Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Order of Priority

Strikes are the primary weapon for defense. But if that defense is breached, we practice trips, sweeps, throws, and takedowns; and “then” basic grappling techniques.”

  I read this recently in a blog, where the individual was lamenting over how martial arts had changed through the years since he had begun studying (some 20 to 30 years ago). I read this, and agreed with his (basic) premise, but feel that this order (of priorities) was wrong then, and it is wrong now.
One could argue that in times past, society was more prone to violent confrontations, but I don't believe that to be an accurate summation. Violent (physical) behavior has never been a socially accepted method of settling disagreements. A person recognized as an asshole 2-300 years ago, is no different than their modern day equivalent.
Misogyny was more prevalent (in the past), but that didn't mean that physical altercations were any more socially acceptable than they are today (the “laws” in that regard that were in place then, were very similar to those in place today).
The subliminal implication being made (within that statement), is that “might (tends to) make right”. The (obvious) refute to that statement, is that any laws that a society has put in place discourage and have punished individual's who have participated in anti-social behavior (IE. Physical altercations). If it were (at all) accurate, then only bullies and brutes would be the individual's dictating the standards for social behavior.
The (age old) argument, is that “criminals” don't follow laws (which is true). The problem is that you are rarely going to be involved in an altercation with a criminal. The majority of physical altercations are between two (basically) “law-abiding” persons, who (for whatever stupid excuse) get into a dispute that turns physical. Those altercations commonly have no intention of ending the life of (either of) the participants, but amount to establishing the “correctness/validity” of the participants' view (over the subject being disputed).
When pressed, most individual's recognize this fact. In today's society, being involved in a physical confrontation will commonly result in “legal” repercussions being included as well. The majority of the articles I have read tend to ignore this fact as well. They (somehow) believe that if they are “justified” (in their mind), then the law will be on their side. These people have never been involved in a legal battle where the “bad guy”, has a good lawyer. It is VERY easy for that lawyer to argue (to the judge) that you escalated the situation far beyond any reasonable level (for the situation). The mere fact that you train (in a martial art) will be used against you, and will be believed that you have violent inclinations, and used this “opportunity” to test them out (on their client).
Don't believe that you're going to even see, a jury. Your far more likely to be in front of a judge, with the person's lawyer describing everything (whether accurately, or not). The other party will rarely make any statements at all (the lawyer will present the majority, if not all arguments). And yes, people LIE all the time at these proceedings (including witnesses). If you don't have a superior number of (believable) witnesses for your side (and even that isn't a guarantee), you will lose.
In regards to the “order/priority” of those training subjects, the one provided by that individual was (IMO) completely backward. The “first” subject learned (when training), should be those “basic grappling technique's”, followed by the “trips, sweeps, throws, and takedowns” and completed with instruction in the systems methodology for the use of strikes/kicks.
Experience has shown (myself) that confrontations proceed on the basis of performed responses. If the confrontation remains verbal, there is less chance for a (physical) requirement/necessity to respond. As proximity is diminished, that need/belief escalates. “Pushes, grabs and shoves” are (commonly) used as taunts to motivate the individual to (physically) react/respond. Though (obviously) not intending to injure (but more to embarrass), that physical contact is (none the less) illegal (often providing the legal justification for a defensive response). Although being justified, that justification does not provide for an unlimited level/amount of response (meaning you can't dislocate someone's arm, crush their throat, and gouge out an eye, because someone pushed you).
Any level of response that you enact, will need to be seen as reasonable by the average individual. If/when there is a physical disparity between the (original) aggressor and the student (defender), they will have a greater chance of their defense being seen as a reasonable/expected reaction.
One's competence with the Tuite technique's will provide a defensive method that (when observed by any witnesses) provides a less violent appearance to the student's defensive motions. Its use (Tuite) can additionally discourage (though obviously not always prevent) the inclination to escalate the confrontation to more violent/physical levels.
The most popular argument regarding the use of Tuite is the (mistaken) belief that it doesn't work on/for “everybody”. I (personally) despise the words “always/never”, but as yet, we have not encountered an individual whom these applications have/will not “work” upon. It should be noted, that “Tuite” is not universal. Prior to “Oyata's” introducing it (here in the U.S.) I know that “I” had never seen/heard of it (and I had been practicing/teaching M.A. For a number of years before meeting Oyata). We only practiced some “Jujutsu/Aikido” types of “wrist/arm” manipulations. Nowadays, everybody teaches their own form of grappling/wrist applications, and have begun to (now) use the term “Tuite”.
Once those “grappling” applications are understood, the “Trips, throws and takedowns” are (much) more easily utilized. Either of these application methods (Tuite or the throws/takedowns) lead directly to the restraint/submission of an aggressor (with little to no need for “strikes” to be utilized).
Does this imply that I/we don't believe in striking? of course not. It simply isn't our primary defensive choice. The success of a Striking technique is subject to numerous factors that a student has limited (if any) control of. Striking focuses on many students basic instincts (unless that student is female and/or a smaller stature male). Those that believe the shown “grappling” techniques are dependent upon having (enough) “strength/size” (for their use upon an opponent), don't understand the technique's (to begin with).
Striking techniques will vary in their effectiveness, because of circumstances that are often beyond the control of the student. If that student is only (attempting to) focusing their attention on (including) physical “power” with their strikes, they will only achieve limited levels of success. Power equates to the transferred momentum of a given mass. That transfer is accomplished thru speed, leverage, and (sufficient) penetration. Equally relevant is the impacted location, and the angle of that impact. This shouldn't (necessarily) be equated to the use of kyusho (study/instruction), only logic.
If/when an impact is perceived (by the recipient) as being direct/straight, the manner they react will be different if/when that impact is other than their initial belief/perception. This is similar to if/when one “twists” their ankle, they perceived a different tread point/location (than what actually existed), and the subject trips/stumbles (injuring their own ankle). An aggressor's perceptions can be manipulated with proper training (this was one of Oyata's most popular subjects for instruction).
  Through arrangement in this order, a student is provided with (more) applicable technique's earlier in their study. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Purpose of kata

