Do Okinawan Kata Have Military Origins

TimoS

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I must apologize. I just don't think it productive to take the time to respond to your increasingly non-sensical statements. I do enjoy the give and take of forum discussions, but there is no point discussing matters further with a poster who so often engages in irrational dialogue.
Ok, well, if my statements are "non-sensical" let's see you sell your stuff to noted karate historians here or here. I know e.g. Patrick McCarthy posts on e-budo
 

TimoS

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Ok, just receiving more information from my source regarding Itosu and kata Chinto. Here's a summary

  • As I said, Seibukan version of Chinto comes from Matsumora.
  • It is uncertain whether or not Matsumura taught Chinto.
  • Itosu's Chinto most likely came from Gusukuma of Tomari, along with Wansu and Rohai.
  • Itosu most likely didn't study with Matsumora, as I guess I previously said. They were apparently about the same age, so it is unlikely they were teacher and student.
  • Itosu's instructors were Gusukuma (according to Funakoshi and Katsuya Miyahira), Nagahama (according to Motobu) and Matsumura.
Oh and as for Rohai, http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=1 states also this:
If we look at the words of Gichin Funakoshi (the great karate pioneer who is often referred to as the "Father of Japanese Karate.") who is regarded as a top student of both Anko Azato and Anko Itosu, we find that Anko Itosu became a disciple of GUSUKUMA OF TOMARI! (also sometimes known as Shiroma). On page 18 of his text (reprinted as "Tote Jitsu" in 1925) Funakoshi states, "It is confirmed through written documents and collections that .....[SIZE=-2](2)[/SIZE] ASATO followed MATSUMURA and ITOSU followed GUSUKUMA, according to what has been told through generations." In his later text, "Karate-do Kyohan" (page 8, 1973 edition), Funakoshi says again that "It is stated that ...... [SIZE=-2](3)[/SIZE] masters AZATO and ITOSU were Students of MATSUMURA and GUSUKUMA respectively. Masters Azato and Itosu were the teachers who instructed this writer and to whom the writer is greatly indebted"
Thus through the combined weight of the statements made by two direct long term students of Anko Itosu (Motobu and Funakoshi), we can logically come to the conclusion that Anko Shishu (Anko Itosu) began his training under Matsumura, left to become a disciple of Nagahama of Naha (a seaport city near Shuri, the capital), and upon Nagahama's death became a disciple of GUSUKUMA of TOMARI.
This would explain the inclusion of the Tomari (a seaport village near the capital Shuri) [SIZE=-2](4)[/SIZE] kata Rohai and Wanshu within the Itosu curriculum. Sokon Matumura was not known to have taught or passed on these forms.
To explain the presence of these kata in the Itosu curriculum, other historians have theorized that Itosu, as student of Matumura, must have therefore trained briefly, side by side, with Kosako Matumora of Tomari sometime after 1873. But, the more logical explanation is to assume that Motobu and Funakoshi are correct in stating that Itosu had studied with Gusukuma. He was a Tomari instructor, and both katas are recorgnized as Tomari kata.
So yeah, I am real non-sensical in what I write here :boing2:
 

Makalakumu

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I'm glad that the internet exists and this level of communication is possible. I've learned so much about karate from reading the various articles and opinions and I've learned that many of the cherished beliefs passed on by my instructors were false. It took a great deal of humility to accept that I had learned something incorrect and it took a great deal of courage to pass this information on to my instructors. The book that I wrote and linked in my signature is my contribution to passing on what I have learned.
 

TimoS

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I'm glad that the internet exists and this level of communication is possible
The problem with the internet, in this context as in many others I'd guess, is that there's too much false information available. You have to be able to shift through all the rubbish to find the elusive nugget of gold :)
Just an example that is not related to the debate here: on our finnish martial arts forum we were discussing okinawan weapons and I was reading about surujin. Now, on finnish wikipedia it is said that it was used also as some sort of an oar, but I just can't see how that is possible, as it is a chain/rope with weights on each end. Is there a mistake on the finnish wikipedia page (I suspect there is, but can't be sure) or am I not seeing something? Earlier we were discussing the origins of nunchaku and since I'm no horseman, I had trouble understanding how those were apparently used (one explanation is that they were originally horse bridle (at least I think that was the word))
 

SahBumNimRush

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The problem with the internet, in this context as in many others I'd guess, is that there's too much false information available. You have to be able to shift through all the rubbish to find the elusive nugget of gold :)
Just an example that is not related to the debate here: on our finnish martial arts forum we were discussing okinawan weapons and I was reading about surujin. Now, on finnish wikipedia it is said that it was used also as some sort of an oar, but I just can't see how that is possible, as it is a chain/rope with weights on each end. Is there a mistake on the finnish wikipedia page (I suspect there is, but can't be sure) or am I not seeing something? Earlier we were discussing the origins of nunchaku and since I'm no horseman, I had trouble understanding how those were apparently used (one explanation is that they were originally horse bridle (at least I think that was the word))

This is a very true statement, and although there are far less checks and balances on the web, the same falacies may be found in literature as well. While these statements hold true to all subject matter, I find it particularly more rampant in the subject of martial arts. The "mysticism" propagated by various cultures, the lack of written historical literature, the adaption and change of knowledge past from generation to generation (although mostly unintentional, it is still passed on as the "truth"), and the loss of information from generation to generation (undoubtedly there are some students who did not learn everything their master had to teach, and those students became instructors and taught an "incomplete" system).

