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A mystery of the elbow position in choku zuki 謎・直突きと肘の関係 (Part 2) 

Elbow injury during practicing choku-zuki

Elbow close up illustration

  • There are many karate-ka suffering from elbow injury during practicing choku-zuki. The elbow joint is formed of 3 bones come together to form the elbow joint (illustration right).

  • The top bone is the upper arm bone ( humerus )and in the base of humerus the trochlea which lie in the medial side & the capitulum which lie laterally.

  • Forearm formed of 2 bones (Radius & Ulna) to form the lower part of the joint.

  • The longest bone the Ulna it’s shape like a spanner with an upper jaw (olecranon process) and lower jaw (cronoid process).

  • The Ulna is attached to the upper arm bone and articulate with the trochlea of the humerus to allow the hinge like motion of the elbow.

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Elbow joint perform 2 types of motion numberBones Supine and Prone

1-The first type of motion

Flexion by the flexor muscles ( biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis, FL.of forearm ) & extension by extensor muscles (triceps, anconeus. M)

2- The second type of motion (illustration left)

  1. pronation by (pronator teres, pronator quadratus )

  2. supination by (biceps, supinator).

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*Elbow illustrations

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Elbow joint motion (illustrations right & below)

  • Elbow flexion from 0 to 145 °of flexion but functionally the angle should be from 30° to 130°.

  • Pronation averages around 80° and supination at 85° Both could reach to 90°. It is very important that you notice the pronation and supination are good when the elbow is flexed to 90°.

Screenshot_Joint Motion

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The carrying angle

  • This angle is found between humerus and Ulna. The trochlea of the humerus looks like an hour glass put on its side. The medial end of the trochlea has greater circumference than its lateral end.

  • Because of this difference in circumference between the two end of the trochlea as the Ulna swings round the trochlea from flexion to extension the Ulna becomes gradually forced laterally and does not lie in the line with the humerus. There is a difference of an angle about 15° which is called The carrying angle.

  • In pronation when the lower end of radius crosses over to the medial side of Ulna the carrying angle disappeared
  • Elbow illustrations 2

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Of course, many injury could happen to the elbow joint from other activities, for example :

  1. In the lateral side of elbow (tennis elbow injury )

  2. In the front side of elbow (distal biceps tendonitis and distal biceps tendon rupture).

  3. In the medial side of the elbow (golfers elbow or cubital tunnel syndrome or collateral ligament injury).

  4. In the posterior side of the elbow (Valgus extension overload or triceps tendonitis or elbow bursitis).

  5. Elbow problems typically occur where the tendon attaches to the bone.

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Tennis elbow:

  • It is caused by excessive strain on the muscles of the lateral side of the elbow which originated from the common extensor tendon especially when the wrist is extended. The problem area is mainly the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle. The pain is usually slightly below the elbow attachments but the pain can radiate into the forearm.Tennis elbow joint illustration

  • So we will make a comparison between the karate-ka who practices choku-zuki with the direction of his elbow to the side and the karate-ka who keeps his elbow downward.

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First, the karate-ka who practices choku-zuki and the direction of his elbow to the side:

The following could be happen to him:

  • Tennis elbow injury may occur mainly due to flexion to extension of the wrist with sudden movement specially without proper warming up and stretching. In case of the direction of elbow to side during practicing choku-zuki, the injury may happen due to repeated stress and twisting the wrist resulting in a forceful contraction of wrist extensors.

  • There will be no complete pronation which means “the lower end of the radius will not crosses over the medial side of the ulna completely so that the carrying angle in the elbow joint will decrease only”.

  • The elbow joint will not lock completely.

  • The reaction power from the impact with the target will go directly to the elbow joint and the muscles around it.

  • There will be no maximum muscles contraction to the muscles of the forearm.

  • Due to repeated hyper-extension of elbow joint it may lead to another injury , {valgus extension overload }. Jamming of olecranon into fossa may cause bony spur on the tip of the olecranon.

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Now we will see karate- ka who practices choku-zuki and keeps the direction of his elbow downward:

  1. The position of elbow direction to downward will lead to stopping the hyperextension of elbow movement and results in decreasing the possibility of injury.

  2. There will be complete pronation to the forearm.

  3. When we rotate the fist medially to maximum 90° pronation while keeping the elbow downward and extended, the lower end of the radius crosses over to the medial side of Ulna, then the carrying angle disappears. {This will lock the elbow joint and make it more secure}.

  4. The reaction power from the impact with the target will retreat to the shoulder muscles that are stronger than the forearm muscles thus they can tolerate the impact.

  5. By making the direction of elbow downward and completing pronation, the muscles of forearm will be able to contract to the maximum.

  6. There will be no hyper-extension so the olecranon will not make collision with the olecranon fossa in the lower part from the back side of the humerus. This avoidance will prevent the injury {valgus extension overload}.

Karate do is life-time sport, so all karate-ka must be careful and avoid injuries. An injury coming from careless mistake will stop them from practicing karate. We, the medical staff always state that prevention is better than cure. We also recommend that before training, you will starts with good warm up and stretching to all the muscles in our body.

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Written by Dr.Ashraf Ragab

Note: This article will continue to cover the other karate related injuries in the future if the readers are interested.

Ragab portrait

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Some information about the author, Dr.Ashraf Ragab

Pharmacist B.Sc.Ph.Ph.Ch.

Faculty of pharmacy Cairo University

Date of graduation May 1983 with general grade “very good”

Sport injury specialist with excellent grade in 1/7/1998 from Olympic Academy of Athletic leaders

Karate examiner of Egyptian karate Federation from 11 years

Manager of karate section of Bank Ahly club

Lecturer at the Egyptian Karate Federation for :

Karate Athletic injuries & drug doping

Karate movement science

The highest ranking student degree at Olympic Academy of Athletic leaders with excellent grade in all branches .

 

1st position in national championship in August 1974 kumite group kumite Zamalek club under 16 years

1st position in national championship in 2007 kata

1st position in the professor’s championship in September 2000 Giza kata

 

Reference

*Illustrative upper limb El Rakkawy.

*Sports health the complete book of athletic injuries. William Southmayd & Marshall Hoffman.

*prof.Nabil Ebrahim MD chairman of department of orthopedic toledo university.

*Grant’s atlas of anatomy James E Anderson.

*Biomechanic of the elbow (Belhaven university, university sports medicine Mississippi health care )

*Anatomy and Biomechanics of the elbow joint (University of California) .

A mystery of the elbow position in choku zuki  謎・直突きと肘の関係 (Part 1)

Kanazawa choku zukiWhen you execute choku zuki (straight punch), do you pay attention to your elbow? I expect most the shotokan practitioners do not.  Your sensei may tell you to have a strong stance, keep your shoulder down and possibly check your fist. If your sensei tells you to bring your shoulder down and tense the arm pit, then he or she is giving you an excellent suggestion. It is even better if he/she gives you the relationship of the tension of the shoulder, arm pit and upper back (the area of the shoulder blade). I am sure many of the senior shotokan instructors can and in fact do teach these points. However, I am afraid not too many can go further into the explanation of how to use the muscle groups in the forearm.

I remember one day in the early 1980’s, Sugano sensei (at far right in the photo below. Young author is at far left) and a few of the assistant instructors were in his bar. Sugano sensei is my first seBar with Sugano senseinsei in Kobe Japan and he had his own small shop where only a dozen or fewer people could fit . This bar is where Sugano sensei would talk about karate techniques. The customs in Japan are quite different from what the readers are used to. The Japanese sensei typically do not talk about the karate history, philosophy and the in depth concept of karate techniques in a dojo. Yes, if you are doing your techniques incorrectly he will correct you. He will not correct you with the kind words but either by hitting the arm, legs or hips with his shinai or tap the area either with his fist or foot. The Japanese sensei who lived outside Japan would not do this and even the visiting instructors these days. They learned that the culture is different outside of Japan. Anyway, his bar was one of the few places where he relaxed and shared his thoughts and knowledge. It was an honor to be invited by Sugano sensei after a regular training. We loved to tag along and most of the instructors wanted to drink whereas I had a different objective. I could ask him some questions about the karate techniques. Believe it or not, we could not ask any questions in a dojo. In fact, we were not supposed to talk at all, period. The only word we could say was “Oss” regardless of the questions or the commands by the instructor.

So that evening, Sugano sensei rolled up his sleeves and said “Look!”. He showed us his extended arm in a choku zuki form.  He was built like a bear and his arms were like  thick logs. He was probably 175cm tall and was over 100kg.  Then he asked “What do you think?” We were not sure what he was asking. It was impressive and almost scary to look at his big fist so we said something like “Your choku zuki looks strong”. He said, “Fool! What do you see in my arm?” I was not sure what he was getting at but I noticed that his arm was bent slightly downward. So I said, “Ah, your arm is bent.” He said, “No, it is not bent. When you really hit someone in front of you, you need to tighen your arm this way.” It was more than 30 years ago so I do not quite remember all the explanation he gave but I only remember that he used the word of “shime 締め”(but not “kime”). Shime means tighten, contract or squeeze. It’s  similar to “kime” but a little different and it is difficult to explain the fine nuance between these two words.  I remember that he showed us the position of his elbow and stressed the importance of having the elbow at the right place. His elbow was pointing stright downward and it looked funny. I tried to imitate his elbow position and could not do it at that time. He laughed and said “This is how you punch in a street fight.” I thought my punching was good enough for a street fight so I was a little perplexed and frankly felt upset a little. He saw the expression on my face so followed up with a statement that if I had punched a makiwara many times in that arm form it would harm my shoulder and especially elbow. I did not understand it then what he meant and why he said it at that time, but now I do. I wish to share this with the readers in case they are not paying much attention to their elbow when they punch choku zuki.

tournament 4If I tell you that there are two basic kinds of kicks; ke-age and ke-komi, I am sure you comply with my statement. How about if I tell you there are also two striking methods? Some will quickly think of a uraken with a snap back and also a thrust (uchi komi). I am glad that you understand that mechanism. Then, how about in choku zuki? Most of you will say, “No, there is only one way.” You are partially correct that there is no snap back in choku zuki. However, there is another method called tsuki hanashi just as we have one more kicking method, keri hanashi or ke-banashi. It is a method of letting your foot or fist go without a snap back or tension (kime). In mae geri case, for example, it is more effective if you can “ride” on your kick and kick it through if it is a real fight. However, in a tournament, you cannot do this as you will injur your opponent and most likely you will not get a point. What you need to do is to have a quick snap back to earn a point. The same mechanism can be applied to choku zuki (both oi zuki and gyaku zuki). So, a fast choku zuki in a tournament is, most of the time, tsuki hanashi without shime. Why do they do tsuki hanashi? 

First, you have a longTournamenter distance which you need in a tournament situation (two competitors are typically more than a meter apart). Second, a punch can be faster with less tension. As our tournament is sun dome (寸止め non contact) you cannot punch through so what do they do? They quickly pull their fist back to their hip.  I am sure you have seen this action. Just like a snap back of mae geri and mawashi geri, this pull back of a punch is required to get a point in many cases. If one punches through and if he knocks the opponent out, though it would be a win in a street fight, he or she will receive a hansoku (反則 penalty). In the photo shown here (left), the competitor on the left had a good punch that was connected to the opponent jodan and if he had extended his arm he could have knocked the opponent down. But I suspect that he probably did not get a point as it would be considered too close as his arm was not fully extended. On the other hand, the competitor on the right, we can see on the photo, missed the target. However, he extended his arm and if the judges failed to catch that he missed the target, this competitor might have gotten a waza ari.Mas Oyama

Let’s look at another punching method called choku zuki with shime. See the photo of Mas Oyama of Kyokushinkai punching in the kangeiko (winter training, right). You can see his elbow is pointing downward here. He is putting chinkuchi to his upper back and his arm. This tightens his armpit muscles (latissimus dorsi & teres major) as well as the upper arm (triceps brachii). You may not see this type of arm formation in Shotokan karate training any more. However, if you punch a makiwara, you will understand that bringing the elbow down is better. You will have a much better reception of the impact not only at the shoulder but mainly at the elbow.  

See thNishiyama makiwarae photos below left and right. One on the left is young Nishiyama and one on the right is young Oyama punching a makiwara and notice the arm and elbow position of these two sensei. When you punch a makiwara you cannot punch with tsuki hanashi. You will damage, your shoulder, the elbow and possibly your wrist. You must have a good shime (contraction) to absorb the impact. If this (meaning punching seiken with the elbow pointing downward) is difficult to do, I suggest that you  punch a makiwara with ura zuki (inverted fist). You may have never punched a makiwara with ura zuki and might have felt uncomfortable. In order to hit a makiwara square to your fist, you either have to bend your wrist backward a little (not more than 10 or 15 degrees to avoid an injury at the wrist) or approach and get closer to the makiwara so you can punch at a lower level or at your hip level. You may still feel uneasy punching this way as it is new to you, but I am sure you found that your elbow was Oyama makiwara 2pointing downward. You will not experience any elbow problem with this punching. However, you may say, “the distance is too close. I want to hit a makiwara at a further distance.” In this case, punch with tate ken (vertical fist). With this fist, you can punch almost as far as seiken zuki and you will find you can keep your elbow downward too.  I almost recommend all who want to train in a makiwara to always use tate ken to prevent the elbow injury. This is a very safe way to punch even at the full extension. Maybe the Chinese martial art experts in the ancient time knew from the experience that tate ken is the safest, some of the kung fu styles (i.e.  Tai chi, illustration below left) use only tate ken in their training.

You may say, two Tai chipunching techniques; ura zuki and tate zuki employ only the arm stretching movement and does not have the rotation of the forearm that is supposed to be increasing the punching power. The movement is called cork screw and even a famous boxer like Muhammad Ali used this punching method. It is true that the final turning of the forearm will give the extra power and what the Okinawan (probably the kung fu styles as well) masters improvised the special way of punching by keeping the elbow down but enabling the forearm to rotate at the end of seiken zuki or choku zuki.

 

 

Here is how you train your arm to do seiken zuki without rotating the elbow.

Photo 1:IMG_3424

Starting point from the hip just as you do your chokuzuki.

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Photo 2:

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The right arm starting to extend, be sure to keep the elbow pointing downward and close to the side of your body.

