22 November, 2011

Iaido and Karate

During an iaido seminar I went to a few weeks back, we were working uke nagashi.  Here is a link for those interested: Uke Nagashi - skip to about 25 seconds in, for some reason nihon-me is at the beginning of the video and is in pretty rough shape to boot.  But sanbon-me comes through clearly.

Anyways, during this seminar we were working on getting the angle of the cut correct according to where the opponent is standing.  To make a long story short, we didn't sit at a 90 degree angle to the opponent but rather more like 125 degrees.  This allowed us to check that we were cutting what was originally in front of us.

It got me to wonder and ask myself some questions about iaido and karatedo:
  • Where is your opponent?
  • What is your opponent doing?
And then further to that:

  • When will your opponent attack?
  • When will you counter?
There is a certain way in which we were practising uke nagashi.  In koryu, I am told that you block firmly and then cut.  In seitei, we were trying to "empty out" at the right time, similar to what I believe many aikidoka and jujutsuka are familiar with.  This requires not only great timing and technique and distancing, but total focus on each of those.  Otherwise, why would your opponent attack when they know they can't win?  It really drives home the lesson of knowing your forms, down into the very sinews and bones of your body.

Another thought I had was that in iaido, for the most part, the explanations are present.  But even these have been reverse engineered to a large extent.  I have yet to hear a complete and rational reason for sitting in tate hiza, a sort of half seiza position.  So in that manner, perhaps iaido and karatedo are not that dissimilar - some separation from the core art and intent has created a set of fantasy moves that may well have little purpose.  Dangerous thinking in a traditional mindset, but it bears on reality so I feel it is important to meditate upon.

Finally, this all brings me back to riai and karate.  What is a typical attack in karate?  What are we defending against?  Is it reasonable to practice defending against punches and kicks, or are we misguided in our intent?  It makes sense in koryu to work grappling as this was usable in armour - it would be very dangerous if you couldn't access your weapon due to an opponent restraining you and preparing to use a weapon against you.

This is all tied to the question of practicality in traditional martial arts.  Looking at aikido, you might ask why they train to defend against a downward chop.  But considering its basis in arts where defending against swords is normal, it suddenly makes a lot more sense.  Karate's forming arts are to a large extent hidden, and the question becomes what is the focus, and should there be only one?  What is the ideology of our defensive work.

14 November, 2011


This is just a quick post for a great post from Mr. Charles Goodin.  Everytime I read his blog posts, I am reminded of what a gentleman (or gentlelady) should do, how they should think, and how that character development from the martial arts shines through in people's interactions with others.

His stories are always a good reminder of who I want to be, and they remind me of Mr. Richard Kim's tales.  While Sensei Kim's stories were more historical and less allegorical, they both have a very strong element of morality and behaviour.  How a warrior should behave in society.

Anyways, here is a link to a great article: Speaking Ill of Others

My favourite quote that came from this would have to be:
You can't build a house by criticizing other houses.
How true and what a great way to think of my own training!  This is one of the reasons I enjoy the martial arts so much.  You are testing yourself against yourself - it doesn't matter what the next person does, it matters what you do and who you are.  I have nothing against competition (well, maybe a little ;) ) but I think that the development of the self is of the most value.

13 November, 2011

Meaning of Your Art

Another post - I want to make up for my own laziness.  It doesn't hurt that I am feeling unwell today and I have some time at home to spend on my indulgences.  I find that in my conversations and correspondence with others, and through reading blogs and listening to podcasts, I am always thinking and I hope this will let me improve my practice.

I cannot say this with enough emphasis or sincerity.  Mr. Wayne Muromoto's blog is simply awesome.  The depth that he has makes me feel like I am in the ocean.  It is humbling to be reminded how far there is to go and how much there is to understand.

Anways, for the post in question: The Meaning of the Meaning

It raised a great question for my own art - what is the meaning of Goju Ryu Karatedo.  This is a question that I need to think about a great deal.  My first reaction is the obvious - it is a synthesis of hard and soft.  Well thank you Professor Brain, that was insightful.

But seriously, I have been trying to think of the kata and the lessons embodied in those I know.  There is a theme of advancing into an opponent, inside their guard, striking to allow for grappling, then a  takedown and follow up strike.  This strikes me as too generic and too obvious, and I know there is more to this.  I know I am far from the answer as I feel far from the technical top of our system.  I suppose once I get started on suparinpei I will have a better idea, but looking at the rest of the kata I will strive to find the patterns and mental approach inherent in them.

I also wonder, since karate is (in my mind) a synthesis of crane and monk fist, how is a harmonious mental approach created from those (at least) two different sources.  And then with the Okinawazation of those techniques and forms, and then Japanification, and then (arguably) the Canadianization, what is the resulting school?  I have read (and written about) the change that an art goes through from teachers and environments - so what does the art I practice have?  Perhaps this is a personal question that cannot be answered for an entire style?  In reference to the aikido example given by Mr. Muromoto, everyone does aikido a little differently - perhaps they each have their own riai?

Food for thought, once again, from those with greater experience.

As a side note, I again love this aspect of the arts - being able to learn from the stories and instruction given to you.  It forces you to think and keeps your mental engine pumping.  How lucky we are to be able to practice these skills we love!

Smaller Updates and Food for Thought

I haven't posted in a while, and while I had honestly intended to release a few posts over the last month, I have found myself busy with other small projects and work.

Anyways, I wanted to post a few things floating around in my head recently.  There are several great posts,  two of which I really liked,  at Prevail Training:

Sport Isn't Fighting

Kit N Slick

What I thought was really interesting about the first post I linked is the idea of partner drills.  I think it is very easy, at least in my experience, to forget how serious you need to treat drills.  Just because you know the technique and you can apply it, it doesn't mean you should treat it lightly.  You are doing yourself a disservice, not to mention your partner, your art, your teacher and the lineage of people who have sweat and bled to bring it to you.  I should note that it is very tough to ever truly know a technique unless you have years or decades of experience, so just because you think you know it, doesn't mean you do!

To pull a quote from the post, I thought this was the most important aspect.  When working these sorts of drills (kakie comes to mind for my own art (a sort of partner based grappling drill to work various joint locks and takedowns)), there is (or should be!) an escalation of practice:
1) Consensual, cooperative drilling
Followed by:
2) Resistive, cooperative drilling
Followed by:
3) Resistive, non-cooperative drilling.
This sort of escalation helps build the skills and then the detail work needed to apply a technique.

Food for thought and I think this applies as much to sparring as it does to individual technique work.  Choose a technique or three that you have been working from a kata, and then see if you can apply it in a (careful and) serious manner - I will need to try more of this myself in the future.

The second article just reaffirms, in my mind, the validity of ancient martial arts, and is a good read.