Finding parallels between Koryu Uchinadi and Jeet Kune Do, part 3

Note: This is a continuation in a series of posts, be sure to read part 2, or you can view the whole series by looking up all posts under the Koryu Uchinadi/Jeet Kune Do comparison tag.

So, to recap – Jeet Kune Do was critical of “classical” martial arts because they were more interested in maintaining tradition or the establishment of the “religious temple” (as per Lee’s previously mentioned paper), and would overlook the practicalities of combat in order to fuel old practices.

This is a fair point.

Where I draw the parallels between Jeet Kune Do and Koryu Uchinadi is that the latter also calls for a breakdown of “traditional” (or rather, modern or post-modern depending on your interpretation) ideas on karate as a system of fighting derived from Okinawan or Ryukyu methods of combat. When is a punch a punch? When is a block a block? What does the aforementioned gedan-barai/oitsuki mean and how many ways can it be applied? Mind, this isn’t a unique concept to Koryu Uchinadi as plenty of other karateka from various styles, both “pure” (shotokan, goju, shito, etc) and hybrid styles have considered bunkai and oyo as an essential part of their training syllabus for a number of years. Where Lee would apply modern thinking and holistic methodologies to look past accepted dogma, Koryu Uchinadi calls to look at accepted forms by reverse-engineering and looking at the forms and principles before they were exported from Okinawa and massaged into a format that gelled better with mainland Japan.

Thus, the block/punch could by a downward strike to the arm, followed by a wrist grab to the same arm that was just struck, pulling the opponent back to you when retracted the arm whilst simultaneously striking the opponent. That’s an application that’s probably a pretty common one when looking into things a little deeper – not too out of the ordinary. But the “classical” karate syllabus lacks the extension of these techniques, in a formal sense, to include eye gouging, biting, spitting, headbutting, groin strikes/manipulation, throwing, groundwork, the dirty stuff. Apply these same techniques to the above example and think about broader application of the movement, empty your cup so to speak.

Consider lowering the oitsuki to spearing the groin, or more creatively, using the gedan-barai as a strike to the opponent’s throat with the forearm, pushing through and wrapping/trapping the opponent’s head/neck in your arm pit, curl your hand around and grab the wind pipe and lower your weight to place greater pressure on the areas affected by the seizing action, and you should be in a position that loosely resembles the end point of a gedan-barai. Consider the follow-up oitsuki – palm strike to the jaw to dislocate the neck, strike the exposed rib, or simply use it to grab/seize the opponent and initiate the turn/gedan-barai/oituski combination that generally follows with whatever techniques spring to mind.

In other words – open your mind to the applications and don’t accept even simplistic combinations as one-dimensional. Sometimes they are, sometimes they’re not.

This ends the third part of this lengthy discussion – keep checking throughout the week to keep up with the latest, or simply check it using the Koryu Uchinadi/Jeet Kune Do comparison tag.

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OMG, I think I finally did some decent kicks in class

I’ve waxed lyrical in the past on my kicking techniques, particularly mawashi-geri, but at training this week, I don’t think I did too badly at all… well, certainly a lot better than I have previously. It’s weird like that, sometimes you train and your technique isn’t where you want it to be, and some nights it just works. Hopefully I’ll continue to make it work and this won’t be a one off πŸ™‚ I’ve noticed of late that I’d like to see greater strength in my kicking techniques and might have to start training them a bit more rigerously. Fingers crossed!

If that counts as a positive to training, there was also a negative, and it’s to do with kata. Probably because I haven’t been training it hard/consistently enough, I’ve slipped back into the habit of making kata robotic, without natural flow or expression as I had previously explored. Dai-Sensei picked up on it during class and mentioned it as a point I can work on, as it shows understanding and flow within the techniques, as well as a way of personal expression within the formalised framework that forms the core kata, the former of which is essential when considering the practical application of what to the inexperienced eye are simply an arrangement if disconnected and unusual movements. Especially since his feedback is suggesting I’ve moved backwards instead of forwards with my performance of kata, which I’ve always taken a great deal of pride in. That’s why it’s great to train under experienced instructors, as they’re able to pick up what you often don’t see due to their years of experience in martial arts. I’m now going to be making a dedicated effort to get back into the same mindset I achieved previously.

