Thursday, November 28, 2013

Migi, Hidari

   I was recently queried about movement. Though not (necessarily) an involved subject, it is one that gets side-lined by new students fairly often.
  The individual who contacted me, utilizes the same manner (or close enough) of training methods that we do (at our school). They begin their (striking) technique practice, squarely facing each other (at an arm's length distance). Both person's begin with their hands at their sides. And one person strikes (the uke) at the other (the tori).
  This person was having difficulty in moving their body (side to side) “quickly” when practicing at full speed (a potentially painful situation). It seems that no matter how quickly they attempted to move their head, they were still getting “tagged”.
  Well, first off, you (probably) shouldn't be using full-speed punches, while attempting to figure something out (ya think?). Regardless, many people (over) focus on the head and shoulders when attempting to move them quickly (especially when a strike is coming at it). Start at the other end of your own body.
  One needs to first understand the requisites to moving your body. A sideways shift (of the entire body), is (commonly) a 3-step process. To move to (as an example) your left side, you first (1) have to transfer your body-weight to your right leg. This allows you to (2) lift and motion your left leg to the left side. Once it arrives where you want it, your body-weight is (again) distributed accordingly (3).
  This is how most people have moved/walked their entire life. In the (defensive) situation your describing though, it will never work (or at least, fast enough). The quickest way to increase your speed in accomplishing this (simple?) task, is easily remedied. Eliminate 1 of the “steps”.
  Consciously “skip” the weight transfer. Instead, buckle the leg that you want to move (if you want to move to the left, buckle the left knee). When you do so, your body-weight is (automatically) transferred to the right leg (and your body/head is being motioned to the side that was buckled). It's then a simple matter to motion that leg where you'd like to place it. Though being a (seemingly) infinitesimal time difference, it is often sufficient to serve one's needs.
  As one becomes accustom to this manner of motion, they can begin to include the rotation of the legs/torso (when appropriate to one's application). It's also important to remember to rotate the knee's (initially). Doing so will cause the entire leg to rotate (where as a rotation of only the hips, will not necessarily include the lower legs).
  The ability to motion quickly (side to side) is an important skill to (defensively) master. It should be remembered that there are only 3 directions that can be moved toward quickly, Left, Right and Forward (movement towards the Rear is always your worst and slowest option). And yet, most systems will teach their “new” students (who know no better) to move towards the rear as their initial defensive direction (WTF?).
  Unfortunately (for those “other” schools students), they also tend to have their students try to “block” the aggressor's “hand/fist” (as well).

