Bunkai And Comparison Of Karate/TKD’s Age Uke (Rising Block) & Wing Chun’s Bong Sau (Wing Arm Block)

Here we take a look at 2 blocks which are very similar.  Wing Chun’s Bong Sau (Wing Arm Block) and the Age Uke (Rising Block) used in Karate, Teakwondo and Tang Soo Do.  The advantage of comparing techniques between different styles is that sometimes you get clues as to how they originated.  Wing Chun is based on Snake Kung Fu and Crane Kung Fu.  One of the main influences on Okinawan Karate was White Crane Kung Fu, so there would appear to be some common roots.

Furthermore, by looking at how another style uses its techniques can often give clues as to extra applications for which you can use your own techniques.  This is particularly advantageous to Karate, TaeKwonDo and Tang Soo Do practitioners as a lot of our original applications have been lost along the way.

I hope you enjoy this video.

Age Uke & Bong Sau Bunkai

Russell Stutely On Pressure Point Fighting

Following on from my last article on pressure point fighting, I would like to quote from Russell Stutely who is widely regarded as Europe’s number one pressure point expert.  He is also highly regarded by Geoff Thompson and Peter Consterdine of the British Combat Association, who are very much into reality martial arts.

The reason that I wanted to quote from Russell Stutely is that although he highly advocates pressure points and obviously makes a lot of money teaching them and selling DVDs etc; he still very much advocates that you must develop good basic technique first.  If he was to promote pressure points in a such a way as to suggest that it is a magic bullet so that you don’t have to bother learning anything else and beginners could use them to defeat experienced black belts, I would be very suspicious.  But he doesn’t.  He is very methodical in his Continue reading “Russell Stutely On Pressure Point Fighting”

Does Pressure Point Fighting Really Work?

This is an area that you will see debated from time to time with people for and against it.  Some claim that pressure points make your techniques ultra effective, whilst others claim that in the heat of the moment you will not have the accuracy to find the point whilst somebody is trying to hit you at the same time.

So who’s right?  Well in my humble opinion, the truth lies somewhere in the middle and it depends on the circumstances.

If you start a fight 6ft apart, close in, then exchanging blows with a capable opponent; I believe that it would be difficult (but not impossible) to find pressure point targets.  Just think when you are sparring against somebody of equal skill, it can be difficult landing a blow on their torso (which is a large target), never mind finding a very small pressure point to hit.  Furthermore, when you have just had an adrenalin dump, your fine motor skills do not work as efficiently.  For this reason, many people advocate concentrating on developing your techniques (regardless of style) so that you are fast and powerful and you will Continue reading “Does Pressure Point Fighting Really Work?”

Soto Uke (Outside Block) & Related Kung Fu Techniques

I have written in a previous posting about how I believe that Karate’s Soto Uke was probably based on an instinctive human reaction and developed by the masters of old.  In the following video sequence we demonstrate some applications for Soto Uke, whilst also looking at Chinese Kung Fu movements that are almost the same.

Note:  The block called Soto Uke in some styles is called Uchi Uke (inside block) in other styles.

Bearing in mind that much of Karate’s original bunkai has been lost, and that Karate is largely based on Kung Fu, it is good to look at similar Kung Fu movements and how Kung Fu practitioners apply them.  By looking into our roots we can learn more about our own style and read across from what the Okinawan masters probably learnt from the Chinese masters.  The Okinawan masters would have adapted the movements to suit their own physiques and needs, which is fine as the Chinese masters did exactly the same.  That is why there is such a vast array of Kung Fu styles.

When a beginner looks at different styles of Kung Fu, Karate, TKD etc., they see lots of differences.  However, the experienced practitioner sees many similarities.  This why we are able to learn from each other, to increase our knowledge and understanding of our own style, without necessarily having to study other styles in depth.

We hope you enjoy our video:

Bunkai: Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan (Won Hyo, Chum Kiu)

In the clip below, we look at some applications from the opening sequence of Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan/Won Hyo.  We don’t say that this is necessarily the best or only interpretations for these moves, it just our take on it.  Although Heian Nidan and Pinan Shodan are in effect the same kata (just named differently in different styles) and Tae Kwon Do’s Won Hyo pattern is closely based on it; Chum Kiu is essentially quite different.  It is the second form from the Wing Chun Kung Fu system.

However, some of the moves in Chum Kiu quite closely resemble the opening sequence of Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan, although is performed quite a  bit more tightly.

Is this surprising to find such similarities?

