal) belief is that this was why he didn't want to do the videos (to begin with). He didn't want students to consider “his” performance (of the illustrated motions and kata) to be considered the only (or final) correct example (as was exampled through his continued modifications to those kata). Doing so would additionally restrict/limit the student's inclination to continue improving what was being taught.
Oyata considered the videos as being “promotional” (advertisements?) for prospective students (NOT as training references). They exampled numerous “popular” applications (bunkai) for the kata motions, though “skipped” twice as many of the basic (bunkai) motion examples. The videos additionally fail to demonstrate any of the instructed principles that permeated his system of Life Protection (though several “basic” concepts are mentioned in the included audio).
It should be notated that the majority (if not all) of the individual's that appear in those videos (in the role of “uke”) were ejected, or quit soon after the release of those videos (mid “90's”). That's not to say those persons had no talent or had no “skills”, only that they were not present for the numerous changes and additions that Oyata made in regards to how he wanted his methodology to be taught.
Those changes were the reason why Oyata didn't want those tapes to be used as “reference” (for his students). They were intended as “student recruitment” videos, not for (present) student training or reference. What was taught during the “Ryukyu Kenpo” years was legitimate, but it was (very) different from what (and how) he taught that information (until his death 15+ years later).







Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Putting "Power", in perspective





  The majority of striking methods used in the commonly taught styles of “martial arts” (regardless of the method taught), are based upon the amount of force used to deliver them. There are 4 factors involved with that delivery, mass, speed and momentum all of which are utilized in regard to the fourth element, placement (or accuracy). The quantity's of any of the first 3 factors will determine the level of result achieved, and the type/manner of that effect, will depend upon the 4th factor (accuracy) for the delivery for those (combined) elements.
“Effect”, is the result from an applied action. When analyzing one's technique application(s), one has to first evaluate whether the result that was achieved via the applied/delivered action, was (both) effective, and (anatomically) efficient. Those results are not mutually exclusive (ie. A technique can be effective, yet not efficient, and/or efficient yet have only limited effect). Circumstances can additionally modify those evaluations.
Mass is the least relevant of those factors. Though (possibly) being able to compensate for an inadequacy (in another element), it cannot (completely) replace any of them. The most important is accuracy. The higher the level of accuracy, the less important those additional factors become.
The common (if not standard) belief, is that a Larger, Stronger individual is more likely to defeat a smaller (ie.”weaker”) individual (with other factors being supposedly equal). This is a misleading belief. The assumption is being made that despite an individual's ability (knowledge), they will (for some reason?) be unable to utilize that knowledge/ability (because of the size difference?). The instructed techniques are not based upon those physical factors, so why would they (somehow) become (suddenly) irrelevant?
Despite any presumed equality, a larger (stronger) person learns, practices and understands the instructed material differently. The smaller (weaker) person will of practiced that material with the intent of defeating the larger/stronger opponent (as it would have been considered their greatest threat). The victor in a confrontation is never (solely) based upon size/strength, it is based upon knowledge (of how to utilize the individual's available attributes, and the degree of practice that they have committed to that pursuit).
The master's are (rarely) considered as having been such, because of their physical prowess. It is more commonly (if at all) only mentioned as a side-note. If this were not the case, then they would have been (regularly) defeated by larger/stronger individual's.
Perpetuating this strength fallacy, is detrimental to a student's training. It shouldn't be ignored, but (instead) utilized within one's training. One's training should already be done in this regard. The difficulty in doing so, is if they have a compatible type of student to practice with.
Speed is (often) the most easily modified factor for the newer student to achieve (or at least to make the attempt of modifying). Unfortunately, it should also be the last of those attributes to be addressed during one's practice of the instructed techniques/motions.
It is also momentum, that is the least understood, and is (therefor) regularly the least correctly utilized. The most common misunderstanding if not misapplication of momentum, is in regards to body motion (during the delivery of a limb action). Numerous systems/instructor's believe (and teach their student's) that one should swivel their hips or retract the opposite arm while delivering a strike (whether with the arm's or the legs). While providing a feeling (by the performer) of the motion (if not resistance), it adds little to nothing (beneficial) to the performed action. The fact that the person feels the motion, is evidence that any supposed increase in force is not being transferred (in)to the impacted person/object.
The efficient use of any of these factors requires that one be familiar with the (natural) anatomical motions & limitations of one's own body and (thereby) that of others (in general). The difference in whether “power” (momentum/force) is being transferred, is whether it is felt, or not. When it is (being felt), it isn't being transferred.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Higher Level Yudansha




 Within the martial arts community, it has become common place to refer to and/or example a person's validity (for whatever they are promoting) via their having a Higher (5th-10th) level of Yudansha (black belt) rank. Presumably, those individuals have been involved with study/training for extended periods of time, and therefore (also) have greater knowledge/experience in whatever it is that they are presenting/teaching.