Sunday, November 24, 2013


  I've mentioned before that the name of our school is Kenshukai. This is translated as “Practice/Research Building”, Though teaching only one system (that of Taika Seiyu Oyata), we often experiment (ie. “research”) the movements and techniques of additional systems.
  We teach our students the 12 kata that were taught to us by Oyata (as well as his instructors kata), and are constantly performing our own research into the interpretations of the movements contained within them.
  Oyata (additionally) bestowed upon us a name for our dojo as well (Okishinkan-“Place of the Heart/Soul of Okinawa”). As well as teaching our own students, we've had several others who have attended our classes as well. Mostly to learn tuite, but many have attempted to learn Oyata's method of (general) technique application.
  Oyata's methodology is different from what is commonly being taught. He was the first to emphasize the “one-second” defense (method). Drawing on his own experiences (in Okinawa), he knew full well that “Life-Protection” was not learned from tournament matches.
  When Oyata first came to the U.S., he (still) condoned “sparring” (or at least “Bogu kumite”) by students. This was done because “that” was what was popular (at the time), and was the easiest way to gain the attention of prospective students (usually accomplished through a demonstration during the “intermission” or “half-time” of the tournament).
  Once a large (enough) following was established, the practice of competitive sparring was considered to be an “amusement”, but was never considered to be a serious part of his methodology (at least by his regular Yudansha students). The subject (of “sparring”) was never even talked about during his (regular/weekly) classes.
  Actual encounters were over in only a few moves (by either an aggressor, or by the defender). It was this premiss that Oyata taught his methodology. The ability to accomplish this feat, required precise placement of the taught applications, as well as having a greater understanding of what constituted reality (when practicing the instructed motions).
  Though being meticulous (in regards to the shown kata), his emphasis was (always) on the performance of the taught applications. He considered a confrontation to only (allow for) consist of several motions occurring (by either involved party).
  This required a higher level of precision to accomplish his (taught) methodology. Because of that, he was often very critical of his students (who were only of Yudansha ranking) performance.
  The techniques that he taught, were rarely what one would consider “complicated” (in their performance), but generally required a greater amount of practice (comparatively speaking) to perform correctly.
  Oyata's seminars usually consisted of teaching a “theme”. This was accomplished through the instruction of various (often simple) technique/applications. The techniques that were shown, were often irrelevant, the emphasis was on the principle being taught (the instructed techniques only demonstrated the principle being shown).
  Persons that attended those seminars would often proclaim that they “trained” with Oyata, but this was more of a boast than an accurate statement. Attending a seminar only exposed those persons to his methodology (hardly a “training” experience, regardless of the number of them attended).
  When one of those “attendees” began using the system name that Oyata was using at the time (as well as beginning to include a host of nonsense that Oyata disagreed with), he (Oyata) changed the name of what was being taught, in order to (more) reflect his methodology. This also allowed him to focus on his teachings (and to abandon any prior practices/methods that he disagreed with).
  The majority of persons who actually did attend his training sessions, would often quit (and after a fairly short time). Most often because it wasn't what they expected (presumed) it to be.
  Most people presumed them to consist of endless “knock-outs” and being subjected to repeated sessions of painful applications of tuite. Though occasionally including elements of these subjects, the majority of his classes were the (seemingly monotonous) review of kata motion (including the review of individual limb motion).
  Western (American) students (as a rule), were (often) too impatient to study under Oyata. So the majority only did so for a short time (usually less than 6 months). Only in hind-sight can any long term student say that they were shown vast quantities of information.
  It should additionally be noted, that Oyata was constantly improving what he taught. What was shown to student's when he first arrived here (in the U.S.), was greatly modified by the time of his passing (2012).
  Numerous techniques, and how he wished kata to be performed were modified as he continued to improve his techniques and methodology.
  Those individual's that ceased to study with him (or hadn't in years) still continue to proclaim that they're teaching the same thing (which is ridiculous to anyone who actually did continue to train with him).
  That doesn't invalidate what those people are teaching, only that it isn't the same (and the comparison being made is false). If anyone were to compare what they knew/practiced 10, 15, 20 years ago, and compared it to what they do now, how much improvement would there be?
  To claim to be teaching “the same thing” (after not training with Oyata for those time periods) is (at best) disingenuous. The man is now gone, the best we can hope for is to continue the improvement of what was shown to us (and to avoid taking that instruction backwards). 


