Monday, May 23, 2011

Using the Body, when Striking

  When observing student's practicing their striking, we often tell them that they need to utilize their body-weight (with the strike). This is often misinterpreted as swinging their body and/or limbs (in a circular manner). Taika has repeatedly corrected us on this subject.
  Prior to instruction, student's will commonly twist their body/hips when attempting to include their body-weight into a strike. By doing so (twisting), they are (in fact) causing a substantial portion of that momentum to be diverted away from the strike.

  What should be understood, is that any body motion that moves in a/any direction other than the intended strike, takes momentum/energy away from that strike. Performing a strike in this manner, is (often) in direct opposition to the manner which many systems teach (on how to execute a strike).    
  Learning how to practice not including these extraneous motions, begins when the student practices their punching in cadence/formation. Standing (commonly) in a horse stance, the student will alternate (Right/Left) performing a punch. While doing so, their attention is usually on confirming the hand/arm positions and/or extension in conjunction with breathing with the requisite hand position and milking action (for the striking manner being practiced).   

  In RyuTe, further emphasis is included on not including any shoulder or hip motion. The only limb that (should) make any motion, is the striking arm. When alternating striking arms, the returning arm (only) lowers/returns to a position in front of the tori's hip. The strike should not “wind-up” (to the tori's side), but only motion upward and forward (from the position in front of the tori's hip).
  While performing these motions, the student should note (and correct) any other/additional body or arm motions being done. It's during this manner of practice, that the student should be eliminating any of those extra (and unnecessary) motions.   
  Those extra motions, though feeling as if (they are helping) more power is being included, are in fact taking power away from the strike. By rotating, the energy (of the strike) is being bled outward (instead of forward, with the strike). Though some would argue, that the amount of energy (bled off) is small, the cumulative amounts of energy/momentum (from the rotation of the hips, shoulder, torso, even the arm itself) are enough to view it as being detrimental to the strikes effectiveness.   
  I've had individual's attempt to present speed/momentum theory's as an argument for use of these rotations (the same is often presented for the PR-24). Just as with the PR-24, the circular motion/speed can (in theory) provide a difference in power potential. The part (of the formula) that they ignore/leave out, is that the transfer of that power, is not made into the target, it is reflected back (into the delivery source), in this case the PR-24, or the striking arm. By doing so, the user feels the strike, making them believe the strike is more powerful. 

  Additionally, student's are often told to imagine punching through a target. This is misleading (if not wrong). If your striking a person, your not going to punch through them (despite any movies you may of seen). We inform student's to visualize punching into the target (only as far as their natural extension allows). If one imagines punching through a target, that strike will become a push. 

  The addition of any rotation, will (further) reinforce this pushing action. A strike, only has a limited range of (full) effectiveness. Formation, and free-air practice (of performing strikes) reinforces the awareness of that range (for the individual).
  Beyond the cadence/formation practice of performing strikes, RyuTe utilizes (what we call) a shuffle-punch. We have student's begin in (either) a natural or step-stance, and shuffle one foot forward towards a target (or in free-air) and strike (using alternate hands/arms). As the strike is executed, the rear leg is drawn forward in conjunction with the striking arm (regardless of which arm is utilized with the strike). As in formation, there is no rotation of any (other) part of the body. Attention is made to not rotate/extend the shoulder of the striking arm, or hips. The student's emphasis is on motioning the whole body (forward) as one action. 
  Tactically, there are numerous advantages to practicing to strike in this manner. By not rotating, the student doesn't place themselves off-balance (thereby creating the opportunity for counter's by the uke), and will maintain a stable positioning for follow-up techniques. They also will be delivering their full potential of momentum/energy into their strikes/techniques. One will also become more familiar with knowing (if not feeling) their (personal) range (of technique effectiveness).  

