Friday, August 31, 2012

Predator or Prey

  Many of the assumed concepts that martial arts are based around are (frankly) B.S. The one that has bothered myself the most, has always been the “Fight or Flight” assumption. Interestingly, while I was writing this blog, I happened across another blog (loosely) discussing the same (basic) topic (though I believe he went in a slightly different direction, LOL). This assumption/theory was coined by Walter Cannon in the early 1920s. It was based on the responses made by cats when confronted by a dog. Additionally, it ignores the 3rd most prominent reaction, to freeze (remaining motionless).  
  Supposedly (like an animal), a person will either Flee, when presented with a threat, or they will Fight that threat. This is closer to being an educated guess (50/50), than being any manner of useful conflict theory. That decision is being based around a hundred additional/different decisions, that are all being made in less than a few seconds.
  The facts (of what this assumption was originally made upon) tell a completely different story, than what was assumed to be occurring.
Walter Cannon’s work showed that reactions from the major emotions involve the excitation of the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system.
  This excitation leads to changes in a body’s muscles, glands and bodily functions including increased secretion of adrenaline, increased heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration, increased visual focus (a leading factor of “tunnel vision”) and decreased digestive activity.
  Excitement/anticipation could be argued to be a predator-type of emotion involving a physiological arousal and is (what I would consider to be) a positive anticipatory response/emotion. It is better associated with the approach or predator-type behavior, rather than a withdrawal/retreat (prey-type of)behavior.
  Emotion involves physiological arousal. Excitement/anticipation is an emotional response. Stress is a prey-type of emotion involving (albeit often unknowingly), the negative emotion of anxiety-fear. It is what I consider to be a negative anticipatory response/emotion.
  Both of these responses are based upon one's prior knowledge/ability to perform specific responses to those situations. When one has (enough) sufficient training to feel confident with utilizing that training, then they will use it. What must be remembered, is that each individual will require a different amount of that training to feel sufficiently confident (in their own mind) with those abilities.
  These positive/negative responses can be taught to occur, or even be suppressed under predetermined circumstances. It is for this reason/purpose that we engage in repetitive training and practice. The more at ease one is with a particular response, the more likely they are to utilize it in a given similar situation.
  By practicing prearranged responses, the option of “fight or flight” is modified beyond the either/or level. That response is (of course) dependent upon the user's comfort level with the practiced responses.
  It's also based upon that premiss, that we have student's practice techniques that will provide functional responses regardless of the particular aggressive action. Granted, one cannot predict or prevent every possible manor of aggression, but the more popular/common of those threats can certainly be anticipated and practiced to defend against.
  The majority of RyuTe® techniques (tend to) work in response to techniques whether the aggressor uses their right or left hand to perform the action. This follows Taika's instruction regarding the use of a single action that can respond to several (different) manors of attack.
  These are the types of techniques that Taika was working on during the last number of years while he was alive. Numerous “ex” students would complain that he had (simply) gotten old, therefor couldn't perform the more physical (if not brutal) techniques of his earlier instruction (a.k.a. Ryukyu Kempo days).
  This is (of course) a ridiculous assumption, but is (frankly) to be expected. Those individual's hadn't worked with Taika for quite some time, so could hardly be expected to be familiar with what Taika was working on, much less teaching.
  Taika always emphasized simplicity and effectiveness. There was never an implication that necessitated complexity or brute force be a factor of any technique that he ever taught, or endorsed. This may have been considered to be a factor with techniques that he previously taught (and partially explains why he quit teaching them, not because they didn't work, but because he improved upon them).
  Fight or flight is often used as an excuse for person's with minimal (or insufficient) training/practice. All that it really amounts to, are what the probable (untrained) reactions to a threatening situation are likely to be (ie. 50/50%). More importantly (for defensive training purposes), it should be viewed as an emotional element to be included in one's defensive strategy. Being an emotional element, means that it can be learned/trained to be controlled and/or manipulated to the user's benefit. 
