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Naihanchi - footwork

A reader commented on one of my posts and mentioned that he wished that I'd post on the footwork in the kata.  So here you have it ;-)
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There are three pretty distinctive types of footwork illustrated in this kata
  • the cross-step - essentially a normal walking step (ayumiashi) stepping forward across your other foot.  Useful for changing your angle wrt the opponent.  I have posted on this idea before and called it "walking over the hill"
  • the returning wave step - a sliding side-step (tsugiashi) - one foot picks up off the ground and sets back down without ever shifting your center of mass over the standing leg, so you begin to fall/slide to the side of the foot that you picked up.  In this kata, this motion is typically used to illustrate how to drop your weight into a strike, but it also suggests the proper mechanism for a sliding evasion step sideways.
  • backward turning step - if you pick up your right leg and pivot clockwise on your left leg, placing your right foot back on the ground behind you and perhaps a little to the left of where you started, then you are in the same position as if you'd cross-stepped forward with your left foot.  This very useful turning motion (tenkan) is not explicitly seen in the kata, but is suggested by the cross-step.
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Patrick Parker

A month of junokata

Each month this year I am doing a focus on a different kata or exercise from the various martial arts that we practice.  This coming month I will be doing a focus on judo's Junokata, the name of which translates to something like forms of gentleness, or forms of yielding.  I tend to like looser, more coloquial translations, and I usually think about this as forms of winning through pliability, though I also like to tell students that this is "THE kata of judo."
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While you're waiting (with baited breath, I know) for the first posts, check out this rendition of junokata...


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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Naihanchi - why a grappling kata?

Some of my commentators have mentioned that they think I'm nuts regarding my grappling naihanchi ideas, and some others have said it is (at least) an interesting idea - worth exploring.  What is it that makes me think that naihanchi is mostly about grappling as opposed to kick-punch or some other theme?
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First, grappling does not necessarily mean wallowing around on the ground.  It means grabbing and holding and pushing and pulling and generally striving in prolonged contact with the opponent.  This description pretty much fits naihanchi to a tee.
  • Nearly all of the obvious strikes in the kata are performed with the striking limb bent approximately 90 degrees, shortening the range.
  • The kicks are all short, fast actions that are most easily interpreted as striking with your knee, stepping on feet, or kicking your opponent's knees.  These actions pretty much only ever happen at extreme close range.
  • The kata features nearly all closed-handed techniques, which can be treated as punches, but which most authors suggest indicate closing the hand on something - i.e. grabbing.
  • ...and, corrolary to the previous point, if you are in range to grab them then they are in range to grab you.
  • Most all of the Okinawan kata have at least some common grappling applications (pulling as you hit, maybe a leg throw, etc...) but naihanchi is absolutely rife with grappling interpretations of every single movement in the kata.  And this observation holds across pretty much all schools.
It seems pretty obvious to me from the selection of techniques in the kata, that it was designed with close-quarters combat, and with grappling in mind.



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Patrick Parker

Naihanchi - The double side punch

And now we come to the last movement in the naihanchi kata - the double side punch.  Yes, I know it's not really two punches to the side.  Well, I guess it could be, but that would be a kind of obscure application.  A more common explanation would be holding something (like an arm) against your belly with the bent arm as you smack it with the straight arm.
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My favorite explanation for this movement is simply a continuation of the hammerfist idea.  Earlier in this series we saw that you could do effective hammers straight forward, or to the corners, either with or without dramatic weight-dropping shifts. Here we see one more angle for an effective hammer - horizontally to the side.
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Additionally, to my way of thinking, the position of this technique within the kata (at the end of the line) suggests its importance and its use.  I've said earlier that I view all of the techniques in naihanchi as very general-purpose motions useful in a close-quarters fight.  These techniques can be applied in the kata ordering but they can also be effecively combined out of order counteless ways.  When you get into this type of situation you could almost start blindly flailing your arms in naihanchi patterns, and end up improving your situation.   Well, when you're in the middle of your naihanchi flailing, if you get confused or lose your place... go back to the end of the naihanchi line and start over with either the backhand or the double side punch.  This gives you a pair of effective backups for when the rest of your ideas from this kata start going south.
[photo courtesy of tommarker]
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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

How should we do "mutual benefit?"

So, Kano's Kodokan came up with these ideals upon which judo is supposedly based.  One of them translates to something like...
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Mutual Benefit and Welfare
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You and me going forward together!

 or even

You and I Shine Together!

I've been having a discussion with some buds on FB and I suggested that I'd seen plenty of judo instructors and clubs that didn't seem to buy into that mutual benefit ideal.  Someone countered by saying that pretty much all the clubs they'd played with over the years had payed at least some lip service to the mutual benefit ideal.
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That has me thinking (you smelled smoke, right?)
  • What is it that any of us actually DO that is mutually benefitial?
  • What mutually beneficial behaviors do we participate in?
  • How do we go about this mutual benefit thing?
  • The instructors/clubs that we don't personally like - how can we tell if it's because they aren't into the judo ideals or just because they are our competition?
Hmmm.  You've got me thinking...