  The concept of “bunkai” (techniques illustrated within the motions of kata) has become the latest “fad” in the martial arts. It's always been there, but has only recently (the past 20 years) become an integral part of martial arts instruction.
  Kata motions have always been interpreted as representing “techniques” (in varying degrees of complexity). This latest wave of motions (techniques?) is only the latest examples of what those motions “could” represent. I state could, because we (modern students) don't really know what the original creator's intended those motions to represent. The original creator's of the “traditional” kata are dead and gone. Virtually every interpretation taught, is an opinion of what those motions represent. Each of those varying interpretations are based upon the (individual) instructors viewpoint (opinion).
  The majority of those interpretations focus upon (individual, or even “combinations”of) “techniques”. When I view the provided “video examples” of these interpretations, it makes me wonder why these person's would believe that the creator's of those kata (a “master”), would only demonstrate “techniques” within them? It would be more “practical” to of produced a book (or some form of written document) listing examples of those motions/techniques.
  Numerous “modern” instructors have (attempted) to make “their own” text/book(s) listing techniques, but the majority of them only amount to their own listings of techniques (with various references to kata motion). I don't feel there's anything wrong with their doing so, but (IMO) they “miss” many of the additional (and often more important) concepts that are illustrated within the kata.
“Techniques” are often subjective (to situations, circumstances and the individual's abilities). When that's a consideration, the value of demonstrating a technique motion becomes questionable (and is obvious when viewing the numerous “examples” of individual's interpretations of those motions that are being presented).
  Many (if not most) are based upon some physical (“muscular”) ability to perform them. Oyata taught that “techniques” (at least the techniques that “he” taught) were not based upon the physical size of the practitioner, or the uke (for their success). To myself at least, this makes sense. If/when one is “creating” a defensive system, it should be applicable by anyone, regardless of size, sex or physical prowess. The vast majority of “techniques” that are demonstrated (on the Internet) are being shown/demonstrated by (often) large(er), male practitioners. Granted, the majority of MA practitioners are “male”, but that fact shouldn't thereby (IMO) limit the choice of techniques taught/utilized.
  When a technique is based upon physical size/strength, that technique (though “valid”) should not be included as a curriculum requirement (though possibly remain as a valid “option” for certain students). Within “our” classes instruction, we just eliminate them (from consideration for instruction). They may be “exampled” for the student's familiarity with them, but they are not taught as a “requirement”.
  The majority of those techniques (because of their dependency upon size/strength) contain numerous “weaknesses” as well. Those “flaws” are illustrated to students, and the student can decide the techniques value (for their own use).
  Oyata taught that every kata motion represented numerous interpretations. At the “basic” level, they (might) represent “technique” application, but he (Taika) focused upon the “other” concepts taught through the motions of the kata. These included body-weight placement/transfer, leverage strengths/weaknesses, “natural” (verses “unnatural”) motion. All of which, is what we (now) refer to as “Force Efficiency”. Oyata also included (what he referred to as) the use of “deception” (best defined as “hiding” the defenders initial application of technique). Though commonly “exampled” in the instructed (individual) techniques, it was (often) the “main” purpose of demonstrating many of those techniques (to begin with).
  What the (majority of) attending students of his “seminars” (early 80's/90's) “missed”, was recognizing that instruction. The shown “techniques” were irrelevant (in his opinion), But they were what those attendee's focused upon. Oyata taught “concepts”. Individual techniques were irrelevant, it was the presented “concept/principle” that was important (and was demonstrated within the shown application).
  Those “principles” were often “missed” by the majority of those attendee's. There are (now) numerous videos from those attendee's that state “I learned this technique from Oyata” (which is a bit of an exaggeration IMO). The techniques that Oyata demonstrated at those seminars were “basic” examples of principles. The techniques (though valid), were irrelevant. It was the principle being shown that was important (to the application of numerous techniques). He (Taika) expected the student to (then) apply the instructed principle to (all of) their “other” techniques. Oyata was (very) adamant that a student should be “studying” their techniques (not just “replicating” the motions).
  One's ability to replicate a technique, only requires practice (repetition). To understand what/why that technique will/won't “work”, requires devoted study of the technique. The kata provides examples of the (previously stated) attributes that make the correct performance of those motions possible.
  Limiting one's “study” to guessing what “technique” a motion represents, is (itself) “limiting” what one can/will learn from the kata motion. Because I have “electrical” experience, I equate this study to that of electrical circuitry. At it's simplest level, one has an “on/off” switch with a light and the connecting “wiring”. If/when that concept is extrapolated (far enough) one can construct a computer (which is basically a multitude of “on/off” switches).  
 Though not exactly a direct correlation, the concept is the same. One needs to understand everything that is being demonstrated within the kata motions. It isn't (only) about the (obvious) “techniques”. The majority of what I've seen demonstrated on the Internet, is (often) equivalent to the ability to wire a “3-way switch”. It' useful, but a far cry from the potential of what's being shown.
  Oyata (often) stated that “he” still had much to learn. His instructors didn't focus their instruction (to him) on individual “techniques”. They provided him with a certificate that stated (to anyone else) that he had understood that instruction. That certificate states that nothing about his learning/instruction was in regards to “techniques”. He had learned the ability to utilize the “principles” of their systems, many of which are demonstrated within the instructed kata. If/when one understands those principles, “techniques” will then become obvious (regardless of the kata utilized).
  The majority of certificates produced (today) will list that the individual has demonstrated their ability of performing the instructed “techniques” (for that system). Techniques are arbitrary, and are subject to circumstance. Principles are enduring and apply to a greater understanding (of the provided instruction). This is what Oyata's system (and our students instruction) focuses upon. Kata, is the “manual” that exists to provide that knowledge. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Achieving Force Efficiency

