Friday, February 19, 2016

Kime and Kata

The past is gone, the future has yet to arrive, settling here, with feet planted firmly...Still missing the old days, but those old days are always present and never cease.

Some get down on me for being 'The Kata Guy' because they feel Kata are impractical and non-applicable.
There are certainly many different ways to approach things as well as many different perspectives each individual brings to the party... Some bring more perspective than others.
In any case I am reminded that the only Zen you find on the Mountain is the Zen you bring with you... What is the Mountain actually saying that we cannot hear over our own voices (mine especially included for me)?

Gary Gabelhouse says that Kata actually means vessel... Is that referring to the external pattern, or to ourselves?
My Sensei pointed out an individuals lossof Kime in a video and I took this as alesson for myself.
Kime has peaks and troughs, but should never cease.

Combatives are really only a surface aspect of Kata, a gateway inwards to break ourselves down (Bunkai) as we go.
Learning correct movement, how to use it effectively, this is Kihon.

My Sensei also stated that an element missing from Karate is understanding anatomy.
This is true on so many levels and explains a lot of bogus Applications and the reason many are put off by Kata... More on that some other time as there is plenty to go over here.

Thank you Sensei.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sanchin, Taisho, and Kihon.

Continuing from the last post...

There was a topic that came up a while back with some guys in the Chi-I-Do Goju Ryu Organization under Kayo Ong.
The topic of Hojo Undo was being discussed and Kayo gave his two cents on the matter stating, basically, that he felt Sanchin and Daruma Taisho were enough for conditioning and that, Hojo Undo as a method of conditioning, was really more suited as 'Training Wheels' of sorts.
This means that a person doing Hojo Undo should only do it for a short time in order to build the muscles to a certain point and then move solely to Taisho and Sanchin, leaving behind the equipment of Hojo Undo.

This jives with what Kris Wilder Sensei says about weight training, that it is generally not good, over all, for a Karateka to do too much weight training, even with the over-emphasized Chi'Ishi, Ishi Sashi, and Nigiri Game.
There is a balance point and even scientific studies have shown that muscle built from lifting heavy weights, with increasing weight as one progresses, produces more bulk, but the quality of the muscle that is built is lower compared to methods like Body Weight training, Cardio, ect.

My own daily routine consists of Sanchin, Tensho, Kihon, Kata, and Daruma Taisho with a little help from the park playground across the street for some variety of body weight training and I do not do static stretching but focus more on dynamic stretching as part of Daruma Taisho.
If I take a day off then I start the next rotation with an hour of weights, ten pounds each, weighted gloves and ankle weights, and I go through Kihon repetitions and also go running.
This is a daily thing with one, sometimes two, days off in between, but it is something I have dedicated myself to doing, regardless of how I feel each day, and putting my all into each and every moment.
I do this at a pretty intense pace on almost all of the exercises, including a daily number of about 150 Push-ups, Sit-ups, Squats, and daily running, even on my two days off from the rest.

I do not have a Dojo... I train at a park with a playground... Even if I did have a Dojo a prospective Student would not find an over abundance of Hojo Undo equipment, maybe a couple Chi'Ishi, a Makiwara for sure, small Nigiri Game for beginning work on grips, but that is it.
I often feel the over-emphasis on these things is more for the mystique of Okinawan Culture, but the main point of Okinawan Culture that we get is to find a balance, never to do anything to the extreme as this becomes unhealthy, and always use what is at hand.

People become overly focused on the outward appearance without really thinking about what it is they are doing and the reason they train a certain way.
Most Karate comes from posture and a strong group of core muscles working in unison and harmony, there is no need for bulky, in fact, this is counter productive to both Technique AND health.

Gamaku is an Okinawan concept similar to, but not synonymous with, Koshi/Hara in Japanese terms and works with Atifa, which refers to something that includes Structure/Posture, and Chinkuchi, which is the proper delivery of power (sort of, similar to Fa Jin).
A person needs all of these things in order to perform Karate effectively/correctly... People often forget that Karate is not a Japanese Art and become confused when Japanese concepts are applied in place of Okinawan concepts which more accurately describe what it is you should be doing and how it is you should model your approach to training (ie, how you train).
They have all this Okinawan equipment, all these Okinawan Kata and training methods, but approach them with the mindset of a Samurai rather than the mindset required... Again, mystique (packaging).

By Their Fruits Shall They Be Known.

It is said 'never judge a book by its' cover' and sometimes that is true, but more often than not, in my experience, I find the first impression is usually the correct impression.
There is a book on this written by Malcolm Gladwell called 'Blink' that explores this topic in depth and this is not the main point of this article.

The main point is in appearance, yes, appearance, which is the doorway of our perceptions, before any other faculties come into play to add to the impression we first experience the world through sight (at least the majority of us do, for the Blind it is usually sound and touch, and this actually gives them even more of an edge in first impressions).
The reason I bring this up is because most times I meet people that are supposedly 'Masters' who are often out of shape, which tells me they spend very little time actually training or working on themselves.

