Sunday, January 1, 2012

Traditional KARATE in ARIZONA

Kobudo is a very important part of traditional karate. Here, our class is training with the bo (6-foot staff) (2 shaku long) on Thursday evenings. After learning basics (kihon), kata (forms), we focus on bunkai (applications) unlike sport martial arts. Every move in every kata is taught as a practical application in Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo Seiyo Kai.

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White Crane Shorin-Ryu karate at the University of Wyoming. Photo shows yudansha Dr. Teule and Sensei Martin.
Hanbojutsu training at a special clinic for members of the Utah Shorin-Kai in Mesa, Arizona
Breaking finger on trigger guard as a gun defense - Gilbert, Arizona
Senpai Charles Jean uses kama while working with Sensei Ryan Harden at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate, Phoenix valley

 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Shorin-Ryu Karate Training Memories


Daniel San - "All right, so what are the rules here?"

Mr. Miyagi - "Don't know. First time you, first time me".

Daniel San - "Well, I figured you knew about this stuff. I figured you went to these before. Oh great, I'm dead. I am dead. You told me you fought a lot".

Mr. Miyagi: - "For life, not points".

A few years ago, two yudansha (black belt students) from the University of Wyoming Campus Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo Club took it upon themselves to test the effectiveness of atemi. This is not recommended as it could lead to serious injury: luckily, neither was injured, other than having their brains rattled. It could have been much worse - one could easily have ended up with a broken jaw.

Many of us already have a good understanding of atemi and its purpose. For those who train in jujutsu, it is realizes this is a very important part of ki (energy) designed to unbalance or knock out an attacker prior to throwing. In the heat of Arizona, it is almost a must, as hanging on to a sweaty aggressor before a throw, is very difficult. This may be one of many examples of the superiority of karate in certain situations. It is easier to punch a person than to throw when that person is dripping is sweat.

According to the Overlook Martial Arts Dictionary, atemi is a Japanese term that directly translates as "body strikes‟. It refers to "…a method of attacking the opponents pressure points".
 
In A Dictionary of the Martial Arts there is a more detailed description. It defines atemi as strikes
"…aimed at the vital or weak points of an opponents body in order to paralyze by means of intense pain. Such blows can produce loss of consciousness, severe trauma and even death… …the smaller the striking surface used in atemi, the greater the power of penetration and thus the greater the effectiveness of the blow".

In jujutsu classes, atemi is used to provide a distraction of an attacker and allow one to lead to a finishing throw, joint lock, or choke. This is done by redirecting an opponent into a throw by attacking a vital point to cause pain and/or loss of consciousness before throwing. In other words, it is much easier to throw an unconscious aggressor and one who is already moving in the direction of the throw.

This is particularly true in Phoenix Arizona where we recently learned due to another worthless stimulus grant that people in Arizona sweat more than in any other state. Now that was definitely worth the use of tax dollars. Because of being sweaty in Arizona, its hard to grip someone without slipping, thus it is worthwhile to hit them first. One common atemi we use in karate is a palm strike along the jaw line, the ear, or the neck.
Getting back to the story, these two black belts were both very well trained in jujutsu and karate, and they had black belt ranks in both disciplines. In the test, Scott held onto Jason’s wrist with both hands using a tight grip. Jason struck Scott along the jaw indentation with his palm. Scott reported he let go of his grip as was temporarily paralyzed and Jason could have had his way over the next few minutes. Next, Jason held Scott’s wrist with both hands. Scott is very powerful due to his work as a professional fisherman in Alaska, lifting lots of salmon during the fishing season. As it was relayed to me, Scott struck Jason across the jaw indentation. Jason related that it was about a half hour later before he knew what was happening.
In other words, Jason was unconscious although still standing on his feet. So atemi works and there is no need to try it on one another - just ask these two students.
Sensei Hausel demonstrates how a scholar should use his head
 

Martial Arts in the Early Days

Juju uke with tonfa against bo attack at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate, Mesa

