Saturday, March 23, 2013

Practicing to Get What's Available (Out of a Punch)

  I've been reading numerous articles lately, regarding "How to Punch". I understand the desire to have student's perform them correctly, but I don't understand the disparity between the system's/instructor's that seems to permeate the industry.
  The physical performance of a "punch", is simply the rapid forward motioning of the hand (of which has often had the finger's gathered, if not rolled into a "ball", and is then further referred to as being a fist). This "fist" is then moved with a rapidly executed forward motion, which then impacts a "target", using the fore-knuckles of that hand. The preferred target location, is commonly the head/face of an opponent (whether performed as an aggressive act, or as a part of a competitive sport).
  The common belief, is that one needs to possess great strength (preferably) to accomplish anything when utilizing this (type of) strike. I've expressed my own beliefs regarding the “punching of someone in the mouth” before, so it's (generally) understood (by my reader's anyway) that I don't view it as being an effective manor of (actually) neutralizing an aggressor.
  Regardless, the ability to “punch” (effectively), is something that we have our student's train/strive to accomplish. We provide Taika's (system's) methodology to that endeavor, and utilizing those methods, our student's are (commonly, LOL) able to produce sufficient transfer of energy/momentum into a target (uke), to produce effective results.
  This is began with learning to produce a “basic”(?) punch. Considering that our lightest student is (I'm guessing) around 95#, that would (presumably) have a potential of delivering (at minimum) a 95# worth of mass, at how-ever fast that student can move their (whole) body (which will increase the amount of transferred energy).
  Unfortunately, the majority of (at least “new”) students aren't able to coordinate their (entire) body sufficiently, to be able to produce an efficient delivery of that mass and momentum. To that end, we begin our students in the practice of (what Taika referred to as) performing a “Power-Punch”. This initial form of (this) practice, is to learn the beginning concepts of proper delivery of body mass.
  The practice is began when the student is first shown how to practice a punch (itself) in the air. While standing in a Horse Stance,the student will alternate (Right/Left) the act of punching directly to their front. Some system's teach to punch to the center of the student's body, Taika has shown us that this is incorrect (and frankly seems a little stupid when you think about it, LOL).
  We have our students punch directly ahead of the punching arm's shoulder (to the same location that the hand would be if raised straight ahead, as if raised when the arm was hanging naturally at the tori's side). When practicing “punching” while in a Horse-Stance, the hands will (initially) be placed to begin their motion, to the front of the hips, bending the elbows slightly, in order to accomplish this positioning.
  This is done (initially) to deter the student from the desire to “cock” the punch (commonly seen done by most systems) to the student's side, or even up under/into the armpit. Doing so, will produce the (unnecessary) reflex to “cock” the hand before striking an aggressor (a time-consuming and wasteful if not stupid habit).
  When beginning to learn “how” to perform a punch (correctly), it is not uncommon to have the student utilize a pencil with learning the initial motion. This is done by the student placing the pencil between the (inner side of the) Bicep muscle, and the Pectoral muscle (on the chest). The idea, is to perform the punch, while maintaining the pencil's (held) position.
  The ability to perform this (albeit minor, LOL) feat, will teach the student to not over-extend/commit the arm, and/or the student's body-weight (ineffectively) into/with a performed strike.
  To practice the “Shuffle” Punching method (which is focused more on the inclusion of the tori's entire body-weight), the student will begin in a ready-stance, and perform a “step” forward (to begin with, only the distance of a natural stride/step).
  As the student's body-weight begins to transfer to the forward leg (with both knee's being buckled slightly), the striking hand begins it's upward and forward projection (towards the intended target).   
 The tori's Rear leg, will coordinate with the striking hand, and motion forward (itself) towards the forward leg of the tori.
As the striking hand is extended, it's impact should be coordinated with the arrival of the rear leg's (foot) positioning beside/behind the tori's forward foot. The hand's arrival at it's intended “target” should be concluded with the “milking” action being performed upon the impacted area.
  Throughout the entire performance of this motion, the tori's hip's/shoulder's should maintain a “square” positioning, with the striking arm (neither leading nor lagging the strike itself, remaining in synchronicity with the strike).
  Though completely usable (in the practiced format), it is the principle that should be learned (and therefor applied) from the performance of the exercise.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Progress, or Regress?

