Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Worst Horse

I like to write. I like karate. I like to write about karate. I've written a few things about the technical side of Chibana's karate, some with varying degrees of conceptualization, some with faint glimmers of understanding, and some with nothing at all.

But maybe I jumped the gun. Perhaps it's a little early to get carried away and write only about understanding. If this blog is supposed to be a reflection of my training, I should be writing about failure... and frustration. Leaving that out would only be telling half the story. No, a lot less than that.

During practice the other day, Sensei roundly scolded me about constantly filling my cup. He said I get carried away after getting enamored with some minor achievement or another which causes me to exaggerate whatever adjustment I made and end up worse off than before. I was a bit hurt and then angry, because anger is an easy emotion that blocks off pain, just like how you might press your finger after you cut it, since the feeling of pressure overrides all else. I started to say, "I don't think I fill my cup with confidence." But I cut myself off after the second word. What did I fill it with, then? Was it confidence? Was it ignorance? Fear of failure, maybe? Was it me focusing too much on not doing it wrong rather than doing it right? I'm no psychologist, but it's probably some combination of all these. Ultimately, does it matter? Whatever the case, he was right. My frame of mind was wrong.

Sensing my deep frustration (I felt very low at that point and was such doing a terrible job of hiding it that you'd have to be blind not to see it), Sensei fell back on an old favorite of his that a lot of us students have read, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki. Suzuki mentions the following:
"... it is said there are four kinds of horse: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver's will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one does, just before the whip reaches its skin; the thrid one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones. You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn how to run!"
Yeah, no kidding. I'm just trying to learn how to walk.

Echoing Suzuki's commentary on this, Sensei mentioned that everyone wants to be the best horse, but in the end, the fourth horse may end up being the best one after all. Haven't the lessons on running been beaten into the horse's very bones?

In the end, Sensei's whip is there to snap me into the right frame of mind (after the stinging subsides). I always remark that I'd rather have my ego bruised and have good karate than get physically bruised or worse on the street. Of course, like everything else in karate, easier said than done. Sensei told me that all too often, people would say don't take criticisms personally. He then gave his smile with that tinge of amusement and said, "No, you have to take it personally." And... he's right.

I don't know about me eventually becoming the best horse, but I certainly feel like the worst horse right now. Maybe that's the hard part. I'm used to being the best horse. Certainly not in everything (my ego isn't that large). But mostly in the things I care about. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever been frustrated by something I cared about this much.

Sensei and the others always like to say "From frustration comes enlightenment." I like Snaggy's corollary to this: "Correction was not a function of time training but one of frustration. After a while, you get so disgusted looking at an ugly kata that you gotta do something..."

Frustration... check.
Willingness to get better... check.
Training... check.
Training correctly... working on that.

In the end, it boils down to training (correctly). I wish there was a shortcut. But as usual, easier said than done. Time for this horse to get going.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Strongest Move in Shorin Ryu

Someone on asked rhetorically what the best bunkai (what we call imi, or meaning) for moves from our kata were. Rather than answering rhetorically or philosophically, I answered technically. I don't know about you, but I hate answers that are just "whatever move you are comfortable with" or things like that. My answer was our opening move from our most "basic" kata, kihon shodan. Not that I can take credit for coming up with this on my own, since my instructor talks about it a lot.

I can take credit (blame) for the (potentially flawed) explanation below, however. Those who practice any Chibana-descended lineage school should be familiar with the movement, even if the execution is different. From what I've seen, the meaning tends to be the same among many of the Chibana schools. However, the meaning is just the starting place for study, not the finish line.

Stand in a natural stance, feet about shoulder-width apart (at 45 degree angles) and fists down in front. Weight is in a 50/50 distribution, centered.

Your left foot sweeps out in a crescent step (I get hazy on the exact terminology). Basically, sweeps in and out along an arc and returns to a position shoulder-width apart, but settles back in to where the back of the left foot would be on the same horizontal line as the toe of the right foot. So the left foot ends up slightly forward of its original position with the toes slightly inward and the heel slightly outward.

As the leg and foot moves out, the left arm forms a similar arc, going from in front of your left side, out in front to your right side, and then back in front of your left side, only it does so in an arc along the entire path and ends up around chest level. During the outward sweep, the fingers of the hand are pointed out straight with the thumb pointing down.

Towards the end of the movement, the gripping with the hand takes place. As the gripping takes place, it is timed with the settling of the left foot which pulls the opponent down and off balance with your body weight instead of your arm. It is important to clear the space in front so that an attack from the opponent's left or right side will be cleared. The actual grabbing occurs at the end.

Also during the movement, the concept of back pull is used, where both sides of the back are pulling inwards as if pinching the shoulder blades together as the body angles off (the body doesn't have to angle off, it just does in this technique). This makes the technique stronger by employing both sides of the body and avoiding a collapse in posture. Using the proper muscles is important so the technique locks down properly with your body weight and pulls rather than pushes or rises.

The grab as described above is meant to be used whether the person is attacking you or just trying to put up a guard which you can clear easily (no sense punching around his hands, just move them out of the way). Obviously, it requires a closing of distance, which if studied, is aided by the stepping as described as the distance enters fighting range.

After all that stuff happens at the same time, you punch him... which would also take a while to explain, but I'll leave it at that.

If one watches from the side, it looks like a really simple move, but the concepts of how the weight is controlled, how clearing and entry takes place, how the basic punch is executed, posture, etc. form the basis of study for every single move in our kata. The moves we tend to do are very simple, but we put a lot of work into them.

I wish doing this was as easy as writing about it.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Shallowness of Thought

"First of all, everyone fancies the insignificant principles of the martial arts, whether in knowing how to give the wrist a three to five inch advantage with the fingertips, or in understanding how to gain the victory by extending the forearm by handling a fan. Or again, by taking up a bamboo sword or something like it, all may study the simple advantage of speed and, in learning the functions of the hands and feet, specialize in the lesser advantages of alacrity."
Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings, 1645
Sadly, the no-nonsense warning issued centuries ago by the great fighter Miyamoto Musashi remains largely unheeded today. Many martial artists, traditional or otherwise, pride themselves on their debates over the advantages of circular vs. linear, hard vs. soft, punching vs. palm strikes, knowledge of "bunkai" (application), etc. This reveals shallowness of thought and fighting ability. Ignorant of the mechanics of generating power or the other realities of fighting, they are reduced to smugly debating these "lesser advantages". I was one of these "enlightened martial scholars" focusing on buzzwords rather than practical application. My goal was certainly practical application, but my entire mindset was incorrect, reflected by participating in these pointless debates so prevalent today. Many will claim to be in agreement with me, but most will not be intellectually honest with themselves. Now, I care little for the differences between linear and circular, nor do I obsess about grappling or being "soft" or "hard". All I know is strong or weak, effective or useless. As Musashi would say, "study this well."


