Reviews Of My Seminars

I am posting these reviews because they capture the reactions of various martial artists to aspects of the Ryukyu martial arts which are not well known. These include "iron body" training and attacks to vital points. These methods are not fanciful myths nor are they lost arts which have been relegated to the pages of the Bubishi.

Kenchiro Tanaka Seminar Review

Philip Stroffolino Seminar Review

Tom Valesky Seminar Review

Lauren Radner Seminar Review

Stephen Gombosi Seminar Review (A)

Dave Smythe Seminar Review

Peter Hahn Seminar Review

Stephen Gombosi Seminar Review (B)

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First though, if you ever get a chance to attend one of Ryan ‘s seminars, or to work out with him, or just to meet him, take it. He's a very talented person, a great teacher, and all-around nice guy. ^_^  Also, this is just my interpretation of what went on. I am not making any judgments about Ryan ‘s style based on spending a couple of hours with him. I apologize in advance if I've misrepresented anything/anybody. 

So here's the report: (---)  

Ryan turned out to be a great teacher and everyone had a good time. Ryan started the seminar by saying that what he says over the course of the next few hours shouldn't be construed as meaning, "this is the right way." He explained that this is just what his style teaches. I thought this was nice. Ryan also kept apologizing throughout for giving such a "bad" presentation, but I don't think anyone was disappointed. The seminar started with Ryan demonstrating some blocks and follow up techniques. It was pretty obvious from the beginning that Ryan’s very talented. He's a pretty big guy, but his movements were very fluid and fast, and his handspeed was amazing. While I don't presume to understand his style from just the three hours of the seminar, there were several concepts that he seemed to keep coming back to:
  1. Efficient use of movements
  2. Logical progression from technique to technique
  3. Targeting of vital points
  4. "Literal" interpretation of kata
All of these ideas are very tightly connected and it's hard to talk
about them individually, but they go something like this:
Ryan demonstrated the first concept with his blocks. Instead of using a cocking, then blocking type motion you see in a lot of hard systems, Ryan used the cocking as the block, trapping the opponent's hand, and then used the "block" part of the motion as a conterstrike aimed at the head. When he showed us longer attack progressions, Ryan showed how there were no wasted motion, and how he would be striking at vital points constantly, in moving his hands or feet from point A to point B.

The second and third concepts are very closely related. Each technique set up a subsequent technique and this was accomplished through the use of vital point strikes. Ryan showed us two main ways this is done. The first is pretty obvious--you strike your opponent in such a way to force them to move their body so they expose another target. The second was a little more sophisticated--the vital points, apparently, are related in such a way that attacking one weakens (or makes more sensitive) another point. Ryan did a demo where he kicked his opponent in the leg with and without pressure to a vital point on the wrist. There was a much more pronounced effect when there was pressure to the wrist. We practiced this for a while on each other and got similar, but obviously less dramatic results. In general, it seems that _all_ strikes in Ryan’s system target vital points.

I don't quite know how to explain the fourth concept (Ryan does a good job of it in his booklet), but basically, his style makes no distinction between kata movements and "real life" movements. This is closely related to the first concept--no movements are wasted, and each motion has a specific and logical purpose. For instance, a chambering of the arm near the ribs, which would normally be seen as just a cocking of the arm or a return to a defensive stance is interpreted as a rake to a vital point, or a jointlock, or a neck manipulation, etc.

During the course of the seminar, Ryan did several demonstrations of vital point fighting. He gave a few examples of the differences between "regular" strikes and vital point strikes. He used me as uke on one of them that went like this-- Ryan stood in front of me and hit me with a backfist to the temple a few times. Obviously, he wasn't hitting me hard enough to injure or hurt me, but they were solid. They were annoying, I guess, and would have given me a headache if he kept it up a few minutes. ^_^ He then struck me to a vital point in the back of the neck. My knee buckled and I staggered about a foot. Pretty cool. It's a strange sensation--someone else (who got hit to a different point) described i as being "like getting hit real hard, except you're not," which is a pretty good description. You feel the "thud" and the effects of a really heavy hit, but without the sharp pain. It's worth noting that Ryan hits _lighter_ for the vital point strikes, just to show their effectiveness.

The first part of the seminar went on like that for two hours or so. Ryan showed us a bunch of attack sequences (for lack of a better term), which incorporated all the concepts I mentioned, as well as joint locking/breaking techniques and neck manipulations. Ryan addressed questions very well and walked around a lot, doing a lot of one on one instruction. I guess I should mention that Ryan has a great presence. Besides the fact that he's just a big guy (^_^), he's funny, friendly, and explains things very well.

