Practical Kata Bunkai By Iain Abernethy

I haven’t covered much in the way of bunkai (applications) lately, so I thought I’d put in a few videos from Iain Abernethy, one of my favourite applied martial arts teachers.  Although Iain is a primarily a Karateka, he has a following from many other systems, especially Taekwondo due to it’s Karate background.

The first sequence is from the kata Wanshu/Enpi (depending on which style you practice).  It has an interesting application for the lower block which can be applied to any place that the lower block is used (not just in this Kata). Continue reading “Practical Kata Bunkai By Iain Abernethy”

Differences Between Boxing Punch vs Traditional Martial Arts Punch

This post looks at the differences and relative advantages/disadvantages of the a boxing punch compared with a traditional martial arts (Karate, Taekwondo, Kung Fu) punch.

Firstly, the disclaimer part   🙂
I want to make it clear that this for informational/interest purposes and is not meant to be an attack or criticism of any fighting system and is just my opinion.  Anybody who can punch well is going to be a tough opponent on the street or in the ring regardless of which system they train in.  Although I would argue that some systems are optimised for certain purposes (ie: sport or self defence, etc), that is not say that they are not capable of being used for other purposes as well. Continue reading “Differences Between Boxing Punch vs Traditional Martial Arts Punch”

Front Kick Variations (Pros & Cons)

Any technique can be developed into a number of variations.  However, when it comes to the front kick, I would say that there are main variations (and many sub-variations).  These are hips side-on (FIG 1: hips facing about 90 degrees to opponent) and hips forward (FIG 2: hips facing toward the opponent).

Both have slightly different advantages which I’d like to explore.  But firstly I want to make it clear, I’m not saying that one kick can ONLY be used ONE WAY and the other version can only be used ANOTHER WAY, as that would be silly.  What I would say however is that each version is optimised for different purposes. Continue reading “Front Kick Variations (Pros & Cons)”

John Johnston Is Awarded His 7th Dan

Pictured here is John Johnston being awarded his 7th Dan Shotokan Karate by Geoff Thompson and Dev Barrett at Dev Barrett’s Dojo in Coventry which is the hometown and birthplace of these 3 great men.

Dev Barrett is a former world champion kickboxer from the old school era when there was only was one world championship, unlike today were we numerous champions.

Geoff Thompson 7th Dan is the co-founder of the British Combat Association, author of 40 books (published in 20 languages), five multi-award-winning films, three stage plays, hundreds of articles (many published in national magazines and broadsheets) and a BAFTA award winner. Continue reading “John Johnston Is Awarded His 7th Dan”

Karate For “Perfection Of Character”: Truth Or Just Part Of The “Marketing”? – A Historical Perspective

“The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of character of its participants”.
Master Gichin Funakoshi.

Gichen Funakoshi

The above words by Master Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan/Shotokai have been widely quoted, but I wonder if that was what his teachers had in mind.  Gichin Funakoshi had a number of teachers, but the main ones were Yasutsune Itosu and Yasutsune Azato.  Both of these had (prior to teaching Funakoshi) been body guards to the King of Okinawa.  In this role, they could have been faced with superior numbers of armed men, whilst they themselves were actually unarmed due to Japanese law.

If you had to face a superior number of men, they had weapons whilst you did not; which do you think you would be most interested in:

  1. Victory or defeat?
  2. Perfection of character?

Continue reading “Karate For “Perfection Of Character”: Truth Or Just Part Of The “Marketing”? – A Historical Perspective”

Kata Bunkai for Shorin Ryu Pinan Shodan (Heian Nidan)

This is something that has been discussed on my Facebook page before, but I wanted to go into more depth with it.  Most traditional martial arts have been dumbed down.  Karate applications (Kata bunkai) were dumbed down when the Okinawans decided to introduce it into their school system in the late nineteenth century.  This dumbed down version was taught to the Japanese and from there to the Koreans.

Kung Fu too has suffered.  The Chinese were at first very reluctant to teach martial arts to anybody who was not full blooded Chinese.  Later it was realised that it could be quite financially lucrative to do so!  However, in the main they still held back a lot from Westerners.  It is known that when the legendary Master Ip Man was teaching Wing Chun to Bruce Lee, he held back some of the more advanced secrets because Bruce Lee was not full blooded Chinese.  If Bruce Lee was not taught the full system, what makes any Westerners think that they have been? Continue reading “Kata Bunkai for Shorin Ryu Pinan Shodan (Heian Nidan)”

Adaptive Karate Blog: With John & Elaine Johnston

John and Elaine Johnston have started up their own blog which will be well worth checking out.  Sensei John Johnston is a 6th Dan Shotokan Karate and the people who he has trained with reads like a “who’s who” of early UK Shotokan Karate.  He has competed at high level when it was much rougher than today’s competitions and has also done a lot of door work.

His wife, Elaine is a 2nd Dan and has an interest in psychology and Yoga, so she also bring her own unique insights into the mix as well.  This will make it a very well rounded martial arts blog. Continue reading “Adaptive Karate Blog: With John & Elaine Johnston”

Traditional Shotokan Karate Association: Annual Residential Course 2012

Having recently attended the Traditional Shotokan Karate Association (TSKA) Residential Course (12th – 14th May), I thought I’d share my experiences with you.