  While studying Taika Oyata's system of Life Protection, what was being taught was in a continual state of modification/improvement. This was being done (by Taika) in order to move student's closer to how Taika performed his technique's.
  When the board announced that the (20+ year old “tapes”) would be used as examples of “kata standards” (for testing purposes), I was shocked. Frankly, we haven't performed the kata as demonstrated on those tapes,for 15+ years (?). I'm forced to presume that they are meaning only for the kyu-ranks and possibly for Shodan (testing?) purposes. We don't know, because the association guideline/manual hasn't been released (yet). Again, (presumably), that manual will be released at this year's Summer Conference. 
  While some people will say basic, intermediate and/or advanced, Taika would only say technique or kata. Much of what had been taught to student's in the earlier years (20+ years ago), were (only) stepping stones to what he intended to eventually (evolve into) becoming his techniques. This was particularly true with the instruction of kata.    
 What Taika had his Yudansha student's teach (to their students) to prepare for their Shodan Examination, were the commonly practiced manners of performing the Kata.
  Once having completed that examination, those students would rarely repeat those kata in that particular manor again (at least for their own training purposes, and certainly not for the purpose of further rank examination).
  At the Yudansha level (for his student's, i.e. all the Yudansha, LOL) Taika's manner of performing the kata (within his system) was different than what is commonly seen amongst other Okinawan methodologies. Taika included additional motions (that had been demonstrated to the membership) that were expected to be performed when practicing the kata (as well as during any further rank examinations).
  When the student had completed their Shodan examination, they were expected to practice all of the (taught) kata, with each of the addendum motions that Taika had been demonstrating/teaching.  
 When viewed in this perspective, it made (more) sense that someone would spend 10 years working on a (any) single kata.
  The most common response made (when I make this statement) is that Taika was just “making-up” his changes/addendum's to the kata. Perhaps, but they each made sense, each one served a purpose and after having made those changes, it feels awkward (if not stupid) to do them any other way.
  IMO, Taika was both extremely talented and extremely fortunate. He was fortunate to of been provided with the guidance and instruction that he received from two of the last instructor's from an era that this information was (actually) used, and he was talented enough to be able to expand upon that information, as well as be able to incorporate it into everything that he learned and taught.
  As Taika often said, anyone can learn kicky-punchy karate, only the dedicated student can learn The Life Protection Arts.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

(Re) Defining “Basic”

  At our school/dojo, we are consistently refining the kyu-rank requirements curriculum (for our students). Some would view this as creating inconsistency (and therefor becoming confusing to our students).

  The changes that have been made, have been done to make their (our students) learning easier. To a great degree, those changes have amounted to the elimination of a number of the (previously taught) transitional requirements.

  As we often do, we were questioning some of the instructional methods that were being utilized (both by our school, and others in the industry). Though agreeing with the concept of staged/transitional instruction, the idea that those (intermediate) “stages” should be a part of the student's (rank) grade evaluation, didn't make sense (to us).

  This became most obvious to us, when students were performing Kata. When a student is shown the Kata Naihanchi Shodan (which is the first Kata shown to our students), they are shown to perform a skeleton method of performance for the Kata.

  Though technically, that manor of performing the Kata is correct (to anyone else, in another system), it is not how we (student's of Taika) should be performing the Kata.

  IMO, it is unfortunate that the people who are now running his Association chose to Back-up, and return to how the Kata was being practiced 20 years ago. Almost as soon as those “video tapes” (that's how long ago it was...) were released, Taika began the modifications to how he wanted the Kata performed (to represent RyuTe, and how he was teaching it).