 Particularly within the United States, this is a poor methodology for determining a prospective instructor's knowledge/ability (much less the ability to teach that subject, regardless of the individual's ability).

 Rank (in general) is more often purchased than earned. Though understanding that the majority of martial arts are being taught as being a financial income source, thereby making that endeavor and (only) a profit driven entity. Having a higher rank, provides one with (presumed) validity (for whatever they are teaching). By one having a higher rank (than the other person/instructor) one will attract more students (presumably).

 Oyata always stated that before you open a school/dojo, have a real job (to earn money to provide for your family). And NO, running a Dojo is not a real job. It can be fun, and even very fulfilling, but a real job doesn't depend on teaching a subject that will be unlikely to fulfill someone's life.  Those types of jobs only fulfill a niche/interest of the paying (and teaching) individual.

 In America, profit is the worshiped entity. If you can make a profit at doing anything, it's viewed as being productive (?). Anything that doesn't provide a profit, is considered to be a “hobby”. If you're (actually) providing a need, you should (ethically) be doing so for Free. It can also be argued that if/when someone gets something for Free, they don't/won't fully engage themselves in that pursuit.

 This is the conundrum that instructors commonly find themselves. Beyond (commercially) “running a Dojo”, the need for achieving a higher rank (beyond Yudansha) is only useful in regards to one's social positioning within the martial arts community (and thereby attracting more students). Though I have interacted with numerous higher level Yudansha, I have considered (very) few of them to be any more/less “knowledgeable” than any of the others that I've met.

 Rank, is more commonly being used to compare individual's to one another, rather than being any acknowledgment of knowledge or ability. Higher rank is often associated with longer time having been spent training, learning (and/or doing “something”) that has increased their knowledge level. More often this is not the case.

 Rank is far more often purchased. Once a testing fee has been paid, the individual is most likely going to receive that rank. I've seen it so many times, in so many systems/styles and martial art's organizations that I (and most people I've spoken to) have been affiliated with that it has become the accepted standard/norm.

 Though awarding higher rank “may” acknowledge some difference in one's knowledge/ability (often only within that specific group of individual's), that rank should not imply any presumed general superiority (of either knowledge or ability).

 I've encountered numerous individual's who had impressive levels of knowledge. Rank rarely had any bearing on the validity of that knowledge, or in regards to their ability to apply (or teach) that information. Many of those individual's had only minimal (if any) recognized “ranking” in any system.

 My personal interest has always been in the transference (teaching) of knowledge. Not every “skilled” individual is a good/competent instructor. One's personal ability is a separate skill-set (from being able to convey that knowledge/ability to a student). That ability most often comes (only) after having years of (teaching) experience. It's for that reason that I encourage interested parties (student's) to observe and to question an instructor's student's (as to an instructor's competency). That includes my own.

 Depending on what it is that you're wanting to learn, the Rank (of the instructor) should be one of the last considerations. The majority of systems require paying (the requisite amount) for whatever rank one deems it necessary to teach (whatever it is that is being shown). Keep in mind that there are NO “industry” standards in this regard (or any other regard for that matter). Personal experience has shown myself, that there are (approximately) 8 low to medium quality instructor's, for every 2 of decent ability to teach (not necessarily perform) some manner of “martial art” (regardless of the “system”). Even in those systems that require some level of performance (of/for the required motions/techniques) for the awarded ranking. Their abilities (or lack thereof) in regards to instruction (teaching) are rarely if ever addressed (much less taught).

 Any rank, is only recognized within the individual organization that it was issued in. Every system/methodology/school has different standards, and few (if any) systems are in place to confirm/validate the testing of Yudansha (Black Belt) applicants.

 The majority of systems promote the idea that those ranks awarded above (approx.) “5th” degree/level, are “honorary”, and are only representing the amount of time that the individual has devoted to the system. This might be easier to accept (believe?) if those same individual's didn't have multiple (Yudansha) rankings, in multiple systems(?).

