Friday, February 24, 2012

With Spring comes TAMESHIWARI in Arizona and Wyoming

After I piled up rocks for my students at the University of Wyoming Campus Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo Club,
 the Casper Dojo and Gillette Dojo, I explained to them the philosophy of breaking, how to break and then
demonstrated using the largest rock. Few, if any believed this could be done. After I broke the rock, gave
them an opportunity to break, they were all successful.
What is Tameshiwari?  When I started training in karate as a teenager, nearly every person in the US as well as Hollywood had the misconception that karate experts not only registered their hands, but also trained constantly hitting sand with the side of their hand (shuto te) until the developed a lethal strike that could break almost anything in half. This became known as the Karate Chop or Judo Chop.
Donnette Gillespie, white belt, breaks her
first rock at the Laramie Bushido Dojo in
Wyoming (about 1977). Donnette retired
from Karate and moved to Alaska many
years later after first earning a 3rd degree
black belt.
Today, we hope most people realize breaking things in karate is a very, very minor part of karate. For me, I see breaking (tameshiwari) as a unique optional addition to karate training but it is seldom practiced in our dojo around the world. It has two uses - (well possibly three if you include a geologist who forgets to take his rock hammer to the field):
(1) developing self-confidence as there are few people if any, who believe they can break a rock when I first show them the specimens, and

(2) entertainment for martial arts demonstrations.
Because of this, we instructors tend to give the public the wrong idea of what karate is all about.
George Chakmakian, 1st dan, breaks rock
at the University of Wyoming Education
Building Gym during training at the Campus
Shorin-Ryu karate club.
Even so, I like to break out a truck load of rocks each spring for my students. You should see their eyes if they have never done this before. And if you could read their minds, this is what they are saying, "Are you crazy?"

I like to teach them to break rocks. The reason for this is rocks are many times more challenging than the run-of-the-mill rebreakable boards, wooden boards, tiles and cinder block. And everyone (particularly boys) has experience getting hit by a rock as a kid, and we know how hard these can be. So it can be a real self-confidence booster and also results in good word-of-mouth advertising from our students and those who participate as part of an audience.

How difficult is it to break rocks - very. But the benefits are good. And during my more than 40 years as a karate instructor, I've only had one person who was unable to break a rock who tried. But she had built a barrier in her mind which made the rock to be much harder that it was. This psychological barrier was impenetrable for her even though she had the ability to break it. So the statistics are on the side of those who try to break rocks with proper instruction.
Termite mound (foreground) in
Ellendale Field of Australia.
Years ago (about 1965), when I was a teen at South High School, I demonstrated to a couple of students that I could break a rock. Like a wild fire, this news spread rapidly throughout the school and in a week, I had people stepping way out of my way and acting very polite. So rock breaking can have added benefits we are unaware of. There was another time, in the outback in Australia in 1986 with an international group of geologists. It turned out that we had some from Japan with black belts so we had a contest to see who could break the most tops off of anthills (termite mounds). Not easy to do as most were highly silicified and could not be broken with a sledge hammer.
Sensei Lenny Martin breaks his first rock
at the University of Wyoming
So, this Spring, we will again introduce our students at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate (Seiyo Shorin-Ryu Hombu) to rock breaking. When the sun stays up a little later in the evenings, watch for our rock breaking event at the Hombu at 60 W. Baseline Road. This event will occur on a Tuesday evening in March and we'll try to make a family event of this so our families can cheer on our rock stars.
If you watch our facebook pages for Arizona and also for the Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Martial Arts organization, you can be updated on our activities.
LIKE our Arizona School of Traditional Karate facebook page
and LIKE our international federation's facebook page to keep updated.
Jessica Ricks (now Nidan) prepares to break rock.
In the following photo, she hit this piece of Forelle
Limestone with so much force it crushed the rock!

Eric Hausel tries a rock and breaks it at the University of
Breaking a rock while others stand around to discuss their breaking successes.
Rock breaking at the University of Wyoming Geology 101.

Kyle Gewecke, 4th dan, from Gillette, Wyoming prepares to break rock
Karate demo from 1976 where I break cinder blocks with head.
Arizona School of Traditional Karate, Mesa, Arizona.

1976 Demonstration of breaking roofing tile with fist (tsuki). Arizona
School of Traditional Karate Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe, Phoenix Arizona
Soke explains to Mesa-Gilbert martial artists about the technique
of rock breaking.

Patrick breaks rock on first attempt

Te, the art of the empty hand - sketch by Soke Hausel of Phoenix Arizona.

1985 photo of Soke Hausel from Mesa, Arizona, demonstrating side karate kick at 9,000 feet in Happy Jack, Wyoming while standing on 1.4 billion year old Phanerozoic Sherman Granite.