Kata or in this case Ďform in its essenceí not its particular. One interpretation of the Isshinryu as opposed to an interpretation of the Soken Matsumura Seito.
Occasionally I and Multiversd have differences of opinion. The reason I post is to both learn and critically re-examine my own thinking and expression of my studies. Iím not in this for followers, new students or critical approval of anyone, all I can do is express what Iíve seen, believe and practice.
Iím not in disagreement with Multi, an exponent of Matsumura Seito, having strong opinions, I have strong opinions myself. Sometimes ours agree and other times theyíre opposite each other. While I hope his training is as strong as any that exists in the world and his instructors, friends and brother are even more competent than he has expressed, I certainly work as hard to make my own the same.
I do not represent Isshinryu, while Isshinryu is a core art I practice and believe in, I only represent myself, the path my instructors shared with me, and the path I share with my students. On the other hand both Isshinryu in general and my own path in particular have been in my experience mis-interpreted by multiís opinions about this art, and rather than puff up my own chest, and say ďOíYeah!Ē Iíd rather try to use this as a critical exposition of my own point of view, and in turn allow him and others to share in the process, and perhaps we all can make our cases clearer.
In fact karate has a very long tradition about people sniping about each others teachings in Okinawa in the past as well as Okinawa in the present. Okinawa also has traditions about how before the rise of systems, people shared openly. Matsumura trained many, Soken trained Kashiba from Nagamine, Funakoshiís instructors sent him to many other instructors, many people shared with Tara, and todayís groups on Okinawan working together, are all real too, as much as the hard lines between people.
We canít prove any of this with internet words, this is only what it is, a discussion. Iím hardly anyoneís example of a showcase for my own teachings. Iím older, slower, much thicker and fighting arthritis, losing much of my past. And Iím a really rotten instructor for none of my students follow my path, theyíre all in great shape and some with superb physical ability. I apologize I canít show them the true way to become me.
Iíve taken a while to answer this because I first wanted to find out more about Soken and his teachings than what Iíve already known. So checking with a friend in South America who greatly admires Sokens simpler kata approach to the Okinawan arts and his long teaching there in the Okinawan community, and with a long friend in the American Soken community Iíve gotten a feel for who is doing what with Sokenís teachings. Iím not interested in anyoneís opinion about the inter-Soken group warfare that exists in that group anymore than Iím interested in any groups inner warfare. Suffice it to say there are vastly different opinions about who has what experience and knowledge of Sokenís teachings, and what the outer and inner teachings in those groups may practice. Not my path but interesting, and not my business to discuss further, which would be hearsay. But research gave me some insight to Multiís instructor, who is a very good martial artist and instructor. Which is no endorsement of their way, or that everyone in the Soken community agrees with everything, but just the reality.
But my issue isnít about the Soken groups, rather Multiís opinions about Isshinryu in general, and some of his statements in particular.
So for part 1 of this analysis, lets review some of them. Multi commented on my understanding of Seisan Kata, which I guess is in his focus as a holder of the Matsumura Seito Seisan tradition.
ďAs for Seisan and who Vic has seen- well who cares? Have you seen Sensei Lindsey, Coffman, Gingras, Nishihira or my brother or me? Nope. So you can't evaluate what the "strongest" and best Seisan is until you've seen many other stylists.Ē
Interesting comment. Of course in turn I could say have you seen Tom Lewis, Charles Murray, Reese Rigby, Sherman Harrill, Carl Long, Tris Sutrisno or me or my students? Oooops, perhps theyíre better? Perhaps notÖand is it germane to the issue, which Seisan tradition is stronger?
Letís see I do my variation on the Isshinryu Seisan, Iíve studied Seisan with Carl Long (Nash/Shimabuku Ezio tradition), I do Hangetsu (Shotokan Seisan in the Sutisno Lineage), I do Uechi Seisan, I have on tap about 20 different Seisan video from Japan and Okinawa, and much more material. Iíve seen Seisan from Tomari, Goju, outside of one of the strongest Hiagonna M., and much of the Merriman/Martin lineage in the states, Uechi (which may be the most brutal by overt technical content in my little experience), various Shorin traditions, and even part of Motobuís Seisan tradition. Now perhaps Iím truly not qualified to evaluate whatís the Ďstrongestí and Ďbestí, but then who is, someone who practices one?
