Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Karate Kicks

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In traditional Okinawa karate, we focus on hands more than feet: possibly as many as 95% of techniques are hand techniques. This doesn’t mean kicks are not important and when used, they should be as devastating as any punch. But the Okinawans chose to call their art Kara Te and also Okinawa Te. Te means hand(s) (not feet). So one should anticipate many hand techniques.

Most kicks in Okinawa karate are designed to strike the lower extremities and many can be separated into keagi and kekomi. Keagi kicks are fast and referred to as snap kicks. This is because when done with focus, the gi pant leg will snap (or whip) against the ankle and shin. The keagi kicks use the ball or instep of the foot as the striking surface. However, a toe kick (tsumasaki geri) uses the big toe as the striking point, which is designed to strike the soft areas of the body. 

One of my students (Dr. Jesse Bergkamp) took a karate vacation to Okinawa a few years back. When he returned, he displayed a very impressive bruise on this stomach where he had been kicked during training. The bruise outlined the big toe next to four little toes that he received from an Okinawan karate practitioner. Many Okinawan karate-ka spend a lot of time with this kick. For instance, Chojun Miyagi, a past grandmaster of Okinawa Goju-Ryu was known for many feats of power including penetrating gas cans with his big toe.

Sensei Hausel in 1969 or 1970 at the University of Utah with 
geophysicist Tim Smith. This was captured with an Instamatic camera, 
so it is a bit grainy. Probably, only a handful of you remember 
the Instamatic. And yes, I did have hair on top of my head in those days. 
Common kicks include the front snap kick (mae geri keagi) and front thrust kick (mae geri kekomi). The striking point of the front snap kick is either the ball or instep of the foot. The thrust is similar to the snap kick, however, the heal of the foot is used in thrust kicks. As you bring your knee high in mae geri kekomi, focus your concentration on your heal and thrust the heal into your opponent. It isn’t as fast as a snap kick, but it can generate a lot of power. 

The side snap kick, yoko geri keagi is also a quick kick that uses the blade of the foot; whereas the side thrust kick, yoko geri kekomi, requires the heal to be thrust into an attacker. Then there is another side kick known as yoko tobi geri that is better known as the flying side kick usually reserved for Hollywood. Overall, it has little practical application but is seen often in videos and photos. Similar to the flying side kick is mae tobi geri - the flying front kick. This kick has practical use as emphasized in the 1984 Karate Kid movie. It appears as a double jumping kick but the initial move in this kick is designed to get airborne allowing the second foot to follow with power. This type of movement also works as a sucker kick which can get an attacker to respond to the first movement (first foot) leaving them open to the second kick. 

Mae Geri keagi (front kick) - 1994 photo 
of Shihan Hausel at the University of Wyoming. 
Note the ball of foot is the striking point
Maewashi geri is a roundhouse kick. The ball or instep of the foot is used in this keagi kick. Most roundhouse kicks are directed at the side of the attackers knee, stomach, or ribs and referred to as chudan maewashi geri, but a higher kick referred to as age maewashi geri is usually directed to the head. Gedan maewashi geri (low roundhouse kick) is excellent as a foot sweep. One of my past instructors - Sensei Toshio Osaka, was a master at this. Similar to gedan maewashi geri is ashi barai geri known as a foot kick and prominent in some kata such as naihanchi and is similar to ashi barai (foot sweep). It is directed to the ankle or calf to drop an attacker. 

A kick with a similar trajectory to age maewashi geri is that of mikazuki geri also known as kozumi geri - the crescent kick. Use the bottom of the foot as the striking point such that the heal and ball of the foot strike an attacker. When done correctly, the foot will be perpendicular to the floor with toes pointed up in the air. When this kick is performed in the opposite direction (to the outside), it is referred to as axe kick, known as kakato geri.

Other common kicks in karate include hiza geri (knee kick). With this kick, you should direct your knee into your attacker’s stomach, chest, face, or inside or outside of thigh. This is always a good follow-up technique after a punch or as a defense against a double lapel grab. 

Back kicks can be very powerful. They are often hard to detect and difficult to block, but they also leave the karate-ka vulnerable as one will lose site of an attacker for a fraction of a second. Another of my past instructors (Sensei Tom Anguay) was a master of the back kick and even broke another’s leg using this kick during a contest on Hawaii. Sensei Patrick Scofield of the Arizona Hombu also has a wonderful story about his father who trained in Shorin-Ryu Karate on Okinawa as a marine. His father, a sandan (3rd dan) black belt, knocked down a wall of cinder blocks with a back kick. Now that’s power!



1975 photo of Sensei Hausel demonstrating Yoko Tobi Geri 
with Senpai Eddie Begaye at the University of New Mexico - 
captured with an Instamatic camera.
Ushiro geri (back kick) gets the karate ka to use his or hers body weight to add to the force of the kick. Another type of back kick is known as the spinning heal kick (ushiro maewashi geri). In Shorin-Ryu, we generally try to focus on the heal as the striking point in this kick. Similar to the back kick is fumikomi - or foot stomp. The kick is designed to attack the instep or toes of an attacker.

