Friday, May 18, 2018
It was from 1976 when the Black Belts of Tom Lewis’ IKA were supporting Charles who was going to run a summer self defense program in Ocean City Maryland. They did demonstration of self defense, breaking, kata and weapons. This photo was from their breaking demonstration.
I remember that day because I was there. I was not a black belt, just a blue belt. But I had been asked to do a sparring demonstration with Charles. Of course I... had no chance of succeeding, I was a blue belt, and he was a 2nd dan, and one of the strongest in sparring of the group. We were using the new safety gear on our hands and feet. Charles had never seen it and had to be assisted to don it.
Nobody told me it was just to be a demonstration to make Charles look good. Instead I only saw 25 of my seniors watching me, and I did not want to look foolish.
So when Sensei shouted Hajime, I tore into Charles, I was a kitten compared to him, but when I tried to hit him, he got serious (as least as far as I could tell) and he proceeded to go rat-at-at-tat all over me. So I just tore into him again, and let him unleash against me another time.
Eventually it finished. I survived. At least that was how I remember it.
Charlie used to have video of our fight, lost over time. I remember it well because he looked so good.
When I was a new black belt I began teaching through the Scranton Boys Club (I taught young men, and also young women. The first program to bring young women into the Boy’s Club at that time.) I taught Isshinryu exactly as I learned it, and those students learned it well.
But as the years passed I began to wonder if there was a stronger way to prepare the young. Then when I had to move for a new position, and had occasion to begin again at the Greater Derry Boy’s and Girl’s Club, I put many things I had also learned into practice.
Simply put, I wanted to slow the pace of learning, yet keep the classes engaging to allow the students to better develop. I had no reason to rush the process, my only concern was to produce better Isshinryu.
Over the proceeding 6 years I had learned many things, learned and personally worked on them. I had great faith in the power of kata, and that was where I began.
I had learned several systems approaches to beginning kata. I no longer remember where I saw it, but was more impressed with Fukyugata Ichi
as a beginning kata. I had conducted some experiments sharing it with my previous students, and the first thing I realized was to change the name (kids would change the name into a terrible pun the F*** You kata) and I could not allow that.
So it became Kata Sho to me. Then I adjusted the technique and stances into Isshinryu technique and stances.
[ As an aside, what I was doing was using Kata Sho and Kata Anaku (also Isshinryuized, as subsidiary precursors for eventual Seisan kata instruction. Allowing the time to create stronger student technique before beginning Seisan.]
But what began as a beginning kata became much more to me over time.
First, because of it’s shorter length student’s would understand the concept of kata more readily. Simply because they could do one. That made teaching subsequent kata easier.
Then I found another use. It became a binding group kata for everyone. By using it as a group kata, it allowed everyone to work more closely together. Binding the newer students to the same performance of the older students. Making a stronger group identity possible.
Next I began to find more possibilities.
As a group kata, the first performance at class beginning was often less dynamic that when done as the final class group exercise. They were of course more into the kata grove by class end.
So to show everyone their efforts could produce more on their own effort.
I first just had them do Sho, at their beginning performance. Then I had the group do it again with 25% more power. Then another time at 50% more power. Now I had them do the kata again, with the absolute maximum power they could put into every technique. Then again down to 50% power, then again down to 25% power, finally finishing a their regular performance.
Then I would explain that they were the ones that did it. They always had that power, just did not choose to use it. A very powerful lesson to build on.
Another use was to take a beginner who barely knew the kata. On their own they would freeze when others watched them and be unable to complete it.
But when placed between two black belts, or brown belts, they would stay with them even to black belt speed and power of execution. They knew it better than they realized. Everyone learned they could do the kata as a black belt, and it was them that was holding back. This was a lesson everyone learned.
Other variations. Took the students it three row, shoulder touching shoulder. 2nd and 3rd row students chest against the students before them back. Simply a very tight formation. Then I had them do so with the teeniest possible techniques, their smallest possible motions. The smallest steps. And to stay together. The first time they fall over as a unit, until they understand they really have to stay together to do it. Another group binding exercise, not for martial purpose, rather understanding they have to use their senses to hear, and trust each other. Sense training of Sight, Hearing and Touch.
There was always time in classes over the years to use it in different ways.
One thing that happens is students get to used to doing any kata always facing the same direction. If you have them face a different way, their performance often suffers. They got used to the same visual cues from repeated performance. So I hit on a different use.
I had two students perform Sho both of them facing opposite directions. The kata didn’t change but they had to deal with their partner working the opposite direction. And they were to keep their kata timing the same.
Then I built on that. The two students now beginning with their right shoulder facing their partner’s right shoulder had to bow, step open and do the opposing kata as a close order drill, in fact the first time they passed each other, their low blocks would be don’t as strikes to each others arms (shades of Kokite). On the return pass they had to avoid locking arms with their rising blocks. A very precise performance the goal.
