Saturday, July 22, 2017

Those Old Tattered Patches

 
My seniors wearing the same patches.

Sitting here in Buckeye just going through some of the memorabilia I saved during the move. I just found some old patches.

 

When I was a brown belt, I bought a black gi at the old Asian World location on N. Broad St. in Phila. Knowing if I made black belt I no longer had to wear a white gi. So of course it was black.

 

That gi no longer exists, but I have two patches I saved from it. At that time the main patch was called the Mizugami, and it still is sewn on the black cloth of the gi.  At that day there was no internet, on any discussion there might be another name for the patch, It was what it was. The other patch from my uniform sleeve was my Tom Lewis Isshinryu Karate Club school patch.

 

I wore that uniform when I established my progam for kids at the Scranton Boys Club. At many tournaments competing against Cindy Rothrock, Gary and George Michak, Tristan Sutrisno, Ersest Rothrock’s students, Ron Martin’s students, Vince Wards students, Pat Burns students, Carl Long, students of many others. So many exceptional kata and kobudo competitors in those days. I cannot name them all, but many National Champions between them.

 

All of them made me work harder and harder.

 

Just a hunk of cloth in the end, patches of an earlier time.

Lewis Sensei in his office in Salisbury


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Correct Alignment

Long ago checking out the alignment of Young Lee.
 
I had been doing Yang Tai Chi Chaun for 15 years, then one day at a summer camp my instructor asked to see my form, It was 3pm and we went out in a dark field, where I began the form.
 
Now I lived a great distance from my instructor, and I know I was worried what he would think. But I entered the Yang form.
 
He stopped me a short while later and informed me I had a great deal to learn about tai chi. Then he placed his hand lightly on my chest and barely pressed and I fell down. Time and again he did the same to me, and I kept falling. It certainly did not do much for my confidence.

Then he told me his instructor had done the same thing to him after 15 years and he too fell.
 
What was wrong was not that I forgot the movements,  rather that I was not properly aligning my body during those movements, placing myself off balance ready to be dropped.
 
What he showed me was a system to look at how I was aligned during my movements. The adjustments were simple, then when he touched me the same way I did not fall.
 
The other benefit was there was increased power in my movements when I was properly aligned.
 
And nothing special was involved, just a way to look at what I was originally shown.
 
I also realized had I been training regularly with my instructor he would have shown my errors sooner in a hands on fashion.
 
Still knowledge learned is knowledge gained.
 
The next week I was back teaching karate and tai chi. Putting one and one together, I realized that the answer was two.
 
If it worked for my tai chi why would it not work for my students karate. So I started observing my senior students more closely. And I saw a times their movements were improperly aligned as the did their kata.
 
So, I shouted stop, walked over and touched their chest, and they lost balance and started to fall causing them to step swiftly.
 
The another and another, enough to form a pattern.
 
A person’s unbalance is the same as a weight (yea Bubushi, and the Isshinryu Code of Karate).
 
At core nothing different from making sure things are being done correctly, But small things often go wrong and this shows a methodology to realize what is wrong and understand why a change must be made.
 
An added plus, with kobudo kata, the weapon made the imbalance if present easier to find, because of the line of the weapon handling.
 
So a touch at the right spot exposes the students (and our own) unbalance. A teaching tool.
 
There is another point to make, gaining such knowledge allows one to see when an opponent is also unbalanced and where to attack that unbalance most successfully. That is a real plus, knowledge that is most useful.
 
 
Being able to find when an opponent is open to attack.
 
At the time I learned this, in 1993, I was no longer interested in tournaments. Coming to realize that I was really judging what other instructors were teaching most of the time.
 
But the thing is this new knowledge now gave a new tool to objectively score even forms I did not know from systems I did not understand.
 
An example, a student competitor, does a custom made form showing there gymnastic abilities. If their alignment during movement is off, their technique is less effective. So a way to objectively explain the scores I give.
 
