Showing posts from May, 2008

Taisabaki and tenshin - evasion in karate: Part 2

Further to Part 1 of this article...

I discuss how tenshin/taisabaki has been used as the foundation of our "embu" or 2-person forms in the article "Muidokan embu: 2 person forms for karate". That tenshin is a vital, yet largely forgotten, skill is something that I highlighted in Part 1 of this article.

Yet recently the value of tenshin (and accordingly our embu) has been debated on an online forum (in relation to our gekisai embu in particular). The argument is a considered and sophisticated one, but not one that is without answer. I will address it here because it is worthy of being dealt with comprehensively.

The correspondent (whose opinion I respect greatly) offered this viewpoint:

"Also, as far as taisabaki in the drill, this is where I think my training differs a bit from your approach, we do not spend much time doing any kind of circling movement as evasion, we practice the "getting small" and blending you see in many movements in Goju kata, we …

Karate and the Chinese martial arts: Part 2

Continued from Part 1 of this article.

I doubt there is any information that will shed further light on the extent Chinese forms were adopted by Okinawan karate. To some extent, all we can do is conjecture.

Having said that, we can arrive somewhere by logical deduction.

It is interesting to note, for example, that Seisho Aragaki taught a form of sanchin, yet he did not study with Ryu Ryu Ko or with Shu Shi Wa. His kata (eg. Sochin and Niseishi) also have a lot of similarity to the kata of Kanryo Higaonna.

It is also odd that many karateka from Okinawa went to China and came back with a very similar art form - Norisato Nakaima, Kanryo Higaonna, Kanbun Uechi etc - regardless of when these visits were made (some were decades apart). The kata passed down by these men all have an identifiable stamp as being a common (or at least related) artform. This is odd, considering the changes that were taking place on the mainland between those visits (Boxer rebellion, natural evolution of art forms etc…

Government regulation of martial arts

After 28 years of continuous training in the traditional martial arts I get quite annoyed when someone compares me to a bloke who started up his own school after training for less than a year (sometimes in some made up drivel). We in Australia share the "McDojo" trend - there a number of different kinds - that allow people to teach after only a trivial amount of training.

On the other hand, would I support some sort of government intervention/registration in relation to martial arts? No way!

Since I have worked in government law (specifically in the area of legislation) since 1990, I feel I am qualified to make this assessment of the regulation of martial arts: it cannot work.

Who would decide who is a "legitimate" martial artist and who is not? You and I might have an idea (and have substantially the same opinion), but would you trust some government appointed committee? The very bloke who comes to your door to “sell” you martial arts after 12 months training might b…

Grappling in karate kata

I think we all accept that karate kata contain some grappling methods, be they grabs, locks or throws. Otherwise the kata would not contain any subtle hand techniques - they would consist purely of punches and kicks with a few blocks thrown in. I am of the view that, like punches and kicks etc., the grappling techniques in kata are based on sound biomechanical principles. I also think that they are far more complex than many instructors currently understand. This may account for why some books say that grappling applications of karate kata are "crude" by comparison with, say, jujustsu. I have seen some very dubious applications accepted as mainstream, applications that are very crude to boot. On the other hand I have seen very effective and advanced grappling applications of the same movement that are far more appropriate.

The essential problem many people have with karate grappling applications is that these techniques are mostly performed by practitioners while standing up…

Sport karate

I continue to see "sport karate" and "self-defence karate" as 2 separate things. You can do them both, and they can look similar, but one is a very much pared back version of the other. It's like comparing classical music with pop.

Sport karate is like a demonstration one might prepare for an expo or festival - quite artificial and in many respects largely irrelevant to training for self-defence/combat. But does this mean it is worthless? Absolutely not.

Firstly the sport aspect is an end in itself. If it is what you enjoy, then do it. Secondly, there is some benefit even for combat purposes - putting yourself out of your comfort zone into a stressful situation is good training.

The flip side is that competition might also introduce a lot of bad habits for self defence. In "non contact", not guarding your head is a common one, pulling your punches is another.

In terms of the latter, a good mate of mine who was a shodan at a shotokan school was so used to…

Karate and the Chinese martial arts: Part 1


Graham Ravey of the TOGKF said to us many times his view that goju-ryu karate was essentially a Chinese art. What did he mean?

Well certainly many researchers are somewhat dubious about just how much “Chinese” is in Okinawan karate, including such respected writers as Mario McKenna (see "What did you think you were doing?"). However I think they are commenting on whether exact sequences have survived intact in their transmission from China to the Ryukyu islands and whether they are practised with the same emphasis and style as they were in China.

Clearly the exact forms have diverged. Furthermore the influence of Okinawan culture on the kata must have left a profound impact on the way they manifest today.

However the fact that they owe their origins to China is undeniable – in much the same way as I think it is self-evident that no matter how human races have diverged in appearance, culture and beliefs, they share an common ancestry.


Experience in ma…

Taisabaki and tenshin - evasion in karate: Part 1

"Taisabaki" means body movement. Most schools however use this term to refer to a type of body shifting the goal of which is to move in relation to the attacker both to avoid a blow and gain a position of advantage. Certainly that is how we used the term “taisabaki” when I was first taught in my "home" dojo.

However, translated literally the term “taisabaki” or “sabaki” might mean any kind of body movement – including stepping up and down the floor in zenkutsu (forward stance) for that matter.

It is my view that the Okinawan word "tenshin" is more accurate to cover evasive body movement. It encompasses any kind of evasion - whether the feet move away from their position or not.

“Embusen” is a term generally used to refer to the directions of movement in a kata although some use that term to describe the angles of evasion. There are 8 principal angles of evasion — 10 if you count up and down and more if you factor in compound movements such as "weaving”…

The origins of goju-ryu kata: Part 1


In recent years various prominent martial arts researchers have postulated that goju-ryu kata fall into 2 groups that come from different sources:

The first is “cluster H”, being kata that were taught to Chojun Miyagi by Kanryo Higaonna and consisting of:

sanchin (Higaonna style)

The second is “cluster M”, being kata that Chojun Miyagi acquired, or developed from material acquired, from a different source and consisting of:

(as well as the gekisai kata and tensho that Miyagi is known to have created).

The theory and its supporting arguments were recently published in an article a few months back in Journal of Asian Martial Arts (16:4, 2007) entitled “A Preliminary Analysis of Goju-Ryu Kata Structures” by Fernando Camara and Mario McKenna.

For those who cannot access the article, you’ll get the gist of Mario McKenna’s argument here: on his blog1. Researcher Joe Swift explores what is principally the same theory in his Meib…