Entrance to the Barn Dojo....

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sanchin and stuff again

I recently came across this analysis of Sanchin kata.


I'm not sure the link actually takes you to the right place, but it was a YouTube video called "Sanchin Basic Analysis."

Yang Chengfu standing
in the Wu Wei posture
Now I must admit that any analysis of Sanchin--that is, the attempt to find bunkai in Sanchin--baffles me. A number of principles certainly, but I don't believe Sanchin in Goju-ryu was ever meant to be seen as a bunkai kata in the same sense as the other Goju subjects. I've written about this before. It's my belief that it's a futile endeavor--it's a basic kata to study  posture, breathing, and a number of other basic things--or, at best, the techniques are so elementary that it begs the question of why one would spend time trying to "find" applications for Sanchin when the other classical subjects are so much richer with intentional bunkai. I suppose this sort of thinking comes from what seems to me to be a misunderstanding of the oft-repeated statement that Sanchin is the fundamental kata of both Goju-ryu and Uechi-ryu. What do we mean by fundamental? Surely that doesn't mean, as I have sometimes heard, that the root of all Goju/Uechi techniques can be found in Sanchin. If that's true, it's certainly putting too fine a point on it for me. That's like saying that all T'ai Chi postures can be found in the Wu Wei beginning posture. I suppose in one sense that's true, as Wu Wei is emptiness or non-action, and all things begin from non-action, but it doesn't really get you very far.
First technique in Saifa kata

But what did interest me about this analysis of Sanchin was that the person demonstrating the techniques was doing the same technique against a right attack or a left attack, moving to the inside of the attacker or the outside. I have heard the same thing from some kung fu practitioners (and other karate people)--that you should be able to execute any technique regardless of which hand the attacker is attacking with. The "logic" behind this, as expressed to me, was that you don't have sufficient time to figure out which hand someone is attacking with and respond with the appropriate hand. I think this is ridiculous for two reasons: one, all techniques do not work from either side; and two, while I may not have sufficient time to contemplate which technique might be an appropriate response in a split second, I certainly have time to move and raise a hand to either the inside or the outside of the attack. That is, though I may not have time to contemplate which "bridging" or "finishing" technique may be appropriate, I certainly have time to respond with a "receiving" (uke) technique. (If I don't, I get hit--which means responding to the inside or outside with the same technique makes no difference anyway.)
What I do from there is dictated by my initial movement or uke (receiving of the attack)--and Goju actually shows a limited number of ways to receive that initial attack--the attacker's movements, and which controlling and finishing techniques fit with my initial response. One thing leads to the other rather
Part of second technique
in Seiunchin
fluidly and without a lot of thought. For example, the opening or first technique of Saifa (a technique that is shown three times to show the other side) is against an opponent grabbing my right hand with his left hand. It doesn't work if the opponent grabs my right hand with his right hand. If that were the case, I would respond with the second sequence of Seiunchin kata. Sometimes techniques are shown multiple times in kata because the kata shows attacks from one side or the other; the message is not, on the contrary, that the same technique (done with the same hand that is) should be able to be applied against any attack. Most of the time in Goju-ryu, this response is fairly easy to see based on the principle that the safest place to be or the safest response is to move to the outside of the attack. Training and logic both provide us with this answer. The problem, I think, is that the training is often not real enough or logic has flown right out the window.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Saxophones and Habitual Acts of Physical Violence

Habitual Acts of Physical Violence (HAPV) was all the rage a few years ago.  I haven't heard much about it recently, or at least that particular acronym, which got me to thinking. Why do you need to know 36 HAPV? How do you come up with the number 36 in the first place? It reminds me of Sanseiru, another 36 whose cryptic meaning has spawned all manner of strange interpretations. So is there something inherently magical about 36? I suppose someone is going to say that it's just a way to organize or wrap your head around different scenarios. That makes some sort of sense. But still, acts of aggression happen very quickly. Should I be thinking of which act of violence a particular technique is a response to when I need a quick response? Should I necessarily be thinking at all?

This is where the saxophone part comes in. My son, who has just started sax lessons, had an interesting admonition from his sax teacher the other day. He told him to try to just play the notes he sees on the scale--he said, "try not to say the name of the note in your head when you play it." This sort of by-passing the need to consciously verbalize (or think about) what you are doing made a lot of sense to me.

Back to the Habitual Acts of Violence thing....So you have 36 of these HAPV, and on that list are such things as #32 garment pulled over the head, #24 both hands grabbed from the front, #28 front arm-bar.... Now one would certainly need to respond to these aggressive acts. But aside from the rather obvious--for any number of them can't I just punch or kick the other guy?--my real question hinges on how you got yourself into this fix in the first place. Most of these acts of violence occur when you are attacked by an opponent, and that unarmed attack, I assume, means he comes at me with one or both hands, a foot, or charges me like a bull with his head. So putting the kicks and tackles aside for the moment, how many ways do I need to know to respond to his hands? He can attack with the left or the right, and on the inside or the outside. So I can block (or "receive") each attack with one of four blocks; that is, my left arm to his right arm on the inside or the outside, and my right arm to his right arm on the inside or the outside, and the same on the other side.

This would seem to me to be a much simpler way of looking at HAPVs or the multiplicity of ways one might be attacked. And if we can simplify our perception of the attack, perhaps the initial response may also be simplified and more reactive, spontaneous, or reflexive. It would, it seems to me, facilitate quick responses instead of having to think about, if you will, which "note" is being played. And lastly, each receiving
technique would lead to a limited, but still somewhat open-ended, number of bridging techniques and finishing techniques taken from other kata--thus encouraging a familiarity with variations that are useful in volatile and quick-changing encounters. So rather than expanding the list of Habitual Acts of Physical Violence--and there actually would seem to be more than 36 since the list includes variations of single-handed and two-handed attacks and the same attack from the front and the back--we should perhaps look to reduce them as much as possible. Goju-ryu classical subjects do show responses to attacks from the rear--such as the Shisochin response to #17 rear over-arm bear hug--but for the most part even a #31 single-hand shove is really the same as a #3 straight punch or a #30 single lapel grab or for that matter a #11 single-hand hair pull from the front, etc., etc., etc.  But whatever you do, "try not to say the name of the note in your head when you play it."