 The achievement of force efficiency with one's technique application (regardless of the manor of that application) is performed though the utilization of the entire bodies weight, as well as it's stability while delivering the application. To do this the student will need to study the individual limb's motions as well as the alignment of the body during the application of those techniques.
 Optimal efficiency is achieved through proper stance, torso positioning and technique delivery.
 In evaluating the efficiency of those motions, one initially considers the utilized limb (arm or leg), then should consider the efficiency of the (remaining) entire body (while delivering that strike).
 Initially considering “Strikes”, these can be either extensions or lateral “swings” of the utilized limb. The most efficient manor for delivering momentum and force, are through the “extensions” (of the utilized limb) that are combined with the inclusion of body weight being used in conjunction with that motion. Lateral “swings” are the more popularly used manor of striking an opponent (whether aggressively or defensively). They are unfortunately also the “weaker” choice of/for an application, and are the more easily deflected and/or avoided through (defensive) motion.
 Though (direct) redirection/avoidance is the more easily achieved response, physical intervention (contact) will produce a (defensively) more efficient result. Correctly doing so, can additionally unbalance the striking individual, and has the potential to create opportunities for (further) defensive “counter” measures.
 Though lateral (defensive) strikes/deflections are what is more/most commonly taught, they are (most often) being performed in opposition to the bodies “natural” motions. Oyata's methodology emphasizes performing those motions in accordance with the bodies (naturally) most efficient manor.
 This entails the user utilizing their entire body (body-weight) with any/every performed motion. This is often equated to a (circular) “swinging” bucket of water, the “problem” (with this analogy) is that energy (momentum) will only (efficiently) travel in a straight line. Therefor the created force (through the circular motion) of the body, is constantly moving outward, and rearward (on the opposite side) as well. The retraction of the opposite side (arm, hip, shoulder) is motioning in the opposite direction (along with any momentum created through that motion).
 If the entire body is not motioning in the same direction (as the strike), that energy is wasted (non-productive) in relation to the strike. Energy/momentum will only travel (efficiently) in a single (straight) direction. The only (accurate) way to equate the “swinging” bucket of water (which is "the" most commonly utilized analogy), is if the bucket is swung with the open end of the bucket pointed outward (which demonstrates that the water will exit the bucket in every direction until empty, leaving only the weight of the bucket itself).
 Neither energy, nor momentum will travel in a circular motion (without a counter-force acting upon it). The “mistake” that people make, is that doing so (motioning their hips/body) is in believing that because it “feels” more powerful, that it (actually) is. When a motion is (truly) efficient, the user should not “feel” anything (other than the impact).
 Oyata stressed the utilization of a (more) direct force application. Though not always delivered in a “straight” line, the motion was a consistent extension (of the limb/body) in a single direction. This meant that arm motions (such as the motions commonly referred to as “blocks”) were performed as extensions, not as lateral “swings”, as the aforementioned “blocks” are commonly performed. When these arm motions are performed as (forward) extensions, the entire bodies weight can (then) be included with that motion.