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai

On Saturday, 22 September, the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai (Research Association) held its first meeting. Like any good karate research association worth its salt, it wasn't about committees or reading dusty old history books, it was just training. The instructors present were Senseis Bobby Lowe (Kyokushin), Pat Nakata (Shorin Ryu), Alan Lee (Goju Ryu), Charles Goodin (Kishaba-juku Shorin Ryu), and G. Hisae Ishii-Chang (Shotokan). There were several students from various instructors, although I was the only student of Nakata Sensei present.

As we all had different ways of doing things, we worked on some of the simple basics of punching. Nakata Sensei introduced our methodology of punching and had everyone put the theory to the test by punching some hand pads. Observing everyone's punching styles allowed me to see advantages and disadvantages of each. We also practiced the concept of "creating a one-step" situation where you take advantage of understanding range to pick off an opponent when he has to cross certain range boundaries in order to attack. It was interesting to note that despite the necessity of moving forward into the attack for this to work, some people still had the natural tendency to adjust range backwards before launching their counter strike. Throughout this section and the entire training, there was continued emphasis on natural striking, moving into the opponent, and smooth movement.

We then moved on to some gedan mawashigeri (low roundhouse kicks), which are definitely not my specialty. To add a little realism, attackers and defenders were allowed to move around. While my mawashi geri isn't all that great, as we tend to employ simple, direct kicks in training, I saw the effectiveness of breaking up an attack or defense using the direct walk-in to the opponent. This was the same for the one-step situation creation earlier.

Afterwards, we worked on a little self-defense drills run by the Kyokushin group and some people did some sparring as well. As with the other parts, it was interesting to observe the fighting styles of the participants.

All in all, it was enjoyable and I think everyone benefited from the exposure to the multiple viewpoints offered during the training. I look forward to the next session.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What Is Okinawan Karate?

Over the years, my view on what Okinawan karate is has changed dramatically, so I will now restate my views.

The Okinawan Shorin karate that I know is smooth, relaxed, and powerful. The stances are natural, narrower, and shorter with toes pointed out to allow the flowing of hara forward and stepping is done heel to toe. Weight is towards the outside of the foot. The transition between each technique is just as important as the endpoint, to include how stepping is done and how the entire body moves from A to B. Moving with the weight continually into the opponent to crowd him is what we call "osae".

Flow does not mean there is no kime. Without kime, there is nothing, just like without a strong stance or a good posture, there is nothing. There is no muscling of technique, but there is an incredible amount of muscle, ligament, and tendon usage.

The rhythm of movement is done at a natural breathing pace with no artificial breathing. While it does flow, there is a staccato when there is kime. It flows relaxed into the kime. Each movement is done with a separate "count", as maximum power is generated for each block, strike, and kick. The goal is to end the confrontation with a single technique.

The emphasis on analysis is not on "what" is being done in kata, but on "how" it is being done. Knowing the meaning of movements is necessary, but knowing how to do it is essential. The interaction of stance, posture, timing, weight, and muscle/tendon/ligament/skeleton usage is what is analyzed. The "what" appears to be incredibly basic, because it is. The vast majority of our meanings for kata are simply punch, kick, and block. There is some grappling, but it is quite simple--again, the emphasis being on "how" and the transition between movements rather than "what". The meaning, or bunkai (popular term used nowadays), should match the kata movement exactly. Any deviation and either the meaning or the movement is wrong.

When fighting, there is no offset between you and the opponent. You walk straight in and destroy him; there is no deviation. The goal is not an exchange of technique, it is one-sided destruction.

Okinawan karate is neither Chinese nor Japanese; it is Okinawan. It borrowed some from Chinese arts, but its nature and development is uniquely Okinawan. I have seen karate with so much flow and no kime it looks like Tai Chi. I have seen karate with so much tension and muscling it looks like the robot. I have seen karate with so much grappling it looks like judo or chin na. None of these is the Okinawan karate I know.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Chibana Chosin Sensei DVD Review

Recently, there was a DVD released showing footage of Chibana Sensei performing kata. This DVD was made using footage taken by Clarence Lee, who visited Okinawa in the late 1960s. I purchased this DVD and what follows is the review I placed on

It is great to see this footage of Chibana Sensei finally released. It is unfortunate that this footage was taken so near to Chibana Sensei's death (footage is actually from 1968). It is my understanding that on the morning this footage was taken, Chibana Sensei was so ill his wife had to help him put on his gi. This is testimony to his pure strength of will in performing the kata with that much dedication and focus.

There is other footage of Chibana Sensei doing the Patsai kata in 1962, but it is not publicly available. The difference between this Patsai kata footage and Mr. Lee's footage taken in 1968 is rather striking, as the 1962 film displays Chibana Sensei’s legendary power, strength, and efficiency for which he was widely respected.

I will limit my critique to clearing up some historical inaccuracies from the video.

Chibana Sensei's name is Chibana Chosin or Choshin, not Chosen. I am not sure why they chose to write "Chosen".

Chibana Sensei’s hometown was Torihori, not Toribora. Spellings of his hometown such as Toribora or Tottori-cho are inaccurate.

Chibana Sensei was not born to a modest family nor did he work the fields as a boy to support his family's livelihood. His family was nobility from the pre-Meiji era and was extremely successful in the sake business.

It is my understanding that the senior students of Itosu Sensei (Yabu Kentsu, Funakoshi Gichin, Hanashiro Chomo, etc.) were all teaching at the public schools by the time Chibana Sensei started tutelage under Itosu Sensei. Itosu Sensei's senior students did meet to have training sessions periodically after Itosu Sensei's death. It would probably be a stretch to call Funakoshi Gichin a "training partner." Chibana Sensei always referred to Funakoshi Sensei as his sempai. That being said, Chibana Sensei's training with Itosu Sensei was probably more personal because of the Chibana family’s relationship to the Itosu family through marriage.

Chibana Sensei did not pass away on 16 October 1969, he passed away on 26 February 1969.

Miyahira Katsuya was not appointed successor by Chibana Sensei, he was voted in after Chibana Sensei passed away, despite Chibana Sensei’s wish for his grandson to become the atotsugi (successor).

Chibana Sensei never used “Kobayashi” to refer to his karate. While it can be pronounced that way, it was meant to be “Shorin” as tribute to the Shaolin temple (Shorin is the Japanese/Okinawan pronunciation of Shaolin). However, he believed strongly that Shorin Ryu was largely Okinawan and purposely modified the first character from the Chinese “Shao/Sho” so it would retain its originality.

