Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Kata Analysis - Meikyo - Bunkai and Oyo

Welcome to another Kata Bunkai blog. This time we will look at Meikyo kata.
Meikyo is a Shotokan kata that is based on elements of 3 Rohai kata that are studied in Shito ryu schools.
Meikyo roughly translates as "Bright Mirror" probably due to the obvious symmetry within the form. Rohai Translates to "Vision of a Crane" and is belived to be a Matsumora kata from the Tomari region.
In my opinion there is an underlying theme in the bunkai of this kata that revolves around different countering options for 2 handed lapel grabs or strangles. This will become more apparent as we get through the videos.

First off here is the complete video for all the sections we will break down.
So, onto the first section.
In the kata we start with the big, circular "salutation" style move that brings the fists back to the hikite position. Then we follow that up with the rising double nukite move. In my mind this is quite obviously a break from a strangle or double grab (probably to be followed by a head butt). We use our stance in a similar way to in the tekki katas by dropping into the low kiba dachi to help over power the opponent, there may be other scenarios when another stance may be more suitable but as always discretion must be used. As we drop low into our kiba dachi we use the circular arm movement to strike the attackers grab. This should force the attacker to jolt forward and probably lower their head giving us a perfect opportunity to counter with the double nukite. In the video we have changed it to a palm heel strike but a spear hand to the eyes or throat is just as viable.

 In section 2 we show the downward block/inside block/upper rising block stepping punch combo. This part of the kata does vary from school to school with some using the same block in each of the 3 repetitions. We are showing all 3 variations of block so every version should be covered. For each of the blocks we have shown the most basic application of blocking a stepping attack and countering with oi zuki. This is fine for beginners in the dojo but I feel that a student studying this kata should have more common sense and skill to apply to their bunkai. Because of the simplicity of these applications I shall not even bother to write a description!
However, if we add the block onto the moves we used in section 1 we have an alternate counter (or 3 alternate counters!). So again we will assume that the attacker has tried a strangle or double handed grab. We can use our kiba dachi and the circular arm strike to try and release their grip. We then have the option of using the nukite strikes as before or by shifting our weight into forward stance and performing the gedan barai we have a clear strike to the opponents neck (this gedan barai could also be directed to the attackers arms to further help releasing the grab). We can also follow up with the oi zuki as in the kata to finish off.
For the inside block we can make a slight change to the attack to a one handed grab and hook punch scenario. We then use the circular arm movement in the same way as before to release or control the grab, The inside block can be used to cover the incoming hook punch and then should give us the option of grasping the punching arm to pull in for our hikite. Again we counter with the oi zuki to finish.
The age uke version can simply be used as an upper rising strike to the attackers grabbing arms to help release them or move them towards his face and disrupt his vision and allow us space for our oi zuki counter.

