Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review of Dukkha by Loren Christensen

Review of "Dukkha" a Martial Arts Novel by Loren W. Christensen

Dukkha is about Sam Reeves, a detective and martial artist.  The book opens having Sam recover from a recent work related tragedy.  He gets back to work and is hoping to pick up where he left off.  Instead of things getting better for Sam, he is devastated by another tragedy.  Before he has a chance to even get his head on straight he is introduced to long lost family and things begin to become even more complicated when the families problems also surface in Sam's life.

First, I know there is a suggestion for writers to always write from what they know.  From personal experiences, from things they have seen or done.  If that is even remotely true than I look forward to seeing what the author has in store for us next.  This book was a pleasure to read. I had trouble putting it down until I finished the book.

Second, there are few books out there that go into such detail in the fight scenes and I really enjoyed the flow of the fights in this book.  In my experience, it can be a difficult thing to keep the tension and rhythm of the story and not risk having that break for a fight.  This book doesn't have that problem.  The fights fit into the story very well.

Third, there is a taste of the supernatural in the story and it works very well along side the grit of the real world that I imagine the author is including from elements of his own experiences.  It is fun and fascinating without being so over the top as to ruin or rule the book.  A well done balance.    

Finally, I enjoyed the characters.  They each had depth and fit into the story very well.  The interactions they go through brought out emotions in the form of support for the good guys and anger and frustration at the bad guys. 

I recommend this book!  Everyone that reads it will find something to enjoy in this story.  Even more so for Martial Artists and those in Law Enforcement.  I think there is some great thought provoking material and if you buy this book the author will likely write the next one.  So, get out there and buy it people.  I am hooked and really want to see what happens next.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Samurai Girl's guide to the Martial Arts: Abernethy Seminar Review

Samurai Girl's guide to the Martial Arts: Abernethy Seminar Review: This last weekend Sensei Nick and I had the chance to go to a seminar in Missouri hosted by the Blue River Martial Arts Club . (Thanks to Er...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Kata Bunkai - Blocks as Strikes and Strikes as Blocks

Blocks as Strikes:  Pinan Shodan begins with one of my favorite techniques.  What I have heard called a Box Block or mid level and high level block.  Now one of the applications I had an instructor tell me that this is a defense against an attack performed with a Bo(staff).

I asked about how you could make this functional and they said told me that we should block the attack with the front hand and the back hand is in a high chambered strike.  I didn't really like that answer so I kept my eyes open for a better answer.  That came initially from a Lua instructor names Steve Taylor.

At first I didn't put the technique together with what I was doing in kata.  Thick headed I know but I was working on Lua not Karate so for one reason or another I simply didn't connect the dots.  So the applications in Mr Taylor's Lua class are very fluid and practiced in a much more practical manner than I was used too at the time.  In his class the technique I believe he called a full moon block.   And again, in his class the word block was a bit misused, but as with all things Lua, even the blocks have teeth.

Here is your example.  Mr Taylor got some sticks or a baseball bat and had us practice someone swinging it at us.  We never put a ton of power into the swing but we didn't need too.  We always left class with plenty of bruises and it was great!  Anyway, which side of your body does one want to take a hit with a bat.  Back or Belly?  If you turn your back to the swing you cannot contain the bat once hit.  You have to reach around behind you to get some sort of control over the bat.  Well, that is not going to work very well.  On the other hand if you turn your stomach toward the bat you have a much better chance of gaining control over the bat up front.  Now all this also assumes that you (the intrepid defender) are also going to close the gap on the person swinging the bat at you.  Better to get hit with the handle of the bat than the business end where all the force is located.  Make sense so far?  I really will come up with a video or something as soon as I get a chance.

So, to summarize the defense, stomach toward the bat move in toward the attacker as quickly as possible.  Once close pull the bat in close to gain control and attack back.  Insert kicks, punches, biting or whatever else you want to get the bat away from them.