But then again critically examining Seisan is more than just moves. For sheer performance when I was competing in open tournaments in region 10 in the 80ís I regularly saw Seisan performed in the Soken tradition in Pennsylvania. The people I saw ran good, clean forms, certainly better than I was, but not necessarily better than I was working towards. I couldnít examine better from competition, and outside of recognizing they were doing Seisan, my own studies were enough to keep my focus. Outside of being friends I had no room for critical analysis.
Here in New Hampsire, a few years ago Iíve held a New England exploration into Seisan-ness, much of that information gathered for that group, trying to determine the underlying Seisan tradition, not in words, but by stepping on the floor experiencing the shape of the various versions.
And of course the kata is much, much more than the punch, the step of the pattern. I intend to close this exercise trying to describe a bit of what I find in Seisan practice in my Isshinryu. I really want to share whether I have an knowledgeable opinion about what I write or not.
Multi then shifts to another issue, ďGood passive-aggressive act Victor. I won't be sending you that detailed and very astute article based on modern science and Orthopedics that you originally had. Go to med school, learn to draw and do your own. What you say is patent and you seem to jock a lot of people who mean squat.Ē
I only recently discovered he and I had much the same discussion word for word in 2001 on e-budo.com. Yes I recollect he did send me an article and I passed it to Dr. Harper, who did remark it was well researched, but with any number of computer crashes, and over 20 feet of notebooks of internet discussion and martial research material in the library I canít say where a copy may or may not be. On the whole such material has no place for an impact in my studies. I find with good material that I see a place for it often takes me 5 years to fit it into my research, and on the whole I guess what he sent didnít fit my needs. Sorry.
But Multi continues, ďAnyway that Isshin fist form is WRONG (as is the full-twisting punch). Every decent Okinawan karate-ka knows this. It doesn't even make biomechanical or anatomical sense. Just like the Wing Chun punch with the last knuckles. Plain stupid and potentially injurious.Ē
ďIf you had a memory or read what I sent you you'd know this. ď
As Iíve discussed more fully I disagree with his informed medical opinion. First its based on either incomplete observation of Isshinryu with no structural knowledge of how the system works, or from an opinion with someone who has a little Isshinryu experience but not enough real training to understand.
I donít make that claim lightly. No one who practices an art does so to injure themselves. The sheer fact tens of thousands have practice Isshinryu in the past 50 years and still use the vertical striking technique without significant issue proves the point. If it was dangerous to use, there would be statistical evidence of such. And the issue who hits hardest isnít a structural issue, but a deeper mechanics issue than his structural knowledge addresses. Perhaps Matsumura Seito only addresses the strike as a flat impact mechanism so itís beyond their knowledge. Canít say, Iíll try and address some of my deeper concerns in the Seisan section.
Now as for every decent Okinawan karate-kaís opinions, frankly who gives a darn. Opinions fly about everything. Shimabuku Tatsuoís vision left Okinawa. Almost all of the Okinawanís bolted when he formed Isshinryu. They didnít want changes and they didnít want to associate with the Americansí who destroyed so many of the families. In that they are right to their own opinions, but Iíd hardly call them knowledgeable about Isshinryu, not taking the time to truly accept their instructorís vision.
Remember Okinawa clings to opinions like Goju Sanchin will cause an early death, ignoring the ravages of war that affected some people, and the obvious fact there were and are Goju seniors living into their 90ís. Okinawan opinions are just that, opinions, not better or worse.
And whoís to say who is a decent Okinawan kaerate-ka? For myself, while I have a few opinions, I donít practice Okinawan karate or want to. I practice Isshinryu as taught to me by my American instructors from their training on Okinawa, and their decades of work here in the states. And I only train those who live here. What anyone on Okinawa thinks has absolutely no bearing on where we go. That was then, perod, not today.