Early photo of Soke Hausel at the University of Utah. Hausel
demonstrates yoko tobi geri (flying side kick) against one of
his deshi & geophysicist Tim Smith. Photo by Mike Killian,
shodan, about 1969 or 1970.
Martial arts as they were taught in the 1960s were quite different from today. From my perspective, the early martial arts training in the 60s were boring, brutal, and dangerous. They were boring in that too much attention was devoted to repetition (mo ichi do) classes were ran like military camps (in fact, years later when I was in the Army during the Viet Nam era, boot camp was much less physically demanding, other than the constant loss of sleep, compared to training in a karate dojo), there was absolutely no creativity in training, way too much time was spent on kumite with very little time devoted to kata and essentially no time spent on kata bunkai (applications). The general idea was to build up endurance to pain and then test yourself. But don't get me wrong, it was all well worth it and I am thankful for my training and introduction to martial arts.
When I trained in Kyokushin Kai Karate at the Black Eagle Federation dojo in Sugarhouse (a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah), from about 1964 to 1967, we would practice kumite (sparring) every week. Kumite practice was brutal.

All techniques were done with full force with no pulling of punches, kicks or blocks. What saved us is that none of us every really learned how to properly focus our strikes. The only protective gear used was a protective groin cup. No one used gloves, pads, or helmets.

A few times a year, our dojo would set up a competition with another club in the city, the American Kempo Karate Club, which was the only other club that I knew existed in SLC at that time (there were probably others, but karate dojos were very uncommon in mainland US). These get-togethers had nothing to do with trophies or friendship - they were only for bragging rights.

At these contests, everyone was expected to cause as much pain and damage to the other school’s students so that our dojo would have the bragging rights as the toughest dojo in town. Actually, no one club ever dominated. These were brutal events and sometimes the gladiators left with fractured hands, fingers, knuckles, toes, noses, split lips, black eyes, etc. Thus the only trophies were the bruises to sport for the next week or two.


Sensei Hausel stands on 1.4 billion year old Sherman Granite - circa 1980
I remember two matches in particular that were brutal. One of our members received a blow to the forehead above his right eye. His competitor was wearing a ruby ring (no one ever checked for rings in those days), and left a 2-carat impression on his forehead to sport around for the next month.

Knockouts were very common during kumite. I remember being knocked out a few times while fighting an opponent remembering only that I could not see anything (but could hear) and apparently continued fighting on instinct and coming out a winner by knocking my opponent out, but not remembering how I had done so. Apparently I was able to see, but my brain said otherwise – a very, very strange feeling.

Another memorable match was between black belts – our black belt – John was caught his competitor with a front kick full force in the cup. The practitioner dropped immediately to the ground following the loud crack of the kick and it took some time to revive him. It was reported that Sensei John had actually cracked the protective cup. Without this protective gear, this fellow would either have lost use of his reproductive organs, or would have had to learn kijutsu. But there was not a great amount of concern in those days - after all, ambulance chasers were essentially non-existent.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Karate Tournaments

Aerial Karate sketch by Soke Hausel
Personally, I’m have a problem understanding the popularity of sport martial arts. this and the so-called mixed martial arts look more of a mixture of professional wrestling and Saturday night fights at the Cowboy bar. Then there is the so-called X-treme martial arts that appears to be a fashion show of sorts with very good gymnastics. I’m normally positive about developments in martial arts. But just because a person kicks does not make it a martial art.

I have been leery of anything that had to do with tournaments and was never impressed by outbursts from competitors who lacked self-control or did not like the judging and demanded they receive a point for punching at someone. Think of that – a point for punching at air. Guess it’s better than hitting someone. But at least they could strike the air with some focus.

The few tournaments I took part in were nothing like these and even then I felt they had nothing to do with traditional martial arts. We never saw any outbursts simply because it was obvious who defended themselves and who did not – it was called a welt, bruise or concussion.

Tournaments were never part of traditional karate. There are many who claim to be traditional martial artists but lack respect for others and lack of positive self-improvement and focus too much on competition

People who train for the so-called sport arenas often lack in power or focus. I’ve actually heard of contests where everyone receives a trophy no matter how they perform. This is not a good idea. One should only be rewarded for their accomplishments.