Wednesday, November 20, 2013


 The majority of the forms of (Okinawan) karate that I observe today, instruct some manner of joint-manipulation (Torite/Tuite) and seem to be of the belief that it is not (allowed?) supposed to change (nor therefor improve). I understand the need to establish the groundwork (basics) for beginning students to learn general motions. But what I don't understand, is why the higher level students (mudansha) aren't expanding their (own) understanding of what's already been shown.
  The “Typical” Torite/Tuite seminar being offered will present 20 new or different ways to do something, like some “new” technique.  That would be fine, except the majority of students (regardless of rank) regularly perform the elementary forms of the techniques incorrectly.
  It seems that every time I hear someone tell me that they (already) know a technique, they (only) know how to perform the “practice” manner of it's performance. They have rarely applied it in every possible (or practical) manner of it's use/application.
  It has become commonplace for practitioner's to believe that there is only one way to perform some (any) technique that they've previously been shown (and I use the word “shown” on purpose, because I don't feel that they've actually “learned” the application).
  There is an immense vacuum of knowledge where the fundamental techniques are concerned. Most practitioner's are aware of those motions, but rarely are they adept at their utilization.
  This is a sad (enough) statement to be made regarding “Yudansha” students/instructors, but what's more sad, is the denial of it's occurrence.
  Commonly, any technique will have several (different) manners of situations that it could be utilized within. Most techniques are demonstrated using only “1”. This is usually the one in which they were taught the technique, and will therefor (only) utilize it in.
  I detest the description/term, but in the (supposedly) “live” practice method, a technique is attempted in several different circumstances (with the uke resisting). This manner of practice is essential for learning and understanding the 6 Basic Tuite Principles.
  Those principles allow the student to (individually) dissect all of the techniques that have been taught to them. Every technique, regardless of how simplistic one may consider that technique to be, should be scrutinized to the level of ad nauseam.
  We are repeatedly encountering individual's who (want to) claim that such and such technique won't work on “them”. And just as often, we discover that “whomever”, has been attempting to perform the technique incorrectly upon them (meaning we have always achieved a correct reaction).
  Just as often we observe what (other systems?) members are calling “tuite”, is being performed incorrectly and/or resulting in incorrect responses from their techniques application.
  When queried, those same individual's will (often) “brag” about how they (only) practice those tuite techniques hard and fast.  Although seeming to be “realistic”, the objective of practice is (or should be) to learn, and study. Simulating realism, can only go so far towards that learning/study ability. More will be gained from the examination and understanding acquired from the focused study of the technique.
  The majority of techniques will create some manner of reaction regardless of how sloppily that technique is performed (when done with greater speed). Unfortunately many practitioner's consider “any” reaction to be acceptable. This is only accurate if that reaction is sufficient to accomplish the desired goal (at that time).
  Though an increase in speed (may) often produces a “reaction”, that response is not always an acceptable one (in our opinion).  
 What is most commonly seen, is a simplistic forward bend (at the waist of the uke). This is often resisted through simple strength, and/or the uke having a high pain threshold. Correct technique reaction should consist of a knee “buckle” accompanied by the uke's rotation away from the tori (which will prevent their ability to strike the tori with the uke's free hand).
  The tori should additionally be capable of placing the uke in any location and/or position that is required (be that at the immediate location, or relocated to a preferred one, via one of the instructed escort applications).
  The preferred goal, should be to create the desired reaction that is required at the time, and being successful, regardless of any attempt that is being made to counter it.
  That ability is only possible if/when the practitioner is knowledgeable of the taught 6 principles (which can additionally be used to “test” one's knowledge and/or ability of the techniques).
  For our own students, we begin having them place the uke in positions “circular” to the uke's original location (forward, back, Left, Right and any intermediate direction as well). This reviews the tori to numerous “options” for directing the uke to a control location.
  Once these differences (in placement) are understood, we begin to have the students training in “control” and immobilization of the uke.
 Not every situation will allow for these variances, but the knowledge acquired from this practice exposes the student to numerous situations and/or requirements that they may experience (when required to utilize the taught applications).
  When applicable, and/or possible, Tuite is a preferred option to striking methods. Striking methods have their place, and (may) be required in certain situations, but the goal of training is to prevent any injury to the defender (tori) first. When that's possible through some manner of limb manipulation, the ability to achieve that goal provides numerous advantages (including causing minimal damage to the aggressor (uke) as well. 