This brought us to the kiko part of the seminar. It was funny-- Ryan said, “I guess we'll do the kiko stuff now," got into a horsestance and asked one of the karate people to throw a couple of punches and elbows to his throat. Very casually, like you would say, "I guess we should go get lunch now." ^_^ The guy seemed incredulous and reluctant, but he went ahead and hit Ryan. The hits definitely made contact and knocked Ryan back a few inches. He took a couple of more strikes here, which left his throat and upper chest bright red, but he didn't seem to have sustained any injury. 

We took turns hitting Ryan (^_^) and the strikes included; backfist and shin kick to the groin, side and roundhouse kicks to the knee, front kick to the abdomen, punch to the ribs, and elbows to the kidneys. Ryan concluded this demonstration by taking four simultaneous punches to the neck. (Actually, they were mistimed so that one actually hit him in the head. He was ok though. ^_^) I was very skeptical before I saw the demo and actually thought Ryan was a nut when I first saw his posts (sorry Ryan ^_^) but I must say, what he showed us was for real. All of the strikes were making solid contact--even if there was a little softening of the blow through positioning/shifting or whatever (which there wasn't--not noticeably, anyway), the actual contact was very hard. I hit him in the ribs and while I'm small and don't hit very hard, I'm certain any normal person would have been in a lot of pain. I don't understand how it works, but it does--there is no doubt in my mind that Ryan was actually taking those hits.
   
Ryan then showed us some breathing exercises that are the foundation for kiko. I won't even try to explain the theory behind it, as I'm sure to mangle it, but the exercises involved lots of relaxed but deep breathing, as well as stimulation of the abdominal area. Ryan explained that the "correct" way to breathe is with your stomach, not with your chest. I found this interesting because I had asthma as a kid and was taught to breathe with my stomach. So if nothing else, these exercises are good for your health. ^_^

Ryan concluded the seminar by taking questions from the group. One of the karate people asked him to do a bunkai for an entire kata set, so Ryan picked one of his favorites and showed us the kata by himself, then the application against an opponent. Again, it was interesting to see that all the motions had a purpose and the forms were pretty much identical in the solo kata and the application. So, to sum it up, I had a great time at the seminar ad, I was sort of worried that the non-kiko of it would be boring to me (as I'm not a karate person), but they turned out to be just as, if not more interesting.

I was surprised to find that Ryan’s style used a lot of concepts and techniques I'd normally associate with other styles (trapping, jointlocking) and in general, didn't seem to follow the one-hit kill philosophy that many other karate styles seem to have. (This isn't a criticism, just an observation. I may be wrong about both, but it seems that many karate systems teach you to hit once and hit hard, but the techniques Ryan showed involved multiple successive hits to very specific targets. And the strikes Ryan uses are just as likely to kill anyway, because he's attacking vital points.) And like I said, Ryan is very talented and it's great watching him move.
   
I sort of feel like a drooling idiot--I didn't write any criticisms but I really don't have any. I don't think anyone else did either. Everyone had a great time and as a measure of how happy people were, Ryan’s demo video sold out immediately after the seminar. I'm sure Ryan will be embarrassed when I mention this, but as an example of what a nice guy he is, he gave all the profits from the video to Phil, as he knew that not enough people showed up to cover the cost of flying him out. I guess I should have referred to Ryan as “Parker Sensei" in the context of this post...

Also, I took some pictures which I'll be scanning in and putting on a web site--I'll post the URL when I get them done.
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Kenichiro Tanaka
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Philip Stroffolino Seminar Review

Geez, Ken beat me to a “review," and was assuredly a lot more eloquent than I could possible be, but I'll summarize/add what I can...

First and foremost, anyone who accuses Ryan of being a self-deluded lunatic or is skeptical of his (provable) claims in the future can go ahead and call me a liar while they are at it.
This includes the following:
*ability to absorb full contact strikes to throat, ribs, kidneys, groin, knees from a relaxed upright posture without pain or injury --I was rather worried before inviting him to the seminar that he'd either blink and be hurt seriously during the demo, or never wake up the next day ^_^

*the potential for an old man to disable a "Kimo" from standing, close range (without resorting to clutching and twisting one's opponents' gonads ala the writer of Funakoshi :)
  
*the relative ease at which a close range disarm (of a gun) can be done before the trigger can be pulled reflexively in response to the "victim's" defensive movement

*many people have the impression that karate is primarily (solely) powerful blocks and punches