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Patrick Parker

Naihanchi - The hammer

After the hi-lo push-pull in naihanchi comes another distinctive feature of this kata - the hammerfist.  There are three repetitions of it - one facing forward with weight stable on both feet, and two facing the corners and dropping weight onto alternate legs.
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The hammer is absolutely my favorite closed-handed technique.  I can hit far, far harder with a hammer than with any other fist-technique.  When we used to do board-breaking techniques in karate, our instructors made the beginner breakers always start with a hammer because it's a safer way to build confidence.  I don't know of many techniques that I'd brag this way about, but if I get scared and pull out the hammer, you're not gonna enjoy being the anvil.
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In naihanchi, the targets are typically neck and jawline and temporal zones, but this thing can also be extrapolated to elbows and kidneys and collarbones without much stretching of the mind.  perhaps my favorite application of the forward hammer is against a chest grab/push - lay your free arm across his arms to hold his hand(s) to you, twist to jerk him off-balance to a corner, then drop a hammer into the angle of his jawbone with the impact happening slightly toward yourself.  Likely consequences are severe.
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Then again, with a hammer you can hit so infernally hard without hurting yourself, that even without precise targeting, you can get great results, as Bud Spencer demonstrates several times in this following clip...


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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Pseudo-judo

If you are thinking about getting into a martial art - and particularly judo - here's something to watch out for.  There are these clubs that teach this pseudo-judo with the stated goal of getting new competitors ready to do tournaments ASAP.  I call this type of activity pseudo-judo because competition-ASAP is not the original intended purpose of judo.
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See, from what I can tell, judo was envisioned by Kano as a disciplined, life-long practice of self-improvement that might incidently have some benefits in the realm of self-defense, and which might incidently be an outlet for occasional athletic competition.  Competition-ASAP pseudo-judo is a short-term, destructive practice with fairly limited self-defense value and roughly the same self-improvement value as tee-ball.  Don't get me wrong - tee-ball does benefit its players, and so can pseudo-judo, but neither is something that you can do as a discipline for years.
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If a coach tells you when you first sign up that he wants to teach you 1-2 throws and a little groundwork "real quick" so that you can be ready to compete in a tournament in 2 weeks... watch out.  He is looking to add one more competitive judo monster to his stable - he's not looking to help you improve yourself.

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Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

Orbit or center of mass?

Ok, so here's a noobie jodo question that keeps cropping up in my practice.  In most of the weapons arts that I've practiced or studied, in order to improve your likelihood of hitting, when doing a thrust, you target the center of mass of the torso - basically the solar plexus.
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But the jodo guys seem to be obsessed with targeting the bridge of the nose or the orbit of an eye - a much, much easier target to miss.
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What's going on here?

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Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

BOMP - Ch 2 - Universality

This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP) on Saturdays.  

In the second chapter, Pearlman states the Principle of Universality:
  • All principles are instantiated in some form in each technique.
My instructors (and I after them) have often taught that aikido could be reduced to a minimal set of techniqes because any one or two techniques you can think of are examples of the entire system.  This is also my understanding of Tomiki's thrust in his system of teaching - that the thousands of possible techniques in aikido can be represented by 15 or 17-some-odd techniques.  That these 17 or so techniques contained within them the majority of the vital content in aikido.  Pearlman goes farther and states that any single aikido technique must be representative of the totality of the art.
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Of course, this is in the ideal.  When applied by imperfect people against imperfect people, many of these principles will be expressed imperfectly or incompletely, or else disregarded completely.  That's the art part of the martial art - striving to approach the ideal expression of the various principles.  And that is one mark of a master - when an applied technique fails, the master understands which misapplied principles were at fault.
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So, if all martial principle is in evidence in every martial technique, why do we have more than one technique?
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Could it be said that Ueshiba only had one technique - aiki?  
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Did Kano have only one technique - ju?

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Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

Naihanchi - the lo-hi push-pull

This is one of the most distinctive movements in naihanchi, and is probably the most versatile motion in the entire exercise.  It can be interpreted quite simply as...
  • grabbing something low and holding or lifting it into a strike or grab coming from the high section
  • grabbing something high and holding or pushing it down into a strike or grab coming from the low section
Basically this is a Point of Origin concept - wherever your hands happen to be... whichever one is available, use it to grab something on the opponent (high or low) and push/pull it offbalance and into a strike from the other hand.  Again, the strike can be uppercut, hammer, forearm smash... whatever works in the moment.