  Though I often stress feeling techniques, I'm (usually) referring to a particular motion and/or reaction. If/when your feeling the energy of your own strikes, it may be in your best interest to figure out why. Energy, should be transferred into your target (uke), not reflected back (into yourself).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Applying Defensive Strikes

  I was reading an article recently, that the author was evaluating various approaches to training for defensive responses to an attack. Most of their evaluations I could agree with, but (naturally) the article was about what-ever training method they had come up with (hence, I quickly lost interest).The article did cause me to consider how I have been defining threat evaluation/responses, and how I explain them to my student's. 
  I begin with explaining the particular “stages” that I (personally) advocate for making a defensive decision. There are numerous other/similar approaches to doing the same thing and I inform my student's that they should use whichever method/manner that they prefer.
The basic “outline” of making a defensive decision (that I utilize) consists of 3 stages.
#1 Perceive the threat,
#2 Decide an appropriate course of action,
#3 Act upon that decision.
  The actual time duration of any of these steps can vary greatly, the sooner that the first is established, the more time that is allowed for the remaining two. The second stage is often the most variable (on the part of the defender). It is based upon the knowledge, and experience of the defender. The final stage is based upon the ability level of the defender. 
  Depending upon the particular threat, these three stages could only span a few seconds, to taking several minutes between any of them. If a student has considered the possible situations/circumstances that could be encountered (beforehand), then they may have the opportunity/ability to extend (any) one of them, thus gaining further time to adapt (if necessary) their chosen course of action.
 (I should explain, that a student's instruction would have also included situational awareness prior to any in-depth study into the (actual) response portion of reacting to a threat.)

  The ability to perceive a possible threat, is (in many circles) often considered to be thinking in an “un”-Politically Correct (if not paranoid, LOL) manner (oh, well). For myself, being Politically Correct (PC) is only adhered to in situations where I am circumstantially obligated to behave in a certain manner, and I (have already) perceived no obvious threats. Beyond that, I'm always watching what's going on around me, and I suggest to my student's to do the same. 
  Once a threat is observed/noticed or begins, an individual needs to determine their best course of action. That can include leaving (if/when the option is available). When one is obviously forced into a physical altercation, that option isn't always available. It's those situations that I focus my instruction upon. Once the situation has reached this stage, the reactions (of the tori) need to be definitive, and as effective as possible.   
  The particular article I was reading, was comparing the various (training) methods of practicing this stage of a defensive response. Though I didn't completely agree with the author's evaluations of the methods listed, the article did present some legitimate considerations for each.          

