Sunday, January 25, 2015

Oh, damn it...!

I'm about to get into trouble.

Considering my opinions, and (other people's) expert opinion, I should avoid trouble. That's what it's there for. That's what that sinking feeling is there to tell me. "Run away", it says.

So, then, should I leave MA?

You see, my problem is with the classics.

I've said it scores of times. My mind is "classical". I deal better with kata, and structured teaching, than I do with that half-on, often-off "method" and structure in our usual class. Because I'm apparently an idiot, I'm looking for some extra information outside my standard school. As good as I believe it is, it certainly doesn't have every answer since the invention of the wheel. Because I am who I am, I was looking for "classic" themed information. The basic karate strikes, for example. Naihanchi kata. I was ready to find some quirky bunkai. Some exercises that wouldn't fit my mindset, or whose medical consequences were not thought thoroughly enough according to today's medical expertise.

Oh, Hell. Twice over.

What I'm finding are scripted bunkai that make no sense at all. Yes, sure, that's a known fact. Many bunkai don't make any sense. But I thought those were the Western ramblings of people who hand't learned enough about their own style. Or others. What I certainly didn't expect is certain amounts of crap delivered in a DVD by one of the last living pupils of the wave of Japanese karate pioneers early last century.

And it hasn't been the only one. I've been seeing clips for styles and meetings and schools and associations all over Okinawa and Japan. Considering how extended some of those associations are worldwide, some of them should be under trial for lèse humanité. What they're doing is not healthy. It's an insult to that "Do" suffix they insist on attaching at the end of "Karate", if "only" physically [*].

I think it was at Karate by Jesse --a site I only recently discovered-- that I recently saw an article where a Chinese master complained of how karate had lost its understanding of movements, even in Okinawa, while the culture itself was very aware of them (and he used the example of the samurai koryu). I don't know enough of Chinese MA to judge if they're much better than that (standard commercial schools aren't, for sure), or Okinawan-proper karate, either. But I see what he means.

And if the source is that diluted, that crammed with things that make no sense... how can the Western schools be any better? And, please, spare me "you only say that because you don't understand". I may not understand karate well enough, true. I do understand basic anatomy, thank you so very much. We no longer live in the XIXth century. Knowing that your hands will break up before you die of old age but that you'll kill your assaulter was okay back then, it's not so much there days. Among other things, current medicine is better at patching people than at healing arthritis. Remember Emperado.

On the plus side, watching that just helped me see one of the "lost elements", something that didn't make sense. And the "lost element" is not in the movement... it's in the timing! It opens a world.

Still... Oh, Hell.

Take care.

[*] No one insists on calling shiatsu, "Shiatsu-Do". And it's as much a "way" as karate, with possibly (likely) better health benefits. Why? Are we trying to convince ourselves?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bits and pieces

Now two pieces, one each for the last couple of posts.

That simplification I posted just now? The guys who have more trouble with it when I explain it, the ones who have more of a martial arts background.

And, the other: those adaptations in Naihanchi? Mostly a mater of little twists and angles. Some of them aren't worth much for Kajukenbo... but they reflect what I've seen of other, more classic, Karate styles. Lost elements.

Take care.


Following the previous post, and the reason for it before I got sidetracked, I've been browsing through the KJKB syllabus.

I haven't been able to see more than 3 kinds of blocks. I could see less. With upper and lower variants, plus angle variations. A slight recap, maybe...

The basics

  • Pyramidal block. That's how we call a block where the front hand parries some of the punch while the back hand comes from the underside, just past the centerline, followed by the elbow. Between both, they set a wedge and a shield that pushes the attack away. both hands are ready for the next move, so much so that usually one of them is already out before the block ends.

    Variations: That hand coming up can come in so many angles to punish the triceps, do a slight circle back to the aggressor's head, forego the hand and work with the elbow...
  • Parallel block. Name's mine, I'm afraid. I needed a way to talk about this. In this case, the rear hand parries and absorbs the strike, while the front hand goes forward and strikes.

    Variations: The front hand can go for the head, the shoulder joint, the biceps... The read hand can absorb in so many ways, elbow down or up... The hands are not as "bouncy" as before, not as coiled.
  • Scissor: Half of each. The front hand parries like in the pyramidal block, while the rear hand strikes like the front one in the parallel block. You still have a parry and a strike, you still have the bounce (in one of the hands), you still have some wariations.
Ideally, all of these should be made in full frontal stance, natural. Now, we've done "variations", let's do...


What happens if the strike is down under? A rising broken bottle, a shank, a kick... We still have the same mechanics, but the hands go down (and the hip becomes critical, but that's another issue). The front hand becomes secondary

But you'll start to notice something. That the difference between the pyramidal and the parallel blocks fades away. It's still kind of there, but you have to squint a bit.

The mother of them all

Which is when you look at the first blocks again... Now, we'd already established that the scissor is sort of a merge of the other two. But... the ones giving us trouble in the lower body where, precisely, those two... What's happening?


Put you hands in front of you. Imagine they're holding the pedals of a bicycle, but with both hands facing inward (open or close, your comfort). Now, "pedal". Keep pedalling, but chose a stance. Now comes a strike. If the hand that first catches the strike is the front hand, you have a pyramidal block.

Guess which one is the other.

Take care.