The right shoulder should be pulled down and not much tension in your right arm as you push your right fist forward.

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Photo 3:

The arm is further extended keeping the elbow down. Now it should look like one is doing ura zuki.

In other words, up to this point think of doing ura zuki with your punching arm.IMG_3426

Again, the right shoulder must not be raised and continue to keep the right elbow pointing downward.

Only the minimum tension should be applied to the right arm at this moment.

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Photo 3B:IMG_3415

In this photo the sleeves are rolled up to show the elbow position better.

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Photo 4:IMG_3427

As you extend your arm you will begin to rotate the forearm but it is critically important that

you will keep the elbow downward. You will rotate ONLY the fist.

Now it looks like one is doing tate ken. If you believe that you are doing tate ken then you can keep your elbow downward easily. 

Up to now, the process should not be too difficult. The next step (Photo 5) is the challenging one.

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Photo 4B:IMG_3417

The sleeves are rolled up again to show the elbow position.

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Photo 5:IMG_3428

Your arm is now 90% extended and only your fist is turning (without turning the elbow).

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Photo 6:IMG_3432

Choku zuki is now completed. The arm looks like it is bent at the elbow but it is not bent. The shoulder is pulled down and pushed forward.

This is because I put chinkuchi at the arm pit and the upper back. It resulted in “pulling” the arm down while keeping the elbow down.

If you force your elbow to extend further, you will find it is almost impossible and you can feel the hyper extension which is,

of course not good for your elbow.

Here is a photo of a Goju ryu westerner (below) practitioner punching with chinkuchi so you can see the slight bent at the elbow as he is tightening his arm pit and keeping his shoulder down with the elbow pointing downward.Goju westerner

Even if you do not believe that this punching method has been practiced by the shotokan karateka in the past, it is worth trying this on your makiwara training. I am sure you will feel the difference when you punch this way, which is hopefully a good difference.

What I am presenting here is that there are two types of choku zuki; tsuki with shime and tsuki hanashi.  They are used in different situations and for different purposes. On the surface, there seems to be no better or worse between these two methods. Because of the popularity of tournament kumite and also lack of makiwara training these days, tsuki hanashi, the long distance punching technique is trained by most of the practitioners these days. Consequently, few instructors would teach or train tsuki with shime, the close distance punching technique.

OK so a sports karate practitioner may ask, “I am only interested in tournament kumite. If the long distance (extended) punch is a better fit for a tournament kumite, then why do I have to care about the other punching method?” If you are not having a problem with your elbow (commonly called tennis elbow) then you may not care about the other punching method. The extended punching method with the elbow pointing outward and thrusting your forearm without any brake can possibly result in the tennis elbow syndrome for some practitioners. If you are an instructor, wouldn’t you like to find out how to avoid or avert this problem for your students, even if it is not for yourself? I strongly recommend that you will read Part 2 of this article.

I am very pleased to announce that I am co-authoring this article with a medical expert, Dr. Ashraf Ragab, Faculty of Pharmacy Cairo University Egypt. Dr. Ragab is an expert in this subject and will share the details of the “tennis elbow” problem andRagab portrait will explain how a karate practitioner can develop this problem. In addition, he will share his recommendation on how to prevent such an injury. Dr Ragab is not only an expert in bio mechanics and sports science but also a long time karate practitioner who started his karate training in 1969. He notably trained under Sensei Hide Okamoto between 1973 and 1982. He is now a Karate Examiner of Egyptian Karate Federation and his karate rank is 6th dan. Now, hopefully, you are convinced that it is worth your time to read the Part 2 of this article which will be posted in a few days.

What is Nanba walking? ナンバ歩きとは何ぞや?

 

nanba walkNanba is a special walking method of swinging the arm of the same side of the stepping leg which is the opposite of the standard walking method we do. In other words, you bring your right arm forward as you step forward with your right foot. While the left leg is behind you will keep your left arm towards the back. Here is a photo of showing how one walks in Nanba. He (Sensei Kohno who is a historian and also specializes in koten bujutsu) is demonstrating with some exaggerated motions to show how it is done. By the way, Nanba walking was almost a forgotten walking method of the ancient Japan (Edo period and before) until Sensei Kohno discovered it from his research into the old manuscripts and introduced it some twenty years ago.

The origin of Nanba has not been agreed by the scholars yet. One theory is the origin of Nanba is Nanban (南蛮) which literally means South Barbarian, the Westerners. The ancient Japanese believed that the Westerners lived in the South and they traveled North to Japan via India and the Philippines. According to this theory, the Japanese people laughed at how the Westerners walked (the normal way according to the modern day people) and this funny walking was called Nanban. However, the Western walking method was taught to the soliders during the late 19th century Kenjutsuafter the Meiji Restorations. Those soldiers consisted of not only the samurai but merchants and farmers. Since then the Western way of walking became the standard in Japan. When the Japanese looked back and had to refer to their old way of walking they had to say, “We walked differently from the Nanban style.” They did not or could not come up with a name for the old method of walking so the Nanban style (though it was completely opposite) became the name for the old way of walking in Japan. Though this theory has not received agreement by all the historians I consider it the most likely origin for this word.

You can find this body movement in Noh and Kabuki (the traditional Japanese theatrical play), in Sumo (Japanese wrestling), in many Japanese traditional dancing as well as in the Japanese martial arts such as Aikido, kenjutsu and Kendo. Interestingly, the human being is not the only animal that can do this walking. We found that the Gorilla and the cats also do this walking. Here is a video of a cat walking in Nanba if you are interested:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoMCLqPuDrc

In the very first photo shown at the top of the page, Sensei Kohno purposely, as I had mentioned earlier, swung his arms excessively to demonstrate the Nanba walking. I must emphasize that I do not believe this is quite exactly how the ancient Japanese walked. In fact, I consider that particular walking strange and I do not believe any of the ancient Japanese including the samurai walked like that.

Yojinbo 1

 

By studying the old drawings of ancient Japan, the people in general, did not swing their arms as they walked. It is easily guessed because how the Japanese clothes are designed (it wraps around you). Here is photo (left) from one of the Kurosawa samurai movies, Yojinbo. If you are a samurai movie buff you can identify Mifune here and remember he liked to keep his arms inside the kimono. But you may say, “This is only a movie and not from the old time Japan.” You are correct, so I will share another photo. This one (right) is a psakamoto ryomahoto of a real samurai, Sakamoto Ryoma, before the end of Tokugawa Shogunate. In fact, he helped the Meiji Restoration and Japan open its door to the Western culture. You can see in the photo that Sakamoto is also keeping his arms inside his kimono.

So, walking without moving the arms much was a general etiquette in Japan. Unfortunately, now a days it is difficult to find the Japanese in kimono. However, if you find one you will witness that most of the women will walk with their hands held in front (photo below). In this photo you see a man in kimono (which is even rarer than a woman in a kimono these days) holding his arms straight down. Wearing a kimono and a geta (wooden clog) you need to walk in this manner. I will explain more later.

Now kimonoOK it looks graceful if you walk like a Japanese woman in kimono with your hand held in front. But you wonder why a samurai would keep his arms inside the kimono? You need to know that there were no pockets in kimono so to relax their arms they pulled their arms inside just as you would relax your arms by sticking your hands in the pockets. So, this is a relaxed style and a samurai will not walk around in a town in this style. If you happen to see this in a samurai movie then they are showing a ronin (a masterless or unemployed samurai) who lost his etiquette. A serious or an employed samurai would never walk that way as his right hand will be tied up and will not be able to draw his sword in a hurry. A samurai would walk just like a western gunman with two pistols at his hips. It is the same idea and a samurai wants to keep his hands near the swords.

Was that the only reason for a samurai to keep his hands to the sides and probably slightly in front of his body? There were two other main reasons.

 

Standard walkOne is the hip rocking. If you walk in your normal (this word is debatable, however) way, your hips will naturally rock slightly up and down as shown in the photo right. Well what is wrong with this? As you remember a samurai carries two heavy swords. An average katana weighs any where from 2.5 pounds (1.1kg) to as heavy as 4 pounds (1.8kg). This means with two swords, a samurai would be carrying the total weight between 2kg and 4kg whenever he steps outside of his house. Just to go to his castle every day to work, there were, of course, no buses and trains then and only a few high rank samurai could ride a horse. So, he had to walk, and probably a minimum of a few kilometers each day. Though there is no record of how much an average person in Edo period walked each day, there are many records indicating how much they walked in their travels. good effectThe average distance they travelled daily was between 35km and 40 km. The average speed is estimated to be 4 km per hour so it means the Edo period travelers walked 9 to 10 hours daily. If this is the case, it is easily guessed that these people walked minimum 5 km and possibly 10 or 15 km in their regular life. If your hips rock each time you walk, I am sure can imagine what will happen to your left hip (where you carry your sword). In the long run your spine will be bent and you will have a permanent backache. It also minimize the unnecessary moves of the hips thus you will get tired less. Therefore, as a samurai used to walking that many kilometers he needed to have a walking method that would not rock his hips.

 

Standard walk 2The second reason is more based on the martial arts preference. If you walk in the conventional (maybe this labeling is better) way, you will be twisting your upper body. For instance when your left leg is in front your right shoulder will move forward as your right arm is swung forward and the opposite side will create a twist also. This twisting motion will create the unnecessary hip rotation (photo right). Would you like to swing your hips while you are carrying the heavy pieces of metal weighing up to 4 kg on your left hip? Certainly not. You would prefer to keep the hips riding not only flat but also still. The illustration on the left shows the walking nanba illustrationmethod that keeps the upper body “flat” at all times. In the illustration, the arms are being swung forward but in practice you do not swing your arms or minimize it. By walking this way, you will not twist your internal organs and you will also not use many of the muscle groups that are located in the belly section. This action definitely is more energy efficient than the standard walking method.

I am not suggesting that this standard walking method is bad nor worse than the Nanba method. In fact, you can probably walk and definitely run faster using the conventional method. The conventional method may be even better if you wish to burn up your extra calories from a big meal by your fast walking exercise in a park.

 

If you wish to practice this walking method, let me suggest that you pay much attention to how to coordinate your shoulders along with your steps. You will want to move the same side shoulder forward as you step forward. As far as your hands are concerned, you want to keep your arms close to your sides with both hands slightly forward. In fact, you can do the Nanba walking easier if you hold your hands together in front of you. The idea is not to move your arms too much and pay attention to the smooth coordination of your shoulders and steps.

 

Let me give you one more unique feature of a samurai walk. I have written in the past an article about Noh, a traditional Japanese theatrical play. In it I discussed about suri ashi (摺り足 photo below), Suri ashiso you may remember what I wrote. If you walk in a conventional way, believe it or not your body will go up and down slightly. This motion may not be felt or noticed when you walk but it becomes more obvious when you run. Suri ashi is found in Noh play but certainly it was used by the samurai. I am sure I do not need to explain why any more. Yes, the swords are heavy and you surely want to minimize your energy in walking. I will not go too deeply into Suri ashi but this walking method can be applied in karate training so I will give you a few pointers. The idea in suri ashi is to slide your foot parallel with the floor. It will be easier if you lean your body slightly forward as shown in the photo left. This is how they teaNohch the Noh walking. What happens here is that your ankles will be bent so that you can move your foot without or with a little lifting of your heel. Initially it is easier if you bend your knees slightly. You cannot take a large step. You will walk with small steps and that is the way you want to walk if you are wearing a kimono especially the women’s as it wraps pretty tightly around the legs all the way down to the ankles. Why do you, a karateka, want to learn suri ashi? If you are a senior practitioner you already know the answer. When you body shift you want to minimize the ups and downs of your body height except for some situations such as jumping, extra high stance and extra low stance.

 

Now let’s quickly look at what the samurai tried to avoid. The points were 1) no rocking of the hips, 2) no twisting of the upper body, and 3) no ups and downs of the body. I hope you see that these points make good sense as the samurai carried the heavy swords on their left hip. The rest of the Japanese population (farmers, merchants, labors and craftsmen) might have not imitated the fine points of these body mechanisms, but at least, they all followed the etiquette of not swinging their arms as they walked.nanba old time

You will probably say “OK I understand now why the samurai walked in Nanba method but what has it got to do with me?” I was hoping you would ask. I would like to ask you to take a closer look at the body mechanism of Nanba walking. Doesn’t the body mechanism of the samurai look like what your sensei tells you to do in your karate training?

You do not want to have a rocking motion (side ways) of your hips when you step forward or backward. It is interesting to tell you but I see many students including the yudansha rocking their hips in their karate techniques. The junior students may ask, “Why is it bad?” or “Why do we have to avoid this?” All the senior practitioners know the answer but I will explain briefly for the junior practitioners. In kumite what happens if your attacking side opponent rocks his/her hips as he/she steps forward? Correct, you can easily detect his/her move. No need to explain further. The same reason goes equally for the hips going up and coming down. This is why you need to practice suri ashi and also the correct use of the knee to keep your hip height at the same as you make your attack. It is much easier to detect the movement of sideways and up/down when you compare them to back and forth. As long as you do not move horizontally and vertically, the opponent will have more difficulty detecting you making a small body shifting forward by bending your front knee forward, for an example.

How about twisting the hips? Most of you may say, “We frequently use hip rotations in our techniques so what’s wrong with this?” You are quite right that hip rotations are found in many of the karate techniques. Good examples may be Tekki and Bassai kata but the hip rotation is found in literally all kata. Let me explain why I say we need to limit or control the hip rotation. This is a little technical and may be beyond the understanding of the junior practitioners. But for the senior practitioners I believe understanding this and being able to execute this is almost critical so I will do my best to explain.