Not at all.  Tae Kwon Do is largely based on Karate and Karate is largely based on Kung Fu.  The nearest part of China to Okinawa (where Karate developed) is Fukien Provence and it is known that White Crane Kung Fu was particularly popular in that area.  Wing Chun Kung Fu is based mainly on the Snake and the Crane, so there is a common lineage.

Anyway, we hope you enjoy our short video:

Kevin O’ Hagan: Combat Jutsu & Manstoppers Course

I have recently had the pleasure of seeing Kevin O’Hagin and his two sons, Jake and Tom, performing a demonstration at the Rotary Martial Arts Festival in Bath.  It was fast moving, dynamic and one of the highlights of the Festival.  Kevin’s style of Combat Justu, based on his many years studying various froms of Ju Jutsu, and other related arts, is a no-nonsense brutal system for defeating an opponent quickly and efficiently.  The people that Kevin has trained with is extensive and reads like a who’s who of reality martial arts.

Kevin is a former professional cage fighter as well as successful author – brawn and brain 🙂    However, he separates his teaching between the sporting MMA side and his Combat Jutsu street defence style.

He has recently been awarded his 7th Dan in Combat Jutsu and is a 6th Dan Senior Instructor in self protection with the British Combat Association, the most respected reality based self protection organisation in the UK.  In short, Kevin knows his stuff.

I have inserted a few Youtube clips of Kevin teaching, so that you can see for yourself the type of training he gives.  Furthermore, Kevin is running a course soon in Bristol (UK).  I have inserted a copy of his promotional poster below.  I would say to anybody from the Karate, TKD world etc., who may not think that this is anything to do with your style; think again.  Many applications from our Kata’s/patterns/forms, are very similar (sometimes identical) to Ju Jutsu, so I’m sure that if you look carefully, you will find Kevin doing moves that you have seen before, but never thought of applying them in that manner.

(Note:  This third video looks quite close to Kung Fu Tiger style with the raking fingers)

To find out more about Kevin O’Hagan, go to his website: www.KevinOHagan.com

 

 

Soto Uke (Outside Block)

Firstly, lets define which block we are talking about.  What Shotokan Karate (my style) calls Soto Uke (Outside Block, because it comes from the outside), some other styles call Uchi Uke (Inside Block, because it travels to the inside).  I am talking about the block that starts from just by the ear and travels inward across the body (same direction as the hip rotation), stopping roughly in line with the opposite shoulder.

Although in many Japanese and Korean martial arts we were originally taught that Soto Uke is for blocking a straight punch aimed at our body, it has become more and more obvious that is an unlikely.

Firstly, most people outside of the dojo/dojang, do not usually attack with straight punches, it is usually haymakers.  As we are more likely to be attacked by a thug then another martial artist, why do we train so much for an attack that we are not likely to be attacked by?

Secondly, even if we were attacked by another martial artist, how often do use a Soto Uke in sparing.  We virtually never use is because it is too slow to be used as a block.  It is fine in a pre-arranged sparing routine, but is extremely difficult to make it work when the attacks come at random.

Conclusion: it is quite useless as a block when used in the traditional manner.

Anybody who has been interested in alternative bunkai for any time, will probably have seen the humble Soto Uke use for other purposes, such as arm-locks or close in striking etc.  This will be covered later in subsequent postings.

However, for anybody who still thinks that the primary function of a Soto Uke is to block a straight punch to the torso, should have a look at the video below.

But first some explanation!

The video is taken from a F.A.S.T. Defence course.  F.A.S.T. stands for Fear, Adrenalin, Stress Training.  Many people when under the stress of a real life confronation, freeze.  This even happens to high grade martial artists.  F.A.S.T Defence (amongst other things) trains people by taking then into this adrenalised state, then making them respond to overcome the “freeze” reflex that many of us have.    The idea is to provoke the student into an adrenalised state.  They get to respond full power against a “Bulletman”.  That is a man in  padded suit with a bullet shaped helmet, so that he can take blows and kicks full power.  The student does not have to worry about control in their adrenalised state.  There is more to it than just that, and the training is appropriate for both trained martial artists or for people who have never done a days training in their life.  Having done one of their courses myself, I would highly recommend them.

So why is that relevant to us and our Soto Uke?

When people are under that kind of pressure, they often extend one hand forward to restrain their attacker, whilst bringing their other hand back behind their ear, before swinging it round and striking hammer-fist to their attackers head.  This intuitive method, used by untrained people is very close to our Soto Uke (and the Wing Chun whipping punch)!