For my own personal search/research, I have started with Korean (tang soo do) history, I know little about Okinawan, Japanese, or Chinese MA history. There is an overwhelming amount of information, and it is extremely difficult to sort out the right from wrong. I would very much appreciate any reccomendations for a strong foundation of history in Okinawan, Japanese, Chinese, and even Korean MA's that anyone here at MT would have to offer.
 

Makalakumu

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This is a very true statement, and although there are far less checks and balances on the web, the same falacies may be found in literature as well. While these statements hold true to all subject matter, I find it particularly more rampant in the subject of martial arts. The "mysticism" propagated by various cultures, the lack of written historical literature, the adaption and change of knowledge past from generation to generation (although mostly unintentional, it is still passed on as the "truth"), and the loss of information from generation to generation (undoubtedly there are some students who did not learn everything their master had to teach, and those students became instructors and taught an "incomplete" system).

For my own personal search/research, I have started with Korean (tang soo do) history, I know little about Okinawan, Japanese, or Chinese MA history. There is an overwhelming amount of information, and it is extremely difficult to sort out the right from wrong. I would very much appreciate any reccomendations for a strong foundation of history in Okinawan, Japanese, Chinese, and even Korean MA's that anyone here at MT would have to offer.

Not to toot my own horn, but my book deals specifically with TSD history and the arts relationship to karate.
 

K-man

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Regarding kata bunkai, we can look at movements practiced by a whole range of Okinawan schools. Following is a clip of a discussion of some Naihanchi movements.

The actual application begins at 2:00. At 2:20 the sensei shows the application of the cross strike found in Naihanchi, which ends just past the torso in the kata. In the application, he fundamentally modifies the movement by extending it fully. The movement he teaches simply is not found in the kata. He has turned a movement that punches a short distance and freezes, to a full blown reverse punch that extends fully and snaps back to chamber. It has been my experience that this is the norm of kata bunkai, there is often quite a bit of modification needed to make the kata movements work in realistic fighting applications.
It is a shame when an interesting discussion gets to the stage where a person putting their point of view, even though it may be contentious, feels they have been attacked so strongly that they take their bat and ball and leave. So Mike, if you're still around, please don't give up.
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Regarding bunkai, naihanchi is a really interesting kata to study. I would maintain that the explanation shown in the video clip here is simplistic and not true to the kata. It is reminicent of the explanations we were given twenty odd years ago. I don't believe the kata moves do have to be extended or modified and I don't believe the fist retraction to carriage as shown is realistic, practical or the intended application of the kata. I have some of Dillman's videos and find his explanations far more plausible. Unfortunately I can't find the comparable movement on YouTube but there is a video that typifies the type of application of kata I try to emulate.
:asian:
 
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TimoS

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Unfortunately I can't find the comparable movement on YouTube but there is a video that typifies the type of application of kata I try to emulate.
:asian:
Ok, I'm a bit drunk (ok, ok, more than just a bit) at the moment, so please filter what I'm saying according to that :p (it's 3:30 AM here and I just came from a bar). I looked at that video for a while and to me it looked overly complicated. Naifanchi applications are, IMHO, mostly very simple. I'll try to remember to look at the video when I'm sober again, but in my current state I had trouble identifying the bits of kata where those applications supposedly come from. One of the reasons I've taken a liking to the, admittedly, relatively simple looking kata applications in Seibukan is that they mostly rely on "crude mechanics", i.e. block, kick, punch combinations that I can perform even if I've had a bit too much to drink :) The more complex and "fine mechanics" (e.g wrist locks or even, God forbid, pressure points) type of applications, the less likely I am able to perform them regardless of the condition I'm in.
 
