New DVD: Inside Bassai Dai (Kata Bunkai)

Keith and I are very pleased to release our new kata bunkai DVD, “Inside Bassai Dai”.  For those not familiar with Bassai Dai, it is a very central kata in many Karate systems and is often used for black belt gradings to 1st Dan.  This is fitting considering it’s author is the Okinawan master, Soken Matsumura who is a very pivotal character in the development of Karate.

Matsumura was one of the prime movers in developing linear technique (previously, Okinawans practiced primarily Chinese based circular techniques).  He also taught Azato and Ituso, who went on to teach Funikoshi (who introduced Karate to Japan and hence the World).  So Matsumura’s impact on Karate is enormous. Continue reading “New DVD: Inside Bassai Dai (Kata Bunkai)” »

Bassai Dai (Passai): Grappling Kata?

As discussed in an earlier posting, the Okinawan master, Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura was a central figure in developing the now familiar linear technique, at a time when most martial artists on Okinawa were still using the circular techniques of Chinese origin.  As discussed in that posting, Matsumura was also the head bodyguard to the King of Okinawa and the bodyguards (like all Okinawans) were not allowed to carry weapons by Japanese decree.

This left a situation where the bodyguards could end up fighting a superior number of assailants, who might also be armed.  That previous posting discussed how the linear technique would have helped take the fight to the opponents and dispatch them as quickly as possible (necessary when facing larger numbers). Continue reading “Bassai Dai (Passai): Grappling Kata?” »

Why Did Karate Develop It’s Linear Technique?

Sometimes understanding the history of how certain techniques developed give a better idea of how those techniques can be applied in today’s world (where competition rules have clouded the issues).

Believed to be born in 1796, Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura was a martial arts fanatic and some would say genius.  He was known to be very clever, good at psychology and ruthless.  At the age of 14, he announced that he would become the greatest fighter on Okinawa; by the age of 25 he was widely accepted as having achieved this goal.

Master Soken Matsumura
Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura

Matsumura is a key figure in Karate history for 2 main reasons. Continue reading “Why Did Karate Develop It’s Linear Technique?” »

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

Bruce LeeBruce 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“? Continue reading “Is Kata (Forms/Patterns) Without Realistic Bunkai “Organized Despair”?” »