 The brain is capable of evaluating the direction/attitude of an approaching impact. The brain will (attempt to) resist/absorb that strike (as to how the body perceives it). That is commonly perceived as a being a direct (straight-line) impact. If/when that impact is “other” than being direct, the performed actions (on the part of the receiver's body) are inefficient (at absorbing/resisting that impact). For that reason, Oyata taught that an impact (regardless of the manor/type being used) should include a lateral motion included with (commonly at the “end” of) the impact.
 This concept is initially taught with a students performance of the “milking” punch. This striking method adds a lateral rotation of the user's wrist just following/included within it's initial impact.
 To maintain the entire bodies stability, the hips must remain aligned with the user's shoulders. If/when that alignment is altered, the utilized limb's motion is unstable (and thus, inefficient). This will apply to either an arm or a leg motion. This “alignment” is initially practiced in the students performance of the instructed kata. If/when that alignment is altered through various “superficial/extra” body motions (“hip/shoulder/waist” rotation), the alignment/efficiency of the performed actions are diminished.
 The majority of these “extra” motions, are commonly being included in the attempt to extend one's range (and are thus emphasizing that the user wasn't properly positioned to begin with).  The argument is often made that it is more “powerful” (it isn't), it may “feel” more powerful, but as stated previously, if/when the motion is performed properly, it shouldn't be “felt” by the user (as all of the created force/momentum is being transferred into the target), except at the point of impact (by the striking limb).
 The concept of being “rooted” is (often) being misapplied/perceived as well. Being “rooted”, is simply being stable (in balance). This shouldn't imply immobility. If/when one exaggerates this concept, they will become unstable if/when moving. Stability should be a factor during one's (body) motion as well. One's concern is (commonly) during their changing of stances (movement). Stability (in motion) can only be maintained in limited directions while doing so. That is commonly recognized only in (direct) relation (both with, and away from) the direction being moved (commonly forward/back, though side to side is equally applicable).
 Body rotation should include “correctional” motion(s) as well (thus providing those additional 2 directions of increased stability). This is the concept that “rooting” is attempting to convey, it should not be equated to immobility.
 The most susceptible portion of the body to an aggressor, is the lower body (ie. The “legs”). A student should include attention upon protecting the lower body. Even though the majority of aggressive actions are performed above the waist, the lower body remains the most vulnerable to being struck/injured. In that effort, students are taught numerous stances, not that these positions will (entirely) protect the lower body (legs) from any aggressive actions, they can limit their vulnerability.
 Every stance has is (own) vulnerabilities. Circumstances will dictate which of those stances are the most efficient for the given situation. Understanding those vulnerabilities will allow the student to utilize them against/upon their opponent/aggressor as well (when those vulnerabilities are present). Stances are constantly being changed during a confrontation. Any vulnerabilities should be recognized as they occur, or are being created (through the actions of the user).
 Depending upon the strike being utilized (by the tori), their stance can enhance or diminish the available force/momentum available with it. Understanding the most efficient delivery method for the utilized limb is determined through proper stance, efficient limb motion, body (torso) and foot positioning and proper (effective) distancing (range). These factors are pieces of what constitute what we refer to, as “Force Efficiency”. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Personal "Seals"

