When is bunkai not really bunkai - posted 02/02/17
Have a look at the photos on the right.
Here we see Kaisho Haiwan-uke, the name given to the opening move of Pinan/Heian Yondan.
The arrow shows roughly the direction that the left arm travels.
Also shown are two possible applications (bunkai) for this movement.
On the surface of it both may look plausible. Certainly the snapshot in time captured in each photo looks identical.
For now, lets ignore the right hand, which is using a rising block to intercept a round punch.
In technique 1 the left hand sweeps inwards to strike the face, in technique 2 it sweeps forward/out to strike the neck.
Are they both bunkai for kaisho haiwan-uke? Lets ask that question another way.
Will practising the kata movement help you to improve or maintain your ability to do the technique?
For technique 2 I’d say the answer is an unambiguous YES.
The movement is essentially the same in the kata and the technique.
The height of the hand or the bend in the elbow may vary depending on the height/distance/position of the attacker, but the movement is essentially the same.
The same muscles have been recruited in the same order.
For technique 1 I’ve got to say NO.
Sweeping the arm inwards is fundamentally different to the kata movement.
No amount of practice of the kata is going to make one jot of difference to my ability to do the technique.
So its not about whether the kata and the technique look similar, its about whether they feel similar, whether they recruit roughly the same muscles in roughly the same order.
Otherwise there would be no benefit in ingraining muscle memory through repeated practice of the kata.
A final note, this is not about whether the technique is any good, that’s a separate question.
Its just about whether the kata and the technique rely on the same muscle memory. Only then can the technique really be considered bunkai.
Awareness, or rather the lack of it - posted 31/01/17
So I was walking through the park, on my way to work, and once again had the opportunity to marvel at the general public's lack of awareness of their surroundings.
The path I was on was split between pedestrians on one side and a cycle lane on the other.
The young woman walking along in front of me had headphones on and was strolling along in the cycle lane.
Would you believe it, a man on a bicycle came up behind her! Who would have expected that?
I heard him call "Excuse me", then louder "Excuse Me!" and finally shout "EXCUSE ME!".
Then he slammed on his brakes. She heard the screech of his brakes immediately behind her and flinched, just as he swerved onto the grass narrowly missing her.
If you're so easily surprised by a cyclist on a cycle path, how surprised would you be by a mugger?
To be fair, the cyclist wasn't much better.
I'm not sure why he expected that she would hear him, in his place I think I'd have slowed down earlier and simply just moved over onto the grass. Job done.
Still, looking on the bright side, with these kind of willing victims wandering round everywhere, what muggers are going to bother with me?
The Spiritual Side of Karate? - posted 30/01/17
My heart sinks sometimes when I hear prospective new students tell me that they’re interested in the ‘spiritual side of Karate’.
Usually what its telling me is they’re attracted by the ritual associated with martial art practice.
They like the angry white pyjamas.
They like white headbands with rising sun symbols.
They like talking in pigeon Japanese.
They like pottering about in a kimono at home rather than a dressing gown.
They especially like performing kata on mountain tops and other dramatic locations.
Usually they’re not so keen on the hard work, the repetition, the sweat, the bruises and the pain.
What they completely miss is that whatever spiritual benefits Karate might bring, they come as a direct result of the hard work, the repetition, the sweat, the bruises and the pain. Not instead of them!
The picture shows Shoshin Nagamine – founder of Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu and not a man afraid of hard work – in seated meditation.
Funky Fist Forms in Karate - posted 26/01/17
Modern Karate almost exclusively uses only one fist formation - seiken, the standard fist in which all the fingers are curled tightly and the primary impact area is the knuckles of the index and middle fingers.
You only have to look in any historical Karate book to see several other variations but they're vanishingly rare in actual practice in most modern dojo.
There are a few kata where you see these different fists but you're unlikely to see them in actual practice.
I think the reason for this is that the wealth and depth of understanding that existed on different ways and places to traumatise the human body was deliberately brushed aside and replaced with 3 target areas: high, middle and low (jodan, chudan, gedan).
And if you're not concerned with where you're striking you don't really need the different fist formations in order to access and apply pressure to the different targets.
And so we see the demise of all those funky fist formations.
I think that karateka should be as familiar with each of them as they are with the standard seiken.
You should be able flip from one to another, or from open hand to any fist formation without having to think about it. This, of course, takes practice.
The photo shows how to form the 4 basic variants:
- Normal fist, Sei-ken - nice and easy, everyone knows that one.
- Single knuckle, Ippon-ken - the primary striking surface is the fore-knuckle of the forefinger, there are actually several variations on this theme in which the thumb is used to brace the forefinger in different ways.
- Single knuckle, Chuko-Ippon-ken or Nakadaka-ken - the primary striking surface is the fore-knuckle of the middle finger. Note the way that the end of the forefinger is straightened. If you've not seen this before, ask yourself why that would be?
- All foreknuckles, Hira-ken - the primary striking is any/all of the fore-knuckle except the little finger.
Another look at Mawashi-uke - posted 24/01/17
I’ve looked previously at forearm rotation and how to combine with arm flexion/extension to generate power.
I’ve also looked at how these two together can combine with arm rotation (sweeping the arm across the front of your body, as in mawashi-uke or shuto-uke).
But there’s another dimension, or rather plane of movement, that can come into play. That is the vertical plane.
When performing mawashi-uke you get an increased effect if you raise and lower your hand slightly while sweeping it across your body.
See the (approximate) line of travel shown in the picture. This works for two reasons.
First, moving your arm in this manner while in contact with the attacker’s arm makes it easier to redirect their incoming force.
Their arm is essentially free to move in a (vertical) circle with their shoulder as the centre of that circle.
It doesn’t take much encouragement to get their arm to move in that manner.
As you do so, the direction of force that you’re applying is continually changing.
That continual change is very hard to resist (it would require the direction of their resistance to continually change in harmony with your force).
Second, you will have more muscular synergy (ie. more power) by combining the vertical movement appropriately with the other parts of the movement.
Think about pushing up with your hands either palm-down or palm-up. Which will be stronger?
If pressing down which will be stronger, palm-up or palm-down? If you’re not sure, a little experimentation with dumbbells will answer the question.
So for maximum effect combine forearm supination, elbow flexion, shoulder inward rotation and shoulder flexion.
The combine forearm pronation, elbow extension, shoulder outward rotation and shoulder extension.
If that’s a bit of an anatomical mouthful, just do the mawashi-uke properly!
Really No Blocks in Kata? - posted 23/01/17
You may have heard the claim before – there are no blocks in kata.
I think this saying was first popularised (invented?) by George Dillman in the early 1990s.
Not wishing to put myself in the same camp as George Dillman (heaven forbid!), I’m going to go a step further.
There are no punches, strikes or kicks either.
There are, in my opinion, no techniques at all.
There are simply movements.
And these movements express principles, mostly mechanical principles but also some tactical principles.
For example, when I see a lunge punch (oi-zuki / jun-zuki) in kata I don’t see a punch, I see simultaneous pushing and pulling.
You could apply that movement as a punch but it could be applied in other ways too.
So the main thing we’re getting when we practice kata is practice of the mechanical principles of Karate. Simple:)
The photo shows kata practice at the old Shinseido hombu dojo in Sevenoaks in about 1998.
The old dojo was the source of many a splinter in the soles of the feet.
Spot the Kata - Naihanchi Nidan - posted 19/01/17
Spot the kata…
Sometimes the students get their revenge. Here we have the ‘separating the elbows’ movement as at the start of Naihanchi Nidan.