  Even those tapes stated that what was shown was the introductory methods of their performance. What was demonstrated upon those tapes as “advanced”, are what is now shown (to the student) as soon as the student is able (commonly within a few weeks/months).

  To myself, this amounts to being a “bait and switch” game. I've watched instructors (again, from numerous systems) tell a student to do something one-way, then in a few month's, tell them to do it a different way (because one is more advanced than the other). I find this odd, because no mention was made of the previously shown method as being incomplete or basic?

  Taika used to complain (all the time) about there being no “basic/advanced” (there was only technique). This was especially true with kata. We (in our class) were reviewing the performance of a particular weapon's kata motions, and it was demonstrated how a particular motion should be performed.

  The motion made perfect sense to all of those who were present, but when asked, Taika had said that he had to simplify the manor that his student's (at that time) were performing the kata (because it was too difficult for those student's to replicate).

  Granted, the motion is difficult/awkward (initially), but once learned (and applied) it makes perfect sense (and clarifies the “clunky” motions that were previously being done in the Kata).

  Using this example as a reference, one can easily see how the open-hand Kata were (often) “simplified” as well. What many people have come to accept as the “way” that a Kata should be performed, is not necessarily correct.

  Knowing how Taika (eventually) expected the Kata to be performed, we are attempting to gravitate our students towards that goal, as being the one they are striving for, instead of the various staged levels of “basic” Kata performance (that are commonly being sold as levels of ability). 


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Is Tuite Necessary?

  I've become engaged in numerous instances of debate, over whether the knowledge of tuite is even necessary to be able to defend one's self. And of course, there is still an ever lingering question about the ability to even utilize tuite during an (actual) confrontation.
  The short answer is (obviously) no. But then, neither is the ability to kick someone, nor even punch someone. Not possessing knowledge of tuite does not make someone less able to protect themselves. Much like the possession of a firearm (automatically) will make someone able to protect themselves either.
  Both are options. Not every situation may have both of those options available during their occurrence, but (in general) they can be available (if/when one should choose to utilize them).
  Additionally, not every situation necessitates the use of tuite (nor a firearm if one wishes to propagate that thread). Likewise, the use of either is not even appropriate for every situation. Being options, means that a conscious decision has to be made to use any of the variables that are available to the student.
  The majority of systems (now) teach some manner/group of applications that (at least of late) they've began calling “tuite”. Prior to 20 years ago, the majority of those same systems had (either) never heard of the term, or believed that they (or their students) had any use for it.
  With the inclusion of the probability of litigation to the majority of training programs, awareness of an alternative to the bludgeoning defensive methods/systems became a (legal) priority to the survival of most schools.
  For anyone who has worked with Law Enforcement, the idea of teaching (typical) “Ka-rotty” to them was (completely) verboten (the legal liabilities are cataclysmic). Tuite is the perfect tool for acquiring access to L.E. Instruction.
  When ascertaining the possible legal liabilities for what's being taught, tuite should hold the least amount of concern. Considering that much of what I've observed (for situational responses) has been (IMO) excessive (to say the least), tuite provides the student with less than lethal alternatives that (still) have the ability to be escalated if/when necessary.
 The greatest difficulty in regards to teaching tuite, is transgressing the (steeper) learning curve. Being more involved than simply learning how to punch something, tuite requires an (actual) understanding of joint motions and their limitations.
 Acquiring that knowledge takes time (as well as having the experience of practicing those limb manipulations). The greatest mistake that I observe (regarding the practice of tuite) is the mistake of assuming that any reaction, equates to being the (or even "a") correct reaction.
 It is those false reactions, that are the nemesis of what is passing for being taught as being (proper/correct) tuite by the majority of schools today.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bizarre Bunkai, and Warped Perceptions