Another example a strike in a form which is done just for the movement continunity, and not for power, is likely hiding improper alignment behind the strike, It then is weaker, less effective, a lower score then is more reasonable.
 
It the early 1980s I literally had a whole load of the nations best kata and kobudo competitors on the floor to compete against. A large part of their success went to their great alignment ability in their forms.
 
Let me use one example, I always could tell when the students of Ron Martin were competing. They always had superior alignment in their forms.
 
So it was a tool, a way to see what you are facing, a method to direct your attack, too.
 
Alignment, the gift that keeps on giving.
 
 
 

Teaching my advanced class, as time passed I became flawed, I used the time for my own training. Then not paying close attention to what the other advanced students were doing, over time there were often imperfection which became ingrained in their movements.
 
They were correctly practicing and at the same time deviations were occurring.
 
What I found when I understood the power of Energy Point Alignment, it placed a powerful tool at my disposal. It was no longer enough to just tell someone they had to make a correction. They could experience the weakness they were causing, how they were unbalanced. And the lesser power they were creating.
 
It gave them a reason to correct themselves. And that is power.
 
This works regardless of the system, for all systems of movement have their own unique alignment points.
 
And as you learn how to use this tool to understand what you are actually doing, you then begin to learn how to read others alignment in turn. Understanding what weaknesses they have presented to attack.
 

Jim Keenan

 
One of my greatest regrets of my recent move is the distance I find myself from my friend, Jim Keenan.
 
Jim is an Original.
 
Originally he studied Isshinryu Karate in the Pittsburgh Penna. area.
He went on to become a translator of Japanese and Chinese.
Studied the Chinese arts of Tai Chi and Bagua, studied Krav Maga from the arts founder in Israel as well as many other accomplishments.
 
His many visits were always interesting. For one thing when we watched Chinese movies, the old ones with English and Chinese subtitles, he would translate the Chinese, pointing out the dialogue in Chinese, did not match the Chinese on the screen, or the English translation shown.
 
Here is an old Black Belt article about  Jim.
 




 


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don't Change Kata


A long, long time ago, when I was young in the ways of the world (as a brown belt in 1978) my instructor, Charles Murray, told me “the first 20 years your art is a reflection of your instructor, and after 20 years your art is a reflection of you.”  I have found there is much truth in that sentence.

 

 

The question is can one delete a kata from your instruction, keeping in mind the adage “Do not change the system or kata”.

 

 

For simplicity consider the modern aspect where many change what they are teaching and/or rebrand it for their convenience, ad infinitum.

 

 

In the past (no matter how you define it) it is obvious teaching curricula underwent many changes as the instructors kept working on a better methodology for them. Of course in those days it was not open instruction, rather private sharing.

 

 

I am sure that adage is older than public instruction, but as karate became systematized instruction, that probably became more evident adage repeated many time.

 

 

Yet systems continued to spring into existence, and often the kata taught grew in number, though there must have been instances where some were dropped.

 

I might offer a suggestion, the intent might have been for the student, kata should not be changed. On the other hand that did not mean for the senior instructor things could not change, No longer a student, with a lifetime of experiences, it is only natural that they would apply their insight to what they taught. And also reminding students not to change anything. Which did not apply to them. LOL>

 

 

Everyone of us have pondered these issues. In my case the Isshinryu I was taught consisted of 8 empty hand kata, and 6 kobudo kata, which I had in 1979.

 

 

On the other hand I was alone and worked to train anyplace I could, gravitating to those instructors who had more to teach.  Whenever I was attending a class where something was taught, I just did my best to remember it. Along the way I studied several hundred forms from many systems. As incredible as it sounds I know instructors whose studies made my feeble attempts pale, having studied in excess of 400 Chinese forms.

 

You realize along the way it is impossible to grasp everything. Even more humbling you finally realize you cannot share everything, Almost no one has that much time.

 

 

I did not change what was Isshinryu for my students, however there are some other studies to allow them to have a taste of other systems and also allow nobody to realize what their studies consist of.

