“Over the holidays I had a very pleasant experience watching one Shotokan bunkai DVD. It is called Inside Bassai Dai created by Sensei Charlie Wildish, UK. I found the bunkai in it to be realistic and easy to learn. He demonstrates how some of the techniques are applied. I was particularly pleased to see the application for double uchi uke (inside forearm blocks). He interprets them as a uke followed by a uraken”.
I have trained under a number of senior Japanese and British instructors in my time. But none of them have been as dedicated to exposing the political, social and sporting influences on Karate which have altered the way we train and consequently watered down Shotokan as a martial art as is Shihan Yokota. This is why his personal endorsement is very special to me. If he approves then it not only means that I can be satisfied with my DVD, but my whole understanding of Karate as a real martial art (rather than just a sport) must be moving in the right direction.
It will be very difficult to get closer to the true source and understanding of real traditional Karate today than the teachings of Shihan Yokota. This is why I am very excited to have this endorsement and why I thank him very much for it.
I would like to wish everybody a very happy Christmas holiday to you and your family and I hope you have a great time and a well earned break.
Also, please note that some of the DVD’s ordered from me are taking longer than usual to arrive. This is probably due to the extra post at Christmas time. I had one DVD sent to California (from the UK) on the 9th Dec and it only just got there on the 21st (12 days). If you are waiting on an order, please be patient, things should get back to normal soon.
I usually focus on the practical application of techniques on this website, but today I’m actually going to focus on technique itself. I think this one is important, as it can greatly enhance the power of your punches and other strikes.
The Karate masters of old often taught that we should use our body like a “whip”, but this is not always easy to do, especially if you practice a predominantly linear style. In practically all sports, power is generated from the hips, transferred to the shoulders, then to the arms/hands. However, people often struggle to do this in linear styles. I believe that this is because we are often taught that everything finishes together, whereas in most other activities they are taught to move in sequence. I believe that this is partly brought about by the fact that we focus (kime) into one spot, whereas in most other disciplines (including other sports) they move through their target. When a golfer hits the ball, he does not stop there, he moves right through it (as does anybody using any kind of racket or bat to hit something). When somebody throws a ball, they do not stop at the instance of release, they move through that point.
Yet with a linear punch, we stop dead at the point of focus, especially in basic form. Even in freestyle, at the point of focus we strike and retract rather than moving through, and I think this is what causes the problem for so many. Many people end up moving the shoulder and hips together, rather than in sequence like everybody else. The only way we can move shoulder and hip together is by tightening the muscles of our torso and locking them together.
Yet we are always told that we should be as relaxed as possible and that movement comes from the hips . . . . . . . or as some would say, the Hara (Japanese) or Dan Tien (Chinese).
If we are locking the shoulders and hips together, we cannot be completely relaxed. Also, movement cannot be said to come from the hips (Hara/ Dan Tien) as the whole torso moves as one.
If we truly generate the power from the hips and we are truly relaxed in out torso, then the hips should move first, creating a small rotational stretch in our body as the shoulders are left fractionally behind. When stretched, the body naturally wants to return to its original shape, so the shoulders will start to rotate as well, just fractionally behind the hips. However, as we are not actually focusing on our shoulders and the torso is relaxed, there will be a feeling of the shoulder and arm being “thrown” by the hip, rather than having to focus on moving them and extending the arm.
Chinese circular styles seem to achieve this whip like feeling more easily as a circular techniques goes through its target and does not stop at the point of impact (unlike a basic linear punch). Some of the modern day masters talk of a putting in a waveform motion. The Russian martial art, Systema (The System) also talks of a waveform. This is often compared to the standard Karate/TKD punch and advocated as being much more powerful. However, I believe that this is because most people are not really aware of how to put the waveform into their linear technique. Using the method described above and demonstrated in the video below, it is relatively easy to get this waveform (whip) into a linear punch.
I must put in one disclaimer however, and that is that many advanced Karateka/TKD practitioners do this naturally as they learn to relax. However, I don’t think that most of them are actually aware of the mechanics of it, certainly very few will explain it in this manner.
When I’ve shown this before, I’ve had people say that they loved it, but had never seen anything like it in their own club. I believe that I may have “re-framed” things a bit, but everybody should be training this way. By re-framing it I hope to make it clearer; I am not introducing something new here. If this concept is new to you, please give your feedback below on what you think of it. If you have been taught this concept, but this video makes it clearer please tell me. If you think I’m a mad Karate heretic, then say so 🙂
You may have noticed that I’ve changed things around a bit on this site. Previously, I had offered 2 free bonus videos for anybody joining the newsletter. However, I felt that these video bonuses were, to be honest, a little bit random. Also, being filmed in my living room with a radiator in the background, I did not feel that they were very professional looking and that you deserved better.
So what I’ve done is re-structure the bonuses into a 5 part course on How To Become Good At Bunkai. I thought, why do people come to a site like this in the first place? The answer seemed obvious, it’s because they are interested in bunkai and want to learn more. So I thought, how can I help these people and add value for them. The best way I could think of was to help teach people to work out bunkai for themselves. Too often, people rely on others to teach them as they either lack confidence to work out bunkai, or they feel that they do not have the right. This is restrictive thinking.
Also, depending on others to teach you can be a bit restrictive, depending on who you train with. But if you can learn to work them out for yourself, then there are no limits to how much you can learn. But you need a certain amount of base knowledge first, as much of it is done by “read across”. The more you learn, the more you are able to work out for yourself. So if you haven’t already signed up for the newsletter, then please do. You’ll get 5 free classes teaching you how to work out bunkai for yourself, plus one surprise bonus video.
