Tradition and Pedagogy within Karate

Discussion in 'Karate' started by GaryWado, Apr 8, 2009.

  1. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    indeed, hence why at the end i used the term "firmness" as a substitute. if you look, for example, at videos of extremely old senseis or yudansha doing kata, it is perfectly noticeable that they still have no wobbliness; their movements are, although lacking in the speed and strength of youth, still firm and controlled, with no need for muscle tension. ergo, they have kime.
  2. GaryWado

    GaryWado Tired

    Hi Guys,

    Apologies for not coming out to play over the last few days, but that nasty thing called work has got in the way.

    Many thanks John for taking the time to write such a detailed response to my question. It sort of confirmed what I thought, and I agree with your comments about no one particular style of karate having all of your answers. Probably to big an ask given that any style in question, is only ever going to be a good as the bloke standing at the front of the class anyway.

    Although unlike you, I have spent my karate career in the same style (but with a number of instructors over the years), I have also spent a fair bit of time in Aikido (well Daito-ryu if I am being honest). I took a lot away from the sessions, and still try to train with the lads now and then. The biggest thing I got out of it though was the ability to shore up on few nagging doubts I had in the back of mind - allowing me to get back into making my Wado training my own.

    As I may have mentioned before, a senior student of Suzuki sensei once told me that he believed Ohtsuka left certain parts of the Wado system deliberately "loose". This was perhaps part of the pedagogy. Not so much a dismissive "go figure the rest out for yourself", but more offering a platform for learning and growing.

    I will grant you though; that it does take a very knowledgeable Wado instructor to guide you successfully through this process, the caliber of which, simply don’t grow on trees.

    Fish…. Epic post my friend, and one that I am going to have to digest in bite size pieces really.

    That said there were a few nails that seemed to be obviously sticking up if I am being honest:

    You mention blunt force trauma in punching, and blocking. What of “nagashi uke” or flowing block? – no trauma there as far as I can see.

    But mainly, I have a thing in my head about referring to ones feet in stances as being things like anchors – or being firmly routed etc. and at this point I will fess up that I have yet to read your previous post on this subject and it may contradict what I have implied, if so I apologise.

    Nonetheless, good post and something for us all to chew over.

    Last edited: May 5, 2009
  3. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    Hi Fish,

    One thing I've noticed in your posts (at least on the part of the thread that I can remember) is your focus on punching. Do you see punching and kicking as the predominant methods of striking in your repertoire?

    I ask this because techniques such as Shuto Uke, Gedan Barai and Age Uke form the greater part of my striking repertoire.
  4. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    hard blocks :D
    i was talking about gedan barai, haito uke et al, which are the
    ones people are wont to use tension in, since they are impact movements. circular blocks like nagashi or kake uke are by definition deflections more than blocks (whereas the hard blocks can be used as either), and thus it isn't even debatable whether tension should be used on them, hence i didn't address them. they're not exempt from firmness though; as anyone who has ever done a push hands drill can tell you, it's not about complete and utter relaxation, it's simply about not exerting force, and letting your own body connection and firm posture prevent the other guy from overcoming you.

    on the feet thing, i know what you mean, it's a terminology issue, what i was referring to was that your feet are your connection to the ground and thus the focus of force when you initiate a movement, from which, due to the earth begin just that little bit heavier than us :) moves US through newtonian opposite force, which we then redirect and focus through posture, either into a strike, uke waza, tai sabaki or any combination of those, and are also your support when you are pushed. it doesn't mean that you "stick" to a spot, only that your feet should be firm so you can use them as a base (unless until meditation pays off and we learn to levitate... :p)
  5. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    Actually I thought I was copping out slightly by going over my training history in such little detail! :)

    With regard to what you say about being rooted - perhaps we should not think of being trees, but of being Ents?
  6. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    not really, i focus on punching when i talk both because it's a basic movement, and because karate's straight seiken tsuki is one of the most misunderstood techniques it has, based on what i've seen, heard and read in my seven years of training and 4 years of plaguing MAP. besides, the gross movement involved in a tsuki is basically the same as in a gedan barai or age uke (especially the ****o and goju versions, which are much more direct), with a slight change in muscle action (primarily the application of the inwards wrist bend. the same goes for a lot of other movements: circular punches are the same movement without closing the elbow, and changing fist alignment proportionately to the punching angle; nukites are the same with open hands, and hiraken, ippon ken and nakadaka ippon ken are exactly the same but wthout fully closing the fist. in that respect the tsuki is the "mother" of most karate movements (more so in okinawan karate than in japanese karate).

    then again, i'm five feet tall, so i'm more of an elbows, knees, gedan kicks, hiraken and mawashi tsuki man myself (occasionally haito or ushiro uraken), and i've more or less disowned hard blocking in favor of kake uke, nagashi uke, osae uke and tekubi kake uke for ease of deflection and flow into grabs or simultaneous striking, except when jamming front kicks from close range when i can't check with my legs (gedan barai below the kneecap or to the foot works wonders), and it's still a very straight blow rather than the usual semi circular gedan barai.
  7. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    IMO, one should stay rooted though using tai sabaki and posture to apply one's own bodyweight without falling over, so, i'd say not like ents, more like hippos :D
  8. GaryWado

    GaryWado Tired

    John, don't get all middle earth on us now.

