Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Looking closely at the coiling/uncoiling principle within Kata, namely Gekesai Dai Ichi and Seipai, after going through some Aikido Footwork both Irimi and Tenkan aspects and feeling that 'coil/uncoil' there as well. 
The coiling aspect, for me, comes from Sanchin and is meant to work with Posture for Power Transfer (Atifa) and proper mechanical application, ie Tension, at the very end for just a split second (Chinkuchi) drawn from the ground up through the hips and the core first (Gamaku).

Having gone through this slow a few times just to feel the timing and the nature of each within these two very different Kata it is like a bow-string pulled taut then released and snapping back (taut again for just a split second on the opposite end).
The stances in Karate are too emphasized and should really be de-emphasized in favor of looking more at the actual movements themselves rather than some cool looking position that really has no meaning at the 'end' other than where you should end up. 

Gekesai Kata was meant to be a training Kata, very basic, but also very brutal if understood correctly, the name gives you exactly what principles and characteristics the Kata focuses on... To Attack and Smash or Destroy. 
As Such the Kata is full of various attacks that are straight forward Punches with tension applied for proper effect, with smashing attacks like Elbow Strikes (which also double as entering head guards), upward smashing attacks (Jodan Uke) and downward dislocations/breaks (Gedan Barai), Mid-level manipulations (Chudan Uke) in set up for a nicely placed Heel-kick to the knee (or there-abouts) of the lead (or rear) leg of the opponent BEFORE delivering the Elbow. 
At the beginning is that coil/uncoil, the delivery is very different depending on the blow. Punches are meant to act upon the water aspect of the body, causing Hydrostatic Shock and recoil in the opponent, thus the slight and quick tension on the end, Elbow Strikes are meant to Smash... I am sure you get the idea. 

Seipai is a very different Kata in its' characteristics, its' Nature is not quite so direct and aggressive, although no less effective. 
It plays more on the coil/uncoil element throughout with A LOT of circular movements and linear movements that play off the circular (similar to Gekesai in that respect, but quite different at the same time).
The beginning coils up and drops down with a caption and strike/lock on the arm/neck area following through with a Shihonage-like/Aikido-like techniqe that leads into a break (when I say Shihonage-like I mean to say it can be applied as such, but can also be applied to the head and would make a lot more sense considering it ends with a drop into Shiko-position).
Lots of coil/uncoil in that movement, then it leads into an interesting sweep-attack with the foot into a weird back-leaning position, one arm up, the other sweeping down, both open-handed. 
It can be a redundancy follow-through from the previous movement as almost an Ashi-Barai where the foot does not leave the ground, one hand pulls back as an anchor while the other sweeps through to take down. 

In all this, the main point I always come back to is the Hara.... My Sensei used to say to pretend I had no arms and that all movements are connected directy to the Hara.
These things are far less effective without a thorough understand of how the Hara is applied in each, how it moves, raises, sinks, spins around the axis, ect. 
I once watched a video of a Karteka against an Aikidoka and they used some sort of computer program to trace the movements of their center through Shihonage. 
The Karateka tended to rely more on his strength and his Hara stayed on a straight line, almost unused, while the Aikidoka did not have brute strength to rely on and utilized a linear movement combined with a well-timed drop of his Hara to apply the technique. 
There was a HUGE difference in the movement and it says a lot about the state of Karate today... Many need to go back to the floor and REALLY look at what they are doing with their Hara, take some lessons from Aikido and Judo. 

In the end there are really only a couple of things to master... A few techniques and how to move from your Center... 
You do not need style to do this, you do not really need anything but a few movements and you can go from there. 
Seipai and Gekesai are just fancy ways to go about it... Really my goal is to simplify and shorten so that the focus is only on a couple of things. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Listening to Seipai.

This morning was spent on some basics... Jodan, Chudan, and Gedan Uke with an emphasis on exploding from the core with proper alignment, coordination, and mechanics.
The point is not in the technique utilized, but what underlies the technique that cannot necessarily be seen or easily explained.
Technique, for me, refers to these underlying principles as stated in previous posts, what looks to be a Chudan Uke is only meant to draw attention to something happening at the mid level, some kind of reception of energy and the proper muscle groups/alignment principles to train for that specific kind of reception of energy.
Take the above and change the word to Jodan, or even Gedan, or change it entirely and apply Uchi or Tsuki, which often seems to confuse and limit the possibilities and potentials actually inherent in those specific flows.

My basics work tends to be drawn directly from Kata so there is more going on than just standing in place counting in Japanese with endless reps of Jodan, Chudan, or Gedan, nor am I simply marching up and down a floor doing Oi Tsuki or Gyaku Tsuki... Granted I do practice these things, but not as often.
The rest of the time was spent breaking down Seipai and really looking at the whole body... Breaking down, starting with the feet I directed my attention to the motion rather than static stances and postures, moving from the center and checking out the principles of timing in shifting of the weight and utilization of hands, ect.
Moving from the center first with emphasis on this, especially, as the primary aspect of each movement with proper application of Gamaku, or core muscles (rather than just Koshi/Hara) with culmination in Chinkuchi, or suddenly/brief tension, before moving to the next flow.