Back to the topic though – good kicks in class, at least by my standard. Even mawashi-geri, which I struggle with as a general rule of thumb. Although at one point my prosthesis almost literally flew off my stump due to a particularly enthusiastic kick. Managed to recover reasonably well though πŸ™‚

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Catching up on a few weeks’ worth of training

This one’s a bit belated, so apologies for the delay!

While I didn’t train last week (more on that later), I have been working hard in and around class the few weeks prior to that. Training during both of those weeks was really full-on… or if it wasn’t, I was working myself as hard as I could in class to get the most out of it. Since I’m keen to grade in December (or at least aim for it), I’ve been really conscious of getting my syllabus mastered to a reasonable degree of proficiency. Training has involved a lot of work on basics and fine-tuning form to continue pursuing perfect execution, form, power and focus. I’ve been trying hard to lower my stances and keep my strikes as solid as possible and maintaining proper form. We’ve been regularly working on kata, and I’m now at the point where I have the basic patterns and forms solidified in my head, and it’s now about execution, form, strength, all that good stuff. There were a few sticking points which Sensei has gone through with me that I hadn’t picked up on, but I’m confident I’m at the point where I can begin to dig deeper and execute the kata with a greater sense of skill and awareness.

We’ve also been going back to working on go-on and ippon kumite – as I’m gradually moving through my kyu grades, I’m now being expected to demonstrate a greater variety of techniques as part of my training. At first I was having trouble trying to pin down to what extent I can expand upon the usual/simple counter techniques I’ve been using, but in one of those lightbulb moments I’m prone to having, I’ve worked out that I can incorporate a lot of my basic combination drills and movements from kata into my responses. This has immediately opened up my available repertoire responses available to me through these drills, and I’m looking forward to continue working on them.

I’ve looked at time frames and will discuss the topic further with Sensei this week, but I have a feeling that should I intend to grade in December (and I do), I’ll need to be constantly revising my syllabus throughout the weeks in the lead up to grading. I started this last night by systematically going through my syllabus in the late evening to ensure I’m confident with all the techniques, and will be putting extra time aside to work on my kata, basic combinations and consider my options for ippon kumite. What’s new in this grading is the incorporation of bunkai into the exam, as well as the performance of an additional kata besides my grade-kata and kihon. The latter I’m not too fussed with as my gradings for my previous style saw everyone go through every kata in the lead-up to their grade kata, it’s just another step I have to be aware of.

So, it’ll likely be a busy couple of weeks, but I’m determined to make this grading and do well – I don’t want to simply scrape by, as I know I’m better than that.

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Note to self – don’t over-complicate things :P

I was reading a great piece Matt wrote over at Ikigai Way about how over-complicating technique when it comes to martial arts can be extremely counterproductive when translating said techniques into a real-world scenario (here). I can definitely see what he’s getting at, and can also relate to over-complicating things πŸ™‚ I think part of it might be due to how my brain operates with all its lovely idiosyncrasies, and part of it might be a determination to try and look outside the box so much (and thus impress with a broader understanding of the technique) that it loses focus and meaning.

This is particularly important as I have a grading coming up in December, and from here onwards I’ll be expected to dissect and provide bunkai for previous kata to demonstrate that the forms aren’t just a dance, but have practical application and techniques that can be applied. Ever since I had my eyes opened to the extent to which you can dissect kata to discover the hidden depths of application contained therein, I’ve found a really satisfying challenging in this realm of martial arts study. While I’m still pretty green when it comes to it, I have to say it’s really rewarding, and I’m glad its a formalised part of my training.