  Recently on a discussion board a question on the subject of “seals” came up, and various responses were made.(including some made by myself). There exists a wide variety of seals, and how/where they are appropriate, as well as inappropriate. In the Eastern Asia area, they are often utilized as signatures and stamps of “validation”. In the West (U.S. And Europe) they are mostly used for “effect” (or “looks”).

  The most popular use of them is on “Art” pieces, and by practitioners of Shodo. There are several commonly used versions/types, and martial arts students/instructors will often utilize them on certificates (of rank). There are stamps (hanko) for personal names, for “ranks”, for groups/clubs and associations. In the East they are registered with the local government (and have particular requirements for their submission prior to their usage/recognition) In the West they are mostly utilized because they “look” official and they do have an artistic quality to them (that's added to the document with their usage).

  Although they have no “Legal” validity they are still (often) utilized by martial arts groups for “validation” (within the issuing group). To be honest, they often just “add” (ascetically) to most certificates.

  For what-ever the reason for their usage, they should none the less be utilized correctly. I'll attempt to explain their usage (within the martial arts arena), and that means upon certificates and signatures (and the types of seals that are utilized for that purpose). For those students of Shodo, “their” usage of/for a “name seal” can be different from that usage within the M.A. Field.

  Student's of brush Calligraphy (Shodo) do not use stamps on their (weekly,monthly?) assignments. They may utilize them upon a display (art) piece, but they are only used on those pieces that have been completed (“stamps” are the final addition placed).

  For the martial artist/instructor, they will commonly use them upon issued student rank certificates. These can be for use with their (both the student & the instructor's) written name and/or for authentication of/for an individual group or club. They carry no “legal” aspect to their use, but only as validation to/for members within the issuing group. Any recognition beyond that group is purely for reasons of courtesy.

  There are basically 2 “types” of stamps, “Light” (“Yo”) and “Dark” (“In”). The “Dark” seals are used for one's actual name, and for “motto/phrase” seals. “Dark” seals are carved into the seal itself. The “light” seals are used for pseudonym or “pen names”(they are also utilized for title/rank designations). “Light” seals, have been carved “in relief” (only the carved characters actually contact the ink/paper when “stamped”). Group and association stamps are normally the “light” (type) of seal, though this designation is irrelevant in the West (and have no legal validity anyhow). The majority of martial artists are commonly concerned with “name seals”. Unless that instructor has a Japanese/Chinese name, their name will need to be translated into Katakana, the Japanese kanji that they use for “foreign” (to Japan) words/names (I am not familiar with Chinese usage, so I'm not really sure “how” they would do this, I have to “assume” that is it done similarly).

