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  1. 1point2 is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/12/2009 9:34pm

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     Style: 剛 and 柔

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    Bad Isshinryu, Less-Bad Isshinryu, How to Fix it.

    This is something akin to an Isshinryu rant that I've been stewing over for a few months. There's a couple other threads where I tried to get my thoughts out and failed.

    Let's start out with what Isshinryu is today, because that's the easy one. Most Isshinryu sucks. The sparring rules suck, the kata/bunkai/philosophy of waza sucks, and the virtually-useless 15 basics suck.

    YouTube - Angelo isshinryu sparring 2

    YouTube - Basic Exercises 1-15, Side View

    If you're lucky, you'll do something akin to these partner exercises, which are useful for practicing ridiculous applications at something between 10% and 70% intensity.

    YouTube - Isshinryu Shobu

    Of course, no matter how hard or fast or accurately you practice that kind of sparring, those basics, or those partner exercises (or whatever minor variations), you won't be able to apply these techniques in any sort of real manner. I purposely used examples wherein the students are actually not awful for the crap they're doing. The students are doing what they're supposed to be doing fairly well. It's just that what they're supposed to be doing is stupid and useless.

    If you're incredibly geographically lucky, the Isshinryu school you have in your town will do something fairly useful like these:
    YouTube - Isshinryu sparring - boxing, take downs & kobudo
    YouTube - Full Contact Karate Kumite Netherlands

    But that's 1 in 100. Don't count on it.

    So, what is Isshinryu? Why does it annoy me in its current incarnation? Well, look at what Isshinryu was created to be by Tatsuo.

    0. Some mediocre theories. Almost all schools will pay lip service to them. If they're followed, OK. Often they're not.

    One version of these principles is here. Comments in bold italics and also below.
    Quote Originally Posted by http://isshinryu.union.rpi.edu/history_whitebelt.html
    1) Elimination of fancy techniques - once used to hide karate's killing power because it was against the law to practice karate. If only either of these claims were true--but the techniques ARE fancy, and Isshinryu was NOT hidden like that.

    2) Combination of the best of Shorin-ryu and Goju-ryu to form a basic, realistic system of self-defense.

    3) Use of low kicks (none above the waist) because low kicks allow you to move quickly with power and balance. Such kicks are hard to see, and hard to block. Sport karate can use high kicks.So, barely ever practice low kicks, and don't spar with them, and they're not done that way in kata, but they're there! Trust us!

    4) Use of short, natural stances which eliminate wasted motion and major body shifting, giving a split-second time advantage in self-defense situation. Such stances are more adaptable to American physique and temperament because the stances follow natural body movements.

    5) Hand and foot techniques are about 50-50 in the katas, giving the student a well-rounded system of karate.

    6) Close-in techniques which are valuable for street fighting (Bunkai). This is part of the delusion that all fights are in trapping range, instead of the proven standup-clinch-ground dynamic.

    7) Snap-punches and snap kicks (punches and kicks come from a limb only 90% extended and immediately retracted), enabling you to move in and out quickly in a self-defense situation and to immediately correct yourself if you miscalculate. The lack of full extension of the limb prevents excessive wear and tear on the hinge joints. This is just a dig at Japanese karate, and a weird way of overstating the idea of not hurting your elbow when you punch. Ignore it.

    8) Elements of hard blocking (meeting force with force) and soft blocking (deflecting or parrying the blows). This is actually kind of nice, it's one of the best philosophical aspects that really does get some airtime in class and sparring. It's why hard-sparring tai chi catches my eye. Go and Ju.

    9) Blocks executed with the muscular part and 2 bones of the forearm rather than one bone and all muscle part to prevent breakage of the bones.

    10) A fist made with the thumb on top of the fist rather than over the first two fingers. This method locks the wrist, helping to prevent the fist from buckling at the wrist on impact. This method also tightens the fist by allowing you to put tension on the top of the fist (thumb side) and the side of the fist (finger side).

    11) Vertical punch, which increases the speed and focus of the punch.

    12) Blocks are blocks and blocks are strikes. Basic kata teaches that blocks are blocks or kamae. Advanced Bunkai shows that blocks are strikes. (Ask Sensei for explanation.)