The vertical strike in Isshinryu, itself, came out of Kyan Senseiís teachings and Isshinryuís founder choose to focus on that for his primary striking mechanism. As Isshinryu was expressed to my instructors, there is a minor role for the twisting punch as an advanced exercise. Now as the Isshinryu vertical strike is a simple name for a much more complex strike, which can and does cant as required for the target, there are places it strikes in that ĺ tradition as well as the ľ tradition, and other variations. The main difference is that there is no twisting of the arm from chamber to the strike, and my Isshinryu takes full advantage of that chamber.
I didnít take the time ask my friends about this, or do I recall what Iíve seen at this moment, to notice whether Matsumura Seito turns the arm during striking or chambers. Perhaps Iíll throw on my Soken tapes and see what he does, not really germane to what Isshinryu does however, just may help understand why Multi thinks what he does.
Multi continues more with: ďYou would have learned things more important than training with some Indonesian Shotokan guy, who did Penche Silat and Siddhartha leg fighting. Isshin Ryu is a nominal style. Tatsuo didn't teach certain important forms like Gojushiho because he never learned them. He was a jack of all trades--- master of none. You are missing a lot in that style, regardless of who teaches it. Sorry, it's the truth again.Ē
In that I guarantee you, you are very, very, very wrong. Iíve trained and seen a lot of good people in different ways, the good are just that good, you canít say whoís better. Pound for pound Tris Sutrisno, Sensei and a whole lot more is unreal, both in his knowledge of his art, his bunkai and technique and his cat like explosiveness and balance. I see he does clinics these days, on his Indonesian arts, go and try him out yourself, say in empty hand, or kama or knife, or bo and donít listen to me, you wonít give my opinion any credibility.
He is Indonesian, he does Shotokan, his father trained under Funakoshi, and his training began at age 4. I will say his Shotokan isnít JKA, the roots are similar but the way they construct the inner system is beyond belief. You could train with him but youíre too old to really get it, as was I. You could get a great deal, and so could everyone, whatever he would share, but you wouldnít get what he has. I trained with him over 10 years and he shared a great deal.
Funny you mention Gojushiho, I guess you think that your studies under Sokenís is something and that Shimabuku didnít include it in the Isshinryu that was taught to the Americanís means something.
As for any instructor they can share what they wish, and with who. Perhaps he only did share a bit of his art, whatís the difference. Its what you can do with what you have that truly matters. I realize he did teach Gojushiho at one time and it is not in the American curricula. Big deal. He also created and gave them his SunNuSu kata, perhaps the most interesting kata created on Okinawa in the past 100 years, it contains Gojushiho, Patsai, concepts as well as ideas from other kata, and a whole lot of technique not in anyone elses.
So we could weigh Gojushiho on one side and SunNuSu on the other, but I think thatís irrelevant. Some people realize there are inner and outers systems of knowledge. I would characterize kata of a system as outer system of knowledge. Very important for long periods of training, but the inner priciples behind a system and karate usage are more, much more important. Perhaps Matsumura Seito doesnít get into such things. Perhaps some of us in Isshinryu got them from resolute study of our system instead of direct transmission form the founder, but if you move your study and teachings beyond mere kata, there is much more such as various mechanism of using your studies to generate power, and shape that power into the target. Iím not talking striking vital points. That has a small place, but the shape of the power you impart from your practice can make any kata the true key and all you need, except for continuing challenges of study to keep oneís approach fresh.
The Isshinryu system is complete enough, pure, for anyone. The late Sherman Harrill, with the minor study I did with him, reinforced that. But then the 800 applications for Isshirnyuís 8 kata I studied and work on, and the vast underlying principles just from him reinforce that day by day to me.
But we were talking the vast powers of Gojushiho. Well it turns out I and my very senior students also do Gojushiho from the Sutrisno lineage. I realize youíre giggling on the floor about Shotokan Gojushiho having meaning, but his lineage has Gojushiho, Gojushiho Sho and Gojushoi Dai. The last two are closer to the JKA versions, the Gojushiho he does, is much, much closer to the Okinawan ones. Course he does utilize some principles Iíve not see in the Okinawan training, but thatís personal.
