Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Female Tendencies

  As an instructor of (any) martial art, one needs to consider the individual strength's and weaknesses of each student. Though this is usually determined by the student's physical attributes (or lack thereof), gender should also be a consideration. Instructor's often disregard this factor, and female student's are often taught exactly as the males are taught. Casting political correctness aside, they (females) are not exactly the same, so why are they treated as if they are? If their physical attributes/deficiency's are not being addressed, then are they not then being discriminated against?
  Over the years, my classes have usually had a number of female student's. Considering the purpose that the majority of my classes have been directed towards (self-protection), this has made sense.
Females have legitimate concerns (in regards to physical abuse) that the majority of males don't share. Males, (more often than not) tend to place themselves into (physically threatening) situations that would have been better avoided to begin with, but were entered into (often willingly) regardless. Women view, and deal with (those same) situations differently than their male counterparts will. The most common physical threat, that a female will encounter will be a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend. Because of this, the manner of concluding that altercation, will need to be addressed differently (than would be for the infamous, if not unlikely, unknown aggressor). 
  The physical habits, that females tend to adhere to, are often different from that of their male counterparts. This can come from social/cultural influence's, or from the physical difference's between the two. 
  We noticed this a number of year's ago (in regards to training). When we had student's reviewing wrist-grabs, it was noted that females would tend to (initially) grab the tori's wrist palm-up (from behind of the wrist, with their palm up, as if guiding), male's, would tend to grab the tori's wrist from the front (palm-down, in a more dominant/controlling manner). Though initially joked about (it was referred to as a girl-grab), as I taught more female self-defense classes, I saw that this was a (very) common (and therefor a natural) occurrence.
  This triggered us to begin noting the (or any other) gender habits/differences, that surfaced (or were noticed) during practice.   
 Though generally teaching female student's is identical (to that done for males), there are certain motions/actions that are more easily performed (by females) when they are done in the manner that is more natural to them.
  For numerous motions and techniques, this is (actually) quite easy (if not more so than for males). When one first learns Oyata's fist and striking (manner), female's will (tend to) catch-on faster (with doing the motion correctly). Male's tend to believe (and utilize) the tight-fist manner of striking (and have a very difficult time with abandoning this habit).
 Practice of the numerous Grabbing (counters) is commonly ignored by (male) student's (their most common response being "when they grab me, I hit them", since one hand is occupied). Though (some-what) making sense, this response is a largely male one. This response though (moderately) effective, may be productive (enough) to create an escape (much less control) ability in regards to the situation. 
  The basic technique that I teach (at so-called female Self-defense classes) is a straight wrist grab (defense). This is produced (meaning set-up) by the tori (defender) by them placing their weak-side arm, horizontally across their body at face level, hand open, and palm-out. This serves several purposes, first, it places something between them(specifically their head/neck) and their aggressor (for interfering with in-coming strikes/slaps), second, it provides bait. By being in the way, an aggressor will be inclined to move it. That's accomplished by grabbing it (to do so), and very likely, holding it to keep it out of the way.
  When the aggressor first grabs it, is when the tori (defender) should grasp it (to pin-it to their own arm), and apply the (tuite) technique, consisting of motioning the elbow of the held wrist's arm around and over the aggressor's wrist.  This presuming the aggressor used the hand directly across from the held wrist(tori's left wrist, grabbed by aggressor's right hand). 
 If the aggressor were to grab cross-body (odd, but not impossible), the tori would (in the same motion as before) grab the aggressor's grabbing hand, and close their (previously) open-hand (to make a fist), which would then be motioned (again) over the top of that (grabbing) hand's wrist (both methods crossing over the ulnar side first, intending to bend the aggressor's grabbing wrist forward).
   This (simplistic) application, of a (usually) ignored technique (as being considered previously impractical) is the very basis of what I'm attempting to convey. Women, will approach this technique (in this application/manner) with a more favorable attitude, than a male would. Though it would be more practical for a male to utilize this technique (as opposed to a striking alternative), they will commonly opt for the one which contains an impact in it's execution (which creates less damage, and is more difficult to implement).
  Males will also tend to over-focus, on striking the face/head of an aggressor. Women rarely do so. Their difficulty/problem, is usually that they don't believe that (what-ever) strike/tuite technique that they're performing (be it anywhere else upon the body/arm's) is going to do anything (basically a self-confidence issue, unrelated to the technique itself).
  It becomes very difficult for an (male) instructor to research these (female) tendencies. Women (when put in the spotlight) will tend to “do as expected of them” (in their minds). Observing (truly) natural motions (being done by females), will (often) only occur in a mostly (if not all) female environment. 
  Techniques can be modified by the instructor for those difference's (to make them more effective for the female user). But unfortunately, the majority of instructor's have/teach, in a one-way manner (usually geared towards a male student).
  Females have natural habits, motions and proclivities, that need to be utilized (rather than ignored). Awareness of these difference's requires the Instructor to (actually) take note of them, and consider those difference's (when they are occurring), making the necessary modifications as needed/required.
  I've watched instructor's make student corrections, that (blatantly) disregard the (female) student's body motion (which was what needed to be corrected) in favor of focusing upon the arm motion (which was where the problem was only ending up, not where it began from). 
  I'm presenting this (here) for an instructor's consideration (in their own teaching methodology). I'm also not presenting any (predetermined) solution's either. I believe an instructor can/will determine what will work best for their own student's. My purpose, is to bring the subject (more) to the forefront of an instructor's consideration (which in IMO, the subject is/has been largely ignored).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If Applying Control and Submission Technique's

  One of the more common critique's that I've heard (about how/what I teach in my classes) is in regards to placing an aggressor/uke in a submission hold/position (at the conclusion of an altercation). First off, I find this to be an odd reaction. Why should doing so seem to be detrimental?
Submission's are situational, you may not be able to utilize them in every circumstance. There are situation's that would make them completely impractical, but for the common/average altercation, you aren't dealing with someone trying to kill you (despite the hype promoted by the majority of martial arts advertisements).

