Showing posts from July, 2013

Seipai 2 person form: passing on the knowledge

A few years ago my friend Jim asked the following question on the Traditional Fighting Arts Forums:
"I think I'm right in saying there is not 1 authentic, traditional Okinawan 'form' that has a complete 2 man Bunkai in existence?" Jesse Enkamp replied with this answer:
"One word: Seipai!" I think Jesse-san was right in this (and also about the fact that, as he said, it wasn't the only one!).

That said, I also think it is quite rare for Okinawan and Chinese kata to envisage or even permit a literal 2 person application; to my mind most forms were created entirely for single person performance - bearing in mind that such things as embusen (floor pattern), repetition of certain sequences, etc. make a literal 2 person application unlikely.

However occasionally, just occasionally, you get a significant portion of a kata that clearly is meant to work as a literal 2 person form.

You'll notice I refer to a "significant portion" not "entir…

Channan vs. pinan/heian

The pinan or heian series of karate kata are among the most widely practised in the world today - largely thanks to the efforts of Gichin Funakoshi in popularising karate in Japan in the 1930s and onward and later that of his organisation, the Japanese Karate Association (JKA) in spreading karate (specifically, Funakoshi's shotokan style) throughout the world.

The 5 heian kata of shotokan are substantially the same as the "original" series, apart from 2 main differences:
they were "renamed" from the original "pinan" to "heian"; andthe order of the first two kata was reversed. Other minor technical differences abound but, I would argue, no more so than as between any schools of karate in the shorin tradition today.

So who created the "original" 5 pinan?  Are they based on some traditional Chinese form?

It is commonly agreed that the author of the 5 pinan was karate master Yasutsune "Anko" Itosu (1832-1915) and that they we…

The power of defence

We’ve all heard the refrain: “Attack is the best form of defence.”  It is so axiomatic that we almost daren’t question it.  And yet in this article that is precisely what I propose to do.  In fact, I will go further to demonstrate that the true measure of martial skill lies not in one’s skill in attack - but in one’s mastery of defence.
First let me dispose of the inevitable:
Yes there are cases where “attack is the best form of defence”.  Principally, there are two situations in which one can say this is true: If you can pre-empt an attack with your own, you will obviously be in a much stronger position than if you had to negate/avoid an attack launched before yours.  This is so obvious it barely warrants a mention.  However, as I have most recently discussed, pre-emption isn’t always possible.  In fact, when it comes to most civilians facing an unprovoked attack, it is usually improbable - and perhaps inadvisable for ethical/moral, legal and logical/logistical reasons.  As I have p…

"Strike first, strike hard, no mercy sir!"

I've received many messages and comments on social media and privately regarding my recent article "Enter the interception".

A common response is exemplified by "Nelson's" below:
""When in doubt strike out." was the maxim under which I was trained. This I took to mean when confrontation is inevitable you must have the wherewithal to react BEFORE you get popped whether it be by a knife, gun or fist. If you insist on being a dojo lawyer and giving an opponent the first shot you'd better stay on the "good" side of town only in daylight hours." This is a variation on the old "I'd rather be tried by 12 than carried by 6". I have to say, it has a lot of emotional appeal and seems unimpeachable when it is raised: no one can disagree with it in principle.
However I don't feel this provides any kind of formula for conflict management. To me, it is far too simplistic to capture the myriad social circumstances we enco…

The wooden man

Most traditional martial arts of the Far East involve practice against a “wooden man” (“mu ren zhuang” or “muk yan jong”) – a dummy that serves as a kind of “striking target”.
The earliest version of this “wooden man” was almost certainly just a tree or sapling, but ultimately it evolved into something with a striking surface that was a little more uniform (the bark of a tree can be a little unforgiving) and a little more convenient (finding the right tree is okay if you live near a a forest, but try finding one in a city!).

The other issue with trees is that they don’t tend to have much “give”; even a sapling is not that different to a brick wall when it comes to receiving the average punch or kick.  Hitting something with that much inertia can be quite unsatisfying (to say nothing of damaging to the body)!
Early in our careers my brother and I discovered that Australian paperbark saplings were a reasonable tree for kicking, as they had at least some “spring” (while the paper…