As the story goes I was in Penna. When a local Shorin instructor paid to bring Kise Sensei over for a month to train his students, and then held a big tournament while Kise was there. I heard how Mr. Lindesy was there and apparently upset that Kise was not available for the Matsumura Seito groups. This was about 82 or 83 and I think Mr. Lindsey was with Kise at that time. Why he didnít stay with him is a Matsumura Seito story not mine. A number of years later a local NH instructor (then a Mr. Kise representative) held a clinic with Mr. Kise teaching bo, sai and kama, I and one of my senior students attended. I still have my detailed notes of those kata, but on our way home we both agreed that our own studies had enough to keep us busy and we didnít continue them. So I guess in some way Iíve touched the Soken traditions perhaps, or perhaps not as it were.
Bout a year later at a local quite traditional tournament (hosted by a Goju school) that instructor completed in the Masters Division with Gojushiho, and my Shotokan instructor was visiting and he competed in the same division with Gojushiho. They both did very, very good kata.. Nice crisp power in the Seito, explosive dynamics in the Sutrisno, and I have both on very clear video. So the Gojushiho I have is not the Kise one, and perhaps youíll say Kise isnít teaching the Soken one? Iím not sure, but as I look at Soken doing Gojushiho, I see it very close to that instructors.
Tris won, which means the judges liked him better. Truthfully I can say both were good for what they were. The Sutrisno Gojuhiho does not have the 'same' as the Kise one, but the Kise one does not have what the Sutrisno one does either. And in the end its what you can make do with what you have.
So I guess it comes down to I personally donít care what you think about what Shimabuku did or not, as I got mine. Yep I can be quite trite.
Iíll conclude with this remark from Multi: ďI will say that the karate I've learned under Lindsey is the most scientific and realistic I've encountered. He's does do seminars. Invite him to your school and see if you like what he says and if what he says works. You'll be more than pleasantly surprised, trust me. He does do the art of the Head of the Royal Palace Guard at Shuri after all . What he taught (Sokon) was for quick, efficient and effective self-preservation, not for prolonged fighting in a fair manner.Ē
First Iím glad Mr. Lindsey is that good. Thatís great for you to follow that tradition. Itís nice you make the offer to let me bring him in so see myself. On the other hand most senior instructors I know who are really working on their art donít really have the time to spend on searches. Iíve taught thousands of students for 25 years for free. At this time thereís no cash flow to spend on such a search, especially as the traditions Iíve studied have given me more than I can practice or teach out. That heís great, which I fully believe, is irrelevant because Iíve been more than fortunate to be trained by a whole group of great instructors in many traditions till thereís more than enough.
Course I might change my opinion if the Royal Palace Guard at Shuri had stopped the Japanese invasion in the 1500ís. And my Isshinryu study is also quick, efficient and effective self-preservation, so guess Iím naturally lucky I do Isshinryu (and a whole lot of other things).
So thus concludes part I, my personal response to Multiís expression. Am I right, perhaps not, but what I do works for me as much as I suspect what he does works for him.
But words arenít enough. As this began with a discussion on Seisan kata, it strikes me it would be worthwhile to pull together what I see in my tradition. Now if you check out Donnelly Senseiís site at http://www.isshinryu.com/seisan2a.htm
youíll see his expression of Seisan kata. I feel itís a fair generic Isshinryu example. Not necessarily totally what I do or teach, but a clean reference to the system and what Iíll be discussing.
Donnelly Sensei shows the kata in 75 movements. At a very high level here is what I do with the system.
[note Ė this is not how I train people, these concepts cover what happens from the beginning to what is experience over say 15 or more years at least if not more into its study.] Some people talk about 5 years on one kata. I began with this kata 31 years ago and am still exploring and working on Seisan-ness.
Lets see the kata is first a study of technique to respond to an opponent.
Those techniques strike the body, arms, legs, neck, break arms, break legs, wrench necks, lever down an opponent with almost each section, contain immobilization locks, can instantly drop any opponent 100% of the time, and a great deal more.
