Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Take on Colin's 'My Tekki...'

I hate to rub it in, but y’all missed out! A while back Colin Wee of the Traditional Taekwando Blog offered his readers a free copy of his kata DVD, “My Tekki On It.” (Here's the 1-minute teaser trailer) Unfortunately for y’all but fortunately for me, I was the only one who responded, so I got the free DVD and I have to say - it is outstanding.
On his DVD, he shows a wide assortment of bunkai for Tekki, illustrating how this single kata could, as Choki Motobu put it, be an entire self-defense system. Tekki has always been my favorite of the Karate kata because of the variety of ultra-practical self-defense application – but what Colin illustrates on this DVD is the fact that Tekki by itself could be the core of an extremely good karate-do or jujitsu system.
I enjoyed all of Colin’s applications that he demonstrated and he only scratched the surface of the potential of Tekki, but I also wanted to comment that I see the practice of Tekki perhaps a little bit differently than Colin illustrates on his DVD. I do not really see Tekki as a catalog of dozens of situational applications to specific attacks, but rather as a small set of the most common, most useful general-purpose motions for close-fighting. Look at the motions in Tekki:
  • Lateral stepping with strong rotational hip motions
  • An open-handed shuto, back-knuckle, or eye-flick
  • A horizontal elbow smash
  • A couple of conservative, low, snappy kicking motions
  • Two or three sets of two-handed push-pull motions that can be applied in many ways
That’s it. You repeat those motions on both sides and you’re done with the exercise - but this handful of motions and skills are infinitely applicable to close-fighting and grappling situations. Personally, I don’t find it really helpful to try to visualize a specific application for each move during regular practice, because Tekki is a very general thing – the building blocks of in-fighting strategy. For instance.
  • When overwhelmed or waylaid, lateral stepping and the stepping-in-front motion is the basis of most of the useful evasions and body displacements possible.
  • The open-handed eye flick is a great distracter, separator, or delaying measure, as well as having the potential to end the fight right away.
  • The elbow smash is the most powerful upper body infighting strike there is and the same motion is applicable as a block or a lock too.
  • The kicking motions can decimate opponents’ legs or set up great off-balances making the rest of the grappling stuff work even better.
Anyway, you get the point. In my opinion you could study Tekki in a couple of productive ways.
  • Dissect hundreds of specific applications out of it and practice them as bunkai.
  • Practice the kata as a motor control exercise to improve body coordination in this handful of general motions and then use one-steps and randori to creatively look for application.
Both practice modes are probably good. Both may be necessary, but I lean toward the second training method. That way you only have to learn a handful of things and then you work in an “aliveness” type environment on creating application. But enough of what I think. Well, nearly enough
I think Tekki is awesome, and I think Colin’s DVD demo of Tekki bunkai is fantastic, and I think if you hop over to his blog and ask him nicely you might be able to get him to re-run his original offer, or at worst, he’ll probably only charge you a tiny fee for such a great demonstration DVD.


  1. Patrick - that was exactly the kind of feedback I was indeed looking for. I'm planning to return to this project soon and I hope I will be able to respond directly to your feedback with all the additional stuff I want to add to this video. Unless you wanted to do some video-ing too? :-) Thanks again. Glad you liked it!!!! Colin

  2. My digital videoing capability has been put on hold, as my wife is feuding with Kodak about a new camera that they sold to her broken and she has had to send back (i think) three times now.

    Anyway, Tekki is your thing. I know a good bit about it, but I am way more intimate with other stuff, so Tekki would not be anywhere near the top of my list to video myself doing.

    I'll look forward to seeing your updated presentation on it, though.

  3. Naihanchi--all three of them, really, but certainly shodan--is fascinating on so many levels it is hard to express. It is certainly the most important kata in our system. My instructor has noted more than once that it is both the basic and the advanced kata, the first one we teach to beginners, and also the one to which we return, time and again, for more analysis and practice.

    As important as the bunkai of the kata are, there is much more to it even than that. I have noted before, and I say again, that it is difficult to overestimate the value of Kiyoshi Arakaki's The Secrets of Okinawan Karate, especially as regards what he has to say about Naihanchi. He does not draw a great deal of application from the kata in that book, but what he has to say about certain of its other aspects is sheer gold. If anyone is genuinely interested in Naihanchi, I cannot recommend that book too highly.

    For another take on the performance of the kata, here is a performance of the basic version by one of the foremost Okinawan karate practitioners in the Western hemisphere, Seiyu Oyata.

  4. Dan - it is as you say. Tekki is like a limerick or riddle or short story that teases and tantalises. I have to say Tekki only drew me in because it was incongruous to everything I learned in my hard style system. I looked at it with that lens for a long time and got nothing for it. It was like looking at the poster of a beautiful woman - it meant little to me. Then when I changed how I looked at the world and started to look integratively at the martial arts, then the form started to yield its story. It was alluring and I obsessed over it. Even now this is the pattern I come back to time and time again. As for bunkai - I totally agree with Pat on his take. Bunkai shouldn't be prescriptive, even though the video does display 'bunkai' or oyo from the moves of the video. I hope to expand on the video in the next run to include the skills and application behind the moves (like this post on Tekki 'slap and serve')- which makes much more sense for a combative take on kata training. But then again who is this aimed towards? Most people who would understand or be receptive to such skills would already have some experience in that area. Beginners would have little clue. Would they? Colin


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