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K-man

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I looked at that video for a while and to me it looked overly complicated. Naifanchi applications are, IMHO, mostly very simple.
One of the reasons I've taken a liking to the, admittedly, relatively simple looking kata applications in Seibukan is that they mostly rely on "crude mechanics", i.e. block, kick, punch combinations that I can perform even if I've had a bit too much to drink :) The more complex and "fine mechanics" (e.g wrist locks or even, God forbid, pressure points) type of applications, the less likely I am able to perform them regardless of the condition I'm in.
I agree totally. The video I posted was not as clear and simple as I would have liked but gives an indication of Dillman's explanations.
Sometimes, with beginners, it could be that you give a simple explanation, however if your student starts to think that your explanation is not practical, you start to lose credibility. I try to give explanations that you would use in a RB scenario.
I don't go along with a lot of the simple explanations for a number of reasons. Firstly, I don't believe there are any 'blocks' in kata. IMO blocks are instinctive and influenced by reflex reaction. If that is the case, why would the masters, passing on their secret fighting systems, worry about including blocks in their kata? Secondly, I believe that the 'blocks', in kata, are in fact strikes to specific parts of the opponent's body (vital points if you like) that will have a predictive effect. Thirdly, there are many locks and throws within kata that actually look like blocks or strikes. Whether you can utilise them in a real world situation depends on your own ability. And I don't like the idea of 'blocking' at all because it signals the end of one attack and that normally triggers the next. 'Uke' means to receive, not block, and IMO to receive is to deflect or redirect, not to stop.
I don't believe the masters were working to the lowest common denominator scenario or we would have systems, like boxing or even KM, that you could become relatively proficient very quickly. A lot of the military and LE training is simple of necessity. They don't have years to train SD when they have other options normally available.
The kata appear simple because they were designed to deceive. They are easy to learn because of that simplicity, but learning is quite different to understanding. If the real meaning was as obvious as the simple explanation there would be no variation in understanding because everyone would have been given the same explanation.
I look at kata as an enormous toolbox. It contains everything from sledgehammer to the finest scalpel, from micrometer to precision electronics. You can't take everything with you. What you choose to use is up to each individual. If somebody drops off a box of 10,000 electronic bits and pieces and a soldering iron, very few of us will ever produce an LCD TV or an Apple computer. It is the same for kata. :asian:
 

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I agree totally. The video I posted was not as clear and simple as I would have liked but gives an indication of Dillman's explanations.
Sometimes, with beginners, it could be that you give a simple explanation, however if your student starts to think that your explanation is not practical, you start to lose credibility. I try to give explanations that you would use in a RB scenario.
I don't go along with a lot of the simple explanations for a number of reasons. Firstly, I don't believe there are any 'blocks' in kata. IMO blocks are instinctive and influenced by reflex reaction. If that is the case, why would the masters, passing on their secret fighting systems, worry about including blocks in their kata? Secondly, I believe that the 'blocks', in kata, are in fact strikes to specific parts of the opponent's body (vital points if you like) that will have a predictive effect. Thirdly, there are many locks and throws within kata that actually look like blocks or strikes. Whether you can utilize them in a real world situation depends on your own ability. And I don't like the idea of 'blocking' at all because it signals the end of one attack and that normally triggers the next. 'Uke' means to receive, not block, and IMO to receive is to deflect or redirect, not to stop.
I don't believe the masters were working to the lowest common denominator scenario or we would have systems, like boxing or even KM, that you could become relatively proficient very quickly. A lot of the military and LE training is simple of necessity. They don't have years to train SD when they have other options normally available.
The kata appear simple because they were designed to deceive. They are easy to learn because of that simplicity, but learning is quite different to understanding. If the real meaning was as obvious as the simple explanation there would be no variation in understanding because everyone would have been given the same explanation.
I look at kata as an enormous toolbox. It contains everything from sledgehammer to the finest scalpel, from micrometer to precision electronics. You can't take everything with you. What you choose to use is up to each individual. If somebody drops off a box of 10,000 electronic bits and pieces and a soldering iron, very few of us will ever produce an LCD TV or an Apple computer. It is the same for kata. :asian:
Sweet, very nice post. I too feel that kata has something for everyone. I don't want to get off the OP but would like to comment on this if I may. The kata from day one begins to transform us into the art. With new students, I stay on page one, punch, kick, block. This is something the student can use right away. Some people never get past this aspect of training, but that is ok, they can still become very good, very fast. But as the student grows toward proficiency, the kata grows with them. In time the kata will expose a complete fighting art from first contact to finish, containing all that is needed to destroy an enemy. I hold this to be true, because fighting was a way of life in early times, and all manner of defense was deployed "within kata". Now getting back to the OP, I was taught empty hand, with weapons incorporated later on, as an extension of our techniques. As far as Military Origins, this may be, but the Okinawans took what they could from Chinese influence, added it to their Okinawan "TE" and formed a complete empty hand art with weapons as an added perk. Those Okinawan weapons were applicable then, but not so much now, because if you can't carry them in your car, in some cases against the law, "what good are they, other then a supplement to training. I have gotten a lot from this thread, and give thanks to Cayuga Karate, for presenting his ideas.:asian:
 

