Bunkai For Kihon Kata (Il Jang, Chon Ji, Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu)

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.

Bunkai From Tekki/Naihanchi (Chul Gi) With Cross Reference To Wing Chun

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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5JQS9m2KSE[/youtube]

Tekki / Naihanchi Kata Bunkai

Bunkai From Shotokan Karate Kata: Jitte (TSD: Sip Soo)

I am very pleased to be able to include 2 short video clips of my own Sensei, Paul Mitchell 4th Dan.

Sensei Mitchell is a recognised authority on Bunkai within the Traditional Shotokan Karate Association and usually teaches bunkai on TSKA residential courses.  Having originally started my Karate training in Kent, then continued it when I moved up to Scotland and again when I moved to the South West of England; I can say I’ve been about a bit and seen a few different clubs.  I consider myself very lucky to have found Sensei Mitchell’s club as firstly I like the emphasis on good technique and secondly I like the practically of his teachings and bunkai.

Thirdly, I like his quirkly sense of humour, but that’s another story . . . . sorry Sensei 😉

The clips below were taken on a recent Kata course hosted by Sensei Mitchell focusing on kata Jitte. The course started of with structure and form, followed by Bunkai.  After a light lunch (thanks Chris) it was back to work and being Jitte, we did it with Bo’s.  Jitte is unique in that it can be performed empty handed or with Bo, with very little adjustment at all.

Sensei Mitchell hosts these courses every couple of months and they are open to Karateka of any style (including TaeKwonDo) from 4th Kyu/Kup and above.  These are taught in an open and friendly environment and if you would like to attend, then check out the “Calender Of Events” tab on his website every now and then.  If you enjoy Bunkai and practical Karate, then I would highly recommend these courses.

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 methods.  As with my previous posting, I am wary of how effective pressure points can be under pressure, but I do think that if you do want to learn them you must do it in a structured and methodical manner, which is why I am open to Russell Stutely’s approach.

So here it is in Russell’s own words:-

“So many times people ask me about the best way to learn how to use Pressure Points… So, I am going to start sending out my “Tips of the week” on Pressure Points in particular and also to answer some of the most popular questions asked.

OK.. How to learn Pressure Points correctly?

This is a biggie… so will be answered in several parts over the coming weeks.

The first thing is to gain an understanding of how the body works from a Martial Arts perspective. This does not mean that you need to know the names of points or even the names of major muscle groups etc.. it would of course help if you started to learn them as you go along.

First of all… whatever art you practice… take your best / favourite technique and really get to grips with it.. really understand it.. break it down into its constituent parts.

This means that you must analyse it to death… UNDERSTAND what every part of your body is doing to ensure the correct application of that technique.

For a simple “jab” as an example.. you MUST know what your weight distribution is, how your feet are positioned, where you “push off” into the floor, how your body aligns, any “extra” movement that should not be there… where the correct power line of delivery is.. how you are balanced, how you keep your defenses,… the relationship between your shoulders, hips and ankles … and MUCH more.

Then when you can break this down and understand it.. you know how to “re-build” the technique to make it more effective.

Then and only then do you start to add in the Points… unless you have great technique to start with of course!
This sounds like a MAMMOTH journey if you are supposed to do this with EVERY technique??

Well.. it is not as long as it sounds… do this exercise with 4/5 techniques and you will begin to REALLY understand how to break down a technique… how to make it better.

Then you will be able to do this with any technique… THEN we can begin to add the points.

I ALWAYS teach people Balance Points first.. understand how the body is balanced from both your and your opponents perspective and you will automatically begin to break down technique.

Just this exercise alone will dramatically improve your Martial Arts and Self Defense skills.

Hope that helps?
More soon

Russell”
 

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 hurt your opponent wherever you hit them.

On the other side of the coin though, very few fights start 6ft apart.  They usually start much closer with the antagonist making impolite enquires as to who the fornication are you visually observing!  Or something like that.

In this kind of scenario, if you are genuinely convinced that you are going to be attacked and you are not able talk sense into your assailant, at some point you may take the decision that you will have to beat some sense into him instead.  I’m not talking about somebody calling you names or jumping a queue, but a real threat of imminent violence.  In this scenario a pre-emptive strike to a pressure point will be much more likely to succeed.  The opponent is still posturing, still psyching himself up; he’s not actually going for it yet.  You don’t step back into a guard as that only warns him that you are a proficient martial artist and tips him off to attack you even more vigorously.

You are better off using what Geoff Thompson calls “the fence”, with hand open and facing down in a universal position of neutrality, feet apart in a solid stance (but not a martial arts stance), engaging his brain with some dialogue (anything at all – isn’t it a shame about the polar bears!), then hit him as fast and hard as you can on a vulnerable point.