First, compare if you feel the difference in the body between executing oi zuki (illlustration left below) and oi gayku zuki (illustration right below).

oizuki

oi gyaku zuki

 

Maybe you have practiced these techniques so many times you may not feel too much difference. However, if you are a junior practitioner, oi gyaku zuki is much more difficult. Check your kyu exam syllabus. In most organizations, you will find oi zuki for the 8th kyu requirement but not oi gyaku zuki. Why? Because it is, interestingly, more difficult. Many techniques a junior practitioner learns are consisted of the arms and the legs of the same side, i.e. gedan barai, age uke, etc. However, this is for a single technique. Once you have a multiple techniques such as a combination of a block and a counter attack, you will often have gyaku zuki. So, you will say, “We should practice the difficult techniques and that is karate training.” You are right and we must not stop practicing it just because it is a difficult technique. It seems to be a simple technique, one reverse punch. Why? Because it is not a natural body movement. Many junior practitoners “cheat” by taking a step forward first then execute a gyaku zuki after the stance is already set. It is much more difficult to execute gyaku zuki as you are stepping forward (by the way, I am sure you know that gyaku zuki with stepping backward is even more challenging). Executing oi zuki as you step forward is much easier as you are extending the arm with the leg of the same side. I wanted to mention this as we all need to know this but this is not the reason why I am brining this subject here.

Age uke gyaku zukiThe key point I want to bring up is a combination, such as age uke and gyaku zuki or even a kicking counter attack. We see this combination very frequently in our kihon kumite. When an opponent attacks with jodan oi zuki, the defender steps back and execute jodan age uke then follows up with chudan (or jodan) gyaku zuki. The instructor tells the junior practitioners to make a big hanmi (hip rotated in a large angle, the blocking side shoulder is almost pointing to the opponent) then he will tell you, “Make a large hip rotation before gyaku zuki.” The reason why he tells you to make a large rotation is, supposedly, that action would generate more power to the counter punch. I do not agree with this claim but we will not go into this subject because it is not an important subject for this discussion. I say it is not important because generating so much power into a counter punch is unnecessary. In other words, this is the same argument that we do not need to have a magnum 45 gun to kill a person when a small 22 can do the job in most of cases. The problem I wish to present here is the timing. The combination of age uke with gyaku zuki is commonly called two tempo combination. In other words, you have two separate techniques delivered one after another. The timing of two tempo is ok only if the opponent would wait his/her second attack long enough to allow you to execute that gyaku zuki. In a kihon ippon kumite, a long delay after a block is permissible. However, if you do this in jiyu ippon kumite and if your opponent continues to move away after his/her first attack, your gyaku zuki would be punching in the air as your opponent is long gone. So, what do you need to do? Yes, what you need to do is to reduce the timing between a block and a counter. For this purpose, it is very obvious that a big wind up of your hips will only slow you down. You need to rotate your hips less before you do gyaku zuki. You want to keep your hips almost straight (or very small hanmi) when you block. Many of you may be surprised as this is, probably, complete opposite from what you heard from your sensei. You may feel you cannot generate enough power in your gyaku zuki if a hip rotation is small. I point out the same analogy that a 22 gun is good enough to kill if you hit the right target. However, you can, if you are an advanced practitioner, generate almost as much power without a big hip rotation. How? It is called hip vibration. In some of the Okinawan styles, they even claim they do not have gyaku zuki like we have in Shotokan. They keep their hips straight when they block so that the punch is delivered from shomen instead of from hanmi. They use the hip vibration to “whip” out the punch.

Oizuki in tournamentAnother budo reason why we should minimize the twisting of our body is energy consumption. Our typical dojo training is between one to two hours. Our kumite, jiyu kumite, typically lasts only one to two minutes and you have only one opponent. This is why you do not need to worry about conserving your energy. The way you conserve energy is to go slower or use less power. You must think how would you last in a 6 hour or 8 hour class. How about doing three hour jiyu kumite facing 100 opponents? How to conserve your energy in a wise way becomes very important.

Then why do the instructors teach big rotation? All the karate techniques are difficult to a novice so you need to teach a novice with a large motion. Eventually, the movements must develop and improve which means the outer physical movements become smaller yet the core level movements may be the same or similar. If your sensei continues to tell you to make a large hip rotation for your counter, I suggest you use another kind of technique such as using the same arm to do both block and counter. This combination will not require hip rotation. Or block and counter simultaneously using both arms. This one also does not require a hip rotation. In both situation, high level of hip vibration can and should be used. A hip vibration itself is a big subject and I will have to find another occasion to make a full article.

 

Conclusion:

My recommendation is not to learn Nanba walking per se. But rather, I hope the readers will study it and see if you can really see the benefits that I have described above from this walking mechanism.

Even if you do not agree, I suggest that you will check your body mechanism in your karate techniques. Check and see if you have any fundamental errors such as unnecessary hip rocking and too much hip rotations in your techniques. By eliminating those errors or faulty moves I guarantee that your karate will improve dramatically.

If you happen to want to try Nanba walking, I will attach the video links below where they teach this walking method. At first, I suggest you will start by sticking your hands in the pockets and walk slowly. This way you Nanba Japanese 2will not need to swing your arms. What you want to do here is to pay attention to your shoulders. As you step forward, try to move your shoulder of the same side forward. Do not swing your upper body too much but keep it at minimum. I think you can quickly pick up Nanba walking and enjoy it.

 

If you have any comments to my article, I am open to any constructive suggestions and criticism. Please leave them here at my blog sight so that all the readers can share your thoughts and ideas.

 

 

Here are some related videos and websites where you can learn more about Nanba walking:

Video of nanba walking explanation and demonstration by William Reed (18 min 34 sec)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BLhcIRxhck

 

 

William Reed has a web site called Samurai Walk

http://www.samurai-walk.com/

 

 

Nanba aruki (Nanba walking) guide:

http://www.tofugu.com/guides/namba-aruki/

 

Nanba karate

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxWS2l8N0u8#t=98

 

Naginata

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1mz579RRrM

 

 

Tekki and its deeper understanding 形・鉄騎をより深く理解するには

Kanji 1Tekki used to be a fundamental kata for Shurite karate from which Shotokan evolved. Until Funakoshi changed its name it was called Naihanchi, Naifanchi or Naihanchin. It is interesting to discuss about the names of this kata but we will not do this in this article. What I want to say about this kata is very unfortunately no longer receiving proper attention and sufficient training in most of the Shotokan schools. At those dojo Tekki Shodan is considered only as a required kata to advance from 4 kyu to 3 kyu, or a kata before brown belt when you begin to learn the “real” kata. This trend is very unfortunate because it means a huge loss to Shotokan karate in general. My wish is that this article will provide the missing information and make the readers to realize the important essence that is built in this unique kata. I hope this realization will result in more appreciation and motivation to practice Tekki more frequently and with more respect. Before I continue, I wish to ask a quick question to the instructorsTekki by Funakoshi 1

Funakoshi performing Tekki Shodan (from Karatedo Kyohan)

and senior practitioners. Why is the first step (left foot) moved in front of the right foot? Why not behind? Is there any significance in the move? Or is it an irreverent or worthless point? Please think about it and I will touch on this again later.

Tekki is unique because the only stance other than heisoku dachi and kosa dachi is kiba dachi. Of course, kiba dachi is a perfect stance to train your legs but there is one other key and hidden objective in this stance and I will cover it in key point #1. In addition to kiba dachi this kata’s body shifting is done only to the sideways which makes this kata unique and mysterious. I will cover this in key point #2. There is one more interesting point. There are three Tekki; Shodan, Nidan and Sandan. In all of them it starts to right side. You remember you start to left in all Heian kata. I will not go into this topic in this article. I will leave it as homework for those who are curious and interested. I will share my hypothesis somewhere else in the future.

Key point #1:

Kamae of Tekki Shodan is heisoku dachi. Interestingly the next kata you learn, Bassai Dai’s kamae is also heisoku dachi. In Tekki you learn to body shift sideways while in Bassai you learn to step forward. I see the wisdom and I am truly impressed with the deep understanding by the Okinawan master who developed the kata syllabus. The students learn to shift sideways first because that is easier to show how to shift the body weight between left and right feet. In other words, at kamae of heisoku dachi, your body weight is put evenly between left andNidan Funakoshi right feet. With the first move, you cross your legs (kosa dachi). The same mechanism is taught in Tekki Nidan. The only difference is that you start from shizentai which is more natural stance than heisoku dachi. What happens at the first step is that your weight on your left leg becomes zero as you lift it to step over and the weight distribution on the right foot becomes 100%. Of course, at kosa dachi there will be a small weight distribution (maybe 10% or so) but at the next instance it will receive 100% as your right foot is lifted up high for fumikomi. Then you will end in kiba dachi (back to 50/50). This change of weight distribution from 50/50 to 0/100 (or 10/90) and to 100/0 and finally to 50/50 is the biggest learning lesson in Tekki. Every time you step aside and go to a next kiba dachi through kosa dachi, you learn how to body shift quickly and strongly. Once you learn how to move sideways then the Okinawa masters believed the students can start learning how to body shift forward. I agree with them totally. The value of this technique has been lost, as far as I can see in Shotokan, and it is not taught that way anymore. Thus, many students miss learning this key point. They mistakenly believe Tekki is a strange and unimportant kata you go through before you become a brown belt so you can tackle more important kata like Bassai. It is a big shame and I wish many people study this kata again and find the true value of this amazing kata.

Let’s go back to my first question. Why do we step the left foot in front of the right foot instead of behind. Take a close look at Funakoshi’s left foot in the two photos above (from Shodan and Nidan).

You can see it is planted firmly on his entire foot. This is critically important. If your left foot touches only the ball of the foot like kosa dachi then you will have to step down thKosadachie heel before you can shift the entire body weight to the left foot which is an extra move. Is the lost time long? No, it is only a split of second but it is still significant if you are trying to achieve a quick weight shifting process which is one of the key objectives of the Tekki training. So, If you step your left foot behind the right foot, your feet will look just like the illustration on the left. If you force your left foot to be totally flat on the ground you will lose your balance or need to shift towards the rear. This is only natural as a leg is attached to the backside of your foot. You have much more space in front so that you can easily cross over and put the entire foot on the floor. Then, what’s wrong with stepping the left foot behind the right foot and as a result your body shifting happens towards your back? It is not “wrong” as this step can be used effectively if you are going to throw ushiro geri or yoko kekomi with your right foot. From a kiba dachi you will shift and you will point your rear or back to the opponent as you step your left foot behind the right foot. If I remember correctly Bruce Lee used this (stepping behind and kicking yoko geri) in one of the movies. Because of his dramatic action I also remember many kumite competitors took kiba dachi stance in 70’s.

Regardless, the use of this stepping is limited, therefore, the fundamental concept of kata is to move forward. This concept is also adopted in Tekki by stepping in front of the other leg.

Key point #2:


There are two good reasons why Tekki is based only on Kiba dachi and the body movement is sideways. The first one is obvious and very well known, kiba dachi is an excellent stance to train and strengthen your legs. The second one has been a mystery: why only moving sideways? I have heard a few ideas. One was that this kata was created to fight with the wall behind you. Another was to learn the fighting method in a narrow corridor. I will talk about bunkai later so I will not go into this now. Let me present my understanding from this unique kata. I have already mentioned about the uniqueness of the body shifting. Tekki was the very first kata before Heian was invented in late 19th century and with this kata Okinawan masters wanted the beginners to learn how to body shift sideways before they learned how to body shift forward. Why sideways first? It is because it is physically easier to shift that direction. I know many peoplefunakoshi_gichin_tekki_hip rotation do not see this point as they feel more comfortable moving forward but un-natural with side shifting. But I ask you to experiment the following. Stand up straight in heisoku dachi (the arms can be held at side or hands holding the belt as you are experimenting only the body shifting) and lean forward. You have several muscle groups in feet and calves to prevent the falling. After feeling this physical reaction, from the same heisoku dachi, try leaning sideways. You will find it is a lot harder to prevent falling sideways. Believe it or not, ninja of medieval Japan found this running method useful and trained running sideways. Regardless, by “falling” to the side a beginner in Okinawa learned a quick body shift method. Once he learned the sideway method by Tekki, he went on to Bassai Dai to learn another quick body shifting method by “falling” forward. This is the idea of hidden energy of the water that is held in a dam. I must say this old time curriculum of learning the fast body shifting is amazing and so wise. I covered the details of this concept in another chapter, “Balancing in unstableness”.

In fact there is another reason for kiba dachi which is not too emphasized in the most dojo. Kiba dachi is classified as one of the outside tension stance. However, by moving sideways one learns how to tense the inner muscles of upper legs. This again helps in fast body shifting.

I must add one more point from the training purpose of Tekki Shodan. As you can see in the photo (right), Master Funakoshi is beautifully demonstrating the flexibility of his hip joints. A student must learn to rotate the upper body in 180 degrees in these particular combinations without deforming his kiba dachi. Unless your hips and mid- section are flexible it will be extremely difficult to rotate the upper body as shown in the photo. This is the excellent example of a solid and unmovable stance with flexible upper body movements.

Key point #3:Nakayama Y Osaka

The last one is the most challenging to understand and this has never been explained before. It is a concept of an invisible leg and I see the true wisdom of Okinawan master who created this kata. Let me explain but first take a look at the photo below. Here is a photo of Nakayama sensei instructing Tekki using his assistant, Osaka sensei who is doing namigaeshi. As you can see he is not standing straight up on his left leg in this technique. He remained in kiba dachi position except his right leg is doing namigaeshi. In other words, he will “fall” to his right side if he continues to keep his right leg up in the air. Of course he will land his right foot quickly and continues to the next technique. When you learned this kata I suspect many students might have been instructed by their sensei to do exactly that. In the video Nakayama sensei is saying, “Don’t lean to your left. Do your namigaeshi very quickly and put your right foot down before you fall so that you can keep the upper body in the same position.” To do this you had to remain in this position for a split of a second while you execute a namigaeshi technique. So look at the photo again. By looking at his upper body Osaka sensei could be in a stable kiba dachi. In other words, for a split second he was standing as though he had an invisible right leg under his right hip. You could almost draw an invisible leg there. To be able to do this you have to learn the use of internal muscles which I will not explain here as it is very much involved. But you must ask now wAsai-sensei-vs-Mikami-sensei-2hy do you have to learn this. Some sensei probably told you that you need to learn how to do namigaeshi quickly. It sounds too obvious and no brainer. No one has explained that there is a hidden purpose or objective in this particular technique. Remind you the technique I am referring to is not namigaeshi but an invisible leg stance.