SahBumNimRush

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I agree totally. The video I posted was not as clear and simple as I would have liked but gives an indication of Dillman's explanations.
Sometimes, with beginners, it could be that you give a simple explanation, however if your student starts to think that your explanation is not practical, you start to lose credibility. I try to give explanations that you would use in a RB scenario.
I don't go along with a lot of the simple explanations for a number of reasons. Firstly, I don't believe there are any 'blocks' in kata. IMO blocks are instinctive and influenced by reflex reaction. If that is the case, why would the masters, passing on their secret fighting systems, worry about including blocks in their kata? Secondly, I believe that the 'blocks', in kata, are in fact strikes to specific parts of the opponent's body (vital points if you like) that will have a predictive effect. Thirdly, there are many locks and throws within kata that actually look like blocks or strikes. Whether you can utilise them in a real world situation depends on your own ability. And I don't like the idea of 'blocking' at all because it signals the end of one attack and that normally triggers the next. 'Uke' means to receive, not block, and IMO to receive is to deflect or redirect, not to stop.
I don't believe the masters were working to the lowest common denominator scenario or we would have systems, like boxing or even KM, that you could become relatively proficient very quickly. A lot of the military and LE training is simple of necessity. They don't have years to train SD when they have other options normally available.
The kata appear simple because they were designed to deceive. They are easy to learn because of that simplicity, but learning is quite different to understanding. If the real meaning was as obvious as the simple explanation there would be no variation in understanding because everyone would have been given the same explanation.
I look at kata as an enormous toolbox. It contains everything from sledgehammer to the finest scalpel, from micrometer to precision electronics. You can't take everything with you. What you choose to use is up to each individual. If somebody drops off a box of 10,000 electronic bits and pieces and a soldering iron, very few of us will ever produce an LCD TV or an Apple computer. It is the same for kata. :asian:


I agree that many of the "blocks" in forms are very useful as strikes, and I can appreciate that the creators of those forms originally intended them as strikes. That being said, "blocks" such as the blocks to the up in basic forms, such as Keecho Eeboo (Kihon #3, I believe) are what I consider "blocks." Although, this may be a simple case of semantics. Am I to understand that you consider these movements "uke" or misdirection? If so, we are completely on the same page.
 

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I agree that many of the "blocks" in forms are very useful as strikes, and I can appreciate that the creators of those forms originally intended them as strikes. That being said, "blocks" such as the blocks to the up in basic forms, such as Keecho Eeboo (Kihon #3, I believe) are what I consider "blocks." Although, this may be a simple case of semantics. Am I to understand that you consider these movements "uke" or misdirection? If so, we are completely on the same page.
I am not familiar with the forms of TKD so have no idea of 'Keecho Eeboo'. however, the basic training in Goju Ryu teaches 'blocks' to a very high level. In fact we have many high ranking instructors insisting that these 'blocks' are just that. I happen to disagree. I believe all parts of the kata are as applicable now, in SD, as they ever were. My question is, "would you use an upper 'block' or middle 'block' or in a bar brawl?" I doubt you would ever see it and I certainly would never contemplate using it. Next question, "if you are training a move that you would never use, why develop muscle memory? In fact, why train it at all?"
Am I to understand that you consider these movements "uke" or misdirection?
Not at all. All our Goju 'blocks' utilise both hands. The first hand redirects the attack, the second or 'blocking' hand is actually delivering a strike. 'Uke' is the umbrella description of your initial response to the attack. It may be that you 'jam' the attack but you don't 'block' it. :asian:
 

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Not to toot my own horn, but my book deals specifically with TSD history and the arts relationship to karate.


And a damn fine book it is too!
The 'history' put forward in the Korean TSD books is, to be polite, dubious at best.

I think it's Kee Cho Hyung Ee Boo rather than Keecho Eeboo that people may recognise.


http://www.iainabernethy.com/articles/Pinan1.asp

This is the first of a series ( all available on same site) on Bunkai that I'd recommend definitely for serious study and practice.
 

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http://www.iainabernethy.com/articles/Pinan1.asp