  I consistently refer reader's to their local law enforcement reports (most of which can be located “on-line”). If one looks at these reports, (on average, across the country ie. USA, LOL) serious crime (murder, rape etc.) has been dropping (steadily) since the mid-90's (some will argue the mid-80's). I encourage individual's to check their own local reports to confirm/repute this (for their local).

  When one realizes that the majority of situations are not going to be life-threatening, you (hopefully, LOL) will realize that you won't be able to cause/create serious injury to an aggressor (over what amounts to being a social altercation). These will often amount to misdemeanor charges being filed (against possibly either/both involved individual's). Beyond the involved parties filing any charges, the city/state may file those charges (ie. Disturbing the peace, battery etc.) against (either/both of) the involved parties. This could (easily) happen despite that neither you or the (original) aggressor choosing to file any charges. If/when your actions have been deemed excessive (for the situation), you may very well have some expensive bills/fines to be paid. Causing and/or creating the most damage (to your opponent) is not always the most practical conclusion to a (minor) altercation.

  When one evaluates the degree of difficulty involved with implementing a conclusion/end to an altercation, the easiest is to cause/create physical injury/damage to an aggressor. The most difficult is to nullify an aggressor without causing injury to them (while protecting yourself also). In the classes we teach, we tend to practice techniques on the most challenging level (of implementing those techniques).
  This would dictate that we have our student's work on submission/restraint techniques (to conclude an altercation). I (regularly) have individual's tell me that they wouldn't even bother with attempting those types of techniques. I'm not always sure what telling me that is supposed to imply (though I can guess, LOL), or how I'm supposed to reply to it. Those that know me, are aware that I rarely restrain stating my opinion (if/when asked). When they make this statement, it (to myself) implies that they aren't concerned with learning/understanding the techniques, and only seek the easiest method for responding to an aggression. Which is fine, I just don't teach my classes on that level. Call it elitist or whatever you wish, but I believe that by being a martial artist/practitioner, there (should be) is an implied level of responsibility for one's actions. I feel it should be noted, (again) that those who know me, are aware that I don't fall into the touchy-feely kume-by-ya category. Despite that, I don't feel that (always) causing/creating un-necessary physical injury is (always) needed and/or required to bring a situation to a conclusion. The whole concept, of the macho martial artist turns my stomach. 

  To guide our student's on learning to control an aggressor, we begin with teaching the range-of-motion(ROM) of the bodies limbs. As I've previously stated here, the majority of this information, the student is already aware of. We simply demonstrate how to (effectively/safely) motion those limb's in the most efficient manner to placing the subject into a position of submission. This is useful information for (both) implementing tuite/combination techniques, and for effecting restraint/submission applications.

  We also provide information about the human anatomy (in individual categories). These include information about nerves, muscles, the skeletal system and the internal organ's. These are not (by any means) attempts to create medical experts, LOL. They are only to provide student awareness of anatomical considerations to/for applied techniques. This knowledge is utilized during the application of various manipulations/techniques.

  When you apply control techniques, they (usually) will inflict painful reactions (by the recipient). If the recipient is under the influence of some substance (be it drugs or alcohol), those reactions may be limited if they are only based upon pain compliance. The majority of our taught techniques are nerve based, which create physical reactions that (possibly)may not even be (or need to be) felt by the recipient. Additionally, the techniques that we utilize don't place the user in a vulnerable position (unlike the majority of the ground-fighting applications that are being promoted of late). The applications that we teach to our student's, place the user in a position that can be safely abandoned (if/when needed) to deal with alternative threats (ie. additional aggressor's).

  A lot of my teaching method revolves around the sense of feeling (through the physical feed-back) of the responses made by the recipient of the applied technique's. With (obviously) experience, one can/will reach the point where visually confirming reactions (of the recipient), isn't necessary. The user should become able to(both) apply the technique's, and apply the necessary correction's while (simultaneously) being able to maintain awareness of your surroundings and/or additional threats.

  Attaining this ability, is only possible from the repeated practice of the technique's (thereby becoming familiar with the common responses made by the recipient during the implementation of those technique's/motion's).

  I've received a (small) amount of flak, about not providing details of how much of what I write about is or should be done. As I've previously (in numerous posts) stated, it is not my intent to create/provide a training blog for student's of RyuTe. I don't believe in media instruction (regardless of the media utilized). Various media is useful for reference purposes, but sucks (IMO) for instructional purposes. RyuTe, is an art that the motion's will often have individual requirement's of application. This (obviously) can't be addressed via “video”. I'm (also) not interested in hearing argument's to the contrary (about how because of someone's vast experience {yawn}, they can adapt and/or understand how to make the necessary correction's to make those motions work). This isn't based upon some hubris on my part, it's based on my desire that the technique be done correctly, and the only way that is possible, is through 1st person interaction. When I describe a technique's application, it's only done so in a (very) general manner.