Monday, November 18, 2013


  Something that is (apparently) difficult for students to accept, is that when they are closer to an opponent, that person becomes (physically) weaker. This is something that is often realized, but not accepted (in one's defensive capability's). This premiss goes back to our student's study of Range-of-Motion (R.O.M.) study.
  This is (initially) illustrated with a “cocked” (shoulder) punch. When the aggressor's arm is pulled-back(up) to their shoulder (in preparation to strike with it), by simply placing one's hand upon it, the strike can be (easily) negated. Once that hand/arm begins to be extended towards it's target, it becomes (progressively) more difficult to defeat any forward progression (though it can be diverted to either side fairly easily).
  It should be remembered, that a punch is an (arm) extension. People (commonly) confuse this motion with a grabbing action (in which one becomes stronger/more stable as they are pulling towards their own body).
  It's under this premiss, that Oyata taught that one is safer, when they are closer to an aggressor. A strike's maximum potential, is available (only) during the final 1/3 of it's extension. Prior to reaching that distance, it is (comparatively) weak (regardless of the aggressor's size/strength).
  I've had numerous individual's claim that (any) strikes performed upon their arm's, will cause no (serious) damage (or at least sufficient to deter any further use of them).
  This is most often “demonstrated” by them extending their arm, and allowing someone to (often repeatedly) strike that arm. This is a bogus “test/example” (and proves nothing). An arm in motion, is a completely different animal, than one that is “locked-out” and fully extended.
  Most any (singular) strike, from (most) any direction, will create little if any effect upon an arm (in that situation). The individual's that think this way, (also) believe that their elbow is their only (serious) concern (defensively).
  The (mistaken) general thought being, that though possibly becoming vulnerable (prior to a striking attempt), it's rarely in (any) serious danger (until completing a striking action) and then, only if the arm becomes (completely) extended. Any experienced combatant, will rarely allow this to happen. It's during it's delivery, that the arm (as a whole) is actually most vulnerable to being damaged.
  When the arm is in motion, the muscles are being contracted. In order to contract a muscle, a nerve has to deliver that message (from the brain) through the tendons, to the muscle-body (“belly”).  I've discussed “activating” nerves previously, in this instance the aggressor is doing so themselves (in order to perform their desired action).
  The defender should capitalize on this factor, and perform their own strikes upon the active nerves within the aggressor's arm (the tendons being the most vulnerable). Using only rudimentary anatomical knowledge, this can be (easily) practiced during one's class time study.
  Beginning students (and the majority of “doubter's”) are rarely familiar with, or understand the location and function of the tendon system (throughout the body). Many of the (supposed) “kyusho” locations are where the tendons are vulnerable (if/when being utilized).
  These locations (IMO) should be more accurately considered to be Atemi points, but whichever name you choose, it's the reaction/effect that is more important to know. It is when the aggressor's arm is in motion, that these locations are the most vulnerable (and susceptible) to being damaged.
  The muscle-body is also “susceptible” (to being struck), but will (rarely) cause/create an equivalent reaction (to the tendons being struck). It's not uncommon for muscle-body strikes to be taught initially (to students). As they become more familiar with those locations, they have a better reference for the tendon strike locations.
  In addition to being “active”, the nerves located within/near/upon the tendons, will be closer to the bones (of the limb). In essence, there will be less “padding”, and a harder surface (the bone) will be available to strike them against (requiring less physical effort on the part of the defender).
  There are of course directional considerations that have to be considered. Depending on the muscle/tendon being considered, the direction of the impact can be either across, or in-line (towards or away from the muscle belly) with the tendon being struck.
  Either manor of impact will cause a muscular reaction. When struck (the tendon being stretched), will be inclined to cause a contraction of the muscle. Any unintended contraction (of a muscle), not intended by the individual will often cause a muscular strain (sprain ore spasm).
  At the very least, this in turn will cause a hesitation to use that limb. Though not (commonly) causing any permanent damage, these manor of technique are very applicable (and legal) for defensive situations.
  The majority of systems will tend to focus on performing “body/head” strikes (in the attempt to disable an aggressor). Though sometimes being valid, they can also become liabilities if/when dealing with law enforcement (and/or lawyers).
  Oyata taught us that it is more practical, to only disable an aggressor. This will allow for either to effect their own escape, or provide the ability to restrain the aggressor (to allow L.E. Officials to deal with them).
 This "distance" situation (of "strong" vs. "weak") is also relevant when dealing with the application of tuite. There are additional interconnections that exist/become apparent when applying tuite applications as well. But that will be another blog.     

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Distinguishing The Differences Between “Bunkai”