One last kick of interest is seldom used in Shorin-Ryu, but I have seen in used periodically. This is tatsumaki senpuu kyaku geri. It is a popular Korean kick that is referred to as the tornado kick.



Sensei Hausel demonstrates yoko geri kiagi (side snap kick) on 1.4 billion year old Sherman granite in the Laramie Mountains east of Laramie. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Martial Arts Clinics and Daily Self-Defense, Mesa, Arizona


Kyoshi Neal Adam, 7th dan, works over Adam Bialek during kobudo classes at the Arizona Hombu dojo, Mesa.



During the week of August 1st, 2016, (Grandmaster Hausel) flew to Ogden, Utah from Mesa Gateway airport to teach a martial arts clinic in the Wasatch Mountains at a resort (East Canyon Resort) near Park City. Martial Artists from the Utah Shorin-Kai trained in empty hand (karate) self-defense techniques against armed and unarmed attackers. This was followed by hanbojutsu instruction which employs a 3-foot stick known as a hanbo for self-defense. Personally, I like this art because one can find a stick, cane, or umbrella most anywhere as a substitute for a hanbo. And expandable police batons (ASP) also apply to this art.

The following day, senior members of the martial arts group from Murray Utah were taught sojutsu techniques. Sojutsu is considered a Japanese samurai art. The following day (Monday), Grandmaster Hausel boarded a plane for a return trip to Gilbert, Arizona from Ogden Utah.

Classes at the Arizona Hombu dojo resumed on Tuesday evening when we focused on kata. The Arizona students practiced karate forms focusing on taikyoku yondan kata - a kata designed to develop good kicking habits. The class then moved on to self-defense related to wrist grabs. For instance, how do you defend a wrist grab followed by a sucker punch and how do you defend against a two-handed wrist grab while being pulled into a car? These are found in Shorin-Ryu karate kata and students at the Arizona Hombu dojo learn these so that when they practice kata by themselves, the self-defense applications are easily remembered. The way things are in the world and in Phoenix, techniques like these are very important for women and children to learn. Personally, I can't understand why any father would not take their daughter and wife to learn martial arts. My daughter was attacked by her ex years ago, and she whopped him with her karate training.

The Wednesday afternoon family class resumed training in naihanchi sandan and rohai kata focusing on the self-defense applications. In particular, rohai kata has some unusual moves interpreted as defenses against aggressive leg takedowns. This was followed by training with tanto (knife). The evening class continued working on bunkai from Pinan godan kata with tekubi waza (wrist throws) before moving on to tanto.

Thursday night, the group reviewed Nunchaku Shodan kata and Nunchaku Nidan kata and trained in nunchaku bunkai before reviewing Suuji No Kun bo kata and ending the night by learning a new iaido kata. Our classes at the Hombu dojo are open to private lessons as well as to group lessons for adults and families. We hope to see you soon.

Monday, June 13, 2016

From Arizona to Texas and Back

At the Juko Kai Hombu in New Braufels - Hanshi Kirby
Roy (R) and me (L). 
On June 3rd, 2016, Dr. Neal Adam (Kyoshi/7th dan) and I drove 2,200 miles (round trip) from Gilbert Arizona to New Braunfels Texas to attend the annual Juko Kai International clinic taught by living legend Dai-Soke Sacharnoski. Since about 1992, I have been attending these clinics each year as well as many of the kobudo and kobujutsu clinics offered by Dai Soke. 

We arrived in New Braunfels about 11:30 pm (Texas time) and the next morning rose in time to drink a pot of coffee and then head to the New Braunfels Convention center to see many of my old friends in the martial arts and then to begin training in many combat techniques and finger joint lock restraints. I wish I could have video taped many of the finger locks as they looked extremely painful and I doubt there is anyone in the world who has mastered these techniques as well as Dai Soke. It’s always very rewarding to see everyone in Juko Kai, and to get time to train with my instructor. 

To get to the clinic, we left the Phoenix East Valley on June 3rd at 6 am and returned to the Phoenix heat late Sunday afternoon. The New Braunfel's temperatures were in the 60s when we left, and we were smacked in the face by soaring 115oF temperatures when we returned to Phoenix. But I must say, it didn’t feel any warmer than the chromosphere of the sun. Luckily, only a few parts on Neal’s truck melted. Unfortunately one was the cruise control and the other was the air conditioner.