Since things are going to get erased, a reminder: Kajukenbo's 6th Palama kata is, basically, karate's Naihanchi. Now, I haven't been able to find a nice comparison of karate's many Naihanchi variants, certainly nothing similar to Sanchin, but it is known that there are several variants of it.

To my knowledge, none of them have the particular enbusen of KJKB's, which is NOT linear.

Now, Kajukenbo was started post WWII, not the best moment for karate. Martial arts had become set, scripted. Rows of people doing big moves. While Kajukenbo challenged some of this, and has some claim to that "the original MMA/RBSD" meme popular in the States, it was still a child of its times.

Those times went on, and Kajukenbo turned its back on kata, made them superfluous, barely apt for competition, like many other karate systems. Then, the Spanish branch started changing its understanding of the techniques, of teaching, of fluidity... Yet we kept our kata.

Meanwhile, karate realized what it had lost, and started rebuilding its kata, little by little. Interviewing old, retired masters. Looking at their kata with new eyes. People in the West started recycling their half-assed knowledge, brought from people who, while pioneers, had mostly not been properly immersed in the system.

What I want to get is a Naihanchi that reflects what Kajukenbo does. Not what it did, but what we use now. Our emphases, our patterns. They're there, but they aren't. And I see some things clearly, while others are... proving reluctant to embed themselves in an existing kata.

We'll see. Take care.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Kajukenbo, the uncomitting art?

This is going to sound weird, if it doesn't already. But... I've said before (the link's about to get offed, so I won't re-link it here) that my understanding of the division between internal and external martial arts is a tad... particular. That said...

Current karate inherited, from Itto ryu, the "one punch, one kill" mindset. As a mindset, I don't have anything against it. As a belief... it should be shot dead and thrown to the sharks. Thing is...

Thing is, I was thinking, which is usually dangerous somewhere along the line. And I realized that our punches, the way we punch (and counterattack, and...) doesn't leave much room for "one-shot kills". We do have a couple of syllabus techniques that do allow for that "2 moves, three of them lethal" mindset of the really old schools [*].

What I see in those techniques, and styles, is that there are not "holes". Sure, the very best artists will always find a hole in your guard, no matter how good you are. Beyond that, my problem with committing attacks, as they're usually seen, is that they over-reach, they leave you wide open. If it gets the perp, great. If it doesn't...

So, (our) Kajukenbo [+] doesn't come striking from the back beyond, one sure punch to down them all. It doesn't even do that, not really, from nearby. While it does use some hard "here I come" punches, they're more like "finishing moves", not structurally different from the rest. Just, maybe, different in intent, but nothing you cannot change to a more flowing motion you could build on.

Which means it has more in common with softer styles, or with certain modern interpretations of karate not glued to the pre-post wartime Japanese instruction. Which might mean why I can train comfortably with it.

Thought food. Take care.

[*] There's a technique, in Tatsumi ryu's "jujutsu" syllabus, from seiza, with two moves and three hits, all of which can potentially shut the brain down (or over). Then, you control him. There's a technique in the KJKB syllabus with two moves. While only two are potentially lethal, three of them break something. Both techniques start from relatively soft attacks (as always, context is everything). I sense a pattern.

[+] No reason why the old techniques shouldn't have that. However, those practitioners I've seen seem congealed in a Jo-Shu level or a Ri-Kyu mess (Shu-ha-ri and Jo-ha-kyu; set practice-experimentation-transcendence and Soft slow-compact flow-emergency discard, respectively, but you have to be wary of jumping levels)

Challenging the master

Maybe this is another "kill the Buda" thing, but...

We trained something more dynamic, today. Gloves and mitts, mostly. While I'm not a fan of most such work, since I don't see the link to our mechanics, some of it was rather interesting.

And then, I cheated. If you know me, this shouldn't surprise you that much. I cheat, it's what I do. Think about the scorpion and the turtle. It takes an effort for me not to find holes in rules and exploit them, whether they are game rules or social rules. Usually in a rather tame way, but still...

Thing is, we had a 2-vs-1 drill were the opponents had a receiving and an attacking role. The idea is that whoever was doing the exercise would try to avoid the puncher while beating against the mitts of the other one. Annoyingly tiring.

And then, I got to hold the gloves while my instructor tried to avoid the punches of an old friend.

So I cheated. I did follow the rules to the letter, mind you. But I went into offensive mindsets and collaborative work, trying to box him so that his buddy could punch him properly. Evading him when he managed something. And so on, keeping him, usually, at the tip of a wide 'V', pushing him.

We exhausted him.

Now, if he had been anyone else, I wouldn't have been as aggressive. If he had been only slightly my senior, most gyms would have found that OK.

He's 6 dan my senior. I can feel the disturbance in the Force as my challenge to the mid-high dan status quo ripples over the establishment.

And yet, that's my duty. He is six dan my senior. I have to give the most. And he doesn't have people six dan his senior to challenge him, to teach him, so the only way he has to get better, day to day (this is, excepting high level seminars or private classes), is through his pupils. We don't want him at the same level (or, likely, worse) ten years from now because he had no way to progress, to reach beyond. And, hey, watching him cope is a lesson. So, there.

Still, I can't help but feel this is not a common mindset. More's the pity.

Take care.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cleaning the slate

For 1001 reasons (dead links, outdated info...), I'll be cleaning up the slate sometime later this month. I'll erase things either starting back from my BB test or from December 31st.

Grab this if you want it.

Take care.