Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Footwork & Body Positioning (ie.”Force Efficiency”)

  Oyata taught that footwork was of the utmost importance in one's defensive ability. This was conveyed with the saying “Bottom body controls the upper body, Upper body controls the bottom body” (ka ho shin, jo ho shin). To have effective techniques, requires that the correct angle of application be utilized. This implied that use of the proper footwork was essential to make that correct “angle” possible.
 This means that the correct stance and direction must be utilized when attempting to use an application (Striking, Tuite, Kyusho/Atemi, etc.). The practice of kata aids in that understanding, but only illustrates a general reference.
 The understanding of the mechanics of the human body is of utmost importance to be able to accomplish this. Stances provide a starting point for understanding this ability, but knowledge of the human body's R.O.M. Will complete that awareness.
 Once these factors are understood, the student will become more effective with how to utilize and exploit them (using the instructed techniques).
 This understanding is not (only) the understanding of one's own body position (though that is a critical factor, as will be demonstrated in the following text/diagrams), but recognizing what the position(s) of an aggressor allow for, and what their advantages and limitations are as well.
 The human body is designed to exert force forward. Every limb has evolved to make this the most efficient direction to apply force/momentum. This efficiency decreases as it deviates from that (forward) direction. The least efficient direction, is to the rear (behind the person) and is greatly diminished when utilized across (towards the opposite side) of the body. Even when utilized to the same side (ie. Directly sideways) momentum/force is limited to that which the limb alone can generate (use of any “body” momentum is greatly diminished as well).

 One's foot direction will (substantially) effect that efficiency as well. If/when one's foot is rotated beyond 45ยบ (in either direction), the stability of the assumed stance can become compromised (and thus becomes “unstable”). Though often noted in the stance of an aggressor (uke), it is of utmost importance to the defender (tori) as well.
 The most efficient direction of one's motion (regardless of which motion), is forward (in generalized terms). Knowing this, when students are taught the individual stances that we utilize, they are shown the correct positioning of the feet. How one's feet are orientated will determine the direction of their torso's most efficient direction to apply force/momentum (technique/application). 
 Even in the most "simplistic" of stances, even slight foot rotation will (either) aid, or render the legs useless in achieving the desired motion.

  The foot positions shown above (in the “stances” examples) illustrate the correct positioning of the tori's feet. Though (initially) seeming odd, that positioning effects both (though mainly) the legs, and the torso's directional options (and thus, The most efficient direction for the application of a technique). The user's positioning of the feet will determine how much of the available force can/will be directed into an application in a given direction.

 I've become fascinated of late over the debate concerning rotation of the body, via (either) the “Heel” or the “Ball” of the foot. I've read several dissertations on the topic (in favor of either), and I find it a little interesting, but mostly ridiculous.
 It isn't an “either/or” topic. Depending on the situation, either could (or should) be utilized. Each will accomplish more than (only) one result from it's use, and are subject to one's assumed stance at the time. When force efficiency is factored into a motion, it is important that the intended “outcome” is considered (and understood) with every motion that is being made. Students of Oyata's methodology learn early on, that footwork is vitally important to the utilization of force efficiency. 

  Though no numbers/percentages are provided, the diagram is only intend to illustrate  the differences between the positional situations shown.  
 A student's understanding of “footwork” begins with their practice during the formation portion of a class. While a student is performing various hand/arm motions, the student will be positioning the heel, or the ball of their feet (as required by the individual technique/direction being performed). These positions and changes are often dependent upon the individual technique/motion being performed at the time, the stance and direction of application, the situation, as well as which hand/arm is being utilized.

  The footwork illustrated above, is common for use with either a Tuite technique application, or when defending against an aggressor's strike attempt. It illustrates the use of Oyata's "Hourglass" (footwork) back stance.
 In many methodology's, students are shown their systems stances, provided with a brief explanation of them, and are (often) then promptly forgotten/ignored (by the student).
Keeping all of this in mind, the student should strive to have their chest/shoulders remain in-line with the hips. This prevents the torso from becoming twisted (and thus degrading the structural integrity of the position).
 As can be seen with the provided illustrations, the positioning of one's feet can/do effect the alignment of the upper body as well as the legs. The effect from any rotation of the torso, will mandate a positioning of the feet/legs as well (to maintain the entire body's structural efficiency). 


