Friday, September 1, 2017
A number of individuals have contacted us in regards to what we are now teaching, and how we are advancing Oyata's art. For the most part, we are teaching the same things that we always have, Oyata's Life Protection art. Being that this instruction came directly from him (Oyata) we have always been aware of where he desired that instruction to lead. We have removed (numerous) practices from our curriculum that were believed by Oyata to be irrelevant to that purpose. The decision to do so was additionally influenced by the fact that we do not instruct minors, and we do not participate in competitive demonstrations (sport “sparring” competitions). Our classes are focused on “personal” self-defense and the repercussions of those actions (both legal and personal).
The majority of our student instruction is based upon the guidance we received from Oyata in regards to his performance of the open-hand kata that he provided to us. Those “traditional” kata are taught by numerous other systems as well, but he had modified them to better reflect his own interpretations and applications. Those modifications were based upon his own research and the instructional scrolls he received from his instructor's (Wakinaguri and Uhugushugu). Those scrolls emphasize principles of motion and application of the instructed motions, NOT specific “techniques” (as is commonly promoted and/or believed).
Although Oyata studied with several additional (Okinawan) instructor's, that study was focused on the learning of various additional “kata” that his instructor's had not taught to him. It was those kata that he incorporated into the kyu-level curriculum for his system. The kata taught to him by his 2 (actual) instructor's was reserved for his Yudansha level students. Oyata additionally included several “exercises” to his curriculum (“Turtle”, “Spiderweb”, etc.). These were (essentially) Lead-Ins to Shi Ho Happo and Mei Ho Happo (the Yudansha kata).
A major portion of Oyata's Life-Protection methodology is centered around the use/application of Tuite. This is the “grappling” art that is demonstrated within the various kata. Oyata recognized that the majority of confrontations do not require the student to inflict injury (or serious damage) to an assailant. Confrontations can (often) include individual's known to the student. The infliction of injury (upon an adversary) can easily become detrimental to the student (for various reasons). Tuite provides an effective means to defend one's self without that concern. It (additionally) provides the means to escalate as well (should that need present itself).
Obviously, striking and kicking methods are taught as well, but they are focused on the neutralization of an opponent's ability to continue their assault (rather than the physical defeat of that assailant). Though often considered a matter of semantics, this is a distinct difference (from how many “martial art's” are presented/taught).
Person's who choose to study with us, are commonly interested in their own “self-defense”. This requires that they learn Oyata's approach to doing so. That study includes numerous (seemingly) minor variations from how (and why) particular motions are performed. Our classes include lectures on how an assailant does and doesn't move, how an assault is (physically) initiated, and what reactions are commonly performed (in regards to a technique's application). The student is shown the differences in how/why applications will be applied, based upon the size of the student (as well as the assailant).
Oyata taught that the physical size of the student should be irrelevant to a technique's effectiveness. He regularly demonstrated that a student's physical size/strength were irrelevant to a correctly performed technique's application. For that reason, a student must be well versed in the human bodies natural range's of motion (ROM) and the (common) limitations of those motions.
Unlike many (if not most) classes, we do not emphasize (or provide) “calisthenics” as any part of our student's practice. If a student is interested in furthering their personal “physical fitness”, we suggest that they attend a gym (to do so). Though (minor) increases in a student's physical abilities may be achieved, that is not our classes emphasis.
Our classes are kept small for a reason. This allows us to provide individual guidance of the instructed motions, and the reason's for how those motions are performed. The average class is 2 hours in length. Every student is (physically) different, and therefore performs the individual motions (slightly) differently. Though it is popular to teach a class “as a whole”, motions will commonly require individual instruction (in regards to use/application). Though I'm sure there are individual's who have “mastered” the ability to do so, I have found no (viable) examples of how that is efficiently achieved.
There is no “group” testing of our student's (in regards to kyu-rank advancement), every student is addressed/taught on an individual basis. We rarely even inform a student that they were under review (for a kyu-rank advancement) as we conduct no “formal” testing of kyu-rank students. Those students who thrive on “rank” advancement, are often disappointed (by our instructional methods). Expanding on Oyata's desire's, we don't require the wearing of (any) “belts” (colored or otherwise). Student's are aware of their present “kyu-level” (of instruction), but that awareness is only provided for their reference for what information has/has not (probably) been shown to them.
Student's are given a “basic” requirement list, this list provides a reference for the student's awareness of shown (and/or not shown) principles and technique's. As student's vary in their frequency of attendance, the average time for achievement of a Yudansha grading will vary (though the average is commonly between 3 and 6 years). Once a Yudansha has been achieved, students are encouraged to become a functional part of our research group (exploring the continued and advanced application of/for technique and instructional research).
