Here's my recent interview conducted by Shorin stylist Noah Legel from the US for his aptly-titled website, Karate Obsession. It includes some very interesting questions about my background, approach to training and thoughts on different aspects of karate. Noah has a real passion for old-style karate methods and this certainly carries over into his well written and thought-provoking blog.
Anyway - hope you enjoy the read and my thanks to Noah for having me grace his pages :-)
Hi everyone! It's been a couple of months since I added a blog post to the site (been working hard on my house extension), so I thought it was about time I rectified that.
I was up at 4am (yes, 4am!!) this morning, as our new dog figured that this would be an appropriate time to start barking. Nevertheless, not one to pass up an opportunity, my morning practice turned out to be very enjoyable. Indeed, there's something very 'pure' about practising karate early morning. And with the sun just beginning to rise outside, I took a quick picture of my 'friend'. At this point, the dog was fast asleep beside a chi-ishi...typical :-)
The makiwara I have installed in my garden dojo and the implement that has been my training partner (and teacher) for many years has a couple of adaptations to help add some versatility to my daily practice.
After switching between a leather and straw pad for a while, I decided one day to simply utilise both. The leather pad is wearing in nicely, so now feels much better to work with and the wrapped straw rope underneath offers a contrasting striking surface. In total, I usually use three striking surfaces during my session: the leather, the straw and the wood itself. For me, switching between these materials between sets gives a much better level of overall conditioning. I also add to my makiwara training some floor-based pressure and alignment exercises, but I will look to write a blog post about these in the near future.
Generically speaking, I would suggest that traditional karate is based on the effective management of the transition between two body states - relaxation (softness) and contraction (hardness). Like In (Yin) and Yo (Yang), practitioners should aim for these two complementary opposites to be harmoniously integrated together, as what often may look very hard on the outside, is usually found to be supported by softness and suppleness on the inside.
Kata serve as an opportunity to develop the two essential qualities above and to build a greater sense of awareness for the transitional periods of space and time found between them. For it is these transitions that hold real potential.
So starting at 10pm on Friday 24th October, along with 23 of my students, our dojo performed 100 repetitions of Naihanchi Kata in unison with thousands of karate-ka from around the globe to help celebrate World Karate Day!
Not really sure about how demanding the 100 Kata Challenge would be, I expected one of two outcomes - it would either be surprisingly easy or surprisingly tough. In actual fact, it was probably somewhere in between. I used the first 25 repetitions or so to warm up, before bringing my attention inwards so that the event would become much more than just a physical endurance test. I also took time to suggest that my students do the same.
It was decided on October 25th 1936 (during historic 'Meeting of the Masters') that the Ryukyu traditions of Okinawa were to be officially named Karate 空手 (Empty Hand). In 2005, October 25th became recognised as ”Karate Day” to pray for the expansion of traditional Karate, world peace and happiness.
This year, a special event was conceived by James Pankiewicz, owner of The DOJO Bar in Naha and director of Challenge Okinawa! He "challenged" karate dojo of all styles to pick their favourite kata and perform it 100 times. The invite was extended to the world martial arts community who's styles hold true to the ethos of Traditional Okinawan Karate. I have personally known James for a few years now and I can tell you that he's a true gentleman, plus one of the most dedicated karate practitioners you'll ever have the pleasure to meet..
I'm currently re-reading the book, 'The Secrets of Okinawan Karate' by Kiyoshi Arakaki and whilst I must admit I'm not that particularly fond of the title, I feel that the content within certainly inspires readers to think outside the box. One particular part caught my eye this morning, causing me to pause, nod and smile...
"Everyone thinks shuto is a technique that uses the hand like a sword or knife. As the definition implies; therefore, the technique becomes deadlocked. The scope of the term itself is too limited to encompass the essence of traditional karate's shuto-uke. Historically, this move can push the opponent; strike to the opponent's upper or middle body; strike the opponent's attacking arm, or leg; hook; parry and guard. All these possibilities are intrinsic in one technique. Modern shuto-uke's usage is completely different from traditional shuro-uke, which employed each individual part of the arm, including the back of the hand, palm of the hand, and side of the hand, as well as the entire arm itself. It is the same story for sei-ken, which should imply strike, hit, stab or nukite."