  I've mentioned before that I'm on the E-mailing lists for (most of) the “Fad” lecturer's. The most recent one that I've received was from England (from one of the more “popular” Lecture goof's). This one was in regards to “One-Step Sparring” (and his complete disregard for it).
 Seeing that the subject is one that I consider to be the MOST preferred method of student practice, I had to download his “pod-cast” on the subject. He began by ranting about how useless, and unrealistic it was (for a good 5-minutes), he then began endorsing “Live” practice (for what-ever that vague description was supposed to represent).
  I found it amusing that he felt that 1 through ? (step) sparring was “useless”, yet endorsed “protective-gear” sparring as being productive? (because that manner of “sparring” was realistic? WTF?). The majority of what he considered to be “live” (?), was about as far from reality as you could get (IMO).
  Towards the end of the pod-cast, he made (passing) mention of Rory Miller's “new” manner of 1-step sparring. They performed it at “arm's length”(wow!, does that sound familiar?). He then talked about how this guy had “discovered” it by accident (practicing technique performance without stepping rearward into stances), and had only recently (in the past 10 years) been doing it that way.
  So now I'm wondering how big is this rock that all of these guy's have been living under? The longer I listened to this guy's Pod-cast, the more out-of-touch I believed him to be.
  In our classes, we have practiced all of our technique's at arm's length for the past 30+ years! What this guy described as being “1-Step sparring” was just bizarre, as in the kind of stuff you see the “kiddie” classes do in practice (to make them feel-good, and make sure that no-one get's hurt).
  After coming to the realization that these people have no idea how the F*&K to practice technique's, or how to utilize applications, I moved on to see what else I'd been receiving in my E-mail.
  One of those notifications was for a “new” book (for “bunkai”). They offered a download of the first chapter,...(IMO) don't waste your time. The book (like most of them seem to, for whatever reason) focused on the Pinan kata (all 5).
  Though I don't believe that there's only “1” correct interpretation for the kata motions, I also don't believe that they're all (simplistic) counter-punches for strikes (as this person evidently believes them to be). The concept of “tuite” was one that was presumably too far beyond that author's ability to visualize either (as the section that was included for "free" didn't seem to offer any). 
 At a recent "Shihan-Dai", we were discussing the execution of particular kata motions (from Ni Sei shi kata actually). Tashi Lindquist was reiterating the point that when a clarification is made within a motion for one kata, it should (usually) be made within others as well (when the motion occurs again).
 Being that my forearm is injured, I couldn't (really) participate too much in that month's class. That class's weapon emphasis was on the "Combat" Tan-Bo kata. As I've stated before (in prior blog's), I'm not a big "weapon's" fan, but this kata has numerous application opportunities for us (seeing that we do a lot of Law Enforcement training as well). 
 It's when I'm exposed to these "other" manners of training (that I'm receiving via E-mail), that I really wonder about where these people are acquiring their information from. It's not that what they're doing won't work (although I would be likely to question it quite often), it's just that it is so impractical to either apply, or to use regardless.