I think of this as Naihanchi Nidan because the feeling of the left arm is about pulling up to the side, not just pulling the fist back to the hip as in a standard hikite.
From the position in the photo it would have been easy to segue into gedan shuto (low knifehand) in shikodachi (straddle stance) as seen in a number of kata – the arm and leg performing a scissoring action which would have easily dumped me on the ground.
Forearm Rotation - posted 16/01/17
Last Monday I discussed forearm rotation in different karate techniques, describing how supination lends strength to techniques that involve bending the arm, whereas pronation lends strength when straightening the arm.
There is another (related) way where forearm rotation can be used to increase the force applied, that is when you externally rotate your arm, ie. move your arm outwards across the front of your body, as seen in numerous Karate techniques, especially uke waza ('blocking' techniques).
Consider the attached picture.
Imagine your raised right hand has already crossed your centre-line over towards the opposite shoulder and that now you're trying to push something back across the other way - an incoming punch for example.
If you push across with your forearm supinated (palm-up) you'll find that this is much stronger than with the forearm pronated (palm-down).
Once you cross your centre-line however, and the further you move away from it, the more the opposite becomes true.
There is a synergy going on here between the muscles that rotate the forearm, those that control the elbow and those that control the shoulder.
But you don't need to get too involved in understanding the complexities of the muscular interactions.
Nor do you need to take my word for it. You can prove it to yourself very easily.
Get a partner to stand with one arm outstretched pointing at your left shoulder.
Raise your right forearm to the outside of their arm and push it across to your right.
Try it with your hand palm-up and palm-down. Feel which is strongest. Now do the same with their hand pointing towards your other shoulder.
It won't take long to work out which orientation is strongest in which position.
To make best use of this phenomena, techniques that sweep the arm across the body in this manner should start out with the forearm supinated and end up pronated, ie. the forearm pronates as it goes across.
And this is exactly what many techniques do.
Promotions - posted 14/01/17
Recently I awarded a couple of grades to students without going through the formal grading process.
This isn't a copout.
Both club members have actually been plagued by injury recently.
Yet both kept training, despite the injury.
It would have been easy for them to take time out to rest and heal.
But both persisted in turning up to train and doing what they can.
Sometimes I've modified the content of their training so as to focus on areas that weren't going to aggravate their injuries. I
ts important, when injured, to keep training if you can - but in a way that doesn't aggravate matters and gives your body a chance to heal properly.
Karate is a personal journey, one that's ultimately more about spirit than technical skill.
So its not that I'm unconcerned about these two students' technical development.
I'm actually quite satisfied with how they've progressed of late.
But I'm most impressed with their determination to persist in the face of adversity.
And on that basis I'm more than happy to promote both to their next kyu grade.
Well done guys, you know who you are!
Fallen Tree! - posted 13/01/17
Sometimes its not just the bad guys who are out to get you.
Sometimes nature's at it too.
I was walking to work yesterday and came across this tree fallen across the path in the park, blown down in the high winds during the night.
I estimate the tree had been about 30 feet tall.
It was still very windy.
I thought I was being a bit risque walking along the path at the edge of the park, but I kept both eyes and especially ears focused on the task of detecting any falling branches.
There were plenty already littering the ground.
What amazed me was the number of joggers running round the park wearing headphones.
And the number of students on their way to exams, also wearing headphones.
It was business as usual as far as they were concerned.
Awareness is one cornerstone of self-defence.
I often berate our club members if they admit to wearing headphones in public.
Depriving yourself of one of your primary senses seems like folly to me.
But walking through the park in a high wind wearing headphones, while there are branches and even trees falling from the sky?
My mind boggles at the lack of common-sense some people display.
Like lambs to the slaughter!
More Knee Strikes - posted 12/01/17
Here are some more pics of knee strikes to various targets.
I haven’t included a knee to the inner thigh, simply because I don’t have a photo to hand.
But these are just as useful as striking the outer thigh.
Either way, inside or out, a knee to the thigh works wonders for unbalancing and controlling the attacker.
Forearm Rotation in Karate - posted 09/01/17
Everywhere you look in Karate (in kata at least) you’ll find forearm rotation. There are not many techniques that don’t employ it. Why is this?
The main reason is simple, forearm rotation enables you to apply more force to the task of straightening or bending the arm. It makes your techniques stronger, as long as you do it in the right way at the right time. There are two basic ways of rotating your forearm: supination (as if tightening a screw with your right hand) and pronation (loosening a screw with your right hand).
Exactly how this works is quite involved, the human body being the complicated mechanism that is, but the general idea can be grasped by looking at the biceps muscle. The main job of the biceps is to flex (bend) the arm at the elbow but it also plays a role in supination. If you bend your elbow and supinate your forearm at the same time you will recruit more fibres in the biceps than with either movement alone. Each movement becomes stronger as a result. They are mutually conducive.
Extension (straightening) of the elbow and pronation are similarly mutually conducive. The exact mechanism is less clear cut, but is essentially the opposite of flexion/supination.
The other options, combining flexion with pronation or extension with supination are inevitably weaker. We should expect to see the majority of karate techniques combine the stronger options rather than the weaker options. And that is exactly what we do see, eg. pulling back (hikite) combines flexion and supination, whereas thrusting (tsuki) combines extension and pronation.
Now the challenge is, can you find a karate technique that breaks that rule?
What’s the most important kick in Karate? - posted 07/01/17
Well that depends on why you’re doing Karate. If its for self-defence the answer could be very different than if its for sport or character development. In any case, I suppose the answer is the one that gives the greatest chance of success, with the smallest penalty when it doesn’t succeed.
Personally, I only consider this from the viewpoint of self-defence, in which case the answer is easy. Is it a jump spin frapuccino, or perhaps a flying mocca-latte (I lose track of the fancy names for different kicks)? No, it’s the humble knee strike.
In the close grappling/striking range that so frequently occurs in real violence there are many opportunities for knee strikes – and few opportunities for most other kicks. Karateka often think of the knee only for attacking the groin, or perhaps the head if you’ve happened to pull it down. But it’s highly effective when used to attack the thigh, inside or out. That may not be a fight finisher in itself but it is great for breaking the attacker’s balance, which is absolutely key to successful self-defence. Once their balance is broken, multiple opportunities for follow-up present themselves, while at the same time the attacker is focussed simply on regaining their balance.
The knee strike wins hands down for simplicity, versatility, reliability and speed – easily creating opportunities to finish an encounter.
What is Mawashi-Uke for? - posted 05/01/17
The primary purpose of mawashi-uke is to intercept an attack with one arm then take control of it with the other hand. For example, against a right punch you might initially intercept the punch with your left forearm. Your right forearm then passes up under your left in order to make contact with the attacker’s arm. You right hand is then able to grab the attacker’s wrist. The overall effect is to enable you to block and catch a punch in one movement.
A secondary purpose is to enable to switch from one side of the attack to the other, ie. to go from the inside to the outside, making it much more difficult for the attacker to follow up with another punch.
Some people get confused about mawashi-uke (especially if they practice Goju Ryu kata such as Sanchin or Saifa) thinking that it incorporates a double palm-heel strike. There’s a simple explanation for this misunderstanding - the palm-heel is actually the next move of the kata. The two movements can be used in conjunction (if you miss the grab for example) but they don’t have to be.