 IMO, Part of that problem could be rectified by requiring that every person entering a “New/Different” system (from the one they originally received their Yudansha ranking), be required to study that (new) system for 1 (?) year minimum, prior to receiving any ranking (in the new system). Personally, I feel it should only be done for the reception of a Shodan (1st Degree) ranking, regardless of any prior experience. Shodan represents having learned all the basic motions for the system, the assuming of the individual's knowledge (beyond that level), only belittles whatever system/methodology it is that being taught. Despite that (obvious) fact, numerous “instructor's” have (equally) numerous, and often higher rankings, in multiple systems of martial arts(?).

  This situation exists in every system that I have ever encountered (either through study within that system, or through speaking/working with individual's within those other systems). Personally, I had 6 years of study within a different system prior to what I now teach, Beyond having learned some basic motions and positions (all of which had to be later changed/modified), I consider that time as having been wasted time (for my study and interests). I don't normally acknowledge it as having “added” to my knowledge level.

 When I see the lists of different martial art styles/system's (and “ranks”) that an individual claims to possess, I have to conclude that none of those “systems” were adequate in their instruction (at least for that individual). That being the case, then why include a listing of them? The only logical answer (IMO) is for personal Ego.

  The only common “fact” that can be determined by someone having/claiming/promoting the fact that they have a Higher (or any) Yudansha Ranking, is that they have spent money (in regards to now having that rank). The amount of (any) actual “knowledge” (or ability) they may have is more often than not, questionable.

  That shouldn't imply that I haven't met some very knowledgeable people. Their ranking meant little to nothing to myself. It was only when they emphasized that ranking, that my (personal) opinion of them evaporated. Though the few that I did feel were (exceptionally) knowledgeable, were (very) few and far between.

  Oyata (often) referred to “Higher Rank”(and titles), as well as the various “colored” belts and patches, as lipstick (on a Pig). He didn't concern himself with a student's “rank/title”. All student's were shown (and practiced) the same techniques. Those that were concerned with them, he often (only) made note of. A number of them quit (or managed to get themselves expelled) prior to his death.

  Higher Ranking only became vogue after the Japanese began teaching the Okinawan systems (and adopted the dressings of the Japanese systems). Being a member of a (whatever) system shouldn't be the only justification for the awarding of (any) “Higher” ranking. It can (should?) be recognized, but it doesn't (or shouldn't) imply that the person has been (actively) improving/increasing what they know (or how they do it). The only thing being displayed (via a higher rank/title), is the individual's ego.

  When asked, I tell people interested in attending a (or any) “self-defense” class, to question (and observe) the instructor's student's (the instructor's personal abilities/knowledge mean little if that knowledge isn't being conveyed). An instructor's Job, is to convey knowledge/ability, not to (only) example their own Rank, which should (only) be noted as a display of the instructor's ego










 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pain, and it's relevance to technique application





