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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gijoe said...

IMHO, the strongest technique, actually is the punch itself. When timed and executed properly, you put the opponent away.

RenshiRR said...

There is no doubt that the punch is the put-away technique. howveer, the most significant learning and teaching message is the opening of the hips with the step and block, then the closing of the hip action with the strike. Without this the karateka is relying on upper body strength alone.

Bujutsu Blogger said...

I understand where gijoe is coming from. Even without any of the "opening segment" of the move I described in my post, if you can apply a dominating walk-in or otherwise dominate the situation, you can hit the man and put him away. That is where the real power lies.

The things you mentioned about hips, and the other things unmentioned (backpull, timing, kime, etc.) are all a part of a good punch anyway and are a given when discussing these things, at least from my standpoint. I'm going to rat out gijoe and say he has a very strong punch... he is definitely not using just upper body strength nor is his answer without depth. This depth didn't strike me at first (pun intended) until I really thought about it.

As for opening the hips and such, I would say it is far more important to learn your center of balance, which translates to the use of hara .

As for my post, I was just lazy and lumped the two techniques together.

That being said, you can look at it from an abstract point of view. From understanding how power is derived in punching, one can understand how power is created in everything. If you cannot punch with power, you will most likely have a hard time blocking with power.

Joe S said...

Interesting that your descritpion of the stance is similar to sanchin dachi, the basics anyway, toes in heals out one foot slightly in from of the other.
Also the movement of the left arm very similar to the "circle blok" in Uechi Ryu.

Very interesting.

gijoe said...

The kihon stance bujutsu blogger describes is fundamentally different from a sanchin stance. These differ in three primary ways (based on my limited understanding/experimentation with Naha Te). First, only one set of toes are pointed slightly in (the heel is not deliberately thrust out as I have seen in Naha Te, but the slight turn in of the toes has the byproduct of the heel being slightly out), and these belong to the lead foot. The back foot is open with toes pointing 45 degrees.

Second, the legs are "collapsed" (please note the quotations) in Naha Te in order to protect vital points in the inner thigh and groing. This "closes" the Sanchin stance. The Kihon stance is very open, with stress being put on the outside edges of the feet.

Third, the pelvis is thrust forward, effectively tightening the butt cheeks and closing the anal sphincter to protect vital points in the rear. This also has the effect of applying hara in the completely opposite manner that it is applied in Kihon. Because of the forward thrust of the pelvis, hara is essentially lifted up and back. In Chibana Kihon, the hara is dropped down and forward.

While these differences might appear superficial, especially visually, the cumulative effect of these differents result in substantially different methodologies of power generation. Bujutsu Blogger and I have found the Chibana methodology to be the one that makes the most sense for our bodies and the intent behind our training.

Bujutsu Blogger said...

Someone made a similar comment on Ebudo and I was trying to figure out the best way to word a response. You should pop that on there (in the kata bunkai thread in the Gendai Budo->Traditional Karate board).

Ted said...

The best move cannot be pre-planned. It the timing isn't right the "best move" does not work and the worst move might be the ticket. At times a slight bump delivered at the right time in space is better than some powerful "best move" that works well against a static bag but against an unpredictable meth head ..who knows. Fighting is about not planning and not thinking "If I do this move..." that on the street will get you killed

Bujutsu Blogger said...

Thanks for your comments.

A preplanned response was not what I was advocating at all. Instead, it's a complete package that put together, is pretty hard to beat. "What if" games can be played forever, but I am not interested in that. I am not reacting to anything, I am taking control of the situation and enforcing my desired result. There is nothing passive or planned about it about it, nor is it a technique; it is a methodology. In the end it boils down to fighting with the methodology we train for and refine. This move is the epitome of that methodology. If you understand distance, posture, stance, breathing, and timing, you really have no need for anything extraneous.