Mawashi-uke is hugely important in Karate. The switching movement is actually at the heart of most of the major ‘blocks’. It can be seen in the midway or chamber position of many kata movements, including the ubiquitous age-uke (rising block) and soto-uke (outward block). Its even in gedan-barai (downward sweep) where its done upside down in order to deal with low attacks. Once you understand the principle you start to see it almost everywhere in Karate.
Nice Hikite - posted 02/01/17
In our dojo you’ll often hear me say ‘Nice Hikite’! Hikite means ‘pulling hand’ and usually refers to the act of pulling one fist to your hip while the other hand is doing something. You might think it’s a compliment but our club members know different.
Usually when I say ‘nice hikite’ it’s a gentle form of sarcasm. Apparently beating students with a shinai (bamboo kendo sword) is frowned upon nowadays so grumpy old instructors have to resort to gentler measures.
Joking aside, many Karate students – no, many instructors too – just can’t stop themselves from doing hikite all over the place, whether its relevant or not. But we have a rule – you only pull your hand to your hip if its doing something to the opponent. Anything else is tactically wrong (other than in kata, where you’re practising the movement). As Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate, said “…the meaning of hikite…is to grab the opponent’s attacking hand and pull it in while twisting…”. That’s pretty unambiguous.
By pulling and twisting you can control and unbalance the opponent while at the same time hitting them (with the other hand). This will also increase power but not in some ill-defined biomechanical way, as most karateka think. It increases power simply because you’re both pulling and pushing (hitting) the opponent at the same time.
So if your hand’s not doing something useful it should be held in a guard, never at the hip. And the cardinal sin? Pulling your punching hand back BEFORE you punch. There’s never any excuse for doing that, unless of course your aim is to give the opponent the best chance of blocking your punch.
New Instagram Feed - posted 30/12/16
Following on from the success of the Facebook page, we've now launched a new Instragram feed.
You can follow it here.
Barmy Bunkai - posted 13/12/16
I was thinking of doing a regular (monthly?) feature on barmy bunkai, courtesy of youtube.
The idea being to examine how silly and unworkable some kata applications are.
That may seem a little cruel, after all people have put in time and effort to produce youtube videos.
And certainly I wouldn’t wish to criticise kyu grade students for putting their thoughts out there.
But I don’t think instructors should be given the same leeway.
If you teach sport Karate and don’t label it as self-defence then I have no problem with that at all.
But if you teach bunkai and do claim that its self-defence, then I think you have an obligation to do the best you can to ensure its as effective and practical as possible.
Of course people have different ideas about what’s practical.
But a good self-defence instructor should strive to provide the best self-defence they can, which is going to involve some amount of research.
To just roll out the tired applications taught in Karate-do as far back as the 1950’s simply doesn’t cut it.
Neither does abdicating common-sense by using unrealistic attacks, unrealistic distances or bizarre gymnastic defences.
The problem with spotting barmy bunkai is its just too easy.
It’s not like shooting fish in a barrel, its like shooting fish in a barrel with a blunderbuss!
You just can’t miss.
Finding decent bunkai on the web, now that’s the real challenge…
The Proper Way To Tie Your Belt - posted 06/12/16
I looked round the room and saw some interesting variations of knots on people's belts.
This despite the fact that some of them have extensive training in other oriental kicky-punchy arts.
"Allow me to show you the proper way to tie your belt" said I.
'This is the proper Taekwondo / Shotokan / GKR way' they chorused back.
So we compared methods and found some definite differences in the final knot and/or the setup (for want of a better word) for the final knot.
Each was quite adamant they hadn't forgotten or become confused.
Their's was THE ONE TRUE WAY of tying the belt, as taught in their former tradition.
Mmmm? Maybe, just maybe, it doesn't really matter?
Maybe its OK as long as the belt goes round your waist, doesn't fall off and doesn't involve a bulky knot that will dig in to your abdomen if you lay on your front?
Maybe pseudo-oriental ritual isn't actually relevant to self-defence?
New Facebook Page - posted 27/11/16
Finally I have blasted off into the 21st century and set up a facebook page for the club:
I shall continue to make important announcements here on the website as well as on facebook.
Dojo Visit - Mark Bonner's club in Halifax - posted 07/11/16
A couple of weeks ago I visited the dojo of Mark Bonner in Halifax.
I'd come across Mark's bunkai videos on youtube and, after an exchange of emails, warmed to his approach to Karate.
So, along with club members Martin and Graham, I visited Mark's dojo for one of their training sessions.
Mark and his students gave us a very warm welcome. I thought the training session was well paced and well organised.
It started with a warm-up based on tegumi (switching) and clinch drills, followed by pad drills
- these started basic, ie. just hitting the pad in isolation,
then moved onto to incorporate switching as already practiced in the warm-up.
Next came bunkai, for the kata Aragaki Seisan, one of Mark's favourites I think.
And finally, we had fun just reacting spontaneously to two-handed shoves/grabs.
It was a pleasure to meet and train with Mark and his students - definitely worth the drive from Leeds to Halifax in rush hour!
Gradings - posted 21/10/16
Ours being a small club in a small association we don't have gradings with dozens of students being examined at one sitting
(a club member told me about a previous grading involving literally hundreds of students).
So this is a first for me - this week I tested a record 4 students for their first grade. I've never graded this many people in one week before!
All passed, so congratulations to Alice, Gavin, Graham and Mike.
Terminology - posted 08/10/16
Okinawan Karate doesn’t traditionally use a great deal of terminology.
Its usually more a case of ‘stand like this’ or ‘move your arm like this’.
This is in contrast to Japanese Karate which is a lot more fastidious in its use of terminology.
I’m not a big fan of terminology myself, particularly when it comes to naming techniques.
If you call movements strikes or a blocks then that’s how you will think of them and not - as Karate movements should be - multi-purpose tools which can be used in various ways.
That said, its useful when reading literature on Karate to be familiar with commonly used terms, so with that in mind I’ve listed here some of the more common ones.
Most of these terms are Japanese but a few (in italics) are in the old Okinawan language (uchinaguchi).
Dachi - Stances
Uchi Waza – Striking Techniques
- Zenkutsudachi – forward stance
- Shikodachi – straddle stance
- Neko-ashidachi – cat (foot) stance
- Kibadachi – horse stance, not used in Shinseido
- Kokutsudachi – not used in Shinseido
Keri Waza – Kicking Techniques
- Zuki – thrust (usually denoting a punch)
- Oizuki / Junzuki – stepping punch with lead hand
- Chokuzuki – lead hand punch on the spot
- Gyakuzuki – reverse punch
- Tettsui / Tetsui - hammer fist
- Shuto – knife hand
- Uraken – back fist
- Haito – ridge hand
- Teisho – palm heel
- Empi / Enpi - elbow
Uke Waza – Blocking (Bridging) Techniques
- Maegeri – front kick
- Hizageri – knee kick
- Yokogeri / Sokuto – side kick
- Yokogeri kekomi – side stamp/thrust kick
- Yokogeri keagi – side rising kick – not used in Shinseido but not entirely dissimilar to our side snap kick
- Mawashigeri – round (house) kick
- Ushirogeri – back kick
- Mikazukigeri – crescent kick
Uke doesn’t really mean ‘block’, a better translation is ‘receive’.
In Shinseido we use the term ‘bridging’ as it is less specific and merely indicates that we’re intercepting and doing ‘something’ with the attacker’s incoming technique.
- Age-uke / Jodan-uke – rising bridge
- Gedan-barai – downward sweep
- Uchi-uke – inward bridge
- Soto-uke – outward bridge
Note: in some styles uchi-uke is used to describe outward bridge and soto-uke inward bridge, ie. the opposite way round.