--Ryan's techniques and insights shed light on something much more encompassing and fluid than I could ever have conceived as being labeled "karate," yet he did not deviate from a "karate" framework, in that his movements are all true to kata.  This includes quick, practical deflection of strikes delivered from inside the range where one doesn't have to step to land a punch --aggressive countering series that
  •   (a) don't leave one wide open if something fails along the way
  •   (b) have potential for great effect (because of the targets, many seemingly innocuous)
  •   (c) maximize the odds of effecting a vital point through "raking" actions and optimal angles of attack
  •   (c) set each other up nicely, through the likely reflexive actions of of uke and the momentum induced upon various extremities through pushing/pulling/bludgeoning
  •   (c) have the potential to destroy joints along the way, without the jointlock being a "succeed/fail" focus of the technique taken as a whole
*Kata and visualization as a useful centerpiece of MA training, once
movements are understood and practiced thoroughly with a partner

> when I mention this, but as an example of what a nice guy he is, he gave
> all the profits from the video to Phil, as he knew that not enough people
> showed up to cover the cost of flying him out.


He actually gave me all_ the collected money, absorbing the production cost per tape himself.  I hope to make this up to him soon ;_;
Phil

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Tom Valesky Seminar Review



I attended a seminar taught by Ryan Parker. It was quite an interesting seminar indeed. For the first part, Ryan demonstrated several bunkai (applications) from Okinawan forms. The bunkai were, in my opinion, very very good. They were simple, economic of motion, followed exactly the movements in the kata, and gave you lots of opportunities to hit and hurt your opponent in a very short time period. (If you've had only limited exposure to bunkai, this part alone would have made the seminar worth attending). He then showed a bunch of miscellaneous interesting stuff, including 1) how the empty-hand katas also work well when wielding a knife or a hanbo. and 2) a demonstration of how minor changes in timing can severely mess with a person's ability to intercept your strikes.
   

After an interesting interlude which I will describe later, he showed us several breathing exercises and visualizations that help to build and concentrate ki, and taught us how to do a very limited version of the ability to resist strikes (only on a single point on the forearm -- but not bad for the first day :-) ). All in all, it was a very worthwhile seminar. I've paid a lot more for a lot less.

Oh yeah, about that "interesting interlude." Well, you've all probably heard about Ryan's claim that he can take a strike anywhere on his body below the chin without sustaining injury. Well, I got a chance to try this out for myself. When he called for volunteers, I volunteered. I started out with knee-kicks. Ryan rolled up his gi and put his leg out, and I stomped on his knee. Nothing. I stomped again. Nothing.  I did a heel-kick. Nothing. Another stomp, this time from the front. Nothing. All told, I stomped about 15-20 times, from various angles. To no effect. A mite shaken (and winded!) I retired for the moment.

Fellow netter Andrew Somlyo took over, and gave him a few roundhouse kicks to the knee and shin (once making a quite nasty bone-on-bone *crack* -- both parties seemed none the worse for wear, however). I came up again, and did some throat punches. Straight in to the front of his throat. Alternating left jab and right cross. Then just repeated right crosses. When I hit a punching bag like that, it bounces. Here, nothing. Well, he moved backward a little. But I _felt_ my fist sink into his throat. (It wasn't muscle tension -- his throat was quite soft).

After that, I did a few rising ridge-hand strikes to his groin. (Yes, I _did_ feel testicles there. Even if there weren't any there, though, it still should have hurt). Nothing. Another fellow netter, Erik Hatcher, followed this up with some rising shin-kicks to his groin. Nothing.

He then had another fellow come up, and asked him to strike him anywhere in the kidneys, back, or back of the neck. He took some _heavy_ rabbit punches. And kidney punches. Nothing. He asked if anyone with a grappling background would like to try any holds on him. I volunteered. I put him in juji gatame (deashi hayanada to you Danzan Ryu folks -- I am
a sankyu in Danzan Ryu). Nothing. I sat up somewhat, hugged his arm against my chest, fell back to the ground, and _drove_ my hips upward, genuinely trying to break his arm. Nothing. I tried again. Nothing. Four tries, and nothing. I asked him about his short ribs, and he raised his arm. I _blasted_ a roundhouse shin kick into his ribs, with as much force as I could muster. It hit with a *whop* that brought a gasp of air from the spectators. But no effect on Ryan. Another shin kick. A couple of right hooks. A couple of forearm elbow smashes with all my body weight and every ounce of meanness in me behind them. Nothing. I asked about his collar bone. He said, "Go ahead."  So I did 10, count 'em, *10* knife-hand strikes to his undefended collarbone, one after the other, like chopping wood. Nothing. I hit him hard enough with one of them that my ring finger whacked against the tip of my little finger; the inside tip of my right little finger is now a very deep shade of purplish black. (I know that some of you karate folks have done this too -- you _know_ how hard you've got to hit to do it). At this point, he brought up 4 people: me, Andrew Somlyo, George Arrington, and one of Joe Aldridge's students whose name escapes me at present. He had us stand on four sides of him, and all simultaneously punch him in the throat. We did. The guy on the other side of me (I was coming from the side) said that he felt my fist _through_ Ryan's throat. Can you guess what the effect was? Zero. Zip. Nada.
I'm convinced.