  Once this is done, the person can (more easily) attempt to “match” those sounds to Japanese/Chinese kanji (that will convey a saying/meaning when used together).

  Though some (many) people have hanko (seals) carved in katakana, these make for (very) mundane name seals (and “looks” like a foreigner's seal). It is far more popular (and visually appealing) to utilize Japanese kanji that have the same/similar “sounds” (when spoken aloud) as the user's name (and preferably will have a legible translation as well). When done (correctly) this is the most involved part of a name stamp's creation (requiring a great amount of time, effort). Though this is often done through utilization of (any) kanji that “sounds” correct, it is more pleasing (for the stamp's owner) for it to convey a “meaning” (as well as sounding like their name).

  For the majority of “official” and name seals, the style of “Tensho” (“seal script”) is the style used for the kanji. There's commonly (though not always) multiple ways (kanji) that this can be accomplished (therefor the “time” requirement). If/when the person is familiar the with Oriental “poetry” (styles of writing) that knowledge can aid the person doing the combining of kanji.

  The majority of “official” seals, will additionally have a “line” that encircles the name of the person/organization (ie. A “border”).  
 Though “open” seals (without a border) are used as well, the one's with a “border” carry a more “official” look to them (this could also be the “personal preference of the person whom the seal is created for).

  Today, seals can be ordered and be (either) carved by hand, or via a machine. There are stamps that are done in “rubber” (though these have a limited life), they have a tendency to “distort” (over time), but the one's carved in (commonly) “soap stone” can last for the lifetime of the owner (though they are subject to damage if/when miss handled/used).

  The hand-carved one's are also more expensive (but “look” much better /authentic, IMO). There are also seals that are carved from wood, but they are similar to the “rubber” ones in durability/lifetime (thus are rarely utilized).

  Stamps that are carved in stone, are (often) intentionally “damaged” (around their edges). This adds individuality to the seal (making more difficult to reproduce/”fake”). In this day of computer imagery though, the “originality” of a stone seal, is no longer a guarantee of authenticity (any seal is able to be “copied”, and the ability to reproduce a seal-stamp is more easily accomplished and will thereby compromise the stamps uniqueness). For that reason (in the West), Stamps are (only) utilized for ascetic reasons.

  “Certificate” seals (which is what the majority of M.A. Utilize “stamps” for/upon) have certain common placement locations (when used upon certificates). An instructor's name seal is placed (either) directly upon, or immediately after the instructor's name (written in katakana). I've seen (numerous) examples where the instructor (actually) "brushed" their name in “kanji”. This is regarded as “tacky” (if not “unprofessional”) if the individual does not have a Japanese name (meaning if/when “Westerner” does so). The instructor's name should be written in Katakana (if/when they are not Japanese)."Name" seals, are the exception to this practice (that, and the fact that they are carved in "Tensho" style kanji).

  There are commonly (several) additional seals that are used upon group/association certificates. There may be an “association/group” seal. This could be placed at various (their choice) locations upon the certificate. There may be a “Dojo/school” seal (again placed at  designated location). And there is (often) a “partial” seal, located along the edge of the certificate itself (the remainder of the seal is stamped at the same time within a record book). This stamp is for record purposes (for any {internal/external} inquiries regarding the certificate's validity).

  For the most part, the only people interested in the use/possession of “seal-stamps” are (either) artists, or martial arts instructor's (for use on art works, and/or certificates). I see numerous versions being utilized that (IMO) have obviously not been (sufficiently) researched prior to their creation. If you have chosen to (either) have one made, or carve it yourself, do the research prior to it's creation. Yes, it's some (mental) “work”, but the result will be a stamp that you don't have to be concerned with being ridiculed (in regards to how it was done).