Harrill Sensei focused on 40 distinct applications in his clinic to Seisan directly, and pulling Seisan technique from other kata studies he took easily have more than 20 more applications there. And before I met him I was doing close to 50 on just the first sequence alone. But much more than the raw techniques are the principles behind what is Seisan, and the wealth of studies there in.
For example one of our first studies is directing the student to use a signature movement in their Seisan, a unique way to use their body. This continues throughout their Isshinryu study for years, at a much later date other movement studies within the Sesan movement are undertaken offering new power generation.
When Iíve had outside students join the group, there are no shortcuts, they begin anew because this underlying movement flow is essential in the manner in which I undertake their movement application studies much later. In no way am I saying our approach is the only answer, it is just the way we undertake our study. Others in Isshinryu may be like us or not, if their answers are different.
This approach is to specifically generate the maximum power in technique that is possible.
Then there are multiple layers of study. The new student learns one method of technique execution, at intermediate study some of the techniques change and at more advanced study they change again. One way to develop a student is to teach the kata and drill and drill and drill. What Iíve done is make a few changes to build specific movement skills, and when those skills are developed, move on to a more advanced movement and later to the final version. In the choices Iíve made I believe the end result is better and faster.
Seisan in Isshinryu is following a very old tradition as the first study. Most groups consider Seisan a quite advanced kata. Isshinryuís isnít simplified, it is a very advanced kata and by the time youíre doing it a very long time youíve become an advanced karate-ka too. I just realized having students do it wrong till they got it right wasnít helping them learn faster. Instead they were working on dealing with doing it wrong till their body developed. So what I did was work on the underlying power, and gradually build them towards the original. Yet all the technique I teach is quite real and works, itís just different from the original.
Then the manner of blocking is both hard and soft. [Wonder where that came from, but its also true of the entire understanding of Isshinryu, that there are layers.] The hard being the original deflections, the soft being a different way to use the Ďblockí to draw the opponent closer for a quicker counter strike, a way which by the way is identical to the way the Bando fighter utilizes the stick in a moving wall block.
Then the manner of striking is both hard and soft, and a whole lot more. The structure of the Isshinryu fist, with the thumb on top is actually a mechanism for specific power generation that the thumb tightly on the side does not offer as cleanly. Oooops, that was what I was shown the first day by Mr. Lewis and it was exactly how Shimabuku Sensei showed him. It was Harrill Sensei who showed how to delineate between the presence of hard tight fists and the incredible shocking power of the Seisan opening fist from its softness. I realize this is just words, unfortunately some of us have experienced being hit this way, its not the same thing as the Ďhardí fist, which has some uses, and as far as Iíve seen is unique in the Isshinryu tradition. If others have it no oneís talking, and truthfully in Isshinryu most who are doing this arenít talking either. Of course my talking isnít explaining how this is done, that can only be done in person, not in words. But it is real, and is a different power principle.
The usage of that thumb on top is so interesting, beyond the simple examples Iíve talked about previously, it offers unique opportunity that those who donít use it canít do it. Do they need it, of course NOT, but it is part of our answer.
The method of stepping is very subtle. First stepping into foot locks magnifies much of the power of other in-close technique. Too often people just concentrate on the hands, and donít see the leg checks for force multipliers. Second steps are sweeps, potentially finishing every technique in the kata with a forced takedown. Every stepping motion is a crippling lower leg kick (either as in close stomps or Tam Tuie style kicking), the kick being a hidden hand (Ďkakushiteí in shito usage of Ďhidden handí).
The manner of turning can be just a turn, the opening to use a Ďhiddení kick exactly like most of the Seisansí use in the same place, the kick a natural derivative from the manner of stepping in the turn. Likewise turning most clearly represents specific appictaion against an attack such as a grab from the rear. The exact kata usage clearly shows how turning is always a counter to those attacks.
Letís see I havenít touched on so much, Isshinruís closing touching on that most magnificent of Okinawan creations, the Tora Guchi, or the specific targeting the kata shows for hard strikes and kicks, the multitude of techniques in the fractals of the motions.