  The one point I did disagree with, was the authors dismissal of “Blocks” as being (used as) “Strikes”. Evidently, the author only considers strikes to the head/body (of the uke) as being legitimate? Strikes (done to the limbs, in that author's opinion) won't effect the uke's ability to strike. I believe the author needs to get out more. I feel pretty confident that I can effect someone's ability to strike again (effectively, and most likely for a period of time) after striking their arm. Even our student's are finding out that it's not that difficult to do so.         
  The other weakness that I detected with the author's logic, was that he apparently considered strikes individually (when evaluating their effectiveness). I realize that many systems/practitioner's tend to focus upon individual strikes (when practicing techniques). The interaction/effects from one strike, can often effect the effects/results from other strikes applied (appropriately, and in area's which are in turn effected from the first strikes application).
  IMO, this (at least in student's) comes about from over-focusing on an individual technique. I'm aware that numerous systems (tend to) emphasize a one-punch mentality (to end a confrontation), and I might concede that it's a possible occurrence, but I would hesitate to ever depend upon it.        
  I tend to view (individual) strikes, as being akin to chopping down a tree. An individual strike, may bring it down, but (the odds are) multiple strikes (that build upon one another) will do so. Each strike should individually be causing injury (no matter how small) that adds to that outcome. As one progresses through the encounter, the cumulative effects (from the individual strikes) must be evaluated, and corrected upon. Certain strikes require previously established conditions be met, before their application is attempted or even feasible.        
  When explaining this (to students) I'm often questioned about whether the tori will have the endurance to apply this methodology long enough to apply it. This is the common misconception of the application of RyuTe techniques (and with describing their use/application) in a confrontation. The (actual) time involved (and/or required), only amounts to a few seconds. The average amount of time involved in a confrontation, will rarely exceed 20-30 seconds. I've found that people (in general), including student's, often attempt to compare a sparring match, to an actual confrontation. Those matches can last several minutes (unlike a real confrontation). Though endurance is an admirable attribute, it is not a prerequisite to guaranteeing a successful outcome in an actual confrontation.        
  The point that the author (of the aforementioned article) attempted to make, was that student's often over-emphasized their training, upon strikes applied to the aggressor (and their individual effectiveness). His argument, was that not enough emphasis was placed upon blocking. To a certain degree, I could agree with that assessment. Where I would differ, would be with the manner that those “blocking” techniques were being utilized. Simply deterring the completion of an attempted aggression, is insufficient to end a confrontation.        
  The entire concept of “blocking”, needs to be abandoned. In the “big picture”, the goal is to end the confrontation. Only Blocking, amounts to wasted motion. It's short-term benefits (the prevention of being struck), do nothing to prevent the aggressor from continuing their assault. Though not always possible (or practical), personal experience has shown (me), that by causing sufficient injury (to only an aggressor's arms/legs) can end a confrontation (without causing permanent injury). Legally, this works out very well (for the defender/tori), by only bruising up someone's arms and/or legs, makes it very difficult for them to press charges (if/when they began the confrontation).
  The ability to apply this principle, is (without doubt, LOL) not easy. It requires extensive amounts of practice to do so. That's the purpose of class-time. Practicing these applications is frustrating, and can often discourage student's (from their immediate inability to apply them). RyuTe is recognized as being a long-term (if not Lifetime) study. For those who require/demand the right-now results (from what they're being shown), I would suggest that they look elsewhere than RyuTe, for instruction. 


Friday, May 13, 2011

What constitutes a technique being “Tuite”

