Thursday, December 3, 2015


  The use of terms within the martial arts community is (too) often “vague” (at best). Many will attempt to (only) utilize foreign names for those descriptions, but this is rarely of value if/when the student (or instructor) is not (completely) familiar with the language being utilized. When I initially began training with Oyata, I would inquire about the “names” of the motions he was showing us, he replied by stating that we should use the name that “we” (American's) were comfortable with (and use a description that was represented by words within our own language. He said that we were not “Okinawan/Japanese” so those names that were common (on Okinawa) could (would) lead to our misinterpretation.

  As we learned more of his art, this soon became obvious. Now, When we hear (American) practitioner's describe technique use/motion they will (often) relate that use or motion to a “Japanese/Chinese” name. When we would query Oyata (in regards to this) he would “roll his eye's” and (again) explain the motion, and repeat that we should use a descriptive name that was clearer to ourselves (that is in one's natural language).

  When I began teaching, I (often) used numerous “Japanese” names for motions (when conveying those motions to my students). As I progressed in my own studies, and was exposed to additional systems, I found (many) of those same names (being utilized to describe a motion) that were used in multiple ways (sometimes in completely contradictory manners), to how we would be using/teaching them. Japanese use is often associated with (vague) “concepts”, as opposed to literal (translatable) terms.

  Even students who have a “working knowledge/ability” with the Japanese language would (often) be confused about the techniques names or meanings. When a (common) English description was utilized, there was an immediate understanding by the student. That would have been fine, if motion definitions were “Universal” as well, but they're not.

  The majority of (commonly utilized) Japanese/Chinese names (for motions) are only “General” (if not vague) in nature. Many of the Japanese/Chinese names (popularly) utilized, are far from accurate (in description of their use).

  I have met (and read) numerous people that will make the argument, that because they teach a methodology native to that language, and by using those (foreign) names (regardless of the instructor's native language), that they are being “traditional” and (therefor) those terms should only (if not always) be utilized.
 We disagree with that premise. We feel that it is more important to be “accurate” in our instruction. That requires that a student should (easily) understand the motion, as well as it's “name” (what that motion is being called).

  In that pursuit, we attempt to use the common (scientific/medical?) terms and names for (most) motions when teaching those motions to our students. “Japanese” (in our case) names may well be included, but they are never stressed/emphasized.

  Utilized Name's can/will effect how someone (ie. students) will interpret how/why a motion will be understood and utilized. Most “popularly” within our own instructional experience (and when compared with how others utilize it) this has been demonstrated with (our rarity for) the use of the term “Block”.

  To “Block” something, is to provide an obstacle in (somethings) continued progress. This is also how (most) students will interpret the term (often despite any further provided definition for the term). If/When the term (Block) is utilized accurately (in the case of an “arm/forearm block”), one would place that limb in the path of an aggressive motion (commonly a “punch”). I have never seen it used (with any effectiveness) in that manner. It is most often used as a deflection of the aggressive action.

  My own “pet peeve” is the performance of (what is commonly called) an “Outside Block”. This motion (as it is commonly shown) is completely ineffective beyond the purpose of (being) a deflection. The motion (as commonly taught) is the weakest possible application of a forearm motion (for either deflection or impact), yet is popularly shown for use as being an impactive application (ie. Striking with the lateral {Radial} side of the forearm). Even with the inclusion of “Body-Rotation”, the motion has minimal stability, and is equally unable to utilize any of the included motion/momentum in it's application.

  This is basic “body mechanic's”. The arm's “natural” aggressive motion/direction is forward (and in this instance, it is an extension), and arguably (in some instances), “medial”. As the “outside block” is commonly taught, (at best) it only amounts to being a deflection (to the performed lateral position/side). Within many systems, this is an acceptable expectation. Within Oyata's defensive system, this would be considered a “wasted” opportunity/motion.

  Although it has been “popular” for (many) systems to (now) include the concept of “Blocks being Strikes”, instructors will (still) continue to teach the “outside block” as a sideways (lateral) motion.

  Oyata often commented that “outside/inside block, are (performed) same”. This can be confusing, until one see's how he performs those motions. Those motions require body-rotation (for their inside/outside designation). The arm motion is (actually) performed in a forward direction, this principle can also be applied to the upward/downward counterparts (blocks) as well (for which both should include forward body motion). Being identified as “strikes”, will (or at least should) instill the concept of “body-weight” inclusion. This is most easily done through body-rotation /motion being included with the action. It also demonstrates that any rearward motion diminishes any (applicable) “momentum” being used with those manners of “strikes”(blocks).

  Though believing this to be  a “basic” concept, we've been involved in numerous lengthy debates over the subject. I recognize that different systems view applications differently, and have/made a “reasoned” excuse for those differences. I (at least) have a complete lecture over the subject, just saying that “you've” never seen something taught a certain way, is not a rational for disagreement.