Often this is more concretely interpreted by beginners as grabbing sleeve or hair and jerking downward into an oncoming uppercut.  That is a great example of this lo-hi push-pull.
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Patrick Parker

Naihanchi - the backfist

This is another of the less versatile techniques in the exercise  I mostly think of this as a strike - but still, it can be interpreted as several different kinds of striking ideas:
  • a simple backfist strike
  • an uppercut
  • a hammer fist
  • I've even seen folks call it a rising block-backfist-uppercut combo.
  • a forearm smash...
Additionally, whichever strike you think this is, it can approach the opponent from several different directions - downward or upward into an eye socket...downward as a forearm or hammer onto a collarbone... upward into the chin... sideward into a temple or xygomatic arch...
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Patrick Parker

Naihanchi - the hook punch

Though this  technique is commonly called a hook punch, and though it can be used that way, It just never feels right that way.  I usually interpret this as one of a couple of grappling movements...
  • a simple grapple - uke pushes or grasps your chest with either or both hands and you cover his hands with your forearm, holding him to you as you shift, dragging him off balance in preparation for the next strike or throw.
  • iriminage - similar to Steven Seagal's clothesline, stepping across and placing your foot behind him in his weak line and either pushing his face with your palm or hooking his head with your elbow to drive him backward over your leg.
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Patrick Parker

Naihanchi - also known as Tekki

While I'm doing a series on naihanchi, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out this source for a handful of interesting articles about the kata.  Check out Colin Wee's posts on Tekki.

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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Naihanchi - The down block

So, you've grabbed the opponent by the sleeve, snatched him off balance as you pulled yourself to a safer location outside his arms, and trapped his arm against your hip.  Now comes probably the most versatile motion in the whole kata - The down block.
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Screeeeeech! Wait, what?  The down block that you learn on day#1 of practice is the most versatile thing in naihanchi!?!?
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Yep - This isn't your grand-dad's down block.  It's good for a lot more than knocking a front kick aside.  The motion that we call downblock is really a general-purpose smashing, brushing, defending-while-attacking, grabbing-and-pulling, offbalance and pinning thing.
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It is so versatile that Rick Clark has written a book called 75 Down Blocks!  Looks interesting, though I haven't gotten a chance to read it.

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Coming after the teacup in naihanchi, the downblock is typically assumed to be an elbow smash to the trapped arm or else a crushing blow to the neck of the off-balanced opponent.  But there is really no end to the application for it.  When combined with some of the naihanchi footwork, the downblock even becomes a kosotogari (one of the first sweeps we teach in judo).
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Hint: We just call it "down block" to have a simple name to call it.  You could call it "Fred's multipurpose arm motion #1" if you wanted to, but "down block" seems more... I don't know... evocative?

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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Naihanchi - The teacup

After the pulling elbow, both hands come to the hip in a classic "teacup" chamber position.  It's called a teacup because the near hand is horizontal (like a saucer) and the far hand - the one that is reacing across the body is vertical, like a cup on top of a saucer.
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"This is a chamber - pulling back to get ready to do the next movement strongly."  Nope.  The moves that we call "chambers" (I dont know where that term came from) aren't wasted getting-ready moves.  All movements in the kata have to be potentially useful for improving your condition and/or injuring the opponent.  So what is teh teacup useful for?
  • Your opponent grabs either of your wrists with either of his hands, you countergrab with your free hand and release your held hand as you snatch both hands to your hip, pulling opponent offbalance.
  • Alternately, you could directly grab one of his sleeves with both of your hands in the same place and snatch him offbalance with both hands.
  • Additionally, if you combine this teacup pull with the type of footwork seen in naihanchi - a cross-step or a sideward slide into a horse-riding stance, then you have just executed a classic Japanese pass - moving from a position between opponent's arms to a position behind and outside - in the opponent's dead angle (shikaku)
This third application illustrates an idea that I consider to be fundamental to understanding naihanchi - the moves don't have to happen in the order they are done in the kata (they can be but they dont have to be).  They can be combined in nearly any order in limitless combinations, and usually result in useful offensive motions.  In the third example above, the teacup is combined with the cross-step, but in the basic, mnemonic form of the kata, the teacup is done in a stationary horse-riding stance.
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Patrick Parker

