Monday, January 23, 2012

Old style karate, top 12 ways it differs from modern karate.

When In first created this blog, I promised an article on what makes “Old style” karate different from modern karate. Well now that I’ve sat down to outline this article; I realize that it would not be possible to do the topic justice with a single post. So I’ve decided to create a short post mentioning the top dozen differences (as I see them). I hopefully will get around to discussing all of these as I continue to post on this blog. 

Very few dojos actually incorporate all 12, but I feel that those schools which include a majority are firmly in the “old style” category.

Motobu Choki doing a tuidi technique from Naihanchi Shodan (locking the right elbow while trapping a left punch)

1) Focus on close range techniques and tactics

2) Emphasis on special qualities which often are expressed only by rare Okinawan terminology (muchimi, chinkuchi, gyame, muchi, gamaku, ti nu umui, etc) 
3) Body Conditioning (kotekitae, Makiwara training , iron sand palm, etc)

4) Hojo-undo
5) Tuidi (aka gyakute or karamidi etc)
6) Use of sensitivity drills (kakie etc)

7) Techniques not “squared off” or enlarged for aesthetic reasons

8) Use of unusual (typically very small) striking surfaces
9) Medical knowledge (bone setting, kautsu, herbal medicine, moxa, cupping, tsubo massage etc.)

10) Kiko / kokyu-ho

11) Kyusho / chibudi

12) Tenshin / taisabaki

Traditional hojo undo equipment used in my kiko training

I realize different people may come up with completely different lists. These are what I consider the main differences. If you have differences you would like to add please leave comments

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Naihanchi "body-changes" (内蟠地転身)

Naihanchi kata [内蟠地型 or ナイハンチ] has apparently simple footwork moving side to side using a "horse-stance" (naihanchi-dachi) [内蟠地] and a "cross-stance" (kosa-dachi) [交差立]. However the horse-stance and cross-stance are used in application by rotating the body as one assumes these stances. In Shorin ryu these evasive body rotations are often referred to as "body-changes." "Body-change" is the English translation of Tenshin [転身] meaning "body-rotation" (also sometimes called tai-sabaki [体捌き]).  The primary purpose of a "body change" is to move out of the way of an initial attack and to make a renewed attack more difficult. However, an often ignored aspect of these "body-changes" is that they add considerable power to techniques. This is especially important for tuidi techniques.

The reason that the kata doesn't  illustrate all the possible footwork explicitly is that most of the techniques can be applied with more than one type of footwork. In fact, there are 20 basic pivoting methods that I use with Naihanchi (and innumerable variations as well as more advanced forms of footwork). Rather than illustrating all the possibilities, the kata indicates these in a somewhat abstract way. Below the basic kata footwork is shown in a short clip and is illustrated by a diagram below the clip.

The diagram below shows the two most basic ways to use the Naihanchi "cross stance". In the first example you leave the left foot unmoved and pivot on the ball of the right foot as the hips and shoulders pivot clockwise. In the second example the left foot still remains unmoved but the right foot steps behind as you pivot clockwise.
In the diagram below the footwork is similar to that illustrated above, but in each example the left foot takes a step before  the body pivots in a clockwise direction as the right foot moves into the "cross stance"

Below are the two most basic stepping patterns for pivoting the body into a "Horse-Stance":

All 10 of  these stepping patterns can of course be used by pivoting anti-clockwise as well (making 20 basic stepping patterns).

Some (but not all) of these stepping methods can be seen in this video:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A few thoughts on the Bubishi (武备志):

Musings on the Kenpo Hakku, Chinese Medicine,
and their relationship to Ryukyu Martial Arts.

The Bubishi is a text that was revered by Okinawan masters of Tudi (唐手). While its link to Nafadi (那覇手) is more widely known, it seems to have had a profound effect on masters of the Suidi [首里手] tradition as well. Perhaps the best know section of this text is the "Eight Cornerstone Verses of Kenpo" (Kenposhi Hayoku) [拳法之八要句] which is often shortened to "Eight Verses of Kenpo" (Kenpo Hakku) [拳法八句]. Like the much of the Bubishi, these verses are worded in a way that is somewhat ambiguous and seemingly cryptic. Even casual reflection reveals that many (perhaps all) of these verses are  intentionally multivalent. This is not unusual as classical Chinese literature often contains verses intended to pack multiple meanings into very terse phrases and the ability to construct such verses seems to have been a point of intellectual pride among scholars.