PS A few words about myself are probably in order, so that you folks have some idea where I'm coming from. I'm 5'10". I weigh 220 pounds. (much of which is blubber, but I can still do 60 pushups on a good day). I've been involved in the martial arts for 12 years. I like to hit things. I think that Ryan is a nice guy, and I like him, but when I was hitting him, I was hitting him with "bad intentions." Intent is important. I hit him with intent to kill, or cripple. I hit him as hard as I have ever hit any person, board, brick, makiwara, or punching bag, in the dojo or out. I gave it everything I had. And it didn't faze him a bit. (Not trying to say that I'm the biggest, baddest, most expert, etc. I'm just pretty big and strong, can hit pretty hard, and _did_ hit pretty hard (in fact, after the hitting part was over, I got a couple of uneasy looks from some of the other folks at the seminar)).
   
When I read about something like this in Robert Smith's "Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods", I didn't believe it. Now I've seen it. Whoa! This  will take some getting used to.
Tom
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Wow.
I'm not sure which impressed me more.
That Ryan Parker can really do everything he says he can do, or that he's so darn *humble* about it. And so willing to share it all. And then there's the fact that his wife, Barbara, seems to be able to do it too... more on that in a minute.
   
Ryan was EXTREMELY kind and gracious in agreeing to a spur of the moment, drop-by, informal seminarfor about 10-12 people. Even I didn't know how many people were going to show up. Some of the "names" you folks might recognize include Steve Gombosi, Peter Hahn, and David Smythe. There were a few net.lurkers, some students from my own Okinawan school (I think the most senior student from my school had a little over 20 years of experience), some Chinese stylists, a karate black belt even taller than Ryan (which is hard to imagine) from a different local school, and I'm not even sure what all the rest were.
  
He and Barbara showed up, we all suited up, I introduced myself, had the group go 'round and introduce themselves, then asked Ryan to introduce himself and just start talking. Ryan fielded LOTS of questions, and when  the questions finally died down, asked, almost shyly, "Well? Does anyone want to punch me in the throat?". If I *had* a .sig file, that would be
my new quote.
    
Ryan is such an obviously and patently nice guy, NO ONE wanted to just haul off and beat on him, and yet, we were all curious. He tried picking people from the crowd, but there was an obvious reluctance to really come forward. Things picked up after Ryan said, "Barb?" and had *her* come to the front and he started, oh, doing things like forearm smashes to her throat. Now I'm five foot five. My eyes are at about Ryan's chest level, however tall that makes him. Barb is shorter than I am, I'm pretty sure, and she's daintily and delicately built (I mean this as a compliment, Barb), and I'm *not*. I probably outweigh her by a good sixty pounds.
  
Ryan did *not* pull any of his techniques on her. His techniques rocked her, and one forearm-to-the-throat smash sent her flying across the room. Ryan humbly apologized on Barb's behalf, explaining that "She's only been working on it for a year, but only really concentrating on it since Christmas, so she doesn't have the 'rooting' part yet..." (!!!!!)
   
But none of his assaults *injured* her. Her voice wasn't even hoarse fromthe throat smashes when she popped back up from the ground. After we all saw this human tank beat on teeny Barbara and her suffer no ill effects, we all figured, gosh, obviously it would be safe to beat on the tank, right?
And so we did.
  
Either I am more sociopathic than the rest, or just generally more naive and trusting, but to my mind, it was obvious that Ryan *and* Barb could take it, and I, for one, was literally bouncing up and down with eagerness to FINALLY deliver full-strength techniques to a living human being so that I could see what it felt like. To me, I mean. Obviously Ryan and Barbara weren't suffering any ill effects. And the techniques my style teaches can't be delivered without at least crippling somebody, so ... when have I ever had chance like this?
   