- Mawashi-uke – underarm or switching bridge
- Karate – empty hand (or according to the original characters: Chinese hand)
- Tode - the old way of saying Karate (‘To’ referring to China as above)
- Dojo – training hall (literally: place of the way)
- Gi – training uniform
- Obi – belt
- Rei – bow
- Yame – stop and return to the basic ready position
- Yoi – Move to the ready position and be ready to being (whatever exercise you’re doing)
- Hajime - begin
- Kata – form (a sequence of movements practised solo then the applications practised with a partner)
- Bunkai – Application (with a partner) of the movements in kata
- Kihon – fundamentals / basics
- Kumite – literally ‘meeting hands’, ie. Some form of partner exercise
- Tegumi - the same characters as kumite but the other way round. Refers to Okinawan wrestling, but also used now as a drill to practice the switching principle.
- Hikite - pulling hand, usually signified in kata by pulling one fist back to the hip, the typical application being to grab some part of the opponent and pulling it to your own hip
- Muchimi – sticking
- Kuzushi – balance breaking
- Ukemi – breakfall
- Kansetsu – joint-lock
- Nage – throw
- Shime – choke
- Kyusho – vital (or vulnerable) points
- Atemi – striking (specifically to kyusho)
- Tuite – literally: grabbing hand – Karate’s integrated method of grappling, incorporating joint-locking, tearing flesh and seizing kyusho
- Do – literally: way – ie. Karate-do, the way of (self-improvement through studying) Karate
- Jutsu/Jitsu: technique or method, ie. Karate-jutsu, Karate (as a) method (of self-defence)
Weight Training for Martial Artists - posted 27/09/16
Every now and then I'm asked by an enthusiastic student for recommendations on weight training, to complement their martial studies.
I don't pretend to be an expert on weight training, but I have done enough of it to have learnt a thing or two.
Over the years many different approaches have been developed, but which is the right one for you?
Well for different sports different approaches are appropriate, eg. the 100 metre sprinter obviously has very different weight training requirements to the long distance runner - a glance at their respective physiques should tell you that.
Where does Karate (as a self-defence skill rather than a sport) fit in? Well for self-defence you want to be able to generate power explosively.
Given that real-life encounters are usually decided (if not completely finished) within relatively few seconds, endurance is not as important.
Endurance still has its place, so shouldn't be completely ignored.
So regimes that focus on explosive power (heavy weights, few reps, rapid movements, plyometrics, perdiodisation etc.) would certainly help to move you in the right direction.
But such approaches have an increased risk of injury associated with them, particularly for those of us who are inexperienced, older or simply dealing with already existing injuries.
So if you're a bit long in the tooth, nursing old injuries or simply new to weight training, then I'd recommend a regime of ‘anatomical adaptation’.
In other words, bog standard weight training.
It should be noted that weight training isn't just about building muscles, its also about building more robust tendons, ligaments and bones.
Tendons and ligaments take somewhat longer to adapt to a new exercise regime, so its quite sensible to continue with a bog standard for as much as a couple of years before even thinking about branching out into other approaches.
So, how do we go about anatomical adaptation? First off, there's a choice to be made about the specific equipment to use.
Personally I prefer using weights machines in the gym to free weights.
Arguably free weights will provide better overall conditioning, especially with regard to core stability.
But I find machines easier on my existing injuries, especially for wrists and forearms.
This isn't the place to look at exactly what exercises to do, but you should strive for balance (working both agonists and antagonists alike - ie. if you work biceps you should work triceps too), and ensure you involve arms, legs and core - not necessarily in the same session but they should all be worked on a regular basis.
In terms of speed the pace of each movement should be steady, not explosive.
I'd recommend moving the weight briskly but steadily, but (for heavier weights at least) take roughly twice the time return the weight.
This put emphasis on the eccentric contraction phase (you're tensing the muscle as it lengthens) which some believe yields better results in muscle development.
I’m sure it helps with neurological control of the muscle, which is just as important as the raw development of the muscle itself.
I find that what works best for me is, for each exercise, to do 5 sets of 10 repetitions.
Start with a light weight that's quite easy to move then move up a weight for each set.
Sets 4 & 5 should be getting quite difficult (but not so much that your muscles are shaking vigorously).
A final couple of points of advice.
Many people go to the gym and spend time talking to their mates or just resting between sets.
Usually I can do sets 1 to 3 with virtually no rest time, but I need to rest prior to each of sets 4 and 5.
However, don't just sit there resting, wasting time. While you're resting your arms you could be working your legs.
So be industrious, move from one machine to the next, using the time you're working one muscle group as rest for another.
See if you can cut the time that you spend just resting down to nothing. That way you can minimise the time taken and maximise the results.
And don't go to the gym with your mates! Or if you do, don't spend time gossiping, just focus on the task in hand.
You can go to the pub if you want to gossip.
Any Questions? - posted 16/08/16
A new student asked me about asking questions during training, including questions around the comparison between what we do and what they have learnt previously in other arts. My response...
I wholeheartedly encourage you to ask questions, not just to me but also to yourself. Obviously there are times in training when a question isn't appropriate because it interrupts the flow of whatever we're doing, or when a comprehensive answer isn't possible in the time available. But that's a matter of timing, not whether its valid to ask the question or not. I can't think of any good reason why any questions about training should be off limits. I know of course that there are instructors and groups that discourage students from asking question but, other than just the timing of the question, I can think of only two reasons why they would do so:
a) because the instructor can't answer the question and doesn't want to admit to that, or
b) the aim is to produce students who are unthinking clones of their instructor.
I don't believe that either of these reasons is valid. If I don't know the answer to a question I'll tell you that I don't know. I may offer an opinion, but I'll try to be clear on whether the information I provide is fact or opinion. If time permits I'll try and describe why I've formed a particular opinion. Following in my sensei's footsteps I don't wish to turn out students who are clones of myself. What I aim to do is to produce martial artists who are capable of thinking for themselves, formulating their own conclusions based on evidence and experience, and making their own karate as effective for them as they can.
On that basis, I think its vitally important that you do ask questions. Ask me. Ask yourself. Critically examine all that you're taught, so that either your understanding improves or you/we find a better way of doing things.
The same goes for making comparisons with other martial arts you've done in the past. Nobody likes a smart-alec who comes along and just keeps repeating the mantra "in our style we do it like this" without making any effort to understand and explore why in our dojo we do things differently. But, as long you keep an open mind, its still perfectly valid to make those comparisons. The worst that can happen is that you learn something in the process! There are all sorts of reasons why two styles may do the 'same' technique differently. Only by comparing and contrasting them can we really conclude which is the right way to suit our particular purpose.
So all that said, any questions?
Website Hacked - posted 20/07/16
I appear to have been the victim of a website hack - not for the first time! Its a relatively harmless hack, mostly inserting links to other people's websites within the text on my website. I'm trying to get it under control, but if you see any links to, say, dutch sites selling leather handbags - or anything that looks out of place or is just illegible - do please email me to let me know.
Rick Clark, Hull - May 2011 - posted 28/05/11
Last weekend I attended a seminar with Rick Clark in Hull. Its a couple of years since I've had the opportunity to train with Rick sensei. It was good to see that, despite having experienced serious shoulder problems last year, he was on good form. As with his last tour, Rick focussed more on principles than techniques, on the basis that if you grasped the principles he was teaching, you could apply them to many different techniques. As a result of his shoulder problem Rick had lost quite a bit of muscle mass in one arm, so it was particularly impressive that he was able to apply techniques so effectively - a sure sign that his techniques rely on good mechanics rather than strength. I was also impressed that he continues to refine his skills in controlling the attacker's wrist and thumb simply through manipulating his own grabbed arm - definitely a skill worth emulating.