 Fight or Flight is (too often IMO) used as an excuse (for improper training). When examined in the wild (with animals), it doesn't (really) occur (as described). It is always dependent upon different factors, and (of course) which creature is the predator, and which is the prey.
 It was this same premiss that Taika would "poo-poo" regarding the Chinese systems that were based around animal's ("human's aren't animals, they don't have claw's, or fang's, but they have far greater intelligence,... they just don't use it", LOL). 
 Understanding what is emotionally as well as physically occurring during this initial segment of an assault, allows the student to modify their training to compensate for any deficiency's that may occur or be present at that time. The greatest factor (to any corrections that need to be made), is that by being aware of them, they can be corrected and/or eliminated, as the student requires.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Breaking (Down) Bad


  Determining what the motions that are performed in a kata represent, can become a lifelong task for some. For others, it's an afternoon's amusement. So what are the differences between the two investigations?
  I believe (more importantly) that the differences are in what's expected to be determined. For years, the general belief was that what you saw, is what you got (for bunkai). With the advent of Taika introducing his interpretations, that viewpoint was changed forever.
  As opposed to (only) stringing the represented motions together (to form a sequential yet, limited interpretation), Taika proposed that the motions were independent actions (each with an independent interpretation).
  These independent motions could be linked together in endless combinations, thereby creating multitudes of technique's and combinations.
  When accepting this view of the kata motions, it quickly becomes understandable that practitioner’s of old could easily spend a lifetime interpreting the motions of (even) one kata, much less the dozen or so (kata) that are commonly taught.
  What I commonly encounter, is a singular interpretation for a/each kata motion. Which, when initially beginning one's investigations, is the simpler manner of interpretation. What one usually discovers, is that each motion can represent a number of technique motions and principles.
  In my view, each motion will have numerous interpretations. The important understanding is not the individual interpretation, but understanding the motion itself (and the numerous applications that it is a part of).
  I feel it's more important to understand concepts, and methodology than it is to know specific technique's. A technique can be useful in a single (type of) situation, a methodology can be applied to any situation or circumstance.
  For our kyu rank students, we provide certain techniques to be learned at those ranks. The learning of those techniques is not restricted to (only) those ranks (higher, or lower). When we have student's practice applying those techniques upon one another, it matters not what “rank” one is at while doing so.
  One's rank advancement is also not restricted or based upon one's ability to perform those (specific) techniques. For any given situation, there will be numerous acceptable responses. Students are taught that if/when one technique fails, they move to the next one (that they are familiar with).
  We've found that (for whatever reason) students will relate different technique's to one another when learning them. Though certain examples can be (and are) provided, there are often (at least to us, LOL) odd associations that are made (by the student). Though there are certain obvious similarities between specific technique's, it isn't always possible for a student to see or relate those similarities.
  This also is a purpose of kata practice, not every technique or motion is seen (in the same way) as how everyone else see's it. Through kata practice, we learn to make the motions physical memories, instead of being (only) visual representations.
  Those systems that don't have (or utilize) kata, are what I consider to be the kiddie systems. Their follower's are those who (they believe) don't have the time to spend on kata. They're generally young, in good physical condition and (frankly) display aggressive behavior on a regular basis. They tend to enjoy having that “bad-boy” image. In short, they're people who haven't (really) encountered a life or death situation where they will likely lose..... yet.
  I know everyone loves to quote, emulate (worship?) Bruce Lee and some of the ideals that he endorsed and promoted. When I was an inexperienced “kid”, I did too. Having since grown-up, I view a lot of what he promoted with some disdain. His so-called philosophy was obviously that of a young man, not necessarily bad, just limited.
  It wasn't that he taught anything of applicable value (that wasn't already available elsewhere). His “student” list, mostly consisted of student's who were already trained (in at least one discipline or another) before they ever studied with him.
  His only (noteworthy) talent, was pointing out the obvious. When he entered the (American) martial arts scene, there was a great deal of denial and speculation being taught. What Bruce lee did do, was force people to look at it, see it and question it. He didn't offer any direct solutions, other than what was (or should have been) obvious.
