Comparison Of Bare Knuckle Boxing/Pugilism & Traditional Martial Arts

I was a little intrigued recently when I came across the picture below on Facebook depicting a bare knuckle prize fight that took place in 1877.  What intrigued me was that the punch being delivered looks a lot more like a punch that we’d find in Karate/Taekwondo/some styles of Kung Fu, than it does a modern boxing punch!  The back is straight, head up, legs are practically identical to our forward stance, hips turned square on and shoulder not turned in as much as a modern boxers.  Even the non-punching hand is back on the hip (hikite) like a Karate/TKD punch.


Here is the description that came with it! Continue reading “Comparison Of Bare Knuckle Boxing/Pugilism & Traditional Martial Arts” »

Kiai/Kihap/Chi Shout – Is It Really Necessary?

Many martial arts, especially the Oriental ones include the practice of shouting at certain points in training.  Japanese styles call it Kiai, Korean styles call it Kihap.  I don’t know what the Chinese word for it is, but I have trained with some who simply called it Chi Shout.  For simplicity, I’m just going to stick the Japanese notation of Kiai (as I’m primarily a Japanese stylist and it’s the version I’m most familiar with)!

First of all, what is it?  Very simplistically, it’s a shout that comes from contraction of the diaphragm and feels like it’s coming all the way from belly.  A shout that comes just from the voice-box, sounds more like scream.  I have a simple way of teaching this, especially to kids.  Though it’s not the nicest of explanations, it does make it Continue reading “Kiai/Kihap/Chi Shout – Is It Really Necessary?” »

Techniques As A “Shorthand” For Learning Principles

Some of the newer and more reality based martial arts which emphasise real self protection (as opposed to sport) such as Krav Maga and Systema argue that the strength of their system is that they emphasise principles of movement rather than techniques.  They argue that most of the older Oriental martial arts by contrast put the emphasis the other way round, on techniques more than principles.  They argue that this makes their arts better for learning self defence more quickly and effectively. Continue reading “Techniques As A “Shorthand” For Learning Principles” »

Striving For Perfection: Combat Effectiveness And Spiritual Development

How often have you heard the phrase “before you can overcome others, you must first overcome yourself”, or “your main opponent is yourself”.  If you’ve never heard these phrases, then take a long look at who’s teaching you!  You should have heard these phrases before as this really is one of the most central core philosophies of doing any traditional martial art.

Whether you are looking for effective self defence, sport or simply aesthetic mastery of the art you practice you must first develop co-ordination, agility, speed, power, poise, balance and grace.  From a combative point of view, the need for speed, power, co-ordination and balance are obvious; but grace?  Do we need to be graceful in a fight?  Many consider the very act of fighting to be very disgraceful.

However, if you execute a technique and for whatever reason the opponent deals with it and counters, you have to react exceedingly fast to defend against his counter.  This kind of speed requires an instinctive reaction rather than a thought or reasoned one.  If we are focusing on strength, we become rigid (the more you tense a muscle the less it can move).  If we are rigid, then we cannot react very fast to an abrupt reversal in the fight and we have to hope we can absorb the punishment long enough for us to recover the initiative.

John was renown for his fantastic leg sweeps

Whilst we would all no doubt agree that the ability to absorb punishment is useful, I’m sure that we would also all agree that it is not something that we should rely on as a fighting strategy.  If we can move out of the way with ease and fluidity, we don’t have to absorb so much punishment and can regain the initiative much more quickly by simply not being where our opponent expects us to be.  To move very quickly like this requires a high level of fluidity, and fluidity requires graceful movement!  Don’t be fooled into thinking that grace lacks power, as it is quite the opposite.  Grace comes from perfection of technique and perfection of technique comes from mastering the self.  This brings us back to our opening paragraph about overcoming yourself before you can overcome anybody else.