  We welcome anyone (with an interest) to attend one of our classes (yes, without charge, LOL). Anything that I write about here, can more easily, and in a shorter time-frame, be demonstrated in person without any misunderstanding of application (than can be done on this silly “blog”,LOL). 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Naihanchi kata

  I was reading several blog's that were discussing the Naihanchi kata. Knowing that there are several versions being taught (by different groups/organizations), I “Googled” for examples. What I found, was a (larger than I expected) assortment of (very) different versions (of the same kata).
  Though (usually) recognizable, each version had it's own underlying theme (of interpretation). Taika has taught us (as he considers it) the essential (version of) Naihanchi kata. We're also taught an “application” version, which (more clearly) illustrates the bunkai of the motions. He has clearly stated, that the essential version (what some choose to call “basic”) is THE kata (meaning, practice & teach that version). Any other version, is only for (additional) practice and/or exposure to alternative concepts.
  When he has discussed (some of) those other (system's) versions, he states that those are individual's versions (and by his thinking, should not be what are taught/learned as being the original kata). He says that though the kata, are(considered to be) all the same, they have had the influence of the individual instructor's intermixed within them (he views this as not being good, duh). Those differences, are adapted to an individual's interpretation of the motions contained therein. The kata, were developed to be used by anyone (regardless of the individual's physical abilities and/or experience). By adding their own (version) manner of execution, they have (in fact) limited the potential usefulness of the kata.
  To me, this is similarly as ridiculous as having student's “create” their own kata. Why? And WTF for? Don't we already have enough ego-bloated dip-weed's, who fancy themselves “special” as it is? The available (original) kata, should (IMO) be plenty to keep one busy for a lifetime of study. It only seems to be those who are (themselves) limited in their understanding of the kata, that seem to promote this practice. The only thing I can figure out, is that these DS's want to begin their own (supposed) system, and need to “create” some kata (to use in that system). Thus allowing them to be the big dog's in that system (isn't that what everyone wants ?, even more high-Dan expert's out there? ROFLMAO).
  I believe, that if, I knew every version, of every technique available and/or probable within Naihanchi Shodan no kata (alone), I could (easily) spend the remainder of my teaching career, teaching only those motions, and no one would be the wiser (nor could they find any fault with what I was teaching).
  I've read a number of person's interpretations of the Naihanchi kata, some are alright and some are completely bogus (meaning ridiculous). I find it amazing how many hilarious (if not ignorant) interpretation's are made from the motion's contained within those kata. Reality seems to be completely dismissed from some of them. Though by no means claiming myself to be any type of expert on them, I'm not (attempting) to claim some of the bizarre interpretations being made about them.
  I read one individual's assessment that stated that there were no hidden technique's. I happen to agree with that statement. I happen to believe that the majority are not recognized as being such (hence, they aren't hidden). They then went on to state that (basically) there were no technique's beyond the obvious “kicky-punchy” (types of) technique's. On that angle, my opinion differs. It becomes a matter of perspective, which is based upon one's awareness/familiarity with the subject matter (regardless of the subject). Before training with Taika, I certainly didn't recognize those technique's, because I wasn't familiar with them. When/if one is knowledgeable of the technique's, they (often) become (blatantly) obvious.
  The key to recognition (of those technique's), is tied to the motions combined with application, perspective and practicality, all of which (at least initially) sound like vague terms. The basic example being the “kick” (within Naihanchi Shodan). Though there are several version's of this motion, the basic motion remains the same.
  As Taika explains it, the kick strikes the (performer's) opposite leg, slightly above the knee. When the foot of the kicking leg is examined(as it is done within the kata), the toe's “point” towards the front of the struck leg. One can safely assume, that they're not kicking their own leg. Therefor, the struck leg, has to be the opponent's leg. Looking at the strike, the “kicker's” toe's, are pointed towards the front of the recipient's leg. To emulate that motion (upon a “real” opponent), if tori utilizes the Right leg (for the kick), they would have to strike the uke's Left leg (then looking exactly like the motion done within the kata). When combined with the hand motion's being utilized at the same time (in the kata), this kick would then make sense (seeing that the kick would rotate the uke, aiding in the strikes execution to the opposite/right side of the uke's neck).
  This interpretation/technique follows the (generally) accepted prerequisites. The uke is initially located in front of the tori (which establishes perspective), the application's motion is identical to the technique's motion, the uke would be turned (by the kick), thus making the arm motion's identical to the strike done within the kata (after kicking the uke's leg, the kicking foot drops to the ground now placing the tori sideways to the uke). The kick rotates the uke making the kata's strike (to the side of the tori, confirming the kata's striking motion to the side) make sense.
  Though being one of the rare instances (where kata motion is directly related to an application), this basic interpretation makes better sense than some of the bazaar interpretations I've read. Usually, kata motions are not directly related to adjacent motions done within the kata. As I've explained elsewhere, kata motions are akin to letter's (in no particular order). To “spell” words (technique's) one has to combine the proper motions(letter's) from the kata to create those words/sentences.
  The Naihanchi kata are Taika's first instructed kata. In many systems, they are reserved to the Yudansha levels. Taika felt there were too many lesson's/technique's to be learned with their practice (and therefor required more time with their study/practice). Additionally, there are varying levels/versions of the applications contained therein. Many of the “old” master's only taught several kata, the Naihanchi (series) kata were often the only one's chosen to be taught. This alone should validate their study.
  Unlike many of the other kata taught by Taika, the Naihanchi (series of kata) don't require a great deal of room to practice them. At more advanced levels (only because one then can devote the time to do so, LOL), the Naihanchi are also taught with different timing speeds and groupings (of which there are several). This is done to “open” the student's perspective to varying application of the motions contained within them. When that timing is varied (from the basic/essential form), those variations become more apparent (as long as one already possess a basic knowledge of technique's). It's part of what Taika calls (developing) your “mind's eye” (the ability to see technique's contained within the kata).
  If not readily apparent to the reader, I hold the Naihanchi kata in high regard. When reading about their evaluation by others, I oscillate between humor, agreement and disgust. I have to remember that not all system's approach a confrontation in the same manner (that Taika does). When viewing those interpretation's (of bunkai) I often have to examine the system's application theory (which usually are different than Taika's). This doesn't (necessarily) make them (completely) wrong, just different