After the clinic, we had another good week of training at the Arizona Hombu dojo. We have a wonderful group of people that includes nearly 50% female. On Tuesday night, June 7th we trained in karate kata focusing on the traditional katas known as pinan nidan and pinan sandan as well as some bunkai. The bunkai are practical applications - or street practical defenses that are either obvious in the kata, or hidden in kata. After the karate classes ended, Suzette and Rihanna tested for rank and both did good. In the second class, we trained mostly in rohai and okan (wankan sho) kata

On Wednesday afternoon karate & kobudo, 5 brown belt students from Gilbert and Mesa continued with their shodan test. Rick, Janel, Tyler, Harmony and Dennis trained in Pinan Nidan, Pinan Sandan, and Tonfa Shodan and many bunkai and all did very well in this part of the test. Next week, they will test in Pinan Yondan and Tonfa Nidan and bunkai.

Wednesday evening, some of our students trained in self-defense and focused on continuous bunkai (practical applications) from pinan godan and moved on to tanto (Japanese knife), manrikigusari (chain) and keychain self-defense. In continuous bunkai, we take one particular application from kata and let the defender defend attacks using that waza (technique) in kata. They were then asked to finish each defense with a group of arm bars or throws after they first block and strike. This is designed to build muscle memory.

Suzette and Rihanna were presented certification of rank for yonkyu (2nd green) at the beginning of Thursday’s class. Being that it was Kobudo night the class focused on the first of six nunchaku kata and some bunkai from kata. Luckily, only one nunchaku broke during bunkai. This was followed by bo training. We finished the week with the samurai class by training in iaido - the art of the samurai sword.

Before each class, I said a silent prayer for my sister in law, Sensei Bill and also Senpai Regina who have health concerns. It was a typical week at the Arizona Hombu dojo.

God Bless!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Advantage of Traditional Karate & Kobudo

What gives a martial arts practitioner the advantage over many others including opponents who are larger?

It is the constant, weekly training in martial arts along with training in proven methods - methods that have allowed many karate-ka over the past centuries survive aggressive attacks often unscathed. One of the effects of practice leads to mushin - that karate state of mind that allows muscle memory to do the thinking for us. But in addition to learning to react to aggression without thinking, karate teaches us secrets on how to increase acceleration in blocks and strikes, how to strike with the maximum, possible striking force, how to focus strikes for maximum effect, where to strike to provide the most pain, or to knock out the attacker, and how to develop shitai kori or body hardening. Karate does not give anyone invincibility, but it does provide an upper edge along with physical fitness and muscle. 

The weekly practice of kata - or karate forms, helps build these characteristics as long as the practitioner trains properly. Personally, I practice kata ever other day - as this seems to give me maximum benefit. But I also add weight training, body hardening, kobudo, and teaching to this regimen on other days and some on the same day to balance out my exercise routine - my normal routine has me training 6 to 7 days a week (which I have done for much of the past 50+ years).

If done improperly, training in kata can also have negative effects - so it is very important for a student to train in kata under martial arts instructors who understand kata as there are many sport martial artists who practice kata improperly leading to harmful effects.

I taught martial arts and self-defense at the University of Wyoming for more than three decades and I tried to emphasize hitotsuki hitogeri philosophy and training - striking an attacker with focus at pressure points to end an attack in one strike - as you never know what the attacker intends or what is coming next. For those students who made it to yudansha (black belt) at our University of Wyoming hombu dojo as well as our affiliated dojos, I could see the power literally with every block, punch and kick.

While teaching karate and kobudo at the University of Wyoming, I was very proud of our students and after we affiliated with Juko Kai International, our power, technique and body hardening methods continued to improve. But then, one day, things changed.

One of my out-standing shihan, who had tremendous technique wanted my permission to attend a tournament. I had no problem, and I felt he did not need my permission - he was an individual with his own mind, but still it was nice of him to ask. I was proud when he and a couple of other students  returned with gold, silver and bronze medals in essentially every event they entered with the exception that they had all been disqualified in kumite for striking too hard - actually, this made me even more proud than the medals they had received in kata and kobudo.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize at the time what this was leading to. I thought this would be a one time event, but it continued and our students continued bringing home medals - and it was about this time I retired from the university and moved the Hombu dojo to Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa Arizona and left the University of Wyoming dojo to the same shihan who was into tournaments.

Later, I returned to the University of Wyoming for a series of clinics and then I discovered what tournaments do to a martial artist. It was sad. My shihan had good intentions, and his technique was nearly flawless when I left, but all of the tournament preparations left the students at UW without focus. Where had the focus gone? I believe the tournament preparations focused on no focus and more on performance. Tournament fighters were not allowed to strike with focus or power, and kata had to look more like a ballet than shadow boxing. I felt like I had been staved in the back and I lost my temper - but now I realize I just should have moved on and considered the UW dojo a loss.

So, when a person practices kata - they must focus every technique. Sometimes they need to do kata with as much power and focus that they can generate and other times they need to slow the kata down (but still with full or near full focus and power). Most good karate schools on Okinawa focus every single strike and block in kata. On Japan, they do the same, but they add ma - or timing, which can also cause some problems. On Okinawa (the source of karate), the students learn to visualize each self-defense (bunkai) technique while they practice kata.