Below are the "Eight Cornerstone Verses of Kenpo":

一 人心同天地
二 血脈似日月
三 法剛柔吞吐
四 身随时应变
五 手逢空则入
六 码进退离逢
七 目要观四向
八 耳能听八

A great deal has been written (much of it quite good) on the multiple meanings of the third verse "The Method is Hard and Soft, Swallow and Spit" (Ho Goju Donto) [剛柔吞吐]. This verse is quite interesting and I will be offering a few thoughts on it in a future post. However, today I want to offer a few of my personal musings on the (seemingly bizarre) second verse "The circulation is like (that of) the sun and moon" (ketsumyaku niru nichigetsu) [血脈似日月].* 

To understand this verse one needs to understand that at the time the Bubishi was written the term "blood" (ketsu) [血] was understood quite differently than the way blood is understood in modern Western medicine. The "blood" wasn't only the red liquid that comes out of a cut, it was also a more subtle substance inseparably linked to ki [氣]. Ki and "blood" were always found together and the body was constantly transforming ki into "blood" and "blood" into ki. Ki and "blood" were thought to flow together through the primary and bilateral meridians. The two are so closely linked that a common term in older texts on Traditional Chinese medicine is kiketsu [血] meaning "Ki-Blood". It is this idea of kiketsu that is intended rather than blood in the modern Western sense. Once this is understood the seemingly strange verse immediately becomes comprehensible.  There are (at least) three meanings that seem to be intentionally encapsulated in this verse:

1) The most immediately evident meaning is that the circulation follows a cycle lasting a day (sun) and night (moon). Later the Bubishi explicitly spells out this 24 hour cycle in some detail. At the end of this post I will discuss this a little more.

2) The moon and sun are well known celestial symbols of Yin and Yang (Inyo) [陰陽]. So, another fairly obvious meaning of this verse is that there is a Yin and Yang cycle of circulation in the body. The main Yin and Yang meridians of the body are the Conception Vessel (ninmyaku) [任脈] and the Governor Vessel (tokumyaku) [督脈]. This verse can be seen as a reference to a circulation through the yang Governor (sun) and yin Conception (moon) vessels. In fact, this circulation is called the "small CELESTIAL cycle" (shoshyuten) [小周天] which clearly compares the yang/yin circulation through these meridians to the alternation of the sun and moon in the heavens. This interpretation seems to be strengthened by the use of word "myaku" [脈] in this verse from the Bubishi. While technically all the major meridians of the body can be called myaku, only the Governor (tokumyaku) and Conception (ninmyaku) contain myaku in their names.

3) Another meaning is that the circulation (of kiketsu) is like the sun and moon because it is said to flow through 360 classical points and 12 bilateral meridians. When acupuncture was first being organized an attempt was made to systematize it based on the Chinese calendar with its 12 lunar months and 360 solar days. While this may be a bit of an attempt to jam a square peg into a round hole, it is beyond question that the system was originally organized around the solar and lunar element of the Chinese calendar. Thus, the "circulation is like the sun and moon". The modern acupuncture system has included an additional point, bringing the total number of "standard points" to 361.

It is probably worth mentioning that ketsumyaku can also be written meaning "cavities and vessels" (acupoints and meridians). So "ketsumyaku niru nichigetsu" can literally mean "the acupoints and meridians are like the sun and moon"

Retuning to meaning number 1, the circulation through the 12 bilateral meridians in a 24 hour cycle is  detailed in the Bubishi and is an explicit use of a "rule of acupuncture" for vital point fighting. In the context of attacking meridian points the Bubishi also mentions the effects of the "positive and negative forces" as well as "the elements of nature".  These seem to be allusions to the Yin/Yang and Five Element theories of acupuncture, but at first glance the Bubishi doesn't seem to offer any details regarding these subjects. However, I believe that the Bubishi does contain information on these topics implicitly. Careful examination of the Bubishi's treatment of the diurnal cycle will reveal that it is organized in pairs of meridians sharing the same element. This can be seen below:

