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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