Again, my problem with doing this is not to over-complicate things, and to demonstrate what will ultimately be a 7th-kyu perception of bunkai, and not trying to go too deep in demonstrating bunkai that it gets muddy. I’ve already done that a bit in class already, and have found that, at this level, it’s great to think outside the square, but it’s equally important to adhere to the old adage that you need to walk before you can run πŸ™‚

But back to Matt’s post, I believe there’s a place for crazy, out-there thinking when it comes to breaking down kata, but it is absolutely essential that you bring the application to something that can be easily applied to the scenario if you can use it. To borrow from his example, there’s little utility in wasting time trying to recall a fancy grapple/sidestep technique when a straight-up block/parry/counter would suffice, as the time taken to cycle through your options may well negate any form of defense.

At higher levels of expertise, when you have drilled those particular techniques to a fine art and have built in the required muscle-memory to support them, it maybe well be a different scenario.

Importantly, as long as you have a guiding set of principles to cope with the act of violence, regardless of your level of technical expertise, I think this is the most important thing to have, as the principle can be acted upon faster than a specific arrangement of techniques. To that end, I think studying bunkai is important, as it begins to teach your mind about the core principles behind the techniques you are performing, whether it be as part of your basic drills or as kata, so you can apply them when needed. Granted, it takes a great deal of time to achieve mastery thereof, but as long as the core principles are understood, it doesn’t matter if it’s a fancy collection of techniques or a standard oitsuki – the technique must, ultimately, be applicable in a scenario of self defense.

… and that’s my jumbled response πŸ˜€

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Training in the warm weather :)

Despite the fact it’s nearly the end of October, training this week was the first time in a while where it’s actually been warm enough in the evening to bring on a crazy sweat! We did some interesting things in class this week, and there are a few things I’ve picked up on that need considerable work if I’m to grade in December, which is my plan at this stage.

Stance was a very important part of Sensei’s training this week, both the correct form and working on strengthening our base. The exercise we did that really emphasised this was a two-person drill we did. The practitioner would move forward in stance, and in our case it was going through with zenkutsu-dachi, then with koukutsu-dachi. The trick with this drill was that we took our obi and handed it to our partner, who would either stand behind us (for zenkutsu-dachi) or in front of us (koukutsu-dachi); for the former, they would hold onto our obi with the middle of our belt around our waist and try and drag us back as we moved forward; for the latter, we would both be holding the obi and the partner would be applying resistance as we moved. In moving forwards or backwards in stance, the crucial point was that Sensei wanted us to plant our feet, drop our center of balance and move forward with perfect form (or as perfect as practical) despite the resistance from our training partner. The exercise taught us the importance of a strong stance, reminded us just how strong our stances can be, and gave the legs a workout too πŸ™‚

For me, these exercises were a bit on the tricky side, especially going backwards doing koukutsu-dashi. Whilst moving using my real leg as my primary leg driving my body forward/backward, I didn’t have too much trouble overall – it hurt the muscles sometimes because it was great resistance training, but overall I was happy with how I was doing. When I was moving and it was meant to be the left leg propelling the body forward, this obviously got tricky since there isn’t a lot I can do with it in this case πŸ˜‰ When doing zenkutsu-dachi I had to resort to using my right leg to propel me forwards (which, tbh is how I do it normally), and my training partner eased off on the resistance since there wasn’t a lot that could be done. However, when doing koukutsu-dachi, I surprised myself with using my brain for a change!

I’ve previously discussed some of my techniques for performing a good mawashi when pivoting on your fake leg, so I took those same principles of utilising the upper body and your torso to make up for leg movement and applied it to this scenario… and it worked! In fact, it worked so well that I threw my training partner off balance each time I performed the technique!!

So yeah, I was very chuffed with the outcome πŸ™‚

Beyond the drills though, I’ve decided to spend more of my workouts/training between classes covering kata and my basics I’ll need to demonstrate for my next grading. While I have some of my combinations reasonably sorted, there are some that I am not happy with at all. I’m going to speak to Sensei next week to see what I need to work on in particular in the lead-up to the December grading, and will request for a bit more ippon kumite in class so I can work on a few more advanced techniques. I’ll also be demonstrating bunkai for my next grading, so I’ll need to spend time on that. Not that I’m expected to deliver an overtly complex explanation at this level, but that doesn’t mean I want to go at it half-arsed, I intend to put in dedicated effort as always.

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