This is why so many traditional martial arts place so much emphasis on drilling basics and kata, and why these are very often done before any partner activity.  In the modern world where there is an upsurge in what has become known as “reality based martial arts” and the pressure testing of mixed martial arts cage fighting; traditional martial arts have become seen by many as obsolete, too stylised and more for sport or self development than for real world self protection.

Note:  Reality based martial arts are often scenario based.  It may include shouting, swearing, abuse and verbal threats to psychologically prepare the defender as this is obviously more real to a street confrontation.  Sometimes even high grade martial artists do not know how to deal with this raw aggression and psychological pressure.

It is often pointed out that many traditional martial arts applications only work when the attacker is co-operative and conveniently attacks with a single straight punch (or kick) then freezes whilst the defender practices his counter.

These charges do hold a lot of merit.  However, reality based martial arts can easily be included into traditional martial arts (and in my view, should be) and there are many people researching practical applications to replace the pre-arranged stylised attacks and counters that are still very widely taught.

Traditional martial arts however, are more technique based than scenario based and goes deeply into perfection of movement.  Is this waste of time compared with learning the psychological aspects of scenario based training?

To draw an analogy, many professional dancers in the big shows, backing the world’s most famous pop stars have a foundation in ballet.  Ballet is such a precise and co-ordinated art form that once the dancer is adept in it, he/she can apply that high level of control and co-ordination to almost any other form of dance.

Some of the most charismatic actors have a background in Shakespeare.  Look at the authority and commanding screen presence of actors like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.  The classical background in most cases (dancing, acting, martial arts and others) gives the practitioner a deep foundation on which almost anything can be built.

Kevin O’Hagan, internationally renowned teacher of reality based martial arts and author of many books has said that traditional martial artists always pick up the reality based teachings more quickly than those who have not.

Seeking perfection of technique is not only developing us physically and mentally, but is actually very practical in the long term for building a foundation for self defence skills.  Over the years I have visited many martial arts clubs.  In one particular Kung Fu club, the instructor was proud to tell me that he made all his classes different every time.  He did not bore his students with endless repetition.  One of students agreed enthusiastically, telling me how he used to do Shotokan Karate and got bored drilling the same old basics every single class.  However, this student who had done the Shotokan drilling stuck out amongst the rest and was clearly better than the other students.  The repeated drilling had given him a foundation and an advantage that he had not appreciated.

I want to make clear that this is not a criticism of Kung Fu, only the way that this particular instructor taught it.

Striving for perfection, even though we know that we’ll never actually reach it, does in itself also develop a certain mindset.  A mindset of wanting to make something the best it possibly can be.  This has many connotations for other areas of our lives, be it school, work, relationships, driving, other hobbies, whatever!

The Japanese have the concept of delayed gratification.  This is also known in the West, but is not emphasised as much.  The idea is that we work at something over a period of time and delay our feeling of gratification until we have achieved it.  Like a grading for example.  Even going through the Kyu gradings (coloured belts) we have to wait 3 months in between each one.  But when we do pass it, we have a feeling of gratification which lasts.  When we get our 1st Dan the feeling of gratification is much stronger and lasts much longer.  We still have a feeling of pride years afterwards as we know that we have achieved a benchmark in our training.  For many of us, it even becomes part of how we identify ourselves, which along as it is not accompanied by arrogance is a good thing.

charlie wildish, Martial Arts ExpertToo many people, especially in the West are very much into instant gratification, be it drink, drugs, sex, smoking, or just watching a good movie.  I’m not saying that these things are necessarily bad (being a normal healthy guy myself who . . . . err . . . . likes a good movie); but if they are our only sources of gratification in life, then they will be short lived as there is not much to sustain us and maintain a feeling of fulfilment from one source/event of gratification to the next.   We are therefore not really at peace with ourselves.

Having a long term goal, a long term project or training regime does give us that something to sustain us and help us maintain a feeling of fulfilment in between the other more instant sources of gratification.