  I was recently viewing various publicized versions of what is being taught as/for bunkai. Technically, I suppose anyone's “guess” is as good as any other (really). We don't know what the original creator's envisioned the motions to of represented. What's being taught today is only what recent practitioner's are speculating those motions to of represented.
  Having stated that, I do feel that a lot of what's being taught (as being bunkai) is cobbled together nonsense (that has neither practical application, nor any beneficial study/practice value). To qualify that opinion, I have to convey my own interpretation of what/how bunkai is ascertained and interpreted.
  First off, I view kata motion(s) as having been assembled for convenience (for the originator of the kata). Not being aware of what was going through that individual's mind at the time (of the creation of the kata), it's difficult to ascertain what their intent was (or if there even was any particular intent) beyond creating a (easily repeatable) sequence of motion for future practitioner/student reference.
  We can speculate that the creator would of combined similar “idea's”, “circumstances”, or “types” of techniques into a particular kata, but that is (still) only a guess. They could (easily) of just been the favored techniques of “that” creator (thereby justifying the need for additional kata to be taught).
  It's (already) known that the master's (of old) only taught a few kata to their own students. Only since the capitalization of “Te” (via Japan, the U.S. As well as numerous “other” western countries) has the preference for for a larger number of kata (to be taught to students) been propagated.
  Instructor's of old, (each) had their own beliefs as to what was necessary to be learned for Life-Protection. This was not that much different from today (there's just a LOT more instructor's that are pushing their own beliefs instead of effective ones). Today's instructor's just seem to believe that “theirs” is the only way.
  I'm sure that many of those (various) “ways”, are perfectly acceptable (for their stated purpose), I just believe that what someone is “proposing” as being what a system should be instructing to students to do, should hold-up to outside scrutiny.
  I also do not believe that every system, can (or even should) be successfully performed by every student (of that system). I believe that is one of the major problems with “advertized” instruction of the martial arts today.
  Prospective students are not being guided towards the defensive systems that would best serve them. All methodology's are not created equally (and for good reasons). They weren't designed to be used by the same (types of?) people, nor for the same results.
  Yet every instructor that I've heard selling (preaching) their particular style/system, will claim that it was designed to be utilized by anyone. And I have to say, Bullshit.
  I tend to believe that every system was designed (specifically) for a particular individual (type?), and to deal with particular circumstances. That system may well of been (able to be) utilized by a number of other (similar) individual's, but initially, it was designed for just that one individual, or type of individual.
  Any systems value, lay in it's ability to be utilized by a wider selection of (other) individual's. But that doesn't mean (automatically) that it can be used efficiently, by every individual.
  I understand the debate about (individual) “techniques” and/or how they're being taught/utilized (in regards to their effectiveness). But that debate has to include the physical attributes of the prospective student as well.
  This will have a direct influence on how “Bunkai” will (or should) be determined from the kata motions. By “attributes”, I'm not (necessarily) referring to physical strength. Any system that depends on physical strength (IMO), is flawed to begin with, and shouldn't be considered a viable Life-Protection system.
  When determining Bunkai, there should be established “standards” as well. It would appear that those standards vary, depending on what one determines to be “valid” bunkai.
  For myself, motions that do not illustrate a purpose (meaning a valid application), should not be considered to be bunkai. The question then becomes what is “valid”.
  For training purposes, every motion should be considered to be applicable. It is our purpose (thru our training), to establish the purpose of each performed motion.
  The majority of the motions that I saw being illustrated on the videos that I watched, were simplistic, and rarely “realistic” (at all). Their main “purpose” was to promote their interpretations (thus promoting themselves). Their standard “CYA” is to claim that some motion is “basic” (or intermediate and/or even “advanced”). This allows one “wiggle-room” to backtrack or change one's story at a later date (ie. When it's demonstrated to be ineffective).
  Within the posted videos, the motions (techniques?) I observed were riddled with extra and unnecessary motions. Those motions only apparent purpose, was to illustrate the instructor's supposed ability/knowledge.
  When deciphering the motions, they should accomplish the desired effect in the most productive and effective manner possible. This should be done without any extraneous (non-productive) motions that do not produce effective/productive results.
  Kata motions (bunkai) should not be interpreted as “set-up” motions or be for producing responses that don't accomplish any effects that don't directly result in an aggressor's (probable) neutralization.
  If a debilitating result doesn't occur within 3 motions, the technique should be considered invalid (being considered too long to accomplish the task).
  That premiss is repeatedly illustrated within the Naihanchi kata, and within all of the instructed kata. If an interpretation is shown to be a “sparring” technique, then it is some instructor's wet-dream interpretation (having no value for Life-Protection).
  Techniques that provide effective application are rarely (if ever) “Pretty” or stylish. They only perform a required function (commonly the neutralization/immobilization of an aggressor and/or their attempted action).
  Correctly combining those kata motions should not entail extra (unnecessary) actions (that don't directly produce an effective result).
 Though the movements often contain all of the necessary actions to do so, motions from other kata are often incorporated as well.
 My own evaluation of the Pinan kata, is that (because) they are composed of motions from the traditional kata (and are thereby redundant). The motions shown within them are already present in the traditional kata, so I don't (always) feel they need to be taught as well.
  My own interpretations are that they were developed to be utilized as stepping stones (to performing the traditional kata), but in fact, are creating hindrances to proper technique application (through the inaccurate interpretation of the involved motions).
  And why do I say that? Look around at the emphasis made on sparring techniques (as being the “interpretations” that are most often presented as “bunkai”). These are wishful thinking (only). When the original (traditional) kata were developed (which the Pinan were derived from), there was no sparring (why would motions pertaining to it of been included?). 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What Constitutes a Location as Being Considered a Kyusho Point?