So going back to the box block.  A very similar defense here.  In this case we will assume that the attacker decides to throw a big looping hook punch.  Common in most bar room fights if you didn't know.  The box shown in the picture above is best if your stomach is toward the attack and you close the gap on your attacker as quickly as possible.  The hand nearest the attacker can strike to the nose, chin, face, neck, etc...  You really don't have to be too particular as to what you hit.  Just hit something.  The high hand forms something of a frame or box near the head to absorb the shock of the punch.  The same movement exists in Aikijutsu, Aikido, Jujitsu, and many others.  All with subtle variations but still. 

As you move in to a blocking technique, you also strike your opponent to disrupt their ability to keep fighting.  If only for a moment.

Strikes as Blocks: Now for the same concept applied to a strike.  The lunge punch in Karate is called Oi Zuki.  Now I am using this as an example but the application of this move is just one of many.  All movements in Kata can be interpreted in multiple ways.  Just because this is the one I have chosen doesn't mean that is all there is...

So the idea is this.  We are going to use the lunge punch to close the gap on an attacker again.  This time the attacker can be throwing a kick or a punch in a more linear fashion.  Trying to hit kick us in the stomach.  They could start from far away, say a meter or two or they could be right on top of us.  Inches away.  (Yes I mixed units intentionally, I want to make you people think.)

 Anyway, the punch part of the technique can be used to push someone out of balance.  If they are in the middle of an attack it will take the power out of their attack.  It is very difficult to throw a strong attack when someone is off balance.  Of course that also doesn't account for the use of the "chambered hand" also called a Hikite or pulling hand.  I will go over it more in depth soon.  For now it could be used as counter or pulling pressure on someone where the punch could be pushing pressure on the head.  Pull the body in close and push the head away and you have yourself a pretty spiffy and simple takedown.  Make the punch a punch technique at the same moment of the pull and the takedown becomes pretty quick and potentially painful.

Thus your strike blocks their attack indirectly through off balancing the attacker, striking them with force (the teeth I spoke of earlier), and in this case as with the other each moving taking on double duty.  Making it more effective technique in a fight.

Anytime you can solve two problems with the same single technique you place yourself ahead of the game.  Of course, this is a massive simplification and needs to be trained and drilled many many times.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A few excellent instructors

I want to point fingers at source of a great deal of my understanding of the martial arts.  These instructors are world class.  So, what qualifiers am I using to identify these instructors?  First, these guys are all published authors.  Second, I have read their books and I really like what I have read.  So, everyone I list here is subjective.  But hey!  My blog, my opinion.

If these guys ever offer a seminar in your area, you really should attend.  They are amazing guys and I have also attended seminars with all of them and it is always eye opening.

First the instructor, a book title or two, martial arts style.

  • Rory Miller
    • Facing Violence
    • Meditations on Violence
    • Jujitsu
  • Kris Wilder
    • Way of Kata
    • Way to Black Belt
    • Goju Ryu Karate
  • Marc MacYoung
    • Professionals Guide to Ending Violence Quickly
    • Secrets of Effective Self Defense
    • Dango Jiro - his own style
  • Iain Abernethy
    • Bunkai-Jutsu
    • Mental Strength
    • Wado Ryu Karate
Without going into detail on these guys, some of them are published and some are not but they are each some of the best instructors I know.  Also, I have had the privledge of working a little with these guys and they really do know their stuff.   

  • Lawrence Kane, Goju Ryu
  • Steve Taylor, Lua
  • Al Peasland, Complete Self Protection - his own style
  • Nicholas Yang, White Crane Kungfu and others...
 Now, I have left people off that I respect as martial artists and instructors.  This is not meant as a slight to them at all.  I want to keep my list consice. 

Also, notice I do not list my own name here.  Frankly, I hope I can feel worthy of this sort of thing some day but for now I am happy with just finding the opportunity to work with these guys.