Seminars in Hull - May 2011 - posted 17/04/11
I've updated the events page with details of a couple of seminars in Hull in the next few weeks. Check here for further details.
Terry Wingrove Seminar arranged for Leeds - posted 11/04/11
I'm pleased to say that we've now finalised a date for Sensei Wingrove to come back and do a further seminar in Leeds. The big day is Saturday 8th October. So, a few months away yet, watch this space for more details. By all means though, if you're interested in coming along, feel free to email me and I'll send you more details nearer the time.
Terry Wingrove in Harrogate - posted 11/04/11
This weekend I managed to get out and attend my first seminar in a while - with Terry Wingrove in Harrogate. This was I think Sensei Wingrove's first seminar in Harrogate. It was a fairly small group but that was great for me as it meant we were able to focus in more detail on a number of techniques. This was definitely a good opportunity for me to both blow away a few cobwebs and deepen my understanding of Sensei Wingrove's approach.
Visit from Hull - posted 09/04/11
This week we had the pleasure of a visit from Mike Sanderson and Geoff Crosswaite from Hull Kenkyu Kai. Its been a while since we've had a visit from the boys from Hull, so it was good to catch up. For Mike and Geoff's benefit we went through the new set of kihon (fundamental) combinations that we've been working on so far this year. Then we took a few of those combinations and put them into context with a partner by using them in tegumi drills. And just to finish the night off, we ended with a curry - not designed to help with my current weight loss regime!
Meditations on Violence - posted 02/04/11
I don't usually recommend books on my blog, but its time to make an exception. I've just read Meditations on Violence by Seargant Rory Miller and can't recommend it highly enough. If you're a martial artist with an interest in self-defence then you should DEFINITELY read this book. Rory Miller works as a prison officer in American high security prisons and has a wealth of real-life experience of violence to draw upon. Miller describes in detail the types of people he has had to deal with in his work and how he has managed those encounters - not just the martial techniques that either worked or didn't work, but also how he controlled situations without recourse to violence. Frankly it makes for harrowing reading at times. Its not a 'nice' book to read, but I think it will be a real eye-opener for most martial artists.
New article - Is Your Kata an Empty Vessel? - posted 06/03/11
Here's an article I've had kicking around unfinished for a while. Feeling suddenly inspired this weekend I've dusted it off and got it finished. I hope it rings a bell with some readers and encourages them to review the way they practice kata.
New website - posted 18/02/11
Welcome to the new look website! Much of the content is the same as before (just a different look and feel to it), but there are a few new things. Most notable is the new Bunkai Discussion page. If you have any questions regarding the bunkai for karate kata please feel free to email them to me, and I'll post my thoughts on the subject on the Bunkai page.
Updated Videos - posted 08/01/10
I've updated the Videos page. Gone are the kata downloads. Instead there are now several examples of kata bunkai (applications). These were shot during normal classes - they're not meant to be professionally produced promotional videos; rather they're intended to be instructional, giving detailed insight into how to make the techniques work. Hopefully over time I'll add more videos.
Reflections on 2009 - posted 03/01/10
At the start of a new year I find myself looking at my blog and realising I haven't made a single entry for a whole year! So, time to redress that. ..
Well, its been a busy year. Not so much from a training point of view, but certainly from the point of view of being a parent. My young son is a little over a year old now, growing fast and surprising us every day with the new things he's learning. As you might expect my time has been spent much more on practising my new parenting skills than on martial skills. That said, there have been some notable highlights of the year, martially speaking.
From doing zero training at the start of the year (looking after a newborn is very hectic) I've slowly managed to increase the amount of both exercise and martial training – not to levels I'm entirely satisfied with but better than nothing.
I've had a few opportunities to attend seminars and train with other teachers over the year:
During the summer I was asked to carry out a self-defence session for clients of the Leeds Alcohol & Drugs Service. It is always a challenge to deliver something of value in a one-off session. So I focussed not so much on martial technique but rather on using awareness and body language to give the course participants the skills necessary to a) avoid confrontation in the first place, and b) if confrontation does occur, to prevent it escalating into violence. The participants seemed to enjoy the course and hopefully will have been able to take away something of value that they can apply in everyday life (unlike many courses that rely on learning techniques that the participants then fail to practice and so will never be able to apply under stress).
- In the spring and then again in October I managed to train with Sensei Terry Wingrove, both times in Hull. The session in October included Aikido training with Sensei Alan Ruddock and Daito Ryu training with Sensei Gavin Slater – this was the first time I've met Gavin and it was certainly a pleasure. His session on Daito Ryu was very interesting, including work on the mechanics of controlling the assailant in the brief moments between being grabbed and applying your own counter-technique.
- In May I had the great pleasure of travelling to Milan in Northern Italy, along with the other senior Shinseido instructors to train with Sensei Guiseppe Meloni in Matsumura Shorin Ryu. Alongside gaining some very useful insights into the Matsumura system we had a great time. Guiseppe Sensei and his students were an extremely welcoming, enthusiastic and friendly group of people train with. The only thing that was warmer than their welcome was the weather – Italy was having a heatwave that week, which certainly meant there was lots of sweating going on in the dojo. It would have been more than hot enough for me even without the heatwave. My thanks to all involved, but especially of course to Guiseppe, Mari & Mauro for welcoming us into their hearts and their homes.
- Finally, in December, I made it down to Sevenoaks to train in the main Shinseido dojo for an all day Sunday session. I wasn't able to do all that much to be honest - I was just recovering from flu - but it was good to catch up with Senseis Roger & Tony and compare notes on our experiences in Milan and our own current training goals.
And finally, I'm pleased to be able to say that we have a seminar organised for fairly early in the new year. This time its with Senseis Terry Wingrove & Alan Ruddock, check the seminar page for further details.
Here's hoping it doesn't take me a whole year to make my next blog entry!
Can't find time to train? - posted 06/12/08
A student asked me a little while ago "how often do you train?".
Two answer sprang immediately to mind - firstly "Everday" and secondly "Not as often as I used to (or would like)".
The simple fact is that no-one can realistically train in as devoted a way as they might like to, all the time.
Life gets in the way, which is as it should be. There was a time when I was training many hours every day of the week.
But then I was single and not working, so I could. Such a regime is simply not compatible with having a relationship, a family or a job.
Its great if you can manage that for a while, but you can't go at full throttle (to the exclusion of everything else) your whole life.
If you managed to, you would at very best become a one-dimensional person, not a good thing no matter how good a martial artist you may be.
So there has to be a balance between Karate (or whatever art) and the rest of your life.
Exactly what that balance is will vary from person to person, and will also vary over time.
This is a subject that's been in my mind a bit of late. In the last year or two I've got married, bought a house, done a shed-load of DIY and - most recently, just a few weeks ago - become a father.
Obviously all this has rather cut into my training time.
In particular, I'm now acutely aware of how much hard work and time needs to be invested in raising a family.
When faced with these competing priorities should a martial artist quit training? No, I don't think so. It has to be accepted that you won't have as much time available to train as you used to.
But you can still train every day, and this is one of the things to me that differentiates between a serious martial artist and someone who's just having a bit of fun.