Now some traditionalist may get a bit hung up on this, as Funikoshi (founder of Shotokan Karate) stated that in Karate their is no first attack.  This has been interpreted by many as you need to stand there and wait for the other person to throw the first punch.  This is obviously not very practical.  What he really meant was that we should not go looking for a fight.  In other places, Funikoshi has described how to deal with an assailant by showing no sign of fighting, using a pre-emptive strike then running away to get help.

And as I’ve heard Kevin O’Hagan say, “you don’t really want a fair fight do you”? After all, he started it not you.

There are of course other considerations.  Firstly, if your assailant is drunk or high on drugs, they may not even feel very much as there senses are dulled, yet their aggression can be heightened.

Secondly, if your assailant is fully hyped up and adrenalized, they will feel less.  Have you ever cracked you shin against somebody elses in sparring?  You think “ouch”, give it a quick rub and carry on.  But the next day, it is throbbing like mad.

Why did you not feel it very much in sparring?  Its because you were fully warmed up and your adrenalin was flowing.  However, if you (or you assailant) are squaring up for a real confrontation, you have an awful lot more adrenaline in your body than when you are sparring.  You will absorb a lot more punishment without even thinking about it . . . . . and so will he!  Kevin O’Hagan reports of a case in America where a guy attacked a cop with a knife.  The cop shot the guy 4 times, yet the assailant still managed to get to the cop and stab him before collapsing.  How well do you think your pressure point strikes would work against a knife wielding assailant who keeps going with 4 bullets in him.

Boxers have been known to break bones in their hand early in a fight, yet still finish the fight.

I witnessed an incident in a pub many years ago where a confrontation broke out between two lads.  One obviously wanted to fight and the other one did not.  Very quickly a friend of mine, Daren, intervened to calm it down.  Now Daren is a very large, solidly built guy, who whilst having a very friendly disposition is not the type of guy you would want to get on the wrong side of.

As Daren tried to calm the aggressor down, he was met with a complete lack of reason or logic.  Daren lost his temper and went for the lad.  It took 3 of us to hold Daren back, swearing and snarling in complete animal rage, with his sister trying to talk him out of it.  The lad who had started it all turned white.  My friend Keith (who you can see elsewhere on this blog demonstrating bunkai with me) tried applying a pressure point to calm Daren down.  Daren in his complete rage did not even seem to notice.

After a while Daren calmed down and the other lad made a hasty (and wise) exit.  When Keith met Daren a few days later and asked him what all that had been about, Daren gave a cheeky smile and said, “6 months stress all out in a few minutes”.

Human beings are capable of taking an awful lot punishment when in a rage, adrenalised, or just plain determined enough to finish the job; so it does suggest that pressure points can be limited when against somebody in a rage or fully adrenalised.

That said, there are some points that no matter how drunk, high or adrenalized a person is; cannot be resisted.  An attack to the airways so that they cannot breath will always work, be it a strike or a choke.  However, much of a rage someone might be in, if they can’t breath, they can’t fight.

Attacking the carotid sinus (side of the neck where you feel the pulse), causes the blood pressure to the brain to drop and hence the assailant passes out.  This can be done with strikes (especially knife hand) or strangles.

Also an upward blow to the chin or the side of the lower jaw line causes the brain to “bounce” against the back of skull, causing un-conciousness.

These points (and a few others) should normally work under any conditions, though you are more likely to succeed with a pre-emptive strike than in an all out fight.

Whilst I believe that pressure points are valuable and have there place, they should not be treated as a short cut, or as a replacement for perfecting your technique.  Whilst most people recognise that technique may only be 50% efficient when under pressure, 50% of a good technique is still much better than 50% of a bad technique.  If you are not able to get in a pre-emptive strike, you may find yourself having to simply hit your assailant as hard as you can, wherever you can, until a good target becomes available.  By then however, you may be too adrenalised to spot the opening, because a side effect of adrenalin is that blood goes from your brain to your muscles, slowing up your thought process.

Even if you are lucky enough to get in a good pre-emptive strike, that strike will need to fast and hard, which brings us back to good technique.

Russell Stutely is recognised as Europe’s number one leading expert on pressure point fighting.  I recall one of his newsletters where people had been writing in asking him why he spends so much time doing pressure points.  However, his response was that he only does a small amount of training on pressure points, with most of his personal training being basics and power development.  When you look at Russell’s training program, he deals with balance points, power generation and other aspects before he starts on pressure points.  So if Europe’s number one expert on pressure points does not take short cuts and neglect his basics, neither should we.

This is only my opinion and I don’t claim to have gospel knowledge on the subject, but I hope it helps others to form their opinion.

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:

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.