Most of our video applications on this blog are primarily from a Karate and Kung Fu perspective (as they are the styles that Keith and I do). However, we thought we would do something a bit more geared to Tae Kwon Do as we did not want TKD practitioners to feel left out 🙂
But first a little background. The applications to many Karate moves were “dumbed down” when Karate went public. Firstly Karate was introduced into Okinawan schools to help physically prepare students for national service (and you don’t want school kids damaging each other). Then when Karate went from Okinawa to Japan at a time when Japan was modernising very fast, traditional martial arts were seen as obsolete, except as a method for physical and character training (more dumbing down). Then during the American occupation of Japan after WWII, martial arts were banned; so to be allowed to practice the Japanese had to claim it was more for self development and sport than for self defence and then had to practice accordingly (even more dumbing down).
Tae Kwon Do’s General Choi would no doubt have learnt this dumbed down version (as did the vast majority of Japanese masters). However, the more it is investigated the more it is apparent that Karate’s basic “blocks” do not work well as blocks. Yet these same “blocking” movements can be quite efficiently applied as close quarters strikes, arm locks and releases from grabs. Although we don’t know for sure what the original intentions of the creators would have been, it is far more likely they would have been used as close quarter strikes/grappling then for actually blocking. If they were used for blocking, then it is more likely that the block occurred at the chambered position and the completed position would have been a some kind of counter (strike/lock/etc).
To add to the confusion for Tae Kwon Do practitioners, in some versions of Tae Kwon Do these blocks were adapted to make them “more efficient blocks”. In other words, to make them better at what they were not really meant to be used for. In particular, the chambering position has been changed in some versions of Tae Kwon Do (other versions of Tae Kwon Do still chamber the Karate way).
However, I’m a believer that if you change a movement, you usually gain something and lose something. Throughout the centuries, Okinawan and Chinese martial arts masters have changed their arts to suit their physiques, their environments and their own mental make up. They gained an advantage for their personal circumstances but maybe lost something that could have favoured their masters circumstances. So change is not necessarily a good or bad thing, as long as it can be used by the practitioner for their own personal circumstances.
Whilst the adapted chamberbing position used by some versions of Tae Kwon Do will have lost some of the original applications from its Karate roots, they will have gained some new applications. Not better, now worse, just different.
In the video below, Keith and I look at how some the amended Tae Kwon Do chambering positions can be used for close quarters strikes and grappling applications. We don’t claim that these would have been what the originators had in mind, we simply don’t know. Nobody dose. We simply believe that these are additional applications in your arsenal, for moves that you are already doing. For any Tae Kwon Do practitioners who have not seen these types of applications before, Keith and I are far from unique in our way of thinking. There are some very good books on the subjects, most notable are show below.
Recently I wrote about Shihan Kousaku Yokota’s new book, Shotokan Myths. Well now it is available for purchase (details below). I have had some private correspondence with Shihan Yokota and there was one thing in particular that he said that I consider very important and I wanted to share with everybody. With so many “reality based” martial arts and the rise of mixed martial arts, many people have questioned the effectiveness and validity of the traditional martial arts. Many Japanese masters have been secretive or aloof and have not bothered to explain the finer points, keeping Westerns on a rather superficial level. I’ve seen some Japanese masters teach up in Scotland, UK, where they actually pretend that they can’t speak English properly when you know full well that they can (from people who have actually visited the masters own dojo).
I have to say that I do not believe this of all the Japanese masters, but certainly some are like it. Yet here we have a Japanese master at the very highest level who is not only wants to teach all that he knows, but is actually concerned that if he does not, that Karate will become obsolete. As I said before, although the book has “Shotokan” in the title, it should be of interest to other styles as well, especially those with Shotokan in their lineage.
Anyway, here in Shihan Yokota’s own words (and with his permission to reproduce it):
“I want to share the knowledge so that the western karate practitioners will see the “light” so to speak. There should not be so much of mysticism about Karate. Almost all the things can be fully explained. But it was easier for many “masters” to keep them as mysterious or “secret”. The fact is many “masters” did not know the answers or have the ability (or motivation) to explain them. Many Japanese instructors are afraid to speak up as that would reveal the inability of those masters or the organizations. It has been more than 60 years since shotokan karate was introduced to the western world. I believe it is about time somebody to speak up and let the western practitioners know it is ok to ask and challenge what you read or learn from the Japanese masters. Without this quest we cannot hope to improve karate and it will end up in a museum some day. Ossu”
ISBN #978-1-4568-0709-2 (Hard cover) US$29.99
#978-1-4568-0708-5 (Soft cover) US$19.99
You can order your copy now from the publisher, Xlibris:
• Phone (Toll Free): 1-888-795-4274
• Fax: 1-610-915-0294 or 1-610-915-0293
• E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
They will ship internationally (shipping charge will apply).
Extra note: I don’t know about other countries, but shipping and handling cost quoted for posting to the UK are extortionately high. I have asked Shihan Yokota to get Xlibris to confirm. However, Shotokan Myths is also available from Amazon in paperback or hardcover where S & H costs should be more reasonable from there.
This video was supplied by Chuck Philips of International Martial Arts Management Systems. In the video is Sensei John Kerker performing an interesting application for Shuto Uke (knife hand block). I haven’t seen this particular application before, but I like it. It is slightly Wing Chun like, deflecting, sticking, trapping and countering. But as Karate was largely derived from Kung Fu, then this should not surprise us.
You can find out more about Chuck Philips at www.IMAMS.com and I would like to thank him for submitting this video.