Even if its only a minute or two here and there you can still work on refining some aspect of your technique (which means when you do have a proper training session you can give full attention to conditioning your strength, aerobic fitness, speed etc).
So the answer is simple really. If you're pushed for time just do a little bit every day, whenever you can find a few spare moments to do so. Over time it will pay dividends. Now, enough 'jibber jabber' from me, I've got to squeeze in a few punches before the next nappy change...
Price rises - posted 09/08/08
I regret to say that we're having to raise the cost of our training sessions from £4 to £5 per 2 hour session, starting at the beginning of September.
Although its the first time we've raised prices since the club opened in 2001, I'd still rather not to have to do so.
However, with fuel prices spiralling the church hall have no choice but to increase their fees, so we must unfortunately do likewise.
On the flip side, looking around at the costs associated with other martial art clubs I see that our training fees are fairly average.
I do note though a trend in surprisingly short training sessions, typically about 1¼ to 1½ hours for adults in most clubs.
I even found a couple of clubs online that had lessons 45 minutes in length, maybe OK for young children but for adults (and older kids) this seems rather short.
With a warm-up, strengthening exercise, stretching and a cool down one has to wonder if they find time to do any actual martial art in that time!
Anyway back on subject, I've come to the decision that, although we're increasing costs in terms of session fees, we shall be abandoning grading fees altogether (for kyu grades anyway).
Grading fees are not something I've ever been entirely comfortable with.
It seems to me that a teacher should award a student a new grade if they feel the student warrants it, it shouldn't be seen as an opportunity to generate income.
Getting rid of such fees altogether gives me greater freedom to grade students formally or informally at a time and place of my choosing and so, I think, sits very comfortably with the Shinseido approach of gearing the training to the individual student's needs.
Hull Budo Sai - posted 08/08/08
On June 28th, accompanied by Martin, I popped over to Hull for a two day course run by Jack Hosie of Cavendish Aikido.
The course featured Senseis Terry Wingrove and Alan Ruddock and also a teacher who I've not trained with before - Sensei Tino Ceberano, 8th dan Goju Ryu.
Sensei Ceberano trained for many years with Gogen Yamaguchi and also studied Phillipino martial arts since childhood.
I was particularly interested to see how his practice of the Phillipino arts has influenced his Karate.
It seems that the more I look at different arts - and the more one strips away the stilted formality of many oriental arts - the more I see the common features between truly practical arts.
So a good weekend all round, if sadly not well enough attended.
Shame on those people who don't take the opportunity to attend such events even when they're on they're own doorstep.
Leeds Seminars 2008 - posted 14/07/08
So far this year we've organised two seminars in Leeds.
The first was with Sensei Terry Wingrove in March, followed shortly by a session with Professor Rick Clark in April.
I'm hoping we'll have several more seminars with guest instructors before the year's out, hopefully Sensei Terry Wingrove again, and possibly newcomers to Leeds: Bruce Everett Miller 7th Dan Quan Li K'an and Tino Ceberano 8th Dan Goju Ryu.
More details to follow soon.
New article - Principle Driven Kata - posted 15/02/08
I've just added a new article which explores the principles within karate kata and proposes a method of analysing kata applications (bunkai).
Feel free to let me know what you think of it.
Terry Wingrove Seminar, Lancaster - posted 13/02/08
Following the session on Friday with Alan Ruddock I travelled over to Lancaster (once again with dojo member Martin) on Sunday 3rd February, this time to train both with Alan and with Terry Wingrove.
In Alan's session we got a chance to reinforce some of the lessons of Friday night's session.
With Terry we spent a good part of the day working on grabs to the pectoral region which, as ever, proved to be extremely painful.
Another excellent session from which I've still got a few faded bruises!
Alan Ruddock Seminar, Leeds - posted 13/02/08
On Friday 1st February we held a small seminar with Sensei Alan Ruddock 6th dan Aikido.
Alan was passing through Leeds en route to another seminar in Lancaster and kindly offered to teach a session whilst he was here.
Kaizen Martial Arts Academy kindly provided a matted room for us to train in, so with a dozen student (mostly from Leeds Shinseido & Leeds Kodokan Ju-jitsu) the scene was set.
Having trained with Alan 2 or 3 times before I knew we were in for a good session.
He had the privilege of training in the dojo of Morihei Ueshiba (the founder of Aikido) in the 1960's.
Two things I enjoy about Alan's teaching are a) his straightforward approach (focusing on what works rather than what looks pretty), and b) his connection to the older teachings of Aikido.
He clearly takes some effort to present Aikido as he learned it from O' Sensei (as Aikidoka refer to their founder) and the senior students In Ueshiba's dojo.
This not to criticise more recent developments in Aikido, but it certainly provides a useful insight into the history and development of the art.
During this session we spent some time looking at several variations of irimi-nage, and also a bit of time on nikyo, sankyo (including the 'Hawaiian police takedown') and kote-gaeshi.
A most enjoyable session all round which I hope we'll be able to repeat at some point.
Forthcoming Seminars in 2008 - posted 13/01/08
I'm pleased to announce that we have several interesting seminars coming up this year.
On 9th March we're hosting our second seminar with Sensei Terry Wingrove.
Last year's event was very well attended, but I'm hoping for an even bigger turn out this year.
We're also expecting a second seminar with Professor Rick Clark in April, exact date to be confirmed.
Professor Clark hasn't been to the UK since 2006 so I'm definitely looking forward to this one.
I'll publish the final details as soon as I have them.
And finally (for now anyway) this news just in - we're expecting a short visit by Sensei Alan Ruddock on Friday 1st February.
Sensei Ruddock is an excellent Aikido teacher who spent some years training at Ueshiba's dojo in Japan.
This will be a relatively short session (about 2 hours), but if you'd like the opportunity to train with Sensei Ruddock while he's here please contact me directly.
Training in Sevenoaks Dec 07 - posted 23/12/07
A couple of weeks ago I went down to Sevenoaks for the last all day Shinseido session of the year.
I spent a good part of the morning working with senseis Tony & Jim (plus one of Jim's students who's name I'm afraid escapes me now)
working on some spontaneous drills receiving and responding to various random attacks.
Much of the afternoon was spent working on Passai Dai, it was interesting to see some of the different various that have been practiced in the Sevenoaks dojo over the years - all of them of course being legitimate variations within the Matsumura tradition.
Rog sensei again filmed my renditions of the main classical kata, which hopefully were a bit less sluggish than when I'd last been down to Sevenoaks in August.
Dojo Visits - Steve Parker - posted 22/12/07
Had a couple of visits from Steve Parker of Hull Budo Kai recently.
When he visited in November the theme we looked at for the evening was the idea of grabbing/holding with one hand and striking with the other.
This is something that can often be seen happening instinctively when people (trained or untrained) fight for real (ie. without any dojo rules).
In untrained individuals its effectiveness varies, natural fighters tend to be good at 'riving' the opponent around and unbalancing them so they can easily hit them with the other hand, but most people don't do it very effectively at all.
Its interesting to note how often the same theme appears in karate kata.
So we explored some of these themes to see how to put the principal to good effect.
Although Steve is from a Shotokan background it was easy to see he's done a fair amount of training with Ju-jitsu practitioners -
he did an excellent job at thwarting my attempts to rive him around in a clinch situation (demonstrating once again the value of training with people from different styles).
This is something I've noted in the yudansha (black belt holders) in Hull Budo Kai before - because the group has teachers of several quite different systems they're able to learn from each other and so significantly increase the effectiveness of their own core systems.
