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”

John Johnston & Iain Abernethy Applied Karate Joint Seminar Oct 2015

1 seminar.

2 of the Worlds very best masters of applied traditional martial arts.

About 3 hair follicles between them 🙂

Sensei John Johnston adaptive Karate and Sensei Iain Abernethy are coming together again for another joint seminar in Derby, UK. Although they are both Karateka, the seminar is open to other styles, especially Taekwondo and Tang Soo Do which have close links to Karate. Continue reading “John Johnston & Iain Abernethy Applied Karate Joint Seminar Oct 2015”

Taegeuk Poomsae: Childrens Taekwondo?

Although the post below (writen by guest author Ørjan Nilsen, 2nd Dan WTF Taekwondo), relates to WTF Taekwondo, much of can equally apply to other martial arts especially Karate.  In Taekwondo, Karate and even Kung Fu, many original applications have been dumbed down and misunderstood by the mainstream practitioners.  In this interesting and informative article, Ørjan answers many of the criticism levelled at WTF Taekwondo’s early Poomsae (patterns/forms/kata).

The Taegeuk series of Poomsae are the basic patterns used to grade through the coloured belts and as Ørjan points out are often referred to as “children’s Taekwondo”.  To any Karateka reading this, doesn’t that sound familiar?  The same has often been said of our Heian/Pinan series of Kata. Continue reading “Taegeuk Poomsae: Childrens Taekwondo?”

Interview With Master Ray Gayle, 8th Dan Tae Kwon Do

Taekwondo Master Ray Gayle, 8th Dan is a former British and European champion, Chairman of the Professional Unification of Martial Arts (PUMA), inspiration to many and general all round nice guy  🙂

As well as achieving great success in the sporting side of his art, he also has a very strong leaning towards the spiritual and self development side of martial arts as a whole.  This was one of the main reasons for my interest in interviewing him.  I have several friends within PUMA and it is clear from talking to them (and from their Facebook conversations) that PUMA has a very strong “family feel” to it.  Although there is an obvious hierarchy (as in any martial arts organisation), it is more relaxed and open than most others.  If you follow Master Gayle’s writings for a while, you’ll soon notice that he takes his training and teaching seriously, but does not take himself too seriously, which I always think is a good thing.  There is always a sense of humour present which you’ll see as you read on. Continue reading “Interview With Master Ray Gayle, 8th Dan Tae Kwon Do”

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. Continue reading “Striving For Perfection: Combat Effectiveness And Spiritual Development”

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)”

Teenage Martial Artist Fights Off Would-Be Mugger

I was surprised to see in one of my regional papers today a story about a slightly-built unassuming 15 year old Taekwondo exponent who got the better of a would be mugger.  So I thought I’d share it with you.  The following story is reproduced from the Bristol Post:

WHEN a would-be mugger approached slightly-built teenager Henry Watts determined to steal his wallet and phone, he got much more than he bargained for.

The criminal, who grabbed the Staple Hill teenager on the Bristol to Bath cycle path and aggressively demanded his possessions, had no idea his potential victim was an expert in the martial art taekwondo. Continue reading “Teenage Martial Artist Fights Off Would-Be Mugger”

Applied Taekwondo With Russ Martin (Applicable To Karateka Too)

Russ Martin, 5th Dan TKD is recognised within the Taekwondo Association of Great Britain as an expert on applied Taekwondo (the practical application of the basics and patterns).  He should really be known further afield as he has a very extensive knowledge.

To better understand his own art he decided to study Shito Ryu Karate as well and has attained his black belt in that too.  He has also attended seminars with many of the great names in applied pattern/kata bunkai.

In the videos below he demonstrates applications to a number of basic blocks and pattern movements, most of which will be very readily recognised by most Karateka as well. Continue reading “Applied Taekwondo With Russ Martin (Applicable To Karateka Too)”

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.