Section 3
This piece of the kata includes the Bo Uke and Bo Dori techniques. Many traditional practitioners claim this to be a defence against attacks from a Bo staff (6ft foot long, solid oak stick). I find this unpractical and unrealistic and also feel that a modern karate-ka has little need to learn defence against traditional weapons so I personally do not include them in my training or syllabus at all.
In the first clip we have used the Bo Uke as a quick block and grab against a straight stepping punch. The Bo Dori then becomes an arm lock and throw.
As an alternative the second clip shows a block against a hooking punch and a simultaneous counter to the solar plexus. We then use the Bo Dori technique to secure the arm and strike to the face, throat or eyes.
Section 4 shows tetsui uchi, mikazuki geri and ryowan gamae (hammer fist strike, crescent kick and double arm position).
A simplified bunkai for these techniques is to use the tetsui uchi as a forearm block to a straight punch and counter with the crescent kick.
A more realistic approach would be as a defence against a grab to the throat or lapels. We can use the tetsui uchi as a strkie to the opponents face and continue into an arm lock. By using our back stance here we can also use weight to help over power the attacker. The closer distances invloved here rules out any practical use for the mikazuki geri but a slight change to a knee strike makes a very effective counter. Finally if we work on the assumtion that the previous counters will have caused some reactions from our opponent we can use one side of our ryowan gamae as a forearm strike to the back of the attackers neck.
Section 5
This section shows a double Haiwan Uke and another Ryowan Gamae. In the kata all techniques are performed moving forwards. I have said this many times in other blogs but in my opinion the direction of movement in a kata has little bearing on the bunkai that is performed. The kata has to move in a direction and obviously if you are using the skills trained in bunkai to defend yourself every technique must be as a reaction to an opponents actions.
With this in mind we use the first block to stop a straight punch. We then grab the attackers arm and use the next Haiwan Uke to perform an arm lock and potential break. We could continue with the Ryowan Gamae and bring the attacker to the ground.
The alternative bunkai uses a more realistic hook punch attack, in fact a double hook punch (right then left hand). This Haiwan Uke block can then become more of a reactionary head cover to the flurry of punches. If we then close in on the attacker and use the Ryowan Gamae as a shoulder lock and alter the directions shown by the kata to step back instead of forward we have a very useful arm lock restraint technique.
Section 6
In the kata again we step forward to block with Awase Uchi Uke (double inside blocks) we then counter with a Morote Zuki (assisted punch). For our first bunkai we have to make the block work so we change the technique to steop back instead of forwards to block a straight punch. We then counter with our assisted punch to the face. A liitle note on this punch. Basically I think its rubbish!!!! I have practised it on a heavy bag and found it weaker than a single hand punch. I am also a firm beliver in never using 2 of your limbs for 1 combative use (for example not using 2 hands to block 1 kick). My general theory on 2 armed techniques in kata is that there would usually be an opponents limb or body part in between them or that they should not be together at all but just close to each other. In this instance a single jab punch is more effective and the close proximity of the second hand could suggest a follow up punch is possible.
The 2nd clip uses the double blocks stepping back again  but this time to break free from a strangle or lapel hold. As a counter we are going to stick with my theroy (its my blog after all!) and actually use the first hand to grab the opponents head and the second as our strike.


Kata analysis - Tekki Shodan - bunkai and oyo

Time for another bunkai blog!!!!!
This time we will be going over Tekki Shodan kata. This is actually one of my favourite katas purely due to the bunkai and the close range fighting system it (along with its over Tekki kata counterparts) creates.
This kata is part of a trio of kata (the others being tekki shodan and tekki sandan). Tekki is often translated as "horse riding" or "iron horse" due to the use of kiba dachi (horse riding stance). The shodan, nidan and sandan parts of the name simply means level 1,2 or 3 and suggests that each kata should be more advanced in nature than the last.
All 3 of these kata are based on the original version called Naihanchi meaning "internal divided conflict".

First off here is the complete bunkai video for quick reference.
Next we shall break the kata down into sections for discussion.                                    
Section 1.
This opening section of the kata is repeated on each side with minor alterations. The basic techniques involved are back hand block (haishu uke) and the side elbow strike (yoko enpi). There is also the leg or knee raise (depending on styles) but the bunkai we have shown does not make use of this technique.
For the first bunkai we use a straight stepping punch attack to the head (jodan oi zuki). We then make a slight change to the embusen of the kata and step away from the punch and block with the haishu uke. I hope to go in to more detail about kata embusens and directions etc in the near future but for now I will try and clarify this change in technique by suggesting that a kata gives us a basic idea for defence and counter and it should be up to the karate practitioner to use skill, knowledge and common sense to alter technique, stances and distance to accommodate these techniques in a fight situation. Anyway, after blocking the on coming punch we use the blocking hand to grab the opponent to aid our elbow strike counter.
The next scenario is a single hand grab to the shoulder or a push to the chest. Again we make the change to the kata and step away from our opponent. The haishu hand can then be used either as a strike to the face or go straight for the arm lock. We use the haishu to go over the opponents arm and wrap under the elbow to help restrain and control their movement. We then counter with the elbow strike as before.     