This is the first of a series ( all available on same site) on Bunkai that I'd recommend definitely for serious study and practice.
In light of the discussion regarding 'blocks', it is interesting to read:
In 'Karate-Do Kyohan' Gichin Funakoshi, who was a student of Itosu's, said that the name 'Pinan' was chosen for the series because once these katas have been mastered, the karateka can be confident in their ability to defend themselves in most situations. If this is true, it would mean that the Pinan series would need to include techniques for uses at all ranges of fighting. In addition to the familiar strikes, they would also need to include throws, takedowns, holds, chokes, locks etc. It is my understanding that the Pinan series does indeed include all these methods; however, it would be fair to say that these methods are not widely practised.
No mention of 'block' even though I would have thought a block would be basic.
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As mentioned earlier, the Pinan katas are often thought of as training methods for beginners or children and therefore they are often undervalued by more experienced karateka. One of the reasons for the Pinan series being viewed in this way is the fact that they were established in the early 1900s, which was around the same time that Itosu was introducing karate onto the curriculum of Okinawan schools. Some say that the Pinans are merely watered down versions of the advanced kata and were developed solely for children. If this were the case then why did Itosu also teach the Pinans to his adult students? Also, why did he choose a name which is said to be related to the combative function of the katas if they have no combative function?
It is far more likely that Itosu had developed the Pinans over a period of time prior to the introduction of karate onto the Okinawan school system and meant for them to be a synthesis of his favoured methods. When Itosu was introducing karate into the Okinawan schools, the Pinans would be the natural choice of kata because they are relatively short. The main difference between the adults' and children's training would simply be a matter of approach. The children would be taught the solo forms, without their applications, and would perform them as a form of group exercise; whereas, the adults would be taught the complete fighting system. As time has passed, it is the 'children's approach' that has became the most widely practised.
Which basically is saying what I have tried to say, even a basic kata can be a complete fighting system. It doesn't have to be changed, or 'modernised', just taught by a teacher who understands the applications. :asian:
 

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In light of the discussion regarding 'blocks', it is interesting to read: No mention of 'block' even though I would have thought a block would be basic.
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Which basically is saying what I have tried to say, even a basic kata can be a complete fighting system. It doesn't have to be changed, or 'modernised', just taught by a teacher who understands the applications. :asian:


Re-reading my previous post, I can see how it could have came across as arguementative, which was certainly not my intent. I had meant to pose more of a question about what those "blocks" to the up are as an application. The knife hands, and other "blocks", I understand applications to, but I have not found an application for the block to the up in a foward/front stance other than a deflection/misdirection of an attack to open the oppenent's body for a counter strike.

Since your art is closer to the source of these forms/katas/hyungs, I was hoping you may provide some insight to this particular movement.

Respectfully,
 

SahBumNimRush

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K-man,

After thinking more about the proper movement of the "block to the up," I believe "Age-Uke?" is what you may call it. I am starting to see applications as a fore-arm strike, as well as possible wrist grab defense (from the "wrap-up"). Is this how you apply it?

Oh, and btw, Tez3, thanks for the link to Iain's page, I've read/seen his stuff around on the web before, just never came across his site.
 

Tez3

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K-man,

After thinking more about the proper movement of the "block to the up," I believe "Age-Uke?" is what you may call it. I am starting to see applications as a fore-arm strike, as well as possible wrist grab defense (from the "wrap-up"). Is this how you apply it?

Oh, and btw, Tez3, thanks for the link to Iain's page, I've read/seen his stuff around on the web before, just never came across his site.


No worries! Don't forget to download the free e books from there! the forum is good too, it's quite a technical place for Bunkai and karate. You can get Iain's opinion on the use of the rising block lol!

Iain is awsome to train with, he takes the techniques in the kata and shows you the Bunkai....you end up going 'wow that is so simple why didn'tI see that, it's so obvious'! I'm hopefully going to another of his seminars next month. He's off to Australia in March and Canada in May then Germany in June.
 

K-man

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Re-reading my previous post, I can see how it could have came across as arguementative, which was certainly not my intent. I had meant to pose more of a question about what those "blocks" to the up are as an application. The knife hands, and other "blocks", I understand applications to, but I have not found an application for the block to the up in a foward/front stance other than a deflection/misdirection of an attack to open the oppenent's body for a counter strike.

Since your art is closer to the source of these forms/katas/hyungs, I was hoping you may provide some insight to this particular movement.