There are countless things that people can work on, train for, set goals about; but few can inspire for a lifetime like martial arts.  In most sports or physical pursuits people reach a peak then tend to move on as they age.  Martial arts (when taught properly) can be adapted as we age and we can work on other aspects.  In our youth it is good to make the most of our raw athleticism of, but as we get older we may focus on for example our timing and deception.  No matter how much we know, how much we’ve trained, how much we’ve taught; there is still something else we can work on and improve however old we get.

The fact that we will never reach perfection means that we can spend our whole lifetime looking for it and rather than feeling bored we feel fulfilled the closer we get to it.  This is part of where spiritual development comes into martial arts, something often referred to but seldom explained.

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.

Traditional martial arts have a large variety of different punches.  Furthermore, within each art there can also be some differences in how they are performed, with some people sticking strictly to the traditional way whilst others have adopted more of a boxing approach.  Certainly Kickboxers punch more like boxers than like strict traditional martial artists, and Kickboxing has influenced many traditional martial arts.

So for the sake of the post, I’ll be focusing on the basic Shotokan Karate extended punch (kizami zuki) and reverse punch (gyaku zuki) with the “corkscrew” twist of the forearm at the end of the punch as Shotokan is my primary style.  These punches are however common to many other martial arts and are demonstrated below:

Although many styles of Kung Fu use these (or very similar) punches, some Kung Fu styles (such as Wing Chun) do not use this type of punch at all.  Their method of punching is beyond the scope of this post.

Boxing fortunately is a bit more standardised without the vast array of different punches (though they do have variations on a theme).  The boxing equivalent of the 2 martial arts punches shown above are the jab and cross, demonstrated below.  You will see a lot of similarities:

If we look at the technical differences first, then we can examine what uses these different variations are optimised for.

Probably the most obvious difference is that the Karateka pulls their non-punching hand back to the hip, whereas the boxer keeps theirs in a high guard around the head.  I’ll come back to that later, but a more important difference (in my opinion) is the way the shoulders are used.  In the start position the boxers shoulders are hunched very slightly upwards and forwards, which making the chest very slightly concave, minimising any potential target areas.  The gloved hands are also held much closer to the head and head is tilted forward slightly protecting the facial features more.

The Karateka on the other hand, keeps the shoulders lower and more relaxed, the chest in a more neutral position, the hands further forward and the head is kept more erect.

Part of the reason for these differences is quite simply the use of gloves (though there is more to it than that, which I’ll come to in a minute).  When fighting with gloves, the hands are effectively much bigger.  This means 2 relatively large gloved hands have to get through 2 other relatively large gloved hands!

When defending, you don’t really have to worry too much about blocking and parrying as you can absorb the opponents blows on your forearms and gloves!  Glove to glove is not going to hurt and even glove to forearm is not going to do much damage.  Keeping the head down and the chest slightly concave allows you to “hide” most of you upper body and head behind your forearms and gloves.  The lower body is quite well muscled (boxers always do a lot of conditioning before going in the ring) and there is no punching below the belt!

The Karateka and most traditional martial artists however do not use gloves.  So trying to absorb bare knuckle blows to your forearms will be more painful.  Granted, it is still preferable to absorbing the blows with your head, but it can soon damage your resolve and weaken your guard.  Rather than trying to absorb the blows of bony knuckles, the hands are held further forward to give more opportunity to block or parry incoming blows.

The hands are also . . . . well . . . . hand size, making it easier to slip a punch through somebody else’s guard, when your hands are small enough to slip in between their guard and their hands are not big enough to “hide behind”.

In Karate (and most other martial arts) competition you are also not allowed to kick/punch below the belt.  However, anybody who trains for self defence must take low shots into account, hence the Karateka holds his hands lower than his boxing counterpart.

Another influencing factor is when you consider the difference between a fight and self protection.  In a fight (sport or street) 2 people agree to have a go.  With self protection, you do not agree to fight yet you have a physical altercation forced upon you.  Even if you are severely provoked, the moment you agree to “step outside” or to “sort it out”, you have left the self protection realm and agreed to enter into a fight.