OK so I said it was to develop the internal muscles but for what purpose? Believe it or not, this is to develop the balance that is necessary for strong support in zenkutsu dachi and kicks. Let me further explain. When I say zenkutsu dachi I do not mean a still zenkutsu dachi with both feet on the ground. I am talking about the zenkutsu dachi while you are attacking forward. Take a look at a photo below. This is a famous photo taken at one of the matches at 1961 JKA National Championship in Tokyo Japan. The attacker on the left is Mikami sensei (JKA 8 dan now resides in Louisiana) and the other is late Asai sensei (the founder of JKS) who is doing a taisabaki in the air. Asai sensei won this match and went on to win the championship this year but this is not the subject here. What I want to call your attention is the stance of Mikami sensei in this photo. Look at the extension of the left leg and he looks like he was flying in the air. I am not saying Mikami sensei developed his great extension ability only from practicing Tekki. What I am saying is this invisible leg technique in Tekki can help the practitioners if they wish to develop the strong extension ability. Then the smart readers will quickly realize why this ability is also used in the kicking techniques. You probably figured out correctly that this ability is not particularly aiding the kick itself but rather for the strong supporting leg that will give you the forward reach. A rifle has an advantage over a pistol becausemae_geri 1 a rifle has a longer range. The same can be said if your kick has a longer reach. A high kick is fine in a close distance fight, but you need a reach if an opponent is far. The photo on the right is showing a well extended mae geri but this can be applied to all the kicks. So, I hope you understand the importance of this invisible leg technique secretly hidden in namigaeshi practice of Tekki. Now the readers are curious about the internal muscles and their training. Maybe someday I will spend much time to address to this interesting and important subject. For now I suggest you to practice Tekki hopefully with a different vision. If you like kumite it is worth your time to improve the invisible leg technique as it will make your tsuki or keri attacks much more effective and threatening to your opponents.

The last thing I want to include in this article is Bunkai. Here, I only wish to provide you the basic concepts from which you need to build your understanding. We have already established that there are several levels of interpretation and applications which is called Bunkai. If the application works then basically that bunkai can be considered as “applicable” or “realistic”. If it does not work then it means either the interpretation or application is incorrect or your techniques are poor. 

There are two fundamental concepts we must know about Tekki bunkai. Unfortunately, these concepts are not well known and some incorrect interpretations are widely spread or believed.


#1: Tekki kata teaches many short distance fighting techniques such as tsukami uke, kagi zuki, ashi uke or knee kicks (blocking with knee or leg) with nami gaeshi, enpi uchi, jodan nagashi uke, tate uraken uchi, hold breaks (first move of Nidan), throws (kagi zuki in Shodan, 2nd and 3rd moves of Nidan), gedan zuki, joint attacks and arm twisting waza to name a few.

#2: Fundamentally, your imaginary opponent is in front of you and not necessarily to your side. You must not confuse the direction of bunkai just because the kata foot steps are done only to the sideways. This kata is not teaching you to fight only in kiba dachi which exposes your front (groin and midsection) to your opponent; of course, tactically unwise. Look at Funakoshi photo above where he is doing morote ude uke to his right side in a beautiful kiba dachi. Just try this. Hide below the belt and see how his upper body above the belt looks like. What do you see? Doesn’t it look like he would be doing this technique in his right zenkutsu dachi? In bunkai you will do this technique in zenkutsu, but in Tekki kata you practice from kiba dachi (for the purposes I had described). This kata was not designed as a fighting method with your back against the wall or in a narrow corridor as suggested in Shotokan’s Secret by Bruce Clayton though I respect his opinion and his work. It was designed rather to teach a fighting method with restricted hip rotation by keeping the stance only in kiba dachi. This is a perfect training for short distance fighting which means you are in a grappling distance and not much room to move. When you observe this kata by Shorin ryu practitioners you will witness a much more pronounced hip vibration with each technique.

Tekki by Funakoshi 2Here are two photos that show an interesting bunkai performed by Funakoshi and his student. They show a bunkai for the second and the third movements (haishu uchi and enpi uchi) of Tekki Shodan. Hhere haishu uchi is used as haishu osae or otoshi uke. Then he grabs the opponent’s right wrist next and pulls him down while he takes one step forward and rotates his hips to bring his opponent’s upper body down. During this process, he executes left enpi uchi to the opponent’s right elbow or place his left hand on the opponent’s elbow joint for a leverage. More aggressive interpretation (not shown in the photos here) can be a jodan enpi uchi to the opponent’s head instead of his elbow.

By the way, with this hip rotation and a take-down he faces completely opposite side (to his 6 o’clock) in this bunkai. If you are mentally trapped and believed that Tekki techniques must face only to one direction then you cannot even imagine this bunkai. In fact, this rotation move is incorporated in Tekki Mugen (Infinite Tekki).

Conclusion:

I shared only two key points of Tekki and what did you think? Did these key points make sense to you? Did you realize those points are essential and fundamental elements as you develop your karate especially for an intermediate practitioner? I sincerely hope you did. I recommend all intermediate practitioners between 4 kyu to 1 kyu and possibly including Shodan to put this kata in his regular training menu. I ask 4 kyu practitioners particularly not to stop practicing this kata after passing to 3 kyu. I am aware that there are many new kata a brown belt needs to learn but Tekki is a short kata and it will not take too much time to include this kata. Spend 5 if not 10 minutes with this kata in each training and you can do at least 10 times. If you learn Tekki Mugen you can continue to do this kata straight 5 minutes or how much ever time you give without stopping at all. In addition I must add, you can do Tekki Mugen in a different shape enbusen including a circle, square or whatever the shape you wish. 

As I learn further into the art of karate and find new meanings I become more impressed with the cleverness and wisdom of those ancient Okinawan masters who left us this treasure called kata.

Old-Funakoshi-TekkiOld-Funakoshi-Tekki 2

What is Ki?  氣とは何ぞや? Part 1

ki-kanji-2This is a deep and complex subject. There is a large number of books written in Japanese on this subject but unfortunately the articles and the books in English or other language (other than Chinese) are rare. I have thought about writing an article on this subject for a long time but I always hesitated as it is so involved. I plan to write a longer and more comprehensive article in the future, but for this blog I will cover mainly the part that is related to karate and its relationship to breathing.

OK let us start. For many of the readers, Ki may be a mysterious and possibly dubious concept of Asia but it really is not and I wish to put some light on the subject today. In essence Ki is “the source or the energy that gives life”. In other words, it is something that is enabling us to live. As long as you are alive you have Ki in you as a living being. When you die, your Ki is believed to return to the nature. All the living things such as animals, insects and plants that are alive have feng-shui 2their own Ki. In fact, we Japanese believe even non-life matters and objects in the nature such as stones, mountains, lakes, rivers, rain, lightening, cloud, stars, etc. have their own Ki in them. This is why we have feng shui (風水),a Chinese system of geomancy believed to use the laws of both Heaven (Chinese astronomy) and Earth to help one improve life by receiving positive qi or chi (). The term feng shui literally translates as “wind-water” in English. If you are interested feng-shui 4in this art you can look up in Wikipedia that explains the history and the theories. The basic concept comes from different natural factors such as directions and things such as mountains, rivers, etc. have different energies. Different combinations have positive or negative impact to the people. Asian particularly the Chinese take this very seriously and feng shui becomes one of the major deciding factors when they choose a house. This is very popular with the Chinese people even living in the US and probably in Europe too.

Anyway, we believe everything has its own energy and its unique vibration (波動) called Ki. This is a profound concept as the modern physics (special and general relativity) came to realize only a century ago that everything in the universe is consisted from energy and the base construction is vibrations (waves) created by the energy. Even if you do not know quantum physics you know the famous Einstein’s energy formula; E=MC2 which he announced in 1905. EinsteinMass–energy equivalence is the concept that the mass of a body is a measure of its energycontent. In this concept, mass is a property of all energy; energy is a property of all mass; and the two properties are connected by a constant. So the 3000 years old Chinese concept cannot be considered totally groundless or unbelievable.

Though the concept of Ki extends to everything in the universe, let us look at only the Ki that is related to us, people here in this article.

When we look at our body we find different waves and patterns. The most obvious one that we all know is our brain waves. Another one is blood pressure which changes in the general patterns throughout a day. There are other not so visible or noticeable physical conditions such as body temperature and hormone level that also fluctuate during a day. A circadian rhythm is something you will notice only when you travel a long distance covering different time zones. According to Wikipedia, a circadian rhythmis any biological process that displays an endogenous, entrain-ableoscillation of about 24 hours. These rhythms are driven by a circadian clock, and rhythms have been widely observed in plants, animals, and cyanobacteria. One’s hormone level changes by the hours and it is tied to a circadian rhythm and you may need a help from the tablets of melatonin to be able to sleep during your overseas trips. Most of these cycles and waves are closely tied to the tides, and the fact of having day and night.

So, Ki is the energy source in our body that can affect the waves and the cycles of our bodily functions. Everyone has his Ki then how do we increase it? In fact there are two ways to increase the energy in your body. One is what everyone does every day, eatingand drinking. It is an outer source. This is why your diet is important to your health. The other source is internal and it is Ki that was discovered or recognized a few thousand years ago in China.. In the western world, Ki was not discovered or recognized. Instead, the area of mind was developed by the modern-day psychology notably by Freud and Jung. It came about only since mid-19th century. If you have a consistent depression your doctor will tell you that you are having some chemical malfunction in your head so he recommends you to take some medication (the upper) to lift your feelings up. 外気功1On the other hand, Ki master or Ki doctor will tell you that your Ki is weak and point out a specific area of your body that is lacking the Ki or the Ki flow is slowed or blocked. He may suggest acupuncture or moxa treatment along with the breathing exercises. Those treatments will stimulate the local Ki and that results in better flow of Ki throughout your body. The Ki doctor may also give you some medication but not made of chemicals but mainly of the herbs and the natural ingredients. It is taken in a form of tea or soup.

Acupuncture

The difference of treatments and diagnosis between two schools does not stop with mental and it is also into physical domain. When you have back pain or if you suffer from some type of allergy you can resort to the acupuncture, moxa and or herbal treatments.

Acupuncture (), is famous even in the western world. Moxa cautery or simply Burning moxamoxa () is probably less known but it is a very popular medical treatment for many illnesses in Asia. I remember my grand-mother used to put a lot of moxa pieces on the shoulders and back to ease her headache, backache and arthritis pains In case you do not know moxa, you put fire to the pieces that look like a bit from an incent stick. It burns very slowly and in fact it burns your skin and that stimuli gives a shock or an energy to the Ki spot that needed the energy, Ki. I tried it so I know it burns. I have also tried acupuncture and I like that better than moxa. Anyway, there is more radical medical treatment using Ki. One is Ki anesthesia and the other is Ki operation. You might have seen the video clips on these treatments. They are all related to Ki and its flow. I will not go into these particular treatments as I do not have any experience in them and my focus in this article is not Ki’s medical applications. There are some extra ordinary reports of such treatments so you can look for the video clips and other reports if you are interested.

I give a lot of credit to modern western medicine and medical accomplishments so I am not discounting or bad mouthing those treatments. To find a cancer symptom you must go to a hospital and take an X-ray. However, in the area of prevention, light illness and especially an early stage of the illness, I believe, natural treatments and Ki training may be a better choice and would make better sense. I want to emphasize that I am not a medical doctor so I am not qualified to give a medical advice or recommendation.

Tai chi  2We believe that our body system is run by or filled with the waves and cycles. When they are off tuned or imbalanced we get in a situation or a condition called sickness or illness (both physical and mental). So the ancient people created various ways to strengthen the Ki and maintain the patterns steady and in balance. The methods include Chi-gong or Kiko (気功), Yoga, Zen meditation(座禅), Tai chi chuan or Taijiquan (太極拳) along with some kung fu styles and a few other martial arts like aikido (合気道).

I practiced Nishino style kiko in Tokyo for three years (1997 – 1999). I included the experiences I had at Nishino dojo in my recent book, Nishino-KiShotokan Mysteries so I will not repeat them here. I only say that the training was mainly to relax your muscles with deep breathing exercises. Let me point out that Tai Chi can be an excellent Ki building system but only when it is taught with its breathing method correctly. It is an internal martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits but moving slowly itself will not ensure the Ki building. It must be done with a proper breathing exercise in a harmonious way with the body movements. In fact, for Ki building alone Tai Chi is a better method than karate training. I will explain why I say this later.

Chi-gong, Yoga, Zen meditation and Tai chi chuan are in essence the slow-moving exercise that is closely tied to deep breathing. You may wonder why I include Zen meditatioCirculation of Kin in Ki building. I can see why you wonder as there are no body actions in Zen meditation. It may seem no movements as the arms and legs are still. However, Zen meditation if done with deep breathing requires a lot of movements with your lung, diaphragm, abdominal and inner muscles. By breathing deeply you will strengthen the diaphragm and the inner muscles in the lower abdominal region which is called Tanden (丹田) which means the source of energy or storage of Ki.

(Continues to Part 2)

Niju kun of Yamaoka Tesshu 山岡鉄舟二十訓

Portrait 4

I want to introduce one of the last samurais in the Bakumatsu (end of Tokugawa shogunate), (徳川幕府) period. His name is Tesshu Yamaoka (山岡 鉄舟, 1836 – 1888). I respect him for his philosophy and the way he lived. He sets a very high goal but he is my role model. I also want to introduce his Nijukun (twenty principles) which guided his life style.

First let’s look at who Tesshu was. Yamaoka Tesshu was a famous samurai who played an important role in the Meiji Restoration(明治維新). He was also the founder of the Itto Shoden Muto ryu (一刀正伝無刀流) kenjutsu or swordsmanship style.

Tesshu began his study of swordsmanship when he was nine years old. Over time Tesshu studied a number of fencing styles and became highly proficient. Here is a famous story of him meeting his new teacher. When he was twenty eight, Tesshu was defeated by an expert swordsman named Asari Yoshiaki (浅利 義明1822 – 1894, photo below), AKA Matahichiro (又七郎) and became his student. Although larger and younger, Tesshu could not match his teacher’s mental state. During training sessions, AAsarisari was known to force Tesshu all the way to the back of the dojo, then out into the street, knock him to the ground, and then slammed the dojo door. Confronted with this challenge, Tesshu continuously increased his efforts in his training and meditation. Even when he was eating or sleeping, Tesshu was constantly thinking about kenjutsu. He also slept with his sword wrapped in his arms. He would sometimes wake up at night, jump out of bed, and stand in the yard with his drawn sword to explore his new insight. Then, one morning in 1880, when he was 45 years old, Tesshu attained “Enlightenment” while sitting in zazen. Later that morning he went to the dojo to practice with Asari. Upon seeing Tesshu, Asari recognized at once that Tesshu had reached “Enlightenment”. Asari, declined to practice with Tesshu, acknowledging Tesshu’s accomplishment by saying, “You have attained.” After this, Tesshu went on to open his own school of kenjutsu called Shunpukan (春風館).