Respectfully,
Didn't even consider your post argumentative.
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In Goju we call the upper block 'jodan uke' but because it is a rising block 'age uke' makes sense especially as we have 'age tsuki' as an uppercut punch. To my mind, as it is taught and explained you would almost never have the opportunity to use jodan uke unless you were having a pillow fight. To protect against a downward strike with blunt instrument you would probably break your arm (I know, 45 deg angle is to deflect), and against a machette there would probably be four less fingers and a thumb fewer to help you count. Against a strike to the jaw, as in upper punch 'jodan tsuki', I can't believe anyone would use it in a real life situation. So we have a block that has been handed down that is pretty much useless!
Off the top of my head, apart from the Goju gekisei kata developed in the 1930s by Chojun Miyagi, the upper block is in none of the advanced Goju kata. Gekisei kata came from the Fukyu kata initially created by Miyagi and Sochin Nagamine (Shorin ryu), so I suspect that the upper block came to Goju via another style. So, why would Miyagi, one of the masters, include an upper block on his system of fighting if it was as useless as I alluded to earlier? The answer is, for me, very clear. The attack is basically an upper punch or thrust, or could be a downward strike. A weapon could be part of any of these attacks. I will describe the following actions from a right handed attack. As is seen in gekisei kata the first action is to move off the line tsabaki to the left, deflecting the attacker's arm away with the left hand or forearm. Depending on whether the attack was directed in, as in punch or thrust, or down as in stick or hammer fist, several targets are exposed. If you are into Kyusho, the Triple Warmer meridian runs along the back if the upper arm and a forearm strike to Tw12, in the middle of the tricep, produces a lot of pain. This point is not regarded as a priority target in any of my texts, apart from controlling take-downs, and this alone may explain the absence of the upper 'block' in the original Goju kata. (We also have chudan uke or shuto uke which would do the same job.) However, if the attack is directed horizontally, the deflection closes the attacker and exposes the back of the arm. A strike on this point will cause pain and the position you are likely to find yourself, after striking, is beside or slightly behind your attacker. This opens up all the other targets to the side of the head or neck.
The second scenario is the downward attack. This is much more straight forward. Same tsabaki to the left but this time the deflection with the left hand allows the attacker's arm to continue down. The forearm strike is then perfectly suited to take out the neck or jaw. In Kyusho, St9 or Si16 would be the obvious targets and you would probably collect both at the same time. If you found yourself behind your attacker then the target might be Tw16 or Gb20. If you aren't into kyusho then you are simply striking the neck or head.
As an interesting aside. I believe gekisei kata was taught to Japanese troops and if you think of hand to hand fighting that particular forearm strike would come up under an opponent's helmet. :asian:
 

SahBumNimRush

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K-Man, Thank you for your response. I am not traditionally trained in Kyushu, but I am board certified in acupuncture. I have only begun to skim the surface of use of these points in an offensive situation. Most if not all of the vital point/pressure point strikes we use correspond to acupuncture points on the body, although are instructor doesn't put much stock in "nerve" strikes (mostly because he is one of the exceptions to the rule, as they don't really work on him).

I don't believe any movements in the old hyungs/katas/forms are useless, but I agree, many of them appear that way. It is difficult to find practical applications to movements that have been given "watered down" descriptions, i.e. what is called a "block" now was initially intended as a strike, grapple, grip, lock, etc.

I appreciate your take on the block to the up.
 
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K-Man,

You wrote:

So Mike, if you're still around, please don't give up.
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I'll be around, for a long time. I mentioned in my original post here that I was at the beginning of a long journey, one that I am sharing with the world-wide karate community through my blog www.cayugakarate.com/blog/. It is there I will present my evidence, which will consist largely of my training.

I fully expect confrontation. There's an old saying in science. It advances one death at a time. When someone has invested a lifetime of looking at something a specific way, it is a daunting task to consider alternatives, much less accept them. Over the next few years, as I present my evidence, I believe I will convince many young karateka, those not yet steeped in the mystique of karate, to try my ideas. And I believe many will find my ideas compelling.

It will take years to roll out this information. Why so long? It's quite simple. I make no claim to be particularly good at the spear movements of any of the 40 kata I will review. And my preference is to gain ability in each, prior to explaining it fully, and moving on to the next.

In a post on my blog from mid-December (http://cayugakarate.com/blog/?p=660) I presented a collection of movements from 15 kata. This is a project I will continue to work on. It took me a week to put this sequence together, and it included 3 kata for which I had very little training in the empty hand versions. (But it did make great sense to include them in the group.) This post was a response to my posts on another forum that I present "proof". So I thought I would string together the movements from these 15 kata as a small piece of "proof".

I struggled with the sequences of one of the three kata. Not only was I unable to execute them adequately due to my inexperience with the movements, I was not satisfied with all the spear concepts I had come up with. So in my next post, (http://cayugakarate.com/blog/?p=665) I wrote that it was time to spend some time training in this Old Jewel of a kata.

Over the next 35 days, I continued training in that kata, recording 1000 repetitions of the movements. And yesterday I wrote on my blog that I was committed to recording (and posting) another 2000 repetitions of this kata in the next 4 weeks. I am reasonably confident that at the end of that period, I will have a pretty good idea about how to use the spear effectively with the movements of this kata. And likely, I will be satisfied with all the spear concepts I have come up with, specifically that they map to the kata movements with great fidelity, and they have useful fighting applications.

Until I have completed that kind of training in each, I am not really motivated to just throw out all 40 kata for dissection by the karate community. Rather, each will be honed until it's ready. It's quite possible come mid-February, I still may want additional time to improve my skills further before taking the time to teach the Old Jewel, on a movement-by-movement level. Time will tell. This is a journey, an exploration of these concepts. There is no real time-frame for any kata. I train, document it, with a goal of moving on to another within a few months.