 There is a common misconception (IMO) about what a kyusho point actually is. Over the past 30+ years, I've had the opportunity to investigate, explore and experiment with most all of the popular theories. Most all, I've been able to debunk, dismiss and/or ignore as being irrelevant (as far as applicability for a defensive situation).
 Most every instructor (or hack) that I had encountered (prior to my studying with Taika) attempted to apply some irrelevant aspect to the application and/or location of the kyusho points. Looking back in hindsight, it's now obvious that those individuals hadn't a clue as to the how, why or even where the points were located where they were.
 The most popular (theory), has always been the meridians (utilized in acupuncture). It was also the easiest to dismiss (especially after having studied and learned about it). It's become the biggest money maker for charlatan's looking to make a quick buck off of part-time (if not wanna-be) martial artists. This was one of the first things that Taika informed us about after we began studying with him (it isn't the problem in Okinawa, that it is here evidently).
 From studying with Taika, I learned to observe how we (as humans) move, walk and react. Kyusho, or Pressure points (“PP”as they're more commonly referred to) are located throughout the whole body. They don't follow any meridian lines, nor do they only work during certain times of the day or season. The fact that some are located near to those lines or points is (simply) coincidental. The vast majority are not, and those locations hold no relevance (to what we do).
 There are many different routes that can be explored when attempting to discern what does, and what doesn't constitute a relevancy to what we do. And I've been down most all of them. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to begin studying under Taika (before becoming too cynical about all the frauds that are out there).
 The fact that there was an obvious, honest-to-god expert on the subject, that was saying that all the BS, was just that, BS! Was refreshing (to say the least).
 Taika's manner of instruction, though oftentimes frustrating, there was never any kind of implied mysticism, or . When Taika exampled striking (or whatever) a location, he simply stated “here”.
 Over the years, he has offered various guidelines to us (in relation to performing certain actions/techniques). My associate and myself correlated 6 of the most common ones, for use when learning Tuite (which are our 6 Basic Tuite Principles). He has dropped similar hints in regards to PP use and locations.
 Of late, my associate and myself have begun correlating those hints, in conjunction with known PP's and have begun cataloging them into an instructional manual (for our student's). Our research into locating both known and unknown locations, has enlightened much of our other research (kata, tuite, combinations, even striking) and vice-verse.
 Of the numerous factors involved with what constitutes a PP (and there are many), it isn't one factor that stands out. It is a collection of multiple factors that need to be present for a PP to exist. The ingredients, though varied, are not all, always present nor even relevant. Many are situational, and only applicable for/in certain circumstances.
 There are individual commonalities that can be used as a base guideline for the simpler locations, but the majority have certain prerequisites that need to be met before they would be considered usable.
 In our schools requirements, we've listed that our students have to learn/understand the body's ROM and basic anatomy (bones, muscles, nerves and organ locations). It isn't any one of these subject's that guides the student's understanding of PP's. It's a combination of all of them. The majority of proposed methodologies out there today, push any one, or (maybe) two of them. When listening to Taika, it becomes clear that there is no one or two factor's that PP's are derived by. It's dependent upon the point's location, and the relevance of the associated limb's action and/or position. Those points located upon the torso, are often associated to the actions of the various limbs and their actions/positions.
 It's for this reason, that many of the “charts” previously composed were dismissed as incorrect and/or irrelevant themselves. Of course without understanding the associated positions (necessary to utilize the referred to PP's) those charts would be useless.
 It is our goal at present, to collect and list the PP's that we presently know at this time, and to list their application and any relevant factors required to their application. Having seen other attempts at doing similar projects, we are familiar with the shortcomings associated with them. We are hopeful that these can be avoided when assembling our listings.
 The more difficult task, will be organizing the instructional methodology for presenting the information to students. In the past, various locations where identified, then the relevant situations and applications were demonstrated (which were then practiced by the attending students). This worked well for the student's in attendance, but anyone who wasn't present (at that time) was at a loss to receive equivalent instruction. 
 If (when, LOL) we have completed our project,  that will hopefully be alleviated. 


