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...
The third video this week features more recent footage from the dojo on the subject of entangled arm locks from Naihanchi Kata and progressing on to how they may be abandoned if things aren't going to plan.
Although joint attacks should be considered only as a support strategy for self-defence (the primary strategy being of course percussive impact), in my opinion, they should nevertheless still be studied as part of a holistic combative methodology.
Here's another new video - wow...that's two in one day!
This one shows some footage in the dojo from a few weeks ago when we were exploring some fundamental push hand patterns and limb control sequences inspired by Naihanchi Kata. Skill development using close-range tactile reference is important for traditional karate practitioners, since the movements of kata were originally designed to cope with these distances for effective self-defence. Therefore, pretty much any kata sequence may be applied from connections obtained from such drills.
Hi Everyone - here's a new video just uploaded to my YouTube channel!
The video features some footage taken in the dojo earlier this week, when we were exploring a sequence from Pinan (Heian) Godan Kata, as inspired by a couple of my students. This particular application features a couple of elbow joint attacks and a take down before a choke using the stance and the characteristic lower cross block as an attack to the opponents fingers.
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.
To help bring in the Chinese New Year, I thought I'd share with you all a great workout that I like to perform on occasion, which features some high intensity 'Tabata' style intervals. The whole thing only takes around 20 minutes, so its quick, efficient, but very intense...You'll be working like a horse! :-)
A 'Tabata' interval uses an extremely effective 2:1 work/rest ratio, where you exert hard for 20 seconds and then take 10 seconds rest. This is repeated a total of 8 times, making each interval last around 4 minutes.
A few months ago I was approached by a new supplement company called Martial Herbs and offered a sample of their products to try out. I took a look at their website and after a few emails back and forth, decided to see what they had to offer.
There were two things that initially grabbed my attention - the first being the company's name. Could it be that the UK supplement industry finally has a competitor with a pure focus on supporting the physical training of martial artists? Indeed, my email discussions revealed that the guys at Martial Herbs are complete fanatics of the combative arts (both traditional and more contemporary styles). The second thing that interested me was their strong belief in the effectiveness of natural remedies, without the addition of non-essential chemical additives.
Their mission statement is simple..."design and supply high quality supplements from natural ingredients that we would want to use!" Currently, their product range only amounts to three items, which for me certainly adds to their 'quality not quantity' standpoint.
I know I know...It's been a little while since I've added a post to my blog. Work's being pretty hectic over the months leading up to Xmas, but now that things have calmed down somewhat, I can finally get back to spending some time updating the site and adding more content to the blog.
You may have already noticed that I've given some website pages a bit of a face-lift, including a completely new-look store with an integral secure check-out facility that also gives me the capability to distribute video downloads direct from the site! Plus, with my other upcoming projects scheduled for 2014, you see lots more additions and modifications over the coming months.I will be very soon starting work again on the second volume of Naihanchi (Tekki) Kata: Seed of Shuri Karate and so far we're on schedule to publish later this year. It seems that the first volume has generated plenty of anticipation for this next instalment, so I'll certainly be working hard to have it ready for you all as soon as possible!
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!
My first acquaintance with Mark Jennings was back in May 2012 when he popped over to my stand at The Martial Arts Show in Birmingham to introduce himself. We had an interesting chat about the more practical aspects of karate and he happened to mention that he was working on the draft of his first book. Always happy to support aspiring writers, I offered to take a look at his manuscript and a couple of weeks later I received an email from Mark with his work attached.
Not long after this, I encountered a number of technological problems with my office PC that led me to lose a large number of emails contacts (including Mark's) that were waiting to be transferred over to my online mailing list. Taking on the project of building a brand new PC and then enlisting the help of a professional to salvage as much information from the old one, I eventually managed to recover the information I had 'lost'. On subsequent reply to Mark with what were now my belated comments, I found that his draft had already made great progress and was almost ready for publish!
Being relatively active on my website, blog and social media means that I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to network with fellow martial artists from all over the globe. I always enjoy corresponding with like-minded karate practitioners and of course, I am always grateful for their kind support.
One such karate practitioner is Garry Lever From the Shinsokai (Goju Ryu). We first made contact a couple of years ago and although we haven't yet met in the flesh (something we're working to resolve very soon), we've always maintained regular emails and messages. Garry was instrumental in helping me plan the itinerary for our Okinawa sightseeing trip when we were in Naha last year and shared with me in confidence some amazing locations of historical significance that I would have never have even known about otherwise!
A few weeks ago I received a unexpected package through the post from Garry. I opened it up to find a complementary pre-release copy of his new book, 'The Essence of Goju Ryu Vol II', which as with the first volume of the series, he has co-authored with his teacher Richard Barrett Sensei.
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.
Avid readers of my blog will recognise the name Brett Barrell from an earlier post back in January on traditional conditioning and iron palm training. He specialises in this field and has developed quite a level of skill.
Well, he's just uploaded a new YouTube video to personally thank a number of his keen supporters and friends etc who love martial arts (see below). I'm humbled to have found out that he added my name to this list and mentions me at around 10m26s.
He makes the comment that "for whatever reason, Chris decided to include me in his blog". Well, Brett the reason is simple my friend. I think you're a genuine martial artist who is self-motivated to continually expand without resting on your laurels, I really enjoy your videos and I think that your contributions provide a fine inspiration for others to follow.