Last week, on Steve's most recent visit, we looked at a few techniques for use with relatively short sticks.
Obviously if you have a stick (and the attacker hasn't) then you don't want to end up grappling, you want to use your distance advantage and use the stick to strike with.
However, the attacker's natural instinct is to try to grab your stick or your arm to prevent you striking them.
So we looked at some techniques, again to be found in the karate kata, for dealing with that sort of situation.
This seemed to require quite a psychological shift for most of the small group who were attending ("I'm used to dealing with the attacker having the weapon, not me!") so I think this is definitely something worth revisiting in the New Year.
Terry Wingrove Seminar - Lancaster - posted 15/10/07
Oops, been a bit slack of late keeping the blog up to date.
A few weeks ago I popped over to Lancaster again to train with Terry Wingrove.
The sessions there seem to go from strength to strength with more people attending each time.
As usual the group was split into two - an introductory session for those who've not trained with Terry before,
and a little more in depth for those who've already done the introductory seminar.
This time we spent a bit of time working on techniques for pinning and restraining a prone (ie. face down) opponent.
As ever, an excellent and thought provoking session.
Training in Sevenoaks - posted 25/08/07
On Friday 10th August I travelled down to Sevenoaks in Kent to train at the main Shinseido dojo.
To my shame, this was the first time this year that I'd managed to make it down to one of the regular bi-monthly training days.
With such a long break it was good to catch up with Rog & Tony senseis, and the other students and practitioners in Sevenoaks.
On the Friday night we had a go at some semi-free one-step sparring then Rog sensei put me on the spot by asking to see all of my empty-hand kata.
I'm feeling a bit rusty at the moment, what with the focus on moving house this year, but I managed to rummage through.
Sunday was spent working through the (primarily defensive) principles involved in Shinsei kata - a good refresher for me, not just in the techniques and principles themselves, but also in the manner in which Rog sensei teaches these ideas to students.
Its always insightful to see how an experienced teacher imparts their knowledge to students in a way that makes it clear and easy to digest.
Unfortunately it looks like I won't be able to make the next all day session in October, so it'll be December before I get back down to Sevenoaks.
50 Years of English Karate - posted 22/08/07
On Friday 3rd August I travelled down to Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre, along with club member Martin, to take part in 3 days of training to commemorate 50 years of Karate being taught in England.
The event was hosted by Sensei Terry Wingrove, who had arranged training sessions with a number of excellent teachers throughout the weekend.
We started on the Friday by working on Goju Sanchin with Sensei Morio Higaonna, followed by a session the Uechi Ryu version of the same kata with Sensei Shinyu Gushi.
I took part in several sessions with Sensei Gushi over the weekend, who for me was the star of the show.
But that in no way should detract from the excellence of the other teachers - as well as Uechi Ryu and Goju Ryu I was also able to dabble in a little White Crane Kung Fu and a little Iaido.
Of course it was necessary to reflect on each day's training with a drink or two, either back at the hotel or in the excellent atmosphere of Henry VIII's hunting lodge at Bisham Abbey.
The pictures tell their own stories, check them out at Cyberbudo.com and Alan Platt's blog.
£200 raised for charity - posted 07/08/07
On 8th July this year we hosted a seminar with Sensei Terry Wingrove.
The seminar was a great success and, as a result, we were make a donation of £200 to charity.
The money was donated to the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals Leeds Hospital.
Click here to see a few pics of the seminar participants enjoying Terry sensei's unique brand of pain.
Back Online - posted 06/08/07
Finally I'm back online after moving house.
Unfortunately though, its only with a dial up connection at the moment.
Its been a frustrating few weeks trying to sort this out.
First I was hampered by incompetence on the part of Virgin Media, so much so that I eventually had no choice but to cancel my account with them.
Secondly I've been lied to by Sky, initially being quoted one price for a broadband connection, which then more than tripled!
So now I'm looking for a new supplier who can combine competence with at least a modicum of integrity - not too much to ask for one would have thought.
In the meantime, I can now get back to updating the site, although it may be a few weeks before I can upload any new images.
Moving House - posted 24/06/07
My blog's a bit quiet at the moment I'm afraid.
I'm currently in the middle of moving house.
Hopefully I'll get back to it in the next week or so, when life isn't quite so hectic.
Website Update - Downloads Page - posted 27/05/07
As promised, I've created a new Downloads page, with video clips of all 5 Pinan kata.
They are also available as streaming versions at YouTube.
Keep an eye on the Downloads page for further clips showing the different training drills used in our dojo.
Website Update - Kyusho Page - posted 24/05/07
New page added to website - a summary on the art of striking vital points: Kyusho-Jutsu.
Click here to read.
Pinan Nidan Video - posted 18/05/07
I've uploaded a video of Pinan Nidan to youtube,
showing the way we practice it in our dojo.
When time permits I'll also upload the other Pinan kata and also put them all on a download page on this website.
For now, here's Pinan Nidan.
Wado Ryu Kihon Kumite - posted 15/05/07
I came across the 10 Kihon Kumite's of Wado Ryu on youtube recently.
They're being demonstrated by Tatsuo Suzuki and I think are the best I've seen anyone do them.
I wouldn't use most of these techniques quite as they're shown, as they're rather long range techniques, so a bit different from the way I practice Karate.
But they do demonstrate some useful principles such as entering, avoidance, simultaneous attack and defence, and leading the opponent (encouraging him to over-commit).
I particularly like those (No. 1 being a good example) where the same hip movement is used to power the evasion, block and the simultaneous counter.
Anyway, here's Number 1, the other 9 can be found in the related links on the right.
Wado Ryu Kihon Kumite
New Article - The 2 Metre Square Kata - posted 06/05/07
This article has been reproduced here with the kind permission by the author, Mike Sanderson.
It first appeared in Traditional Karate magazine in 2006 and presents a different take on the practice of kata.
Click here to read.
Dojo visit - Mike Sanderson - posted 02/05/07
This week we had the pleasure of a visit from Mike Sanderson of Hull Budo Kai.
Mike runs the Hull Kenkyu Kai Karate club (a member club of the Hull Budo Kai group), which I'd warmly recommend to anyone interested in learning practical Karate skills at that end of the M62.
To start the session Mike took us through some kihon (basics) the way his club does them.
The emphasis was very much on practicality rather than form for form's sake, with some really nice simple - but straight to the point - combinations.
At Mike's request, I then took the class through the classical Matsumura kata Passai Dai, the forerunner of the modern Bassai Dai.
As well as looking at the differences in technique between the classical and modern versions, we also looked at some of the stylistic differences (such as different ways of stepping and of generating power).
These nuances make the kata look less demonstrative and overtly powerful to most modern observers, but - in my opinion at least - give rise to some highly effective and powerful applications.
Speaking of applications, we finished off by exploring and experimenting with a few ideas for bunkai for the classical version.
Of course, we could have spent much, much longer on this and still come nowhere near fully exploring the kata's potential.
There may even have been time for curry after training too!
Speaking of Passai, here's a video clip I found on YouTube that shows pretty much the same versions as the ones we practice.
I've no idea who it is in the video, but he shows versions of Passai Sho and Passai Dai that are very close indeed to ours.
Passai Sho & Dai video clip
Website update - Beginners Page - posted 20/04/07
New page added to the website, describing some of the techniques and exercises that new students learn during their first few months of training.
This first stage of training is geared towards teaching the new student a small number of simple self-defence techniques and principles, to maximise their chances of successfully defending themselves (should the need arise) - in the early stages of their training.
