Hakutsuru, the white crane – classical karate style with techniques that only use one leg?

Matt over at Ikigai Way dropped off an awesome comment on my recent whinge about mangling my stump. He provided some information and links to a classical style of karate – Hakutsuru or the White Crane – that his instructor has trained in. Apart from the fact that it’s an interesting style of karate to study due to the heavy Chinese influence in its forms vs the comparatively rigid styling of modern styles like Shotokan (note I mean “modern” as used in the “post-modern”/Japanese post-modernism sense, and not in the misuse of the word in place of the word “contemporary”), it also features techniques that only utilise one leg!

For those unaware of what Hakutsuru looks like performed as a kata, Matt posted a couple of vids that I’m going to pinch and post up here as well:

First up is Seikichi Odo, who moves around with amazing skill despite his age: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iD78dP428ec (I can’t embed that one by request of the author, but please check it out, some amazing stuff in there).

The second one is of Matayoshi Shinpo:

Being the super champ he is, Matt even fired across a link to the Okinawa Hakutsuru Kenpo White Crane Association’s website, and in particular the articles written on the topic China and the Origins of Okinawan White Crane Kenpo (Part 1 and Part 2). I haven’t had a chance to do more than quickly skim through their site, but by plonking the links up here, I’m hoping it’ll remind to go through it in much more detail when I get a chance.

Since I’m curious about what I might be able to learn and apply from their style to me as an amputee, I’m going to drop them an e-mail to see if they can recommend any particular part of their literature or offer any advice on this one. I’ll post back with an update on how I go!

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On self-defense with a walking stick

Patrick over at Mokuren Dojo fired across an e-mail to me the other day about a post he wrote on tantojutso (a walking-cane adjunct to SMR jojutsu). Given the state of my stump at the moment (read more here), I’m currently using my walking stick where practical to get around the place, which meant Patrick’s post was eerily relevant to me 🙂

In 2008 I experimented with learning some stick fighting principles as an adjunct to my usual karate training. While the style wasn’t a strict or traditional one (despite some traditional aspects from the various systems present thrown into the mix), it was focused on some basic stick fighting principles, incorporating eskrima/kali elements with the rattan, bojutsu, defensive techniques with the hanbo and jo, a little bit of yawara training and a walking stick style that had its roots within a French system. The aim of the training was to give the practitioner the tools and principles to defend oneself by using any varietal of stick or pole as a weapon. I feel that, despite only spending a small period of time training in it, that it succeeded in teaching me some basic tenets for defending myself with varying weapons. While the eskrima stuff was probably the most fun (and made cool noises when training 🙂 ), the most relevant was arguably the walking stick techniques I learned.

The basic training showed how to use a hooked walking stick in a variety of ways. It demonstrated basic blocking and striking using various aspects of the walking stick, even down to utilising the different ends of the stick to achieve different ends. For example, if performing a thrusting strike, using the bottom of the stick concentrates the kinetic energy to a smaller surface of impact, giving rise to a variety of fast, poking strikes; however, depending on the walking stick, I found that this technique put excess stress on the shaft of the walking stick and required greater accuracy to achieve a worthwhile result. Going the other way, you can thrust using the hooked end of the stick, which is useful for creating more of a clubbing motion even when thrust. I found this to be quite effective given I found it quite intuitive to do a re-enforced two-handed thrusting strike with this technique from a utilitarian perspective, since I’ll normally have my hand on the hook and can easily use my other hand to grab the other end of the staff and use both arms for the strike. While the greater surface area means you get a different kind of impact than with the butt-end of the stick, it also requires less accuracy, which means it potentially has a greater degree of utility in a self defense scenario where the adrenalin or panic may hinder your usual level of accuracy.

What I found quite interesting is that it wasn’t too difficult to translate some of the broad striking motions and diagonal patterns of attack from eskrima to the walking stick. The difference of course is that a walking stick is generally longer than your average rattan… but that being said, if you’re familiar with short staff techniques (like jo or hanbo) and you have a longer walking stick, then you can also truncate your walking stick skillset with some of these other techniques (some of my favourite techniques from jo and hanbo were the trapping and joint-manipulation techniques, which I think would prove useful with a walking stick).

I guess it shows the level of inter-connectivity with different styles and the relationship between them. I have a feeling my Sensei would be pleased to know I joined the dots in my head and found the commonality in the tools he gave us 🙂

It also demonstrates a strong focus on utility (something that’s a core focus on the posts at The Martial Explorer) and that, as a martial artist, you should be able to not only demonstrate the finer aspects of the forms you learn in class, but be able to take away those core principles and utilise them as essential tools in any instances of self defense, or if we’re getting a bit more philosophical, utilise those precepts as an approach to everyday life.

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Taking a (forced) break over x-mas

Sorry for the lack of updates of late 😛 Last week ran away before I knew it!

So, update on how I’m going – erm, leg’s not holding up too well 😛 The issues that cropped up a week or two back have come back again, so it’s out with the walking stick again to keep me company 🙂 I’m not sure why the stump’s not healing up as quickly as it normally does, I suspect it’s to do with the location of where the split skin currently is and the fact it’s in constant pressure, whether it be wearing the prosthesis or not.

So, I have to exercise something I’m not all that good at – patience 😉

So, I’ll be taking an extended break, longer than I first thought when I took a week or two off in November. I’ll have to make sure I don’t indulge too much over the break as well, since I won’t be able to exercise as much! 😉

This does raise a couple of questions though – how do I exercise whilst trying to minimise excess physical impact to my stump? I want to use the next month and a half until classes start again in January to get back into weight training, and I reckon this might be able to float the balance between being able to have a good workout, but do it without excess pressure on the rear of the stump since I can do a slew of different exercises on the bench, rather than standing.

The other thing I’m considering doing is working on adapting some of my core techniques to being able to do them standing on one leg. Taking a note out of Jesse’s (of the Martial Explorer) book and his interest in practical application of martial to real-world scenarios, I thought this is something I should be looking at. While I’m generally wearing my leg while I’m awake and out and about, there will be times where I’m going to be without my prosthesis, whether it be because I’ve mangled my stump or damaged my leg. So, I’m conscious that, in the spirit of trying to be a well-rounded martial artist, it’s important that I consider broadening my skillset to cope with performing at least a handful of upper-body techniques if ever I need them. So, I figure while I’m a bit mangled, it may not be such a bad idea to roll in an exploration of some of these techniques with my condition.

So, while there are definitely some negatives with where things are at, there are also some opportunities in there as well. I’ll update as I go 🙂 I’m actually a bit excited about exploring what techniques can be transferred to training on a single leg, hopefully the resultant posts won’t be too convoluted!

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