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kyu Rank Requirements

  In the course of my instructional methods and approaches, I have modified the manner I have done so several times throughout my teaching career. These changes have come about for various reasons. Sometimes from the realization of inadequacies of techniques or methods (relating to execution), and sometimes because of the level of (or lack thereof) understanding (by my student's) because of how I was teaching that motion and/or concept. When deciding on kyu requirements for my own class, I determine what I feel are the best foundation elements to include, and at what level to introduce them. 
  In regards to Oyata's “kyu-rank” grading policies/requirements, there are none (really, LOL). Taika doesn't dictate what an instructor will/won't teach, and/or at what level they do so. By allowing this (freedom of choice) flexibility, an instructor has the option to utilize whichever teaching methodology and order that they feel work's best(for their student group). Oyata's schools/dojo are not “cloned” in their teaching methods/manners. Different schools often emphasize different aspects of training, depending on the instructor's preferences. There are basic requirements, but they can be taught at whatever level, order or kyu rank that the instructor feels would be most appropriate for their class.
   Student's are only officially reviewed, when they come to Taika to test for a Yudansha Grading. Taika considers it the instructor's responsibility to be sure that the individual student is ready, before sending them to test before him. If/when that student should fail (that testing), that student's instructor will hear ALL ABOUT IT(and most often from Taika especially), and despite the attempts to quench it, so will every other instructor and/or student in the association (ie. it's a BIG DEAL, to have sent someone not qualified yet, to be tested by Taika). 
  As they say, Freedom has it's price to pay, for an instructor of Oyata's methodology, that freedom of instruction(if abused, or neglected) can cost you much respect if/when done. Of course, for some individual's, that respect means nothing. They could care less what Taika, or anyone else in the association thinks (about what, or how well they teach their student's). And because of that attitude and behavior, numerous individual's have been ejected from the Oyata's Association.
  Evaluating what is relevant to a student's learning can be difficult to determine. Each person has their own strength's and weaknesses. Those differences will often decide which concepts/techniques would be best (for that student) to understand first. Though all techniques are eventually taught (to every student) some will acquire a better understanding from learning certain techniques before others will. As an instructor, it usually comes down to a “best guess” when deciding what/when and for whom. It's easy to fall into the “I know best” category (as many do), but I personally, won't delusion myself into thinking that to be true (for my own choices).
  As an instructor, I have to be careful when comparing my student's learning, understanding and ability to my own. My circumstances and learning history are usually far different from the majority of my student's. I've had numerous student's whose abilities have exceeded my own, and some who've only managed to grasp the basics. I've discovered no “majik” method of instruction or understanding. Until I do, I'll have to keep attempting to improve what I presently use.
  For my Shinkyu (“New” Student's )Technically student's begin at 10th kyu, their requirement's at this stage are so minimal, that we usually “Blur” those few requirements with the 9th kyu's (therefor, not acknowledging any real advancement until completion of the 9th kyu requirements). I begin their instruction with learning a couple of stances, the milking punch and they begin to work on basic Tuite and Combination's. As they progress, I introduce them to more stances and variations of the striking methods RyuTe utilizes. The 6 Basic Tuite Principles are shown to them, and as they become comfortable, they begin working on the (3) Naihanchi kata (Shodan, Nidan, Sandan).
  As student's progress through the kyu ranks, they are introduced to the beginning exercises and the relevant technique's contained therein. At the “mid” level ranks (5th thru 1st kyu) they are provided with additional (relevant) subject information. This information is provided on a user's choice basis, there's no (official) test in regards to them, but it should be clear to the student that it would benefit them to be knowledgeable about those subjects. 
  Kata are taught throughout the kyu level studies (for a total of 12). Knowledge of these kata are required to be eligible for Shodan grading. We explain numerous bunkai for each of the kata (usually in conjunction with the technique's practice in class) during the student's study.
  At (about) 5th kyu, we introduce the student to Kobudo (weapon's) practice. This is (mainly) done to enhance the student's empty-hand training (as the majority of the action's made with the weapon's, relates to empty-hand technique's). We (initially) offer a choice (by the student) of which weapon the student would like to attempt first. Each weapon relates to different aspects of open-hand technique's. Often the type of technique's the student prefers, will relate to which weapon they (end up) enjoying the most.
  Throughout all of the student's training, kyusho application is explained (and demonstrated). We don't tend to dwell on these, as they are viewed as being only supplementary to our (regular) technique's. Numerous individual's/system's have attempted to capitalize on the popularity of the subject over the past few years, but none (IMO) have come anywhere close to it's utilization the way that RyuTe integrates it (with common techniques).
  We set no time constraints or limits upon our kyu rank advancement (for student's). Each student is on their own time schedule, and can advance as rapidly as they are able to learn and perform the required actions. Each kyu rank tends to vary on the average time spent learning it's requirements. Over all, the time can amount to approx. 3yrs to be ready for a Shodan test (if the student is dedicated). Granted, our average student isn't able to commit the time to make this a practical (or realistic) time frame, but it could be done.
  Once one has passed a Yudansha test (given by Taika), they are eligible to train with Taika (at his dojo). When someone is awarded a Yudansha grading, they are (then) Taika's student.
  At our dojo, we allow any association member (who wishes) to, freely train with us, and/or our class (obviously, on scheduled class nights, LOL). The goal from doing so, is to share common knowledge, and to further disseminate Taika's knowledge (garnered from our own experience with him, and from that of others). 


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Forward, or Back?

