Entrance to the Barn Dojo....

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Not the dreaded arm bar!?

Once and a while I'll come across a video link that someone sends me. Like this one:
The dreaded arm bar! What's wrong with that? To begin with, who initiates with a front kick?

But suppose they do. What's the purpose of the left hand tucked under the elbow of the right arm as it blocks the kick? Then he says, " Let's assume that he's not going to punch me...but he's going to grab my right arm." Now there's a pretty convincing assumption! And not just with one hand to deal with a potential threat but a grab with two hands. The way to get free of this two-handed grab--what the kata presumably shows--is to use the support of that left hand under the elbow to wrench this around in a circle and back up to kata position. Seriously? The whole operation is unrealistic--takes too much time and too much strength. Would any of this work against a non-compliant opponent? And why wouldn't the grabber let go immediately?

The next step is to apply the dreaded arm bar. After switching to a grab of the grabber's wrist, the defender steps around, punches the head with a hooking punch for good measure, and then locks the opponent's right arm up. (If I'm able to attack the head of a seriously threatening opponent, why would I go on to attack a single arm?) In the meantime the opponent has been good enough--and good natured enough to play along--not to punch the defender in the head with his left hand, or to simply flex the right arm by dropping the elbow to nullify the arm bar. And, while we're on the subject of bunkai (to analyze kata), Mr. Hill employs "chin na (qinna)"..."all the way from China," we are told. Is the Goju technique that we are supposedly applying somehow insufficient? The last part is to step back around and slap the attacker in the groin.

Now, from what I've seen, this is a fairly widespread interpretation of these moves in kata--dare we say, the standard bunkai interpretation. But for a million reasons--some of which I have already implied--it seems completely unsatisfying. How did this come about? Is it because it's safer? Sometimes I think that all of these bunkais were developed so that very brutal and dangerous techniques could still be practiced in partner drills in the dojo. Afterall, it would not be very helpful to injure one's training partners, always going after an opponent's head.
Seipai kata

But that said, what about this? Perhaps the first "block" of a kick is not a low block of a kick but a punch. The left hand blocks and the right hand punches. This brings the opponent's head down. Then...maybe the grab of the opponent's wrist is a grab of the attacker's head, which has already been brought down as a reaction to the block and punch. Now I can step around and put the dreaded arm bar around his neck, driving up against his windpipe with the left forearm and pulling the head down with the right. Then, finally, I can grab the chin, pivot, and twist the head off. Afterall, if I'm being attacked, let's assume that it's a lethal attack, intending to inflict grave bodily harm, otherwise I'm going to walk away from the encounter altogether...as fast as I can. But remember: Don't try this at home...or in the dojo apparently!?

Monday, July 09, 2012

Saifa bunkai...really?

Watch this:

Saifa 2-person drill - Bryson Keenan

Opening move of Saifa
I don't know whether this is just based on Taira sensei's ideas or whether the person presenting the seminar has taken some of Taira sensei's ideas and run with them. Anyway, he says at the beginning something to the effect that when one of your hands touches your other hand--as it does in the opening sequence of Saifa--that it really means you are touching your opponent. I think he says: "...with a hand on my hand, usually we're touching the opponent rather than us."

I heard this and I thought, "Wow, that's great...absolutely correct." But then he doesn't go any further!? He doesn't take the next logical step; that is, when my hand touches my own hand or elbow or forearm or wrist, the kata is showing me how and where I am touching the opponent. The kata is a learning tool and a teaching tool. It is an aid to memory. When your left open hand closes around the right fist at the beginning of Saifa, the kata is telling you where you grab the opponent's hand.

Now it seems in the video that the presenter is doing something to this effect. However, he simply pulls away from the opponent's grab. Without controlling the opponent, you are left back at square one. The idea one should strive for in figuring out bunkai is only to give the opponent one attack, the first attack--Karate ni sente nashi. The presenter in this video pulls away and then has to block again with the left. If the first technique is, however, over top of the opponent's elbow, one can see that the left hand reaches over for the head--which has been brought down by the attack over the elbow--and the following right attack is a forearm to the back of the opponent's neck. Done. Why would I want to allow the opponent multiple attacks...just so I can do some flashy continuous bunkai???