Tuesday, December 1, 2009


 I was looking over the ”Web” for anything new (in regards to martial arts) and (essentially) found nothing. So, I decided to view some of the videos that I had (of Oyata's events/seminars). I think the most recent one is from (about) 9 years ago, but the information on them is none-the-less, informative and interesting.
 I know the majority of individuals who view these (and the one's which are on “U-Tube” and such) are looking for knock-outs and tuite techniques. “I”, (actually) enjoy listening to the lecture portions of these. These are usually the portions that everyone listens to once (then skips over them to get to the technique portions).
 As I've stated elsewhere (here) on my “Blog”, I am interested in instructional methods. I watch, and I listen to the way that Taika, and others, present and explain the way and manner that Oyata views and teaches the things we do. The majority of techniques shown at seminars, I'm already familiar with (so no particular interest on my part), and are usually a variation of other(known) techniques and their only illustrating those similarities
 What I'm (usually) looking for, is the way that whomever is attempting to convey the concepts to the persons attending the seminar. I've gotten some ideas (though I usually wind-up phrasing it differently than they present it, including by/from “Taika”) and I compare their method, to my own.
 Taika has gotten MUCH better over the years (as his understanding of English has improved). In the early years (of at least my own training with him) there was a lot of physical (on you, LOL) demonstration of technique.
 As his English has improved , he has gravitated towards lectures to convey concepts (of techniques, application, reaction etc.). Some individuals are (impatient?) only wanting the hands-on, and (tend to) disregard the lecture(s). I get a great deal more from the lecture (portions), as they usually apply to the majority of what we teach (as opposed to only an individual motion).
 Students (from what I've observed) tend to focus on (only) what is being shown them at the time. I understand this (as they often believe that what-ever is being shown, will apply to only that technique/motion), but hopefully, they can remember these “pearls of wisdom” and will be remembered, to be applied to other aspects of their training. I like to believe, that there are other people, that are like myself (and have shitty memory retention of the verbal portion of these lectures, LOL).
 This is why I enjoy “re-viewing” these old lectures and seminars. This Blog, was started in order to improve (or solidify) my own instruction methods that I use for my own students. I desire that my students be more knowledgeable (and skilled) than myself. I believe that the best compliment that an instructor can have, is that the students that they train, are both skilled, and knowledgeable. The fact that an instructor  is (perhaps) talented, (to myself) means nothing. If their students are (both) skilled, and knowledgeable (preferably, more so than their instructor), then that is the true measure of an instructor's talent/ability. But I digress,...
 As I'm viewing one of these (old) seminars, I heard one statement that made me cringe, the comment is one that is quite prevalent throughout the martial arts community. To most, It probably is (only) a matter of semantics, but it is one that drives me “crazy”. It was also made by an association member (of “high”, if not the “highest” ranking within Oyata's Association) and is also a member that I have great respect for, and though I've been around him, have only (really) spoken with him on limited occasions.
 He was commenting on the application of a particular technique (which happened to utilize the thumb) and made the statement, that the thumb, was the weakest appendage of the hand. I'm sorry, but that statement is inaccurate, and untrue.
 When teaching female self-defense classes, I've been confronted with this fallacy numerous times. Being the easiest to (utilize in a sideways fashion) manipulate, does not equate to it being the weakest of the phalanges. The weakest is (arguably) either the “pinky”or, the “ring” finger. The strongest of the phalanges, is the thumb (at least according to: The International Encyclopedia of Ergonomics and Human Factors, Volume 1 By Waldemar Karwowski , and numerous “Medical” studies and texts). 
 I have to presume that he meant (that the thumb was) the easiest to get a hold of (?). And with that statement, I would agree. When we utilize Tuite (I can only thing of “2”, that actually used against the thumb directly), we are usually manipulating the ulnar side of the wrist joint (very little to do with the fingers, or the thumb, although either could be utilized as/for leverage purposes). I guess that this goes back to Finger-locks (and such). I've already stated my feelings (and lack of concern) for their use. 
 The thumb allows one to “Grip” (something), this could done solo, or in conjunction with the other fingers (which are, directly opposed to the thumb). The other finger's can be rolled-up, to prevent their being grabbed, whereas the thumb is (usually) more accessible (being unable to be curled-up and concealed if a grab is attempted upon it).
 Poor semantics, should not lead student's to believe gross misconceptions about the physical attributes of body mechanics. If one were to actually (literally?) believe this statement (at “face value”) it could lead one to make numerous bad technique application choices.
 This could prove especially detrimental for females if/when attempting to utilize such techniques (as I have observed being taught in “female self-defense” classes). It's also an especially easy statement to disprove (would you prefer to hang by a/your thumbs , or by your pinky fingers?).
 Of course this could just be representative of my own proclivity to “nit-pick” instruction methods and terminology, But I think it is important (for an instructor) to be accurate in their descriptions of what they are teaching. Students tend to often hear (albeit, selectively, LOL) everything that an instructor says, and then take it at face value. Believing this statement, could/will lead one to believe various other inaccurate statements. IMO, this poor “idiom” has lead to a vast misunderstanding (by both students and instructors) in regards to the use/utilization of the thumb (and as it being a preferred target and/or choice of/for manipulation).
 Because it is isolated (in that it can be individually grabbed) the thumb can often make itself a good choice for (sideways) manipulation. But superior choices are usually available (depending of course on the situational needs).
 In the particular motion that was being referenced, the thumb, was (only) being utilized as a leverage point (and not even being “attacked”, it was only being used as a portion of the intended technique, which loosened the grip of the fingers of that hand). We have several techniques which utilize the thumb (as an assist to a technique), though usually these only amount to the trapping of it (to aid in the inability to utilize the hand that it is attached to). 
 Again, it's not that what he was saying was (necessarily) wrong (just inaccurate, which to ME, could be construed as misleading). I self-limit, a lot of my descriptions (here), at least in regard to specific techniques, which can be somewhat confusing to anyone not familiar with that individual technique. I don't do this in an effort to keep them “secret”(LOL), but only because I don't feel that I can always accurately describe the manner which the technique motions need to be performed. 
 Beyond that particular instance, I actually get a lot from reviewing those “old” seminar lectures. Taika often makes some useful analogies when describing technique application (and I utilize them where/when ever “applicable”) and unlike the (so-called “Kaicho” {chairman} of one of those off-shoot organizations) others, I give full credit to Taika being the one who came up with those individual analogies and sayings.