    13) Kotekitai (arm conditioning exercises) - all Okinawan styles do arm conditioning.
    (more of) My commentary:
    • The trademark punch (vertical fist w/thumb on top) and block (use both bones/muscle of the arm). These are minor details, not major revelations. They have taken on stone-tablet type status in Isshinryu lore.
    • A natural stance. This is actually good; the basic stance for most Isshinryu is closer to Muay Thai's upright, shoulder-width one than Shotokan's deep ones.
    • Crap like "50% hands, 50% feet." What the **** does that even mean? It's meaningless.
    • A philosophy of kata bunkai that almost always revolves around making **** up. It's actively encouraged. Thinking about this for even a moment will reveal why it's an awful idea. It was born out of the original concept that "a block is a lock is a blow is a throw," which is to say, each technique in kata or basics should be analyzed for all possible applications, and that the same movement can be applied multiple ways. This is terrifying close to the Bujinkan-like theory that one should move "naturally" and everything will work out OK. Ugh.
    • An approach to self-defense that is fundamentally theoretical in nature and compliant in practice. I rest my case.


    Other things that Isshinryu includes:
    1. Okinawan training methods - kokekitae, tegumi, line basics. Some of these, like arm and leg pounding, can be quasi-useful as bareknuckle conditioning. Mostly they're deprecated and only useful as history.

    2. The best kumite you could do. Tatsuo was constantly innovating with sparring rules, just like his primary teacher, Chotoku Kyan.

    He tried bareknuckle, with tegumi-like standing grappling.
    He tried light gloves with strikes only.
    He tried bogu kumite with strikes only. Dig around in http://www.bohans-family.com/shimabu..._t_1/index.htm - click on "Harry Smith / Tatsuo Shimabuku / Art Smiley" halfway down the left menu, and the ones starting with "Tokumura Kensho" 3/4 of the way down. Use IE only. Fucking stupid site.

    3. Kata, for one reason: applications. Not for conditioning, focus, speed, cardio, or whatever bullshit. Okinawans did kata because that was their pedagogical method. Now it's deprecated, as DerAus has stated repeatedly. Look at how much effort Tatsuo put into his kata:

    YouTube - Naihanchi Kata Isshinryu

    He waltzes through it. Why? Because it's the applications and sparring that's important. See http://www.bohans-family.com/shimabu..._t_1/index.htm - "Tatsuo Shimabuku and Harry G Smith" and the 3 after it. Yes, it's some stupid stuff, yes, it's mostly compliant, yes it includes a bunch of compliant wristlocky stuff:

    YouTube - Self-defence application practices
    YouTube - Shimabuku's Otoshi-geri Application

    Anyway, that's the (sort of) good, the bad, and the ugly of Isshinryu. I've said for several months (including before the infamous "witch hunt" thread) that I can't recommend it, and that's still true.

    My displeasure goes deeper, however. It's that Tatsuo was an innovator. He didn't want to do kata for the hell of it. He was a born tinkerer--he experimented with kumite, he experimented with how to block and punch (which he waffled back and forth over several times over the 40s and 50s; you can tell because people who trained and left at different times do their techniques slightly differently, ie, traditional corkscrew punch), he experimented by creating the basics (my old teacher's theory was that he was copying the new-fangled fancy-pants Shotokan training methods of Ten No Kata; he has a whole reaf of evidence).

    Yet, Isshinryu today is staid, stagnant, and useless. Tatsuo would be playing with BJJ guys and letting MMA and Kali instructors guest-teach at his dojo, if he were alive today.

    How do we fix this? Renovate the training methods and cross-train. Stop playing Tag and calling it Kumite. Learn to box instead of doing Basics 1-15. Throw away shobu and step-kumite drills. Stop obsessing over where your left toe is during Seisan. Learn to have fun fighting and playing with effective techniques against challenging opponents.