  Reading through various “self-defense” writings, I repeatedly encounter the commonly held teaching, that one should “back-up” when first confronted with an aggressive action. At first glance, this would seem to make sense. Backing up, moves one away from the presumed threat. It doesn't do a thing for ending the threat, though it does move one away from an immediate physical harm. Unless one has an escape route available, the defender will still have to deal with the aggressor, and they are then in no position (literally) to retaliate.
  The majority of system's (at least initially) advocate a rearward motion, no doubt done for reason's of simplicity (for beginning student's), it none-the-less is detrimental to effective self-defense. Oyata (in most cases) promotes a forward (towards the aggressor) motion. This provides numerous advantages, though not always initially recognized. To appreciate this methodology, one must first understand the mechanic's behind an aggressor's strike attempt, and the necessary actions to create an effective response (which both protects the tori, and negates further attempts by the aggressor).
  When an aggressor enacts a punching action, there are numerous factor's to take into account (when attempting to defeat that attempt). First, it needs to be noted, that only the final 1/3 of a strike will have any (serious) energy potential (momentum). The “middle” 1/3, is when it is the easiest to divert/deflect that motion (from striking it's original target). This being the case, it is easiest to defeat this action during the initial 1/3 of it's motion. For the majority of striking attempts, this will require the tori to move towards the aggressor (uke). 
  Though the principle's behind this motion are usually (quite) apparent, it can be difficult to initially understand the tactical implications. By stepping forward, the tori changes the (initially) perceived striking range of the uke (thereby forcing the uke to readjust their attempted strike).The tori's first defensive strike is usually done upon the uke's striking arm (intending to damage it sufficiently to deter it's repeated use). This is done in conjunction with a kick, and with the tori's other arm either “loading” or (additionally) diverting the arm struck by the tori's primary (striking) arm.
  The tori moving away (or back) from the uke's strike neither fulfills or assists in any of these goals (to stop/divert the uke's striking action). Though explained as being a “beginner's” (version?) action by many system's, there is no real advantage to having a student practice in a directly retreating action/motion. This manner of “Avoidance” is only a temporary (and rarely effective) method to rely one's defense upon. If/when done in an angular direction, it has (slightly) more merit (by not moving the tori as far away), but still doesn't have the advantages offered from motioning towards the aggressor.
  To further understand this, the speed of moving one's (whole) body (in any given direction) needs to also be considered. The slowest direction of motion, is rearward. The next slowest is forward, and the fastest, is sideways and/or rotationally. If one's goal, is only to avoid being struck, the amount of distance required to do so, is actually minimal. A fist is only 4- 4 ½” wide(though only 1-2” of that area would be considered more harmful to the recipient than the deliverer, if one includes the amount of variance (that can be made to that strike by the uke) possible, the potential “striking area” is only (around) 6”. This is not considered to be an unrealistic amount of motion(to avoid being hit) to be made (if the tori is aware of that strikes occurrence). The deciding factor then becomes dependent upon the speed of avoidance (of the tori's body motion) and/or the speed of engagement (of the tori's defensive strikes). When one considers the tori's ability to motion in the various directions (and the resultant effects from doing so) motioning forward or rotating (a form of sideways motion) makes considerably more sense than rearward motion does.
  Even with knowing these facts, (some) system's still believe that teaching (at least) their beginning student's to back-up while performing some (usually) pointless “blocking” action, is preferable to teaching them to engage with a defensive (counter-strike). I've seen several instructor's also follow this methodology, though (IMO) it's derived from their own previous instruction(in other system's). When one considers all the relevant factor's to choosing which direction to motion, it almost seems silly to teach someone to back-up, yet that's what is commonly done, and expected. 
  Moving forward is often viewed as being an (solely) aggressive option, it isn't. Aggression is defined by intent, if that intent is for a defensive purpose, then it can be considered justified (in a court of law). Being legally justified in one's actions should always be considered when contemplating available options.
  In the end, it's going to be the tori's decision (whether to back-up, or move forward). Regardless of which direction is chosen, the response made by the tori has to include some form of contact with the aggressor. If that contact is made from a location of distance, it may prove too far to (either) be effective, or too far to (be able to) follow-up with (safely). Though familiar with the reason's for an (initial) retreating movement, I can't agree with those reason's (at least for anyone with any real experience). Many beginning student's don't have that real experience, that's why they attend a martial art's class (to learn from those who do). Not having that experience, they depend upon the instructor to provide the necessary guidance to understand what's involved with being in a defensive situation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

“Fine” motor skills

  I was reading some posting's that individual's had written in regards to the ability of a person to still utilize (physical) motor skills/abilities when under stress. The generally perceived idea being presented, was that an individual would not have those same abilities when placed in a stressful situation. They cited numerous studies, but didn't note the experience level of those individual's that these studies were being based upon. To myself, this makes these studies invalid, not that they necessarily were, but the conclusion's definitely were being (IMO) miss-applied.
  Having read numerous accounts of similar studies, the thing I noted first, was that the majority of these types of studies are being based upon the average individual (ie. Untrained). For establishing a base-line, this makes sense, for establishing an over-all conclusion, it lacks relevant data. Considering that the discussions were in regards to a martial artists ability to perform certain (as they termed it) “fine motor” skills (meaning hand/finger manipulations/actions), one would have thought that these “tests” would have utilized those types of individual's for the performed test subject's. That wasn't the case though, the conclusions were being based on studies done on average (untrained) individual's, performing menial tasks (first, when calm, then when subjected to stressful situations) when under duress. When one (actually) reads the reports (at the experiment's conclusion), they (there were multiple studies done) state that the individual being tested, lost a major percentage of “fine” motor function/skills, leaving only gross (large) motor skills available to deal with the situation.
  People regularly use these types of studies to justify the “Fight or Flight”(FOF) response found in nature. This is an inaccurate comparison. FOF doesn't just happen, it does when someone doesn’t know what to do, if there is a trained response (already) available, the individual will (first) utilize that trained response, if that one fails, they will attempt the next trained response. If no trained responses exist, then Yes, they will tend to run, but only if/when there is no trained response, or if/when that response fails.
  The mistake being made by the comparisons of these studies (to a martial artist), is that panic, is usually not the first response (actually) experienced, when an individual is surprised. The (real) first response is protection (from physical damage). If/when one's initial physical safety is established, then longer term safety is evaluated/confirmed (these actions may, or may not then trigger a FOF response, depending upon the perceived threat level to one's personal safety). These are all (presumably) based on the premise of individual panic. Panic is (nothing more than) the lack of knowing what to do, in a situation that was not planned for, by the individual in question. 
  The studies in question, found that the individual's lost their “fine” motor skills during the initial (and subsequent) adrenaline “dump”(experienced by the tested individual when placed in this high stress level situation). The studies cited the inability to (neatly, or even legibly)write their own names , to tie their shoelace's, or even to remove their car key's from their (pant's) pocket and write down what each key unlocked, or operated. Well, that's interesting, but hardly valuable information.