  His opinions and observations regarding kata, were gleaming examples of (both) his youth, and of his own inexperience. The only example he had (of his philosophy) was himself, which from an instructional perspective, means nothing! If the philosophy isn't, or can't be exampled through a student, then it is considered to (only) be an anomaly
  If you examine any of the new-age, anti-kata “systems/styles”, they are all designed for the young, in-shape, athletically inclined, male student. The few that advertise that they are “Female” (friendly?) amiable, are predominantly a joke.
  Kata favor no particular body style, strength or size. They are only a “list” (if you will) of various body motions and positions for use in applications.
  One of the first things I explain to new students, is that they will first be learning (how) to move their own body. To do so, you have to know what it can and can't do. And To understand that, you have to learn it's limitations.
  The vast majority of people are not able to move their own body efficiently, the rest can't do so while doing anything else, LOL. Kata is the first step in correcting that deficiency.
  The people that don't/won't practice kata (for the most part), aren't able to. They could learn the motions, but they aren't able to figure out what they're supposed to be doing. To them, it's a waste of their time. And for them, it usually is.
  These same people practice endless sets of practice routines (that they devised). Rather than learn the traditional ones, they create their own. They like to claim that theirs are more practical, or that they make more sense (although I'm not sure how they came to that conclusion, seeing as how they didn't understand the motions in the original/traditional kata).
  The ability to reproduce the kata, is not that difficult, understanding what those motions represent though, is another story. 


Sunday, August 26, 2012


  Though more commonly attributed to misguided political leanings (on a governmental scale) the term “Isolationism” is often appropriate to describe any particular sects of an organization (such as within the RyuTe® Association).
The term (as I'm defining it here) would be as follows:
The policy, if not mandate, of isolating one's localized group/dojo, and/or student's from the affairs of other groups, dojo and/or student's within a shared organization by declining to fraternize, participate in gatherings or maintain communications with other groups/dojo or student's within that same association. Seeking to devote the entire efforts of one's dojo and/or member's to only it's own member's advancement, through only the knowledge available at that dojo and/or that instructor, while yet retaining a perfunctory affiliation with said (larger) association”.
  Though hardly constituting a crime, LOL. To isolate one's school/dojo (and student's) from the association that your supposedly a member of, is disingenuous to it's own student's (at the very least). This could (easily) lead to student's of those isolated schools formulating false understandings and/or the belief that “they” (somehow?) are the only one's receiving (some manner/form of) correct or incorrect instruction.
  Additionally, the instructor's of those “isolated” schools, become the “sole” model(s) that the attending student's are provided with as “role models”. This can/will lead to false expectations and/or limits to be presumed as “standard” by those student's as well.
  I have (yet) to of met any instructor within the association (past or present) that is the all-knowing master of everything “RyuTe”. It will only prove to be more advantageous (as we proceed forward) for us to retain our group affiliation.
  It has already been shown that various “Ex” member's have (and still do) lie to their student's about their own affiliation to/with Taika, and what was taught/shown to them. With the expulsions of certain members, there have been numerous false statements made (By those individual's) regarding their departure's. It has been shown that without any doubt, that their versions of their expulsion's are at odds with the reality of what occurred.
  Having recently (in the past couple of years) witnessed this isolationist activity occurring withing our own association (and the resultant activity's), one can easily see the importance of avoiding it's recurrence.
  When the “new” Dojo Guideline (manuals?) are finished, we'll see if this problem is addressed. The “Board” has plenty to keep it busy I know, but these are some of the questions that regularly come up in conversations I've had (with other association members).
  Despite the (very) few member's that have chosen to retain (any) affiliation/communication with any of the expunged members, the general consensus is one of excommunication (if not embarrassment from having had any prior connection to/with them). Why someone would chose to retain (any) affiliation with these individual's is beyond any logical reasoning.
  From what (very little, LOL) I've heard, there is an assemblage of all of the known kata (open-hand and weapon, within the entire association) in process at this time. The “rumor” (LOL), is, that these will be confirmed, and a “standard” performance (method) will be established, and (digitally) recorded (for each kata).