Naihanchi - The pulling elbow

After the backhand in naihanchi kata, the next movement is the pulling elbow.  This technique seems pretty straightforward - you're grabbing someone by the head and pulling them into an oncoming elbow strike, right?
  • What if you're not grabbing them - what if they are grabbing your wrist?
  • What if you're not striking with the outside, sharp/hard surface of the elbow - what if you are striking with the inside crook of your elbow?
  • What if you're not pulling with the pulling hand - what if you are using an open hand to point to your own elbow as a reminder to yourself to attack or focus on the opponent's elbow?
These are actually a couple of my favorite alternate applications besides the blatantly obvious (but very effective) grab-and-smash.
  • Opponent grabs your left wrist with their right hand - you countergrab with your right hand on their wrist and smash your elbow into theirs, releasing their grip and pulling them off balance (in preparation for the next move of the kata)
  • Opponent grabs with his right arm around your left side/back as if for a hipthrow or bodyslam - you strike across in front of your body, trapping his elbow/forearm against your side and hitting his reaching elbow with the inside crook of your elbow.
In kata in general, and naihanchi in particular, nothing is just the one obvious thing that it appears to be.  That is part of the genius of well-constructed kata like naihanchi - the kata never teaches you just one thing at a time.  Not only are there no wasted motions, but all the motions are very multi-purpose.
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Patrick Parker

Live where you've landed

One of the exercises we obsess most about in aikido is the walking exercise - also known as tegatana or tandoku undo or unsoku, etc...  This exercise is complex enough that we are always making little adjustments and tweaks to try to get the thing right (whatever "right" is - nobody's ever achieved it yet).
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One of the interesting properties of this exercise, is whenever you focus on correcting or improving one particular aspect, much of the rest of the thing falls into chaos.  Sorta like trying to stack sand into a pyramid - you try to put one grain in the right place and half the pile sloughs down the side and you have to start re-building the whole thing with that one grain placed properly.
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Lately I've been focusing on getting off my heels so that I'm bearing my weight on the balls of my feet.  Actually I thought I'd always done that but I'd become lax and my heels had been bearing progressively more weight without me noticing.  So, I've been focusing on getting off my heels and the rest of the thing has fallen to chaos.
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Today I think I'm ready to try to get weight-off-heels and another piece right at the same time! Yay me!
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So, for a while we'll be working on bearing weight on the balls of the feet and living where you land.  That is, when you make a movement, you've got to attempt to deal with wherever you placed your feet - no extra little weight shifts to try to get a little more comfortable on your feet.  You've got to either place them correctly the first time, every time, or learn to live where you've landed.

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Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

The ideal of naihanchi

RE: Openhand's blog post - one of the things he talks about is teaching beginners the basic form  - the one that remains unchanged - unpolluted by personal preference - and allowing them to get good at that basic form before getting much into personal application and etc...

While I'm sure that Openhand could probably naihanchi me to death, I disagree about how to best teach it.  Instead of teaching a standardized, basic form first then applying it to the individual,  I think it is probably best taught as an application-first sort of practice with a live partner, with great amounts of repetition, similar to what you'd expect to see in a jujitsu-type class.  Then, once the student has gotten a decent grasp of how to apply these ideas to a live person, you can teach the kata as sort of an encoded shorthand mnemonic device that the student can take home and use in his spare time as a visualization aid.
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Application before kata instead of kata before application

Of course, when practicing application, the student is often forced to make little individualized tweaks to the movement in order to get it to work for them.  So then, after practicing individualized application, it makes little sense to teach them a standardized, basic form of the kata as a mnemonic.  You want the mnemonic to reasonably well mimic the idea that it is supposed to help you remember.  So then, we're back to the idea of eveyone having their own personal version of naihanchi full of their own little tweaks.  Most of these naihanchis will be similar and easily recognizable as naihanchi) but still not something that you would teach to new students as a standardized ideal.  
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I favor letting each student develop their own ideal naihanchi through live partner practice instead of teaching them your ideal naihanchi and hoping they can extrapolate from your ideal to theirs.

[photo courtesy of Mike Oliveri]

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Patrick Parker

Naihanchi is a frustrating blog topic

So, I've been trying to focus on the karate kata, Naihanchi this month.  It's not like I think I'm some sort of expert or anything, but Naihanchi is so amazingly complex and rich in content that I figured I could skim a topic per day to talk about.  But that has turned out to be problematic.  Like drinking from a fire hydrant, Naihanchi has so much awesomeness that I'm having a hard time pulling out discreet nuggets to talk about.  Maybe I should have done a month of posts on 2-3 techniques from naihanchi... (and of course I'm only  talking about naihanchi #1 - I could probably write a year's worth of posts on naihanchi #1, 2, and 3)
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I'd thought to do some video clips using my android (my digital videorecorder is defunct - my kids are masters of destroying or losing the associated wires and cords). But havent gotten around to that.  I think some video would help me to convey the ideas though, so I'll keep trying to find the time and the partners I need to put some of my very limited knowledge on video clips.
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While we're on the topic of naihanchi, check out this blog article by Man of the West...
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Ok, now I'm done with my whining rant.  Back to actual naihanchi content!

