Entrance to the Barn Dojo....

Monday, July 14, 2014

More on karate forums

Sorry in advance for the rant, but I didn't have anything else to write about so I thought this deserved a short comment. (I hope the irony isn't lost there!) 

I was reading a couple of forums and blogs recently. I don’t know why. On one of them, a rather popular site that tends to sometimes lengthy discussions of traditional Okinawan karate--at least that's the way it's billed--the forum regulars were bemoaning the fact that a lot of forums had gone quiet recently, that there didn’t seem to be any interesting topics of discussion, and that this had been the case for months. I could sympathize. Of course, all things go in cycles. I started training martial arts back in the days when Kung Fu was a popular TV show. Heck, I knew students who stayed home to watch David Carradine instead of come to class. But the really funny thing about these forum regulars to me was that in discussing the lack of meaningful discussion topics most of them seemed to come to the
When is a punch,
not a punch?
conclusion that they didn’t themselves engage in or bring up more interesting topics--though they could certainly take some of the blame, I think--because they no longer felt the need; all of their questions had been answered. There wasn’t anything that they were unsure of?!? (Here I actually wondered whether this was also the case of the folks who read my humble blogs, since I so rarely hear from anyone.)

Anyway, how could this be? Who are these people? Is it that they don’t train enough or they have no imagination? What with all of the back slapping and deferential agreement that so often accompanies any discussion on these forums, IMHO it’s surprising that any of them have lasted this long. Most of the time they seem more like mutual admiration societies. I hate to rant, but that in itself raises all sorts of questions for me. For example, if two people practice the same kata differently, however slight those differences may be, doesn’t that raise questions? Who’s right? Why the differences? Perhaps everyone has just agreed to disagree. Life goes on. There is no argument, and no one is wrong because everyone is right. And they all lived happily ever after. Except I have questions, always questions…  Why does the Higa dojo (Shodokan) do Sanseiru one way and Meibukan and Jundokan do it another way? Why do we practice an upper-level punch (jodan tsuki) in most schools when it doesn’t occur anywhere in the classical kata? Why do we practice barefoot in New England? Why do we count in Japanese? 

I guess the answers are probably pretty predictable for most people—something akin to what I read on another forum this past week. At the end of the discussion topic, one forum participant wrote something like this: “Well, that’s what my teacher said, and I see no reason to question him since he hasn’t steered me wrong yet.” And they lived happily ever after.


  1. Anonymous2:44 AM

    Yes I have those questions too! But who do you ask?
    Especially the Higa no kata question. But there are others too. In the psst I have asked on forums only to receive no responses.
    I am trying to get to the bottom of the kaisai no genri idea found in the Toguchi tradition. Not much on the internet if you can't read Italian or Japanese! I just got Tamano's book (in Japanese -groan) and must find relevant sections to translate, if possible.
    Another question is about the hip locking move found in many Higa style kata performances.
    To be honest, I am trying to first understand your approach to bunkai studies. Difficult from blog entries. So I intend to devote a Sunday soon to reading them all from the beginning in one sitting...
    I have identified similar ideas but have not conclusively isolated a theory. So I dont know what to ask yet. I hope I am making sense. Would it be OK if I drop by when in your area?

  2. That's the trouble with the internet--nobody knows who anyone is. First off, who are you? What do you practice? Where do you come from? The rules of kaisai no genri found in Toguchi's second book are not entirely correct or at best a bit misleading. I think I've already written about that in an earlier blog post. For example: It's not always the case that advancing implies an attack and retreating implies a block. I don't know what you mean by "hip locking" found in Higa style kata. Do you have examples? I appreciate your questions. I think without questions true learning cannot take place. But
    where are you that you could "drop by" when in my area? Regards, Giles

  3. I have those questions too, some of it i believe is people making things up and doing their on thing. ( I guess that's all right) I think most of it is has to do with interpretation. No two practitioners are the same even identical twins have different fingerprints.

    If you watch our O sensei Miyagi students im sure they dont do kata the exact same way Miyagi did. THe Japanese and Okinawan kata look similar but not the same and they both have a different emphasis on karate.
    I believe this is true with Meibukan and Jundonkan practitioners. Whats funny is all claim to be the most authentic and/or the doing GOju the way Miyagi Sensei intended!
    In America especially on the North East Coast there are masses claiming to do it the Peter Urban Way! Yet Peter Urban didnt look like Yamuguchi! Ones Interpretation and perception is a powerful thing.

  4. I think that most karate people these days are too afraid to get hit to explore what karate kata really means this is why they form Mutual admiration societies. I dont know all of the bunkai but from what Giles Sensei has opened my eyes to, one has to have a thick hyde to even get near them. I go to bed and wake up sore almost every night trying to learn this stuff. IMO Not everyone should do martial arts. This is only for really committed people.

  5. Hey, Cris,
    Good to hear from you. Keep me posted on your latest discoveries.

  6. Anonymous2:42 AM

    Sorry, I usually put in my name. I am the first comment above. (My PC is faulty and i used my cell phone which is a real drag. Small keys, big fingers ... after such a long post i was just glad to hit publish!)
    My name is Billy and I practise Goju-ryu. How I practice will take another long post ...
    Anyway, allow me to first aggree with the comment by Cristobal. I have been called elitist for that belief but it is still my opinion!
    Kaisai no Genri: I remember your post and I actually aggree with your idea about forward-backward movement, but I don't want to throw out an idea just because i did not look into it enough. Others are using it - my question: Are they just jumping on the bandwagon, or were they taught this by their instructors??
    It seems that only the three 'Rules' are ever actually mentioned even though there are supposed to be more. Another question: Where did Kris Wilder get the other Rules.
    many of these I employ in my tactics but come from what I was taught, from experience in sparring or self defence.
    The Higa hip: Is not seen in all but in many Higa style prctitioners. See for instance the Mushinkan YouTube site. I will try and get actual urls.
    I do not live in the US but if I should travel there would it be OK for me to inform you of a trip and ask to come around? I think actually training with you anf face to face questions would clear up a lot for me.

  7. Hi Billy,
    So if you're not in the U.S., where are you? I can't answer your question as to whether people are just jumping on the bandwagon or not. And there are certainly other "guidelines" (I would prefer to call it rather than rules) that help in figuring out bunkai. I have mentioned a lot of the ones we use in various blog posts. I can't speak to Kris Wilder's rules--he once called me an iconoclast for questioning some of the ideas of his teacher--but if you could give me a specific example?? Still not sure what you mean by the Higa hip in kata. I'm not a big fan of the bunkai on the Mushinkan YouTube videos to say the least. You are certainly welcome to train with us anytime you're in the area.