   After 30-some years of teaching experience, I've found that students are inclined to obsess over Pain (either receiving it, avoiding it or creating it). For many (initially), they may be trying to learn to avoid it (at least occurring upon themselves). As they progress in their studies though that perspective is ..redirected.
  As students progress in their study, they learn to seek a desired reaction in order to understand their own (proper) positioning for the application of that technique. Not that you should be desiring to (specifically) inflict pain, only that you seek to recognize the position and/or limits that create a practical “reaction” to the applied technique.
  With that understanding, you can choose (while applying a technique in a defensive situation) whether only soliciting pain is sufficient, or if damage is required to neutralize the aggressor (as well as how to avoid it yourself, if/when a similar technique is attempted upon you).
  Pain is usually measured by the level of reaction (motion) away from the application. The student needs to be familiar with the limb's R.O.M. (Range of Motion) so they can precipitate those reactive motions as they occur (or don't occur if/when the technique is improperly applied).
  Understanding R.O.M. Will aid the student in responding to unexpected reactions as well (example: if you stomp on someone's foot, they will tend to strike or push you away prior to tending to their foot). This is often done with no conscious (or even necessarily malicious) thought, it's a simple reflex response.
  Though pain can be a useful reference in a classroom environment, in an actual encounter, the adrenaline surge that is usually experienced (by both parties) and can distort, or even negate any perceived pain levels. It's for that reason that a thorough knowledge of R.O.M. Needs to be understood. The knowledge to mechanically limit/restrict the ability of another to move, is an often overlooked aspect of limb manipulation (Tuite).
  The commonly misunderstood aspect of Tuite, is that although those techniques are often painful, pain is not the reason they work. Just as there are subliminal nerves that make your heart pump, there are nerves that oversee the well-being of the body. When those nerves detect an undue, or potentially damaging situation about to occur (whether real, or only perceived as being so), they create responses (commonly through body-motion) to avoid that occurrence.
  When a Tuite technique is applied upon your wrist, why do the knee's buckle? The body is taking care of itself whether any pain is felt or not (and motions the body in order to relieve that pain/perceived threat). Oyata's techniques, and the reactions elicited through their use, are based upon the body's natural motions and their responses.
  We tend to view pain as a bonus. If it occurs great! (our job will be easier), if not, doesn't matter, the body is being mechanically manipulated (which will negate the subject's ability to physically resist and/or retaliate).
  Typically, people associate Kyusho with pain as well. This is a similar scenario. Though Kyusho points are often painful, that pain, is not (always) the desired reaction. There are numerous Kyusho locations that elicit NO pain what-so-ever (when utilized).
  Many of those locations are unrecognized mechanical leverage locations as well. I find it amusing to have student's ask about the locations of Kyusho points. They often expect them to be some not previously recognized location. Most locations are (in fact) realized, it's just not known how they should be utilized.
  In either case (Tuite or Kyusho), it isn't always the pain that is the (sole) motivator, or immobilizer. It's the mechanical inability to counter the technique and the recipient's inability to prevent the response or reaction, that makes the technique valuable to know (as a defensive tool/response).




Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Anomaly Fallacy : (the “Great Excuse”)




  Personally, I thought the “Anomaly” fallacy had been (finally!) dismissed as being untrue (or at least “inaccurate”). This fallacy was commonly associated with a person's ability to perform a “Tuite” technique upon certain individual's (the so-called “Anomaly”). This was commonly demonstrated by various (popular) “instructors”, by exampling particular individual's (that they provided). They would perform (at least “their” version of) a “Tuite” technique upon an individual, and “show” that the technique couldn't/wouldn't work upon that individual.

  It was never even suggested that the individual (performing the technique) was (simply) unable to perform the technique (correctly) upon that individual, it was “always” that the person was one of the (implied) “anomalies” and that the technique couldn't/wouldn't work on them. The person (who couldn't perform the technique) would then claim that a certain percentage of the population (which varied, depending upon the person providing the claim) couldn't have those techniques performed upon them.

  Though not necessarily being an untrue claim, the percentage provided was (as the percentage provided was commonly between 30-40%) definitely inaccurate. To compound the person's ignorance (of “Tuite”), the person would commonly claim that more “power” would be required to cause the technique to function.

  Though being sure that there are people who may be resistant to those manner of techniques, the claim that the number is of the quantity claimed is ridiculous. It (more often) only requires that the technique be done correctly (which in every example I have witnessed, it wasn't). I have been teaching this art for over 40 years. I've performed these techniques upon (literally) hundreds of individual's. I have yet, to of encountered one of those “anomaly's” (yet, these individual's claim that they encounter one or two at every seminar???). There do exist individual's who are difficult (meaning that the technique must be performed exactly correct to elicit the desired response) but we have encountered NONE for whom the techniques could not be achieved.

  Obviously it's easier to make the claim that there are “anomaly's” out there, and whatever it is that they are teaching, won't work on them. That would infer a lack of knowledge/ability upon the person attempting the technique (something that these individual's would never admit to).

  Oyata taught that Tuite required (correct) technique. The size and/or strength (of either the tori or uke) was irrelevant. This means that the smallest student, should be able to utilize the technique upon the largest/strongest student, and achieve the desired result. The fact that an individual has a high pain threshold, or is extremely flexible, makes NO difference for achieving the desired result. Using the “anomaly” excuse, should only be a sign that the individual doesn't (completely/correctly) understand the techniques application.

  Obviously “strikes” used in conjunction with a techniques application will (often) make that technique easier to apply/make function (mostly by through being a distraction). That shouldn't imply that doing so is a requirement for it's functionality. Slow Practice of the instructed Tuite motions should be done to understand how/why they do or don't work (for the individual). The addition of superlative strikes (whether hand or foot) are (almost) always included in actual defensive situations.