 

 

So if your growth reaches the point that a different way presents itself to you, then perhaps the time is ripe to follow that way.

 

 

Of course also admonish your students “Do not change the kata.”

 

 

Then you are preserving the tradition.






Everyone of us have pondered these issues. In my case the Isshinryu I was taught consisted of 8 empty hand kata, and 6 kobudo kata, which I had in 1979.

 

 

On the other hand I was alone and worked to train anyplace I could, gravitating to those instructors who had more to teach.  Whenever I was attending a class where something was taught, I just did my best to remember it. Along the way I studied several hundred forms from many systems. As incredible as it sounds I know instructors whose studies made my feeble attempts pale, having studied in excess of 400 Chinese forms.

 

You realize along the way it is impossible to grasp everything. Even more humbling you finally realize you cannot share everything, Almost no one has that much time.

 

 

I did not change what was Isshinryu for my students, however there are some other studies to allow them to have a taste of other systems and also allow nobody to realize what their studies consist of.

 

 

So if your growth reaches the point that a different way presents itself to you, then perhaps the time is ripe to follow that way.

 

 

Of course also admonish your students “Do not change the kata.”

 

 

Then you are preserving the tradition.

 

 

 

I had never wanted to be an instructor, obtain rank, or even learn more kata. Those things all just happened because I could not stop doing karate. Rank was whatever my instructors wanted my rank to be. I had the Isshinryu system shoved down me by 1979, my instructor’s version) and that was enough for me.

 

But one thing that was made clear to me was that a black belt didn’t say I can’t. And as I found places and people to train with, whatever they were sharing I just did my best to learn and practice. So things started to pile up. Some of it was different versions of kata I knew, from different systems.

 

On a different mission I did seek our tai chi instruction, I had a long separate interest, and it was totally happenstance that I studied with Ernie Rothrock. As time passed I approached him about learning some kung fu forms to judge them more fairly. I believe he was amused at a karate guy caring about learning and he began a different trip covering about material from 6 of so systems, Not to become an expert, just knowledgeable.

 

Almost at the same time I started competing against Tristan Sutrisno, and we became friends. When offered an invitation to come and train, I went and learned a 1930 version of Shotoran, Aikido, Kobudo and Indonesian Tjimande which he practiced.

 

And at that time I was a true karate gypsy, Goju, Wado, Shorin, Bando were all systems I explored.

 

No doubt it was too much to retain. As time passed I had to put a lot of it aside, focusing more on my responsibility as an instructor.

 

So I learned a little, too little. But the challenge remained how to better use what I understood.

 

A frequent claim is that things were better when there were fewer kata studies. Which also ignores many, many instructors made choices to increase the studies ever before the contemporary era.

 

So lets think about going backwards.

 

Was not one kata enough. Or even more minimalist just one movement. One movement to learn how to enter any attack movement and conclude the attack.

 

Is that not the goal of all our studies? I believe so.

 

Learning many kata offers more possibilities of learning ways to conclude attacks. What depth you want those studies to take, why that is where human inspiration comes into play.

 
 
 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Buckeye, Arizona

The past few weeks I have been without much PC access to the internet. We moved from New Hampshire, USA to Buckeye, Arizona USA.
 
We spent 4 days of continuous driving to cover more than 2,800 miles for the move. The container with our belongings arrived that Friday and we have since set up our house.
 
The community in which I live is surrounded outside by Arizona dessert, with many cacti. I was surprised at how much green was outside in Arizona. The average temperature during the last two weeks has been 108f.
 
Here are a few photos I have taken during my daily walks.
I am now back with internet access, there were several cables that got lost in the move.
 





 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Using my time to work on a new idea.

Using my time to work on a new idea.
 
To start with I am using a variation of a multiple striking drill I developed.
 
These drills are not intended to be realistic fighting combinations, rather training tools to allow us to understand how one movement can turn into a double of a triple strike.  Each strike is done as  real strike with power, but another strike flows from the original. Originally I learned this which I believe may have been an Indonesian principle applied to Shotokan training.
 