  I believe many disagreements come about because of distorted views of (often “basic”) application concepts. At least for “our” students, we want them to be able to knowledgeably address what is being attempted. Being too “simplistic” can be as equally misleading, as being “vague”. By using terms that are recognized (in multiple fields of study) we are striving to reduce those occurrences. 
 Being American, the language we use is English. The following are some of the terms that we utilize (for our students) to designate particular locations and directions of motion for the human body. Though not a complete list, it contains the majority of “basic” terminology that we utilize.

General “Side” Designations

This are terms utilized to designate a particular “side”, location or direction of/upon the human body.

Frontal-Anterior-Front-Palm (side)


Side-Lateral (Sideways)


Right-Left (usually including a “source” for the reference, ie. The  
                   “Uke''s” or the “Tori's”)

Vertical-Up/Down-(Also utilized when describing the Orientation 
                                of “erect” and/or “standing”)

Horizonal-Side to Side

Prone-being “face/chest” Down

Supine-being “On one's Back”or“face/chest” Up

R.O.M.- “Range of Motion”-This is the directions/positions that a particular limb/body part is (naturally) capable of moving. Though further motion is “possible”, doing so will commonly cause discomfort and/or “pain”.

General Anatomical Terms of Location

  Though having had (actual) “Doctor's” as student's/instructors, the majority of our students (nor ourselves) have had (extensive) “medical” training (beyond CPR, First-Aid, AED training, etc.). We don't expect or mandate our students to acquire any themselves (we suggest that they should, for numerous reasons beyond “training”, but it is not a student requirement). None the less, we feel that a student's familiarity with (more correct/precise) terminology is important to their study of Oyata's methodology. We use the following terminology for the majority of the instructed information. Though many are “generalized” terms, we feel that a (working) familiarity with them will aid a student with any continued study (beyond that provided by us, or through conversation/debate with others).

  Many of the terms we utilize can be used (and defined) by/in different or multiple formats (though all should be obvious from contextual use).

Head -the entire appendage attached to the neck, includes  

Face -front of the head, includes Cheeks/Jaw/eyes/mouth/nose/ 

Neck -the entire “joint” which attaches the head to the torso 

Throat -Front of the Neck

Shoulder -the entire (front/back/side) area that includes the (upper)
                  Joint of the arm

Arm -area between the elbow and the shoulder

Forearm -area between the elbow and the hand

Wrist -the “joint” between the hand and the forearm

Hand -the appendage attached to the forearm, that includes all of 
            the fingers (phalanges)

Chest -the front side of the torso, above the abdominal region

Back -the entire rear side of the torso

Waist -the area slightly higher than (but including) the abdominal 

Abdomen -the front of the body below the chest (sometimes 
                   including the groin area)

Hips -the area lower than the waist, where the legs are attached to
           the body

Leg -the entire lower appendage attached to the torso via the Hips

Thigh -the upper portion of the leg that is attached to the lower 
            torso (via the waist area/hips) and to the knee (on it's lower 

Shin -the lower portion of the leg, attached to the bottom of the 
          knee and to the ankle

Ankle -the “joint” that attaches the foot to the leg

Foot -the lowest extremity that is connected to the ankle/shin

Anatomical “Joints” of the Human Body

  Though the human body contains numerous locations of motion, those that can be (easily) manipulated externally, are commonly limited to the following “14” General locations.

Neck       (1) - Limited Range Rotational “Ball & Socket”

Shoulder (2) - Limited Range “Ball & Socket”

Elbow     (2) - Flat Hinge / Limited Range (Rotational) Flat Hinge                           in relation to upper arm (side)

Wrist       (2) - Flat Hinge

Waist       (1) -Limited Range “Ball & Socket” (Mainly Forward )

Hip          (2) -Limited Range “Ball & Socket” (Mainly Forward &  
                       Limited Back/Side)

Knee       (2) - Flat Hinge

Ankle      (2) -Limited Range Flat Hinge/ “Ball & Socket”


  Numerous Joints cannot (easily) be “directly” manipulated, and doing so must be achieved through the motion of those (directly) attached body/limb appendages.

Joint         Directly Manipulated Via*  (* i.e “Unnatural” Motion) commonly through 

Neck       - Motion of Head

Shoulder - Motion of Arm

Elbow     - Motion of Forearm commonly in conjunction with  
                  immobilization of the Arm

Wrist      - Motion of Hand or in conjunction with the Elbow

Waist      - Motion of Upper/Lower Torso

Hip         - Motion of Thigh

Knee      - Motion of Leg or Thigh

Ankle     - Motion of Shin or Foot

  The body will “naturally” perform (particular) defensive motions/reactions to protect the body (in general). This includes motions to protect “joints/limbs” that are perceived to be in peril of injury. This includes the defensive retraction/retreat (ie.“Reactionary Retreat”) of a threatened limb, and/or the inclination to (reactively) motion the entire body (in various degrees) into a “fetal” position.

  Numerous instructed techniques and applications will take advantage of the bodies natural reactions. One's level of recognition for those motions can/will aid in the students defensive abilities.

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