There was general agreement that we all wish Ryan would just come to each of our schools and stand there so we could practice on him, because that would save us bundles on makiwara, punching bags, and pads... I think if we agreed to feed him, he just might.
   
Anyway, I was invited to kick Ryan in the groin, and we were all invited to put on shoes if we wanted to (nobody did). First he wanted me to, ah, confirm, ah, that he wasn't, er, ah, wearing any sort of protective cup or equipment, ahem. I said I'd leave that to Barb... Anyway, Ryan encouraged me to get my range and try a few practice shots and I did - the, er, 'feel' of which, ahem, made it clear that Ryan wasn't wearing a cup. "No, there's nothing hard there," I said, "Sorry Barbara, nothing personal." I started out the same way everybody did, making the first few shots tentative, but with increasing force, as it seemed that Ryan was not being injured. I started with a tentative, kick, saw there was no ill effect, did a kick that was maybe a 2 or a 3 on my scale of 10, no result on Ryan, did a 4 or a 5, and got no reaction, and then did like maybe a 7, and then figured, "Well, okay!" and unleashed about a 15 on my personal scale of 10. I hurt my foot. He was not affected. I did not hurt my foot because I jammed my toes. For a kick of this type, my style (until I'm a billionth degree black belt) kicks with the ball of the foot. I *hurt* the *bones* in the ball of my foot. They hurt the next day. I did *not* "pull my kick". In fact, I stopped after that one, because I hurt too much to use that foot again, and it hurt too much to rest my weight on it in order to kick with the other foot. As David Smythe has related in an earlier post, David then suggested using shin kicks, and I said, "Why don't *you* do it" and up he came and did his darnedest. He also threw several, as in like 7 or 8 elbow and forearm smashes to random areas on Ryan's back, at Ryan's invitation, to hit anywhere from the base of his skull to his waist, including kidneys, neck, head, etc. Ryan's so darn big, that David was mostly aiming for shoulder blades and below, and Ryan kept encouraging with things like "You can hit up at the back of my head too, if you'd like", like maybe David hadn't heard the full range of possible targets the first time. The even-taller-than-Ryan karate guy (instructor from some other local school) was invited to take kicks to Ryan's knees, and Ryan even obligingly rolled up his gi pants leg, so the guy could see precisely where to kick for maximum damage. No effect.
    
I, personally, was glad that Steve Gombosi was there, because, I know he knows his stuff, not just philosophically, but physically. He's broken two makiwara that I know of, one his, that he built and mounted in concrete in his own yard, and the other one in Okinawa. Also, Steve has too much integrity to pull his punches. Like the rest of us, Steve started easy, testing that it was really safe, then increased the force. I knew he was going full force, I could see it. I could also see the surprised look on his face. Then Ryan asked him to please hit *Barb*. "Harder than you hit me, please," asked Ryan. And so, Barb offered her kidneys, which were at a perfect height for Steve to deliver maximum force efficiently with a straight front punch. Which he did. Several times. While Ryan said things like, "Again, please." and "Harder, please." Barb just *stood* there. It was weird, because I could see Steve's fist just sort of... *stop*... like it indented into some kind of thin rubbery layer, and then just *stopped*. Kind of like if you took a piece of scuba wetsuit and wrapped it around a marble column, that's about the "give" I could perceive. Ryan invited four of us to punch at the front, back, and both sides of his throat simultaneously please, and I had to keep asking him to hunker down, 'cause I just couldn't get a punch up and over his shoulder and then into his neck. Did I mention yet that Ryan is big?
   
But let's not forget that Barb, who is shorter than I am, and not big-boned, or muscled or anything *like* Ryan in build, can *also* take this punishment.

Ryan says that in about a month, she'll be doing the full demo herself.  Sheesh.
   