  Though not being a really big deal, we have always categorized our technique's into separate groupings (Combination's, & Tuite). This was done mostly for our own benefit (for writing them down), but it did make it easier for distinguishing between them.
  Well, (to add to our frustration, LOL) Taika was asked (by my associate), and he stated that arm-bars, shoulder-locks etc. are (also) considered to be Tuite. This doesn't (really) change anything (in regards to how we teach), other than a (minor) change in paperwork.
  Though this may create a bookwork headache (for us, LOL), the change is not that big of a deal. The logic behind it makes sense, Tuite, means “grab-hand”, which has always been understood to be either the uke or the tori grabbing (something). We, had (simply) limited it, to only be in regards to wrist manipulation (not including all of the possible arm manipulations of the uke).
  Oh well, .... the next question (for us) is how to differentiate between the individual manners/types (of Tuite). My first inclination is to do so by “joint-type” (wrist, elbow, shoulder, etc.). I'm thinking this may prove easier than I first believed (going against my usually pessimistic nature, LOL).
  We will still differ from most of the Internet claims (that have Tuite being strikes, throws, kyusho, and anything else that they can think of). Granted, Tuite techniques can include (from their additional use) any of those subjects, but that doesn't (also) make them Tuite (In our opinion, well, unless/until Taika tells us otherwise, LOL).
  I've found it interesting that (other) system's would choose to begin utilizing the term Tuite. If they had decided to use the term Torite, it wouldn't of been that big of a deal, but by using the term Tuite, they are (directly) attempting to equate what they teach, to what Taika teaches (which BTW, it isn't).
  I have explained elsewhere, that this was a word created by Taika. It is not a word in common usage, so the (obvious) only reason for it's usage, is to associate/equate (whatever) they teach to Taika's technique's.
  Those technique's (taught by others) are often similar, so I can understand the mistake being made by them, but the fine points of the individual technique's execution are performed differently. I have had numerous individual's attempt to make this equation of technique application (upon myself), and though sometimes close, none have been the same.
  Those differences are often minor (hence their dismissal of importance). Though being (only) minor would imply that the (alternate) method would work (and they usually will), they also offer numerous opportunities for being countered, (and/or not working on certain individual's).
  Claims of immunity from Tuite technique's application(in general) are false. These are commonly cases of misapplication (of the technique in question). What is usually being assumed, is that the technique must cause/create pain. Pain, is not the primary result from a Tuite technique's application. Pain tolerance varies from person to person. If/when pain is being used as a standard (for correct technique application), then the technique is being practiced incorrectly.
  For the majority of individual's, the application of a Tuite technique will cause/create a painful reaction/result. Regardless, this is only a supplemental reaction. The primary purpose, is the uke's (whole) body reaction to the technique's implementation (whether the technique causes/creates a painful reaction or not).
  The application of a Tuite technique requires an understanding of the body's natural ranges, and limitations. Student's are shown and demonstrated, the various limbs ROM and limitations. Though the majority are (already) known (by the students), the correct/efficient manor of exploiting the limits of those ranges is not always realized.
Even after student's are made aware of these ranges, opportunities for their exploitation are often overlooked, or (again) are not realized. Because of the (very) possible occurrence of injury, our practice of these technique's is kept at a (very) slow speed.
  As we explain the various limbs ROM, we demonstrate the relevant positional considerations. Understanding that the hand's rotational position will effect the remainder of the arm's ROM, becomes important in numerous arm manipulation technique's. This knowledge similarly aids in a student's execution of Tuite.
  Though being only a piece of RyuTe's instruction, Tuite is one of the most popular pieces of it's methodology (IMO, equal to kyusho). Tuite, like any other manipulation method requires extensive amounts of practice, and requires experience with multiple body-types of uke's (Large, small, strong, weak, tall, short). If/when that experience is limited to only a few of these, mistaken assumptions can be made in it's general application (if not instruction).

When I observe example's (of others versions of these technique's) on the Internet, I mostly see individual's muscling the uke into submission. This is fine (for that individual), as long as their aggressor's are always smaller/weaker than themselves. Our Litmus test for an application's correctness, is from having our smallest/weakest student applying the technique upon the largest/strongest person in the class. Equally surprising, can be the reverse situation (the Largest/strongest individual applying the technique upon the smallest/weakest student). This often examples the fact that muscling a technique doesn't always work.
  When requested to explain a particular Tuite application (here), I'm often hesitant to do so. Not because of any “Secrets” being revealed, LOL, but because the situation will often dictate the application method.
  Tuite technique's are taught in a manner that illustrates the particulars of the individual technique (ie. A situation where the technique could possibly be utilized). The odds of a student (actually) being in that exact situation are often remote. The legitimate situations that these technique's could be used, are momentary at best. The more common occurrence is if/when the situation is set-up and/or created (by the tori).

  Personal experience has shown this to be easier than one would first believe. We encourage student's to practice creating these set-up situations. Obviously, just from knowing these technique's, student's are (themselves) hesitant to grab one another (when being an uke). But experience has shown that (when properly done) these situations are not that difficult to create. Impacting (types of) technique's are the more commonly expected (and utilized) manner of aggression. Grabs, are (usually) only momentary, and are used as a pre-striking action (usually to clear the way, and/or position the tori in order to deliver the strike).
  Rather than waiting for the uke to (in some way) grab them, the tori provides the obstacle for the uke to move (out of their way). The uke's thoughts are (commonly) on hitting the tori, by placing the hand/arm in the way of doing so, the tori is interrupting that plan. The simplest action (in the uke's mind) is to move the obstacle, and that involves grabbing and/or pushing it aside (thus, creating the grab situation for the use of tuite).

