I've been a keen karate student for 16 years, Shukokai and Shotokan, but there still seems to be no shortage of things to learn and explore. I'm hoping this blog will allow me to share my experiences and hear other martial artists thoughts.

Archive for Chinto

Feeling is believing

Yesterday I travelled down to the dojo of the Midland Shotokan Karate Federation to attend a seminar with Iain Abernethy. The seminar looked at joint locks, counter locks and some flow drills (to help practise applying a lock on an opponent, your opponent escaping from that lock, applying a lock of their own which you then escaped and re-established a lock on them etc.).

Yesterday’s seminar, like Iain’s others I’ve attended, was packed full with combative principles and techniques delivered in a really engaging style. Iain brings an incredible depth of knowledge about Karate to his seminars in terms of the:-

  • history of Karate and it’s key players.
  • it’s practical applications and their value in self protection.
  • exploring different techniques from a martial arts perspective.

We have studied some joint locks at our club, but it is something we do quite infrequently so it was really good to have a good look at them during the four hours of the seminar.

When I was thinking about what to write in this post what I started thinking about was how I’d felt during the seminar.

Firstly on several occasions when I was practising the techniques that Iain had demonstrated I had a real feeling of it resonating with the movements from kata and combinations that I’ve practised many, many times over. For example we were practising using an arm bar elbow lock with a shift in stance and the use of the hikite (pulling hand) combined with the overall movement of the body felt like a really natural fit for a movement very similar to a reverse punch.

And I think it’s working at a closer distance that also feels good. It felt good to be close in with my training partner, working on controlling their arms, moving into locks and then using them to create the opening for a strike at their head or body.

One of the two katas I’m learning for when I grade to 1st Dan is Chinto and at the same time I’m looking back at the Pinan kata series and studying their practical applications. So it was good to look at how techniques that they feature like the lower and upper cross ‘blocks’ represent wrist locks.

Secondly, in a strange way, it also felt good to be on the receiving end of the locks and counter locks we were practising. Having really felt how applying the lock allowed my training partner to control my movement it gives me a real appreciation of the techniques. And with me having a few inches height wise and a few extra, post Christmas party (obviously :-)), pounds on my training partner it also showed how good technique can bring a more sizeable opponent down to size, or the matt depending on your preference!

Plus I think I fall into the group of martial artists that quite enjoys being thrown about a bit so I don’t mind playing the role of the attacker.

So overall it was a really enjoyable seminar. Plenty to take away and explore further as well as a reaffirmation of the maxim that the best way to learn and develop your understanding of karate is to get hands on and enjoy how karate feels.

Many thanks to Leigh Simms for being an excellent host, the fellow karateka I trained with for their patience when I was fumbling my way through some of the techniques and to Iain for sharing his knowledge in his unique affable style.

Learning in the land of the red dragon

As much as I enjoy martial arts training I don’t think it does any harm to give my body a little break when summer holiday time comes around. The last couple of years a place called Tenby in Wales has been our destination for a great British beach holiday.

Tenby has got a fabulous set of beaches and despite being on holiday I enjoy going for a morning run down to the end of the south beach and back. At the end of the beach it starts to give way to the land as it slopes down from the coastal high ground. It’s here I take a few minutes to enjoy the view and have a bit of a stretch before setting off back down the beach.

On the second morning when I was stood on the higher ground after running the 1st length of the beach I started thinking about Chinto the shipwrecked Chinese martial artist and the kata said to be named after him. It’s a kata I’ve been looking forward to studying after reading about the story of him being challenged by the Okinawan martial arts master Matsumura.

The kata features some interesting techniques and standing there I thought about the moves and techniques and what some of their practical combative applications might be. I wouldn’t say I came to any concrete conclusions but looking at the beach I started thinking about the impact of the terrain on the ability of a martial artist to execute different techniques and also how that terrain could offer opportunities to disadvantage their opponent.

I’d also taken along a book on Phoenix Eye Fist Kung Fu I’ve had for a while but hadn’t had a chance to take a really good look at. Phoenix Eye Fist Kung Fu or Chuka Shaolin originated in South China. Okinawa’s position relative to China means that it had connections through trade etc. with China. When I’ve read about Okinawan martial artists who played a part in Karate’s evolution many had received instruction in Chinese fighting arts or had even travelled to China and studied there.

It was interesting to take a look at Chuka Shaolin and see similarities between some of it’s techniques and those of Karate. For example the book, The Secrets of Phoenix Eye Kung Fu by Cheong Cheng Leong and Mark V. Wiley, concentrated on the techniques contained in a two person fighting form. In terms of stances it showed the Horse Riding Stance and Hanging-horse stance. The Horse Riding Stance was just like Karate’s Shiko dach, known as horse stance, while the Hanging-horse stance matched Nekoashi dach, known as cat stance.

The similarity would certainly seem to support the transfer of fighting skills from China across the water to Okinawa and from there into Karate. I think it’s interesting that as a new student of Karate in your ignorance you believe it to be an art wholely originating in Japan. Then you learn about the nature of Japan’s relationship with Okinawa and then the influence of the fighting arts from other regions.

So taking a holiday from the Dojo hasn’t meant a break from my martial arts learning.

Have you learnt anything interesting about martial arts this summer?

Still keen as mustard

I’ve been studying Karate solidly for the last fifteen years and in the last couple of weeks I’ve felt as energised and excited in it’s learning as I ever have.

I think coming back to the club were I really started learning about Karate in ’97 has played a real part in that resurgence of energy. Prior to coming back I’d been part of a club that was on the decline with only a handful of members continuing to train and that probadly didn’t make for the most positive of environments despite everyone trying to do their best.

The ol’ club is in good health with lots of people really embracing Karate and exploring what it’s all about. It always had a really friendly family atmosphere and it’s good to be back in the midst of it.

I’ve always enjoyed reading books and magazines about martial arts to learn more but in the last couple of years I’ve really embraced Social Media and through it I’ve met new people who have opened my eyes to new ideas to explore about Karate.

I love the influence Karate has had and continues to have on my life.

  • It’s made me work hard to improve my flexibility and my strength to enable me to be as good as I can be.
  • It’s taught me a lot about learning techniques and working to refine and improve them.
  • I’ve learnt that being challenged but sticking with it can really help you become more resilient.
  • Ultimately it’s taught me that whatever I might think my limitations might be I can always move beyond them in some way.

I’ve taken a more circuitous path in my study of Karate than most students. Some students advance through to black belt level in 4 to 5 years of study. I’m currently working towards achieving the last rank of brown belt our club has and after that I really want to keep the momentum going and get straight into working towards the black belt grading. In our club working towards the black belt involves planning and teaching a couple of lessons and that’s just one of the new challenges I find really exciting.

In Karate we learn Kata, combinations of different techniques designed by the past masters to teach students the different combative principles. One of the new katas I’ll be learning is called Chinto which was put together to teach the combative methods a master called Matsumura learnt from a shipwrecked Chinese martial artist he encountered of the same name. Having learnt about the history of that particular kata I’m so excited about getting the chance to study it, it feels like I’ll almost be able to stand on the beach where the two fought, to feel a connection to the masters I’ve read about.

Looking around just a handful of blogs shows me that I’m not alone in having a passion that invigorates me. It makes me feel pretty lucky to have found something that really excites me and feels like a real complement to the rest of my life.

Long may it continue.