  The related arguments (to MA), were in regards to Tuite being (able to be) implemented, or the ability to implement a precise kyusho strike while under stress. Well, one man's stress, is another man's party, so how does one determine how stressful, any situation will be? Experience, the more one has with the situation, the less that situation will suffer from the effects of an adrenaline dump. Which is the purpose of practice. It obviously isn't practical to instill panic with every practice session, but the responses to those situations can be repeatedly practiced. Virtually every (initial) defensive action/technique (that I can think of) involves (only) gross(large) motor/muscle actions. Learning to (simply) move, when a confrontation begins, will dissipate the adrenal chemical's throughout the body's system. These chemical's provide (short-term) energy, and provide anesthetic effects (in regards to pain reception). This is why an individual will feel little to no pain (during a confrontation), and will often perform exaggerated motions during a confrontation. This adrenaline dump is the reason why (when the confrontation is ended) that individual suffers “the shakes” and often feels nauseous (the digestive system is the first system that shuts down during a confrontation, this allows energy to be available to the gross motor muscle groups).
  The ability to control those practiced motions while under stress is developed from repetitive practice. The more that one has practiced the motion, the more precise one will be when attempting that same action while under duress (stress). Which is directly related to having the ability to relax. Relaxation is the most emphasized principle by Oyata. Being relaxed, and performing natural motions, are all geared towards the ability to implement defensive actions while being under stress. The ability (or the presumed inability) to perform tuite/kyusho motions/actions while in a stressful situation, is dictated by how much/often one has (repetitively) practiced those motions (which in turn, will dictate what situations will create that panicked state and possible reactions).
  It basically comes down to, I don't feel that the subject needs (nearly) the attention that's being attributed to it. When I read those types of articles, the only people (“I” see) buying into it, are those who are seeking the right now/quick-fix (system). 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What does attaining a ranking of Shodan validate?

  I was reading some posts on “ranking”(in general), and was surprised at the presumed authority/knowledge being attached to the “rank” of Shodan. I have always been of the opinion that Shodan, was nothing more than the acknowledgment that the individual then had a recognized understanding of the basics (of what-ever system).
  When I received my Shodan (30yrs ago,..Yikes! LOL), I barely (really) understood the basics of What Taika was teaching. What I was teaching at that time was (merely) repetitions of what I had been shown up to that point, and was attempting to learn how to apply that knowledge to what I was doing to my own actions. I (in no way) believed that I had any (real) command of the techniques that I had been shown, other than the mechanical reproduction of them. Being able to physically reproduce a motion, does not equate to an understanding of how to apply that motion in a real situation.
  The Kyu ranks, amount to being given as (only) a reference for the instructor's benefit. Granted, they also provide short-term goal's for the student, but they represent little beyond that(to anyone else). Kyu rank requirements vary, from school to school and system to system (within Oyata's teachings, it's the instructor's preference as to what is taught at each kyu level). To myself (you know enough to be dangerous to yourself), it's equivalent to attending college for 2 year's (“guilty”, LOL), you've acquired some information, but it don't mean shit until you get the full 4 year's(and a degree to prove it). Conversely, I (personally) don't feel that multiple Dan ranking's (even within a single system) are any guarantees of having any greater knowledge (or even ability).
  My own feelings being, when (or if) one is awarded a rank of Shodan, then those persons (doing the awarding) have found you (in their opinion) to be knowledgeable of the basics of that system. No more, and no less. I believe this is why many systems don't condone a (solo) “Shodan” starting, and teaching a class (on their own). I don't necessarily agree with that ideology. When one has to (actually) teach someone else, who has no experience, that situation then forces that instructor to provide a complete and detailed explanation about what-ever it is that their teaching. This forces the individual to understand what it is that's being done in the action (often causing the individual to review the motion with a different perspective, than when they learned it). Knowing “one” way to explain a motion/technique is not sufficient, they need to have (at least) 4 ways of explaining the same motion/technique/concept. If not, then they will lose 80% of their student's. Until one begins teaching, they don't appreciate the different ways that different people learn and/or understand.
  Basically, it becomes a sink or swim situation. Not necessarily fair (to their students), but that's part of being an instructor. You have to know what your teaching, ,and be able to provide that knowledge to your student's. There's already plenty of self-righteous/Bad instructor's out there. It's up to you (their present instructor), to teach them the difference, and hopefully, they will avoid becoming (yet another) one of those bad instructor's.
  I (usually) wind up teaching a lot of student's, who are already of Shodan (or higher) rank (in which-ever system) when they come to me. This eliminates a lot of the “teaching” guidance that I usually (burden, LOL) bestow upon my nikyu and ikkyu students. But because of (their having) that previous instruction, in order to teach them the manner that Taika performs those motions, it will often require them to modify previously learned/taught manners of performing those motions. This can often turn into being no small task. The Re-training of previously learned (and practiced) motions, is no minor feat. It's been stated (and is generally accepted) that it requires 3-5 times the amount of time required, to do so. For this reason alone, it makes it understandable that instructor's (generally) prefer to teach new (and untrained) students (in preference to previously Dan-ranked one's).
  When one of my own student's goes before Taika to test, my concern, is that the student is familiar with all of the basic kata and technique motions. I have little concern that they be (completely) fluent and knowledgeable of (all) the intricate details of each and every motion, only that they are familiar with them. As long as they have this basic understanding, then Taika can work with them (on those intricate details).
  Of course this fly's in the face of those that (actually) believe that to acquire that rank (a “black belt”) one should be some sort of master. Though generally understood, it's rarely recognized (by the new black belt) that one's training has only then (actually) began. As with any other endeavor, one has to first be familiar with the basics, before they can attempt the application (of those basics). Student's often (mistakenly) believe that (acquiring) a “black belt” somehow bestows (unknown) knowledge upon themselves (including, the ability to utilize it). Black belt's are sold at numerous martial arts outlets, and no requirements are made for their purchase (this should be a clue as to their value, LOL).
  When someone receives a black belt (in my experience), their ability to learn, is diminished. This is one of the reasons I prefer that my own student's (upon receiving a Yudansha ranking) begin teaching their own class. Once someone begins that teaching process, their own appreciation of what they don't know, then becomes apparent (to themselves). Again(IMO), by having one's own student's (who look to you for their guidance), one will begin to ask questions (that you had never even thought of). This instills the understanding, that they (also) are still learning. Having student's will often expand one's desire to understand even simple motions.
  I believe some systems attempt to convey this understanding through the practice/use of “student instructor's”. I'm not a big fan of this practice, but I do understand the reasoning behind it. I don't condone this course of action (in my own classes), but I can see how some would find it useful. I tend to fall into the previously mentioned “sink or swim” category. It's harder, there's bound to be mistakes made, but I believe that greater lesson's (for that instructor) will be learned. It can become more of a “humbling” experience than most would presume it to be.
  This is true for experienced black belts also. For us, what Taika teaches, has been consistently modified/improved upon. Having been witness to his teachings for the past 30 years, I can testify to the fact that what was taught 30year's ago, is vastly different from what he teaches now. Not that the curriculum has changed (basic's are still basic's), but the content is (much) more involved than it was then (hell, it's been added to greatly in only the past 6 year's!).  