But at the end of training in each kata, I will be prepared to provide instruction, and we should all expect that good instruction can only come at the end of some significant training. Then karateka and non-karateka alike will be able to measure the evidence, both faithfulness to the movements in the kata, and effectiveness.

I would like to address an issue that has come up in this forum and elsewhere. The question is asked in many ways, but essentially it is "Are there any Okinawans who believe that empty-hand kata were designed for spear fighting?" I find it unlikely. If there were, I certainly would like the historical reference. But the answer is of no consequence to me.

I have two pieces of evidence in support of my view, kata movements themselves and the historical record. The movements within the kata are the primary evidence. If they did not work for military purposes, then I would find no reason to look to the historical record to understand why they might.

However, I believe the movements themselves are convincing evidence, and my review of the ragged remnants of the historical record to date is compelling (I have much more reading and posting to complete for a more full view of the historical record). But here are some statements supported by the historical record.

Tribute trade was the centerpiece of the Okinawan economy, especially for the aristocracy. The Okinawans were among the most avid participants in tribute trade. Trade with Okinawa was also very important to the Chinese. Here's a key passage from Kerr's Okinawa, the History of an Island People.

p. 67 - The Tribute System must be understood if we are to comprehend the peculiar position into which the teh Ryukyu Islands now moved. Here lies the key to Okinawan's external relations after 1372.

p. 86. - The Chinese, meanwhile, had recognized in fact the importance of Okinawa trade to them as a source of coveted luxury goods, for despite official attitudes of disdain for foreign commerce and haughty pretense of indifference to mercantile affairs on the part of literati, Chinese officials did not forgo opportunities to enrich themselves and their kinfolk.

We know the Chinese made a substantial investment in tribute trade in general and in Okinawan in particular, setting up a large large community in Okinawa to support this trade. Tribute ships sailed as frequently as every other year, with as many as 150 passengers and crew, many passengers came from high up in the Okinawan aristocracy. We know that Okinawans successfully traded across Southeast Asia, acting as kind of a middleman between these communities and China.

The question I have to those who doubt the possibility that there were military origins for the Chinese kata is quite simple.

Why, when the Chinese valued Okinawan trade, when they set up a large trading establishment in Naha, would they not have bothered to teach the Okinawan seafarers the very best spear skills to protect this vital and valuable tribute trade from pirates? Why would Okinawan seamen and Okinawan aristocracy, those that sailed on these ships, not have wanted to learn the very best Chinese spear skills, those fighting routines honed over thousands of years of Chinese warfare.

The reigning assumption is simple. We have empty hand arts today, ergo, the purpose has always been that they have been for empty hand fighting. Despite the well-known history of secrecy, over hundreds of years, there is an assumption that we can see back into the minds of those that trained in these arts in the distant past.

In reality, there is no record, one way or the other. Current assumptions are that there must have been some sort of goodwill where the Chinese violated Satsuma decrees and taught empty hand fighting. The question that is never asked is why they would have done so.

Trade was a dangerous business in feudal times, something I will document more fully in the future. I see no reason to believe pirates had any motivation to spare the lives of any captured person aboard a tribute ship. Tribute was the property of the King, and the captain and crew were required to protect it, as well as protect the passengers (members of the Okinawan aristocracy) and ship. Nagamine notes that passengers skilled in fighting were commanded to fight as well.

I know that if I were a member of the Okinawan aristocracy, and I was part of the tribute mission to China, I would have trained ceaselessly in the best ways to kill pirates I could find. And if training were available in spear arts, that is where I would train the hardest.

There are other assumptions commonly made today. Because there were weapons bans, Okinawans would not have wanted to learn spear arts. Even if they did, they had no need to. They had their kobudo.

I do not see this argument as applying to the problems of the times. Regular sailing on a tribute ship meant there was increased risk of pirate attacks. The crew most certainly knew and trained in spear arts. Anyone arguing that the young male members of the aristocracy would not have wanted to find fame and glory in helping to successfully protect a tribute ship, rather than being thrown overboard, is, in my view, simply refusing to accept human nature. Their argument is essentially, all those Okinawans going back and forth to China wanted only to learn empty hand arts, even though those arts would have been essentially useless when attacked by armed, skilled and motivated pirates on the high seas. Or, the argument might be, Okinawans would have wanted to train in arts with short non-bladed weapons (nunchaku, tonfa, sai) short bladed weapons (kama), or long non-bladed weapons (bo) to defend against pirates armed with long bladed weapons.

To me the historical record is clear. Tribute trade was the lifeblood of the Okinawan economy beginning in the early 1400s. Both the Chinese and Okinawans had ample reason to want to protect this valuable trade from piracy. This protection virtually required every able bodied person on these voyages to be skilled at killing armed, motivated pirates as efficiently as possible. The Chinese military authorities that traveled to Okinawa certainly were well versed in Chinese military combat arts. It seems to me as patently obvious that the Chinese would have taught these arts to the Okinawans who would be either passengers or crew on tribute ships. As noted in the Kerr statements above, the Chinese valued Okinawan tribute, and therefore it was in the own self-interest to see that Tribute ships successfully complete voyages on the high seas.