Forearm Strike-Neck Strike


  This combination motion introduces the student to deadening of an aggressor's striking arm (via an atemi strike), which is then commonly used in combination with a neck strike. If the uke has any preexisting neck injury or soreness, practice of this technique should not be attempted.
  Practice of this combination (as with the majority of others) begins with the tori and the uke standing face to face, at an arms length/distance from each other (this should be confirmed, by the tori placing his hand on the shoulder of the uke to establish proper practice distance).
  Technique is began with both parties having their hands at their sides. When the uke begins their strike, the tori should motion their non-dominant side hand straight up (bending at the elbow, until the (open) hand is (essentially) vertical, and then extends forward until it (only) contacts the inner-side of the aggressor's striking arm (acting as more of an outward parry than a strike). This should be done in conjunction with the tori rotating (their hips and torso) to face the approaching strike attempt.
 The tori's dominant-side hand motion is performed in conjunction to the non-dominant side's parrying action (and additionally, in case the non-dominant side motion should miss the uke's strike), crossing the body at groin level, and then upward to the waist, chest and face level, and continuing until it is vertical. The strong hand (once becoming vertical) continues forward, and downward, striking the uke's (striking arm's) forearm, (with the intent of numbing it) utilizing the back(dorsal)-side of their forearm to strike the uke's forearm (upon the dorsal-side, radial aspect, 2-3"below the elbow).
  Should the tori's non-dominant-side hand miss it's initial deflection of the striking arm, the dominant-side's hand/arm should already be in position to strike the uke's (striking) arm, and will deflect the striking hand with that action. The tori's initial forearm strike should be immediately followed by the tori striking the same side of the uke's neck (i.e. if the uke's Right arm is struck, then the Right side of the Uke's neck should be struck).
 A variety of striking methods are available, and students are encouraged to experiment with them until they discover which are more comfortable/practical (depending on individual situations).
  In the event that the uke utilizes the arm opposite (across from the tori's dominant hand/arm), the tori's initial (non-dominant) parrying hand will not have sufficient reach to parry the attacking limb of the uke. For this reason, the tori's dominant hand will still perform it's initial (forward) striking action (upon the uke's Left striking arm), in conjunction with a rotation away from the strike (which will cause the uke to then be facing the striking hand). As this strike is being done, the tori's non-dominant hand modifies it's initial cover/parry, to be utilized as a downward strike to the mid-section (solar plexus) of the uke.
  Though able to be used as described, this strike is usually done with emphasis being on using the edge of the hand, and scooping in a downward manner.
  As the the Tori's Right (dominant) hand completes it's forward parry/strike, it will then motion (over the top of) the uke's striking Left arm, further parrying it downward and to the front of the tori, which will motion the strike to the opposite (and tori's non-dominant) side (doing so, while the tori rotates his body position back towards facing the uke's dominant side, to again place themselves on the outer side of the uke's striking hand. The tori's hand should maintain a constant contact with the uke's arm while doing this.
 Once the uke's hand/arm is transferred to the tori's opposite side, the tori's (dominant) forearm will be motioned into position upon the rear of the uke's (left) striking arm. The tori's arm will rotate (using that forearm as the pivoting location) until the dominant hand is located (now) above the uke's arm (making it perpendicular to the uke's arm). This allows the tori to utilize that forearm to apply pressure upon the uke's upper arm (slightly above the uke's elbow).
 Once the tori's non-dominant hand has (if possible) completed it's strike, it then retracts, to then grasp the uke's (striking hand's) wrist (which was motioned to that side, by the dominant hand (as described above). With the tori holding the wrist of the uke's striking hand (with their own non-dominant hand) the tori will enact an arm-bar using their non-dominant hand's wrist/forearm (placed as described above). This motion (the “arm-bar”) can be supplemented with either a neck strike (of several optional forms/locations) or can be used to (only) apply controlling point applications.
  These two arm motions (and strikes) must be performed as quickly as possible (with as little time-lapse as possible between them). The uke's response (to the initial forearm strike) will cause them to bend at the waist, towards the impacted arm and then withdraw that stricken arm, turning that side away from the tori (allowing only a short amount of time to be able to strike that same side of the uke's neck). Additionally, it is not uncommon for the uke to bend one, if not both knee's (in an effort to establish their own stability). 
 The neck strike will slow the uke's rotation, and usually will cause a knee-buckling response (of it's own), in conjunction with a retreating action (away from the tori) depending on the direction of the neck strikes impact. These strikes should only be done with light to moderate impact during class practice (and in conjunction with protective padding on the neck to prevent any serious injury to the uke). The result/reaction from these strikes, amounts to a numb arm and moderate light headiness(when performed lightly) upon the uke.
  As the student becomes more adept with this techniques execution, the addition of a kick, will add/create modifications that will need to be practiced with, before their application to/in an actual defensive situation. Depending on which leg of the aggressor is struck, different reactions, timings, as well as any possible follow-ups may, or may not be applicable. 
  Practice (as always) begins at a “slow” speed, until the tori is confident with the required actions. Practice speed can be increased so long as both parties are comfortable with doing so.

There are multiple follow-ups available, and student's are encouraged to experiment with discovering what would work best for them (be it Tuite, arm-locks or strikes) in varying circumstances.