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.

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.