Boxing is all about fighting.  It is designed as a sport where 2 people enter a ring with a referee.  They will be in the same weight category and usually have a similar level of ability.  As such there is no surprise attacks, sucker punches or pre-emptive strikes.  They only fight when both are ready and prepared.

Many traditional martial arts have become sports and have a similar approach.  However, they were originally designed for self protection where you can use (or encounter from others) surprise attacks, sucker punches and pre-emptive strikes.

The more erect position of the Karateka’s head may seem to be more vulnerable at first glance, but from a self protection point of view can have some advantages.  A bully or thug will often try to intimidate with a lot of threats and abuse.  They will often be “peacocking” whilst they do this (puffing themselves up to make themselves look bigger).  Whilst peacocking, they actually leave themselves very open with a lot of vulnerable targets.  As soon as you agree to a fight, or show any intention or capability of fighting, they will usually go into a similar stance to the boxer and close of those vulnerable targets.  If you keep the head erect, the shoulders low and relaxed; but instead of making a proper stance and fists, you face your opponent with hands open/palms down, you can mask any intention that you are preparing to defend yourself.  The bully is therefore more likely to keep peacocking leaving plenty of good targets.  This allows you to take a nice clear pre-emptive strike to a vulnerable target and hopefully end the situation in one go.

Also, having the hands in a more forward position means that they are actually closer to your assailant.  So when you do launch a pre-emptive strike to a vulnerable target, your assailant has less chance of stopping it.

Many traditional martial arts also have a whip like effect to their punches.  This requires a rapid rotation of the spine, which is more easily achieved with the spine straight.  This is another reason why the head is held upright.  Lowering the head (like a boxer) puts a slight curvature at the top of the spine which creates a slight amount of tension in the upper body, which works against the whip effect.

Furthermore, big gloves spread out and dampen the impact (which is necessary when 2 people are hitting each other full contact for a number of rounds).  So a whip like snap punch will not work quite so well for a boxer wearing gloves, so they needs to go for a more deeply penetrating punch rather than the snap/impact of a traditional martial arts punch.  This necessitates more commitment of the shoulder to achieve that extra penetration.

Now this is where we come back to the traditional martial artist pulling the non-punching hand back to the hip.  This is very often explained as a way to increase the power of the punch, but when you see how powerful boxers are without it, then there has to be a bit more to it.  The non punching hand is called “Hikite” in Japanese, meaning “pulling hand”.  It can be used to grab the opponent and pull them off balance whilst striking them with the other hand.  Again, this works better with a straight spine, hence another reason for the head being erect.

Although boxing has obviously been developed as a sport, it is all about fighting.  Once a situation has become a fight (in the ring or in the street, it is a very simple and pragmatic system.  It is very effective, very powerful and generally speaking boxers train to absorb more punishment then most traditional martial artists do.

The traditional martial arts punch is more optimised to self protection scenarios.  Having said that, many instructors are not very good at teaching self protection and teach more for sport fighting anyway!

But like I said at the beginning, this is only my opinion and there are only a few degrees of differences between the 2 types of punches anyway.

Please leave your own comments below and build on my observations.

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.

FIG 1

If we start with the hips side on version first.  This variation gives a slightly longer range.  It is also easier for doing a front leg kick.  If you get into a fighting stance with your weight on your back leg and your feet more or less in line, it becomes very easy to raise the front leg of the ground and kick with it.  This give you a better chance of keeping an opponent at a distance due to it’s additional range (especially compared with hands) and speed.

The hips forward version however has slightly less range, but it does put more actually body weight behind the kick.

FIG 2

This gives it more stopping power for somebody charging in.  Generally speaking, your body weight moves in the direction that the hips face.