Section 2.
This is a quite simple downward block (gedan barai) that travels across the body to the blockers side followed by a hook punch (kage zuki). The obvious application for the downward block is to parry a kick from the side or alternatively to step back away from the attack to turn your body side on into the kiba dachi stance as shown in the video. This has disadvantages as turning your body side on to the attack effectively gives you a blind side to the attacker. Regardless of the techniques disadvantages sometimes a situation calls for a reaction and a response and if turning your body sie on to the attack is the response then we should be able to deal with that effectively and still counter with purpose. The counter is a very simple hook punch into the attackers solar plexus.
The 2nd scenario we used was for the attacker to grab the chest or throat. In this application we can make good use of the step back and body turn to off balance the opponent. Also by holding the opponents grabbing hand and turning away we re-create the hikite position shown in the kata. The downward block then can be used as a strike to the attackers arm. If the strike is directed towards the elbow joint then there is a good chance of limb breakage but should the strike meet a solid area of the limb the attacker should still be forced downwards allowing the hook punch to be directed to the kidney or head.          

Section 3.
This section is technically identical to a section in Tekki Nidan. The bunkai will also remain the same.
The first bunkai whilst being rather un realistic, is a good drill for learning the specific components within the technique. We are defending against 3 punches from the attacker. We use our uchi uke to block a straight jodan punch. The nagashi uke then blocks another jodan punch and we simultaneously counter with the kizami zuki to the face. The final block is the kizami zuki withdrawing to a pressing block whilst countering with the uraken.  The next bunkai is again defending the common lapel grab and punch attack. We will use the uchi uke as a strike to the grabbing arm to prevent us being pulled off balance or restrained further. We may then chose to use our kiba dachi stance for many of the same reasons as we have in the previous sections of the kata. Our nagashi uke then will block the on coming punch from our opponent. The technique we have previously considered as a kizami zuki we then use as a grab behind the head to give us some propreoception for our back fist strike or forearm strike to the head. We could of course use the kizami zuki as a punch like in the alternative bunkai.

Section 4.
This bizarre looking section is actually one of my favourite pieces of bunkai. I feel it symbolises the way the kata shows good close quarters fighting techniques and using techniques of a kata when needed rather than in the order displayed.
The section starts with  a double nami ashi (I have seen this translated as many things such as succeeding foot and snapping leg wave but regardless of translations it really only makes sense as a foot sweep or lower leg strike) interlinked with 2 sokomen morote uke (assisted side block) and finished with a double punch to the side. In my mind this is all about defending yourself against an attack from the front so the first clip is against a double lapel grab attack. The side step and drop down into kiba dachi together with the morote uke (which is used here as a forearm push to the inside of the attackers grab) should pull the opponent off balance and expose a knee for a vulnerable counter. The nami ashi can then be used (by either leg) to strike the attackers knee or ankle. This then brings us to the "double" punch. I see no reason at all for punching with both hands at the same time. There can be no possible benefit to it and in fact I would suggest that an attempted double punch would cause a drop in power to both punches. My take on this technique is that one hand is being used as a grab to secure the head for a single punch counter.
The next clip shows slight variations on the first bunkai but of course techniques should be interchanged with the first clip if the situation needs it. For this bunkai we used a single hand lapel grab. We then use the same theory of dropping into the kiba dachi and the forearm push to the attackers arm to off balance the opponent. Next we show the second sokomen morote uke as a forearm strike to the opponents head. We then use the nami ashi in identical fashion to the first clip and strike the opponents knee. And finally the double punch! Used here as 2 separate punches, one after the other.

As usual these videos feature myself and my friend Phil Culley and were filmed across a couple of our weekly training meet ups at the Martial Arts Centre of Excellence in Milton Keynes. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment directly via the blog or email me gareth@shinrikarateschools.com.
Thanks for watching and reading. 


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Kata analysis - Tekki Nidan - bunkai and oyo