Something I had learned from Tristan Sutrisno was a black belt exercise in multiple striking, each strike becoming a 5 count strike, each strike flowing into another strike. I would use this drill the same way as a supplementary black belt exercise. But I would also apply as an advancing kyu exercise. In this case each punch in Sho would become a 3 count strike, repeated in place os each punch in the form.
Students would eventually learn an advanced timing version of the form. Instead of technique then technique. They would begin to down block then step and punch, or where 3 punches were in a row, the 2nd and 3rd strike done on a one count. Beginning of the possibility that kata could be done different ways with different results.
This is not everything I saw or used.
I think by now you get the idea that I could use that very simple kata for many different learning experiences. All of them supporting drills. Not all of them at one time. Secondary support for the students primary training and other kata.
Then after dan, there were other advanced uses for Kata Sho. It became a test bed to use for so many different things. Everyone knew the kata so well, it could be used for studies in breathing, studies in what definition of a technique could be, studies in advanced multiple striking ( the 5 count) and so much more.
This would be different in work on application studies the form presented.
Of course this does not define everything I did. Just uses for one minor form.
There are no such things as a minor form. There are the infinite potential of all karate.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
I chose to modify Fyugata Sho as the beginning kata study for my students, An isshinryu version.. Just called Kata Sho. The reasons are too long to go for here, in time they will get into Seisan our first Isshinryu kata.
One average youth group performance.
But there are many things that can be done with Sho to build skills.
Opposing Youth version of Sho.
A more advanced youth practice, Kata Sho with 3 count multiple striking.
And for fairness an adult version the kids are working to pass through in time.
There is much more done in Youth and Adult versions, each different skills being built.
Monday, May 14, 2018
The Chinese designation of that point 1/2 between the testae and the anus is an extremely sensitive area;
A Shotokan/Tjimande instructor I was once assisting for a demo. struck me there from him being on the floor.
A simple middle finger strike.
I learned a new definition of pain as well as learning how to fly. smile emoticon
Back about 1998 when I joined the internet I had been a black belt since 1979 beginning in the art in 1974. I had not had much contact with others in Isshinryu, as there were not many schools in the areas I lived.
From that time I had observed there were often kata differences in others, but never paid much attention to that, just practiced the art as I learned it.
One of the first discussions I had on the original Isshinryu list, was about what others were doing with the Isshinryu Charts.
That was the first time I came to realize that there were many, many different variations for Chart I and Chart II.
I noted the differences from what I was taught, but was content to keep the way I learnt them. I observed that there must be many variances from what Isshinryu tradition was.
It recently occurred to me that the first technique was from Chinto. Not that I hadn’t realized that a long time ago, for I had. But that I had never seen anyone talk about that. Then again there are many things people rarely talk about, often core practices are among them.
I do not care about better or worse. I see it as the foundation on which each dojo has been built upon.
But it is interesting nevertheless.
Here are the Charts, Upper Body and Lower Body, which I have always followed.
Original Upper Body Combinations
- RFF Right Punch
- RFF Right Uppercut
- LFF Right Punch
- LFF Right Uppercut
- RFB Left Low Block, Right Punch
- RFB Left Side Block, Right Punch
- RFB Left Arm Block, Right Spear
- RFB Left High Block, Right Punch
- RFB Left Open Hand Block, Right Uppercut
- RFB Left Bridge Strike (Nose), Right Punch
- LFF Left Low Block 5 Punches
- LFF Left Side Block 5 Punches
- LFF Right Roundhouse Punch, Left (Same)
- LFF Left Open Low Block, Right Shuto
- Break Bear Hug
Original Lower Body Combinations
- Front Snap Kick
- Knee Strike (45degrees)
- Front Kick (Side)
- Cross Kick
- Side Snap Kick
- Heel Strike (Knee)
- Knee Strike
- Rear Kick
- Side Kick (45 degrees rear)
- Squat Kick
- Side Kick (on Floor)
- Front Thrust (from floor)
- Double Jump Kick
- Roundhouse Kick
- Side Kick (Rear 45 degrees), Rear Kick
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Let's start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with A-B-C
When you sing you begin with do-re-mi
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with A-B-C
When you sing you begin with do-re-mi
So goes the song from ‘The Sound of Music’.
It is surprising how that is good advice about everything.
Back on the night I began my Isshinryu studies in Salisbury Maryland in Mr. Lewis’ dojo. After group warm-up and stretching, the three of us who began than night were given into the care of three green belts. And the first thing they taught us were the versions of Chart I and Chart II, hanging on the wall.
I do not remember much more about that night, but I sure remember that, for a long time working out before class I worked on those chart techniques.
And the first one was
Right Foot Forward into Seisan Stance
then Right Lead Hand Punch.
Kensho Tokumura demonstrating the first movement from Chart I
The second night I was shown the beginning movements for kata Seisan.
We know the first kata Shimabuku Tatsuo learn was Seisan.
His choice to start kata did not veer from that tradition.