Train diligently...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kata Bunkai - Stances

Okay, so I have decided to write some about how I teach Kata Bunkai, this is a great place to start.  This information comes from my own experiences, years of practice in Shotokan Karate and several other martial arts forms, some great instructors, seminars with other incredible martial arts instructors, and lots of books.

Stances form the foundation of movement or the transfer of energy.  During the performance of kata a stance is essentially a snapshot of motion.  As much as stances appear static they are not.  There are no pauses in a fight and a kata's movements are supposed to mimic the movements of a fight.  Stances are essentially the best possible position for your body to be in at the moment of energy delivery. 

(To take that a step further, Aikido and Aikijutsu systems as one example use the same stances as Karate, as do all fighting styles really, just because the movements are natural even though they may not seem to be when you begin practicing them in earnest.  I am working on a book that will be a better job of explaining this idea as it relates to the Aiki arts.  Yes, this is a shameless plug!)   

Zenkutsu Dachi
So there are three primary stances, many other stances used in Kata are a variation on these themes.  The first stance called a Forward Stance, in Japanese the stance is named Zenkutsu Dachi.  The purpose of stance is to drive energy forward.  Think of someone trying to push open a heavy door.  One foot in front of the other usually feet set at approximately shoulders width apart.  If you watch a boxer throw a strong right cross and could stop him at the apex of the power of his swing you can see the foot and body position of something that closely resembles a reverse punch (Gyaku Zuki) from Kata.

Kokutsu Dachi
Next is the Back Stance (Kokutsu Dachi).  This stance as with all stances can have a variety of uses.  In particular, the best way to see this stance is from the perspective of pulling energy out of a system.  If you have ever played tug-o-war, where do you put your feet?  Generally, one in  front providing an anchor against the pull and the other placed in back providing stability.  Just an example of course and there are other applications exist beyond this explanation.  One example might be the use the front leg to bend the knee of an opponent as you use your hands to pull that person off their feet.  Might not be the best example without pictures but I will come up with some for you next time. 

Kiba Dachi
Last of the three stances.  The Horse Stance (Kiba Dachi).  In a work place if you have to pick something up or put something down you generally put feet about shoulder width apart and bend your knees to move vertically.  Heavy box, dropping a co-worker, etc...  In the case of a throw or take down, same thing, move up to reduce the friction of someone' contact with the ground or throw down to drop someone on their head. 

Another arguement I have heard over time is, where should the pressure of the stance be?  Should I grip the ground with my feet?  Should I pull in with my feet and press out with my thighs.  Should I...blah blah blah.  Honestly, this is all going to be true at some point or another.  Stances should be mutable, adaptable.  Fights are a mess.  They rarely go the way you hope they would and no amount of planning will prepare you for the shock and chaos of the event.  Okay, not entirely true but trust me when I say, if you have never been there before it will be eye opening. 

So stances need to adjust to chaos, to be adaptable.  Perhaps the stance needs to be narrow one moment and wide the next.  Mobility and stability are inversely proportional in my opinion.  The more stable you become the less mobile you are.  Thus one stance could be either or a middle ground making you not particularly stable or mobile.  In that case you would have stability and mobility in equal parts.  Why does that matter?  Throwing someone is going to require some stability or else you could go down with the person you throw.  Could be okay in some cases but sometimes it is a VERY bad idea.  Imagine a law enforcement officer going to the ground when surrounded by multiple assailants.  Might very well be the last time he does that...  He needs to focus on staying upright.  In this case he might still be in a lot of trouble but if he is on the ground escape is not much of an option anymore. 

So, find the purpose of the stance.  Find ways to challenge the strength and integrity of the stance.  Playing tug-o-war, sparring, hitting a heavy bag, and there are other alternatives to testing a stance too.  I will list them some other time.

Next, the first move of Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan.

Some other topics I want to cover:

Defensive conditioning taught in the Heian/Pinan series.
Application of Hikite.
Techniques hidden in your "Block".
Much more....