With this having been accomplished, it would go far to eliminating any individual(s) of claiming to have a “solely” possessed knowledge of, or for any information regarding that subject. It was this type of nonsense that recently expunged member's were (falsely) claiming to posses.
  It's been known (and recognized) that there exists a disparity of Tuite performance/instructional methodology within the association that has existed for (more than) several years now (IMO, 20+). With the recent culmination of technique/kata information, it is our hope that this will include the instructional methods utilized in the performance of Tuite (to in turn be dispersed throughout the association). Thereby establishing some manner of "standard" execution method.
  I've complained in numerous blogs that I've written, about the atrocious excuses for (what some people are calling) Tuite, that I've witnessed (both in person, and upon the Internet). This skill-set is uniquely Taika's (therefor, should be recognized as being uniquely RyuTe®). What “other” people (seem to insist upon) calling tuite, is more often re-hashed jujitsu and poorly performed Aikido (wrist technique's).
  Tuite is a skill-set, that requires individual practice (to learn), and integral practice to implement. It is too often taught as being (only) an ability that's utilized in non-serious/passive resistance situations. When instructing L.E.(types of) Situations, very often, the officer will be the one to institute the initial aggressive action (ie. Handcuffing).
  It is neither passive, nor casually applied technique's that are being utilized. In these situations, Tuite will be applied as an authoritative control measure that demands immediate compliance. It is technique's of this manner (for L.E.), that we're hoping to present at future association seminars/events.
  I hope that member's can (also) see the benefit from being a part of the RyuTe® association. I don't believe that every student has the same (learning) desires as every other student. This also goes for skill-sets, I don't believe every instructor should (claim to) have expertise in (every) weapon, kata or every other individual skill-set.
  Through the RyuTe® association, every student has access to every skill-set and instructor of that skill-set, that RyuTe® has to offer. One doesn't have to be concerned with learning a poorly performed/remembered version, there is access to persons that have specialized in that subject/weapon (within the RyuTe® Association).
  The RyuTe Association (now) has the potential to be a far greater organization than it has ever been before. We may have lost our beloved Taika, but that doesn't mean that his dreams and desires for RyuTe® have ended as well. 
  Te is defined by the open-hand, the finger's are relaxed and free to grasp or touch as need be, but all are connected through the palm. If they are tightly clenched, the hand can only pound upon something. The finger's are then unable to (individually) accomplish numerous tasks. The hand must remain open to accomplish anything.
  This is our association, our individual Dojo are the fingers of that Hand. The association is the palm, it binds the dojo together. If we cut them off of the palm, they are independent, but worthless. If we close them tightly together, into a fist, they will remain together, but will never accomplish or create anything more. 
  We (as an association) must act together, in order to further research that which Taika showed to us and to remain able to meet the requirements of what is needed by our (entire) membership (Both member's and Dojo, large and small), and for the RyuTe® Association, as a whole. We cannot isolate ourselves, and/or knowingly, or unknowingly allow members/dojo to do so either. If the association is going to continue, and survive, there can be no further divisions or segregation's allowed to exist within it. 

Wasn't there some out-dated, old-fashioned saying about
United we Stand, Divided we Fall ?
or was that just a pipe dream too?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Single-Track Training

  I was discussing the use of pressure points recently with someone, and they began the “You can't use them in a confrontation” (argument?). When confronted with this (supposed) “point”, I'm a little bit perplexed.
  First off, the individual (obviously) doesn't know or understand how the points are used, and second, I really don't feel like having to explain it to them.
  There are so many misconceptions about pressure points out there, that the subject is becoming more of a (teaching) liability than a curriculum asset.
  I think most of it comes from the (general) public's need to be “Wowed”. If it (whatever “it” is) isn't in your face, and impressive (enough), then the public (opinion) either doesn't notice, or doesn't care.
  When Taika was still doing “open” seminars (that allowed anyone to attend), I would have to endure listening to some of the most stupid comments/questions that were being made to him (it was no wonder he quit doing those seminars, LOL). Though he made his manner of performing neck-strikes popular, he also sullied the subject, by allowing attendee's to focus on that single application of what he was attempting to illustrate.
