09 September, 2012

Qigong in Karate

It seems like most of my articles begin with the phrase "I just read something interesting in X", and this will be no exception.

I have mentioned in the past the book Hidden in Plain Sight, by Ellis Amdur.  I enjoyed not only this book, but the author's style.  His ability to turn a phrase, his humour, and his experience in the martial arts make for compelling reading.

Any rate, I have been re-reading the book, particularly the part about the importance of Chinese methods in some early jujutsu schools.  He mentions that they would need to be exceptional for masters of martial ways (and indeed full-time warriors) to want to study them and include them in their own studies.  This leads on to discussion of what those might be, albeit vaguely - some combination of internal work and refinement.  He speaks of breathing exercises to build pressure in the body and make it able to respond spontaneously to any situation.  For lack of a better single word to define the concept, let us call it qigong.

In my other readings in preparation for my yondan essay, it had also been pointed out to me the importance and difference in breathing used in Sanchin.

So I find myself thinking about the evolution of qigong methods within goju.  Sanchin is clearly a form of hard qigong, but I am well aware of the need for a softer qigong.  White Crane itself has both soft and hard qigong, but has this practice been brought into modern Goju?

Some would argue that Tensho is supposed to be that softness, but the stance and body position don't make me think of a relaxed posture.  Perhaps others will prove me wrong, or say my practice is somewhat out of the norm, but I see Tensho performed with circular hand and arm movements, but often without different breathing than used in Sanchin.  I try to use different breathing, but some forms of Tensho have an inherently more forced breathing pattern.

I need to work further on this topic.  Particularly to see what White Crane and Five Ancestor qigong is like and how this can be of further use.  At least from a health perspective this would be beneficial.  And as Amdur notes, perhaps from a combative perspective as well.

Kote Kitae

In preparation for my grading this October, and I have been writing up a big essay.  I might post it once the grading is done and over, or at least some of the work that went into it.

Anyways, I felt the need to do a lot of reading and research for my essay, to support my thoughts and theories.  Among some of the reading I have been doing has been in the Meibukan Magazine.  I was lucky enough to trace down and find the existing repositories for this as I came late to the party (the website has since been taken down) but they can all be found here:

I was doing some reading in issue #7 when I came upon an article about Kote Kitae, and it brought back memories.  I remember having done some similar drills, imported from a lineage not our own (but definitely Goju in nature) - one was called Kote Kitate, another was Teki Kitae, and a third I cannot dredge up from my memory.

For those who haven't experienced this yet, Kote Kitae literally means Forearm Forging.  As you can imagine from this descriptive term, it involves a variety of bashing arms with your partner.  Painful practice, yet very rewarding - very much like makiwara work.

What caught my eye, and my interest, was the description of the drill as a flow drill, with implications of trapping and response reflexes being honed.  While the main use of the drill is a conditioning tool in karate (as well as many quan fa schools), the idea that this could be useful for combative purposes struck a chord.

I had just before this article read about Patrick McCarthy's approach to developing his Koryu Uchinadi system, where he mentioned using two person drills to instill combative principles and the kata as a format to reinforce the training while solo.  So the trapping and combative applications of this drill stood out to me and made me curious.

Further searches online revealed that for many people kote kitae is a conditioning drill first and foremost.  But then I found what I wanted - examples of people using them in a way that is more combat applicable.  Check out the following video at about the 24 second mark for an example:

This reminds me of a drill we do more often than kote kitae, called Quen Zho Futari.  This futari involves some very crane like stepping and some variation.  It was brought back from one of the organizations trips to China (I don't recall where, nor what style) but I found it very reminiscent of something I saw just today from Five Ancestors Fist Quan Fa.  That video is below.  The first drill is what I am talking about:

Which ties back into the article, which made heavy reference to Five Ancestor Fist.  Coincidentally my own research into the history of Goju kata has been pointing in this direction as well.

So I end up with the following thoughts:
What is the impact and likelihood that Five Ancestors is a part of Goju's history?
Are kata just vehicles for solo practice, and not intended as teaching vehicles themselves?
What drills do I want to practice to reinforce my combative training and how if at all will they line up with goju kata?

Again, more questions that lead me to search for what the masters before sought.