    Fish, not sure I go out of my way to perform my gedan barrai as a precusive strike either?

    Uke = receive doesn't it?

  9. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    that depends, there are many ways to receive something. goju in particular uses very percussive hard blocks, since it's basically 50% pure hard and 50% pure soft, with little grey area, and gedan barai and age uke as performed in goju and ****o are essentially short tetsuis. taking into account the range at which ****o and goju train to fight, you also can't really make a deflection the way wado or shotokan would, so we favour shorter and more explosive movements, where the linear ones are percussive and the circular ones are redirecting.
  10. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    As Fish says, Uke means receive, which is why I translate Age Uke as Upward Receiver. I don't use the term block. It's a poor translation that can cause confusion about movement. A Receiver is something that intercepts, redirects, strikes... it embraces all the other person's actions.

    Fish: I'm not sure you understood what I meant when I talked about these movements as the mainstay of my striking repertoire. I'm looking at using these movements at close range and in the clinch. I'm not a fan of punches because they are more of a medium range weapon (with the exception of ura zuki), and they place a more dangerous stress on the wrist.

    I would not try to use Gedan barai against a kick. My ulna against your shin? No. Besides - how are you going to kick me in a way that I could use it when we're pretty much chest to chest? I'm not trying to use these movements to hit your limbs hard - I'm using the movements to hit you in a more biomechanically efficient way than punches (because of the angles used - human bodies are more vulnerable to diagonal strikes than they are strikes at right angles to the surface).

    I actually see very little in common with the gross movement of a standard zuki with Gedan Barai(Shuto Uke) or Age Uke. For me there is commonality with Ura Zuki. In use I place more emphasis on the flexion movement than the extensor movement, which I use as a redundancy. Too many people think that the 'end' of the technique is where the strike has to be, but contact can be made at any and all points of the movement. However the key focus of the most commonly used punches is forward extension (and at the very least, contact with the end of the arm - whatever shape the fist is in). In Shuto Uke, Gedan Barai and Age Uke extension makes up only a small part of the movement (and not necessarily the actual striking part of the movement), and when it does occur, it occurs in a different form with less muscle recruitment because the action is that of a swinging hinge on the elbow to strike with the side rather than thrusting with the end. I think what I'm saying is that I believe on this one I disagree with you completely. :)

    To try and illustrate what I mean. I'll look at Gedan Barai:
    Extended hand: Palm to face, push to chest, downward diagonal punch to bladder, flinch cover of head warding off a punch....
    Hand sweeping high to the head: Hair grab, palm to GB 20, punch to GB 20, flinch to cover head, parry, diagonal elbow strike across chest, elbow strike across the face...
    Retracting extended hand: unbalancing pulling, strangling...
    Downward sweeping hand: Elbow strike, strangling, forearm strike, hammer fist strike...
    And I'd often do all those in one motion. That's not even going into the arm bars etc... But the main place I make contact is on what is often regarded as the less important part of the technique - the crossing of the hands.

    I can remember teaching at a seminar in Chicago a couple of years back to a range of martial arts instructors. One thing that emerged as the day went on was that along with me, the Chun Do Kwan, Kempo and Tai Chi Instructors were all using this explosive slapping cross arms movement as a highly effective first strike.

    Age Uke for me is classically an uppercut or upward elbow strike with the redundancy of a forearm slam to the brachial plexus or a hammer fist to the temple followed by a back knuckle strike to the base of the skull (on retraction). The way I perform it is very circular with a diagonal flexion upwards and inwards followed by a diagonal extension upwards and outwards.

    Now I would argue by contrast, that Uke techniques rather than zuki are the mother of Okinawan Karate. Look at any form in any Okinawan descended Kata and I will be surprised if you can find one where straight thrusting zuki make up as much as 50% of the Kata. I've only studied about 29 Kata during my time in Karate (and no I don't know them all now) but I'd be surprised if the Naha-te Kata were so different in this respect to those of Shuri-te and Tomari-te lineage.