Check out the Beginner's page for further details.
Masaaki Hatsumi video - posted 15/04/07
I found this clip of Masaaki Hatsumi, the grandaddy of Ninjitsu on youtube.
I know there are those who question the authenticity of what he does.
Personally, I simply couldn't comment, I just don't know enough about Ninjitsu.
But he does show some nice techniques in this clip. Wherever it came from, some of it is pretty good stuff.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did...
Masaaki Hatsumi video clip
New Article - Attacking the Brachioradialis - posted 31/03/07
This is a paper I first wrote for my students a few years ago, in 2002.
Here is a version I've expanded upon and updated for the web.
In order to effectively attack any vital point, you need to become intimately familiar with it, as if it were an old friend.
You need to understand how to get at it with the limb in different positions, how it will move away when you stimulate it, and how to follow it to keep the pressure on.
Hopefully this article will help to start a few people on that journey of discovery.
Terry Wingrove seminar - Newcastle - posted 27/03/07
Actually this was in Prudhoe, west of Newcastle, so another long drive on a Sunday morning.
This one was being hosted by the Seiken Ryu Shukokai Karate group.
One of our members, Martin, came along for this one so I'm glad to say it was another painful day with Terry - so well worth it!
Despite the distance travelled it was interesting to see someone there I'd trained with before, although it took us both a few minutes to work out where we knew each other from.
Most martial artists don't seem to be willing to travel very far to train, so inevitably I keep bumping into the same ones that are prepared to stretch their legs a bit.
Also managed to pop in and visit my mam and dad on the way back, so lashings of ginger beer and biscuits all round.
The next session with Terry in the north is at Lancaster on Sunday 29th April and then a big gap until Sunday 8th July here in Leeds.
Tai Chi in Leeds - posted 24/03/07
Added a new link to our Links page - the Yiheyuan School of Chinese Internal Martial Arts.
If you're in Leeds and looking for Tai Chi or other internal arts (Ba Gua, Hsing-I) then these are the people to see.
I've trained with them briefly myself in the past and, although I'm certainly no expert when it comes to Tai Chi, I can see they approach the subject with a much more pragmatic bent than most.
Nice bunch of students too. If 'waving your hands like clouds' is your thing then I'd highly recommend checking them out.
Website update - TCM Articles - posted 17/03/07
I've added several articles written by myself and Zoltan Dienes a few years ago.
We conducted several research projects into the use of traditional chinese medical theories in martial arts.
Click here to see what we found.
Dojo visit - 'Moosey' - posted 17/03/07
This week we were visited by Moosey from Martial Arts Planet.
As usual when we're visited by karateka I like to run through some bunkai for a kata that they're familiar with.
This time we looked at Pinan Shodan (aka Heian Nidan), specifically the opening sequence of moves (Haiwan-uke, ude soete - if you like a bit of Japanese terminology).
This sequence was used to deal with various blows to the head.
Although we ran out of time we also managed to touch briefly on various grabs to the arms and body, seeing how the sequence could be used to deal with the classic combination of 'grab and strike to the head'.
We even used it to deal with grabs to the arms from behind.
As usual, it was nice to have a visitor from another style of karate.
Our door is always open to karateka (or other martial artists) who are passing through Leeds and would like to pay us a visit.
Kaze Arashi Ryu Seminar - March 2007 - posted 11/03/07
Today I attended another Kaze Arashi Ryu Aiki Ju Jitsu seminar near Burnley.
I wasn't able to attend both days, so I'm not quite as zonked as I might usually be - lets just say that I'll still probably be able to hold a deep horse stance tomorrow (should I in fact wish to of course).
Henri Vilaire sensei had flown in from the states to teach for the weekend. He spent the morning covering a number of generic combat principles, and the afternoon working on refinements of a number of joint-locks.
My joint-locks needed a lot of refining! The day finished with a presentation for Kirby Watson, as he formally steps down as chief instructor of the UK Kaze Arashi Ryu.
I'm glad to see that Kirby will still be involved in the organisation, as I've found him extremely friendly, helpful and welcoming to someone who, at the end of the day, isn't even a member of Kaze Arashi Ryu.
He was presented with a dulcimer, which is a celtic harp to you and me, and I don't envy him getting to grips with an instrument with quite that many strings.
Website update - Articles - posted 08/03/07
I've added a new 'Articles' section to the website - been meaning to do this for some time but just haven't got round to it.
First off is an article I wrote a while ago about the difference between do (way) and jutsu (method) arts.
More to follow soon.
Training with Terry Wingrove & Alan Ruddock - Hull - posted 04/03/07
Travelled over to Hull today with Paul, one of our dojo members, for a full day's training in Karate-jutsu, Yawara and Aikido with these 2 excellent sensei.
As ever, training with Terry sensei made me feel like a white belt again - any skills I have or knowledge of anatomy are just a pale shadow of Terry's.
The way he effortlessly causes enough pain to have big strong dan grades begging for mercy simply has to be seen.
Paul, being a former Aikidoka, was particularly pleased to get a chance to train with someone who trained at Ueshiba's school in the 1960's.
Alan sensei is one Aikido teacher who definitely has both feet on the ground, with a very pragmatic approach to his art.
And how much did this excellent training session cost? Not a penny! Yep, that's right, it was free - even including the splendid lunch thrown in by the organiser, Jack.
And despite that, there were still only about 20 people or so training.
It never fails to amaze me how so many martial artists fail to take up good training opportunities. Either its too far to travel, or too expensive, or "we don't train outside our style", or whatever.
When its free, well more fool them, that's all I can say. All the more personal tuition for me, so I'm not complaining!
Dojo visit - Matt & 'WombatOneSix' - posted 14/01/07
Last night (13/01/07) we had the pleasure of a visit by Matt & Tom (aka WombatOneSix), both members of the Australian Karate-do Forum.
Matt's here in the UK visiting family and friends - you can imagine that I was flattered that they should both come up all the way from Birmingham just for a normal night's training.
So I was keen to make sure that they got as much as possible out of the limited training time.
Generally when we have visits from other karate practitioners I like to focus on kata bunkai (applications of the karate kata) to give a clear indication of the differences in traditional karate-do training and the more practical 'jutsu' approach that we take.
We had a couple of other new guys with previous training that night too, so it was doubly appropriate that we should look at bunkai.
I chose to look at some bunkai from Pinan Sandan, the third in the Pinan/Heian series, for no other reason than that's the kata one of our members is working on for his next grade.
As well as looking at some examples of bunkai, it was a good opportunity to look at the principles of combat that underpin the applications - I'd much rather teach a man to fish for himself than to keep feeding him fish for the rest of his life.
Matt and Tom evidently enjoyed themselves, here's what they had to say about it afterward on the forum:
We finished off, of course, with a few drinks in the pub afterwards. Just a shame it had to be such a brief visit.
It was a real pleasure to meet Matt and Tom, two sound blokes who clearly share my own passion for practical Karate.
Introduction - posted 01/01/07
One of our members said to me "Why haven't we got a blog on the website?". Good question, I thought.
So, if only to show that an old dog can learn new tricks, here it is.
I'd like to use this space to keep members and visitors updated on dojo events, seminars, website updates, anything really that I think may be interest.
I'm also hoping to write some new articles (and maybe the odd rant or two), which I'll mention on here too, but don't hold your collective breaths - I might type like the wind but I'm also the prince of procastination.
Mike Flanagan, 01/01/07.