Despite all this, nothing can take away from the fact that this is genuine footage of Chibana Sensei. I only rated this three stars [of five] because I was disappointed with the other content and general presentation.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Okinawa Trip 2007 - Part 6

Overall Impressions

My trip to Okinawa was very worthwhile. As the birthplace of karate, it was good to at least see the place and meet the people who are part of karate history, even if it is the history of karate entering into the modern age. My friend Terry told me that when he visited Okinawa, it confirmed many stories about Nakata Sensei when he was on Okinawa. It was no different for me, whether it was noting the respect that many people paid him due to his being a student of Chibana, people reminiscing about his relationship with Chibana Sensei, or simply those mentioning his fighting prowess when he was there.

Secondly, it showed me the directions that karate was taking, even on Okinawa. The more I train, the more I am able to get what my instructor calls “karate no me”, or simply, an eye for karate. I’m certainly not as good as evaluating people as he is, but there are certain indicators using both the framework of osae, koshi, and hara as well as simple timing and posture that lets me know whether I would wish to train with them or not. I wouldn’t mind learning about other styles and instructors, but I’m not so sure if I would learn from them, as the direction Okinawa seems to be heading in is different than the one I am.

Thirdly, it was nice just meeting people and making contacts. They were all very friendly and open people. Should I ever come to Okinawa again, I’ll know some people I could talk to and Sensei could always be my “in”. If I ever want to know the location and practice times of anybody on Okinawa, I can just swing by Shureido and talk to Nakasone-san.

Fourthly, the food was tasty. Enough said there.

Goya Chanpuru and Tebichi

Fifthly (I can safely say that I have never before used the word “fifthly” before this), after having a sticker on my car for a couple of years that has “Okinawa” and “Ishigantou” given to me by my Japanese teacher in grad school, I can finally answer “yes” when asked if I’ve visited Okinawa before.

Sixthly, I got to see the world of karate politics on Okinawa. Some people we met were very straightforward while others had their own various agendas to attend to. Of course, everyone was really nice, but those are two separate things. Anyone interested in karate history should always take their source into account when reading historical accounts written by Westerners, Japanese, or Okinawans or talking to the people themselves.

Lastly (because “seventhly” would just be ridiculous), I got to see Terry, even if it was just for one evening. I could insert some really trite phrase about friends and long distances, but I’ll just content myself with saying it was cool to see him again.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Okinawa Trip 2007 - Part 5

Friday, 6 April 2007

Friday morning was my opportunity to pretend I was just a regular tourist in Okinawa. I naturally spent some time at the Shuri castle, which played a big role in the history of karate as many of the karate masters were associated in some way with royalty or of nobility, and the Chibana family was no exception. It was interesting just to be able to see the sites always pictured in various karate history books or on the vast multitude of patches, logos and emblems in dojo all across the world.

Shuri Castle, inner courtyard

The afternoon found me standing by a payphone and Sensei Goodin’s cell phone number nowhere in sight. After trying various ways to contact him, I finally gave up and did what anyone else would have done after walking from the Shuri station to Shuri castle, all around the castle, to Asato from Shuri, and all around town: I went to lunch. After a nice meal of goya chanpuru and tebichi (pig’s feet), I walked around for a few souvenirs and later met up with Sensei at the hotel.

From there, we went to Yonamine Kosuke Sensei’s dojo where we observed his Uechi Ryu practice. True to Uechi Ryu, it involved a lot of testing of muscular tension by hitting the students as they performed their basics and their kata. But just like my opinion on Goju Ryu, I’d rather learn how to hit with devastating power than to take hits. There were a lot of two-person sets where the student performed the kata and basically demonstrated the meaning of the movements with the partner as they went through the form. Amusingly enough, one of the younger students got a big kick out of discovering that karate exists on Hawaii. He apparently had a hard time believing that karate was practiced anywhere outside of Okinawa. After practice, Yonamine Sensei invited us into his house and we had a little to eat and drink while we discussed various things. Sensei told me that when he was on Okinawa, he would fight a lot with Yonamine Sensei because he was the strongest Uechi Ryu fighter back then. In the midst of discussion, Yonamine Sensei said that Sensei was the strongest fighter period back then and that I should continue my training with him (I assuredly will). Our talk was less on the historical side and more on just “catching up”, but it was still enjoyable. After an hour or so, we excused ourselves and made our way back to the hotel. I packed all my stuff and went to bed.

Saturday, 7 April

I got up, gathered my things, checked out of my hotel, and met up with Sensei and Sensei Goodin for breakfast at the little diner we ate at earlier. The plane ride back was uneventful and due to time zone changes, I ended up back in Hawaii about 6 hours before I left.

To be concluded in Part 6

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Okinawa Trip 2007 - Part 4

Thursday, 5 April

Thursday morning found me a little short on yen, so I did a lot of footwork around Naha looking for an ATM that would accept my gaijin debit card. After a good deal of hunger-inducing walking, I ended up at Sensei’s hotel empty-handed (and empty-stomached). Sensei and I walked around a bit and found a 24/7 diner that had a pretty decent Japanese breakfast for only 500 yen. We went shopping for a little while, as Goodin Sensei had to pick up some Shiseido products for his wife and I still had to find some way of getting some yen. I later found a machine at the end of Kokusaidoori (not the one that everyone told me about, but the one at the post office). Feeling a little less naked now that I had some more money, I met up with Sensei and Sensei Goodin. We ate at another local restaurant and had a reminder that Okinawa still is in the island of karate, regardless of if it strictly sticks to the old ways or not. As we paid for our meal, we noted that the humble restaurant owner had a karate menjo on his wall, being an instructor in Goju Ryu.

After making our way back to the hotel, Sensei and I swung by Shureido once more and had coffee again with Nakasone-san. At this point, I think I can say that I’ve had more coffee at Shureido than I’ve had in my entire life. I accidentally left my historian hat at the hotel because I somehow got absorbed in looking for T-shirts and didn’t catch most of what Sensei and Nakasone-san were talking about. They then discussed a little about our plans for the day and we mentioned that we were going to visit Oshiro Nobuko, wife of Uechi Ryu’s Yonamine Kosuke and teacher of Higa Yuchoku style Shorin Ryu. They provided us with directions to the dojo and after a little more talking, we went on our way.

We took a cab out to Urasoe City, where Oshiro Sensei had her dojo. We ended up coming a little before her 2nd class and watched for the duration of that one and some of the 3rd. It appears that she has 4 classes a night, with the 4th one being the adults class, although we did have the opportunity to watch an adult independently practicing in the background. I do have to say I was impressed with the discipline and focus of many of the kids. They were doing quite a lot of exercise without complaint and hitting the bags with a lot of power and focus (for their age). She was no slouch herself, being quite active and very fit despite being 59 years of age. Like some other Chibana lineage schools on Okinawa, there seemed to be a lot of personal interpretation which had taken place in the kata. After some time, we excused ourselves and found a taxi.