Another detail is the position of the supporting foot.  If you look at Fig 1, you’ll see that the supporting foot is also pointing at about 90 degrees away from the opponent.  This is necessary or the supporting leg would be twisted and could do hip/knee damage.  However, if the opponent is able to absorb the kicks impact and keep moving forward, then the supporting foot will end up resisting the push on the little toe side of the foot which is obviously weaker.  The kicker could find themself being unbalanced and pushed back.

With the hips forward version at Fig 2, you’ll see that the supporting foot is facing forward too.  Firstly, being able to put more body weight into the kick means it would take more for the opponent to overcome and even be able to move forward.  Secondly, as the supporting foot is pointing forward, it is able to dig into the floor with the heal of the foot which will afford more resistance than the little toe side of the foot to any pressure being applied by an opponent absorbing the kick and trying to push through.

The hips facing forward (Fig 2) is the older version of the kick and the hips side on version (Fig 1) was developed later.  Why?  The hips side on version is better for the sport environment.  Although in sport, the opponent is still trying to hit/kick/strike you, because there are rules the opponent is still partially co-operative.  Unless you are in competing in Mixed Martial Arts cage fights, most competitions (traditional martial arts/Kickboxing) do not allow you to grab or grapple.  Therefore the opponent is usually co-operative in that they are staying at kicking/striking range and not trying to rush in at you.

This creates an environment where that little bit of extra range is useful and the weakness on the supporting foot is not an issue.

However, the hips forward version has limitations in the sporting arena but has more stopping power in the street.  In a real assault, the attacker will not be co-operative in any way at all and will most likely be charging forward to grab you.  Most street fighters/muggers/etc are not martial artists so would not fight the same way.  Therefore range is not an issue as the chances are that your attacker will be closing distance straight away (especially for assaults on women).

I am not suggesting that you should practice one way or the other, all I would suggest is that be aware of what you are training for and chose the appropriate version of this technique.

The “Corkscrew” Punch (The Devil In The Detail)

The “corkscrew” punch where we rotate the fist at the end of the punch is unique to Oriental martial arts.

Twisting the fist  is something that we all know about and take for granted.  And why shouldn’t we, we’ve been doing it since our very first class in Karate/Tae Kwon Do/most styles of Kung Fu .  The reason that I write about it here, is because I believe that it is something that though deeply ingrained into us, is still not done quite right by a good many people.

It may sound a bit strange to question something so basic, but bare with me.  Although many will be doing what I describe below, a good many others will not be.

Why not?  Because people will rotate the fist to get it into it’s correct finishing position, but not think about how the rest of the arm is moving to get it there!

It would be more correct to say that you should “twist your forearm”.   The fist is actually incapable of rotating on its own, it is only capable of moving up and down in a waving/hinged motion when isolated from any other arm movement.

Try this little exercise.  Perform any linear punch, then just freeze for a second with the arm in the extended punch position (no snap back).  Now keep check if the crease of your elbow joint (where it folds) is pointing upwards or inwards.  If you are not sure, then being very careful not to move the upper arm at all, bend the elbow.  It the fist rises up then the crease of the elbow joint is facing up.  If the fist moves inward (parallel to the floor) then the crease of the elbow is pointing inwards.

So why should you care about that?

Like the fist, the elbow is incapable of rotating itself, it is a hinge joint rather than a ball joint.  From the starting position with the fist at the hip, the crease of the elbow joint points forward.  As the arm is extended forward (without rotating), the elbow crease should end up pointing upwards.

For the elbow to rotate (so that the elbow crease points inward), you actually have to rotate the arm in the shoulder socket.  To be a bit more technical, you rotate the humerus bone in the ball socket at the shoulder.

Kata bunkaiThis is something that you shouldn’t be doing.  Firstly it is an unnecessary movement of the shoulder joint and as we progress, we should be looking to take out all unnecessary movements.  Secondly, it creates a small jarring feeling at the elbow, so it is not good for the long term health of either shoulder or elbow joint.