  Seminars (in general) do not allow one to learn/practice a newly shown technique (Tuite, in particular). There is insufficient time to do so. These types of techniques require months (of practice) to perfect (or even become somewhat competent with). Seminars are intended to elicit interest in further instruction (commonly by the presenter of the seminar). They should not be considered (serious) “Training” sessions. Nor should one believe that they are (completely) competent in a techniques application after having (only) learned a technique at/during their attendance at a seminar.





Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Problem with "Reactionary" Training




  When I'm working with students on their technique/combination execution. I'm constantly telling them to be Active, and not Reactive. This often goes against many (other) instructor's teachings. It seems that most classes drill on speeding-up a student's reaction time (in response to the aggressive actions being made upon them). There's nothing wrong (per-say) with doing so, but in the long run, it works against the student.
 
How? by training the student to wait for an aggressor's motion/technique, before beginning their own motion/technique.
 
My problem with this manner of practice, isn't in the concept, only in the execution. What the vast majority of student's do, is to wait, until they see/identify the individual manner of an aggressor's attack method, before they execute their own defensive actions.
 
A great deal of this comes from systems stating that “such and such” (motion/technique) is for a “such and such” (attack method). This is repeated through (generally, 6-8) different manors of defending one's self, from whatever specific attacking method/manner is used each time. Frankly, it's too many choices to be made before a defense can even happen (which means it will never happen in a real situation). 

 
This is one of those circumstances that having a choice can work against you. In a controlled, practice environment, I can come up with a dozen different responses to any particular aggressive motion made (towards myself). Experience has shown, that in reality, I will commonly utilize one of (maybe) 4 different responses to any given situation.
 
Recently, I've had student's working on our 2-handed strike. This technique is designed to offer an effective defense, while (also) providing the ability to strike an aggressor's arm (when they execute a strike). This technique is maybe one of the most miss-applied techniques in our repertoire.
 
As demonstrated in an earlier blog, the motion is simple and can be utilized against either a Left or Right-handed strike. It is performed in the same way, regardless of which hand the aggressor is utilizing. The purpose (beyond preventing the aggressor's strike from landing) is to disable the aggressor's arm. This 2nd goal is not always achievable, but should none the less be what is attempted.
 
Very often, and understandably, student's focus is on preventing the strike from landing. Though obviously achieving a purpose, it does nothing to prevent further attempts being made.
 
Merely hitting the aggressor's arm, will rarely accomplish much (short of preventing being struck). For some, this is sufficient. For our student's, this is considered less than ideal. If an aggressor is able to repeat the strike, then nothing has been achieved.
 
Initially, the striking of the arm is sufficient (for training). This is expanded to include a kick (and of course, a follow-up strike). For now, the goal is to disable the aggressor's arm. This can be accomplished by several different striking methods, as well as the particular locations being struck (upon the arm).
 
It's during this manner of practice, that those locations are learned, and attempts are being made to contact/utilize them. Because our focus is being limited to only performing the arm motions, this is difficult. Students can easily become frustrated (legs are included at a later date).
 
The individual motions are broken down to illustrate their specific actions, which have often been ignored, or over-simplified (by the student for their own benefit of execution). This modification of the taught technique, though simpler to perform, is now lacking in the ability to cause injury to the aggressor's arm/limb.
 
This is most commonly evident in the manner that the outside forearm strike is being performed. When done as taught, the motion will rise close to the tori's body, then motion outward (towards the uke). The hand is kept at a 45º angle, this is very important to maintain. If the hand/fist is kept at a flat, 90º angle, or even vertical, the tori will not be able to strike the (several) shown locations (points).
 
The fact that the strike leaves the body in a forward direction is what (IMO) confuses beginning student's the most. It's easier to understand knocking a strike away (by moving in a windshield wiper manner) than to strike the aggressor's arm (in several shown locations) and possibly injure that arm.
 
Part of what's not being realized is that the tori's body is going to be motioning also. Not that it's going to move a great deal (unlike some instructor's that will have their student's spinning around like a top, just to perform one of their “blocks”). That motion (for us) is only a 10-15º rotation. If the student has been practicing the motion correctly, that now makes the (practiced) forward motion, at an angle to the aggressor. It also allows more momentum/power to be included in that motion/strike.
 