Tesshu was 187 cm (six feet two iches) tall and weighed 105 kg (231 lbs), unusually big for a Japanese person of his time, and very athletic. Writing 7He was a natural leader and very competitive. So intense was his practice of his three main pursuits (fencing, Zen, and calligraphy), that his nickname was Demon Tesshu. Tesshu was also famous for combining his competitive nature with his love of drinking. He was a master calligrapher. The enormous number of the calligraphy paintings he has created is estimated to be over a million. His art works are considered very important with great value thus even now they are studied by many. One can see many of his works as they are being exhibited in many museums, temples and shrines all around Japan.

Tesshu’s life bridged the time between feudal and modern Japan. Tesshu held a position as a bodyguard for the last Togugawa Shogun. Tesshu even played a role in the transition of power. Then Tesshu became a tutor for the Emperor Meiji during the emperor’s early adulthood.

Tesshu died from stomach cancer at the age of fifty-three. On the day before he died, Tesshu noticed that there were no sounds of training coming from his dojo. When Tessu wStatueas told that the students had canceled training to be with him in his last hours, he ordered them to return to the dojo saying, “Training is the only way to honor me!” Tesshu’s last moments before his death were truly impressive and almost unbelievable. First he composed his death poem, then he predicted when he would pass. On the last day, he sat in zazen position facing toward Edo Castle where Meiji Emperor lived until he took his last breath. This is why I respect him the most out of all the samurai heroes.

This is called Tesshu Niju kun (鉄舟二十訓). He used these 20 kuns to guide his life style. I will translate the original Japanese words. I take all the blame if any part of my translation is incorrect or poor.

 鉄舟二十訓

Tesshu Niju kunWriting 2

一、 嘘いうべからず候

#1 We must not lie.

二、 君の御恩を忘るべからず候

#2 We must always remember the support received from our lord.

三、 父母の御恩を忘るべからず候

#3 We must remember the love received from our parents.

四、 師の御恩を忘るべからず候

#4 We must remember the valuable education from our teachers.

五、 人の御恩を忘るべからず候

#5 We must remember the kindness and help that we received from others.

六、 神仏並びに長者を粗末にすべからく候

#6 We must show our respect to our seniors and all the gods.

七、 幼者をあなどるべからず候

#7 We must not make light of our juniors .

八、 己れに心よからざること他人に求むべからず候

#8 We must not ask others to do something that we do not want to do ourselves.

九、 腹を立つるは道にあらず候

#9 Getting angry means you are not following the way.

十、 何事も不幸を喜ぶべからず候

#10 We must never welcome other people’s unhappiness or misfortune.

十一、 力の及ぶ限りは善き方につくすべく候

#11 Do your best to support a good man.

十二、 他を顧みずして自分をよきことばかりすべからず候

#12 Do not do a favor only for yourself without considering others.

十三、 食するたびに稼しょくの艱難を思うべし すべて草木土石にても粗末

にすべからく候

#13 Remember the hard labor of the farmers when you eat. Do not waste anything including the plants and the stones.

十四、 ことさらに着物をかざり あるいはうわべだけをつくろうものは 心

に濁りあるものと心得べく候

#14 A person has a cloudy mind if he wears excessively nice clothes and worries about his looks.

十五、 礼儀を乱るべからず候

#15 We must not forget the daily etiquette.

Writing 8

十六、 何時何人に接するも客人に接するように心得うべく候

#16 Whenever we talk to the others, we must remember to act as if they are all our guests.

十七、 己れの知らざることは何人にでもならうべく候

#17 We must learn from anyone who can teach us about the things we do not know.

十八、 名利のために学問技芸すべからず候

#18 We must not study or practice martial arts only to gain fame and wealth.

十九、 人にはすべて能、不能あり いちがいに人をすて或は笑うべからず候

#19 Each person has his/her strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, do not disregard or laugh at someone for his/her shortcomings.

二十、 己れの善行を誇り顔に人に知らしべからず すべて我が心に恥ざるに

務むべく候

#20 We must not show off our good deeds by our expression or behavior. We must behave, all the time, in ways that we will not embarrass our own character.

*******************

I am very much aware that it is very challenging to follow all these principles. But I will do my darnest as I wish to live like Yamaoka Tesshu. Most of all, I wish to take my last breath sitting in a lotus position like he did. In the next world, Tesshu will be my judge and I hope I can face him without any embarassment.

Portrait 2

糸洲安恒先生遺稿 (唐手心得十ヶ條)

Kenwa MabuniFunakoshiI expect that all advanced Shotokan and Shito ryu practitioners must have heard the name Itosu Anko. Yes, he was the sensei of Gichin Funakoshi (the first photo), the founder of Shotokan and of Kenwa Mabuni (the second photo), the founder of Shito ru. However, I am afraid that not enough credit has been given to Master Itosu for what he has done to modernize karate and to bring karate to the public. Today I want to introduce him so that all of us can remember his great contributions that helped build the modern day karate that we have now.

I will also share his valuable teachings that he left in Tode Kokoroe Jukkajo (唐手心得十ヶ條 , Ten Precepts of Karate).

Instead of re-creating the biography of Master Itosu I will use a quote from a page out of Wikipedia.

Ankō Itosu (糸洲 安恒: Itosu Ankō, 1831 – 11 March 1915, photo below) is considered by many to be the father of modern karate, although this title is also often given to Gichin Funakoshi because the latter spread karate throughout Japan. A low-rank Ryukyuan Pechin, Itosu was small in stature, shy, and introverted as a child. He was raised in a strict home of the keimochi (a family of position), and was educated in the Chinese Classics and calligraphy. Itosu began his tode (karate) study under Nagahama Chikudun Pechin. His study of the art led him to Sokon Matsumura. Part of Itosu’s training was makiwara practice. He once tied a leather sandal to a stone wall in an effort to build a better makiwara. After several strikes, the stone fell from the wall. After relocating the sandal several times, Itosu ended up destroying the wall.

ANKO ITOSU

Itosu served as a secretary to the last king of the Ryukyu Kingdom until Japan abolished the Okinawa-based native monarchy in 1879. In 1901, he was instrumental in getting karate introduced into Okinawa’s schools. In 1905, Itosu was a part-time teacher of To-te at Okinawa’s First Junior Prefectural High School. It was here that he developed the systematic method of teaching karate techniques that are still in practice today. He created and introduced the Pinan forms (Heian) as learning steps for students, because he felt the older forms (kata) were too difficult for schoolchildren to learn. The five Pinan forms were (allegedly) created by drawing from two older forms: Kusanku and Chiang nan.

Itosu is also credited with taking the large Naihanchi form (tekki) and breaking it into the three well-known modern forms Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan, and Naihanchi Sandan. In 1908, Itosu wrote the influential “Ten Precepts (Jukun) of Karate,” reaching beyond Okinawa to Japan. Itosu’s style of karate, Shorin ryu, came to be known as Itosu-ryu in recognition of his skill, mastery, and role as teacher to many.

While Itosu did not invent karate himself, he modified the kata (forms) he learned from his master, Matsumura, and taught many karate masters. Itosu’s students included Choyu Motobu (1857–1927), Choki Motobu (1870–1944), Kentsu Yabu (1866–1937), Chomo Hanashiro (1869–1945), Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957), Moden Yabiku (1880–1941), Kanken Toyama (1888–1966), Chotoku Kyan (1870–1945), Shinpan Shiroma (Gusukuma, 1890–1954), Anbun Tokuda (1886–1945), Kenwa Mabuni (1887–1952), and Choshin Chibana (1885–1969).


If you wish to learn more on Anko Itosu, here is a link: http://www.historyoffighting.com/anko-itosu.php

Itosu and Funakoshi

Below is a letter written by Itosu Sensei in October of 1908. This letter preceded the introduction of karate to Okinawan schools and eventually to the Japanese mainland. The translation below is my own poor translation of the original Japanese written by Master Itosu. I take all the blame for any possible (but unintended) wrong translation. I attach the Japanese after the English transation but please note that this is in the present day Japanese and not the old Japanese used in the early 20th century.

 

Preamble:

I do not believe karate came from Buddhism which was brought from India or Confucianism which is from the ancient Chinese philosophy (the teaching of Confucius) . What I understand is that, in the past, two schools; (Shorin ryu and the Shorei ryu), were brought to Ryukyu (Okinawa) from China. These two schools have their own unique and strong points, thus their teaching must not be easily changed. Therefore, we all must remember that the moves in the katas must not be changed or modified by your own thinking or liking. I wish to write down the important points of the karate training and their benefits in ten different precepts.

 

空手道は、古代中国思想(孔子の教え)である儒教や、古代インド発祥(釈迦開祖)の仏教から出たものではありません。その昔、中国より昭林流と昭霊流という二つの流派が、琉球(沖縄)に伝えられたものだと聞いております。この二つの流派はそれぞれ特長がありますので、このままの状態を大切に守りながら伝えていかなければなりません。そのためには、自分だけの思惑で、型に手を加えないという心掛けが肝心です。それで空手道の修練の心得とその効用を、項目ごとに行を改めて書き記してみます。

 220px-Itosu_Ten_Precepts

Precept 1

The main purpose of Karate-do is not merely to practice for your own physical benefit. Karate must be used with courage and justice to protect one’s family, master, or country when we encounter a serious situation even if it means that you lose your life. It must not be practiced to fight against only one assailant. Therefore, in the case you are attacked by a villain or a robber, see if it is possible to avoid a fight and to manage the situation peacefully. Never think of harming another person by your punches or kicks. One must never forget that this attitude shows the real karate spirit.

 

空手道は、個人としての体育の目的を果たすだけが、すべてではありません。将来主君(国)と親に一大事が起きた場合は、自分の命をも惜しむことなく、正義と勇気とを持って、進んで国家社会のため、力を尽くさなくてはならぬ、という名分を持っております。ですから、決して一人の敵と戦う意図はさらさらありません。かような次第ですから、万一暴漢や盗人から仕掛けられても、平素の修練の成果により、なるべくこれをうまく捌いて退散させるよう仕向けることです。決して突いたり蹴ったりして人を傷つけることがあってはなりません。このことが、本当の空手道精神であることを、強く肝に銘じて欲しいものです。

 

 

Precept 2

The ultimate goal of karate training is to make one’s body as hard as a rock so that it will bounce off any punches and kicks from an assailant. If your karate skills are excellent, you will have a strong spirit and be able to have confidence. This means you will fear no one and you can conduct yourself true to your principle. Children may start training while in elementary school, then the karate training will help them in mastering other martial arts such as kendo and jukendo when they get into military service. Remember the words attributed to the Duke of Wellington of Great Brittain after he defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in Belgium:“The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” I consider this saying very accurate and relevant.

 

空手は、専ら鍛えに鍛えて筋骨を強くし、相手からの打撃をも跳ね返すほどの強さにすることが理想です。このように理想的に鍛え上げれば、自然と何事をも恐れず、自分の信念もまげずに振る舞う、逞しい行動力と強い精神力が備わるものです。それにつきましては、小学校時代から空手の練習をさせれば、いつか軍人になった時、きっと他の剣道とか銃剣道のような術伎上達の助けになる効用があります。以上述べましたようなことが、将来、軍人社会での精神面と術技面への何かしらの助けになると考えます。最も、英国のウエリントン候が、ベルギーのワーテルローでナポレオン一世に大勝した時にいいました。「今日の戦勝は、我が国の各学校のグラウンド及びその他の施設で広く体育の教育をやった成果である」と。 実に格言というべきでしょうか。

Precept 3

You cannot become an expert in karate quickly. We have a saying about a cow that walks slower than a horse, but it can last longer and travel thousands of miles. With this in mind and if one trains diligently for at least an hour or two every day, then in three to four years that person will have a much healthier body than an average person. In the end, he may be able to achieve a good level of karate but only after such training.

 

空手は、急速に熟練しようとしても、なかなか難しいものです。「牛の歩みは、馬と比較して、より遅いけれども、歩き続けていれば、ついに千里以上の里程を走破することが出来る」との格言があります。そのような心掛けで、毎日一、二時間ほど精神を集中して続けますと、三、四年の間には通常の人と骨格が違うばかりか、空手のかなり奥深いところまで到達出来る者も数多く出るのではないかと思います。

Precept 4

Firming the hands and feet are important in karate training, so one must train thoroughly on the makiwara. I advise that you should keep your shoulders down, open up your rib cage, grip your fists firmly, stand on the floor solidly, and sink your energy into your lower abdomen called Seika tanden (the lower belly area where the ki collects). To maximize the benefit, I suggest that you will punch and kick one to two hundred times with each hand and foot.

 

空手は、拳足を鍛えることが主体ですから、常に巻藁などで、十分練習を重ねるように努めねばなりません。その要領は、両肩を下げ、胸を大きく張り、拳に力を込め、さらに踏まえた足にもしっかり力を取り、吸った息を臍下丹田(下腹のことで古代中国思想で気が集る所)のところに沈めるような気持ちで練習するとよいでしょう。また、突いたり、蹴ったりする回数は、ともに片方で百回から二百回というところが効果的と考えます。

 5 and 6

 

Precept 5

Here is some advice for your stance. First, keep your back straight. Then, keep your shoulders down. It is critical to spread your strength all over your body. By dropping your breath and energy into your lower abdomen, you will stand very firmly.