Thursday, November 7, 2013


  I'm getting a little sick of the pretense that  “sparring” is the only way to learn how to defend oneself. People are a lot tougher (and not nearly as tough ) as they think they are.
  Personally, I don't agree with the practice of “sparring” (as it's commonly performed). It only provides short-term (satisfaction) “results”, that end up producing long-term impediments to one's training and abilities.
  Anyone who has been teaching for any length of time, is aware of the difficulties associated with “re-training” someone (who has trained previously).
  What I (more and more) commonly see, is “new” students being asked (if not required) to “spar”. This is claimed to be done in order to build confidence, and “ability” (?, and this is where I disagree).
  In regards to “confidence”, how does someone beating on you, and doing so (obviously) in a restrained/limited manner, equate to “confidence”?. Regardless of whether one has “protective” gear on or not, you are ingraining responses that are (often) counter to what is being instructed during their regular classes (or at least I would hope they are).
  Sparring amounts to reinforcing (bad) motions and (bad) habits that have no useful basis in a physically defensive confrontation.
I believe this is where the real (training) differences between methodologies lay. What is done during this manner of “practice” is rarely (if ever) anything like what will occur during an actual confrontation.
  This manner of training is only geared towards the young, fit, male student. That doesn't mean that female students aren't able to participate in that manner of “sport” as well, only that it has nothing to do with learning how to protect one's self (be they male, or female).
  Beyond the fact that one is participating in (and reinforcing) ideals that are contrary to what is being studied (in a self-protection class), this practice (in fact) depreciates what is being learned (during one's class time study). There is little (if anything) that this practice demonstrates (much less, is learned) that is (defensively) applicable to a defensive situation.
  It is popular to make the claim, that when everything else (that you attempt to do) has failed, your going to wind up slugging it out. That only occurs, when you allow it to.
  The practice of “sparring” only reinforces the idea that one waits until they are being struck (before acting to protect themselves).   
 The act of “beginning” in a (so-called) “fighting stance” is ridiculous (to begin with, it just doesn't happen that way). If the confrontation has escalated to that level, there should have been measures taken to establish a (better) positioning to prevent the aggressor's ability to effectively do so (without being able to respond).
  Sparring only “skips” over that part (of a confrontation). This is where 90% of (our) defensive practice is centered (which is why, a confrontation is commonly only seconds in duration). Even if/when those initial motions fail, one's ability to (seamlessly) follow through with alternative/follow-up motions, the delay incurred is only momentary.
  The (counter?) argument is that what is taught, is to deadly to allow (in these “sparring” matches). I hardly believe that “deadly” is an appropriate description. With increased speed, there is the greater risk of damage/injury being possible.
  It's also true that many of the instructed motions can be dependent upon the responses incurred/created from (preliminary) minor strikes that are (often) being implemented. If/when protective gear is being utilized, this negates the effect (response) that would normally occur.
  Sparring requires that the student learn to use a (completely) different set of “techniques” (of which, few if any, are applicable in an actual defensive situation). These motions are instructed, with the goal of acquiring “points” (in your little “sparring” match).  
 What are considered to be these points, will rarely (if ever) cause/create (enough) serious damage to negate an aggressor's ability to continue, yet (when sparring) the match is halted (reinforcing the false belief that one has accomplished something).  
 The entire discipline is a “confidence building” exercise, that mandates the learning of (defensively) inapplicable motions and techniques, while reinforcing the belief that the stronger/larger participant will (almost) always prevail.
  When I was younger, I participated in this practice (much to my present regret). It required years to un-train my body from reacting in the manners and methods that were learned from this “practice”.  
 Any that would believe that this manner of training will serve one (any) useful ability (when they are older) is a fool.
  When we are young, the ability to recover from those (then) minor injuries was fairly rapid. As we age, that ability goes away (been there, done that). What I have learned, is that nothing learned in that manner of practice, has (ever) proven to be beneficial in an actual confrontation.
  Every thing that is claimed to be learned (from “sparring”), can be learned more productively and efficiently from other practice methods. In order to do so, one has to first abandon those practices that are ineffective, sparring (as it's commonly being done) is one of those practices. 