Then after several decades of practice (and application use) I began to develop an Isshinryu version and others. But there are always other potentials,
 
I have been fooling with these for a while.  More possibilities and the training to realize their use. This is the basic series I developed.
 
 
Taking the open hand multiple striking drill I developed and thinking about variations on the drill.
 
            1. Right spear hand strike to the solar plexus.
            2. Right back hand strike to the point between the eyes.
            3. Right descending knife hand strike on the inside of a striking arm.
            4. Right ascending base of thumb strike into the right side of the opponents neck.
            5. Right knife hand strike circles over the attacker’s head and strikes the knife hand into left side of the opponents neck.
 
Or
1. Right spear hand strike to the solar plexus.
            2. Right back hand strike to the point between the eyes.
            3. Right descending knife hand strike on the inside of a striking arm.
            4. Right ascending base of thumb strike into the right side of the opponents neck.
            5. Right ridge hand strike circles in front of the attacker’s head and strikes the thumb side of the ridge hand into left side of the opponents neck.
 
Or
1. Right spear hand strike to the solar plexus.
            2. Right back hand strike to the point between the eyes.
            3. Right descending knife hand strike on the inside of a striking arm.
            4. Right ascending knife hand strike into the right side of the opponents neck.
            5. Right ridge hand strike circles in front of the attacker’s head and strikes the thumb side of the ridge hand into left side of the opponents neck.
 
Or
1. Right spear hand strike to the solar plexus.
            2. Right back hand strike to the point between the eyes.
            3. Right descending knife hand strike on the inside of a striking arm.
            4. Right ascending knife hand strike into the right side of the opponents neck.
5. Right knife hand strike circles over the attacker’s head and strikes the knife hand into left side of the opponents neck.
 
There are so many other variations. One strike might do what is necessary. This just offers the possibility that one strike can be two strikes, etc.
 
Multiple Striking, layered striking amd other possibilities.
 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

An ending, a beginning, everything changes.



 
In several days I will be moving to Buckeye, Arizona. New home, new life options. For a brief while the blog will be dormant, but like the Phoenix (pun intended) I shall arise again. Allow me to offer a transient thought.

 

There is much thought put into the arts being classified, Internal or Externa. Or whether they are Hard or Soft.

 

Having practiced Karate and Yang Tai Chi for many years, I would like to offer an observation.

 

I don’t see internal or external, just a totality most do not attempt to find.   Neither Hard or Soft, totality. The internal should drive the external without distinction to distract our action.

 

Whether the weather be fine,
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Moving, Disability and Right-Sizing my Kobudo Practice




The pod with our belongings moves out today. We will be following in a week. It will have to be a quick trip, 4 of 4 ½ days at most, covering several thousand miles over the trip.

 

That and accepting the disabilities I am dealing with makes decisions necessary.

 

1. Most of the Kobudo I have studied and practice is beyond my capabilities.
2. I will no longer be instructing others.

3, There are limits to the amount of things I can drag along with me.

4. The majority of my personal kobudo gear had been bequeathed to Mike Cassidy to use with the program as he sees fit.  Other students have been given other of my weapons. Hardest to put down were my bo’s and sai. Sai being where my studies began with Charles Murray.

5. I have retained a few things.

          a. My knife collection goes with me. This also includes my hand made Tecchu/Teko group. A single Tecchu/Teko will travel with me as well as several small pocket knives.

          b. My Tai Chi straight sword goes with me. Perhaps the most difficult practice, with the many turns involved, but still I try.
 

 

          c. The Mangi Sai Charles brought back from Okinawa is with me.

          d. The patterned rattan staff Cindy Robinson brought me from Seattle.

          e. A single wooden kama, created by a friend.
 

 

The Sai to hang on the wall, my strength precludes any sai practice. The other weapons to use as I am able.

 

My studies continue as will whatever practice I can do. An example is I can see how to modify the kama practice I created to a single kama and stick form.  Something new.  Various knife drills and several kata done with tecchu/teko.