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A year of activity - and controversy...

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A lazy year?

My regular readers will note that it hasn't exactly been a standard year for this blog.

I started off with two fairly meaty (I think anyway) articles in January relating to the karate maxim "karate ni sente nashi" ("there is no first strike in karate") and a fairly big post on traditional techniques in MMA in February.

But from that time until August I wrote almost nothing here - just a few "micro blogs".

Even my January and February posts hardly reflected my usual average of 4 or so large (at least 3,000 or so words) articles per month (something I've maintained since I started blogging in 2008).

So what happened?  A very busy year, is the answer:

Writing a novel in 3 months

Somewhat surprisingly (for me and others) I used the period of 24 December 2013 to 26 March 2014 to write a novel - The Mirror Image of Sound.  This was published in instalments in "real time" (on a blog dedicated to this project).

[Those who want a syno…

Parker's hand postures

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Before I leave the subject of Ed Parker behind completely, I'm going to delve into something I touched on very briefly in my last article - his hand postures.  I'm doing so because the issue was raised recently on the Kenpotalk forum.

A friend of mine, MarkC, posted that he felt the postures were "fake".  Another replied to him as follows:
"So tell me again why posing with the extended fingers is some kind of fake. In fact tell that to Ed Parker and his followers. This is the form of the Crane and there is a specific application for it." So I replied with the more or less what follows below:

There are two types of "postures" seen in photos of quan fa practitioners:
poses of strikes; and poses of "guard positions". The poses of "strikes" are usually what quan fa people adopt for photos. Here's me posing with others at a temple during training in Taiwan:


The strike is used in action in the tiger crane form (which is related t…

Cross-stepping: power and pitfall

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Introduction

Like any transition in martial arts, the cross step ("kosa dachi" in Japanese) has its uses - sometimes very powerful ones.

It also comes with significant, inherent weaknesses.

On the latter subject, let me quote from the fantastic MMA writer Jack Slack in his recent article concerning Machida's "triangle kick" knockout of CB Dollaway:


In karate there is the idea of kyo, something I was writing about at length this week, but actually abandoned in order to publish my Karate's Holy Trinity. Kyo is a moment of weakness in an opponent. When he is recovering from an attack, when he hesitates between techniques or mid combination, when he is breathing in or recovering his guard. 

A cross step (kosa dachi) is such a kyo.  Let me explain why.

Weakness #1: extra time and telegraphing

First, it is important to understand that the cross step is really a species of "tsugi ashi" - where one leg skips up to the other (or crosses over it) then the oth…

Are you stuck in basic karate/gongfu?

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Introduction

I recently canvassed a favourite issue of mine - namely the need to time your punching/striking hand at the same time (or a fraction before) your front foot lands in a step.

As you'll recall I first raised this in my article "Xingyi stepping vs. karate stepping" as a means of discussing some of the particular technical approaches used in the internal arts of China.  I principally did so as part of my drive to explain that these arts actually have some genuine, quite advanced, fighting methods that rely on simple, unadulterated physics - not "woo" (ie. "qi" or some other supernatural/paranormal phenomenon) as many people unfortunately seem to think.

I followed this up with my article "Giving away the big secrets" in which I discussed one major reason why this was so important: because it uses your stepping momentum in the most efficient way possible - utilising your whole body mass behind the punch.  Put another way, as soon as th…

Another Machida mae geri?

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Lyoto Machida has delivered another keage geri (snap kick) win - this time a body shot (a kick to the liver) - to finish CB Dollaway  at only 1:02 into the first round (after some punches on the ground).


At first I thought the kick contacted with the ball of the foot but closer examination shows that the kick landed on the instep near the top of the toes.
It seems possible that Machida was going for a toe kick but changed angles at the last second.  


[The toe kick might seem strange until you realise that it's been done before - see my article on this very technique.]
Anyway, I've often taught this very application for the Chen Pan Ling taijiquan kick (which seems to use the toes but with the right target uses the instep).
Alternatively, Machida can be said to have effected a kind of  hybrid mae geri / mawashi geri: the so-called "triangle kick".
I prefer the former analysis, ie. a "late conversion" from one to the other - highlighting the fact that in the …

The 7 signs of a Martial Personality Cult

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Introduction

There is a trend I've noticed growing lately in the martial arts.  I call it the "Martial Personality Cult."  To me it's a most disturbing trend precisely because it seems to go largely unnoticed and unchallenged.  When it is questioned, followers of the particular Martial Personality Cult so vociferously defend it that even the likes of Bullshido seem to shy away.

What is a "Martial Personality Cult"?  Basically it is a form of "martial worship" that revolves around one individual.  Typically this person is highly gifted, athletic and well-skilled.  More than anything, this person is also highly charismatic.

So what's wrong with the above?  So far, nothing.  Many masters who come under the latter description are in no way, shape or form "Martial Personality Cultists".  I can freely name a number of such excellent masters: Taira sensei, Higaonna sensei, Kanazawa sensei, Chen ZiQiang shifu, Luo De Xiu shifu, Su Dong Chen …