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Patrick Parker

Naihanchi - The returning wave kick

In keeping with the theme of naihanchi being an ultra-versatile kata composed of general-purpose movements, the one kick in the exercise is actually interpretable as several different types of kick or footwork:
  • avoidance of a low strike/sweep
  • a low, stamping kick to either knee
  • a low, angled side kick to the inside of a knee
  • a stomp/step onto a foot
I typically don't try to demonstrate applications of these kicks when practicing naihanchi, although I will occasionally do a crossover stomp with the oblique hammers into the jawline.  I'm gonna have to practice this along the lines of some of my commentators that suggested that by changing your angulation you could do that same crossover stomp from your right leg to their left leg (I usually think about a crossover stomp going from my right to his left).

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Patrick Parker

BOMP - Ch 1 - The Principle of Principles

This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP) on Saturdays. 
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The first chapter in BOMP is titled The Principle of Principles, and basically, the idea of this chapter is stated in the first line.
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We must exercise all principles at all times to our highest understanding and without exception.
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Or perhaps you could rephrase that something like...
  • We must be principled martial artists.
  • We should be primarily concerned with the principles that govern martial arts.
Why do we have to do anything Pearlman says?  Because the Principles do not care if you believe in them or not.  We can act in harmony with the Principles, and thus harness their power, or we can be subjected to their workings.
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Pearlman lists two potential exceptions to this rule...
  • newer students might begin training with less than optimal versions of techniques - that is, techniques that do not instantiate all the principles.
  • Our limited understanding and integration of the Principles limits our application of them.
A third exception, or possibly a corrolary to the first one above, is that often in class we will toss a principle completely out of the window in order to focus more intently on another principle.  For instance, in suwariwaza (kneeling techniques) we sacrifice mobility and our ability to drop with uke into otoshi-type throws - this forces us to get better at synchronization and guruma-type throws.  Another example would be toshu randori (similar to taiji push hands).  In this practice, ma-ai is out of the picture because you start and you remain inside ma-ai so that you can learn sensitivity and flow.
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Pearlman offers a rule of thumb for determining whether something is really a Principle (by his definition) or not.  If it is possible or conceivable to construct a reasonable argument against it, then it is not a principle.  Take for instance, Kano's principle of judo - Maximum Efficiency with Minimal Effort.  It would be hard to argue that what we do ought to be less efficient or more difficult, so Kano's precept passes the test. 
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Other guidelines that we often call principles do not stand up as well.  What about ma-ai?  there are arts that specialize in closing distance to zero and working on the ground.  Thus ma-ai is a great idea - but not a principle per Pearlman's definition.  What about unbendable arm?  Without bending an arm you can't punch in a karate fashion, so obviously unbendable arm is not a universal principle, though it is a good idea in the context of aiki throws.  What about gravity?  Well, every technique in every martial art is always performed in a gravity environment.  It might be possible, though challenging and ultimately ridiculous, to conceive of a martial art that occurs in a zero-G environment.  So, our orientation to gravity becomes a Universal Principle.
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Patrick Parker

Who were Mifune's ukes?

Most folks in the Classical Judo scene, and many folks in the modern judo scene are obsessed with the amazing mastery of Kyuzo Mifune.  Most everyone stands transfixed by videos of this man doing what he did.



What I want to know is, who were Mifune's younger ukes and students back in the 1950's and 1960's?  Mifune died in 1965, and if he was doing this sort of amazing judo with young adults say, 5 years before that, then those young adults would be in their 70's and 80's now.  If any are still alive then they are few and fading fast and it would behoove us to figure out who had access to this sort of magic, and do what we can to learn what we can from them.  Otherwise, all we'll be left with will be these amazing videos from a bygone age.
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Here's one that I've found of Nobutaka Mizugachi (suggested by the comments on the video to be student of Mifune) doing a lovely choke.





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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

X-foot and O-foot for kid's classes

Quickie hint for folks running judo classes for kids younger than about 9 or 10.  I've started doing this in the last couple of months and it works GREAT as a sanity saver.
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When you have really young kids in your class, they don't know their left from their right, so it is impossible for them to follow directions without you pointing or touching the correct leg and saying, "move this leg..."  Even as late as 8-10 years of age, kids are often tentative about left and right.
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So, lately, I've started using a sharpie to draw an X on the top of every right foot in the class and an O on the top of every left foot.  That way, I can give directions like...
  • put your X-foot beside their X-foot...
  • grab their X-foot with your O-foot...
works like a charm!
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Patrick Parker