  When one has (finally) received their yudansha ranking, it easy to believe that one can simply rest on their laurel’s and teach what they want to and/or know (and many do just that). For my own students, it's my desire that they surpass what-ever knowledge level that I (may) have. I am constantly striving to improve my own level of understanding, while also (hopefully) increasing that of my students. To me, the greatest testament to one's teaching career, is when your student's surpasses your own level of understanding. 


Thursday, March 10, 2011

(Faux) Okinawan Black Belts?

  In day's past (late 50's, early-mid 60's) individual's (usually those in the military), while doin' their time in Okinawa, would study “karate” (while they were deployed there). Having listened to those individual's describe their training, and hearing Taika's descriptions of providing it, I'm glad I wasn't a part of it. And Not for the reason's commonly given.
  A common deployment time (for military person's) could be for 9-14 month's (this obviously could vary, but none-the-less was not that long of a training period). During those (few) months, the majority of attending individual's would earn a Shodan ranking,...9-14 month's. There's only 2 conclusion's that one can draw from that.
#1, that training was really intense and informative,
or #2, that training was superficial and generated some income for the local's providing that training.
  I'm not saying that the training received wasn't valid, only that it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. I'm sure the bragging rights associated with being able to say you trained in and/or received your Shodan in Okinawa would sound very impressive (to us “locals” back in the state's). But when investigated, that training was often (very) limited. Having spoken with several individual's who have done so (and are honest about it), I tend to believe that the latter reason was more probable than most are willing to admit to. 