Not really sure how to word any of this that interests the reader or gives a proper mental illustration of the principles in action, for myself, and it will likely be different for everyone due to small nuances in each Karateka, but it is always good to have a starting point.
My Sensei used to point out the angles of the Kata as important, and we would train these a lot, but it was not until later than I began to think that maybe it was not the angle itself he was drawing my attention to, but training proper weight shifting technique and really keeping mind in the center for good 'weight under side' in the movement, or what the Okinawans called Muchimi.
He did not really over explain a lot and left quite a bit for me to figure out on my own, but I do believe that was the point...

Working on portion of Kata got me thinking more about the foot sliding in as an attack, a throw or takedown similar to what people might call a 'Russian Leg Sweep,' which gives an idea on what portions of the body are playing a role there-in.
The Leg Sweep idea is not as important as the mechanics to which it points, it could be a Leg Sweep, it could be something else entirely, depending on the imagination and inclination of the Karateka, which is how it should be.
Yes, I do believe there are proper applications, but these are only to be found in the mechanics, which allude to the proper application by way of Physics, you can only do so many things along certain lines... So naturally the applications ARE finite and are NOT only limited by the imagination, but there are possibilities.

It was a very good workout that yielded a lot of insight. Next Sunday Katasse Sensei and I are supposed to start training Aikido on a regular basis again, so this should add even more insight to everything else.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Knowing the Difference.

Years ago Competition used to be the main point of training and we went to quite a few beginning in early Spring, running through June, all over the Region, and Nationals, first time in Chicago, second time in South Carolina.
My first competition I was ten years old and had barely even been training for two months. My right foot was taped up because I had cut it in a piece of metal in the bleachers, and I had nothing but my Gi, no Sparring Gear at all.
There was a spare head piece that was way too big, kept slipping down every time I would step in, getting sweat in my eyes to boot.

My first and only match in that tournament, the Yakima Open, was against a kid from the UKO, a Shito-Ryu stylist under Minakami Sensei's old Organization.
It was brutal, he saw my foot and used it by stepping on it, which only pissed me off, but since I could barely see it was hard to do anything about it, but I ended up leaving the match with two points to his three.
While I lost I certainly felt good about it.

My ribs were nearly cracked during my second go at Nationals as a thirteen year old Green Belt, and boy was I full of myself!
The kid that beat me was a Japanese kid from Hawaii with some very fast kicks. I walked away from that competition with a Silver Medal.
After that I focused on the deeper mechanics of what I was doing as I felt there was something more to it... While most people think of Karate as synonymous with competition, like a sport, nothing could be farther from the truth.

My Sensei would have me go through repetitions of Kata over and over, pointing out minute aspects of each movement while also detailing some deeper aspects of focus, to forget before and not worry about what came next, to be fully present in each and every aspect of the Kata.
This was to further carry over to life in mindfulness of cooking, cleaning, studying, thinking, speaking, everything!
Yes, there is a combative aspect of it, and this came out when Sensei had me fight one Student, bare knuckles, during this guy's test as a means of getting him out of his shell... Everything was automatic, and since I had been working Saifa, every automatic movement was based on that and I understood why Karate's combative aspects could not be watered down for sport in that moment.

There are people out there who teach Tournament Karate as though it is the same thing as Self Defense, but winning a Trophy is not the same as winning your next breath.
There are many out there that also believe so-called 'Street Fighting' is the same thing as Self Defense, but this so-called 'Street Fighting' is often just people facing off in mutual combat, while there may be injuries, there are usually no deaths and it does mirror what we see on Television in the form of Cage Fighting... Nothing wrong with it, but it is still more akin to Sport than Self Defense.

Training methodologies are often determined by the goal... If a person is training for Sport then their methods will reflect their aim and will not be the same as those training for Health.
If a person is training for the Cage Fighting aspect of Sport then they will include those methods of training that will stand them a better chance of actually winning, but if the aim is Self Defense it is something else entirely.
In the first aspect, basic Tournament Training, you are training to gain points in Sparring and Kata; Sparring, or Kumite, is a game of tag, even if it does allow for contact and knockouts, there are still rules to follow for safety and you are still going for points in rounds of elimination where there are judges and a referee.
In the Cage Fighting aspect you are training for one on one combat against someone who trains in a similar fashion, no weapons, and still rules for safety, but you are not training for points, you are training to knock the other person out or make them submit, and this is based on whichever your main focus might be.
People who train for Health might only focus on Kata and a little bit of the Combative aspect, but really only do that stuff for a good workout... Their goal is to stay healthy and training in a Martial Art is a unique way for them to do so, which may also give them something to talk about at social gatherings... Nothing wrong with that either.