The freedom of discipline

A lot of people dump their kids into martial arts classes to "get some discipline."  What does that mean anyway?  Is discipline a comodity that you can buy a quantity of?  What sort of discipline do they want for their kids?  Do they want their kids to be disciplined or do they want their kids to learn to live in a disciplined way?
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If you look up discipline in a dictionary, you'll get several definitions, including...
  • the trait of being well behaved
  • to punish in order to gain control or enforce obedience
  • training to improve strength or self-control
Let me tell you right now as an aside, as a sensei I'm not into the first two aspects above.  Me trying to use punishment to coerce good behavior is a bunch of B.S.  I'm not going to be the one to punish your kid if you're not going to do it - and I'm certainly not the one to be punishing an adult.  If the student can't be at least civil, he can begone.  You have to have at least that much discipline (in the first sense above) to even begin participating.
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But something that occurred to me today, while reading Donald Whitney's Spiritual Disciplines book, is that the reason that you do the discipline thing is in order to get to a state of freedom.  The result of discipline is freedom.
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The same way that a person that is super-diligent on their diet and exercise is free to go to a special meal occasionally and eat whatever they want without worry about consequences.
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The same way that an elite musician is free to display amazing artistry like no-one else is, because they have put in the practice time even when they would rather be watching a movie with the buddies.
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Martial arts practice can't really develop discipline (in the third sense above), but it can be a medium through which a person can learn to discipline themselves so that they can eventually have the freedom to...
  • perform the skills involved in that martial art...
  • live a fuller life without the interference of inappropriate fear reactions...

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Patrick Parker

What Naihanchi is not

It probably does not need to be said... I'm sure that most of my readers are pretty with-it.  But just in case there is someone out there that has listened to the myths about this kata...
  • Naihanchi is not about fighting three opponents - one in front and one to either side
  • Naihanchi is not about fighting while pressed back against a cliff or a wall or in a hallway or on a bridge
  • Naihanchi is not just a trivial hip-motion and weight-transfer kata
Come-on.  That's just crazy talk.  Despite some of the nutty narration (from an otherwise awesome guy), here is a pretty good basic rendition of this exercise.




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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Another way to get off your heels

I take about a million blood pressures per day using a manual cuff and stethescope, and this is a great way to work on some aikido outside of class.
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See, nearly 100% of the time when I approach someone to check their pressure, they hold their arm straight out toward me (sorta like a zombie attack).  They are trying to help, but it actually gets in the way of me getting in position to do the measurement.  So, about a million times per day I get a chance to shift outside their arm (into shikaku) using a #4 release motion.
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I noticed today (because of the correction I got at the Union seminar) that I was standing on my heels, So I am resolved now to use this fortuitous million reps per day to practice shifting to shikaku with release#4 and remaining on the balls of my feet while I'm within reach of one of my patients.
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Try it - find some interpersonal interaction that you have a lot throughout the day, and practice that interaction from a position of shikaku while standing on the balls of your feet.

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____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Balls of the feet, heels slightly brushing

Damn! I just hate it when I get busted on the most basic fundamentals - the stuff that I tell my students during every class from day #1 - the stuff that I thought I was doing pretty good on.
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It's not that I have a problem accepting correction.  It's just that it makes me so mad at myself that I'd kick myself in the butt if I could get good leverage!
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That's just what happened at the judo clinic at Union University a couple of weekends ago.  We were working on a footsweep drill that we all do in all of our classes as warmup, and what's the first thing that all of the pros from OKC called me on?  Walking on my heels.  Crikey!  Of course I know not to do that!
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Our official mantra that we tell our students is, "Weight on balls of feet with heels and little toes slightly brushing the mat for balance."  I like to tell my students, "Imagine there is a thumbtack taped to your heel and your little toe so that you don't want to put weight on those areas."  We practice the walking exercises and the footsweep drills at the beginning of every aikido and judo class with that as an emphasis.
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But I still allowed myself to become so lax on this that the guys that we imported to teach us their  awesomeness had to waste their time correcting me on the first lesson of the first day.  Crikey!
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If you're one of my students, prepare yourself for an emphasis on this.  I know if they're catching me on this then you're likely making the same mistake.  I figure to duct tape beans to the bottoms of our heels for a while till we're ingrained with this.  (I'm such a nice sensei that I don't want to use real thumbtacks;-)

[photo courtesy of slayer23]

____________________ 
Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

Naihanchi - Which direction does it start?

Another interesting variation between styles is in which direction naihanchi starts.  Some teachers teach this kata stepping left first and some stepping right first.  Each style seems to have a preference, but even within a given style, occasionally you will see a teacher that teaches this thing backwards with respect to the other teachers in the same style. 
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It doesn't really matter (much) because this kata is perfectly symmetric - all the movements that are done on one side are repeated on the other.  But it is an interesting phenomenon.
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My isshinryu instructor once told me a tale that might be apocryphal but it gives what is at least a plausible explanation.  According to this story, back in the olden days the teacher would teach naihanchi to one student at a time, standing directly in front of each other and close together, so that the instructor acted as a mirror to the student.  Thus, every generation of karateka ended up learning this thing on the opposite side from their instructor. And whether or not that is true, it's not a bad way to teach the thing.

