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'.
I was teaching a self-defence workshop the other day and the subject came up about the traditional concept of 'sen' (initiative) and how this can apply to modern day combatives.
Karate often suffers a bad name for being outdated and unrealistic. In my view, nothing could be further from the truth and when you look closer at the art's core principles, you will see material that is just as relevant now than it was years ago
It's not about 'what' you train, but about 'how' you train - Therefore, karate can only ever be as realistic as the mind of the person expressing it!
The Japanese style of Wado Ryu for instance emphasises the concept of 'sen' (initiative), as left by the founder, Hironori Ohtsuka, who was a highly distinguished master in both karate and ju-jutsu.
This week in my closed dojo, we spent some time looking at the main structural components of Naihanchi Kata, investigating why its analysis and application is somewhat different to that of the other forms and how its specific teachings can be integrated into the rest of the art.
I recently wrote some words detailing my understanding and opinions regarding these structural components, which will eventually become one of the main chapters in my upcoming book. So as a bit of a 'taster', I thought I would share a concise summary those words here for my blog readers that will also provide some supplementary information for my own students. Needless to say - the original chapter goes into far more depth!
In the dojo the other day, the subject of utilising the 'non-striking' limb came up with respect to Choki Motobu's famous reference to the term mefutode 'husband and wife hands' (also commonly referred to as 'meotode'). We had an interesting discussion and I thought I'd summarise some of the main points here.
The 'non-striking' limb is often connected to the term hikite (pulling hand), however this pulling action of the limb to help accentuate the accompanying strike is only one of a number of combative functions that the non-striking limb can undertake.
Whilst searching through YouTube, I came across these two videos of Yuchoku Higa (Kyudokan Dojo), who was a student of Chosin Chibana, performing Matsumura No Passai. I remember practicing this very kata back in March 2012 with Arakaki Sensei - himself a student of Higa...needless to say, the experience was awesome!
What struck me most about these video's is that they've been filmed many years apart and upon watching them, it really struck home how we should all strive for karate to become a complete way of life. These videos have certainly inspired me to carry on exploring karate more deeply and I hope they offer you similar insights.
Chris Denwood has been studying martial arts since childhood and specialises in the practical application of karate's traditional principles for civilian self-defence, personal development, life integration and discovery.