Being my first time at the TSKA residential course, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect, though it was well recommended by my club-mates.  So I turned up with high expectations and I have to say that I was not in slightest bit disappointed.  The 3 main instructors for the course were Sensei Pete Manning 6th Dan, Sensei John Euden 5th Dan and my own instructor, Sensei Paul Mitchell 5th Dan. Continue reading “Traditional Shotokan Karate Association: Annual Residential Course 2012”

Kata And Its Bunkai Is Like A Sword

The following is para-phrased from part of a lesson given by Sensei Pete Manning 6th Dan Shotokan Karate, during the recent residential course hosted by the Traditional Shotokan Karate Association:-

“Kata is like a sword.  If you strive only for technical excellence, then it is like putting the sword in a glass case and hanging it on a wall for display.

However, if you learn how to use and apply the kata bunkai, then it is like taking down the sword from the glass case on the wall and actually using it”.

I liked the analogy, so I thought it was worth sharing.

 

Do Our Training Methods Damage Our Bodies? (Part 2)

This post is following on from another posting that I wrote back in October 2011 about how some training methods introduced by the Japanese into Karate can be damaging to our bodies.

Going back further in Okinawan Karate history before Karate was introduced to Japan, they had the interesting concept of Shu-Ha-Ri, which I have discussed before.  However, to recap:

Shu:    means that you copy your master as closely as possible, to learn his techniques in as much detail as you can.
Ha:    means that once your technique is up to a good standard, you have the freedom to make subtle changes to suit your own physique and experiences.
Ri:    means that you have mastered the techniques to the extent that they are a natural part of you.  At this point the student may transcend the master.

This is not a far cry from Bruce Lee’s famous quote: “Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own.”

The “Ha” part in particular tells us that it was expected for the advanced student to adapt their Karate to suit themselves.  Although there is a certain amount of leeway for us to do this today, we are still in the main confined to what our seniors tell us is our style.  We are not free to change our kata’s to do (for example) a Front Kick rather than a Side Snap Kick which we might struggle with.  Can you imagine the masters of old raised with the concept of Shu-Ha-Ri, insisting that their student continue to do a technique that damaged their joints, simply because it was always done that way?  If you want to train in the traditional manner, rather than a “traditional style”, then maybe you should consider making little changes to suit your own body.

To quote Matsuo Basho a haiku poet, we should progress:  “Not by blindly flowing the footsteps of the old masters, but by seeking what they sought”

There are a number of examples of Shu-Ha-Ri in modern martial arts.  I hope martial artists of other styles will forgive me for focusing on Shotokan Karate, but it is the style that I’m most familiar with, (though I’m sure other styles have similar examples).

Those of us who have trained in Shotokan Karate over the decades have instinctively known (especially in the early days) that something was missing.  Not just in the unrealistic bunkai that was taught to us by our Japanese masters, but sometimes technically in the art.  We would see films or read magazine articles about masters doing great feats with seemingly no effort, yet we were encouraged to put more and more effort into our training (overly exhaling and tensing to create kime) as we progressed.  That seemingly mystical ability to generate masses of power with little effort, derived from pure technique which we thought we would attain as we progressed, seemed to become more elusive as we rose through the grades.  Very few senior Sensei in those earlier days seemed to be able to show us anything except more of the same.  As my former Sensei, Graham Mead used to say, “ We were ending up with 2nd & 3rd Dans who were really just very good brown belts”.

However, over the years things have gradually changed and mainly for the better.  Sport science has obviously shown that fast movement requires relaxation rather than more tensing.  The emphasis on deep stances has relaxed (though Shotokan stances are still deeper than many others).  Little things like bending the back leg slightly in Zenkutsu Dachi (front stance) relieves the tension on the lower spine and hips has replaced the straight back leg which was common years ago.

These all help to reduce the damage to our bodies that many early practitioners suffered from.

The availability of many other martial arts have allowed exploration to fill the gaps and bring some of the answers back into mainstream Shotokan.

Master Hirokazu Kanazawa, 10th Dan and founder of the Shotokan Karate International, also studied Tai Chi.  When he taught around the world he would often have Tai Chi seminars alongside the Karate seminars.  His Karate has become much more softer and more relaxed than most others and he has inspired many Shotokan practitioners of all associations to take up Tai Chi (including me).

The Late Master Tetsuhiko Asai, 10th Dan, lived and taught in Taiwan form many years.  During this time he also studied White Crane Kung Fu, Dim Mak (critical nerve points) and Qi Gong.  He placed great emphasis on relaxation and using the body like a whip.  He was the founder of the Japan Karate Shotorenmei and brought his own special influences to bear on the Shotokan world.

These influences along with many others have led Shotokan Karate to become very varied depending on which association or instructor you train with.  Some versions are quite relaxed like the original Okinawan Karate making it a healthy art to practice, whilst others are still quite stiff like the early post war Karate which can be damaging.

Taekwondo too has also changed significantly over the years and now has many variations.  Some associations for example have introduced a sine-wave movement into their step to also create a more relaxed manner of moving.

Please add any other examples below of how any martial art has been adapted to make it healthier to train.