We made our way to Chatan to visit the dojo of Shimabukuro Zenpo Sensei, of Seibukan. We talked for a while in his dojo and I was very impressed by his fluent English. My instructor has apparently met him on occasion, and his father, Zenryo, would always visit Chibana Sensei very frequently and that the only other person who visited more often (when Chibana Sensei was in good health) was Nakama Chozo Sensei. In some ways, it seemed like my instructor and Shimabukuro Sensei were kindred spirits of a sort, both being similar in age and both trying to preserve what they learned from the last of the old masters in a world embracing modern karate. As it was, he was someone that we could ask direct questions to and get direct answers.

We talked both at his dojo as well as at McDonald’s (a late night place to get coffee). Not having had food in a while, I unashamedly ordered a cheeseburger in lieu of the coffee, although it wasn’t quite filling especially after I tossed the bun. Shimabukuro Sensei mentioned that Nakama Sensei taught him a version of Patsai called Patsai Gua, but he was unsure where Nakama Sensei learned it from. He said that while Nakama Sensei would stay with the Shimabukuro family during the week when he had a job working at the nearby military base messhall and would visit his family on the weekends. A lot of his training from Nakama Sensei occurred during this period. The other main source of karate training was Kyan-style karate from his father. Chibana Sensei would remark that Shimabukuro Zenryo Sensei’s karate was “true Kyan” karate. Chibana Sensei would also always say that karate should be learned with the body, so it was nice to hear Shimabukuro Sensei say the exact same thing. He also stated the kata should keep their original meaning; something Chibana Sensei would always say. Adding credence to the notion that Chibana Sensei never called his style “Kobayashi”, he mentioned that one time Nakazato Shugoro Sensei got upset when he accidentally referred to it as Kobayashi Shorin Ryu. It seems likes the closer a student was to Chibana Sensei, the more likely that student is to call their karate Shorin Ryu as opposed to Kobayashi Ryu or Kobayashi Shorin Ryu.

When speaking about Chibana Sensei, Shimabukuro Sensei echoed the sentiments that I have heard others say: his fighting was very strong and his kata was very clean. By “clean” (he used the Japanese term “kirei”… not to be confused with “pretty”), he meant that it was efficient and devoid of any extraneous movements. It always amazes me that with as much respect that everyone on Okinawa speaks about Chibana Sensei and as much as they acknowledge his seniority in karate and fighting prowess on Okinawa during his lifetime, such little is written or known about him in the wider English or Japanese circles. And sadly, even much of what is written in English tends to be incorrect… but I digress.

After we all talked for quite a good while, Shimabukuro Sensei kindly drove us all the way to our hotel and dropped us off. After Sensei and I chowed down on some big macs (minus the buns) I bought earlier (I made some lame excuse about buying breakfast for the next day), we turned in for the night.

To be continued in Part 5

Friday, April 13, 2007

Okinawa Trip 2007 - Part 3

Wednesday, 4 April

Wednesday morning, I woke up a little later than usual thanks to the awamori. We met up at Sensei’s hotel and went to Shureido where we talked with the owner Nakasone-san over coffee. He was a very nice man and seemed to know a lot about every karate instructor on the island, probably doing business with all of them. We heard later that Nakasone-san is always present at gatherings here and there, taking pictures and footage. He probably has exclusive media and is a veritable encyclopedia of karate history himself. Shureido called up Yonamine Kosuke of Uechi Ryu for us, since we were unable to reach him. They ended up getting in contact with his wife, Oshiro Nobuko, who runs a large Higa Yuchoku lineage school in Urasoe City and we decided to meet up with her the next evening. Speaking with Nakasone-san, I started to notice a trend that everyone we talked to asked how Nagaishi Sensei was faring. Fumio Nagaishi Sensei worked for the US government on Okinawa for many years. He studied under Chibana Chosin and is one of the most senior students of Taira Shinken (he is without a doubt the most senior American student of Ryukyu Kobudo). He served as a liaison for many of the early American karate practitioners on Okinawa and is a close friend of my instructor, Pat Nakata. Nagaishi Sensei is such a large part of karate history on Okinawa, yet he seems to be missing from any of the history books. Some of this is due to his humility, and some of it is due to his being an American despite the many years he spent on Okinawa.

In the afternoon we went to the head of Shorinkan Shorin Ryu Nakazato Shugoro Sensei’s dojo. There we saw Sensei Pat Haley with his group of 20-odd students from the U.S., (Canada?), and South Africa. When we walked in, Nakazato Sensei’s face lit up and he welcomed us, introducing Sensei to several of his 9th dans and a black belt of his who were observing the practice. When he mentioned that Nakata Sensei was a student of Chibana Sensei, they started bowing respectfully. Right away, I could tell that Nakazato Sensei was pretty comfortable with Nakata Sensei. We watched Sensei Haley’s students and they were trying very hard. At one point, one of the students suffered a contusion after bending down on his knee, so he was taken off to the side. Nakazato Sensei gave Sensei Haley a bandage of some sort and gave directions how to apply it, but Sensei Haley was having a little trouble understanding the Japanese and wasn’t really sure what the exact injury was. Nakata Sensei walked over, very quickly diagnosed the problem, and told the student exactly what to do to work it out. It was a nice reminder of just how broad and deep Sensei’s knowledge is. After that, a lot of the dialogue was funneled through Nakata Sensei both by Nakazato Sensei and Sensei Haley.

When their practice was finished, we went upstairs into Nakazato’s Sensei’s home with him and his wife. It was mostly Nakazato Sensei and Nakata Sensei reminiscing about Chibana and the level of familiarity of Japanese that Nakazato Sensei was speaking with indicated that they shared a deep bond since they were both very close to Chibana Sensei, far different from the typically distant Nakazato Sensei that I had heard about. Of course, Nakazato Sensei asked how Nagaishi Sensei was doing and expressed gratitude for what he had done for Chibana Sensei when he was ill (But let there is no doubt that of all the students, the one who did the most for Chibana Sensei when he was ill was Nakazato Sensei). Nakazato Sensei and his wife were visibly upset when they heard about Chibana Sensei’s house being sold and Nakazato Sensei’s wife was brought to tears when she heard about Chibana Sensei’s haka being sold. Nakazato Sensei mentioned that the burial plot he bought for Chibana Sensei was twice as big as his, but that Chibana Sensei was in the Chibana family plot, not the Tawada family plot as Nakamoto Sensei mentioned, but it is possible that some arrangements were made without Nakazato Sensei’s knowledge. We turned the conversation to lighter matters and ended with an open invitation for Nakazato Sensei and his wife to come to Hawaii just to visit if they wanted.