Furthermore, it’s a less efficient punching technique, so it is less effective if you really need it.

Try standing in front of a mirror with you arm and shoulders exposed.  Now extend your arm in front of you and towards the mirror.  Don’t worry about making a fist or any technique, just relax.  Now rotate the whole arm several times at the shoulder joint.  You will notice when you look closely that upper arm actually moves very slightly away from the body when you rotate the arm so that the elbow crease points inwards rather than upwards.  Linear techniques are based on having the body weight behind them, so anything that takes the strike sideways away from the body will weaken that technique.

Granted, this is a very slight outward movement, but as you get more advanced, so it become more about fine detail.

It also effects your muscular alignments too.  The shoulder and lateral muscles (underneath the arm pits) act as shock absorbers and maintain the body structure when you strike a target and receive a reaction force from the impact.  Rotating the humerus outward in the shoulder socket slightly stretches those muscles making them less efficient at absorbing that reaction force.

Furthermore, when you punch, you use your triceps to extend your arm.  The triceps work more efficiently with the crease of the elbow facing upwards.  Don’t believe me?  Ask anyone who does weight training, or look up “triceps curls” on Youtube.

The bones of the forearm (the ulna and radius) are much smaller and they can rotate around each other.  There is not a big ball in socket rotation required as with rotating the humerus in the shoulder socket.

If you are not used to doing it this way, it may feel awkward at first and you may not be able to fully rotate the fist all the way over.  Stick with it, your forearm muscles will become more flexible and it will become easier.  You’ll find when you get used to it that the whole punch is much smoother than when you rotate the shoulder joint.

There is an argument that the bone alignment is weaker when the ulna and radius are rotated about each other.  However, the idea when punching is that you actually make contact with the target before rotating the forearm (when the fist is still palm up).  So the point of impact is when these bones are still in a strong alignment.  You only rotate the forearm after contact has been made so that the rotational energy is added to forward impact to the punch, giving it a very penetrating “corkscrew effect”.

This forearm rotation comes into many other techniques too, such as at the very end of Soto Uke (Outside Block), Uchi Uke (Inside Block) and others.  With these blocks, the rotation of the fist at the end of the technique cannot be supported by the rotation of the shoulder joint because of the arm being bent and the elbow joint being lower than the fist.  Practicing for maximum forearm rotation in the punches will help maximise the forearm rotation in these other techniques too, making them more powerful, even with smaller movements.  It helps to give a small “whip” on the the end of these other techniques.

What Are The Differences Between Kung Fu & Karate?

One of the most popular and most frequently visited postings that I’ve ever done on this website has been an unbiased look at the differences between Karate and Tae Kwon Do.  So I thought I’d do the same between Karate and Kung Fu.

As with Karate and Tae Kwon Do, I believe that there is often a lot of misunderstanding between Karate and Kung Fu practitioners as they don’t really understand what  the other one is doing or why!  That said, there are many people who cross train between the 2 styles, in particular Karateka who train in Kung Fu to better understand the roots of the their own system.

This post is not aimed at arguing that either martial art is better than the other, as I have always maintained, there is no “best style” only a “best style for a given individual”.

But to  tackle a question like this is a massive subject as there are hundreds of styles of Karate and thousands of styles of Kung Fu; so I am going to have to lay down some parameters before I start.

Firstly from the Karate perspective; most modern styles trace back to the two Okinawan styles of Naha Te and Shuri Te.  There is arguably also Tomari Te, but that is really a branch of Shuri Te.  To confuse the issue further, many modern styles are also a hybrid of the two (like Shitoryu).

Naha Te (which later became Goju Ryu) was almost completely based on White Crane and Praying Mantis Kung Fu, whilst Shuri Te was quite extensively modified by the Okinawans.  So for the purpose of this posting, I’ll be looking at the Karate styles from the Shuri Te/Shotokan lineage.  Ironically, much of this will apply to Tae Kwon Do as well, despite significant development by the Koreans.