[photo courtesy of Mike Oliveri]

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Naihanchi - The backhand

One of the distinctive features of naihanchi is an open-handed sweeping motion to the side.  In different styles you will see this done differently, sometimes as a palm-upward ridgehand, but more commonly as a thumb-upward backhand.  Like all of the movements in Naihanchi, this movement is extremely general-purpose, and can be used in a lot of different situations, including...
  • a flicking eye-rake or an open-handed back-knuckle strike into nerve centers
  • swimming through the opponent's arms into his center
  • a scooping throw, similar to aikido's gedanate
[photo courtesy of Mike Oliveri]
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____________________
Patrick Parker

BOMP - Nature & Importance of Principles

This year, we're discussing The Book of Martial Power (BOMP) on this blog on Saturdays.
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In aikido especially, but also in judo, we like to talk about how we are more concerned with the principles underlying the techniques than the techniques themselves.  That's also one thing I particularly liked about what I've read and seen of Ed Parker's American Kenpo - that man delved into the principles underlying striking in a very intelligent and sophisticated way - far moreso than most other martial artists.
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But in reading the first part of Pearlman's BOMP, it is apparent that we're not really talking about principles in the same way or on the same level perhaps that Pearlman is.  We're more talking about artistic license or stylistic preferences that usually tend to make things go our way - guidelines or best practices.
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We talk about principles like ma-ai and unbendable arm (which are usually very, very good ideas) but which are unheard of or even scoffed at in other arts.  Other arts cite contradictory "principles" which are also often very, very good ideas.  The type of principles that Pearlman is talking about are more universal principles that are incontravertible and indisputable between arts and styles - more akin to natural laws. 

For a while, reading BOMP I figured that there must only be 2-3 of these universal principles, but Pearlman talks about more than 50.  Hang on for the ride, because we're gonna discuss this thing in depth in the coming weeks.
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Do you talk more in your classes about technique or about principle?  When the word, "principle" is thrown around in your school, are they more often talking about natural laws (like gravity) or about good rules-of-thumb (like "get out of the way")?



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____________________
Patrick Parker

Naihanchi - 3 ways to start

If you watch practitioners from different lineages doing this kata, there is a good bit of superficial variation.  A good basic indicator of which lineage you are watching is the opening motion.  Commonly thought of as a salute or simply an opening flourish, these movements have actual combative application.  There are three common openings for naihanchi, which I have nicknamed...
  • "Modesty" - The practitioner holds two spearhand-shaped palms pointed downward and crossed with straight arms, as if covering his groin in modesty.
  • "Hidden Fist" - The right fist is covered by the left spearhand.  This usually starts high, near the face, and sweeps down the body until the covered fist is held low, near the groin.
  • "Viewing The Sky" - This one follows a path opposite to that in Hidden Fist.  The open palms start low and arc up the centerline to just above head level, then separate and follow separate arcs downward to either side, ending at the starting point.
I typically interpret Modesty as a frontal bearhug separation, Hidden Fist as a shearing wrist destruction against a frontal chest grab or push, and Viewing The Sky as a generic opening response to any punch.
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____________________
Patrick Parker

Naihanchi opening - interesting story

So I promised a video and a cool, funny story about the beginning of naihanchi.  Class was cancelled last night because of floods and lightning and etc... so no buddies to do the video with, but here's the funny story.
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The first movement of naihanchi, the opening, is commonly interpreted as a wrist-shearing joint destruction somewhat similar to nikyo or kotemawashi in aikido.  It comes off of a chest-push or chest-grab attack.
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Well, a few years ago we'd played this technique a good bit and we were all confident in our ability to pull it off.  One of my students and her boyfriend were out at a jukejoint-type place and while he was away somewhere, a drunk, young-adult, Hispanic fellow came up and asked her to dance (among other things).  She declined in non-ambiguous terms, to which he responded by grasping her breast and reiterating something suave, like "Come on, baby."
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She says she stood fibrillating mentally for a moment or two because this guy had the audacity to actually grab her boob, but then the first thing that popped into her mind was, "I know how to break this guy's hand!"  Her hands reached upward toward the man's hand just like in naihanchi... she was running through the move in her mind... everything was in slow motion... And then he was gone.  Disappeared.  he had literally vanished from in front of her while she was looking at him!  She looked left and right and behind her.  Then she looked down and found him lying in a mangled, crumpled heap.  She thought, "Did I do that?!"
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Turns out her boyfriend had seen this encounter and, striding up behind the fellow, had hammered him with a fist on top of the trapesius HARD and had knocked him straight into the earth, semi-conscious - another technique that can be extrapolated from the beginning of naihanchi.
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They beat a hasty retreat from the juke joint, but they had an interesting story to tell about how they'd done a synchronized team naihanchi to this poor assailant.