 One also has to keep the fact that these individual's were in the military. It's not like they had all day, every day to go to those instructor's and study from them (they also had their military commitment to deal with, LOL). They may very well have had many evenings available(?), but they still had to get back to base by the required times. 
  No doubt I'll receive a lot of flak about making that statement, but considering the individual's I've heard this from (and did as described), I tend to believe it. I also believe the greatest problem that people will have with it (the statement), is that they presume it to be a challenge (to their knowledge/authority). It (really) isn't. I have no doubt that the individual's that they studied from, were valid, knowledgeable instructor's. Taking the situation from their (the Okinawan instructor's) viewpoint, they only had those individual's for a limited time. The presumption being (from their perspective), that the individual would continue their study, and improve upon those motions taught (during that limited time period). They were (only) taught the basics (which are the general requirements for Shodan) 
  This again goes back to the assumption being made for the knowledge associated to having been presented a Shodan ranking (be it from whoever/where ever). The majority of that assumption, being made by the individual's involved. Having listened to Taika talk about (some of) the instructor's in Okinawa, I'm (generally) not impressed. It reminds me of (damn near every) Korean instructor that I've ever met (they're all of some high rank). It's (more) like, they got off the boat/plane and their rank jumped 4-5 dan (or what-ever level's are referenced as in Korean). Though it's popular (if not a habit, LOL) to slam American's for being superficial, we are not alone in that regard. 
  I don't (really) know, if that same training methodology still permeates the Okinawan schools (not having been there myself). I assume that with the influx of (non-military) foreign student's it would prove to be impractical (if not transparent) to continue that speed-danning practice. Considering how many of the older (and knowledgeable instructor's) were killed or died during time period of WW2, there was (surely) an adjustment period (to establish who, knew what, and was still alive). It was during that time-line, that Taika sought out knowledgeable instructor's to learn the (oldest) form of the kata he now teaches. 
  As I stated, having listened to some of these old school student's(who studied in Okinawa during their military stint), and then, having heard all the details, I am not (necessarily) impressed by their having done so. I'm not saying it (probably) wasn't a great experience, but I don't necessarily believe that they learned anything beyond what is presently taught today(by often, those same instructor's). I know how much Taika's instructional methods have evolved in the past 30 years. He has (obviously) had to adapt his teaching methods from how he used to do so (in Okinawa).   
 What/how he teaches today, is vastly different from what was taught (even 10yrs. Ago) earlier (even in my own studies with him). To believe that those individual's who (only) studied for their brief (military) posting in Okinawa garnered the same amount of instruction/information is disingenuous (at best). 
   Keep in mind, that I'm NOT saying that those individual's that have (trained and received their Shodan in Okinawa while in the military) are Fakes. I am saying, that having done so is not a reason to justify any greater knowledge/ability than someone who has (only) studied elsewhere. Yes, it was (possibly) more intense, but intensity does not equate to quality/quantity. Their situation would have required a greater intensity(given the limited time available), but only so much can be shown/taught in a given time frame.
  For (certain) individual's to claim that (only) because they've studied, and possibly even received a Shodan (while on active duty) in Okinawa, is not a validation of what-ever they may claim (knowledge wise).
  So, are these individual's Faux? (Fake?), no I don't necessarily believe so. Are they possibly less knowledgeable?... possibly (I'm sure that would need to be decided on a case by case basis). The only things that would influence my own decision (in regards to studying from them) would be how long were they there, whom did they study with while there, and what other instruction have they received (and from whom?). Basically, no different from anyone else out there teaching today.


Monday, March 7, 2011


  Having mentioned (here) before that I'm not big on teaching weapons in my classes, I'm placed in the position of now eating a little crow, LOL. Though I don't feel that the weapon's (themselves) have any practical application for the average student's self defense use. I do feel their practice will provide useful reference/application to the student's open-hand technique's. 
  The weapon's themselves, could (definitely) prove useful in a self defense situation, but what are the odds that one would have any of these implements on their person if/when they find themselves in a (true) self defense situation. First off, the individual would most likely be in conflict of local laws (as it's illegal to have 95% of them on your person in a public place). Next, for those that say you can transfer application to commonly found objects, not really. Again, this goes back to what the common assault consists of, which is a one on one situation. Unless you can really prove that you had a fear for your life, you've now provided the (supposed aggressor) with a (legal) fear for their life (which they could use against you in a court of law). Stopping your defensive actions (in order to pick-up some object) could arguably prove intent (on your part) to escalate the situation beyond it's present level, will definitely be used against you. Please don't try to use the “I'd rather be judged by 12” BS argument as being applicable (it isn't). That sort of thinking, has put more people on the loosing side of judicial decisions (if not in jail), than any other. First off, unless you kill the individual, you'll only be facing a single judge (for a disturbing the peace/public disturbance type of charge). No doubt the (would be) aggressor, will also have a lawyer, who will be attempting to prove that you (in some way, say..picking up a weapon?) escalated the situation to a (potentially) lethal level. Even if you win that legal battle, it will cost you a great deal of money to settle the situation (fines, punitive damages, probation costs, lawyer costs etc.).
  Putting all that aside (because I don't teach weapon's for their use in a self defense situation), I feel that weapon's can prove useful for a student's instruction in self defense. Although sounding contradictory, (if not hypocritical) it really isn't. I think the majority of student's will envision themselves using those weapon's in a situation (while practicing the motions), but my emphasis is more towards the hand/arm motions being utilized in those weapon's manipulation. This isn't some great vision of my own (hardly, LOL), Taika stresses that weapon's training, teaches the student various hand/arm motions that are commonly done in/with self defense applications (without the weapon). Anyone that teaches/uses weapons in their training methodologies, will (or should) recognize that using the weapons will teach the student open hand motions/application also.
  Almost any motion, done with the majority of weapon's, can be transferred to open hand application. This can be conversely applied with the hand technique's to a weapon's application also. Taika teaches that there should be no difference in their (the weapon's) application. Their biggest use (IMO), is in teaching the particular motions (of the hand's/arm's) when those weapon's are being manipulated.
  Though student's (rarely) recognize it, the use of a weapon will also emphasize the need for correct body motion. I've found that Footwork and body motion, are the two most ignored pieces of any (practiced) technique's application. For some reason, I've found that when a student places a weapon in their hands, their footwork (suddenly) becomes applicable (in their minds). I'm not exactly sure why this is the case, but it does seem to get them to move their feet, LOL. When using a weapon, student's also seem to notice (more) when they're leaning or over extending. Of course, how well this transfer's to the student's open hand technique's can only be confirmed over time.
 Oyata's use of weapons (for training purposes) from what I've observed, varies somewhat depending upon the weapon being practiced. Training with the sai, most often stresses finger/wrist motion, tanbo emphasizes forearm/wrist motion. Bo and Jo kata, often stress whole arm, and body motion. Chizikunbo kata contains combinations of all of those actions, and each contain specific body motions in their use/application. There are numerous other things that can also be learned from their practice, I have only listed those things that I directly correlate to in my own classes.
  No weapon can be utilized (properly) without incorporation of the taught open-hand motions being included in those actions. Although I do have biases against weapon's training, it isn't because something can't be learned from their instruction. My bias, is in regards to it's (the weapon) being taught as being (directly) practical for self-defense purposes.