Another overlooked point is the secrecy in which arts were taught in Okinawa, Perhaps the Satsuma weapons ban was a great motivator. But it would not be a prerequisite for secrecy in the training of defense of tribute trade. Military arts were required for defending these ships. And as military arts, they inherently required secrecy. If we can accept that military arts were taught, then we can better understand the intense secrecy in which they were taught. We can also better understand why they may have survived as today's empty hand kata. They were taught in secret, so whatever had been taught hundreds of years ago was never documented.

One last point worth mentioning. The requirement for these military arts evaporated in the early 1800s. By that time, firearms became increasingly important in the protection of tribute trade.

So what became of these old weapons arts. I would argue that a society like Okinawa, steeped in tradition, would not so easily abandon their old arts. I find it likely in a society like Okinawa, steeped in tradition and culture handed down generation to generation, they continued practice of the patterns taught father to son.

And most important, they, like the Chinese, found additional non-military applications based on the original military movements. It goes without saying that there were many spear movements that naturally transitioned to empty hand fighting. In propelling a spear, you move your hands from near your body to away from your body, and across your body, just as you do when striking and blocking. And the Okinawans were notably dogged in adapting further, their arts to their environment in Okinawa, one dominated by the Satsuma weapons ban.

There are those who will always argue that I am wrong, period. My proof is in the pudding. I will demonstrate 40 kata, over time for use with a spear. I am working on an old jewel now. You can visit my web site to see if the movements I am practicing appear to have some applicability to the melee environment of armed combat on a ship.

Anyone can come up with many of the elements generally required for success in the combat environment if fighting on a ship. Here's an incomplete list off the top of my head.

You have to be careful to be aware of your surroundings (e.g. opponents attacking from your blind side) at all times, so there has to be a lot of movement and turning in different directions. Effective body mechanics have to be used to propel a spear blade quickly. You have to make full use of your weapon, using its full length by holding it at the end. When doing so, you have to be able to use the end between your hands to block. The blade should never stop. There should be no pauses. There should be a continuous flow of movements of the blade. The movements need to be confined when necessary. You can't swing wantonly, you might wind up killing or maiming an ally. (There are many more.)

This is how one should train to fight with a long bladed weapon. Use good body mechanics to propel it at fast as you can, so that the blade has great kinetic energy. At high speeds, when it makes contact with its target, human flesh, the damage is overwhelming. There needs to be no discussion like we do in empty hand arts regarding the effectiveness of strikes. Consider a punch to the solar plexus. I would argue that there are many people larger than me, where if I target a punch to the solar plexus in a fight, it will likely be ineffective.

Towards the end of the form (see :20 at
) there are three striking movements one based on a lunge punch and two based on reverse punches. I use my my legs, arms and torso, to drive the blade deep into the target. In the video, my back hand is low, so the movement acts as both a block as well as a strike to the head/neck.

If I raised my back hand, I could use the tip of the spear to strike the abdomen of the opponent, below the rib cage. Once penetration of the abdomen is done, the technique combines a drop of the weight with a corkscrew turning of the hand, enabling one to drive the blade across and down through opponent's abdomen.

There are many people who can take my punch, and stand there unaffected. There is not a human alive that can long survive the massive damage done to internal organs, caused by a well executed karate strike, using a sharp blade at the end of a 5 foot pole. Hari Kiri is done with a small blade, and a single arm motion. It has but a tiny fraction of the kinetic energy that a spear thrust has using the movement of a standard lunge or reverse punch. You cannot drop your mass on the blade in Hari Kira the way you can in a spear strike. The spear strike can simply cut much, much further than can a hara kiri cut.

Of course one movement is not evidence that karate kata are supremely well adapted for use in spear fighting. So I have chosen to train in, and then teach, the movements from 40 entire karate kata. That body of information will to many, be compelling evidence.

I have many years to role out my evidence that the kata movements work for propelling a spear in useful fighting combinations. There will be many who argue that since their kata has such incredibly effective empty hand bunkai, that these kata could not possibly have been designed for military purposes. I challenge any person who wants make such an argument to support their statements. It's easy today to post video to youtube. Please, cover a kata in its entirety and put up the empty hand applications on youtube. Make it the kata of your choice. Then I will post in response, video of my applications. Or we can do the applications one by one starting at the beginning of the kata.

We can then provide readers of forums such as these with useful information to draw their own conclusions. I am confident that many readers, especially those not steeped in the mystique of karate, will come away with a new appreciation for the effectiveness of karate movements in real true combat, military combat.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
 
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