Though no longer affiliated with the “Ryu Te” organization, we continue contact with individual members of that organization. We regularly associate with (and conduct/attend seminars with) various “non-Oyata” based organizations/groups. Our (Oyata Te) group provides instruction and guidance for those persons who have an interest in Oyata's instruction and applicational methods.
The use of “Japanese” terminology is kept to a minimum (per Oyata's directives). We do provide (and to a very limited extent, require) an “awareness” of commonly utilized/encountered (Japanese) “kanji”.
That awareness is commonly coupled with some of Oyata's teachings (in regards to “body-motion”, technique application, etc.).
Oyata stressed the practice of “Weapon's Kata” to emphasize the motions relationship to “Open-hand” technique application. Different weapon's manipulations and motions mandated (different) hand/wrist motions. These motions are directly related to the instructed “Open-hand” (technique) motions. The use of the “Bokken” (weighted wooden sword) was the only “physical” development tool utilized (in regards to forearm strength).
We regularly admit that what/how we teach, is not “ego” enhancing. But for those who study diligently, the results will be more than a little enlightening, and prove to be more than adequate.
If you should have any questions, feel free to inquire. I/we commonly respond within a few days (we obviously have "other" things going on besides this "Blog").
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
We recently received our “new” school “T-Shirt” orders, and I find myself (again) having to explain what's printed on them (to people that I encounter outside of the dojo). The “back” of the shirt displays the “Ka Han Shin- Jo Han Shin” logo that we put together. It additionally includes the kanji for “Left/Right, Forward/Back” as well, but many (well...most) people are confused by the relationship.
This principle was taught by Oyata to explain application and responses to/from the instructed techniques learned in his system.
In it's “basic” form, the assertion is that Left controls Right, Right controls Left. When (further) applied to all body motion (whether in response to, or application of motion) it includes Front to Back, Upper and Lower. What's more commonly seen, is a “separated” display of individual limb action, applied (and related to) as being independent of any other actions. Oyata's main goal, was for the student to understand that there is a direct correlation between an action/motion and the opposing side of the body during that motion. This was a physical (and natural) response.
I was recently watching one of the “TCM” guy's, doing a spiel for that methodologies application of technique/motion. It was (as expected) over dramatized and somewhat confusing to follow the (non-existent) “logic” of the shown application. It utilized various “meridians” and “organ” references (“channels, etc.) but mostly amounted to making it confusing (enough) to prompt further attendance of their seminars.
Once one removed all of the trivia, what was stated (and was somewhat accurate), it was so convoluted with the additional (if not misleading) garbage, it became nonsensical. Numerous things that were shown had “some” validity, but they continued to confuse the issue (of application) with their (additional) “nonsense”. What I found most troubling (confusing?) was the fact that they routinely ignored “natural” body-motion(s). They chose (instead) to proclaim that “they” were adding/diminishing Ki/Chi etc. when in fact, all they did was rotate their body, so that they could (physically) be able reach/motion something (on the aggressor/victim). It had nothing to do with “modifying” one's “Ki/Chi flow, it was simple (and obvious) bio-mechanics.
This shouldn't be mistaken as any level of endorsement for what was (generally) being shown by these guys (as I disagree with almost everything that they're commonly selling), IMO what they are promoting is (more often than not) redundant nonsense that is intended to confuse the issue (for the student/observer). This leads to a “further” attendance of seminars (for more money). It additionally makes it more confusing if/when the student decides to practice the application of those (taught) “principles”. By keeping that methodology in the realm of “Ki/Chi” (ie. “mystical”), it allows for more variances (and excuses for failure) to that supposed “theory”.
A far more practical field of study, could be achieved in the study of Kinesiology. This is the scientific study of human (or non-human) body movement/motion. Kinesiology addresses physiological, bio-mechanical, and psychological mechanisms of movement. Any/every topic addressed in Kinesiology is explained without the use of any “mystical” aspects being utilized (and is far more easily understood by the casual practitioner). It also does not include all of the inconsistency's (and direct contradictions) that exist in the TCM methodology. But, you will lose all your “mystical” reasons for whatever it is that your doing.
The study of (even simplistic) Kinesiology will address those motions and responses with an easily understood rationality (that can be easily incorporated into one's instructional methodology). Because something appears to be “mystifying”, doesn't mean that it is. We are a modern (hopefully educated) society, rather than believing some mystical nonsense, try doing some research. The answers are available, try Looking for them (instead of listening to the first and/or every “snake-oil” salesman that comes along).
Saturday, August 12, 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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....