University of Wyoming Campus Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai 2003
So, as you train or 'shadow box' with your kata, and if you feel your technique lacks power and your imaginary opponent walks away laughing at you, you need to generate a lot more power and focus. And you need to do this each time you practice kata - the only thing you should ever change is acceleration of strikes and blocks - the focus must always be there and kata should never look like a tai chi form. One day fast, another day slow - in this way, your muscles learn to react fast with power, but also they learn to recognize each individual technique. And remember, how hard you train and how hard you strike will carry over to the street when you are attacked. If you train like tai chi, this is how you will defend yourself. If you punch like Bruce Lee, you will defend like Bruce Lee. This is also how you should train in kata bunkai (individual self-defense applications built in kata) - full focus and power. Unless your uke (partner) is well-trained in shitai kori, you don't want to hit him or her with full power during these exercises, but you can definitely strike the air adjacent to them with full force - just make sure it is off to their side and not directed at them - and don't wear gloves as these give your muscles improper feed back.

Now back to size. Karate can give you a distinct advantage. Remember the story of David and Goliath in the Holy Bible? Think it was a fable? Recently archeologists discovered artifacts in Israel, including a Hebrew text about this battle. The 1993 and 1994 discoveries indicated a Philistine giant name Goliath, an 9 foot 8 inch man, was defeated by a small Shepard boy named David in the 10th century BC. Goliath was wearing armor, about 120 pounds in weight, along with his sword and other weapons, and likely was a frightening figure - but can you imagine how slow he moved? He would have had gigantism and not only would have had awkward movements, but also poor vision. David could have ran circles around Goliath until he took one of his chalcedony projectiles (flint, agate, jasper) about the size of a golf ball and accelerated this rock to about 80 miles per hour striking Goliath in the forehead with a kinetic energy of about 90 joules - enough to kill him. An example of BC kobudo.

In martial arts, one can develop extremely powerful and fast strikes. So fast are some that they can accelerate a strike faster than a snake. And rocks and bricks are no match for focused strikes. And there are examples of martial artists knocking off horns of bulls with shuto (karate chop) and puncturing fuel cans with their toes.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Traditional Okinawa Karate

There are differences between traditional Okinawa karate and traditional Japanese karate. So many differences that one could easily write a book about these - but to the uninitiated, they subtle differences are usually missed until they have years of experience in a variety of martial arts. Differences are present in kata, how a sensei (martial arts instructors) treats kata and how students (deshi) are treated by Okinawa sensei vs. Japanese sensei.

Japanese sensei focus on sport; thus kata in Japanese dojo must be done with exact and precise stances. Punches and kicks must be exact and there are no possibilities of variation in movement in any kata. To me, it's more like being a grunt in the Army. In Japanese schools, students are constantly stopped, held in position at certain points of kata while the sensei walks from student to student making minor adjustments. The 'ma' or timing and distancing are all important as focus is on winning kumite (sparring) contests and performing kata in front of an audience at competitions.

In Traditional Okinawa karate schools the focus on 'imi' or the meaning of the kata - something ignored by Japanese sensei. There is no concern for winning - contests are not part of traditional Okinawa karate and instructors recognize people have physical differences and abilities and try to concentrate on developing power and focus for self-defense training for each person. The meaning of kata is very important in Okinawa karate rather than the execution of the kata. In Okinawa karate, the student is taught what every move in every kata is used for and each kata is broken down into  self-defense applications that are practiced in insure the student can defend themselves. 

Just yesterday, I received a phone call from a representative from a coalition of martial artists who wanted me to join in competitions. I tried to explain to this person that traditional karate practitioners do not take part in competition as we consider karate to be a dangerous weapon and our focus is on self-defense and self-improvement. Apparently, he had never heard of this before - and said, "but I thought you were Shorin -Rye-U?" I simply said that most Shorin-Ryu (pronounced Roo) martial artists in particular, do not compete. Apparently this was too much for him to understand. But, we can not blame him, the blame falls on his sensei for not providing him with a history lesson.

Over the years, I trained in a variety of Japanese and Okinawan karate dojo, so here is my perspective about these two different systems of karate. While you read the following, keep in mind that karate is a unique martial art that evolved on Okinawa for hundreds of years and Okinawa is part of an island chain that lies between China and Japan that was an independent monarchy until 1879. Karate, an indigenous Okinawan art, was not introduced to Japan until 1917. It was later introduced to Hawaii in the 1930s and later to the US (Phoenix, Arizona) in 1946. Prior to its introduction on Japan, karate was not practiced as sport.