In this blog post we will look at the kata Tekki Nidan.
This kata is part of a trio of kata (the others being tekki shodan and tekki sandan). Tekki is often translated as "horse riding" or "iron horse" due to the use of kiba dachi (horse riding stance). The shodan, nidan and sandan parts of the name simply means level 1,2 or 3 and suggests that each kata should be more advanced in nature than the last.
All 3 of these kata are based on the original version called Naihanchi meaning "internal divided conflict".
In the Shinri karate schools syllabus this kata is placed at 2nd dan grading level.
In these bunkai videos I have again tried to include some more basic applications that keep true to the original kata form as well as some slightly more realistic and modern interpretations.
In this kata there is a lot of repetition of technique and it is possible to break the kata into 4 "quarters" that are repeated hidari and migi (left and right sides).
In my years of studying this and the other Tekki katas I have been "taught" a lot of rubbish and useless bunkai and historical "fact", such as the idea that this kata was designed for fighting on a Japanese narrow boat!!!!!!!! I was just this month in fact horrified when a friend of mine (a Wado Ryu instructor) recounted to me about a very senior Japanese instructor teaching just that on a seminar. I think the less said about that, the better!
My take on this (and the other Tekki kata) is that you have multiple drills for training some good close quarters fighting techniques. The kata should teach you many different ways of breaking free from grabs and holds and many options for counter attacks.
The performance of the kata and the use of the Kiba Dachi (horse riding stance) is there to practice fighting from positions where moving forwards or backwards is not always possible. Many of the techniques will actually work better when performed in a forward stance or just standing in a neutral position, this is sometimes reflected in the videos. When fighting, stances should become natural and you should be able to move to react to your opponents movements so no stance should be set in stone when performing bunkai, the kata is merely giving us a suggestion and some way of training.
So, on to the videos.
We have broken this kata down in to 4 sections. The first video shows all 4 sections all the way through. Remember, in this kata each section is performed from both the hidari and migi sides but for easier understanding we have just included one side in each section. Sometimes we performed the opposing side to give the camera a better view (we don't have the luxury of a moveable camera - in fact its just an iPad on a chair!)
Section 1 - The first bunkai shown is preventing a lapel grab and headbutt. Its quite basic in its nature in that we use the double back fists as strikes to the opponents grabs and quickly bring the elbows together and the fists up in between the opponents forearms as he headbutts. Also by side stepping into our kiba dachi we hope to pull our opponent off balance and give ourselves greater stability for any future counters. For this bunkai the raising knee performed in the kata becomes redundant and so is left out.
The second section again makes use of the sideways step into kiba dachi to give stability and also to create a deep drop to lower the opponent into. This time we use the dropping right arm to push the opponents grabbing arm at the elbow and hopefully over power his attack and create space for a counter.
The final bunkai uses a few alterations in the timing of certain techniques. We are attempting to counter a lapel grab and punch scenario for the attacker. We use the 2 rising back fists slightly staggered. The first to weaken and strike the opponents grab, the 2nd is raised up to cover and block the on coming punch. The next technique in the kata is the double forearm "block" covering the face. We use this technique to grab behind the attackers head to control it ready for our counter. We could use both our hands to hold the head and bring them to the rising knee strike but we have made a slight change to make the bunkai slightly more practical and kept the blocking hand in control of the attackers arm to prevent any further attacks from the opponent.

Section 2 - Our first bunkai again is defending a lapel grab and punch from the attacker. We use our double hikite to trap and restrain the opponents grabbing arm. We also make use of the kiba dachi side step to pull our opponent off balance. The haiwan uke then becomes a good assisted forearm strike to the head and leaves both our hands handy to grab the head to bring it down or hold it still for the knee strike. We have changed the katas leg raise to a knee strike due to the close quarters involved (I believe some variations of the kata perform a knee raise here anyway) we could use a low kick between the legs or to the knee if the opportunity for a knee to the head does not present itself. We then finish with the mawashi empi. This technique could either be an absolute finishing move to the scenario or an alternative to the knee strike if controlling the opponents head isn't possible.
The next bunkai uses a one handed cross grab for the attacker. By pulling to my body with both hands I should be able to gain some control over the situation. The morote haiwan uke is just used as an opportunity to raise and twist the opponents arm, I then use the left elbow to pull the opponents forearm towards my torso, bringing his head forward in the process and opening him up for the mawashi empi strike. This section may seem a little confusing at first but if we think of the kata without the usual kime (tension) points and the traditional counts we often use in the dojo it makes much more sense (sometimes bunkai has a habit of doing that!)