Does this mean they have no skills? Of course not, and some people are actually naturally bigger than others, so this is not necessarily a great indicator of the kind of shape a person is in, although in most cases this is true.
Sometimes another indicator is in watching these people give demonstrations, one can pick things up, either overt things or covert things, like Students trying to be polite and make their so-called 'Masters' look good or the 'Master' themselves performing a Kata that leaves something to be desired (to put it mildly).
Sometimes they perform superbly, but again, in most cases they are winded afterwards.

Sometimes we find these 'Masters' were once in superb shape, performing at pique levels, but then something happened, long strings of injuries that may or may not be related to their training.
This would indicate something is amiss with their training or the way they are training, perhaps with the way they were taught, which carries over to their Students and this is where the cycle of damage perpetuates itself.
Maybe their Teacher died of complicated health issues that may or may not have had to do with their training or lifestyle choices, and maybe, just maybe, that person did not actually care enough to pass on anything correctly, and maybe they did not know themselves, but were only interested in making a profit and/or making a name for themselves.

Sound familiar? This story is rampant throughout the Martial Arts world, and something everyone should be aware of.
There are many great Teachers, some of whom will not fit any preconceived notion of what a good Teacher should be or look like, others will fit in perfectly with the above and those should definitely be avoided.

If they do not have time to work on themselves and their Teaching has not promoted any significant increase in health or physical conditioning in their Students then it is best to turn around, walk out the door, and find something else... Regardless of what type of style it is (or is not).
The fruits of a person's abilities and their Teachings will be readily apparent at first 'blink' and may, or may not, be backed up by some official looking piece of paper, with or without some Traditional looking Kanji to make it pretty.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sanchin and Tensho - Go and Ju.

Sanchin Kata is, often, described as the 'Go' of Goju Ryu Karate while Tensho Kata is often described as the 'Ju' aspect. 
With these descriptions what we often see is pretty much the same thing in both, from Teacher and Student alike, which is the vein-popping super tense sweating dynamic tension that seems to have become characteristic of what people think is Goju Ryu Karate. 

My Teacher and many of his ilk would have, and still do, call this sort of display Go Go Ryu because it lacks any sort of balance or depth and often does lead to some serious health issues because of said lack of balance. 
This sort of practice DOES lead to Gastrointestinal issues, high blood pressure, not to mention pulled muscles, hernias, uptight aggressive behavior, not to mention it also compartmentalizes the body rather than allowing it to align, which promotes bad mechanics in technique. 

When it comes to Tensho we should find a totally different approach because this is supposed t be the 'Ju' of Goju Ryu, but what we find instead is the exact same thing that we find in Sanchin, super hard dynamic tension which promotes the exact same issues.
My Teacher, Dascenzo Sensei, once told me that Tensho was like a Nuclear Reactor smashing atoms in the Tanden, but in a very soft and directed way... It is the SOFT path to the HARD aspect while Sanchin would be the HARD path to the SOFT aspect. 
There really should be no great tension in EITHER Kata and the breathing, according to the likes  Yoshio Kuba Sensei, Kayo Ong, and others, was originally just a TEACHING TOOL and is NOT how either Kata is meant to be performed. 

When going through Sanchin the focus should not be on extreme muscle tension and extreme Ibuki Breathing. 
The body should be allowed to align of itself in a natural way that promotes good structural integrity, good mechanics of motion which promote, in turn, UNIFIED Shin, Gi, Tai. 
Tension is only for a split second as techniques are completed, and this is only in certain parts of the body that are in harmony with each movement. 

Tensho is different yet the same, and one can see this in the fact that it is often performed WITHOUT the punches for emphasis on its' flowing and turning. 
The Kata itself is similar to Wing Chun's Sil Lum Dao, almost move for move, which should be a clue as to what it represents. 
One cannot hone the Principles of Sil Lum Dao with extreme tension, one has to be relaxed at certain points and taut like a bow-string at others, one leading to the next in succession, again, this was never meant to be extreme and the breathing methods that were once taught (and seem to have been lost on most), while an important aspect, are only audible as a teaching aid. 
This Kata is absolutely NOT meant to be performed in the same way as Sanchin, just as Sanchin was absolutely not meant to be performed with extreme dynamic tension. 

I did 100 reps of Sanchin Kata for the 100 Kata Challenge on the day that has been dedicated to Miyagi Chojun, but I would not have been able to do this if I were performing Sanchin in the way that most perform it. 
It was still EXTREMELY challenging, but not in the muscle-bound sort of way, though it did drain me and leave me nearly crawling. 
The feeling is different, almost like doing unbendable arm with the whole body, but you direct sinking, rising, rooting, ect., aspects which also seem to be missing from the modern rendition of the Kata in many schools... Including some schools within my own lineage.