  If you've ever endured one of the sales pitch's for the (numerous) gimmick “pressure point” salesmen, then you'd be inclined to believe that these “pressure points” are the answer to any of your own (inability to actually work on your chosen art) requirements and/or deficiency's.
  Pressure points, are no more, or any less, than any other asset in one's collection of applications to utilize (should the situation call for it). As one becomes more familiar with them and their locations (as well as understanding how and when they are most practically applied), they do tend to be utilized with greater frequency.
  What people don't (want to?) understand, is that they are rarely used as a “solo” application. They are most often utilized within a common technique's application (punch, kick, grab etc.). Unless one was (already) aware of the locations significance, it would never be related to even being considered to be a “pressure point” application.
     The majority of the yahoo's that are promoting (“their”) pressure point applications, are only pummeling their (victims) student's on the neck. This is in NO WAY a demonstration of skill or knowledge (much less ability).
   The neck is a very vulnerable area (to any impact). Regardless of how one chooses to strike it, your likely to witness some manner of results (that occur from any impact upon it). They most likely won't be what your expecting (like the eye's rolling-back, and the subject going unconscious), but you will produce some level of an arguably usable result.
  As with most subjects, this one has different uses depending on the knowledge level of the implementer. To achieve a (simplistic) “reaction”, is easy. To achieve the exact reaction (that you want and/or need) requires far more skill/knowledge (than what you'll achieve through these charlatan's).
  I think the greatest disappointment (for the student's of these joker's) is the fact that what they're shown to do, won't work the way they wanted it to. The facts are, that there is no short-cuts, and/or easy way to learn these technique's (and that's all that they are, technique's).
  As long as the student can avoid the TCM nonsense, and approach the technique's as a (yet another) physical application, they are not that difficult to incorporate into one's repertoire.
  We usually have student's begin with gaining an understanding of the limbs ROM (Range Of Motion), as they become more familiar with those, we begin adding (related) locations that can be utilized (in various manners) that will affect the various limb's ROM.
  In addition to the ROM knowledge, a student must understand a limb's interrelationship with rest of the body. Any action perpetrated upon any location upon the body, will produce correlating effects elsewhere (upon the subject's body).
  This is why/how we confirm the proper application of a tuite technique (performed on an uke's wrist). If/when we can see the proper knee reaction, we know the technique has been properly applied (if there is no knee-reaction, the technique was not being properly applied).
  This interrelationship is not based upon some magical voodoo nonsense that depends on the time of day to establish applicability. It's based upon physiological facts (having more to do with balance than with any manner of “Chinese elemental” theory/crap). This interrelationship is demonstrated to student's through a simplistic exercise that we call, the fist pressure demonstration.
  The student will assume a stance, although irrelevant which one, it's easier to illustrate the principle if/when the student assumes a stance where both legs are tensed (like a horse stance). The student then extends a fist to their front (as if performing a punch), while tensing the muscles in their entire body (remember, this is only being done for testing/illustration purposes, not to evaluate someone's punching manner/technique).
  While the student's fist is extended, the other person will apply pressure (usually with only the fingertips) against the (either/any) side of the student's extended fist/arm. In addition to the (obvious) pressure applied against the hand/arm, the student should (additionally) note the muscular reaction being created (because of the applied pressure) to other locations upon the entire body.
  This is most obvious within the leg muscles of the individual. As pressure is varied (between top, bottom and either side), the corresponding (muscular) reactions change to match those (directional) differences. Though most easily detected within the leg muscles, similar reactions occur throughout the entire body. It's those reactions, that the student will begin to correlate to locations for their striking techniques.
  This (simplistic) illustration of the human body's (limb's) anatomical interrelationship, is only another one of the learning model's that are provided for a student's understanding of the taught principles. Regardless if the student is using “pressure points” (or not), understanding that nothing on or within the human body operates independently, without the interaction of (usually several) other aspects of the individual's anatomy is essential to learning how to control, manipulate and/or debilitate an aggressor.