Could it be that the masters of the past took what is an instinctive human reaction and developed it?  Take a natural reaction and enhance it?  We often hear that modern systems like Krav Maga build on instinctive human reactions and when Krav Maga is adopted by law enforcement agencies around the world (including the FBI and the US Secret Service), then they must be doing something right.

So is it possible that our past masters did exactly the same thing, by building on instinctive reflexes?

We will never know for sure, but I think it is highly likely.  The video below comes from a F.A.S.T. Defence training session, where you will see the student reacting in way described above.  Have a look and decide for yourself if this instinctive reaction could be the route of the Soto Uke.

Warning:  It contains foul language, so check who is around you first:

Is Kata (Forms/Patterns) Without Realistic Bunkai “Organized Despair”?

Bruce Lee once famously referred to the way that many traditional martial artists train as, “organized despair”.  The full quote is reproduced below for you:

“Instead of facing combat in it’s suchness, quite a few systems of martial art accumulate “fanciness” that distorts and cramps their practitioners and distracts them from the actual reality of combat, which is simple and direct and non-classical. Instead of going immediately to the heart of things, flowery forms and artificial techniques (organized despair!) are ritually practiced to simulate actual combat. Thus, instead of being in combat, these practitioners are idealistically doing something about combat”

So, are our katas/forms/patterns “flowery forms and artificial techniques“?

Whilst some undoubtedly are, I don’t believe that all of them are and I think that it helps to look at a historical perspective.  When Bruce Lee made that statement, martial arts were very new to the West and they were not as well understood then as they are now.

Traditionally masters would teach a small number of students and the students would have to gain the masters trust before being taught anything of consequence.    However, when fully accepted the student would learn a full system of self defence which would include kicks, punches, locks, throws, breaking bones/joints and much more.

So when Karate was introduced into the Okinawan school system, would you want the school kids knowing how to break each others bones?

Funikoshi took Karate to Japan at a time when Japan was building up for war and saw unarmed martial arts as obsolete, except for personal development.  Do you think Funikoshi who wanted to gain acceptance for his art challenged this stance?

When the Americans occupied Japan after the war, they banned martial arts.  To get permission to train, the Japanese had to play down the martial aspects in favour of sport and self development.  This is the version that the GI’s learnt and took back to America.

The Chinese community in Bruce Lee’s day, were very reluctant to teach Kung Fu to non-Chinese.  When they did finally open up to the Western public, do you think that they would teach mass audiences their best techniques?

Even Ip Man who taught Wing Chun Kung Fu to Bruce Lee is believed to have held back information from Bruce Lee because Bruce was not a full blooded Chinese.

The bottom line is – a lot of information was held back for one reason or another and in Bruce Lee’s day, many people did not have much clue about what the katas/forms/patterns were for.  With Bruce Lee’s very pragmatic approach and with information held back by even his own teachers, can you blame him for seeing it as “organised despair”.

Although so much has opened up today and is continuing to do so all the time, there are still very many people (and whole associations) still caught in trap of not knowing what there katas movements are really for.  So we go back to the question, is Kata without realistic bunkai, just organized despair?

Undoubtedly kata WITH realistic bunkai is a much better way to train.  It brings the katas to life.  However, there is always the old maxim, that before you can control somebody else (in a fight), you must be able to control yourself.

This is where I believe that kata will always be useful.  The turns and spins in different directions; landing with co-ordination, speed, power and crispness are excellent ways to learn that control of yourself.  You will learn more control and co-ordination with kata than you will by pounding pads or punchbags.  You also learn form, structure and principles of movement that you can apply to other things.  That is not to say that pounding pads/punchbags is not useful, because obviously it is.  However, I believe that kata training in its own right does have something to offer martial artists of all styles, even without good bunkai.

I do not suggest that kata training kata should be pursued at the detriment of other aspects of martial training and I agree with Bruce Lee, that in itself kata does not prepare you for actual combat.  However, as part of an fully rounded taining system I do believe that it plays an important part.

Professor Rick Clark: Pressure Points

Professor Rick Clark is a specialist in applying pressure points using techniques from the katas/patterns.  He has a very good understanding of both Japanese/Okinawan katas as well as Korean.  When you see his qualifications, you’ll understand why:

8th Dan Ryukyu Kempo

7th Dan Tae Kwon Do Chung Do Kwan

7th Dan Ju-jitsu

5th Dan Judo

3rd Dan Modern Arnis

1st Dan Hapkido

As well as having one of his books, I’ve had the pleasure to attend one of his courses when he came over to the UK.  He’s a very easy going gentleman who is very approachable and extremely knowledgeable.

 

For more information about Professor Rick Clark and his seminars, his website is www.ao-denkou-kai.com.