Kung Fu is even more difficult due to it’s huge variety.  So for the purpose of this posting, I’ll be looking at the traditional Shaolin styles of Kung Fu (rather than modern Wu Shu, Wing Chun or the Daoist based internal arts).

Usually one of the first things that people say when comparing Karate and Kung Fu is that Karate is more linear and that Kung Fu is more circular.  But what does that actually mean in application?

If you look at a Karate reverse punch, the hips are rotated, yet the arm goes out straight; so there is a combination of circular and linear movements within the same technique.  Many (if not most) Karate techniques are powered by a hip rotation, so does that make them partly circular.  Furthermore, although Kung Fu tends to have more techniques where the arms attack in a circular fashion, they also have a lot of techniques that come out straight forward, so are they linear?

Basically, what defines a linear or circular technique is not just whether the body rotates or not, or even if the attacking hand/foot moves in a straight or circular motion.  It is how the technique is powered.  A linear technique is powered by the forward inertia and momentum of the body, whilst circular technique is powered by the centrifugal force created by a rapid rotation which does not necessarily move the body forward.

You can see this more clearly in the 2 videos below.  In the first one you see a Karate reverse punch.  The hips rotate from being pulled back approximately 45 degrees to being rotated square to the front.  But overall the body weight moves forward in the direction of the punch.

In this Kung Fu example, you’ll see that the hips are rotated much further, so much so that the stance is facing at 90 degree’s to the direction of the punch and opponent.  When he performs the second punch, his hips rotate almost 180 degrees around to face the other direction (compared with Karate’s 45 degree hip rotation).  This obviously creates more centrifugal force.  The technique will vary from style to style, but it does demonstrate the general principle.  However, it does not create any forward momentum towards the opponent.

Again, I do not suggest that either method is superior to the other, they are just 2 modified ways of achieving the same result, which is putting down some b*****d who seriously deserves it.  It should also be made clear that Karate and Kung Fu both contain linear techniques and they both contain circular techniques.  It is just that Karate puts more emphasis on linear whilst Kung Fu puts more emphasis on circular.

Some people say that Karate is more aggressive.  Shuri Te was developed by the bodyguards to the Okinawan king.  They were the masters who evolved linear technique.  When you examine their requirements and the challenges that they faced, they needed a system of taking the fight quickly and ruthlessly to their enemies.  To do this you need to be able to move forward (linear).

With a circular system, to a certain extent you are letting the other guy bring the fight to you.  That may not have been an option for the Shuri bodyguards, but for us today who should only be interested in self defence, it is fine.  You can still take the initiative and give a pre-emptive strike if somebody comes too close (which an aggressor will do) but you don’t need to take the fight to him.

Circular technique is better for grappling, spinning very fast when you have hold of somebody is a good way to of-balance or throw them.  It also helps to apply locks to any trapped limbs very quickly.

Linear technique is less versatile in application, but was designed for very much with multiple assailants in mind where running away was not an option (as in bodyguards).  For this they needed to take the fight to the opponent, put him down very quickly, then move onto the next.  I believe that this is where the Japanese maxim of Ikken Hissatsu (one strike, one kill)  comes from.  Grappling techniques are too slow when you’re outnumbered, so that versatility was not required.

Furious 5 from Kung Fu Panda

Many of the Shaolin styles are based on animal movements such as Tiger, Snake, Monkey, Praying Mantis, Crane and many others (even mythical creatures such as the Dragon).  Although these styles imitate animal movements, they are still very effective in application.  Drawing from the movements of mammals, birds, reptiles and even insects has led to a great deal of innovation and inspiration, not only in fighting techniques, but in the principles adopted (for example, power from the Tiger, but flexibility from the Snake).