  For many, this is far too involved, to be applicable. Having done so (numerous times), it's easier than one would first suspect. The problem-solving capabilities of an enraged individual (which is usually the case in the average fisticuffs exchange), are extremely limited and are therefor, kept simple (in order to not interrupt their initial plan, which is to hit you). 
  By attempting this manner of defense, the tori sacrifices nothing. The hand/arm placed between the uke and themselves still serves the purpose of being an obstacle (from being struck), and forces the aggressor to modify their initial attack-plan. Anything that causes the aggressor to (have to) modify their initial plans and/or causes hesitation, will allow the tori/defender to (either) consider/initiate their own actions, or to vacate the scene.

  From reading, and/or being (constantly) told, that Tuite is impractical for application in a “real” confrontation, many have actually began to believe it. Considering how it's use is often taught (in these other system's that keep saying so), I can understand why it may be believed to be true. I would also agree that it isn't always practical to utilize those types of technique's, but I (also) believe, that Tuite isn't (always) being utilized properly to begin with.

  One cannot pre-plan the opportunity to utilize Tuite. The ability to “Seize the moment” (OK, bad-”pun”) only comes from repeated practice of those brief opportunities for it's application. 


Monday, May 9, 2011

Kyusho (once again) Revisited

  Rummaging through the Internet, I repeatedly see the term kyusho being bantered about, as if it had been in use for decades. My own first exposure to it (the term) was when I first met Taika (late 1970's). I had been involved with martial arts for 7 or 8 year's prior, and had heard the term only once or twice (and never in anyone's teaching curriculum). Even then, the term was utilized in limited context, and only occasionally in regards to training/practice.
  When one now looks, every school/system pimp's the term to mean anything that remotely looks like it (or not), and that whatever they teach relates to/is kyusho. It seems to be very common to intermix (any form of) limb manipulation to also represent (or be) kyusho. The two may be related, but they are two separate subject's. Tuite, may (on occasion) also contain a kyusho application, but the two are separate subjects.
  It would be simple enough to let it go, and let these individual's display their own ignorance, but for the unknowing reader, it is misleading. It appears that (many) student's (or at least perspective students) have gotten the idea, that kyusho is the god-send, end-all, equalizer, that eliminates the need for (any) repetitive practice of defensive technique's.
  Kyusho is nothing more, than a supplemental piece, of one's defensive repertoire. The use of these location's, are commonly contained within various technique application's (and rarely utilized independently). The majority of sites that are promoting kyusho as being their main focus, lack any (viable) technique training (IMO) for the beginning student (and/or limit it's instruction to those who have been with them for an extended period, $$).
  Kyusho instruction should begin early in one's training. The word Kyusho, means vital point. Vital, is a relative term, though commonly associated with great pain/damage, vital can also represent necessary (to a technique's execution). I can easily identify numerous kyusho points that elicit no pain (or damage) yet are (obviously) vital to a technique's (effective) execution.
  I feel that there is no (real) need, or concern to restricting the learning of these points (and it is often necessary for the student to learn/recognize them). There exists a great fear of possible repercussions for instructor's (from teaching these points to minor's). Though I don't teach minor's anyway, I certainly wouldn't be that concerned. Even without any training, does a minor not know that jamming one's finger's into the eye's of an adversary could (possibly) cause permanent damage? Does a minor not know that crushing a larynx could possibly kill someone? These are more blatant (and obvious/universally understood examples of) kyusho (type) strike locations. If an instructor is so incompetent, that they don't point out these possibility's, the student (or their parent's!) should be seeking another instructor anyhow.
  We've had (prospective) student's come to our school, specifically seeking instruction in kyusho (points/striking). First off, they're immediately identified (fair, or not, LOL) as “wanna-be's” (with no real prior training). We then (attempt to) explain that kyusho is (only) a supplemental piece of one's over-all training. For those that have an honest desire to learn the system (RyuTe), this is an acceptable explanation. For the others, they move on (to find someone to fulfill their fantasy's of becoming ninja killer's).
  Does this come across as belittling? (God, I hope so!). I've always had a problem with wanna-be's (that don't want to learn anything, yet want to be known as being a bad-ass). Learning any martial art requires time, and work. If your not willing to put forth the effort required, your not going to be any good at any of them. Regardless of whether your studying RyuTe, or any other martial art, your going to have to work at it. I don't believe that learning a martial art should be (necessarily) complicated (and I don't believe RyuTe to be so). But each system has (it's own) challenges. RyuTe's (IMO) is the myriad of minor technical detail's. Determining which challenges a student feels most comfortable with taking on, is what will determine whether a perspective student chooses one style over another. This is why I've quit trying to sell RyuTe. I only offer it's instruction. Our student's choose to study with us.
  What should be obvious, LOL, is that we don't emphasize kyusho (as being the main instruction) being offered in our student's training of/in RyuTe. It is recognized, and taught, as only being a supplemental part of an over-all instruction methodology. There are far to many other aspects of self-protection, to do it any other way.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