Once this is understood (by the student), they can begin focusing upon their own strike (instead of the uke's). When the motion is being done correctly, the tori's strike will connect, and the uke's strike will be diverted (along with causing injury to the uke's arm).
 
Practicing in this manner will make the student faster, simply by eliminating those unnecessary steps (evaluating what the uke is doing, which technique to react with, Left/Right strike etc.). The less ambidextrous a technique is, the less useful it is.
 
The attempt at being reactive to whatever may be thrown at you (with a host of techniques to choose from), is an exercise in futility. The student should only have 2 or 3 (with little to no distinction between them) options. This often will only come, once one's basic technique motion is correctly understood. I often read that once one becomes Yudansha, they're always working on basic motions. Well, get a clue....






Monday, March 27, 2017

Fine Vs. Gross (Motor Skills)



  A recent thread on another blog/discussion group addressed the “practicality” of the use/application (if not the ability to apply) of what are commonly referenced as being “fine” motor skills during a confrontational situation. That “ability” is only achieved through repeated practice of those motions. (obviously) for the beginner, or newly introduced (to the motion(s)), their application would be questionable. But for the experienced, not nearly to the degree that many persons attempt to disparage them.

  For many of those that critique their applicability, those persons (commonly) train (if not focus upon) the use of blunt force techniques/applications. Although that manner of technique application has it's virtue's, it additionally contains numerous detriments. Namely, the requirement that the user be sufficiently strong/large enough for it to effect the recipient (of that application). For the smaller (if not weaker) practitioner, their use becomes extremely limited (if not totally negated).

  The way that many of those detractors (for the use of supposedly “fine” motor skills) attempt to disparage them, is by stating that when under stress or duress, that one cannot perform those motions. They imply that the “use” of those techniques/motions require some manner of delicate manipulation of one's finger's, arm's or body(?). I'm not sure (exactly) what they are referring to, but the manner that I/we were taught (and teach) those motions were learned as being entire body motions. Yes, there are subtle movements involved with the performance of (many of) them, but they are rarely “delicate” in their use/application.

  Those individuals may be referencing the fact that we practice/demonstrate those motions slowly (?). this is (obviously) done for both safety, and clarity of instruction. As long as the motions are performed correctly, speed (of application) becomes less relevant, and power becomes only a (minor) contributing factor. Those same motions can (often) be performed “sloppily” and still achieve a desirable result. But to disregard them (off-hand), based on the belief that they are (somehow) regarded as being a “fine motor-skill/movement” is disingenuous.
 When performed correctly, they do not require greater amounts of (physical) force to be a condition of their successful implementation. Speed, (obviously) can be a determining factor in their successful application, but “power” isn't (or shouldn't be).

  The general (miss) conception is that one will not be able to perform (any) minor or subtle hand motions. This is more perception than fact. Those abilities are determined (more so) by individual experience, than by any levels of technical motion.   
 Though not (often enough) considered, “practice” equates to experience (in regards to ability of/for application). That equivalence is dictated by the level of “realism” experienced during the practice of applying the motion. Though safety is mandated (during any level of practice), realism should be explored to those levels deemed acceptable by the participants.

  Beyond the individual motions of the “basic” application, possible reactions/counters (made by the uke) should be included once the student becomes familiar with the application. The term “Fine-Motor” skills, commonly is used to describe (subtle) motions that don't (generally) cause/create specific reactions by the uke. The use (or “lack”) of those subtle motions will rarely affect the general response made to (or as a result of) the application of the technique.  
 The term “subtle” is subjective (to the subject being addressed). In this case, the use of “Tuite” (during a confrontation) is often dismissed because of the mistaken belief that it can't be utilized because of the (perceived) belief that it can not be effectively implemented during a confrontation. This belief is commonly based upon the belief that a resisting aggressor will nullify one's ability to do so. If that were accurate, the entire premise of “Tuite” would be negated. The use and application of Tuite during a confrontation is done with subtlety (non-forcefully). Though (crudely) possible, Tuite is not intended to be “muscled” (and will more commonly “fail” when that attempt is made). 





Friday, February 24, 2017

Content





 With our continuing exposure to various styles/systems, whether that be through our “visiting” students, the prior experiences of our (regular) students, or through the seminars that we are offering (in addition to the casual observation of other classes). It's becoming (more) obvious to us that Oyata's belief that all (systems of) “karate”, are more similar than different, is a justified belief.