Upon returning to the hotel, Higaonna Sensei and Goodin Sensei were already waiting for us. We then went to another old bookstore and this time, Goodin Sensei spotted a rare book (he already had) with the founder of Goju Ryu Miyagi Chojun Sensei in it. Higaonna Sensei forked over a large sum of cash for it and left feeling very happy. After the bookstore, Higaonna Sensei treated us to dinner before we went to his dojo to observe his class.

The dojo was only a small distance away from both our hotels and like many on the island, was a part of the instructor’s house. Already in the dojo were not only Okinawan students, but students from across the world as well. Practice started with a lot of their hojo undo, which involved the use of traditional Okinawan or Chinese training devices. This usually entailed gripping something heavy and/or either hitting or hitting themselves with something pretty hard, like a rock or a big metal ring. I used to do a lot of hojo undo myself (more so the gripping of heavy things), but I sort of gave that all up a while ago in favor of modern training equipment (like my bowflex). While their ability to take punishment was impressive, I always prefer to train to give punishment rather than to take it. At any rate, after the hojo undo, they did their kata with the usual dynamic tension and artificial breathing methods of Goju Ryu. Higaonna Sensei asked if I wanted to try out some hojo undou, so I grabbed some jars and did some of the walking up and down the line. It was a bit gratifying to feel that the nigirigame (gripping jars) were a little lighter than what I used to train with (or maybe I just grabbed a light pair). When he was showing me how to punch the Goju Ryu way, I’ll admit I had a little difficulty… Some may say there is a lot of similarity between Goju and Shorin Ryu methodologies, but I would have to disagree strongly. Suffice it to say, I will stick with my Shorin Ryu for various reasons. After class, Higaonna Sensei took us upstairs into his house and showed us the beginnings of his museum, which was pretty good already. After a little while, we excused ourselves and I made my way back to my hotel… It was a pretty long day.

To be continued in Part 4

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Okinawa Trip 2007 - Part 2

Tuesday, April 3

After getting up, I walked around the area for a little while before heading to Sensei’s hotel. Upon arrival, I found that Higaonna Morio Sensei of Goju Ryu was already there talking with Nakata Sensei and Goodin Sensei. I found him to be a very soft-spoken and down-to-earth individual, like most of the other masters I met on my trip. We spent some time discussing various things, including the use of kata. While I disagreed with him (internally, of course) about the necessity of things like one-step drills or kumite, we all agreed that the kata should always be the root of one’s practice. In fact, Higaonna Sensei made the interesting statement that he did not mind if you made up your own kata, but you should never change the original kata. After spending time discussing various aspects of karate history, we agreed to meet again on Wednesday in order to visit an old bookstore, have dinner, and observe one of his practices.

Afterwards, we made our obligatory visit to Shureido, although Nakasone-san wasn’t there at the time. We drank our coffee they served us (although I never drink coffee) and looked around for some weapons. Unfortunately, some of their weapons inventory seemed rather low, which I speculate may have been because of Sensei Pat Haley of Shorinkan bringing a group of 20-odd students who probably bought a lot… I later asked Nakasone-san about this and he said they did. At any rate, I bought the last pair of tekko and Sensei bought the last pair of stainless steel sai. I was hoping to find a pair of stainless steel manji sai, but they were all sold out. Having accomplished that, we went around the Shuri area for a while and I ended up buying a pair of nice sunuke nunchaku at the weapons shop across from the Miyako hotel. Apparently, sunuke wood items will be getting pretty rare because it was recently put on the endangered list. They are nice and heavy.

Next, Sensei and I went to the Yamakawa Community Center, which relocated from where Chibana Sensei’s dojo used to be. We got there a little early, so we first ate at a nearby hotel before returning to the community center. Since we were on Okinawan time (similar to Hawaiian time, I guess), the 8:00 practice didn’t start until a little while later. There we met Isa Sensei, who is technically the successor of Chibana Sensei’s Shorin Ryu. He took over for Nakazato Akira (Chibana Sensei’s grandson) after Nakazato quit over 20 years ago. It was a rather mixed experience watching Isa Sensei and his students train, as their methodology has become rather distant from Chibana Sensei’s teachings. When practice was finished, Isa Sensei took us out to a small bar where he treated us to some drinks and snacks. The awamori hit me a little hard, since I haven’t been drinking all that much lately (and since I had some earlier in the day), but I couldn’t just go to Okinawa without trying some, right? After a while, we excused ourselves and turned in for the night.

To be continued in Part 3

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Okinawa Trip 2007 – Part 1

Okinawa Trip 2007 – Part 1

Sunday, 1 April

I spent the first week of April in Okinawa with my karate instructor Pat Nakata and his good friend Sensei Charles Goodin, who owns the Hawaii Karate Museum. Things were originally supposed to work out well for us, as my best friend Terry (and student of Nakata Sensei) now lives in Okinawa and this was an excellent chance for us to see him again. As fate would have it, Terry was called away for a trip the day after Sensei and I arrived, so we only saw him for a few hours. Much of this time was spent first finding Nakata Sensei’s hotel and then finding mine, which were actually in humorously close proximity to one another (maybe ¾ of a mile). Upon arriving at my hotel, we discovered they had no knowledge of my reservation, but it worked out in the end (especially AFTER they took my safety deposit). I stayed at the Forest Makishi, which was a bit cheaper than a hotel since it was a condo and ran me about 200 dollars for the whole week. After eating at a local diner and talking story, we turned in for the night and said our goodbyes to Terry.

Monday, April 2

We started the morning off by visiting Shinzato Katsuhiko Sensei of Kishabajuku Shorin Ryu, who is Sensei Goodin’s teacher. We watched Shinzato Sensei teach Sensei Goodin and a group of visiting Slovenians. It was interesting to see Shinzato Sensei’s methodology in some ways start to approach ours, with of course some very dramatic differences (at this point, far more differences than similarities). Shinzato Sensei was a professor at the Ryukyu University and his English is very good.