After everybody took every kind of shot, at every kind of target, with every kind of technique, and we were all just sort of standing there goggle-eyed, Ryan moved on to the next part of the seminar. As Peter Hahn, I think, mentioned, Ryan emphasized throughout the three hours he gifted us with, that the kiko/breathing/etc. was to promote health and long life, not circus side- shows. I did ask the question that I had read on the net the night before, about "So just how much can you stand? I mean, a kick yes, a Mack truck, no. Where do you draw the line?" He said he wasn't going to let people take after him with baseball bats. He also had some interesting stories about how, when he was first starting, and had to request that the 'attacker' target a particular area (rather than how he does it now, which is, for example "just hit me anywhere in back, don't tell me where"), anyway, when he was first starting, if someone hit him several times and 'missed' the target area a few times, or only partially overlapped the target area with a technique, he would bruise *outside* of the target area he had been mentally protecting, but the target area would not be bruised. Neat, hunh? Of course, for you skeptics, that's just 'hearsay', but the rest of what I've said *isn't*. I was THERE. I KICKED him. I BELIEVE. I fail to see how anyone would *not* believe Ryan anyway, since he's obviously such a nice guy, and is, himself, so fascinated by all of this... which is one of the things that makes him an excellent teacher. He is obviously enthused with the opportunity to make this kind of knowledge more widely available. As Ryan said, some of the most holy of secrets in one style, will be the stuff you get taught starting on the first
day, in some other style. And Ryan's a thinker, which you might not at first have suspected from the "wholesome farmboy the size of a barn" appearance. He mulls over applications and techniques all the time. I like the way his mind works.
   
Anyway, the rest of the seminar was bunkai from the Naihanch kata, and general principles of Ryan's style. Peter says a lot of this looked like Kali. Steve and I could see a lot of similarities in the motions and the stances to Steve's Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu, and a lot of the principles and motions were similar to my own Okinawan style (Ryuken karate), eg, what a fellow student from our school has synopsized as the "While you're there" concept, of getting multiple strikes/blocks/attacks out of any given motion.... for example, using the windup/retraction for a block/strike as a backward elbow or as a grab/pull of the Bad Buy into the block/strike, which would, itself, impact two or three sites during the course of its delivery. "While you're there" you might as well strike a vital nerve point on the upper arm on the way into the throat shot and "while you're there" you might as well continue the motion by collapsing your arm into an elbow smash afterwards, etc.
   
I got a lot to chew on out of *all* of this. One aspect of kata I had never considered, for example, was that, facing a different direction in the kata and doing a technique doesn't necessarily mean you're doing that/those technique(s) on a "new, different guy"... Ryan's take on this is that sometimes you face a different direction simply to emphasize and conceptually isolate the technique you are about to do next, probably to the same guy you were just drumming on. The different direction is a mental break or distinction, not a new opponent.

I think we spent about one hour on the "So, would anybody like to punch me in the throat?" stuff, plus many, many questions, and about two hours on the kata bunkai, hidden techniques, vital points, and some kumite.

It was *absolutely* *fascinating*, and *utterly worthwhile*. The students from my dojo who aren't on the net won't stop calling me to rave about it and demand we get Ryan back, and my compatriots on the net have, as you've seen, posted very publicly about how impressed they were. Meanwhile there's lots of private e-mail flying around saying the same thing, you can be sure.
  
Ryan, thank you, and Barb, again, so much, for a terrific, fascinating, enlightening experience. Thank you for sharing lunch with us afterwards.
    
You can count on the fact that we want to invite you both back again, and you can also count, I think, on the fact that it's going to be a much bigger crowd next time, and everyone who attended the first time will do their darnedest to be there again, even if they have to travel from Colorado to do it (right, Steve?).
   
Gratefully and enthusiastically,
-Lauren

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Stephen Gombosi Seminar Review (A)
Joseph Toman  wrote:
>First off, I'd like to say that I have no idea whether Ryan can or can not
>do the things he claims he can.
As of Saturday, *I* do. I've viewed Ryan's posts with a certain amount of open-minded skepticism, since I tend to be a little skeptical of practically anything posted in rec.m-a these days.

I'm no longer skeptical. I was in Minneapolis last week for a job interview, and Ryan graciously agreed to put on an impromptu mini-seminar for a number of the Twin Cities rec.m-a readers (many thanks to Lauren for organizing this little shindig!), since he and his wife were planning to visit Minneapolis anyway. I've trained pretty consistently for 23 years, and I can hit reasonably hard - I've dropped people bigger than Ryan (and that's saying something - Ryan's a rather big guy) with shots that were nowhere near as hard as the ones I threw to his floating ribs. What was the effect? Zip. Nada. Absolutely none.

Ditto for the elbows several people (some of whom were pretty good, some of whom were not) threw at his trachea and te back of his skull. Ditto for the multiple groin kicks Lauren delivered. Ditto for the stomping side kick to the knee delivered by the *really* big (i.e., bigger than Ryan) TKD instructor. Not only that, but his charming wife Barbara (who probably weighs 110 lbs soaking wet) took just as much punishment, with just as little effect. She's quite capable of taking a full-power reverse punch to the kidneys from someone who outweighs her by 50% (i.e., me), or an elbow smash to the throat from someone twice her size (Ryan and a couple of other folks).
  