But I believe we should take a look at the drills he created for his art.
For sure the movements came from the kata of his system.
But that initial movement is most interesting.
Boxing has it’s jab, and that is logically the point to begin with why it was chosen first. When you need to strike, strike first with your closest tool.
I do remember that was what was explained to me.
What I didn’t realize the movement was in kata Chinto.
Which I would not learn for quite some time.
Here Tom Lewis demonstrates those strikes from Chinto kata.
It is interesting that those basic strikes on Chart I.
The only place they are found that was is in the kata Chinto.
Friday, May 11, 2018
Today marking what would have been the birthday of Sherman Harrill, I wish nothing but good memories for his students and friends.
I was not a student of Sherman Harrill.
In fact one evening Garry Gerossie walked onto my dojo and asked to attend the class for the night. Garry was from Concord an hour north of me, and we had met at a few local tournaments. So I knew him and of course knew nothing of him.
He watched some of what we were working on then remarked it was similar to what his instructor was teaching him. He then offered to show what he meant, and showed an application for Seisan kata, one I had not seen before. Of course we were intreagued.
Garry then explained to me he was training with Sherman Harrill from Carson, Iowa. That and he understood Sherman trained on Okinawa the same time my instructor, Tom Lewis, trained there. I knew nothing about Sherman.
Garry then invited me to attend a clinic he was having Sherman teach at, and I decided to go.
When I got there at Garry’s school, I met Sherman. He explained that on Okinawa he trained alongside Tom and that Tom had brought his silks back from Okinawa when his tour was finished. He also clearly explained he was not looking for new students. So I responded “that’s ok, for I am not looking for a new Sensei.”
After that opening, both of us were cool.
And I watched Sherman, go on and on and on, movement by movement, kata by kata a never ending exposition of what Isshinryu could do.
I had to travel for business the next day, as I was doing so I made noted of what I remembered. It was about 20 applications, strong applications. I would have fun showing them to the guy’s.
Now I was 25 years into my own study, many of those instructors I worked with were very impressive in their own right. But the depth that Sherman showed was very, very impressive too. For the life of me I could never decide which of them was the better martial artist (For there were 5 of them) each had different strengths.
My own art had more than enough to keep my busy for a lifetime. But that beginning with Sherman offered a different direction for my own studies.
It turned out Garry had filmed that clinic, and a year later gave me a copy. There were many times more that 20 applications shown by Sherman that day. But as Sherman later said, it often took people more than one meeting to understand what was going on.
So Garry and I hosted a joint clinic with Sherman, On that day he asked what I would like to see. I told him “Why not some Chinto, Kusanku and Sunsu?”
I remember him laughing then telling me “any one of them could be an entire clinic, but he would try.”
For the first several hours he showed applications for the opening movement from Chinto, after that he moved on and on and on.
Over the years I experienced at my location his use for Wansu, Chinto, Kusanku, Sunsu and Bo a bit. And attended other New England clinics covering much of the rest. But I realized no matter what I saw he had ever so much more. Much too advanced to share at clinics where he had not developed anyone to accept what his students shared. Of course that was logical. You can’t pour an ocean into a tea cup.
Through my students and my association with Sherman we developed a real admiration of what he was doing.
I did not spend personal time with Sherman on his clinic visits to our area. I did not want to intrude with his personal time with Garry. And the time Tom Lewis came to visit, expect at the dinner afterward, I let Tom had his time alone with his friend the rest of the weekend. That dinner was something hearing them reminisce about times on Okinawa, I heard many things I never heard before.
We also became aware of health issues Sherman was dealing with, One of my students was a surgeon, and he tried to assist Sherman over the years. There were times he was concerned with Sherman health when a clinic would begin, but as the day progressed and Sherman got further in kata application potential, he also got stronger and stronger. He could not turn if off at the clinic end and kept sharing ideas in the changing room. Unstoppable.
At my last meeting with Sherman, he had heard one of my students, John Dinger, was dying, John had been his favorite uke for demonstrations in his clinic at our school. He wanted me to drag John to an upcoming New England clinic for he wanted very much to see him again.
Unfortunately John passed away first, and then I heard the sad news of Sherman’s death too.
I was very shaken by this, and as a result began a 3 month effort to gather all my notes and videos from those clinics together. I began compiling what Sherman showed. It came to 800 applications for Isshinryu’s kata. Along with a study of the underlying principles involved. And I knew it was just a piece of what Sherman was about.
Everyone missed him and John. The loss made a profound change in my program, but we went on. That’s what you do in life, keep living.
And 5 years later I met John Kerker, Sherman’s senior student. Along the way meeting him I learned a great deal, a very great deal, about the part of his art Sherman never had the time to share.
I know Sherman’s art lives on in the outstand efforts of his students and friends.
What Sherman meant to me was how he shaped my own explorations into the meaning of Kata movement application potential, and kata movement application realization. That was a very large legacy to follow.