Section 3 - This is quite a straight forward bunkai. The first piece simply uses the tate shuto uke to block a punch. One option would be to make the attacker step in from the side with his punch but the ranges at play here are extremely unrealistic. We have given the bunkai a little more realism by making the attack come from the front. We then step back into our kiba dachi to try and place us out of range and create an easier block. We then counter using the hook punch.
The second piece of bunkai defends against a lapel grab again. The tate shuto then can become a slap to the face or knife hand strike to the throat to stun the opponent. This hopefully could buy us some time to perform an armlock on the opponents grabbing arm and pull him closer in for our hook punch counter attack.

Section 4 - This section of the kata is technically identical to a section from Tekki Shodan kata and so the bunkai will remain the same also. The first bunkai whilst being rather un realistic, is a good drill for learning the specific components within the technique. We are defending against 3 punches from the attacker. We use our uchi uke to block a straight jodan punch. The nagashi uke then blocks another jodan punch and we simultaneously counter with the kizami zuki to the face. The final block is the kizami zuki withdrawing to a pressing block whilst countering with the uraken.
The next bunkai is again defending the common lapel grab and punch attack. We will use the uchi uke as a strike to the grabbing arm to prevent us being pulled off balance or restrained further. We may then chose to use our kiba dachi stance for many of the same reasons as we have in the previous sections of the kata. Our nagashi uke then will block the on coming punch from our opponent. The technique we have previously considered as a kizami zuki we then use as a grab behind the head to give us some propreoception for our back fist strike or forearm strike to the head. We could of course use the kizami zuki as a punch like in the alternative bunkai.

As always these videos feature myself and my friend Phil Culley and were filmed across a couple of our weekly training meet ups at the Martial Arts Centre of Excellence in Milton Keynes. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment directly via the blog or email me gareth@shinrikarateschools.com.
Thanks for watching and reading.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Kata analysis - Bunkai and Oyo - Nijushiho

Welcome to the first of what I hope/plan will be a regular series of technical kata blog posts.
I want to kick start this little project by discussing the kata Nijushiho (or Niseishi if you study the non shotokan versions).
Nijushiho is a very common and popular kata that is performed across many styles. As I have already noted the same kata is performed in Shito Ryu and Wado Ryu styles of karate under the Niseishi name as well as in Tang Soo Do under the name "E Sip Sa Bo". All translations of these names come back as "24 steps"
The kata is thought to be Okinawan in origin and comes from the Aragaki school (Aragaki was an old Okinawan martial arts master in the late 1800s that taught Itosu and Azato). Other katas from Aragaki include Sochin and Unsu.
Shinri karate schools place this kata at 2nd dan level, other schools may put the kata elsewhere within their syllabus but in general this kata should be learnt by the more experienced practitioner.
In the attached videos I have attempted to include pragmatic, realistic, applied bunkai as well as more traditional bunkai.
Some Bunkai is more likened to dojo training and involves very little alteration to the classic form of the kata. A few minor changes may have been made to aspects of the kata such as forward or back movement or areas of counter attack just to react to the attackers body but in general the kata should remain unchanged. The other Bunkai featured is aiming to be realistic and used on an untrained attacker (rather than another black belt in karate in a dojo setting).