It is important to understand the circumstances of how karate was introduced on Japan. Karate was a secret for centuries, and then it was introduced in the Okinawa public school system by Anko Itosu in 1901, karate was unknown to the rest of the world, and it still took until the 1960s before people in the US began to recognize that karate was different than judo. When karate was introduced to Japan by Okinawan Gichin Funakoshi in 1919, and then again in 1922, it was touch and go as to whether or not it would ever be accepted by the Japanese. The Japanese thought of Okinawan people as country bumpkins - in other words - peasants with little social grace. Gichin Funakoshi had to modify karate, rename all of the kata giving them Japanese names; and, most importantly, establish a positive working relationship with Japanese judo founder, Dr. Jigoro Kano, before the Japanese would accept karate. The Japanese were so nationalistic that individuals like Mas Oyama had to change their names to receive recognition. Oyama was Korean by birth, and created a Japanese style of karate known as kyokushin in 1957. This type of backwards thinking by the Japanese still pervades, and is one of the primary reasons Japanese karate took a different path than Okinawan karate.

Last year, my wife's nephew was working in Hawaii transporting medical patients from their homes to various medical facilities, when he picked up one old Japanese man from his home (Hawaii has a very large community of Japanese and Okinawans). While driving him to a medical facility through a neighborhood known for high crime, Jeremy tried to strike up a conversation without realizing there was still strong nationalism with many Japanese people. Jeremy said, “Hey, you look like my Okinawan friend …” The Japanese man responded, “What a terrible thing to say that I look like an Okinawan” and demanded Jeremy stop the vehicle so he could get out and walk.

Most are unaware that there is a difference between Okinawa and Japanese karate, but there is a significant difference in how kata is practiced and perceived and the philosophical purpose of karate. In a Japanese dojo, kata must be exact with no room for variance in stances, there are distinct breaks in timing known as ma, and slow techniques are mixed with fast techniques. In Japanese dojo, students are constantly held in stances during both kihon (basics) and kata practice while the sensei walks around from student to student making minor adjustments to the position of feet, shoulders, knees, wrists, weight distribution, etc. There is also considerable emphasis on deep stances. 

I still remember an evening as a teenager too young to have a driver's licensee. On this particular evening, our karate class squatted, duck-walked around the dojo, did dozens of squat-kicks, squatted in kiba dachi (horse riding stance) with a partner standing on our thighs while placing their hands on our shoulders to add weight to our squats. We did a few hundred kicks - it was a tremendously hard workout for a young teenager with no previous experience in formal exercise prior to joining the Black Eagle Federation Karate dojo. Eight years later, I found basic training in the US Army to be a breeze after karate training. 

As the class ended, I had to walk home from the dojo through Fairmont Park (in 1964, the park was an unfriendly place often populated by older teens we called greasers who looked to harass younger teens. This was a much different time when bullying was condoned and practiced with impunity). The distance to my home was 1.5 miles - not much of a distance today, but for a 14 year old, it was a challenge. I had no strength left in my legs and had to walk stiff-legged all the way home. Periodically I would relax a knee and would collapse. Then I had to crawl to a tree, telephone pole, park bench, etc, to pull myself upright. I don’t remember being harassed while walking through the park on this night probably because the greasers felt pity on a handicapped teen.

At the time, I was training in kyokushin Japanese karate. Much emphasis was placed on kiba dachi as a fighting stance along with zenkutsu dachi (front stance). These were found in our kata. When I later trained in Wado-Ryu karate (Japanese) at the University of Utah, we focused on neko-ashi dachi (cat stance). In Shotokan karate (Japanese), the emphasis was on front and back stances (kokutsu dachi) with emphasis on deep and perfect stances. In Kempo Karate (Japanese) the emphasis was on kiba dachi.

Kata were performed more like a military drill team in the Japanese schools and were designed for tournaments and not practical. All of the Japanese systems taught kata with no explanation of application (known as bunkai). Thus, controversy developed as to the use and purpose of kata. In other words, there was no emphasis on bunkai. Sometimes (in Japanese dojo) we practiced kata with one person performing the kata surrounded by three to four attackers along embussen lines. The attackers were required to kick or punch as we moved from one technique to the next in the kata - it didn’t seem realistic and all techniques were designed for sparring.

Periodically my sensei in kyokushin karate taught some general self-defense, but the applications were never linked to kata. Much time was spent on sparring due to the sport karate emphasis and overall lack of understanding of kata. It didn't take long, but I was bored as we were not learning anything new. All of my Japanese sensei didn’t have much background in self-defense and none had any background in kobudo. Japanese karate focused on winning kumite (sparring) contests and all kata were performed for judges. In the final analysis, these Japanese martial arts were military like with little room for interpretation and an objective to win trophies. They were in direct conflict to philosophies of well-known Okinawan practitioners. Gichin Funakoshi, the father of modern karate, stated, “The purpose of Karate lies not in victory of defeat, but in the perfection of its participants. Karate was all about improving the practitioner, not winning a competition. 