Monday, August 3, 2015


  My first (initial) Yudansha ranking was achieved in Shito-Ryu. That was 4 years before my introduction to Taika Oyata. After having been introduced to him, I spent the next year and a half studying with him and modifying the (common) techniques that I was familiar with, to meet the manor that he showed they should be performed. My adaptation of kata performance (from how I had originally learned them) required another year. Once I had done so, I was tested under/by Oyata (himself). As I continued to learn his methodology, I abandoned most (if not all) of the things I had learned while studying Shito-Ryu (this was a choice on my part). It was only after having done so, that my technique improved, and soon after I was allowed to “test” for Yudansha (within Oyata's system).
   It wasn't that what I had learned previously didn't work, only that the manner they were taught to me no longer made “sense” (they were either impractical, or out-right incorrect). After (approx.) a year of studying with Oyata and his system, I abandoned nearly everything that I had been shown (when studying that prior system).
  I rarely “list” my training in Shito-Ryu (or any of my other training experience) in my training resume. Most of it was (IMO), not worthless, just inapplicable (to what/how I now performed defensive actions). Most of those methods/techniques were based upon situations and circumstances that I felt didn't (or at least rarely) have defensive application.
  The “Kicky-Punchy” portion of training quickly took a back seat to the other instructed portions of Oyata's training method. Though being an important piece of that training, it held a secondary position to the more “commonly” encountered confrontational situations that one could be involved in. My involvement with security and Law Enforcement training illustrated the need for training that didn't focus upon the "Striking" mentality (or a dependance upon it for defensive purposes).
  Throughout the years, I've taught a number of (civilian) female “self-defense” classes/courses. Those classes can rarely utilize any physically dependent applications. Females are (generally) smaller and weaker than the average male. This isn't a critique, just a fact.
  The majority of classes I've observed, have (attempted to) teach their attending females, how to strike (like a male) and to cause injury/damage when attempting those strikes. Though possible, it ignores (or at least De-emphasizes) those motions that come more naturally to a female. Most often it only demonstrates the females physical inadequacy's/inability's (when compared to a male).  
 Considering that the majority of assailants (upon a female) will be male, any attempt to equate the performance of those strikes (or what is being shown to them) to be utilized upon a male by a female, is often pointless.
  It was only in particular circumstances that a specific technique (that Oyata taught to students) would be identified for use upon (or by) a male or female (only) student. For that reason, Oyata's applications depended upon technique, and not strength/size (for their use/application). Whether male or female, all person's have similar weaknesses. Though these differences can be gender specific, the majority are universal (between the two genders). If/when a technique depends upon either of the size or strength factors (whether by the tori or the uke), the technique is regarded as being flawed and shouldn't be taught to, or practiced by a student.
  It's because of this fact, that the practice of “sparring” is considered to be a flawed (if not a pointless) “male”, manor of practice. Oyata ceased any (required) practice of that training method (mid-late 90's). With the “rules” that mandate it's (safe) practice, it nullified any practice of those techniques that are applicable to/for the majority of students (regardless of size/strength/gender) or for practice of those conditions that actually could or were more likely to occur to the average student.
  Once one eliminates the fallacy of this practice method, it requires that person to focus upon those techniques that are not dependent upon size nor strength. One's training should be aligned towards the identification of when/how an aggressor is beginning their aggressive actions. When that has been determined, a student will establish those motions (that they are capable of performing) that will nullify the greatest number of an aggressor's possible actions (whether Right or Left-handed), and provide the greatest (and easiest) opportunity for the neutralization of that opponent. The seriousness (level) of that response will be dependent upon the individual situation, and the students capabilities at the time.
  Oyata stressed that students of his methodology should focus (initially) upon a technique's motion and the application's accuracy, and complete their practice with an increase of the application's speed. This is comparable to the students practice of the instructed kata.
  The generally accepted precedent for learning new techniques and applications (at least over the past few years), has become one of equating seminar exposure, to application mastery. Whether that can be an accurate evaluation is debatable but it (apparently) has become the recent “standard” of training (for many individuals/systems).
  Over the years (prior to his passing), Oyata was continuously modifying his system's methodology and how that methodology was (supposed to be) practiced, and taught. Numerous students (both past and present) throughout the years have made claims of teaching his methodology. That methodology was constantly being improved, if those individual's did not continue their study (actively with him) until his passing, their instruction was incomplete.
  There has been very little written information available in regards to Oyata's instruction of his technique's/applications. With the release of our “6 Principles of Tuite” book, we have attempted to alleviate some of that lack of written information. We were further motivated by the (so-called) “examples” of his form of tuite that have been released on the internet. The majority of those are from/by individuals who had little and/or limited (if any) experience working with Oyata on those techniques. In almost every case we have observed numerous flaws being performed in those examples (if not being performed completely incorrect).
  In regards to our book, I have also received numerous inquiries as to why “I” am not shown performing the motions? Well, I am shown doing some of the applications (mostly to illustrate a variation), but we felt it would look “better” to have the “smaller stature” (of the two of us) performing the applications. The majority of publications (by other persons) “examples” of their techniques (that we looked at), had a (physically) larger individual performing technique's upon a similar and/or smaller sized individual.
  We've also encountered individual's that “believe” that one will (learn to?) become resistive to the shown applications over time. This is an inaccurate belief, we have been practicing/teaching these applications for (over) 30 years, when done correctly they will work regardless of one's experience level with any of the applications. The only time a technique will “fail” is if/when the technique is applied incorrectly. It is for that reason that we are constantly reviewing/practicing (even the most “basic”of) the instructed technique's.
  Our book (only) provides an introduction to the basic principles, there are additional facets that are shown later (and will possibly be provided in further publications). The 6 Principles Book will provide the student with all of the foundational instruction/understanding that (should) be required to correctly perform any/all of the instructed technique's taught by Oyata.
 There has also been a number of requests for technique "clarification" to be provided (here). Aside from the impracticality's in doing so, it is more often faster, and (far) more easily (and quickly) understood when done in person. Our classes are open for anyone to attend, or only come by (at no charge, LOL), and ask any questions in regards to our book(s) and/or the techniques and methodology that we utilize and teach to our students. 
 Oyata's system of Life-Protection is not for everyone. We've had a number of individual's attend (just to ask questions or "experience" what we are teaching). We don't do the standard "Kicky-Punchy" type of classes, we don't teach adolescents (under 16) and we don't require that our students "spar". Our classes focus, is upon unarmed defensive applications. Though we teach weapons kata, and limited instruction in their application, that study is mainly to enhance the associated hand motions utilized in their use.
 Our students are exposed to a number of subjects that don't regularly fall into the (typical) "martial arts" class category (i.e. anatomy, kinesiology, Shodo etc.). Though these subjects aren't as commonly associated with "Life-Protection", they all contain relevant aspects to that study.  
 When we aren't doing a public or private seminar (somewhere, LOL), we are teaching our classes here (Kansas City, Mo.).