Today we look at Karate bunkai for Shuto Uke (knife hand block). However, if you raise the elbow to the side and perform the strike/block with the forearm parallel to the floor, it looks very much like Wing Chun’s Fun Sau strike.
Shuto Uke can obviously be used for blocking or striking, but here we look at other possible applications, in particular escaping from a double handed throat grab.
Karate bunkai for the kata, Heian/Pinan Godan (or Pyung Ahn Oh Dan for Tang Soo Do). Here we take a look at the sequence near the end of the kata, with of course a look at similar Kung Fu moves which gives us some more possible kata bunkai. We hope you enjoy our video.
Here’s a video response to Charlie and Keith’s last video showing a Karate and similar Kung Fu techniques. Their video reminded me a lot of a very well known move from Yang style Tai Chi, so here’s a video showing how we use it.
Here we take a look at one of the movements from Hangetsu kata (formally known as Seishan). Karate is usually looked at as being linear and Kung Fu as being predominantly circular. However, the technique that we look at below is performed in a circular manor in the kata, but when we look at similar Kung Fu movements, they are performed in a linear manner. As per usual, there is more in common than there is different.
Here we take a look at the opening sequence of the most basic kata of all, Kihon Kata (TKD/TSD: Il Jang, Chon Ji, Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu). Normally explained as turn to your left and block a front kick followed by stepping and punching; then turn to your rear to block another front kick followed by a step and punch. However, this only works if the kicker aims the kick to stop short. If they actually try to kick you, then the only way you can block their kick with a lower block is to step back (not forward), otherwise the distance is all wrong.
So here we look at some different bunkai (applications) for this sequence.
Note: What I did forget to say in the video is that having taken the opponent off-balance with the first move, you should have the back of their head facing you, which means that you can take advantage of the prime target at the base of the skull on the back of the head. This is one of the prime points for knocking the opponent unconscious. Use this point with caution as it is potentially dangerous.
It says in the Tai Chi classics www.scheele.org/lee/classics.html:
“Anyone who has spent years of practice and still cannot neutralize,
and is always controlled by his opponent,
has not apprehended the fault of double-weightedness.”
But what does this mean? What is this peculiar fault of ‘double-weightedness’ that it refers to?
Of course, the classics are written in Chinese, and then translated into English, so there’s room for more than one interpretation, and they also often use obscure characters that are no longer in general use. However, from the actual practice of the art you can look at the classics and understand what they’re referring too. Like most classic writings, they only make sense once you understand (through physical practice) what they are talking about.
In more down to earth language it is saying that you need to understand how to yield to force if you’re ever going to ‘get’ Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art. And if you don’t understand that simple idea then you’re never going to be able to apply it no matter how many years you practice. The idea of yielding to force is a hard concept to understand in martial arts, because it not only sounds counter intuitive, but it is counter intuitive! When somebody pushes you, your natural reaction is to push back. Over time this initial impulse to resist force can be trained out of the body through exercises like push hands until it no longer becomes your unconscious reaction.
In terms of yin and yang, if somebody applies force to you, it is yang, and if you respond in kind you are fighting fire with fire. This is the double-weighting talked about in the classics. Tai Chi seeks to balance the yang with some yin – fighting fire with water instead.
I was attempting to explain this concept of yielding to force last night in class, using a kick as an example. Rather than being technique-based, we’re talking about a principle here, so it can apply to numerous techniques, it just so happened that we were working on a kick when we filmed it. I hope you enjoy the clip.
There’s a big debate in Tai Chi circles about whether you should lean or not in your Tai Chi form. This debate usually goes on between practitioners that are more interested in the martial aspects – probably because it makes very little difference if you lean or not if you’re just doing Tai Chi for health. The debate is fuelled by the fact that some styles of Tai Chi (like the Wu style that comes from Wu Chien Chuan) have a very pronounced forward lean in some postures, while some Yang styles, most notably the Cheng sub-style of Yang that comes from Cheng Man Ching, are notably bolt upright in their postures.
What most people seem to be agreed upon is that you should never lean backwards (but then again, there are probably some styles that have exceptions to this rule – it’s very hard to generalise about anything when it comes to martial arts).
“Don’t lean in any direction; suddenly appear, suddenly disappear.”
It also says:
“Stand like a perfectly balanced scale and move like a turning wheel.”
That actually seems pretty clear, but then we’re into the world of interpretation, and also bear in mind that this is a translation from the Chinese, so there’s even more scope for interpretation than usual.
While some people take it literally – i.e. you must never lean – most people interpret that line as meaning that you should keep your spine straight (there will always be a slight curve in a human spine, here ‘straight’ means your crown point and coccyx are on a straight line). This is the sort of posture you find in things like sitting meditation and involves gently relaxing, extending and lengthening the neck and lower back.
When it comes to martial application of Tai Chi the two different interpretations tend to favour different applications. A forward lean favours throwing and a vertical spine favours striking.
In this clip I look at the Brush Knee Twist Step posture from Tai Chi and show some possible martial applications. In my form we do most postures in an upright manner, but I also throw in a possible application for leaning using Brush Knee. Notice that when I do I keep the coccyx and crown point in alignment (i.e. don’t hunch, slouch or bend the spine forward – any bending is done from the hips with the spine extended) and I straighten the back leg. When I do applications with an upright posture, the two points are in alignment, but this requires the back leg to bend and soften. I believe that both approaches are valid in a Tai Chi sense – it just depends how you want to apply your applications.
My own personal feeling is that being upright feels better when you do your form – you get a more open, relaxed and spacious feeling, akin to meditation. It’s also more useful for close range work (at push hands distance). However, if you want to throw somebody downwards towards the floor, or upwards over your back, then you’re going to need to lean, so it’s good to be familiar with both methods.
The Ward-off posture is one of the most universally recognised postures in the Yang style of Tai Chi Chuan. Since it’s not an obvious kick or a punch, and doesn’t look overtly like a martial technique, it can be hard to figure out how to use it against an attacker.
Here I run through a few possible applications of the ward-off posture, showing how it can be used as a strike, a lock and a throw.
Most Karate systems that evolved from the Okinawan style of Shuri Te tend to use big steps to capitalise on forward body momentum and inertia to transfer impact into the opponent. As a broad generalisation, this tends to distinguish them from the styles derived from Naha Te and most styles of Kung Fu which prefer the use of circular (or centrifugal) force for generating power.
However, the Tekki kata’s (or Naihanchi in some styles and Chul Gi in Korean) which are still present in many Shuri Te derived styles contradict this forward momentum method in that they are not very mobile and are far more “static”. Another characteristic of the Tekki kata’s is that they punch with the palm facing up as opposed to the usual “cork-screw” punch where the fist ends up facing downwards and the arm is not fully extended.
Tekki is obviously a close quarters fighting kata. As such a number of its movements are quite close to Wing Chun Kung Fu which specialises in close quarters fighting. On the surface, Wing Chun and Tekki look quite different, but as usual Keith and I look below the surface and find some similarities which can be used by practitioners of either system.