This stuff is real, boys and girls.
   
I'm sure it has limitations - I think a Mack truck would make short work of Ryan, for example - but it's not fantasy.
Steve

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Dave Smythe Seminar Review

>This stuff is real, boys and girls.

I concur.  I was there and had the opportunity to hit Ryan.  When you think about it, this is quite a privilege.  Ordinarily, I would assume, in the past you would have to put up with actually fighting a person to determine whether what they claimed is actually true.  Thanks are due to Ryan for patiently and courteously inviting us all repeatedly to hit him virtually anywhere we liked.
   
I took him up on a few counts:
- When I suggested Lauren use her shin instead of her foot to kick him in the testicles, she suggested that *I* do it instead.  I kicked him hard three times, at least two of which I am confident connected enough to ordinarily cause pain (the third slightly ricocheted off the inside of his thighs before impacting, so it didn't hit as hard.)  Ryan gave no visible indication of distress.

- We were invited to have four of us punch him simultaneously in the sides of his neck, nape, and throat.  The timing was such that I didn't consider my punch terribly effective in any case.   (I was concerned about  his head snapping forward and punching him in the nose, as was he...)

- I stood behind him and hit him with elbow strikes to the spine, back,  and kidneys.  I hit him a total of 5 or 6 times like this, and I hit  hit him as hard as I've ever hit anything, considerably harder than  I've ever hit a person.  There was no discernible effect.
    
He used me as a crash dummy for a variety of "ki" effects, mostly having to do with changing that strength in an arm by various means.  The effects were small (enough so that I was skeptical enough to not want to be the tester, but rather the testee) but the effects, when applied to a few people, seemed to be consistent.  In some cases, there might be a case made for attributing the effects to subtle skeletal structural changes (for instance, for those who were there, when I put one hand on my head and the other was held out straight) but other instances were completely of the mumbo-jumbo variety, and yet there seemed to be a discernable effect.
   
One demonstration I had been aware of from a previous discussion, and involved using properties of various vital points in conjunction to make a strike more effective.  The particular case was to put pressure on the arm (metal?) to enhance a strike to the thigh (wood?).  The explanation given was consistent with what I had heard previously in the context of a discussion of Xingyi.  (Oh, and it worked in practice.)
   
Apart from the vital points techniques and kiko, my impression was that Ryan is an accomplished practitioner of his style of Karate.  He gave the impression of having put in a lot of time in practice and of having a good understanding of how what he knows is applied.  I was quite interested in his discussion, during explanation of "bunkai" (sorry, I'm more familiar with Chinese MA) for "naihanchi?" of how not only does the form set up the strikes so that they are most effective (e.g. by turning the targets to face your strike and stretching them to make them more effective) but also how the forms contained series of strikes in combination that hit vital points in proper succession (ordering is important, in this case) to maximize the effect.

That provided food for thought, and some incentive to go back and reexamine the forms that I know with a different viewpoint.
  
Thank you, Ryan, for spending a morning on our group!

Dave Smythe

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Peter Hahn Seminar Review

My Dinner With Ryan Parker:
"Please kick me in the leg, Pete.  Hard as you can."
People just don't say stuff like that to me.  "Get out of the way, Pete."  "Wake up, Pete."  "Pete, what were you thinking of when you wrote this subroutine?"  Stuff like that I hear all the time.  Don't believe I've ever had someone ask me to kick them in the leg before.

But, as regular readers of rec.martial-arts might suspect, the speaker was none other than Ryan Parker.
   
But we're getting ahead of our story...
It seems that Steve Gombosi was coming to town last weekend, so Lauren Radner got the idea that we should get a bunch of people together, and see if we could get Ryan Parker to drop in on us.  Ryan generously agreed to do so, on quite short notice, so we all arranged to meet in Lauren's gloomy, secret, underground hideout.  Around ten people showed up -- the only other one I knew was Dave Smythe -- to meet Ryan and his wife Barbara for what Ryan wished to term an "informal workout". First on the agenda was a demonstration of Ryan's ability to receive blows, obtained through his practice of "kiko".  In one of life's bitter ironies, I got my stupid rotator cuff operated on a while ago, and am still unable to hit anything with any force.

But the rest of them set to like they were being paid to do it, repeatedly hitting Ryan in the throat, groin, kidneys, knees, and so on, to no ill effect.
     