Afterwards, we swung by to visit Nakamoto Masahiro Sensei, prolific karate historian/author and kobudo practitioner (and to my surprise, wearer-of-bright-Hawaiian shirts). He was very excited to see us and showed us around his museum before taking us out to lunch (and later, dinner). We ate at a small restaurant that for all appearances looked like a house and had true Okinawan home cooking. It’s probably the kind of place that not a lot of locals know about. At any rate, it was quite good. Afterwards, he took us by the haka (grave stones) of Matsumura “Bushi” Sokon, Hanashiro Chomo, and Itosu Anko. Unfortunately, he informed us that not only was Chibana’s house sold, but his haka was sold as well. He said Chibana’s daughter was staying with her in-laws, so when Chibana’s son-in-law decided that as a Christian, he did not care to have a haka around, she could not object. Chibana Sensei’s remains are presumably interred on church grounds somewhere. Nakamoto Sensei said the people of Tori Hori were organizing a memorial for Toudi Sakugawa and for Chibana Sensei, and he was playing a part in the process. He felt especially that since Chibana Sensei’s haka and house are now gone, it would be a great shame if there was nothing physical to remember him by. 2009 will mark the 50th anniversary of Chibana Sensei passing away. We then swung by a used bookstore, where I bought Nakamoto Sensei’s book (and had him autograph it, which he got a kick out of) and Sensei Goodin found himself a pretty old book which mentioned karate. For dinner, we ate at a place that Nakamoto Sensei’s relative worked at, and included multiple courses that I easily lost track of. We had interesting things like umi budo (sea grapes… a type of seaweed) and ikasumi (squid ink mixed with rice). Quite tasty, actually.

It was quite interesting to hear many of the stories Nakamoto Sensei had to tell, such as his speculation that Chibana Chosin’s father was probably a martial artist, even if he wasn’t a famous one. He based this on the assertion that most all sakeya were martial artists, and they usually had to defend themselves walking home from the market. As the sake business was quite profitable, they had a lot of money to carry, and Chibana Sensei’s father was a leader in the business. During the rule of the Okinawa king, the Sakiyama area was the only place where sake was allowed to be made in honor of their efforts during the Japanese invasion (I need to confirm this). After the annexation of Okinawa and the king was deposed, the restriction was no longer in place, so it is surmised that the Chibana family entered the sake business at this point. At any rate, they ran quite the profitable business. Nakamoto Sensei remarked that on occasion, all the fighters (and bodyguards) in Torihori would come together and have a big fight without any referees or rules. As Terry mentions on his site, there is still some ambiguity regarding the relationship between Chibana-Tawada-Itosu. It is consistently heard that Chibana Sensei’s older sister married Tawada’s eldest son. This time, Nakamoto Sensei clearly said that Tawada’s daughter married Itosu’s eldest son. Regardless, the relationship meant Chibana Sensei was privy to a deeper level of Itosu’s and Tawada’s karate than other regular students of his.

When speaking about how Okinawans cared for their dead, he mentioned that it was the daughter-in-law’s duty to clean the bones (senkotsu) for a number of years after the body has decayed, which then allowed the person to ascend into heaven. Of course, this means you must always be nice to your daughter-in-law, because then she can pay you back by not taking care of your remains after you have departed! The remains are interred in a ceremonial jar and the ink they use to write the names on them is indelible, the same kind that the yakuza use for their tattoos. He mentioned that in this way, oftentimes the most reliable family tree records for old families would be found in the haka.

Another interesting bit of information turned up after Nakamoto Sensei showed us several old sai. These sai all had large bumps where the crosspieces met with the handle. He explained that in the old days, the way they made them resulted in a bulge in the intersection, which was also useful in order to stop blades or other objects caught by the sai. He was amused by people decrying cheaply manufactured sai with bulges where the crosspieces intersect. He stated sai originally had bulges there, although they were a little different. Of course, cheap manufactured sai with bulges are probably worse than well-made, modern “traditional” sai that do not have them. All the same, I had not heard that theory before and found it interesting. After spending the vast majority of the day with Nakamoto Sensei, we headed back to the hotel. On the way, we stopped by where Chibana’s old house used to be, which was a little bit of a letdown since I was interested in seeing it. After getting back, I planned to go out for a wild night on the town, but I just went to bed instead…

To be continued in part 2

Friday, March 23, 2007

Using Kata in a Fight - Keep It Simple

This post was brought up in a discussion I was having at regarding the usefulness/uselessness of kata.

This question was raised to me after I mentioned the fallacy of using people who train kata but fight poorly as evidence for the uselessness of training kata (mistaking correlation with causation, to put it in statistical terms):

Could you offer some information regarding ways to make kata training more applicable to self defense and enhance fighting ability? We could go back and forward saying we think kata is good or bad over and over (which has already happened a bit in this thread). But I would be interested in hearing from those who are experienced in making kata work, and what it is in the training that sets them apart from the "doing kata for fun" crowd.

My response:

I said it in my first post in this thread, but keep things simple. Based on everyone's responses to it, this was misinterpreted pretty much as "people who do kata are just doing fancy things so don't waste your time memorizing useless kata". That's not what I said.

Chibana Sensei always used to say that if you had to change the movement of your kata to match your meaning, or the meaning to match the movement, then your meaning is usually wrong. (For background, "meaning" or "imi" was the word most commonly used to describe what a movement meant in a kata. The word bunkai is a relatively newer phenomenon.) In other words, how you move in the kata is how you move in a fight. There is no point in continuous repetition of a move that you are going to do completely differently in a fight. There is the obvious slight modification due to your opponent's size, etc., but the core movement is the same. The core process of what you do and how your body does it is the same.

Chibana Sensei taught three different levels of technique within the kata, pretty much younger kids, high school, and advanced. The thing is, even the "advanced" techniques weren't mystical pressure point manipulations or 3-step grappling maneuvers. The advanced part usually meant the technique was just more vicious and permanently injurious/fatal than the "basic" techniques. What people fail to ultimately realize is that there are no advanced techniques, only advanced execution of basics. A lot of times, that block is just a block, that punch is just a punch. What made them worthwhile to practice was that the kata taught you exactly the proper posture, stance, movement, and timing necessary to give you a punch that would knock someone out cold in one shot or a block that would literally floor your opponent.

The sad part is, most people can't punch or block with enough effectiveness to end a confrontation with a single technique. It has got to the point where even the idea itself is considered ridiculous. Most people give up on the idea entirely. Therefore, they have to invent new meanings for moves in the kata, since their attachment to kata remains, even if they can't fight effectively using it. Currently, there is an intense interest in grappling, so you see all these hidden grappling techniques taught, some of them bordering on absurdity in their complexity. I'm fairly sure the Pinan kata weren't formulated to end up with an armbar on the ground. But you will find many enlightened kata analysts who can modify the technique in a kata so it bears a passing resemblance to the movement, but is something entirely different altogether. Again, if you're not going to train the same execution as you would use in a fight, you're doing something wrong.