    In my opinion, the way that Uke techniques are taught in the majority of Karate syles stems from the way Itosu ensured that Karate was taught in the school syllabus. It seems to me that this approach affected the practice of Itosu's peers - even those who came from separate Karate traditions, and on subsequent generations of Karateka. It is not as if the senior Okinawan Karateka did not meet together and discuss the future direction of Karate. People like to point fingers at Funakoshi and blame him for an element of dumbing down in Karate, but it was Itosu who made the big transition between Karate as a combative method (as taught by Matsumura) and Karate as a form of PE (which was how he had originally been taught before Matsumura eventually accepted him as a student).
  11. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    part 1 (post size limit for the lose, i like my walls of text)
    Last edited: May 6, 2009
  12. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    yo olde parteh tü

    PS: btw, john, do you speak spanish? if so, i've got an article about itosu and okinawan karate that you might find interesting (funnily enough, written by a tkd'er)
    Last edited: May 6, 2009
  13. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    My point was rather that even when you used uke to strike, you seemed to be only really using them as strikes to stop or divert attacking limbs rather than strikes in their own right. :)

    When I mentioned clinch range - I wasn't thinking of magically closing distance because there is no real distance to close. That's the distance your average fight starts, because that's how close people get when they are arguing. Now there are cultural differences in proximity and indeed differences between people brought up in town and country, but most arguments and fights kick off at a range where you can Haymaker or headbutt with no difficulty.

    I know what you mean about the ****o Ryu Shuto. It reminds me of Tate Shuto Uke. However, crucially I see it more as a rotation with ongoing extension rather than an extension/thrust - even in the video link to Pinan Shodan you posted. But to my mind it should be flexible - ie the potential for either interpretation and application shoudl be there.

    Interjection: Did you know that red type against pale blue background is one of the hardest colour contrasts to read? PLEASE choose another colour.

    Both. That's how large parts of my approaches work. One of the ways I teach Gedan Barai (and I think I got this from Rick Clark) is as a simultaneous head slap (from rear to front) while punching in the stomach.

    I would definitely agree with you on the current predominance of the straight punch owing much to Japanese Karate.

    I would say that there is a triangular element to my armwork and footwork (3 dimensions) (rather like Aikido), interlocking and shifting diagonal approaches which give the illusion of circular movement, but actually which make the opponent's body move in circles. :)

    I place more emphasis on the movement in towards the body and the initial movements out, rather than the end movement out. So for me, the important part of Gedan Barai and Shuto Uke in the majority of my applications is the extension of one arm and the hooking retraction of the other (cross arms or sometimes parallel arms). With Age Uke I use the fist/forearm slam flexion as the primary part of the movement - the hammerfist/forearm extension is an optional extra, the backfist retraction at the end of greater importance.

    I'm not convinced Itosu was against fighting per se. In fact I think we have more stories of him fighting than most of his contemporaries. It was Funakoshi who wanted to move away from fighting. :)
    No, I mean that Itosu was into the use of blunt force, strength etc...
    I think I used the photos of Mabuni in the article I linked to earlier, showing the relation between his gear and my High gear.

    Sadly I don't have Spanish. I used to have Italian and French but lack of use has seen them flit away. :) Sadly my ears are no longer good enough for learning new languages. :(
  14. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

  15. GaryWado

    GaryWado Tired

    Hi guys, I find myself apologising once again, and although I have been overseeing the thread in the limited time I have at the moment, it would be wrong of me not to contribute.

    First, I'd like to cringe apologetically that I spelt the word "Percussive" as "precusive" and it took a polite 18 year old Argentinean to not mention that, but correct in his reply... domo and much respect fella.

    Common sense says don't try to block a kick with an arm, however I do see a connection with Junzuki movement and gedan barai.

    Parrying a kick, using a sweeping arm does not need to meet force with force; rather, the "double moment" of hips moving in the rotational direction opposite to that of the arm - combined with the shift outward of the line of attack, is a very effect block / uke (receipt) imo.

    In fact, if you look at the way you perform "Gedan Barai" and "Junzuki" (Oizuki?) in ido kihon, the hip movement is the same (or at least it is in Wado).

    Naff guys I am sorry, but will try to post more tomorrow morning.

    Last edited: May 8, 2009
  16. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    Hi Gary - welcome back.

    I would say that the movement that you are referring to (parrying a kick with a sweeping arm) is an instinctive push away of danger, part of the spinal reflex, and so obviously it works (even though it places the hand and wrist in danger). The end parts of Gedna Barai mirror this movement, just as the initial parts of Gedan Barai mimic other types of reflexive action to protect the command centre - that's why they are effective. If you think hard you may recall that when you use such an action - you don't think 'now I am going to parry this kick' - you just do it. Later you may congratulate yourself about how ingrained your training is, how you moved without thinking, but in truth - you'd have done that with no training. All the training has done is quickened your perception of danger so that the body could employ its own inbuilt response quicker. Gedan Barai merely reinforces the line of natural movement, turning what is already a fast neural pathway into a faster one through repetition.