Saturday, November 2, 2013


  What constitutes progress? When I consider the martial arts industry over the past 40 years, I've observed very little progress (beyond any personal advancements attained).
  But as a whole, the industry hasn't (really) changed that much. The most significant change has been the recent (resurgence?) increase of kata research/investigation. Granted, this has mostly been followed under the pretext of discovering “bunkai” (for the kata known to the practitioner). Further more, that bunkai has been centered on the pretext of “pressure points” (by numerous groups).
  The “traditional” groups have (blatantly) consistently rejected (ignored) any serious inquiry into kata bunkai, at least beyond the simplistic (sparring) based answers they've promoted and taught for years.
  When Oyata came to the U.S., he challenged all of those teachings. What he promoted was that (an actual) Self (Life) Protection methodology be taught (as opposed to the “sport” karate that was in vogue at the time). His methodology was based upon the teachings he received from his two instructor's (Wakinaguri and Uhugushugu).
  Throughout Oyata's life, he continued to improve and modify what he had been shown, and taught himself. Though the basic premiss (life-protection) remained the same, the techniques and methods that he taught for utilizing them constantly improved.
  Everything that he taught was always evolving (and improving). What Oyata taught to his students when he first arrived, was (sometimes drastically) modified to reflect his (Oyata's) later beliefs and teachings.
  Because of that, persons who may have studied with him in the early years following his arrival, perform many of his teachings in a much different manor than what was taught by him later.
  When Oyata chose to abandon those (numerous) previously taught methods (ie. Ryukyu Kempo), he (upgraded?) changed what he taught, to reflect his evolving methodology.
  Many of those prior methods and practices were improved upon, if not abandoned by Oyata when he implemented this transition. That didn't mean that he felt they were (somehow) no longer effective, only that they were not what he taught to his later (students) in his life.
  When he first arrived in the U.S., “sport sparring” was the craze (at that time). Knowing this, he (Oyata) capitalized on that fact and used it as a means to introduce his training methodologies to the martial arts community. Though having participated in these events (when he was younger), he later used them to (only) promote his art (via demonstrations).
  Anyone who (actually) trained with Oyata, knew that he didn't agree with the practice of sparring (in regards to studying Life-Protection). He hadn't endorsed, or participated in anything to do with that manor of practice in 20+ years (it served no defensive purpose in his methodology).
  Oyata spent his life improving what he taught, what I see, is the majority of martial art methods regurgitating the same (old?) teachings and methods that have been (commonly) taught for the last 60 years.
  In just the last 40 years (that I've been involved), it's only been through his (Oyata's) involvement, have there been any (useful) improvements.
  Though some of those students of Oyata's have been actively pursuing many of his prior teachings (that were discarded), they were abandoned by Oyata, should we not do the same?
  There are some that believe that those discontinued practices should be reanimated, but there are others (myself included) that disagree. I tend to believe they were discarded for a reason, so I see no reason for their rejuvenation.
  Since Oyata's passing there's been no real advancements in his training methods being promoted. Though (I'm sure) somebody is pursuing their training in a productive manner, it hasn't been espoused to the remainder of the training community (as of yet).
  I'm sure that Oyata never intended for his system to stagnate, but that is a very real possibility. Having developed our own tuite training program, we're (attempting) to continue his endeavor of progressive improvement. Whether his system is doomed to deteriorate into yet another form of “Kara-Te”, or continue to evolve into what Taika envisioned it becoming is the real question.