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Showing posts from 2008

Why "corkscrew" your punch?

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In my view the reason so many martial arts utilise the standard "corkscrew punch" (eg. karate, taekwondo, many shaolin schools, etc.) has little to do with a conscious effort at enhancement of power/stability, or because of fashion or aesthics.

It is simply a function of our biomechanical design.

Consider a very short, close range punch into the ribs - with an uppercut type action. Your palm will naturally face upward.

Think of a handshake where you are middle distance (ie. your elbow is not fully extended). Your palm is side on and you have what is known as "vertical fist" punch.

Now think of an extended "raise your arms in front" (as a doctor or physiotherapist might ask you to do) - or even a pointing action - ie. where your elbow is fully extended. The most natural position is palm down. Hence when you have a fully extended punch it will naturally end up with the full corkscrew.

The standard "karate-type" punch covers all three of the above "…

Goju ryu karate and health

Is goju karate bad for your health?

I was recently asked about whether goju ryu is potentially bad for your health. The correspondent was particularly concerned with knuckle push ups and makiwara punching causing arthritis, and sanchin kata having other adverse effects (eg. raising blood pressure).

Knuckle push-ups

Knuckle push ups will not cause arthritis. There are 2 kinds of arthritis; the rheumatoid type (ie. caused by an immunological disease be it rheumatoid arthritis or any other reactive arthritis related to Crohns disease, psoriasis, etc.) and osteoarthritis (which is commonly associated with age (wear and tear) and can result from joint degeneration following an injury or repeated injuries and inflammation, among other things).

Knuckle push ups and makiwara obviously have no relationship with rheumatoid-type arthritis. As to oseteoarthritis - they MIGHT have a relationship but only if you keep injuring yourself.

To avoid this risk, you should:

(a) do your knuckle push ups corre…

Creating a kata: Part 2

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As I said in Creating a kata: Part 1, you create a kata in order to:1. package and preserve "fragments" of knowledge; or

2. fill a void; or

3. improve existing forms.In terms of the latter 2, this is not an exercise to be entered into lightly. That you are "filling a void" or "improving" something is a big assumption. Nonetheless one can see some obvious examples, eg. with beginner kata; finding newer ways of teaching beginners how to acquire basic coordination and skill quickly is the role of any coach/teacher.

Now here is an interesting example of (I assume) a created kata:


Daishizen Koken-ha Goju-ryu Tode kata Mizute - click on the image to view the video.

I assume it is "created" recently because in my research I am not aware of any kata corresponding to this name or to this movement. If it is recently created, then I think it actually looks quite good. The real issue for me would be whether it would have any "value adding" benefit to…

What happens when you lose your teacher?

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When Kanryo Higaonna died, Miyagi is quoted as saying that he felt he was "groping his way along an unlit road".

To fully understand this metaphor you have to be in a completely isolated place like in the outback here in Australia where on a cloudy night there is no light - zero (where in most places on Earth there is a distant light on the horizon from one city/town or other). Even as you walk along a well demarcated road you soon find yourself straying into the bushes. More than once during our gashuku in the wilderness I have made the mistake of visiting the "sanitary convenience" without checking the batteries of my torch - only to find out on my return trip that they had gone flat.

With the campfire out you can become lost very quickly. In one case (in the middle of the night on a Gashuku in 1989) I wondered off the 4wd track (I couldn't even see its boundaries) and walked almost the opposite way for a kilometre or more. The only way I got home was by gropin…

Creating a kata: Part 1

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Recently one of my colleagues on the Traditional Fighting Arts Forum referred us to the "24 Fighting Chickens" site which contains useful advice on "How to create a kata".

Now not everyone who creates a good kata was himself/herself a world beater or the most knowledgable. I've maintained before that kata is like a poem or piece of music (see my article "Kata: art or science") however not every kata has to be an "Eine kleine nachtmusik" to be effective.

I think what I found odd about the 24 fighting chickens article was the tone which suggests that everyone can and should make up kata - like those form competitions where you are judged on your own creation.

That said, the advice was fairly good and I actually have nothing against making up kata. Someone had to make up the originals! In fact I'm all for creativity. It's just that in any creative art you need a certain technical base before your creations are anything more than doodle…

Control vs. "missing"

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A few months ago I read a post on a forum stressing the importance of not “missing” or “pulling” your blows in training.1 The gist of the gentleman’s post is that one should not train to “miss”. Instead one should train to contact, both to groove the correct approach to striking and also to become accustomed to taking blows. I agree wholeheartedly with this as a general statement in as much as it pertains to those who are training to apply their techniques, be it in civilian defence, the sporting arena or a military conflict.

But how can one make contact in training safe?

Being from a boxing background the poster notes that the punches should be “heavy, but not hard... you're driving through to your target but only with weight and not power”. What does he mean by this?