In Okinawan karate schools, kata were taught for muscle memory, balance, power and for self-defense. Bunkai (pragmatic self-defense) was the focus of kata and used to practice defending all kinds of attacks including grabs and also taught to help us develop power, focus, and an understanding of pressure points. This is the reason why those who study Japanese karate constantly ponder at the purpose of kata, but those who study traditional Okinawa karate continually practice kata along with self-defense and understand the importance of kata. In Japanese karate, kata has little purpose other than to please an audience. In Okinawa karate, kata and karate were considered to be the same, as stated by the late Grandmaster Shoshin Nagame.

In the past, there were no contests in traditional Okinawan karate systems, although through time, some Okinawan schools began to compete in the 20th century; but most kept in mind the purpose of bunkai (kata applications). Remember Mr Miyagi in the Karate Kid movie, he epitomized the purpose of Okinawa Karate.

The self-defense applications for each move in kata is very important in Okinawa karate rather than the execution of kata. Each kata is broken down into a group of self-defense applications that are practiced individually to insure the student can defend themselves. Individual applications can be referred to as mini-kata. These are sometimes referred to as Shinken Shobu no Kata also known as Kime no Kata.

Another difference in Okinawa verses Japanese karate is the execution of stances (dachi). In Okinawa karate, students start learning deep stances to build muscle strength, but as the student gains expertise, higher and more natural stances replace deeper stances. For example, zenkutsu-dachi (front stance) can be half the length of the Japanese stance. The Okinawan karate stances are meant to be practical for self-defense by being natural and quick. Whereas the deep Japanese stance is designed for competition.

In the past, Okinawa martial artists did not trust Japanese and would not teach the Japanese bunkai. Having a mindset that the Okinawan people were inferior, the Japanese martial artists never sought bunkai and instead borrowed some from well-established Japanese martial arts such as jujutsu, judo, aikido, etc.

Kime is very important in traditional karate - Kime is about power and focus in strikes and blocks. Every block should be as powerful as every strike. I remember attending clinics in the past when I had another soke send his students to train with me so they could experience power in blocks. These power blocks were taught to me in kyokushin kai karate. In addition to kime, all strikes and blocks need chinkuchi!

Chinkuchi is an Okinawa term that applies to explosive full-body power. Both Dai-Soke Sacharnoski and Bruce Lee have demonstrated this using a one-inch punch. Chinkuchi is an Okinawan technique not practiced in Japanese karate. It is similar to kime, which is a focused strike, but includes the entire body in striking and blocking - hip rotation, focused punch or block, last-second tensing of all muscles and joints followed by a quick relaxation of the muscles.

The philosophy of how to use kicks are different in Japanese vs Okinawa dojo. The Japanese karate schools kick low, medium and high (similar to taekwondo). High kicks are good in competition; however, Okinawan kicks are designed for knees, kidneys, stomach, groin, ribs - in other words - below the neck and mostly below the belt. In addition, the Okinawan kicks employ many kekomi geri (thrust kicks) as well as toe kicks. In Japanese karate, tsumasaki geri are unknown and never employed. To develop a good toe kick, one must train the big toe constantly to build toe strength. There are stories about Goju-Ryu’s Chojun Miyagi who periodically demonstrated his powerful tsumasaki geri by penetrating gas cans with his big toe! One of our martial art students, Dr. Bergkamp, traveled to Okinawa a few years ago on tour of some dojo and returned to Arizona with a very impressive bruise on his stomach outlining one big Okinawan toe with a couple of smaller toes. 

One must wonder how practical such kicks are in our culture. Unless you are a beach bum, it is unlikely you would ever use such a kick. So in our dojo, we will introduce this kick to our students, but it will not be a main focus until we all give up our shoes. 

Kobudo is a another example of differences between Japanese and Okinawan dojo. In all of the Japanese dojo I trained in, no weapons were introduced or practiced. This part of karate is completely ignored by Japanese karate schools. However, kobudo is a major part of Okinawa karate. It has been said that “Karate and Kobudo can be likened to the tires of a bicycle. Both are needed to make the bike move”.

In many Okinawa dojo, tools are available to build strength, endurance and callous. They are designed for the whole body, and include tools for strengthening wrists, fingers, toes and knuckles. In a book by Michael Clarke entitled The Art of Hojo Undo, many exercises are described with descriptions of traditional Okinawan strength training tools and how they are made. Hojo undo translates as supplementary exercises. For those who are serious traditional practitioners, these tools are a must, although there are many modern equivalents that can be used. Some tools used in hojo undo include: makiwara, chi-ishi (strength stones), nigiri game (sand-filled ceramic jars), ishisashi (stone lock), tan (bar bell), kongoken (sand-filled ring), tou (bamboo bundle), kakite bikei (blocking post), makiagi (wrist roller), ude kitae (blocking posts), and jari bako (sand jars).

Another difference between Okinawan karate and Japanese karate is the practice of toide in Okinawan schools. Toide is an Okinawan art that includes joint locks, throws, grappling, etc, similar to traditional jujutsu. Many toide techniques are hidden in Okinawan karate kata.