In this video we see 2 slight variations of a traditional bunkai and a slightly more realistic version meant for self defence purposes.
The first uses the downward pressing block (osai uke) to block a mid level straight punch (Chudan oi zuki). The kata then gives 3 options for counters. In our demonstration we show all 3 in the same order as the kata, you could of course use just 1 or 2 depending on the situation.
The first counter is a quick reverse punch to the "solar plexus" designed to stun the opponent and open him up for a more substantial finishing counter.
The 2nd counter is a quick knife hand strike to the throat (Jordan shuto uchi). This of course could be altered to become a back fist or palm heel strike to the face or simply a push onto the chest if there is no viable option for the shuto uchi.
The final counter is a rising elbow strike to the face or throat. We make good use of the forward sliding movement from back stance (Kokutsu dachi) into hourglass stance (sanchin dachi) to close in the distance to make the elbow strike possible.
The next section of bunkai considers a counter for a one handed lapel grab.
In this bunkai we use the downward pressing block to trap the grabbing arm. We also use our backward step into back stance (Kokutsu dachi) to pull our opponent forward and, most likely, lower his head. This then could give us the opportunity to throw a quick reverse punch to the face.
We then use the previously explained shuto uchi movement to swap our arms over and keep a hold of the opponents arm. Then the forward shift from back stance to hourglass stance and the rising elbow gives us the height and leverage necessary to perform an arm lock or break.
The final piece of bunkai is the most practical and realistic. We use the kata to attempt a defence against a common one handed grab and punch. The raised left arm in the kata becomes a block to the expected punch (if the punch never comes it could easily be used to push the face away to divert the attackers view). We then use the right hand dropping to hikite to lock the grabbing arm and pull the attacker off balance. Our pressing block with the left arm then becomes a pull onto the back off the attackers head to force him down onto our on coming punch. In reality we would probably continue with repeated punches in this position or possibly knee strikes to the opponents now lowered head but in the video above we stick to the kata and show an elbow strike. We have made a slight change to the elbow from a rising strike to a round-house elbow due to our close range, we have also not made any adjustments to our stance as in the other applications.
The next section of the kata we are going to use is the age uke, age enpi (upper rising block and rising elbow strike).
The first demonstration is pretty straight forward in that we use the upper rising block in its most common use and block a straight punch to the head (jodan oi zuki). This should be extremely common to all karate-ka and something we have all used hundreds if not thousands of times. We are countering this attack with our rising elbow strike under the chin. This could be adjusted to become an elbow strike to the solar-plexus should the attackers height or distancing allow.
The second application makes a few alterations. Firstly we are considering a strangle attack from the front. We then use the sideways step into forward stance in the kata to move "off line" and away to the opponents side. Then we can make use of our leading hand before performing our upper rising block to push the attackers head to divert his view and cause distraction. Our age uke then becomes a break away technique to release the attackers arms from your neck or clothing. In the kata we only perform one elbow technique but in our demonstration we have added a second to show how we can use the strike to either break the attackers arm or strike into the body or both.
Next up we have the sideways knife hand block (yoko tate shuto) followed by side thrust kick (yoko geri kekomi) and reverse punch (gyaku zuki).
The first demo shows an application with very little change to the kata. The knife hand block is used to block a straight punch to the head. We then use the blocking hand to grab the attackers arm and pull them on to our side kick and follow it up with a reverse punch.
The second demo uses the tate shuto to move an attackers push/grab across our body. We would usually assume that any push/grab would be followed by a punch from an aggressor. By moving the grabbing arm across we would hope to prevent the following punch from being thrown with any force or direction. We can then use our side kick counter to strike the opponents leg or back of the knee to cause them to drop to the floor. This should then bring their head down to a lower height allowing or previous mid-level punch to be executed to the opponents head.
Section 4 features a backhand block (haishu uke) countered with a step in to rising elbow (age enpi), reverse punch (gyaku zuki) and a shift away into downward block (gedan barai).
The first application uses the back hand block to stop a straight punch to the head. We then step in to counter with the elbow strike and follow up with the reverse punch to the body. We then make use of the outward shift and the assumption that the attacker will have been forced into a reaction by the previous counter to use the gedan barai as a head strike. All of this is based on a few to many assumptions for my liking but demonstrates the katas techniques well.
The next demo hopes to answer a few of the questions asked in the first demo and again we are attempting to block a one handed grab and punch scenario.
We now use the haishu uke to lock the opponents grabbing arm. Our elbow strike is then made into a cover for our head to protect from the incoming hook punch, we can also use this as an elbow to our opponents head without much trouble. We now find ourselves in a very close quarters fighting position and probably feel the need to get as many counters in as short a time frame as possible. We can make good use of the reverse punch as a short body shot to the opponents kidneys and the downward block becomes a good forearm strike to the attackers head or throat.
Section 5 is very similar to section 4.
In the traditional application we start identically to section 4 but change our counter to a stepping in, forward elbow (mae enpi) and then a quick downward block or lower level back fist strike (gedan uraken).
In the next demo we make a slight change to the application used in section 4 in that we are now making the arm lock onto our opponents grabbing arm go across his body (as in the earlier section we would hope this prevents any further attacks). Our counter then becomes an elbow strike to our opponents arm or shoulder and the downward block can be used to force downward pressure to the upper arm and send the attacker to ground.