Where do tournaments come from? History is apparently unaware of any karate tournaments prior to its introduction to Japan in the early 1900s. In fact, Gichin Funakoshi was disturbed by such a development on mainland Japan as were several other Okinawan masters.
Training at Arizona School of
Traditional Karate in Mesa
Tonfa training at the Arizona School of Traditional
Okinawa Karate in Mesa

I was in one of the initial groups who started training in karate in this country (hard to believe I can be dated so easily), so I have been able to watch the evolution of karate over the past 4+ decades in the US. As I understand, karate was brought to the US by a few servicemen stationed in Okinawa and first formally introduced in 1956 in Hawaii before it became a state (don’t tell Obama, he still thinks there are 57 states).

I began training in karate in 1964 under a Hawaiian who studied under another Hawaiian in a system developed by Mas Oyama in Japan. Oyama was apparently one of Funakoshi’s students. We did not know what a tournament was when I started in karate and the only so-called tournaments I’m aware of at that time were shiai (local contests) between two dojo. These were different that the tournaments today in that they were brutal and had no winners. We would line up based on rank and sit down. Our groups consisted of 95% white belts, two or three color belts and two or three black belts.

Flying side kick at the University of New Mexico, 1975
The first two white belts sitting at the end of the line would stand up for the first match: one from our dojo verses one from the other dojo. We had no protective gear other than a cup, no head gear, and no gloves. Everything was done full-contact and any part of the body and head was fair game – luckily, no one had tremendous focus (although we could block almost anything) otherwise we would have buried some people.

When the first match finished, it was apparent who had won the contest most of the time. No one would call out points, instead it was decided by either one person still standing, or if both were still standing, the senior black belt would tell one of the white belts to sit down. No one ever argued and more often than not, you looked forward to being told to sit down. The one still standing would not have time to catch his breath as the next white belt in line from the other dojo would stand and the next 3 minute kumite contest began.

This method of madness went through the entire white belt ranks until a color belt member was called to fight the last standing white belt. As soon as the last colored or white belt was standing, a black belt would be called to the next kumite match. I can tell you that these contests were not fun. They were brutal and punishing and there were no trophies other than the bruises we took back to our dojo with us. You did not see anyone argue with a senior black belt as to who got what point or who had won. In most cases, you were relieved to sit down and catch your breath and hoped you could walk from the tatami (mat).

So why attend such brutal contests – particularly if there were no trophies? We had our personal trophies – our bruises and the knowledge that we survived. Besides, we were there to learn how to defend ourselves.

I don’t remember anyone ever getting seriously injured as we see today. Maybe time has eliminated the memories of people tearing up their knees, etc, but I cannot remember one instance where this happened in the 1960s. I do remember the knockouts (except the ones where I was on the receiving end), the many bruises, the pain of being kicked in the groin (a cup didn’t seem to provide much of protection) and getting my wind knocked out. We never even thought of the possibility of killing someone. These contests were excellent for building reflexes, but poor for building focus, power and good technique – thus I would have to say that such early contests were not good for the evolution of karate and the contests of today are probably worse because one does not even learn to block properly. In Seiyo Shorin-Ryu, I want to teach all of you to defend your selves with power and focus and teach you to develop positive attitudes – things that are eroded by tournaments practice. To be a traditional karate ka, it is important to practice traditional art.

Mixed martial arts have no lineage, they have no philosophy and no path to lead the practitioner to become a better person. As such, MMA cannot be considered a martial art. These have no kata. One must assume that Shoshin Nagamine (1907-1997) a well-known Okinawan karate master knew what he was talking about. He practiced all his life and grew up on the Island of Karate. The Grandmaster of Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu karate wrote in Tales of Okinawa's Great Masters, "if there is no kata, there is no karate, just kicking & punching".


Self-defense training with Japanese tanto (knife).
It is also true of Xtreme martial arts. I am not saying that these people are not talented fighters or gymnasts, all I’m suggesting is that they call themselves what they truly are – sport fighting and sport gymnastics.


VISIT OUR HUMBLE HOMBU IN MESA, ARIZONA


Map to Dojo
Our center is open to the public - we focus on Adults and Families. Come learn the traditions of Okinawan Karate & Kobudo, where much of the class is conducted in Japanese and English to help students learn Japanese. We also teach meditation, philosophy and martial arts history interjected in karate classes. Check out our schedule.