 

空手の立ち方は、腰を真っ直ぐに立て、重心の平衡が崩れないよう両肩を下げ、力が体重全体に平均に及ぶような心持ちで、しかも両足も力強く立ち、吸った空気を臍下丹田に集中させ、上下の腹筋も丹田に引き合わされるようにして凝り固めることが大事な要点です。

Precept 6

Kata, the visible form, should be practiced many times. However, there will be little benefit if you practice them without knowing the meaning of the techniques. In order to make your training meaningful, one must learn the meaning of each technique. In addition, there are other special techniques that are not found in the kata such as the different punches and blocks as well as the grappling and joint techniques. These techniques are considered as secret techniques and they must be taught in a face to face training session with your sensei.

 

空手表芸である形は、数多く練習した方がよいのです。が、漠然と練習してもそれほどの効果はありません。練習の効率をよくし、本物の技を身につけるには、形のなかにある一つ一つの技(手数)の意味を正しく聞き届けるだけでなく、その技はどんな場合に用いるか、ということを確かめて練習しなくてはなりません。さらに、形の中に出てこない特別な突き方(入れ)、受け方(受け)、腕や襟を取られた時の外し方(はずし)、関節の決(極)め方(取り手)などの高度な技があるけれども、それは秘伝になっておりますので、多7th-and-8th-principくは師が弟子に対して口で伝えるようになっております。

Precept 7

There is another important thing about kata. One must know clearly before training in kata if the techniques found in them are specifically for the kihon training purpose or they are actually for an application purpose. Only by knowing them one can practice with a definite training method and objective.

 

空手表芸である形は、その技の一つ一つについて、この技の目的は「体」即ち体育(基本鍛錬)のために有効なものか、「用」即ち実用(応用技)として練習するのに適切であるか、あらかじめ確実に理解し、目的と方法を確定して練習しなくてはなりません。

Precept 8

When you train in karate, one must have the same spirit as if marching onto a battlefield. Your eyes should be open and alert. Your shoulders should be kept low. Your body must be energized and must have elasticity. When you practice punching and blocking, you must have the mindset of actually fighting instead of merely punching and blocking in the air. If you train with this attitude, an excellent result that cannot be learned in other sports can be achieved and that will be shown in your kata. I really want you to remember and apply my advice.

 

空手の練習をする時は、ちょうど戦場に出かけるような意気込みがなくてはなりません。目はかっと見開き、肩を下げて、体に弾力性がつくように固め、また、受けたり、突いたりする技の練習でも、現実に敵の突きを受け、蹴りを払い、体当たりしている実戦さながらの強い意気込みでやらなくてはならないのです。このような練習をすれば、自然と他ではまねのできないすぐれた成果が、形となって現れるものです。以上のことをしっかりと心掛けて欲しいものです。

Precept 9

If one over strains himself the blood will rush to his head and his eyes may become blood shot. This will result in some harm. No matter how you look at it, such training methods are dangerous to your health, thus these must be avoided.

空手の練習は、自分の体力不相応に、力を入れて気張り過ぎると、上気して顔も火照り、目も充血して体の害になるものです。以上のことは、どんな視点からみても、健康のため有害ですので、しっかりと肝に銘じたいものです。

 

Precept 10

Many of the karate masters have enjoyed long lives. From medical research it has been found that karate training builds a strong body. It also exercises the digestive and the circulatory systems thus resulting in longer lives. I strongly recommend that karate training to be adopted in the elementary schools’ physical education classes. Once it becomes a part of school programs we can train many school students. Such a program will make it possible to produce some experts in the future who are capable of defeating ten assailants.

 

空手に熟達した人は、昔から長寿の者が多いのです。その原因をよく調べてみますと、空手の練習が筋骨の発達を促し、消化器を丈夫にして、血液の循環をよくするので長寿者が多いということです。それで、空手は自分以後は、体育の土台として小学校時代から、学課に編入して広く多くの者に練習させていただきたいと思います。そうすれば、おいおい熟達する者が出て、きっと一人で一度に十人の相手にも勝てるような猛者も沢山出てくることと思います。

Closing statement:

I further wish that the students of all high schools and universities practice karate with the ten precepts described above. Then, some will attend the Okinawa Teachers’ University with their karate experience. In this way, after graduation, these teachers can teach karate correctly in the elementary schools with the right attitude and appropriate training methods. I believe the benefit of karate will spread across the nation within ten years. The great benefit is not meant only for Okinawa but also for our entire nation. With a strong belief in this I have written this letter and the precepts for your review.

October 1908

Anko Itosu

右の十ケ条の意図で、師範学校や中学校で空手の練習を行い、将来師範学校を卒業して各地の小学校で教鞭をとることになったら、その赴任に先だって、十ケ条に述べました空手教育の意図とその効用を、細かく指示し、各地方の小学校でも不正確な点が少しもないように指導させれば、十年以内には、全国的に普及するはずです。このことはわれわれ沖縄県民だけのためでなく、軍人社会においてもきっと何らかの助けになると考え、お目にかけるために筆記致しました

明治四十一年戊申十月 

糸洲安恒Dojo photo

Noh (能) : A play that was loved by Samurai

春日神社ー篠山ー翁奉納Noh is derived from the Japanese word for “skill” or “talent” and is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. The art was cherished and supported by the samurai class, especially by the high ranking ones.

It is the oldest major theater art still performed regularly today. Traditionally, a Noh program includes five Noh plays with a comedic kyogen play in between each Noh play, even though an abbreviated program of two Noh plays and one kyogen piece has become common in the Noh presentations of today.

Noh is often based on tales from traditional literature of a supernatural being transformed into human form as a hero narrating a story. atsumori_ghost 2Noh integrates masks, costumes and various props in a dance-based performance, requiring highly trained actors and musicians. Emotions are primarily conveyed by stylized conventional gestures while the iconic masks represent the roles such as ghosts, women, children, and old people. Written in an ancient Japanese language, the text “vividly describes ordinary people of the twelfth to sixteenth centuries”.

Having a strong emphasis on tradition rather than innovation, Noh is extremely codified and regulated by the iemoto (家元)  system. Iemoto is is a term used to refer to the founder or current Grand Master of a certain school of traditional Japanese art. It is used synonymously with the word soke (宗家) when it refers to the family or house that the iemoto is head of and represents.

Why was Noh cherished and loved by samurai? I believe there were at least four reasons. I will list them below. The first two came from a brief research I did and the last two are my own ideas. I have never studied Noh formally nor practiced it, so I could easily be wrong with my ideas. I welcome a constructive opinion from anyone who is familiar with Noh.

Reason 1:

After the battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa captured the central power so as to govern all of Japan and so a peace period of 250 years had started. During the war period of the 16th century the fighting arts were the most important training for a samurai. But in the Edo (Tokugawa) period, a samurai was expected to learn the cultural disciplines along with the martial arts. The cultural disciplines included the tea ceremony, poetry, brush painting and Noh playing (note: though they were not allowed to play the real Noh with a mask on but they were allowed to if it was done without a mask).without mask In modern day Japan, a salesman in Japan is expected to learn how to play golf and also how to sing in a karaoke bar. In the Edo period a samurai was expected to learn Noh to entertain their lord and the visiting samurai dignitaries.

Reason 2:

I understand that it takes many years to master the art of Noh. Most of the actors start training when they are only 3 years old. The training for a samurai also starts when a child is very small and takes years to master all the fighting arts. In fact, the body movements such as walking, breathing, etc of Noh are very similar to that of the samurai martial arts. Therefore, the samurai appreciated the dedication and commitment the Noh players had to give.

Reason 3:

OniNoh is often based on a tragic subject from the traditional literature where a supernatural demon transforms into a human ghost form hero narrating the story. The life expectancy in that period was estimated to be some where in the 20s. In addition, a samurai had to live with a risk of throwing his life away in a battle or a fight at any moment in their daily life. I can easily guess that they could really appreciate a fleeting life and enjoyed a tragic play.

                

Reason 4:

The last one is also my own thought but it may be an interesting one. The armour for the high ranking samurai came with a face cover called a Menpo (面頬).

Menpo 6 kinds

This was used to protect the face, of course. At the same time I think there was another purpose for wearing one. I have a feeling that the samurai leaders wanted to cover their face, on purpose, to shield their expressions. He may lose some of his family members in a battle who were fighting with him and so he cannot show his crying face to his men. He may become angry, frustrated or even fearful but he was expected not to show those feelings. A samurai leader was expected to remain calm and collected no matter what the situationMenpo 2 was in a battle. He was not supposed to show his feelings such as sadness, anger, frustration and of course, fear. It was, I can easily imagine, extremely difficult to shield his feelings in a battle. So, I think a menpo was used to help a samurai leader hide his true feelings.

In Noh an actor wears a mask and he must be able to express his feelings through his body movements as he cannot show them with his face. As noted previously the actors start to practice Noh when they are only 3 years old and they learn in time how to move precisely to express the feelings. The Noh play is typically a tragedy rather than a happy story. By observing this, a samurai leader could really relate to his own situation. I think this was one of the reasons why the samurai, especially the high ranking ones, favored the Noh plays. What do you think?  Noh masks 3                         

I welcome input from the readers. It would be great if some of the readers happen to know something about Noh and if they can share some different ideas. We want to know why you think this masked play, Noh was favored by the samurai.

Funakoshi Niju Kun 空手二十箇條 I venti precetti del Maestro Funakoshi

Nujukun 3

 

Gichin Funakoshi creo’ il Dojo Kun 道場訓 che contiene cinque precetti e il Niju kun nei quali ci sono 20 ulteriori precetti. Sospetto che Funakoshi volesse che il Dojo Kun coprisse solamente un numero esiguo di kun, cossiche’ gli allievi potessero recitarli quotidianamente. Fini’ con i cinque piu’ importanti, ma vi erano molti altri insegnamenti che voleva passare ai suoi allievi, cosi’ scrisse un secondo Kun che fu inizialmente chiamato 空手二十箇条 (i 20 precetti del Karate). Oggi va sotto il nome di Shotokan Niju kun 松濤館二十訓o semplicemente Niju kun 二十訓.dojokun1

Niju significa 20 e Kun ” motto” o ” lezione”. Niju Kun e’ una preziosa lista di venti regole che possiamo usare nella ricerca della Via del Karate. Ma, alla fine, si devono applicare queste 20 regole nella vita quotidiana attraverso la pratica del Karate. Niju Kun ha una pagina di Wikipedia, e ogni precetto e’ tradotto qui:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nij%C5%AB_kun.

Usero’ la traduzione di Wikipedia, essendo la piu’ comunemente accettata. Devo dire che la traduzione di Wikipedia e’ buona, anche se deve essere integrata con correzioni e ulteriori chiarimenti. Aggiungero’ questi chiarimenti per completare il significato di ogni Kun. Come visto in Wikipedia, scrivero’ ogni kun prima in giapponese e poi nell’alfabeto normale. Mettero’ poi le mie spiegazioni alla fine.

1. 空手道は礼に始まり礼に終る事を忘るな
Karate-do wa reini hajimari reini owaru koto o wasuruna

Il Karate comincia e finisce con il saluto”.

E’ vero che la parola rei puo’ essere tradotta come inchino. Cosi come e’ vero che inziamo e finiamo i Kata con un saluto, e ci inchiniamo con i nostri compagni. Comunque, credo che Funakoshi stesse provando a dire qualcosa di piu vasto e profondo. Penso che con questo kun volesse coprire l’educazione in genere e il rispetto reciproco. Si puo’ trovare un’altra parola nellla 4th regola del Dojo jun, Reigi 礼儀 che significa buone maniere. Quindi il significato di questo kun dovrebbe essere inteso che non dobbiamo mai dimenticare che nel Karate dobbiamo avere buone maniere dentro e fuori del Dojo.

2. 空手に先手なしkarate ni sente nashi
Karate ni sente nashi

Nel Karate non si prende l’iniziativa dell’attacco”

E’ comunemente tradotto come ” Non c’e’ primo attacco nel Karate”, ma il significato e’ piu nascosto. Non vuole dire alla lettera che non dovremmo mai colpire per primi. Significa che non dovremmo mai provocare o instigare una lite. Ma, una volta che appare chiaro che siamo nella necessita’ di difenderci, dobbiamo assolutamete attaccare per primi. In Okinawa c’e’ un detto popolare ” Sente hissho” che significa che il primo attacco e’ sempre vittorioso.


3.
空手は義の補け
Karate wa gino tasuke

Karate e’ un complemento della giustizia.”

La traduzione di Wikipedia e’ sfortunatamente poca chiara. Gi significa rettitudine o giustizia. Tasuke 補け significa integrare o rifornire. Quindi, il significato e’ che praticando il Karate dobbiamo seguire le regole e fare cio’ che e’ giusto.


4.
先づ自己を知れ而して他を知れ
Mazu onoreo shire, shikashite tao shire

” Conosci dapprima te stesso, poi conosci gli altri”

Funakoshi era un uomo di cultura e conosceva Sun Tzu 孫子 ed il suo famoso libro “L’arte della guerra”. Sun scrisse:” Se conosci il nemico e conosci te stesso non dovrai temere il risultato di centinaia di battaglie”. Sun Tzu 3Ci sono qui due punti interessanti. Il primo e’ che Funakoshi scrive ” PRIMO conosci te’ stesso” mentre Sun elenca il nemico per primo. Un’altro punto e’ che Funakoshi scrive’ di conoscere ” gli altri” anziche’ il nemico. Penso che gli insegnamenti di Funakoshi siano piu estesi e che si possano usare nella vita di tutti i giorni, sia in pace che in guerra. Non sto dicendo che la lezione di Sun sia meno importante. Solamente che le sue idee si concentravano solo sulla guerra.

5. 技術より心術
Gijitsu yori shinjitsu

Lo spirito e’ piu importante della tecnica”

Questa traduzione ha bisogno di maggiori chiarimenti per capire il suo vero valore. Lasciatemi spiegare il significato di ogni parola per aiutare a comprendere meglio. Gijutsu 技術 significa tecnica ma gi da solo vuol dire tecnica e jutsu significa arte, via, metodo o mezzo. Quindi, vuol dire metodo tecnico o via della tecnica. Non per forza vuol dire esclusivamente tecniche del karate. Quando diciamo “gijutsu sha” o uomo del gijutsu intendiamo qualcuno come un ingegnere o artigiano. Quindi significa le tecniche del karate attraverso il gijutsu.