There is grappling in karate, don't get me wrong. We have a fair number of throws, a few joint locks, and the odd choke every now and then. But usually a "super secret hidden technique" is more often a simple grab to the ear with one hand, the throat in the other, and a turn which facilitates the throw. Very simple and effective, yet often overlooked because the meaning couldn't possibly be that basic. Like it or not, the mainstay of karate is striking. Grappling is just a bonus used upon convenience or necessity.

Again, because there is the lack of ability to generate pure destructive power from very simple techniques, people insert extra things into the kata, both analytically and physically as they alter the movements or how they do them. At this stage, the kata lost connection with their roots and anyone attempting to keep the kata simple would only have weak basics. It is a sadly vicious cycle and not one that anyone can mend other than having the fortune to train with those who truly learned the basic methodologies of those who have passed down the kata with only minimal individual modification.

If one reads between the lines, you can guess how much I feel even the majority of traditional karate meets my above criteria. I have my doubts as to how many people are afforded even the opportunity to learn good kata under an instructor who can teach what needs to be taught. All the same, there is no doubt in my mind that kata is an effective training tool for fighting.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Meeting up on the Mainland

On a recent business trip out to the East Coast, I met up with Ed Tiller, a long-distance student of my instructor. After living here in Hawaii since last October, the East Coast cold was not exactly my idea of nice weather, but the warm reception by Ed and his family more than made up for my ruined plans of not seeing snow at all this year. Like me, he is a former Shorinkan Shorin Ryu practitioner with the fortune of discovering Nakata Sensei, so some of our training background is very similar.

Ed was generous enough to pick me up on the first night from my hotel near Baltimore and drive me out to his residence over 70 miles away. There, I met his wife and two younger daughters and we had a pleasant dinner which left me satisfied but wishing I could make salmon that delicious. Before and after dinner, Ed and I went through some kata and kept each other on our toes as to what we probably should and should not be doing. Afterwards, Ed dropped me off at my hotel and I realized he must do an awful lot of driving every day.

The next day, I met him halfway and we drove out to the community center where he conducts a kids class followed by an adults class. It was refreshing to have the rare opportunity to meet others training with the same methodology. I really enjoyed "teaching" the class, although it was more of me giving observations and advice while providing a heavy dose of disclaimers as we did kata together. Come to think of it, I suppose that is teaching after all. So much did I enjoy myself, I regretted not having more time to spend training with Ed and his students when class ended. After practice, we swung by Ruby Tuesday's to grab a bite to eat and then went our separate ways.

While I enjoyed myself immensely, it highlighted the level of understanding necessary to put each detail of our methodology into clear and concrete terms. Not just in theory and on paper, but in actual practice. I also learned much more about why Sensei has us rotate out during kata so that we can test and correct everyone else. Of course, correcting my seniors is a little difficult since their mistakes aren't that obvious to me...

At any rate, I would like to extend my gratitude to Ed Tiller, his family, and his students for having me and I wish you all the best of luck in your training.

For those of you in OSKA wanting to know more about Ed, he has assured me that he will post his introduction on the mailing list soon. Hah, the pressure is on!

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Putting Theory To Practice: Newton's 3rd Law of Motion

"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."
Sir Isaac Newton

Last week, I understood a little more about how Newton's Third Law of Motion applies to karate. It was a typical post-practice scene, with Sensei and I talking story as I hit the heavy bag. And as usual, Sensei provided corrections and suggestions in between stories about his training on Okinawa, anecdotes about people he ran into that week, and some various musings we were both entertaining. Like I said, talking story. Sensei mentioned that I should push against the ground with my feet when I hit. This wasn't the first time I heard it, nor was Sensei the first person I heard it from. He pressed his foot against mine to let me feel how I should be doing it. Again, that night wasn't the first time. However, this time something clicked. Having my weight towards the outside of my feet as they pushed against the ground suddenly made it easier to keep good posture and to time the kime. It was easier to use koshi naturally and to employ hara... or, at least to feel it. It wasn't a perfect hit, far from it. But it felt good. No, it felt great. Certainly better than any of my previous tries that evening... maybe one of my better ones up until that point, period.

I already knew about Newton's 3rd Law and that whenever I pushed off the ground, the entire earth pushed back with the same amount of force. I already knew that I have the ability to walk, run, and jump around because even though the earth and I are pushing against each other with the same amount of force, I accelerate a lot more because the earth has far, far more mass than I do. Technically, I accelerate the earth by the merest fraction when I do this... we all do. And as I mentioned before, other styles tell their students to push against the ground during their techniques to take advantage of this wonderful earth-moving power, although whether or not their stance and posture maximizes this benefit is another matter.

But until my accumulated experience of trial and error from continued practice allowed me to understand it, all that knowledge was worthless in a fight. Knowing theory can only point you in the right direction. Knowing methodology gives you the opportunity to train properly. Training properly gives you experience. Experience is the difference between knowing and understanding, and understanding makes all the difference in the world.

"Knowledge is empirical and not intellectual. It is to be experienced and from experience comes understanding."
Sensei Pat Nakata

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Paradigm Shift Part 2: Boxer Mentality versus Ippon Kowashi

When reading all the stories about the old masters of karate fighting in real situations, you notice one thing: the fights didn't last more than a few seconds. Yet if you notice the way most people train, whether it is karate, mixed martial arts, boxing, or whatever, they train specifically to exchange blows and use all sorts of tricks. Certainly, they don't preach that one should take a long time to win, but looking at their approach, multiple techniques and combos are viewed as necessary. This exemplifies the notion of having a "boxer mentality" versus Chibana Sensei's concept of "ippon kowashi" or "one technique, total destruction."

The boxer mentality stems from simply tradition, a more sport oriented focus, the belief that it is better to be safe than sorry, or the outright refusal to believe a fight can be ended with a single technique outside of good luck and proper circumstances. In most cases, it is a combination of this last reason with one or more of the others. For these people, combos or advanced techniques are a must because the basic techniques simply aren't strong enough or effective enough to win a fight by themselves.

In traditional martial arts circles, there is disillusionment with the idea of ippon kowashi. Sadly, many of the schools that do believe in it grossly overestimate their skills, which only contributes to that disillusionment amongst the greater martial arts community. Many rational martial artists notice their techniques lack the power needed for ippon kowashi. In brutal honesty, this lack of power comes from having an instructor who couldn't or wouldn't teach them how to generate it properly or simply the student not being good enough to learn it (but usually the instructor is to blame). As a result, these rational martial artists begin to believe martial arts techniques must rely on speed and involve a heavy emphasis on esoteric pressure points, complex grappling, or whatever the flavor of the week is. Unfortunately, this overly eclectic approach, while useful for exposure, causes seriously dedicated martial artists to do everything except work towards an advanced understanding of basics. Much lip service is paid to the idea of keeping things "simple" and sticking to the basics, but few instructors actually do this. Then again, few instructors ever teach ippon kowashi, let alone teach it properly. At most, there is a philosophical idea of ippon kowashi, but only in terms of giving full concentration to each technique, as if each technique was a killing blow. Consequently, for most people who do not believe in ippon kowashi, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy and their techniques will lack the degree of power necessary to pull it off. In order for them to fight effectively, they must use the boxer mentality as their approach.