 Regardless of the “system” being taught (whether traditional or eclectic), the motions they contain are (generally) being taught and practiced in the same (or similar) manners (as most every other system is teaching them to be performed). There are often minor differences (with, or without any “reasons” being provided), but the generalized motions are more similar than different in virtually every case.

 This understanding has made it easier for us to provide instruction to those students so that what we are showing them can be incorporated into what those students are (already) familiar with. Oyata's greatest asset (at least in “our” opinion), was that he had an answer for why those motions were to be performed in the instructed manner (whether that motion was within kata, or within the application of an instructed motion).

 Those differences are seen in how (as well as why) Oyata taught us to perform the majority of the instructed motions/actions. It mattered not, whether those motions were in reference to “Tuite” or with the “striking” applications being practiced. We will often (well, occasionally) encounter similarly taught principles and practices, but they are often being based upon (in our opinion) flawed principles (if not “beliefs”).

 If one “solely” gathers their understanding of (other) system “differences” (from watching internet video clips), they will (quickly) have a very skewed understanding of those differences.   The most common response is to “critique” what has been shown, without (actually) seeing if it does or doesn't work (at least in regards to how it is being presented).

 What we've found, is that numerously shown motions/techniques can be performed (successfully) if/when Oyata's principles have been applied to/included with them. What we've seen, is that the majority (of those instructed motions/techniques) are being taught, based on their being “muscled”. That approach is only valid, as long as the student is larger/stronger than their opponent. If what you are learning is based on being a “defense” (that can be used by anyone), and upon “anyone”, then size/strength (of either party) should make no difference (in regards to a techniques viability).

 When providing our seminars, we've found that we can (usually) demonstrate how those technique's already known/practiced by the attending student's, can become (more) effective, and applicable to those students. Our seminars are not “Look at what we can do” events, they are how can you improve what you are already doing “learning” seminars.

  Once the basic instruction of the shown applications has been practiced (by the attending students), we encourage those students to “question” what they've been shown. Without “critique” the seminar would only be a “look at me” event. Basic instruction is only intended to introduce the application/technique to the student.  
 Once that introduction is made, then the practicalities of its use/application needs to be understood (by the attending students). For every “one” student that asks a question, there is (commonly) four more (student's) who don't ask (at least until the class has ended).

  The advantage to attending a seminar is the ability to ask questions of the person(s) providing that event. We don't consider “questions” as being challenges to what we are showing. We consider those questions as being opportunities to “clarify” what was shown. Questions are (rarely) “unique”. We have (cumulatively) over 60 years of experience (between only my associate and myself). Those “Questions”, are often those that have been asked by ourselves (over our own training period) or by our (regular) students. We welcome new/different perspectives, and questions, have the potential to expand our own study/practice. We utilize this same approach in/during our own classes as well (and a “seminar” should be treated no differently in our opinion).

  Though not (initially) intending this post to be a “how to make attending a seminar worthwhile”, I feel as if it is something that needs to be addressed. When watching someone's “video post” (on “whatever” technique/application), “I” have numerous questions (that come to mind), and nobody seems to ask any. If they are, then those questions have been edited out (or are not included in those clips). IMO, this infers that the “instructor” of that seminar (video) is only promoting theirselves, not what's being (supposedly) shown.

  Anything shown/learned at a seminar, should be questioned (to the provider of the subject matter). Those questions will (either) confirm, question, or refute the provided subject matter. If/when the “guest” (instructor?) can't provide equitable answers (to those questions), you are providing a service to your own class (as well as any other attendee's).

  That instructor should have the requested answers to those questions. If/When they don't, why are they providing the instruction? An experienced instructor will have those answers, not “vague” responses that elude to some “mystical” reason as to why or why not.

  I make these statements based on my own experiences (both attending, and providing seminars). When you are attending a seminar, “you” are the customer (you probably paid to attend it), you should be asking those questions that allow you to believe you received your money's (and “time's) worth. Even if/when that “seminar” is free, you're still committing your time (that could be utilized elsewhere/otherwise). 
 Whether what is being shown is (in your opinion) “good” or “bad”, something can be gained through the attendance of that event. It's (unfortunately) often up to you to determine what that level of knowledge may be.