Cosa e’ allora il shinjutsu心術? Shin e’ tradotto come cuore, mente ed intelligenza. Cosi, possiamo tradurre shinjutsu come la via della mente o dell’intelligenza, anche se non era questo che Funakoshi intendeva. La parola shin ha molti significati ed e’ una parola molta importante per i giapponesi. Shin sigifica cuore o nucleo (kan ) e persino stomaco o intestino (hara ). I Samurai consideravao shin e hara come il centro dello spirito. E’ per questo che si tagliavao l’addome quando facevano seppuku o harakiri, per dimostrare la purezza del loro centro. Non credo che Funakoshi avesse in mente il harakiri, piuttosto si riferiva allo spirto del samurai. Pensava allo Gojo no toku 五常の徳 che sono le cinque virtu’ di Confucio.. Queste virtu’ sono Jin (benevolenza), Gi (giustizia), Rei (cortesia) Chi (saggezza), Shin (fiducia).Scrivero’ nel futuro del Bushido con ulteriori spiegazioni del Gojo no toku.

In breve, Funakoshi non negava l’importanza del’allenamento fisico del karate, ma voleva allo stesso modo enfatizzare il valore dell’aspetto mentale/spirituale e la parte etica di autorealizzazione. Scrisse il concetto in poche righe, ma sospetto che spese molto tempo con gli allievi spiegando cosa voleva veramente intendere con questo Kun.五常 絵


6. 心は放たん事を要す
Kokorowa hanatankoto o yosu

L’importante e’ mantenere il proprio spirito aperto verso l’esterno.”

Anche questo e’ di difficile interpretazione. Curiosamente lo stesso kanji e’ qui usato. La traduzione letterale con “Il cuore deve essere lasciato libero” non ha molto senso per la gran parte dei lettori. Come si puo’ vedere la pronucia del kanji e’ differente in questo kun per il termine kokoro. Anche se la traduzione letterale di kokoro e’ cuore, Funakoshi voleva intendere qualcosa di piu’ recondito. E’ molto vicino, dovrei dire, al significato di mente in psicologia. In altre parole, sosteneva che abbiamo la tendenza di essere intrappolati in una unica via e non vediamo le altre alternative o metodi. Per continuare a migliorare il Karate non dobbiamo essere richiusi in unica via o metodo. Un classico esempio e’ il bunkai. Si puo credere che un bunkai sia corretto ma bisogna aprire la mente per considerare altre alternative. Funakoshi vuole per noi di essere flessibili con la nostra mente e i nostri pensieri.


7.
禍は懈怠に生ず
Wazawaiwa ketaini seizu

La disgrazia proviene della pigrizia.”

La traduzione che ho trovato e’ sfortunatamente incorretta.Per primo, il kanji wazawai non e’ veramente calamita’. Significa piuttosto un piccolo problema o incidente.La parola successiva ketai 懈怠 e’ difficile, e puo’ significare essere pigri o non impegnarsi. Voleva ammonirci che se siamo negligenti nel nostro allenamento o nella nostra vita possiamo avere come conseguenze incidenti o problemi. Ci dice di mettere il 100% di concentrazione e dedizione nell’ allenamento del karate.

8. 道場のみの空手と思ふな
Dojo nomino karate to omouna

Non pensare che il Karate si pratichi solo nel Dojo”

Questa traduzione puo’ essere un poco approfondita, anche se la maggior parte dei lettori ne capisce il significato. Qualcuno puo’ mal interpretare il significato e limitarlo solamente alla difesa personale ed ai pericoli esterni al dojo. Naturalmente questo e’ esatto, ma questo kun include molto di piu. Funakoshi voleva dire che dobbiamo applicare tutte le virtu’ (di cui ho fatto cenno sopra) e l’autodisciplina nella nostra vita quotidiana.

9. 空手の修業は一生である
Karate-do no shugyowa isssho de-aru

L’allenamento nel Karate prosegue lungo tutta la vita.”

La traduzione di Wikipedia non e’ sbagliata ma la parolo shugyo 修業 deve essere analizzata per poter meglio capire questo kun. Significa studiare, apprendere, ed allenarsi. Quindi, preferisco la traduzione ” Il Karate si pratica per tutta la vita”. E’ per questa ragione che il Maestro Asai non accetto’ mai il 10 Dan durante la sua vita. Egli diceva che stava ancora inseguendo il perfetto karate e che non lo aveva ancora raggiunto. Penso che il Maestro Asai abbia tenuto fede a questo kun.


10.
凡ゆるものを空手化せよ其処に妙味あり
Ara-yuru mono o karatekaseyo; sokoni myomi ari

Vedi tutti i fenomeni attraverso il Karate e troverai la sottigliezza.”

Sono d’accordo con questa traduzione, ma abbisogna di ulteriori spiegazioni. La parola myomi 妙味 e’ di diffcile traduzione. Significa alla lettera buon gusto, fascino o profitto. Se si possono espandere i benefici del Karate alla vita di tutti i giorni, una persona e’ in grado di godere della propria esistenza. Per esempio, Funakoshi fu sempre sano fino alla sua morte ad 89 anni. Diceva di usare la difesa personale contro le malattie. Un’altro esempio e’ evitare un incidente ( sia d’auto che nel cadere) e ci sono molti altri esempi. Cosi’ la traduzione e’ “bellezza “, ma in realta’ vuol dire veri benefici o ” vivere con gioia la vita”.


11.
空手は湯の如し絶えず熱度を与えざれば元の水に還るBoiling-Water
Karatewa yu no gotoku taezu netsu o ataezareba motono mizuni kaeru

Il Karate e’ come l’acqua calda, si raffredda quando si smette di scaldarla.”

Sono d’accordo con questa traduzione e non c’e’ bisogno di altre aggiunte.


12.
勝つ考えは持つな負けぬ考えは必要
Katsu kangae wa motsuna; makenu kangae wa hitsuyo

Non pensare di vincere. Pensa, piuttosto a non perdere.”

La traduzione va bene.Nel caso di agonisti, uno puo’ ponderare se deve combattere per un pareggio visto che non dovrebbe pensare alla vittoria o alla sconfitta. Naturalmente il Maestro Funakoshi non stava di certo pensando questo, visto che era contrario a gare e competizioni. Cosi, penso che stesse parlando di un combattimeto vero. Attraverso questo kun, per certi versi contradditorio, ci diceva che lo scopo finale e’ di non essere coinvolti in combattimenti o conflitti.

13. 敵に因って轉化せよ
Tekki ni yotte tenka seyo

Cambia secondo il tuo avversario.”

Voglio far presente che teki e’ molto di piu’ di un avversario. Significa nemico e sfide in generale. Percio’, non stava parlando solo di fare modifiche in relazione alle persone che combatti, ma a tutte le sfide che uno incontra nella vita.

14. 戦は虚実の操縦如何に在り
Tatakai wa kyo-jitsu no soju ikan ni ari

L’essenziale nel combattimento e’ giocare sul falso e sul vero”

Questo kun e’ molto difficile da tradurre, e quello che lo rende piu’ ostico e’ il kanji kyo jitsu 虚実. Analizziamo il significato di queste due parole.. Kyo significa alla lettera immaginario, vuoto, menzognero, o falso. Dall’altra parte jitsu significa il contrario, incluso verita’, reale, e di sostanza.. L’altra parola, soju 操縦 e’ tradotta come maniglie o appigli, che per se’ non e’ incorretto, ma non rende bene l’idea. In effetti, soju ha un significato piu aggressivo e vuol dire controllare o guidare. Si puo tradurre quindi come se il risultato di una battaglia dipendesse da come uno controlla il vero ed il falso.Nel kumite vuol dire essere capaci di distinguere una finta da vero attacco. Comunque il primo kanji ,tatakai , non vuol dire per forza una battaglia contro un nemico.Funakoshi stava pensando a qualcosa di piu grande.. Infatti, si riferiva alla battaglie della vita che incontri nella malattia, nella ricerca del benessere, e nel lavoro. Quando Funakoshi si trasferi nel Giappone aveva gia’ 54 anni. In Okinawa era un rispettato insegnante di scuola, ma in Giappone non aveva nessun posto dove poter vivere. Per molti anni, abito’ in una piccola stanza che era adibita a magazzino della scuola. Usava dire con un sorriso che aveva una piccola camera da letto ma il cortile era enorme. Naturalmente, non era proprio il cortile, ma il campus della scuola.


15.
人の手足を剣と思へ
hi to no te-ashi wa ken to omoe

Considera mani e piedi come spade.”

Questo e’ semplice e anche la traduzione va bene. Voglio solo aggiungere che Funakoshi credeva veramente in questo concetto. Si puo vedere cio’ da due cose che egli fece. Uno e’ che’ accantono’ entrambi il kata e il metodo di allenamento del Sanchin che era molto popolare negli stili di Naha-te 那覇手 come il Goju ryu 剛柔流 e Uechi ryu 上地流. Ho scritto in uno dei miel libri che Funakoshi creo’ una nuova posizione, Hangetsu dachi dal Sanchin. Quello che Funakoshi rifiuto’ non era il kata per se’ ma la metodica di allenamento nel quale un sensei colpisce con pugni e calci l’esecutore per verificare il chinkuchi (tensione del corpo). Questo esercizio e’ fatto per preparare agli’ impatti dei colpi. Funakoshi pensava che fosse un esercizio inutile, visto che credeva che le mani e piedi dell’avversario fossero come spade. La sua convinzione era che fosse preferibile non essere per niente colpiti. L’altro aspetto e’ il rifiuto di Funakoshi per le competizioni. Aveva alcune ragioni per questa scelta. Il primo la convinzione che una tecnica di Karate doveva essere migliorata fino al punto di Ikken hissatsu 一拳必殺 che significa uccidere con un colpo. Allo stesso modo con cui non si hanno competizioni con vere spade, cosi’ ikkenhissatsu verticalFunakoshi pensava come impossibile avere una competizione usando le tecniche del Karate a piena velocita’ e potenza. Malgrado la sua forte opposizione, la JKA organizzo’ lo stesso il primo campionato in Giappone nel 1957. Sono passati piu’ di 50 anni dall’introduzione di tornei in Giappone. Considerando che Funakoshi credeva a mani e piedi come spade, e’ abbastanza ironico che, fino ad ora, nessuna sia stato ucciso o si sia gravemente infortunato durante una delle maggiore competizioni in Giappone. Questo sarebbe un argomento interessante da discutere, magari in futuro.

16. 男子門を出づれば百万の敵あり
Danshi mon o izureba hyakuman no teki ari

Quando un uomo varca la porta della casa, puo’ trovarsi di fronte a un milione di nemici”

Questa e’ la traduzione letteraria del kun. 百万 hyakuman significa un milione, ma vuol dire anche molti. E’ lo stesso nella lingua inglese con ” Thanks a million”. Percio’ penso che sia piu corretto tradurla come “……….trovarsi di fronte molti nemici”


17.
構は初心者に後は自然体
kamae wa shoshinsha ni atowa shizentai

Le posizioni formali sono per principianti. In seguito, assumi una posizione naturale.”Egami

La traduzione e’ sfortunamente povera. La parole ” Posizioni formali” non sono specifiche o accurate. Sappiamo che ” kamae” significa posizione di combattimento. Sappiamo anche che shizentai 自然体, nell’esatta traduzione, vuol dire posizione naturale. La parte che puo’ ingannarci e’ la traduzione di ” atowa “. Alla lettera significa “piu tardi”. ma la vera domanda e’ quanto piu’ tardi. Non si parla certo di pochi minuti o qualche giorno. Il periodo di tempo e’ molto piu’ lungo, perche’ si intende quando un principiante comincia a raggiungere un livello piu’ elevato. Una traduzione piu’ consona potrebbe essere ” una posizione di combattimento e’ solamente per principianti, quando diventano piu esperti dovrebbero combattere da una posizione naturale.”


18.
形は正しく実戦は別物
Kata wa tadashiku, jissen wa betsumono

Esegui il prescritto numero di tecniche, il combattimento reale e’ un’altra cosa.”

Posso affermare che il traduttore ha avuto difiicolta’ con questo kun. Il traduttore ha intenzionalmente cambiato il significato di kata . Non so il perche’. ma sappiamo bene che kata, inteso come ” un prescritto numero di tecniche” e’ corretto. Comunque, questa traduzione e’ fatta per i praticanti di Karate, e non per il pubblico in generale. Cosi, questa parola dovrebbe essere intesa come kata. Funakoshi dichiaro’ che il kata devono essere eseguiti correttamente, senza cambi o modificazioni personali, La seconda parte della traduzione e’ accettabile, approvo ” il combattimento reale e’ un’altra cosa”. Funakoshi scrisse questo kun perche’ probabilmente molti studenti universitari volevano modificare i kata. C’e’ anche una grande differenza tra l’esecuzione del kata e quella del bunkai. Funakoshi avra’ sicuramente speso un saccco di tempo spiegando le differenze fra le due, ma ho il timore che gli studenti non avessero ancora le abilita’ necessarie per capirlo. Funakoshi voleva far capire ai suoi studenti che un kata dovrebbe essere fatto come e’ stato insegnato. Questo pero’ porta alla luce un dato interessante, perche’ fu proprio Funakoshi a cambiare e modificare i kata di Okinawa. So che egli ebbe molte critiche dai maestri di Okinawa, ma Funakoshi riteneva che questi cambi erano necessari. Personalmente concordo in generale con la posizione di Funakoshi, anche se sono in disaccordo con qualche altro aspetto. Un esempio e’ il cambio della posizione neko ashi dachi con kokutsu dachi. Un’altro e’ il cambiare il sanchin con hangetsu. In altre parole, Funakoshi diede meno spazio alla posizioni corte, favorendo quelle basse e lunghe. Credo, che il figlio Gijo abbia avuto avuto una grande peso in queste scelte. Scrivero’ di questo nel futuro.


19. 力の強弱, 体の伸縮, 技の緩急を忘るな
Chikara no kyojaku, tai no shinshuku, waza no kankyu o wasuruna

Non dimenticare la variazione della forza, la scioltezza del corpo ed il ritmo delle tecniche.”