Finally, section 6 and the end section of the kata.
In the kata we perform a large circular arm motion leading to a double hikite followed by a double punch in sanchin dachi. We then step forward into a second sanchin dachi and perform mawashi uke (round house block).
The circular arm movement is to break free from a double grab or push. We then use the double punch to strike to the face and solar-plexus simultaneously. The mawashi uke can then be used to
finish off breaking the attackers grab (if the earlier attempt had not been completely successful) and we finish with a push to the opponent using our step forward into sanchin dachi to provide some body weight for a stronger push.
The second demo is slightly more complex. Our right arm of our circular arm movement is now to off balance a one handed grab. Again we assume that a punch is to follow so we move in close to shut down the punch and block early with our left arm. The left arm can then make a slight shift from the shoulder of the attacker to behind the head. This allows us to secure the head and give proprioception for our counter (what was a double punch is now just a single punch with the previous jodan level punch being used to grab the head). We could now make use of the mawashi uke and push to perform a neck break or choke hold to finish the opponent off.
Above is all the sections collated into one video to make viewing a little easier.
All questions and comments are welcome. Please contact via this blog page or email gareth@shinrikarateschools.com
In case anyone is interested the video features myself and my friend and colleague Phil Culley and was filmed across 2 of our regular weekly training sessions at the Martial Arts Centre of Excellence in Milton Keynes.
We hope to have more videos along the same format in the coming weeks. If you would like to see something specific please get in touch.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

The great martial arts swindle

Ive been too lazy with my blogging lately and I hope to get into the swing of putting some more posts together from now on. 
I really felt I had to write this post as I have had a few conversations recently that have pushed me into this topic. I want to talk about some of the un truths that are put out here about martial arts and and particularly the business of martial arts. 
In a previous post I spoke about cross training and my experiences visiting other instructors in their dojos. This is something that I actively try and do as often as possible but it is not always made easy for me. The reason that it is not easy is that some instructors, when asked if I may attend a session or 2, say that in order to train I must take out their association membership for "insurance reasons". They suggest that I would not be insured to train as a non member of the club. This is simply not true.   Ill explain the way a martial arts instructors insurance works (or mine does anyway). All instructors in Shinri have their own insurance policy. They are all listed under the Shinri name but the individual instructor must be named (like a named driver on a car). We can choose the level of cover we require. The maximum policy covers the instructor for £5million (this is what we have). It insures the building we hire and covers us for public liability (should we be liable for any accidents). It covers us to teach karate at any location in the uk, and to teach anything that can be included in the wider description of "karate". Our policy costs us thousands of pounds a year. 
We also have a member to member liability policy which covers anyone in our sessions should one member be liable for injury to another member. Shinri karate schools members have no individual insurance policy and neither does any other martial arts student in the uk (obviously I can't speak for every karate club but I do know that there are only 2 or 3 insurance companies offering cover to martial arts clubs). Every person that trains in one of my sessions (which could be as basic as a private session in my back garden or as complex as a large seminar with hundreds of people attending) is covered by the same policy.
Any responsible and professional martial arts instructor will have this same insurance cover and any prospective student (from the 5 year old first timers to the "expert") will be covered. 
There is a slight difference in that some karate clubs do not offer an "open door" policy where all are welcome to train. Shinri clubs are open to all. Our members receive cheaper lesson prices and are eligible to grade. They may also hold memberships with other martial arts clubs if they desire. A few of the clubs I've been involved with have the opposite to this policy. You must take out association licences before you can train and once a member you are expected to limit yourself to only training with that one club. This is something I do not agree with in the slightest and will stand up against it where ever necessary. 
To further the "great martial arts swindle" we should mention grades, especially black belts. There is no national register or database of black belts. A few small association have a list of every one that they have awarded a black belt too but there is no national list. There is also no set standard for black belt grades. The examiner or instructor sets the required/desired standard that each prospective black belt must reach (this standard can sometimes differ from student to student with the same examiner!). As a karate instructor I have to be responsible for the level of black belts in my clubs. Obviously I want them to be the best possible and so set a syllabus that I think will help achieve this. I also try and be fair and think of the standards I set in my black belt gradings and can only ask the same of my students. 
Teaching martial arts is a business. In all business you will get "cowboys". One of the main reasons we set up Shinri was to be transparent and ethical in our approach to our business. We aim to teach good karate and from instructors that are insured, checked, legitimate and fair. 