    In any situation where you really need to stop or divert an attack (ie something unexpected coming towards you at close range at speed) you will never deliberately employ a trained movement. You will duck,dive, flinch, parry, push, fall back. If you seem to be doing a trained movement - it is only because the movement you have trained mirrors a natural response. Therefore, when you have an Uke movement that does not mirror a natural response - you really need to think about how else to apply it.

    What I would say is that I believe a deliberate Gedan barai against a kick, fist clenched, with Tai Sabaki so that only minimal contact is used, is nigh on impossible against a kick launched at close range unless you know in advance that it is coming in (ie artificial situation) - in the way you do in 1/2/3 step sparring.

    With regard to Junzuki and Gedan Barai hip movements - I find the hip movement the same (although the bracing differes slightly both in the hips and the legs because of the different direction I am applying force), however with regard to the upper body because one has the arm swinging sideways and the other the arm thrusting forwards, I find I the muscles play in a different way.

    PS - fish can I place a request for dark blue or bold black? :)
  17. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

  18. GaryWado

    GaryWado Tired

    Hi Fish, John,

    Personally, I would not categorise gedan barai as a block that would work as it appears in Kihon, however I do look at it as a training stepping stone to a more practical arsenal.

    And agreed John, I can only seem to make it work when I know a kick is coming (ippon kumite etc.)

    But this is again a classic example of the Pedagogy that exists in many styles today.

    In Wado we have a set of paired kata called Kihon Kumite and I have always considered these to be examples perhaps of how Ohtsuka intended his karate to be applied, both in terms of waza and also the deeper stratagems of fighting (distance, timing and movement etc.). Perhaps no surprise that virtually none of the techniques performed in these kata are done so in the "ido kihon waza" stylie.

    This puzzled me for a long time, as it was as if there was one style of karate hidden within another. Why would you spend years learning how to do katas and one step pairs using your classical "junzuki", only to be told that the next step was to not do it that way?

    It took me best part of 20 years to start to connect the dots.... and I am still doing it if truth be told, and enjoying it more and more it has to be said.

    Last edited: May 10, 2009
  19. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    Logic would dictate therefore that if it doesn't work how you are training it - you're training it wrong. :) Thus, to avoid cultivating unnecessary skills you have a choice - either lose a big part of your system by ditching the movement, or ditch the current application of the movement in favour of a better one. Those are the logical choices. The alternative is to continue to train in a less effective manner. :)

    And herein lies the problem. Phrases like tradition and pedagogy make it sound acceptable. But it isn't pedagogy because pedagogy implies a rational scientific approach to the subject matter, and doing something that is less effective because that's the way it has 'always' been done instead of researching a better way to do it just isn't scientific. It may be traditional to apply it that way but may I offer a comparison? It is traditional for learner swimmers to wear armbands, for learner cyclists to have stability wheels, but once you are an adult - you swim and cycle in a different and more aerodynamic way, and no-one questions the change. When you are a child you are taught not to start sentences with because, not to split infinitives, but as an adult you may discover that to boldly go where no man has gone before is not only possible, it also has a nice ring to it. :) A fair part of what is now tradition in Karate, was once innovative dumbing down.

    I would say ultimately because
    Ohtsuka never applied his Ju-jitsu knowledge fully t the Karate syllabus he taught and kept the two pretty separate because either:
    a. He didn't have the knowledge to merge the two.
    b He had the knowledge but not the time to fully integrate the two.
    c. He wanted the students to integrate the two, thus making sure that in a mass market for the majority his syllabus was PE and only those who actively sought answers would make the connection and discover the really good stuff.

    And you don't see the comparison between you and me, or you and Iain? :)
  20. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    Hi Fish - not ignoring you, just very busy!

    Yes/No. They will both have that latter instinct. Good reactions from Karate may SEEM to speed up the reaction as the threat may be perceived sooner. The untrained guy doesn't flop around. It's like watching a baby in slow motion - its actually fantastically coordinated, its responses are tremendously appropriate, it is just out with the timing.
    When it comes to defending the head, untrained people are often a lot better than trained people as they just move naturally - they are less likely to confuse things and slow themselves down by attempting a trained response which the body then over-rides. When someone attempts a trained response which isn't fast enough, and then flinches, the overall response is slower than the untrained person flinching.

    Yes/No. If an instinctive response is required - ie the attack is unexpected, close and fast - you will get an instinctive response, not the trained response, which means you won't get that twist at the end - instead you will get the hands pushing to make contact.
    Last edited: May 12, 2009

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