There is much debate between bunkai researchers as to whether the techniques in kata were designed for one particular application in mind, or whether the movements are more generic to offer options against a variety of scenarios. With the lack of historical information available, we may never know for sure. However, regardless of the opinion you personally subscribe to, it nevertheless pays dividends to look at the movements of karate with an open mind, so that your study does not become as Arakaki Sensei so eloquently described, 'deadlocked'.
On my most recent visit to Okinawa in March 2014, I was very privileged to have had the opportunity to spend some time with Katsuhiko Shinzato Sensei, both privately and with members in class at his home dojo in Yonabaru.
In short, I can say that the teachings he shared with me over the course of what was only a couple of weeks, have made a lasting impression on my karate, plus the kindness shown by Sensei and his students has made a equally lasting impression on my character, for which I am truly grateful.
I first had the pleasure of meeting Shinzato Sensei back in April 2010, when I gave an intriguing seminar for karate-ka from around the world at the Budokan in Naha. As soon as I witnessed him move, I knew straight away that he had something very special to share.
The footage of Shinzato Sensei on YouTube is amazing but believe me, to witness this man in real life is something else entirely! Many people do not understand what he is trying to impart, but I can't help but feel that through what now must be over half a century of comprehensive and exacting research, he has unlocked something very old in karate and his sophisticated methods of movement breathes a unique sense of vigour back into the art.
Check out the following video of Shinzato Sensei's approach to Naihanchi Kata...
Last weekend, I was invited to teach a seminar down south in Reading UK. We covered lots of subjects over the course of the day, but here's a few minutes of video footage from the event, where I'm providing some advice on close-range power generation and specifically, the use of 'whipping' energy in Tetsui-Uchi that's often seen to be a trademark of Shuri-based karate systems.
In the video, I discuss and demonstrate the requirement to sequence the joints so that energy may perpetuate from the floor, up through the body and out of the striking limb. I also emphasise the need to utilise gravity by being in control over your state of balance. All of these principles can be found in most (if not all) traditional karate techniques.
It's been a little while since I added to my blog and now that I'm finally starting to get back on track after returning from my last trip to Okinawa, I'll be looking add some more posts over the coming months to help correct this.
As most who follow my work will know, I like think of traditional karate as being the integration of three main components, which in contrast, differs significantly from the more modern-day 3K (kihon, kata, kumite) approach. These components are Kata (physical form), Ohyo (functional application) and Hojo Undo (supplementary training). Acting like a like a jigsaw puzzle, all three pieces must be present before the ‘whole picture’ can be seen and each component must be able to connect to the others in accordance with the main context and objectives of the art.
Now that I've finally fixed the audio problem on my computer here in the office, I've been busy reviewing the video footage taken at my applied karate seminar in Malta in December last year. My intention is to share with you all a selection of short tutorials from the weekend to offer a flavour for some of the topics covered.
The first day of my seminar in Malta focused almost entirely on the four 'uke' (age/soto/uchi/gedan) movements and their subsequent appearance in a number of kata across the styles. The video below shows one of the drills I covered to help participants understand the numerous ways in which the technique of Gedan Barai (lower sweep) may be applied combatively.
I'm very excited to announce that after the long wait and its very successful launch last weekend at The Martial Arts Expo in Coventry, my new book entitled, 'Naihanchi (Tekki) Kata: The Seed of Shuri Karate Vol. 1' is now available to purchase via the online store or my new dedicated website www.naihanchi-kata.com!
This is the first volume of a three part publication that looks at Naihanchi Kata in accordance with five distinct layers of analysis, presenting my own approach to the study of this fascinating form, which along with Sanchin Kata from the Naha-te lineage, represents the very bedrock of traditional karate.
Click HERE for more information, to read a free preview and to order your copy today!
About This Blog:
A growing collection of news, updates and random ramblings expressing my own personal opinions, which are of course no more or less important than yours! - Chris