Anonymous said...

I agree w/ your assessment of the thumb not being the weakest finger. I recently read a Ryu Te Newsletter and I don’t know which of Taika’s senior students said something in along the lines to never disregard a lesson, no matter how long ago it was. As Taika showed him something recently that connected with a lesson from 40yrs ago!! Talk about mind blowing! The moral to the story being never disregard a lesson, they all are part of a bigger picture. I hope Taika is doing well, I don’t know anything about his health, I know he’s 81 yrs old I believe.


Openhand said...

I read that also,(it was probably Tashi Logue) in regards to Taika's “health”, I'm sure (hint, hint) my partner will “pipe in” (as he see's him damn near every week) and give an “update”. From what I heard (last weekend?) Taika's doing pretty damn good (for being 82, “3”...whatever). In regards to Tashi Logue, he's a very interesting person to listen to (for lectures). He has a unique (and long) perspective on Taika's instruction methods. I'd (personally) enjoy an “in-depth” conversation with him in regards to Taika's teaching methods (and his own perspective of how they've “changed” over the years).

Anonymous said...

Mr. Logue, now there's a man that would have some information:)Good to hear, Thank you Sir

Lee Richards said...

82 and still full of beans. It truly amazes me, particularly Tuesday nights in the summer when he wears shorts, how defined his legs are. He looks like he could snap your neck by flinching his tibia. Full of life and energy.

At any rate, I totally agree about the thumb deal. It is one giant super pet peeve of mine and I wrote one of my few fun filled blogs on it about a year ago. I think long ago someone probably said something about the point of the grip (space between the thumb and the hand)being a weak point. Then, like that game we played in grade school where we say something in one persons ear and it goes around the circle till it is something totally different, it gets changed. Some people take things at such a face value and never question what they heard or what they THINK they heard. You should not so much question authority but at least research it. Taika sometimes asks why we do things certain ways and our response is that we were told to do it that way. (Usually not by him but our original instructors). He then says, "but doesn't it feel funny or awkward". If we dig deep and ask ourselves sometimes we do something awkward because we were told and believed blindly or we thought we understood something but really didn't. I believe the thumb myth is a classic example of that.

I've watched 'thumb breaks' not work on big people but 'ulnar breaks' or releases do.

Maybe a few people will read this and help displace the opposable thumb myth.