  At the recent Shihandai (Black-belt classes), we had a new attendee (a reader of this blog, LOL) who had never attended one of our Shihandai before. Unfortunately, only about 6 of the local BB showed at that one. Some worked on some weapon's kata, and the new attendee worked with myself and my teaching associate. We explained and demonstrated the 6 basic tuite principles, and reviewed some basic tuite (illustrating their application and use). From what was gathered, he hadn't worked with any RyuTe instructor's in a while, and was just getting some review time in (and “feeling us out” I'm sure, LOL).
  The “locals” (here in K.C. MO.) restarted the Shihandai (after an extended hiatus from their occurrence) about a year ago. My teaching associate and myself view this as being a good thing. The ability to interact (not to mention practice) with fellow association member's is always a positive experience. We're hoping to include some of the Yudansha from the surrounding area's to join us when practical (for them). The invitation is out there, all they have to do is show-up, LOL.
  In the past (IMO), certain (now departed) instructor's tended to feel (or at least act as if) alienated. This could (and did) cause some unjustified feelings of being ostracized. That aside (and more importantly, IMO), some individual's began to feel that only they were learning/teaching (or knew) what Taika was wanting student's to learn. By creating this (their own) isolation, those individual's have attempted to establish themselves as being (somehow?) especially knowledgeable about what Taika teaches now (though not having studied with/from him for several years?).
  Regardless, those individual's are now out of the association, and the present member's are striving to eliminate the possibility of a re occurrence of those situations. The greatest loss (in my own opinion) is by the student's of those who were removed. Having spoken to a few of them, many were (completely) unaware of the situation, and now will have no opportunity to (actually) train with Taika.
  Amongst the local Yudansha, there is a consolidation of known weapon's kata being done, and expanding that knowledge to the various (interested) local/regional Yudansha member's (there exist far too many for the average (individual) member to have complete knowledge of/about all of them). 
  My associate and myself have been attempting to categorize and record (as is practical, LOL) as many (root/basic) tuite technique's that have been taught over the years to various member's as we can ascertain. This becomes difficult (as far as categorization) in that some border between (what “we” consider to be) “combination” technique's, and (simple) “Tuite” technique's. These also have to be limited to “basic” versions (as the variations number in the dozens, if not more for each, LOL).
  The goal of the Shihandai, is to disseminate acquired knowledge amongst the individual attendee's. Individual instructor's often are unable to practice (their own) techniques with (other) Yudansha ranked member's (which is more practically done with non-student's). The Shihandai also provides the opportunity for instructor's to learn weapon's kata that they may not have the opportunity to learn otherwise (as the Yudansha class taught by Taika is often focused upon the concepts and applications that Taika wishes to convey/teach). 
  Hopefully, the surrounding schools/individual instructors (who don't have a class to attend to on those dates) will begin to join us at these classes, and we can further unify the Yudansha member's of the RyuTe Association.