Questo e’ un’ altro ostico kun che contiene tre importanti concetti del Karate. Considero questo kun uno dei piu’ importanti dal punto di vista della pratica del Karate. Analizziamo i tre concetti. Il primo e’ chikara no kyojaku 力の強弱. Chikara e’ la potenza espressa da un praticante. Kyojaku significa forte e debole. Cosi, Funakoshi sta dicendo che si dovrebbe essere in grado di sapere quando usare la forza e quando no. Si puo ossservare questo in molte parti dei kata di livello avanzato, e dovrebbe essere lo stesso nel kumite. La lezione e’ di non usare la tensione/contrazione per tutto il tempo. Probabilmente la cosa piu’ diffcile e’ padroneggiare come cambiare il livello di forza/contrazione da usare. Per esempio, nel mawashi uke bisogna incominciare da un livello di non tensione (debole) per arrivare alla fine a un livello alto di contrazione. Un’altro esempio e’ passare da una tecnica con un forte kime ad una tecnica che e’ piu lenta e senza contrazione ( nel Heian sandan si passa da oi zuki con kiai a heisoku dachi morote koshi kamae).

Il secondo concetto e’ tai no shinshuku 体の伸縮 tai significa corpo e shinshuku vuol dire espansione e contrazione. Il mio maestro diceva che dovevamo eseguire le tecniche in maniera piu’ grande. Avevo qualche difficolta’ a capirlo, ma ora capisco che il maestro voleva una maggiore espansione del corpo (visto che eravamo troppi contratti). Dobbiamo estendere le nostre braccie e gambe quando eseguiamo tecniche lunghe come oi zuki, gyaku zuki, mae geri e yoko geri. Persino quando facciamo tecniche di parata con il braccio piegato, dobbiamo espandere il petto o la schiena. Gli allievi hanno la tendenza di avere troppa contrazione e di non espandersi sufficientemente.

L’ultimo e’ waza no kankyu 技の緩急. Waza significa tecnica e kankyu veloce e lento. Quello che e’ importante e’ che veloce o lento non solo riguarda la rapidita’ ma anche in tempismo. Credo che Funakoshi si rivolterebbe nella tomba se vedesse come i kata sono stati alterati durate le gare. Non solo le tecniche sono state cambiate, ma anche la velocita’ ed il ritmo di esecuzione. Vedo soprattutto kata fatti con lunghe pause e senza il necessario ritmo e tempismo. Dobbiamo ricordarci che i kata furono creati da vere esperienze di combattimento, e che c’e’ una specifica ragione per ogni combinazione e sequenza.

20. 常に思念工夫せよ
Tsune ni shinen kufu seyo

Bisogna essere continuamente consapevoli, diligenti, e intraprendenti nella ricerca della Via.”

La traduzione letteraria di questo kun e’ ” Sempre pensa profondamente” 思念 ed “essere creativo” 工夫.La traduzione di Wikipedia e’ molta piu elaborata di quanto detto in giapponese nel kun. Il traduttore giustamente aggiunge ” nella ricerca della Via”, essendo questo kun non solo per la parte tecnica del Karate, ma anche per la ricerca della Via , karatedo. Ho il sospetto che Funakoshi abbia messo intenzionalmente questo Kun alla fine. Funakoshi fu accusato da molti maestri di Okinawa di aver fatto molti cambiamenti non solo nella parte tecnica del Karate, come per esempio le posizioni, ma anche negli aspetti culturali incluso i nomi dei kata, l’adozione di uniformi, e gradi (dan). Sono sicuro che Funakoshi esito’ molto a realizzare questi cambi, ma fece proprio questo perche’ credeva che cio’ fosse assolutamente necessario. Allo stesso modo, Funakoshi sentiva che questi cambiamenti fossero indispensabili nella ricerca della Via del karate. Funakoshi cosi’ ci dice di arrivare al livello Ha del Shu Ha Ri 守破離. Funakoshi naturalmente voleva applicare questo principio aldila’ della pratica del Karate. Voleva per noi di seguire questo cammino ed usare questo principio in ogni aspetto della vita quotidiana.

shuhari

Gyaku zuki e il tallone della gamba posteriore逆突きと後ろ足の踵の関係

Sono sicuro che sarete d’accordo con me che gyaku zuki e’ una della piu’ popolari tecniche di braccia del karate, e non ho certo bisogno di spiegare come eseguirlo.Heel up

Se questa tecnica sia davvero efficace da un punto di vista del bujutsu e’ un’altra storia che non e’ lo scopo principale di questo articolo. Il tema, o punto cenrale, che voglio sottolineare e’ il tallone della gamba posteriore. Osservate la foto sopra. Mostra un praticante eseguendo un gyaku zuki di contrattacco in simultanea con una parata su mawashi geri. E’ una foto scattata bene, ma si puo’ anche notare come il tallone della gamba posteriore sia alzato dal suolo. In effetti, il tallone del piede destro e’ completamente alzato. La questione diventa. ” E’ questo un valido gyaku zuki?” o ” E’ un gyaku zuki sbagliato?”. Onestamente, molti praticanti mi hanno fatto nel passato questa stessa domanda (incluso esperti), ” Deve essere il tallone appoggiato al suolo mentre eseguiamo gyaku zuki?”. Perche’ fare questa domanda? Magari e’ perche’ in alcuni casi e’ quasi impossibile tenere il tallone per terra, anche se ci e’ stato insegnato questo mentre facevamo gyaku zuki. Non ci hanno dato mai una spiegazione che in alcune situazioni va bene (o e’ preferibile) alzare il tallone. La questione non e’ molto difficile da risolvere se capiamo la biomeccanica dietro questa tecnica. Sfortunatamente, molti instruttori non sono in grado di dare una risposta, primo perche’ non l’hanno mai appresa dai lori maestri, secondo perche’ non hanno mai fatto domande.

NakayamaUna disparita’ si puo’ vedere dai manuali tecnici. Nel libro Dynamic Karate, vediamo Nakayama eseguendo un gyaku zuki dalla posizione zenkutsu. E’ una ottima foto, essendo fatta da quattro fotogrammi che illustrano la tecnica dalla posizione iniziale (yoi) all’esecuzione finale. In questo caso si puo’ notare come il tallone posteriore sia saldamente ancorato al suolo. L’altra foto, sulla destra, mostra il famoso maestro Kanazawa fare lo stesso. in altre parole, anche qui il tallone e’ saldamente tenuto al suolo. Kanazawa srCuriosamente, anche nel libro di Mas Oyama dello stile kyokushinkai (karate a pieno contatto) vediamo la tecnica eseguita nella stessa maniera. Ho praticato kyokushin per un anno e ho guardato molte gare, ma non ho mai visto nessuno ko risultante da un gyaku zuki, specialmente nella maniera mostrata da Oyama nella foto di sotto.

Quando facevi gyaku zuki nel kihon, ti diceva il tuo maestro di tenere il tallone per terra? Credo che se il tuo tallone era alzato, il maestro avrebbe potuto venire dietro di te e colpirlo leggerermente con lo shinai, o avrebbe potuto salire sulla tua caviglia per forzarlo verso il basso. Se questo e’ il caso, siamo stati condizionati attraverso il continuo allenamento del kihon all’idea che un corretto gyaku zuki debba avere il tallone appoggiato Kyokushinkai Oyamacompletamente al suolo. In ogni caso, non sto contestando questo punto. Sono completamente d’accordo che gyaku zuki eseguito da una posizione dove il peso e’ distribuito il 50% (o anche piu’) nella gamba posteriore, va fatto nel modo di cui sopra. Il problema, e’ che la giusta spiegazione non e’ mai stata data a molti praticanti. Continuamo con la discussione. La frustrazione comincia quando, durante il kihon, si fa un passo in avanti. Non abbiamo questo problema quando si esegue la tecnica da una posizione stazionaria. Ho il presentimento che le difficolta’ cominciano quando dobbiamo fare un veloce passo in avanti durante le combinazioni. Il tallone “deve” alzarsi. Probabilmente uno prova a convincersi che la sua caviglia non e’ flessibile come quella di Kanazawa, cosi pensa che va bene lo stesso o ci rinuncia definitivamente. Non bisogna incolpare la mancanza di flessibilita’ o arrendersi. Si capira’ il perche’ nel continuo delle miei spiegazioni.

Dopo il kihon, usualmente si pratica il kumite. Quando si e’ principianti, si inizia o dal 一本組手gohon o dal sanbon kumite. Il difensore arretra 3 o 5 volte in questi yakusoku kumite (combattimenti prestabiliti).ed usa age uke e gyaku zuki come contrattacco (foto in basso).

Il piu delle volte uno esegue bene la combinazione di parata ed gyaku zuki fino a quando non si inclina in avanti per colpire. Se la distanza e’ corretta, si puo’ fare un buon gyaku zuki di contrattacco con il piede ancorato al suolo. Se invece il piede e’ alzato, ancora una volta il sensei dara’ un colpetto o lo spingera’ verso il basso. Sensei spieghera’ che un’ampia e forte rotazione dell’anca e’ importante per generare potenza. Per ottenere cio’ il piede posteriore deve essere piatto al suolo per fornire un forte aiuto al jiku ashi ( gamba di supporto). Di solito un praticante non ha particolari problemi con cio’ e lo esegue in questa maniera centinaia di volte. Funziona sia che nel ippon kumite che nel jiyu ippon kumite (combattimento semilibero), se l’esercizio e’ un jiyu ippon di base e non uno complesso come nihon gaeashi ( l’attaccante risponde al contratttacco del difensore),

I problemi cominciano quando si pratica il jiyu kumite (combattimento libero) ed il kumite shiai. E’ stato estimato che il 60% dei kumite sono vinti dalla tecnica di gyaku zuki. Qual’e’ quindi il problema? Nel jiyu kumite e shiai kumite si vedra’ che’ e’ quasi impossibile tenere in tallone a terra. Perche’? Sicuramente perche’ quando esegui la tecnica starai muovendoti in avanti. Questo significa che la gamba anteriore diventa jiku ashi (gamba di supporto) e minor peso e’ distribuito sulla gamba posteriore. Infatti, si colpisce quasi su una gamba (quella di suppoorto).

Negli anni 60-70 il gyaku zuki fatto con il tallone alzato non riceveva il punto. Sarebbe stata una tecnica non corretta. Questo accaddeva anche negli Stati Uniti nell’era 1962pioneristica. Sensei Johnson del Sierra Shotokan Dojo racconta la sua esperienza:

Nishiyama continuamente affermava che la potenza viene dal tallone a contatto con il suolo. Persino nell’allenamento avanzato enfatizzava il concetto che un praticante non poteva ottenere il punto senza avere il piede solidamente piantato al suolo. Credeva che un punto non poteva essere dato senza questi requisiti.”

La foto in alto mostra Ochi sulla destra colpendo con gyaku zuki Obata mentre Nakayama e’ l’arbitro centrale durante il All Japan Championship del 1967. Mi domando se Nakayama assegno’ il punto ad Oichi. Sarebbe interessante se qualche lettore tedesco domandasse a Ochi se ha quache ricordo di questo espisodio.Ochi in shiai

Le regole sono cambiate da quando la JKA entro’ a far parte della WUKO nel 1981, ed ai giorni nostri un veloce gyaku zuki puo’ fare punto (waza ari) anche se il tallone posteriore e’ alzato. Se il tempismo e’ perfetto si puo anche ottenere un ippon. Il fattore del tallone alzato o meno e’ diventato di non importanza nelle gare. Sono d’accordo che non e’ sbagliato o un errore se il tallone posteriore si alza in situazioni particolari che spieghero’ piu avanti. Allo stesso modo, sono cosciente del fatto che molti praticanti e i loro sensei ancora considerano questo un difetto. Uno potrebbe domandarsi se cio’ (fare la tecnica da una posizione dove una gamba supporta il gran parte del peso), puo’ diminuire la potenza visto che non e’ supportata da una solida posizione su entrambi i piedi. Sorprendentemente non e’ cosi’, se il corpo si sta muovendo in avanti. La potenza persa dal non avere una solida posizione e’piu’ che necessariamente compensata dalla energia del movimento del corpo in avanti. in piu’, la posizione diventa piu’ lunga, come si puo’ vedere dalla precedenti foto, e questo rende piu’ naturale 試合 2di sostenere la gamba posteriore sull’ avampiede piuttosto che provare di tenere l’intero piede al suolo.Cosi’ durante le azioni in velocita’, come quando stai muovendoti in avanti, va bene ed e’ anche preferibile spostare il peso sulla gamba anteriore e sferrare il gyaku zuki sfruttando del’azione in avanti. In questa situzione, il tallone della gamba posteriore non sara’ al suolo e questo non e’ un problema.

Allora e’ sbagliato se il piede di dietro e’ solidamente appoggiato al suolo nel kumite? No, perche’ questa e’ la maniera ideale quando stai arretrando. Quando si arretra e’ naturale che la massa corporea si sposti all’indietro e cosi’ si ha piu peso sulla gamba posteriore, con la conseguenza che e’ piu’ facile tenere il piede al suolo e generare potenza dalla gamba posteriore che diventa il jiku ashi. Lo stesso meccanismo avviene anche con il mae ashi mae geri usato come contratttacco. Puo’ essere un calcio molto potente,anche fatto con lo spostamento all’indietro.

Comclusioni.

Per una applicazione del sen no sen, l’energia gravitazionale’ dello spostamento in avanti fa si che il peso sia diretto sulla gamba anteriore. In questo caso, il tallone della gamba posteriore si alzera’ durante l’esecuzione di gyaku zuki. Questo e’ una cosa naturale, e non e’ un problema.

Dall’altra parte, durante una situazione di go-no-sen, e’ piu’ probabile che la gamba di dietro sara’ quella di supporto, cosi’ e’ preferibile avere il piede completamente in contatto con il suolo. In questo caso, da un punto di vista meccanico, l’esecuzione del gyaku zuki sara’ meno veloce, e richiedera’ molto tempo di pratica per superare questa “lentezza”. Inoltre, bisogna apprendere come catturare il momento adatto per invertire lo svantaggio meccanico del go no sen.

La conclusione e’ che entrambi i metodi sono corretti. Spero che questo articolo abbia chiarito la questione, e che non ti preoccuperai piu’ se il tallone e’ alzato durantre l’esecuzione del gyaku zuki.