By contrast, Chibana Sensei's Shorin Ryu karate was all about ippon kowashi. His karate wasn't merely ippon kowashi in the philosophical sense, but had the ability to defeat opponents with one technique. Ippon kowashi isn't the result of mystical sounding pressure point techniques or any sort of spiritual ki. Instead, it is the application of such intense power that an opponent cannot stand against it. By mastering the closing of distance and proper timing, his use of ippon kowashi made him the most respected karate instructor on Okinawa. If the opponent kicked or punched, his block would literally floor them. If they did nothing or tried to guard themselves, he would open them up and destroy them with a single punch. Such a power seems legendary, and in a way, is. However, this kind of power is not unattainable nor is it merely an exaggeration or a fond myth. His teachings were passed to my instructor Pat Nakata and are the foundation of how we train.

Before I trained under Nakata Sensei and before my friend Terry showed me ippon kowashi was possible, I was firmly in the boxer mentality crowd. Even still, my attachment to the way I was doing things was so great, it wasn't until after I trained with Terry for an extended period that I was able to get over the hurdle of my ego and recognize that the doubts I had about my own training were indications that my training methodology was seriously lacking. After seeing the profound improvement in Terry, I made the firm decision to come to Hawaii so I could train under Nakata Sensei. I literally thank myself for doing so every day.

Ippon kowashi is the result of refinement rather than being a technique collector. To obtain ippon kowashi, you must have an instructor who can generate that kind of power and can teach how to do it. I've learned that such an instructor is exceedingly rare. Equally necessary is being able to learn it. I facetiously joke with Sensei about him one day revealing to me the hidden scroll of all his knowledge, but that is because we both know there are no secrets, no hidden techniques. All it takes is an understanding of timing, body mechanics, and continual training. You gain this from doing kata, hitting the bag, and practicing a few walk-in drills. Nothing more, nothing less.

When fighting, there is no waiting for the opponent to attack. There is no letting the opponent determine the pace of the fight. If he attacks, you destroy what he attacks with and him in the process. If he blocks, you destroy what he blocks with and him in the process. If he does nothing, then you destroy him regardless. That is the mindset needed to match the technical skill to actually achieve those results. Fighting with ippon kowashi requires total commitment. Total commitment fully accepts life or death as the outcome of a fight and requires supreme confidence, which can come only through training and experience. Confidence without skill is merely bravado. Skill without confidence can't be utilized.

Back to Paradigm Shift Part 1: Search versus Pursuit

~To be continued in Part 3

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Clearing the Air: The Truth About Chibana Sensei's Succession

Many people make many claims about who exactly is Chibana Sensei's chosen successor in Shorin Ryu karate. What follows are the words of my instructor, Pat Nakata, a direct student of Chibana Sensei:

In 1965 when I spoke with Chibana Sensei about the future of his organization, he stated that his grandson, Akira Nakazato (not related to Shugoro Nakazato) would succeed him as the head of Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate-Do Kyokai. The 4 senior instructors, Chozo Nakama, Yuchoku Higa, Katsuya Miyahira, and Shugoro Nakazato would be part of an executive advisory board to help guide Akira in his administration of the organization. Akira would then adopt the Chibana name and become Akira Chibana. For some reason Chibana Sensei's wishes were never carried out.

Instead, a meeting of Chibana Sensei's senior students was held. At this meeting Katsuya Miyahira was elected the President and head of the Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate-Do Kyokai.

It is my sincere hope that over time, the truth of the matter will be well-known. Chibana Sensei did not appoint anyone other than his grandson to be his direct successor.

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Paradigm Shift Part 1: Search versus Pursuit

Over my years in training, I noted several things lacking in my karate, although I still remained convinced of the practicality of traditional karate. When my best friend and old time training partner Terry opened my eyes to what strong karate really meant, I began to undergo a radical paradigm shift as he began to teach me what he learned from Nakata Sensei during his time in Hawaii. Fortune has allowed me to start training under Nakata Sensei and my views on karate have continued their transitions.

The events of the past year as well as my previous personal journey in karate leads me to conclude that there are two kinds of traditional karate: searching karate and pursuit karate. What unites these two is their traditional focus on kata to gain effective fighting skill as opposed to other training methodologies or the mere existence of Japanese cultural traits, which is the main thrust of my article entitled "What is 'Traditional' Karate". While there are many differences between the two, I chose their names based upon the learning journey in each.

Searching karate lacks a definite and consistent methodology from which refinement can occur. As the name implies, the individual is searching for such a foundation, but because of a lack of serious fighting experience (common among traditional karate practitioners) and the lack of an instructor with true depth to teach them, they are left to fend for themselves. I have met many traditional karate instructors who firmly believe that every generation of karate practitioners reinterprets much of the kata they learn from their instructors, as transmission from teacher to student is often incomplete. This simply means that someone was being a poor student, a poor teacher, or did not have the opportunity to learn everything. Whatever the case, the results are unfortunately the same. Even if there is a consistent methodology, limited understanding causes it to lack "stand alone" quality as it is not fighting effective. This leads many to develop a mixed martial arts mentality. Their understanding of kata and fighting is shallow, so they must supplement it with knowledge of other styles, whether it be jujitsu, Chinese martial arts, or whatever the flavor of the week is. At this point, they only indulge in patchwork karate, even if they devotedly train their kata. The more one searches outside of karate to understand their kata, the more pointless it becomes to "remain traditional" and train with kata. In the end, their study of karate focuses more on "what" they are doing rather than "how".

This is in direct contrast to pursuit karate, which distinguishes itself through the potential for refinement. A consistent methodology providing context for every movement in every kata makes refinement possible. In other words, it is already known "what" is being done. What is important and what must be refined is "how". This perspective highlights the luck needed to find an instructor of true depth who can provide the necessary context. Context and refinement don't narrow one's scope; they widen it. Because the emphasis is on "how", technique collection from other styles is unnecessary. My instructor uses the analogy of being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel rather than groping around blindly in the dark. He half-jokingly states that the light keeps on moving whenever he gets closer, but forward progress is always made.

~to be continued in Paradigm Shift Part 2: Boxer Mentality versus Ippon Kowashi