Knowing the difference in aims and methodologies is as vital as knowing what actually qualifies as Self Defense, legally, because someone cannot get into a shouting match and meet someone in the parking lot for a 'good go' and have that qualify as Self Defense... No, that is a fight.
Self Defense situations happen unexpectedly and are hard to actually prepare for because training can never fully encompass things that might be experienced in a real situation, which is why people need to be aware of the limitations of their training and hold no false pretenses that what they do in the Dojo is complete unto itself.
In the Dojo we are always pulling punches, even just slightly, in order to avoid permanently injuring and maiming our partners... A good way around this is to include the follow-through in our minds, because visualization is a great aspect of training, which has also helped Olympian Athletes achieve pique performance.
In a Self Defense situation there may be two on one, three on one, with weapons, heck, I have even seen assailants themselves carrying pepper spray and make-shift weapons!

Down at the Plaza a guy was fighting with some other guy, so the second guy's buddy pulled out some pepper spray and sprayed the first directly in the face while he was distracted, then the second guy pulled out a huge knife.
This is NOT an isolated incident and some of these types of people even carry tasers... You can actually make cheap tasers with disposable cameras and no one would be the wiser.
People also do not think about things like training for defense against swords to have any carryover in the modern world, but people use Baseball Bats, Pipes, and Machetes!
There was an incident on the corner of Regal and Everett here in Spokane, just across the street from a place called Agnes Kehoe, where twelve people attacked our Apartment Building, armed with pipes, bats, and machetes.... There were four of us, including myself, defending the building, which had women and children inside.
Many people in the area can verify this, and if anyone questions the incident I can certainly provide the names of those others who were involved and at least one witness... I've already named the area... The attackers had the wrong address, they were looking for a guy that lived across the street.

The point is that there is a huge difference between one type of training and another, and a larger difference between training, competition of whatever kind, and actual Street Assault.
Street Assaults are ridiculous and if something sounds far-fetched you cannot count it out because it probably happened.
There is even a difference between Street Assault, Domestic Violence, and Warfare... They are different aspects of Violence that do not really have a lot of carryover... Warfare is not often fought in close quarters, it has not been for a very long time, thus very little time is focused on actual hand to hand combat, while the majority of training is focused on weapons and technical skills of each individual MOS, after boot camp, which is about building a warrior... Huge difference.

Going back to the deeper aspects I found after competitions had run their course, I could see how competitions were becoming the sole focus of most Karateka, mainly the Kumite aspects, which is actually a fairly new aspect of Karate.
The spirit is fine, but when this becomes the sole focus it tends to kill the actual art and it makes people belligerent, especially if they do not know the difference between Tournament Fighting, Cage Fighting, and Self Defense.
Karate Ni Sente Nashi means 'there is no first attack in Karate,' which means it is meant, specifically, for Self Defense... Can it be trained for the other aspects? Sure, but the main and original aspect was Self Defense.
If a person trains for Tournament play they should be aware that what they are training for, primarily, is not the same as Self Defense in the street and, thus, they cannot judge others by the same standards because they are two different things.

Good sources on this for further study are Rory Milly and Marc MacYoung... I suggest not only reading their work, but seeking them out for training.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Slow Lane.

Sometimes it is best to slow down and really look at the nuances of every single centimeter of movement in order to truly have an understanding.
Most people say stronger, harder, and faster, but that only works best when things are done correctly, after all, if you do a technique five hundred times incorrectly you are only practicing five hundred incorrect techniques.

Each and every person is convinced of the correctness of their own path, and they should be, because it is their own.
Each person has a unique way of doing things, whether they realize it or not, and these are the unique things that one must come to understand when they are slowing things down in order to really look at what is there... Maybe a better term would be to listen to what their body is trying to tell them.

Some people are naturally bigger than others, some people are naturally smaller, some people are good in short bursts of speed, some people can go for the long haul (depending, also, on how they train... At least in respect to this).
All of this also must take Physics into account... There is no one uniform approach, only uniform restrictions and regulations under which individual principles can be applied.
Apply harmoniously with the laws of Physics and things work out great, but try to do something outside those laws and things go terribly wrong on so many different levels.

My Sensei introduced us to doing Shisochin as Tai Chi on a beach during a Regional Sho Rei Shobu Kan camp out many years ago.
I thought this was cool at the time, it really showed how to move in a way that did not break alignment, to move free, but within the bounds of the movements' mechanics.
Kris Wilder further drove this home with his 'Go slow to learn fast' teaching as we went through Sanchin in the old basement Dojo I had at my old house in Suncrest.
The idea was to really slow down, to take your time moving so that the ENTIRE movement could be felt through ALL of its' moving parts and, in this way, one could feel how each aspect linked and supported the next in almost instantaneous succession (once sped up and done at full force after grasping and ingraining what was gained through the slow aspect).

Anyone can learn a thousand different things in a thousand different ways, but a person really only needs to know two or three things extremely well in order to succeed.
This is true in life as well as Karate, attention to detail and, as Shihan Roseberry is fond of saying, 'Do a little, but do it often.'