What about the incredible power of the chambering hand. It automatically makes any movement going forward a counter from a bear hug from behind, the sharper you chamber the harder your striking to the rear. The chambering hand contains grab and yank in conjunction with the striking hand, moving the opponent into your strike. The chambering hand is the faster response to free from a grab with no extra motion. Exceptionally clean when done as in the kata.
Now Iím starting to cook. Next is the use of Isshinryu as Aikido. There are multiple aikido techniques within the direct execution of Seisan kata, but the most powerful is the arm bar, which actually links every Seisan kata in existence, the punching arm isnít for striking, rather the one hand grabs and retracts as the other punches, slides over the triceps tendon creating the arm bar, slamming their face into the ground. Of course the Isshinryu vertical strike is more efficient, IMVHO, than the other forms of striking, to be closely followed with the full turning punch.
So much so the arm bar must be the principle grappling technique of Isshinryu, there are so many directly in its kata, and with no changes involved.
Course I can show you how bagua zhang and its single palm change is in Isshinryu with super results. I can also show you how Eagle Claw is directly within the kata too, though no one lets me play with them, they like their necks too much.
Course those are the minor studies and principles.
More major are the studies on insertion. As in the angle of insertion to an attack. Most of the techniques are not maximized from the front. The beginning level of this involves slipping position and using the kata technique. When one become much more advanced the use of the knee release as a force multiplier allows you to reset the angle of insertion without taking a step, and using the technique to move them to set up the right angle.
Angle of technique execution gets involved, by changing the angle the technique is performed, different shaped changes from the strikes are presented.
The method of breathing and movement enters the picture. In the first stages breathing is natural throughout the kata. At advanced stages the difference between inter and intra technique execution is explored for the use in power and most importantly speed generation. [Slight digression here, our Sutrisino Gojushiho kata is actually one of the most advanced tools we have on the use of breathing and technique speed. The underlying principle is cut down the response time, hit Ďem faster, much, much, much faster, in speed there is power.]
Then the manner of movement is further explored. You can do Seisan kata directly as shown. At another level you can study the kata and its applications with replacement stepping. It offers different strategic opportunities. It is a way to respond to an attack that is coming faster than you anticipated and survive, and it allows you to do the kata in one spot without sacrificing anything, so if space is a premium thereís no reason you canít still do the entire system without moving from one spot and not miss a bit of the above.
But thinking of speed and movement and breathing and knee release and alignment, you can make all of it work 100% of the time without taking a step, ever, all of the kata technique. And potentially much faster response time with no sacrifice of anything.
Iím sure Iím forgetting the advanced stuff. I apologize as Iím not trying too, but Iíve never taken the time to state this, this way before.
Truthfully I donít know much, Iím still a beginner. Iím old, fat and sow and Iím not very good and I donít teach very well, and yep Isshinryu is a con game filled with fake technique and the punch doesnít work.
But if youíll forgive me this is just one of the studies I teach and study, for all of this applies to everything else we do too.
I donít care for titles or principles behind them but as an instructor I kind of think I have enough to keep me busy for a long time.
Remember this is just words. I donít do Ďclinicsí I only teach karate, step by step. I donít want new students but Iíve also never turned them away. I only teach when I can and only at the pace I do. If you want to see if I can back this up youíll have to spend a year or so before you can make an informed judgment about that.
After all this is just Isshinryu, and I really havenít given any secrets away, the secret is stepping on the floor, and stepping on the floor again, and stepping on the floor again, and perhaps having run into a gifted instructor or two till you get enough for your lifetime, even though nothing is enough, thereís always so much more.
So Iíve tried state some of mine. Feel free to offer more than some comments about forearm alignment. Iíd rather see what Matsumura Seito has to offer me, really I would.
I appreciate the chance to reflect on this. Hadnít thought about the hard and soft aspects of what I was doing before I began this chain of discussion.
And Shonuff, no Iím not explaining howÖ..<GRIN>ÖÖ
Humbly, your obedient,
bushi no te isshinryu
[This message has been edited by Victor Smith (edited 01-05-2005).]