Now, it must be said that Ryan is a full-growed man, with the sort of physique usually associated with middle linebackers, piano movers, and successful professional wrist-wrestlers.  But his wife Barbara, who checks in around a foot shorter and can't weigh half as much as he, demonstrated similar abilities.  Amazing...
   
Ryan, by the way, made it clear that this odd talent is a more or less a side effect of his kiko practice, which is mainly intended to increase health and longevity.

Next he covered some pressure point stuff.  I don't have any real background to appreciate what he was doing, but he seemed to know his stuff.  Also seemed to know a wealth of interesting trivia about these topics, like the use of pressure points and light force knockouts by stage hypnotists and other such charlatans. Finally, we did some bunkai from the Naihanchi kata.  I probably would have gotten more out of this if I had practiced Naihanchi Shodan once or twice since Richard Nixon resigned, but I got a lot out of it anyway.
   
I suppose I'm gonna be the only one surprised by this, but there's a lot more to the bunkai he was doing than, say, upper-level block followed by reverse punch to the chest.  Ryan's techniques usually go more like: deflection, smack a nerve center or two on the offending arm on the way to cracking another one on the head or neck, while pounding in a couple of low-line kicks.  Then lock up the arm, wrench the elbow, maybe crank the neck if you're in a real bad mood, and then...yes?

You in the back of the room, frantically waving your hand -- got a question?  Sounds a lot like Kali or Silat, you say?

Yup, sure does.
    
Looks a lot like Kali or Silat, too.  Hmmmm...
  
He finished by demonstrating some hanbo (sp?) techniques, and some locking techniques from tonfa, using a borrowed
escrima stick.
 
That really looked like Kali.  Double hmmmm...
  
Ryan himself seems like an excellent teacher, caring and knowledgeable.  Personally, he's a very friendly and humble guy.
Hope I get a chance to work out with him and Barbara again soon.
   
My recommendation: if he drops by your neck of the woods, take the chance to seem him while he's still (literally) willing to teach for food.

Peter Hahn

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 Stephen Gombosi Seminar Review (B) >

Joseph Toman  wrote:
>>>Interesting. Let me ask you a question about this. Could it be, even if
>>>you didn't intend to, that you pulled it? I ask because it seems to me
The first punch was probably a little light. The second and subsequent ones weren't. Lauren had to stop kicking his groin because her foot was getting sore.
   
If he had specified only one target, or only one sort of attack, then there certainly would have been ample opportunity for trickery - but that  isn't what happened. Ryan told us we could hit him (and Barbara) anywhere except the face. He said he wasn't able to use this technique to protect his face.

In retrospect, we probably should have asked him to take off his uwagi (the jacket portion of his gi, for all you non-Okinawan/Japanese ma types) - but several of the targets we struck were completely exposed (e.g., throat and back of the neck).  When his knee was kicked, he pulled up his gi so that it was completely visible. There wasn't any paraphenalia of any sort there. I've been trying to think of how to describe what it felt like to punch Ryan: imagine taking a reinforced concrete pillar and putting a thin (maybe 2 mm) layer of Tool Dip or some other rubber coating on it.

Try punching *that*. Fortunately, I *have* punched concrete pillars in my time. If I hadn't, I think I would've hurt myself pretty badly. I hate to admit it, but my wrist *is* a bit sore.
From this, I infer that whatever causes this phenomenon is somewhere below the subcutaneous fat layer (i.e., the punch was compressing the skin and fat beneath it and then ran into something that just wouldn't compress). I did *not* hit him with an elbow, finger technique, some sort of "fancy" fist technique (i.e., any sort of one-knuckle fist), or anyof the innumerable nasty hand techniques that are disguised as knife or spear hands in various kata. I'm sure there are limits to what Ryan can resist - but he shouldn't have been able to take most of the shots he took without a trip to the local trauma center.

I've encountered this sensation working with some very high rank Okinawans, but I've never met an American who could do this (although there certainly may be others). Different styles teach different things at different times.

>He didn't give you anything to drink before this, did he?

Nope.

>Actually I was thinking more in terms of a hollow custom prosthesis fitted
>to the inside of the trachea.


To have worked against the blows Ryan took, such a device would have to be constructed of heavy gauge steel or something equally tough - and even that wouldn't have prevented his carotid sinus from reacting to the blows.
It wouldn't have protected his knees, groin, ribs, spine, or the back of his neck.
It also wouldn't have protected Barbara's kidneys, neck, throat, or knees.
         
It worked. I'm having a little difficulty fitting it into my personal model of how the universe operates, but it worked.
Steve