23:00 – 01:00: (Ne) Rat\   (Tankei) Gall Bladder \ (Moku) Wood
01:00 – 03:00: (Ushi) Ox\ (Kankei) Liver \ (Moku) Wood
03:00 – 05:00: (Tora) Tiger \ (Haikei) Lung \ (Kin) Metal
05:00 – 07:00: (U) Hare\ 肠经 (Daichokei) Large Intestine \ (Kin) Metal
07:00 – 09:00: (Tatsu) Dragon\ (Ikei) Stomach \ (Do) Earth
09:00 – 11:00: (Mi) Snake \ (Hikei) Spleen \ (Do) Earth
11:00 – 13:00: (Uma) Horse \ (Shinkei) Heart \ (Ka) Fire
13:00 – 15:00: (Hitsuji) Goat\ 肠经 (Sochokei) Small Intestine \ (Ka) Fire
15:00 – 17:00: (Saru) Monkey\ 膀胱 (Bokokei) Bladder \ (Sui) Water
17:00 – 19:00: (Tori) Rooster\ 肾经 (Jinkei) Kidney \ (Sui) Water
19:00 – 21:00: (Inu) Dog\ 心包 (Shinpokei) Pericardium \ (Ka) Fire
21:00 – 23:00: (I) Pig\  三焦 (Sanchokei) Triple Warmer \ (Ka) Fire

It also can be seen that in the diurnal cycle, meridians occur in pairs which share the same polarity. In the chart below the Yin (In) meridians are white and the Yang (Yo) meridians are blue :

01:00 – 03:00: 丑 (Ushi) Ox\ 肝经 (Kankei) Liver \ 陰 (In)-
03:00 – 05:00: 寅 (Tora) Tiger \ 肺经 (Haikei) Lung \  陽 (In)-
05:00 – 07:00: 卯 (U) Hare\ 大肠经 (Daichokei) Large Intestine \ 陰 (Yo)+
07:00 – 09:00: 辰 (Tatsu) Dragon\ 胃经 (Ikei) Stomach \ 陰 (Yo)+
09:00 – 11:00: 巳 (Mi) Snake \ 脾经 (Hikei) Spleen \  陽 (In)-
11:00 – 13:00: 午(Uma) Horse \ 心经 (Shinkei) Heart \  陽 (In) -
13:00 – 15:00: 未(Hitsuji) Goat\ 小肠经 (Sochokei) Small Intestine \ 陰 (Yo)+
15:00 – 17:00: 申(Saru) Monkey\ 膀胱经 (Bokokei) Bladder \  陰 (Yo)+
17:00 – 19:00: 酉 (Tori) Rooster\ 肾经 (Jinkei) Kidney \  陽 (In) -
19:00 – 21:00: 戌 (Inu) Dog\ 心包经 (Shinpokei) Pericardium \  陽 (In) - 
21:00 – 23:00: 亥 (I) Pig\  三焦经 (Sanchokei) Triple Warmer \ 陰 (Yo) +  
23:00 – 01:00: 子 (Ne) Rat\  胆经 (Tankei) Gall Bladder \ 陽 (Yo)+

So it is my opinion that the Bubishi does contain information on the Yin-yang (Inyo) and Five Element (Gogyo) [ 五行] associations of the meridians, it is just in slightly concealed form.

It is worth noting that I once read (in a book on Ryukyu culture) that the associations between the Five Elements and the Chinese Clock Hours was apparently fairly common knowledge in classical Ryukyu (if memory serves, it was the basis for the layout of homes and shrines). So, it seems likely that this sort of association would have sprung to mind fairly quickly, especially to the relatively well educated bushi [武士] of Okinawa.

While I readily acknowledge that things like vital point fighting and kiko can be practiced without any detailed knowledge of Chinese medical theories, in my opinion the relationship between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ryukyu fighting arts is deeply interesting, if for no other reason than its historical significance.

Warm Regards
Ryan Parker

*the term “circulation” in this verse is ketsumyaku [血脈] meaning literally “’blood’ and vessels” but is generally interpreted to mean “circulation”. Ketsumyaku [穴脈]  can also mean "cavities and vessels" referring to acupoints and meridians. In Chinese 血脈 and 穴脈 are both pronounced xue-mai