Japanese karate is tailored for large groups; whereas Okinawan karate is designed for small groups. This is one reason many Okinawan commercial dojo fail outside of Okinawa as they are not conducive to large groups needed to help finance a karate school. Most traditional Okinawan dojo rely on the generosity of their students and do not set high fees. Most are supported by donations. However, when Okinawan schools are attached to and supported by a university, they often draw large groups because of their educational value.

In Japanese dojo, the atmosphere is martial and there is often intimidation by senior students. However, Okinawan dojo are more family friendly and all members are encouraged to become friends.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Happy Halloween from our Samurai at the Arizona Hombu dojo in Mesa

A few years ago, we started a tradition at the Arizona Hombu Dojo in Mesa to compliment our samurai classes using tameshigiri, or test cuts, with katana. This turned out to be very popular, and the best time of the year is after Halloween about the time of Thanksgiving after local stores in the Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa decide to get rid of the pumpkin stocks. We even received pumpkin donations in the past.

But because of the danger of losing a thumb, we only use unsharpened katana. This practice can be brutal for pumpkins but can lead to pumpkin pie. Even so, can you think of a better way to carve a pumpkin?

Ryan takes a slice of the pie - photo by NemecPhotography



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Traditional Karate in Arizona - Looking Back at 2014

Karate kata training at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate in Mesa and Gilbert Arizona.  Kata (forms) when
practiced correctly become a living encyclopedia of self-defense applications, meditation and unmatched physical fitness.
Here, students and black belts train together in naifanchi shoran kata in 2014.
Hard to believe that 2014 is gone. Let's remember 2014 and then look forward to another year at the Arizona Hombu located in the Phoenix valley along Baseline Road at the border of ChandlerGilbert and Mesa, Arizona.

2014 began at a snails pace following the holidays. When I ran the dojo at the University of Wyoming from 1977 to 2007, this was typical. There was a large influx of students beginning in the Fall semester that would decline around Thanksgiving. Students would sporadically wander into the university dojo following the New Year and then we would see another decline at Spring Break followed by a surge followed with a decline at summer semester.

Training at the Arizona Hombu, Mesa, Arizona
At the beginning of 2007, I decided to relocate our Hombu to Arizona. Over the past decades, I taught martial arts at four different universities, and all followed the same student population declines and surges - but by opening a private dojo, I thought these fluctuations would pass - not so - it appears the entire world follows this schedule. And as far as the students who are consistent in their training and appearance at the dojo, they are the few who move on to the level of yudansha.

In 2014, we had our surges and declines, but something else happened. We lost some to the poor economy. As far as I can tell, government continues to lie about how bad our economy really is. This is one of the primary reasons why we never see politicians in traditional martial arts - its because they cannot differentiate what is right from wrong and traditional martial arts are somewhat of an enigma to them because a person must be honest.

Training in kata, Sensei Harden practices oi-zuki
Overall, we have a high level of educated people training in martial arts at our dojo primarily because of our past association with four universities.

In 2014, we had students move out of state to find work: one long-time student finally gave up and moved near his family in Florida. We also had two long-time students (engineers) transferred out-of-state by their companies because downsizing. Only a few years ago, we lost another engineer for the same reason. I have not seen any improvement in the economy since 2008 in my martial arts, geology or writing professions, and I wonder how government can get away with such a poor record.mAnyway, let's look at 2014, now that it has passed.

Tuesday nights we trained in kihon and kata. During the year, we focused on the basic kata. Periodically, we split the class into groups while I taught more advanced students and other instructors - Dai-Shihan Adam, Sensei Borea, Sensei Harden and Sensei Scofield taught other groups of different levels. In the second, or more advanced class on Tuesday nights, we focused on advanced kata including Naihanchi Shodan, Rohai, Passai Dai, Unsu and Passai Sho.

Defending against an attacker with rifle.
Throughout 2014, Wednesday nights included advanced training in self-defense as well as shitai kori for a few high-ranking members of the dojo. Shitai kori is body hardening, and the most advanced form of this part of the art was created by Dai-Soke Sacharnoski of Juko Kai International in the 20th century. Wednesday evenings we work on defense against single attackers, multiple attackers, wrestlers, street fighters and karate and jujutsu practitioners. We include against armed assailants with knifes, guns, clubs, rifles, swords, hammers, etc. Much of the self-defense is part of the bunkai from kata and we emphasize the concept of hitotsuki or basically one-punch knockouts. This is one of the major differences between traditional karate and sport karate. Traditional karate teaches karate is a weapon and one must learn to finish an attacker with power and focus with just one or two strikes. In sport karate, focus is minor and students are taught point fighting for trophies. So we teach all of our students including various women's groups and seniors, to use power. If a person cannot finish an opponent in one or two strikes, there is something wrong with their technique.