Thanks for the kind mention Brett and keep up the good work!
Well I seem to be going video crazy lately!
Here's another video I put together on Hojo Undo. Last week I set up the camera and filmed some of my usual morning conditioning routine. I edited the clips together, added an 'old film' filter and cut in some traditional Japanese music to give it a more authentic feel. I had lots of fun making this and I hope you enjoy it.
Even though this kind of training is considered by many to be 'old-school' and 'out-dated', it is still in my view just as relevant now as it was when it was first developed. Of course, the aim of the training is not to 'body build' or 'weight train', but instead to develop and enhance the specific functional attributes associated with the effective application of traditional karate kata. Therefore, it helps put into place what is an essential piece of the karate jigsaw puzzle!
Well...I did promise all my mailing list members, Facebook fans and Twitter followers a gift for all your kind support and feedback - so here you go :-)
Below is a new video on my YouTube channel that was filmed earlier this week that takes an exclusive look inside my closed dojo during a focussed tutorial on body dynamics in traditional karate for effective close-range striking.
Subjects covered were: transference of bodyweight, dropping the knee, sequential delay, creating internal distance and relaxation for the heavy application of force. All of these principles can be found within the kata and are ingrained in pretty much every style of traditional karate.
Over the past few weeks, I've had quite a few emails and questions regarding my own approach to physical training and how this connects to my traditional karate practice. So I thought that I would record a short video clip to share a particular kettlebell combination exercise that I like, especially for those times when I haven't got much time to train - hope you enjoy :-)
This workout combines the double hip clean, snatch, squat and press into one exercise and the idea is to alternate between arms for the allotted period without setting the weight down. Although this may seem a bit boring, it is actually quite challenging and enjoyable to focus on the quality of performance, attempting to make each rep identical to the last.
I love to train. There's rarely a day goes by that I'm away from the dojo and often the best part of training as a martial artist is the huge variance of methods you can apply. This can also be a downfall though if you do not manage your training effectively, since it can become quite difficult to 'fit it all in' over the course of each week.
Martial artists need to develop in many areas such as strength and power, endurance, flexibility, speed, balance core dynamics, structural stability, fast adaptation to change, sensitivity, mobility, conditioning, technique, mental clarity and focus. We're fortunate that some methods of training can tick multiple boxes for us, but you need to be constantly watchful in case what one day you call a 'supplementary' method starts to take over your whole schedule.
I began weight training many years ago and I really love the challenge. A number of years ago now I took the decision to become a qualified fitness instructor in order to ensure that I could confidently train and advise others in the correct way.
A few days ago I received a phone call from Lee Taylor. Apart from us swapping a few emails, this was the first time we chatted together and it was evident after the first five minutes (the call then went on for almost an hour) that we had a great deal in common with regards to our approach to karate. I mentioned to Lee that I was looking to start conducting some product reviews as part of my website developments and asked whether he would like his new book entitled 'Heian/Pinan Kata & Bunkai: The Fundamentals' to be one of the first. A couple of days later, I received through the post a copy of the book from Lee with a cover note inviting my honest review and opinion. So here goes...
Many martial arts use music as a basis for their application of movement and technique. Look at the traditional fights of Muay Thai or the fascinating Brazilian art of Capoera for some fine examples of this.
Music, or more specifically the rhythm and timing associated with it has strong connections with all martial arts, including karate. Whether you twang a string on a guitar, whack a snare drum, blow down the end of a trumpet, hit the keys on a piano or indeed strike the opponent - it's all based on the universal application of rhythm and timing.
All beautiful music is made up of 12 fundamental notes. However it is not the notes themselves that makes each song unique, but the strategic placement of gaps, transitions and varying emphasis. Notes without gaps is simply noise!
A number of people have asked me questions lately relating to why traditional karate practitioners spend time conditioning their forearms. It is commonly suggested that this is to facilitate more effective blocks, but considering the fact that in close range self-defence the concept of blocking in any form is seriously flawed (due to the lack of ability to react in time), there is in fact a much more pragmatic reason as to why forearm conditioning is so vital.
First of all, the forearms make up a primary weapon in karate. It is extensively used in Naihanchi Kata and if you think about the fundamental techniques practiced in the first few months of training then you will see that the vast majority use the forearms as a point of contact to issue force. In fact, the four basic receiving techniques of (1) age-uke, (2) soto-uke, (3) uchi-uke and (4) gedan-barai together prescribe the principle gross motor movements with the upper limbs: up, down, inside and outside. The only movements not covered are thrusting out from and in towards the body, but I'm sure you'll agree that tsuki covers that pretty well!
I've spent some time this week re-editing my original 'Bunkai of the Month' video series into 17 separate video tutorials for my website and YouTube channel.
The original videos were very popular when they were first released a couple of years ago so I wanted to make sure that everyone has access to these now and into the future.
Here's a FREE sample chapter from a recent publication by Lee Taylor - I've added it to the guest author section of the site:
This PDF on the Heian Shodan kata and bunkai is an extract from the book Heian / Pinan Kata & Bunkai - The Fundamentals.
In that book all 5 of the Heian / Pinan kata are examined in detail from the solo performance of each kata, to the two person bunkai sequences.
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!
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.