____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

No class tonight


Weather expected to intensify per weatherbug.  NO CLASS TONIGHT AT MOKUREN DOJO

Shimabukuro Zempo Naihanchi

I think I would not enjoy having this fellow punch me...

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Union judo clinic

Just back from a fabulous clinic at Union university in Jackson Tennessee with Nick Lowry and his mob of judo animals.  I've gotta download some of the info from my brain before my head melts!
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First Day

  • gripping at shoulder level
  • footsweep to control drill - curl and control foot against slight isometric tension.  Emphasis on walking on balls of feet, pointing toes, and curling from bottom upward.  Also, work this drill faster occasionally, with a skipping rhythm.

Second Morning

  • taiotoshi on the move
  • osotogari - stepping dynamically around stiffarms and also at extreme close-range and isometric.  Emphasis on pointing the sweeping toe.

Second Afternoon

  • dynamic hip throws - staying in motion instead of standing still and lifting
  • intensive discussion re: gripping, touch, yielding, and delivering power in both judo and aikido
  • entries into groundwork - Matl kouchi kneeling over thigh into kesa, ushirokesa and a cool ushirokesa escape, broken kamishiho, ukigatame with tegatame armbar, wakigatame (possibly off of TKgoshi or oguruma) into the ground, and turning a face-down opponent using Berliner's far shoulder push.
  • jodo -seiteikata#7, emphasis on wedge-shaped sword traps




____________________ Patrick Parker www.mokurendojo.com

BOMP - Introduction

So, this year we're going to be discussing The Book of Martial Power on this blog on Saturdays.
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Which style of martial art is the best?  Should I train in one or two or all of them?  What do they all have in common despite their differences? Is there any basis for comparison among and between styles?
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Steven J. Pearlman's Book of Martial Power (hereafter BOMP) starts out from the point of view of these questions, and with the thesis that there are commonalities between all martial arts - and that those commonalities involve the underlying principles that power the individual styles and arts and strategies and tactics.  BOMP suggests that it is these underlying principles that we should be focussed on to a larger degree than the unique differences between styles and guidelines and personal preferences - study the roots and trunks instead of the twigs and leaves.
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I agree.  Commonalities and underlying principles are what we should spend more time studying.  Not that the differences between styles and arts are insignificant - but the commonalities are far more interesting and productive of martial artistry.
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Do you agree or disagree with this thesis?  What path of martial arts experiences leads you to agree or disagree?

[photo courtesy of hddod]
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____________________
Patrick Parker

The genius of solo kata

Starting this month's focus on the karate kata known as naihanchi/tekki, I wanted to mention something that all good kata have in common, that is, their construction is a work of absolute genius.
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When you first work on kata, they all seem mostly alike.  Mostly just shadowboxing.  Sure, some of them seem to have a little different focus than other ones, but that mostly seems like artistic license.
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Then you delve deeper into kata and you see that some of them really are as superficial as you previously thought.  Sure, you could pile more and more meaning onto these kata, but it seems to slide right back off, like trying to pile sand into a pyramid.  There's just not much to some kata.
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Then you study some more and a few kata come forward as being significantly more profound and complex than you first thought.
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Then suddenly you realize that one or two kata stand head and shoulders above the rest because of the sheer genius that went into their construction and the sheer volume of information encoded in them.  Naihanchi is one of these few, rare kata of genius.
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How could a person have created this thing that has no extraneous motions?  How could a person have created this thing that can be looked at through a dozen lenses and it gets more and more profound no matter the angle you look from? How could a person have succeeded in encoding an entire system of strategic thought and combative motion into one exercise with so few movements that take less than a minute to perform?
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Let me stop before this gets to sounding too much like ancestor worship.  I'll summarize with the simple statement that the genius that it must have taken to construct this exercise is staggering.

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____________________
Patrick Parker

Class cancellation


Don't forget... No class in Magnolia this Saturday.  I'll be soaking up the superlative judo awesomeness at Union University in Tennessee!

Classes as normal before and after Saturday.

Survival sucks

I was talking to someone the other day in passing.  You know, pleasantries. "How's it going?" "Pretty good." "What ya' been up to?" "Not much..." And then they said something that struck me as sad, "Just trying to survive.  I guess that's what all of life is about these days."
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That's a load of B.S.  Survival as a state of being sucks.
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Don't get me wrong.  I'm as interested in self-defense and wilderness survival and emergency preparedness as the next guy.  In aikido, we're always preaching that the ultimate goal of an encounter is survival - not winning or vengeance.  And survival sure beats the alternative.
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But still, Survival sucks.  It is a state that you want to move beyond as rapidly as possible.  Ask anyone who waited out Katrina in New Orleans.  Ask a Hatian. Ask a Thai survivor of the 2004 tsunami.
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As soon as you can, you have to stop surviving and get back to thriving!

[photo courtesy of Wikipedia]
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____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

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