Black Belt! Where does it end?

Time for another blog post! In this post I want to share my ideas and thoughts on black belts. By that I mean training for your black belt, training as a black belt and where to progress to after you pass your Dan grading.
I have been pushed towards writing this post after a few conversations I have had with students or parents of students in my various classes. The basis of these conversations was that the student was looking towards the goal of achieving their black belt. Obviously there is nothing at all wrong with that and it is something that I expect all Karate-Ka to aspire to. It is a great milestone to reach, not only in karate but I think in life too (it certainly was for me). The trouble is that some people don't look any further than black belt 1st Dan. In some cases they stop training all together within weeks of passing their grading. Now, it wouldn't be appropriate or fair of me to criticise these people for doing this, that is their choice and I am sure in many of them there are outside factors that have stopped them training but what I hope to get across to you with this post is that black belt is not the end of karate training. To para-phrase Winston Churchill "It is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end".
It is often said the to learn karate requires a life long commitment. If we think back to why we started karate this become more obvious. Mostly there are 3 main reasons why people wish to learn karate Fitness, Self Defence and a general interest in the art. If training for fitness then one must assume that those that stop at Shodan think they are fit enough or have changed their mind. If training for self defence then they must (wrongly) assume that they are capable of defending themselves in any given situation and against any opponent and if training out of a general interest in the art of karate then we can only assume that the person feels they have full filled that interest.
If we look at karate training as a purely linear process based on the syllabus we use then black belt 1st Dan is really only just over half way through. In the syllabus I teach we have 27 kata. To pass your black belt you must learn 15 of those kata (although 3 of those will be the non-tokui kata and there fore not necessarily learnt to a good standard). Even based on purely syllabus karate then black belt is a good half-way mark. One thing I hope that all black belts understand though is that karate is not just syllabus based. Some of the best karate we do is not covered at all in our syllabus. It is just not possible to include everything from karate into a set syllabus.
You often hear that you really start to learn how to drive, after you pass your test. Compare that to karate and think about the prospect that you really start to learn karate after you pass black belt.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

My Favourite Kata

Once again its been a while since my last post, this time the reason is that I simply have so many ideas of things to write about that I couldn't decide which one to start with.
Ive decided to go with a nice, easy and uncontroversial topic of my favourite kata/s. Whilst I'm on the subject of my favourite kata I suppose I may as well also talk about my least favourite kata and any katas that I don't like, and this is where I will begin.
I will start by saying that I can honestly say that I don't have a least favourite kata. Ill admit that there are a few that I sometimes do not particularly enjoy performing or teaching but these generally change from day to day and week to week depending on my mood and how often I have taught a particular kata recently.
The katas that I enjoy most can often change over time too but there are a few that have remained constant favourites. One of my all time favourites is Empi. This was the kata I did as my tokui kata choice for shodan and I have lost count of the number of students I have coached through the kata for their own black belt gradings. As a performance kata I find it a good challenge with some very difficult techniques, particularly the kaiten tobi (rotating jump). If I was to have a criticism regarding Empi kata it is that the bunkai and oyo does not "flow" and make for a great fighting system like some other katas. This brings me onto my current favourite kata/s. I have recently spent a lot of time concentrating on the Tekki trilogy of katas and my greater understanding of the kata has caused me to add the Tekki katas to my list of favourites. I used to dislike the Tekki katas. I found some of the techniques weak and unnecessary and the kata in general to be awkward and probably unpractical. Upon studying all 3 katas as a whole though I have realised that the Tekki katas can offer a complete close quarters fighting system that can breathe new life and understanding into bunkai and oyo for other katas. The way the techniques can be applied in different orders depending on how an opponent may react is a very useful tool for consideration when training in other katas. Start thinking of the Tekkis as 1 kata performed in 3 parts and start thinking of all kata as building blocks to use as and when they are required and you will realise that traditional kata can be used in real life situations and that modern MMA etc can learn as much from traditional arts as karate-ka can from MMA.