It is my view that the poster’s description of “heavy, but not hard” is entirely accurate from a physics perspective. In my article “Hitting harder: physics made easy” I discuss how in order to transfer momentum e…

Ten rules for opening a martial arts school

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A colleague on the Traditional Fighting Arts Forum recently asked us to list the 10 most important things to consider in opening a martial arts school. Here was my answer:

1. You should be passionate and committed to your martial art and your own progress within that art.

2. You should be qualified to teach at least up to an intermediate (what we call green belt) level. This means you should be thoroughly conversant with technical material to be taught for the first 3-4 years of your students' training. You can be qualified to teach even higher grades - the higher the better. But you have no business opening a dojo unless you have a deep knowledge of the material up to at least an intermediate level. It goes without saying that you should have attained a much higher level than that. But there is a difference in my view between passing a dan grade and being able to teach the material you've just passed. I am also assuming that you will progress further so that you always…

The 5 elements and martial arts

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When I first began studying xingyiquan it seemed somewhat strange to me that it should have 5 core defence/counter movements and that these should be described (albeit metaphorically) by reference to the traditional 5 element theory, namely:*
Wood (Crushing) 崩 Bēng
Fire (Pounding) 炮 Pào
Earth (Crossing) 橫 Héng
Metal (Splitting) 劈 Pī
Water (Drilling) 鑽 Zuān

Even more perplexing was the description of these elements as functioning in 2 different cycles, a constructive cycle (生 or shēng) and a destructive cylce (克/剋 or kè).




The constructive cycle can be described as follows:*

* Wood feeds Fire;
* Fire creates Earth (ash);
* Earth bears Metal;
* Metal carries Water (as in a bucket or tap);
* Water nourishes Wood.
On the other hand the destructive cycle can be described in this way:*

* Wood parts Earth;
* Earth absorbs Water;
* Water quenches Fire;
* Fire melts Metal;
* Metal chops Wood.
I remember coming back to Perth after a visit to my internal arts teacher Chen Yun Ching and going over my notes. I sud…

A new forum

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After one hectic weekend I have managed to create my own forum - the Traditional Fighting Arts Forum.

I have done so because of my own desire to be part of a community of sincere, enthusiastic and friendly martial artists who want to exchange ideas, information, anecodotes and humour - and occasionally engage in some constructive debate!

To all my friends, students, martial arts colleagues and readers I extend a warm invitation to join me there. I can promise you that I will do all in my power to ensure that the forum runs efficiently and that the appropriate standards of courtesy and honour are maintained.

Remember - this forum is for any and all who are practising or interested in traditional martial arts from around the world. I hope to learn from the varying perspectives!

I apologise to readers in advance if this month is short on articles; I had planned to add to my goju history series among other things, but I might not get to it!

Keep well.

The main purpose of kata

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The other day I received an email query about the nature and purpose of kata. As it raises some very pertinent issues I thought I would share it with you and also my response."I was reading your blog and the information on the page for the traditional school of martial arts. I was just wondering your thoughts on the internal art of Tai Chi and the application of solo forms of that as well as katas of karate. The application part is what is all kind of new to me and where I am having trouble understanding. With the repetitive nature of these forms and styles, in real world setting,(not at competitions to gain points)is the aim for it to be second nature and to "re-act" rather than square up and have a formal fight?"This query made me made me realise that I have never really addressed the issue of what I consider to be its main purpose. [Readers of my blog will be aware that I have previously discussed purposes of kata in the articles such as: “Kata - art or scienc…

Sparring from day one?

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Free sparring in karate is a fairly modern innovation, developed post World War II as part of the drive to popularise karate and turn it into a sport. From there sport-based "distance" sparring ("shiai kumite" or "ippon shobu") spread rapidly throughout the karate world. However as I have discussed previously this type of sparring bears little resemblance to actual fighting and, very importantly, bears little resemblance to how karate was designed to be used. This is especially so when you consider that most karate techniques such as deflections/blocks and tenshin/taisabaki are only really applicable in what I have called the "melee range" - ie. the "toe-to-toe" range where blows are furiously exchanged, not the range where sports opponents circle each other looking for an opening.

Parallel to the sport sparring, some Okinawan karate schools developed a form of free sparring that was continuous and free-flowing, based in the melee ra…

Karate punches vs. boxing punches

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Introduction

In my article “Kime: the soul of the karate punch” I described the essential feature of the karate punch as being “focus” – ie. a combination of minimal deceleration before impact and optimum distancing – usually performed in karate with a straight thrust.

Many have, and will continue to, argue that this straight thrust is less powerful than a boxer’s follow-through punches. This is true. But to understand why this does not necessarily mean that the former is less effective we’ll have to examine punching methods – what someone I know calls “delivery systems” – in greater detail. To the extent that karate punching is “less powerful”, I will then go on to examine why this is a tactical choice rather than a necessary failing.

Categorising punches

In a very general sense karate punches can be divided into 2 kinds: straight line and curved. In boxing, punches can be divided into 2 different categories that overlap with the karate ones, namely: 1. jabs (ie. punches which retrac…