Karate however has been more influenced by the Zen philosophy which is (or was) very popular in Japan.  Part of Zen is to minimize everything, which has also been applied to the movements in martial arts.  Only the movements strictly required for a technique are included, all else is striped out giving it a much plainer appearance in many ways.  This also fits in with the linear concept of less emphasis on grappling and versatility, but focusing more on multiple opponents instead.

Of course this is a very broad subject as already mentioned and there is a lot of overlap between Karate and Kung Fu, so this posting can only be a guide rather than a definitive in every case and every application.  As such there will be plenty of exceptions, so any writing on this subject (by me or anybody else) should only be regarded as a generalised guide.

If you have found this useful, or if you have anything to add to the subject, then please leave your comments below.

Daoist Nei Gong: New Book By Damo Mitchell

Damo Mitchell was born into a family of martial artists.  His father, Paul Mitchell and his mother, Chris, introduced him to Shotokan Karate & Yoga at the humble age of 4.

His studies led him through many styles and various weapons, until he settled to focus on internal Chinese martial arts.  Damo has travelled to the Far East to seek out the very best of teachers and has studied not only the internal marital arts, but Qi Gong, Daoist Yoga, Nei Gong (internal change) and a whole range of related disciplines.

Since 2005 Damo has been a professional martial arts teacher who spends his time travelling, teaching and writing.  He founded the Lotus Nei Gong Association and has already had several books published.  Having trained under him myself, I can honestly say that he is a phenomenal teacher with a remarkable ability for his age.

He has a new book coming out which is due for release on July 15th.  For anybody interested in internal arts, this is to be highly recommended.

The following description is taken from the Lotus Nei Gong Association Newsletter:-

July 15th is the official release date for Damo‟s new book on Daoist internal practices.  It is being released by Singing Dragon in the UK and the US.
Students within our school have all noticed that there is very little information on Nei Gong available in English.
This book will serve to fill the gap in information as it matches exactly the methodology taught by Damo Mitchell and his senior students in Lotus Nei Gong classes.
The book contains an overview of the entire process of Nei Gong as it is understood by Damo as well as looking in detail at several important foundational practices. These include, aligning the body, developing a healthy breathing pattern through the practice of Sung and beginning to awaken the energy system.
The book also contains a detailed explanation of the Ji Ben Qi Gong exercises which are fundamental to Nei Gong as well as numerous photographs of Damo performing the movements.
A large degree of the book is dedicated to Daoist philosophy in order to show how arcane Daoist theory was the seed from which the internal arts of Daoism sprung forth.
Towards the end of the book are various sections which discuss the abilities which can be drawn from Nei Gong practice and the start of the alchemy process which enables a practitioner to systematically break down their acquired nature and so “return to the source”.
This book is available to pre-order from either Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com as well as directly from the Singing Dragon website.  Some sites offer pre-order discounts as well.
Release Date: July 15th 2011
“This book drills down into the golden core of the ancient Chinese art and science of internal self-cultivation known as “chi gong,” or “energy work,” and after reading it, you’ll understand why chi gong is the best way on earth to protect your health, prolong your life, and clarify your awareness of both aspects of the “Three Treasures” of life–mortal body, breath, and mind; and immortal essence, energy, and spirit. Known simply as “nei gong,” or “internal work,” this inner alchemy may be learned and practiced by anyone. Written by a dedicated practitioner who verifies scholarly research with personal experience and illustrates ancient theory with contemporary practice, this book provides the Western mind with a clear-cut introduction to chi gong that informs as well as inspires the reader to practice.”
Daniel Reid
Author of Guarding the Three Treasures

 

Hiki-te Bunkai

I haven’t done any video’s for a little while and it seemed about time that I did.  Unfortunately, my “partner in crime”, Keith, has gone his own way now so I enlisted the help of another friend, Artchi (yes, that is how he spells it).

So with Artchi’s help, we had a look at hikite (pull back hand).

This video goes with an earlier posting that I wrote about hikite back in May 2010, exploring the multiple different uses for hikite.