Defending against an attacker with gun
Every so often, we'll add a new training exercise such as training in the park to give them the feel for defending on various surfaces. In the past, we've even turned out the lights in the dojo and strategically placed black belt muggers in the dojo allowing students to walk through one at a time.

On Wednesdays, we also teach use of belts, towels, ropes, coins, car keys etc, for self-defense. We'll even add in a few scenarios on how to defend in close quarters - such as on an airplane - we find this to be important as we have a group of students who are engineers and several who are pilots.

Thursday evenings, we focus on Shorin-Ryu kobudo, modern kobudo and samurai arts. These are all martial arts weapons including a variety of tools found around the house and garden. During 2014, our students trained in nunchaku and we focused on this weapon for much of the year learning to use nunchaku in basics, self-defense applications and also as kata. We learned six nunchaku kata over the year and also how to apply all moves in these kata as self-defense. After spending much of the year on Nunchaku, our class began training with nitanbo and now they are focusing on kama. Kama is a common garden tool used by both Okinawan and American farmers - it is sickle. In 2014, we training in self-defense application against an attacker with a sword, club, knife and also learned Gama shodan kata. In 2015, we continue to train with kama and will soon start learning gama nidan and then gama sandan kata.

using nunchaku to defend against knife attack
In the samurai arts class, we trained with hanbo and naginata much of the year and we then started with sojutsu. Our students learned to block, strike and throw opponents with the hanbo. We learned the long yari kata and then began training with bunkai. Later this year, our samurai arts class will start to focus on jujutsu and then katana.
Defending attack using nunchuks

During 2014, we also had the Arizona-Utah Shorin-Ryu karate and kobudo clinic as well as the Utah Gassuku. We plan to have the same two annual clinics in 2015 as well as attend the Juko Kai clinic in Texas. We are also expecting visits from some of our shihan and sensei from Colorado, Massachusetts, Utah and Wyoming in 2015. I should also point out that in 2014, my fondness of rocks led me to publish another book.

Shitai kori (body hardening). This aspect
of Shorin-Ryu karate is only taught to
our most advanced students. The
basics of the art are taught at the Arizona
Hombu and more advanced applications are
taught to a few students who are invited to
attend the annual Juko Kai International 
clinic in New Braunfels, Texas. Here Chase
Cassidy, 1st degree black belt from Gillette,
Wyoming learns to accept strikes to vital
parts of the body.

If you get some free time, stop in and visit our hombu dojo - we would love to meet you.
Arizona-Utah clinic at the Arizona Hombu in Gilbert - Mesa, Arizona


Self-Defense class at the Arizona Hombu

Gama (kama) training during kobudo class at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate.

Sojutsu samurai martial arts training with yari (okinawan spear)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Martial Art in Arizona

Train hard and sweat  now -
for sometime later, you will likely be attacked on the street.
The origin of martial arts colored pencil sketch
It was about 1989 or 1990. I was finishing a five-year research project related to gold at South Pass Wyoming and submitted a group of eight 1:24,000 scale geological maps for publication including a compilation map at 1:48,000 scale for the entire greenstone belt and its gold districts. Our draftswoman, Fiddy, who was a very good artist suggested I would be a very good artist based on my maps. Huh? Me?

I laughed at her comment and indicated I was challenged by 'stick figures'. She followed up with a comment that seemed to have kick-started an unused part of my brain - "You should try sketching like you map, focus on details in small areas and let it grow into a larger picture."

That seemed to make sense - so I tried and was shocked that hidden in my brain, were the tools for sketching. Thank you Fiddy! So, I decided to do a variety of sketches of things that interested me. And of course, some were related to martial arts and in particular to Shorin-Ryu Karate, Kobudo, Samurai arts and self-defense.

So, while growing up, going to college and working as a professional musician, astronomer, geologist, author, martial arts instructor and professor, I had no idea that this talent lay hidden within me.

Okinawan sunrise sketch
In 2013, I was presented a special award at the Juko Kai National Clinic in Texas. I was presented the honorary title of Meijin Wajutsu. And in my opinion, Juko Kai International is the most prestigious martial arts association in the world, so this was a great honor. 

At first I was taken back by this title. Me a genius? I never received very good grades in school, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to feel comfortable. Yes, I was creative in music, geology, art, writing and martial arts - so isn't this what genius is about? It was clear many martial arts groups and associations as well as geological groups had also recognized this characteristic in me. Over the years, I had been inducted into several Halls-of-Fame for martial arts and geological research. In the martial arts, I can visualize techniques before anyone tries a new technique and I can vocalize how to do these techniques. So for me, a person who is engineering-challenged, martial arts have been perfect because of its artistic overtones. But I think, at least for genius, when applied to me it relates to interest and how I pursue that interest - it has little to do with IQ.

Stop in our dojo and say 'konnichi wa' . You can check out our martial arts and some of our martial art in the dojo. We are located on Baseline Road between Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona. Just click on

Hi Seas pencil sketch

What I hope to see in my backyard sketch