    It's what Tatsuo would have done.
    What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. -Xenophon's Socrates
  2. Crushing Step is offline

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    Posted On:
    8/12/2009 10:39pm


     

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    That's a well put together thesis, now let me make you sad. I don't think anything you said is going to be isolated to Isshin. The core tenets of other karate and even Tae Kwon Do all favor some sort of direct, simple, and practical approach. The compliant wrist locky stuff, the one step sparring, the crappy point sparring, it's run rampant everywhere. So great work explaining your point, I just seriously think it applies to a lot more ryu's.
  3. foxguitar is offline

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    Posted On:
    8/13/2009 10:13am


     Style: Shotokan/Shorin Ryu

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Very Good Post 1point
    Move along citizen ,nothing to see here !!!!!
  4. 1point2 is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/13/2009 5:01pm

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     Style: 剛 and 柔

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I wonder, what would be left if Isshinryu established good training methods? As far as I can tell, it would be a stand-up and clinch style that focused on the transition between the two. There would be kickboxing strikes and defense, plus Okinawan-style parry-blocks (and the accompanying drills), some unorthodox strikes (shuto, kangaroo hooks, CMA-looking leg kicks), Crazy-Monkey-looking (technically/traditionally with only 1 side at a time) head blocking, some standing jointlocks, and a rudimentary clinch game focused primarily on the single collar tie.

    Obviously a huge portion of this training would need to be re-imported from elsewhere. Let's not open that can of worms. The list above is the stuff that is talked about and trained poorly already. I'm trying to brainstorm what Isshinryu could look like if trained properly. Basically, what would make it different from other standup striking styles.

    I don't think this version of Isshinryu exists anywhere, for the record.
    What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. -Xenophon's Socrates
  5. Crushing Step is offline

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    Posted On:
    8/13/2009 5:27pm


     

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Quote Originally Posted by 1point2 View Post
    I wonder, what would be left if Isshinryu established good training methods? .


    Great point. From a personal note, I've been in an assistant or head instructor position in a few different schools (tae kwon do, shotokan and kung fu). In every instance, I tried to communicate what my personal experiences were. To paraphrase Bruce Lee, he basically said fighting is fighting. Until a human grows a third arm or leg, then the barrier of style is a man-made one. With this in mind, I would try to convey sparring-applicable techniques only. Jab, cross, hook, front kick and roundhouse from a free fighting position. Everything else like one step sparring and kata I really steered away from.

    I was thinking about this very subject as I've considered teaching again. I have mad respect for my Sifu, but a lot of mantis kung fu is frivolous. What I would teach would still be a core of universal and applicable skills, but what would make it "mantis" versus someone like you, who wanted really hard to learn "isshin ryu"? The drills and the exercises? The "applications" that you practice with a static, compliant partner?

    I think some of the "traditional" stuff is fun, and of course there is the romanticism of the "old way" that appeals to us from time to time, yes? So tell me, what is it about isshin ryu that appeals to you so much as compared to other styles you have seen?
  6. crappler is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/13/2009 7:36pm


     Style: Judo

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    That Dutch Kumite sure looks like Kyokushin. Those are some seriously tough dudes. That version of Naihanchi is completely devoid of power. What is the purpose of that? That is the first form I learned in Shorin-ryu.
  7. foxguitar is offline

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    Posted On:
    8/13/2009 7:58pm


     Style: Shotokan/Shorin Ryu

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    Quote Originally Posted by crappler View Post
    That Dutch Kumite sure looks like Kyokushin. Those are some seriously tough dudes. That version of Naihanchi is completely devoid of power. What is the purpose of that? That is the first form I learned in Shorin-ryu.
    I thought it was kyokushin

    Congrats on your KK tag
    Move along citizen ,nothing to see here !!!!!
  8. DerAuslander is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/13/2009 8:47pm

    supporting memberstaff
     Style: BJJ/C-JKD/KAAALIII!!!!!!!

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  9. 1point2 is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/13/2009 11:11pm

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     Style: 剛 and 柔

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    The Nordic IR does look like KK, which makes me think it's more influenced from competition rules than tradition. Nothing wrong with that.

    To answer everyone's question in one big hodgepodge, let me say this. The original post, IMO, is 99% golden; I wouldn't change a thing. Even as I wrote the 2nd, however, something was nagging me.

    The idea of "what would it look like" is classic theory-based martial arts, which is to say, everything I want to leave behind. Until (and if) I establish a root of hard sparring (which rules must allow Isshinryu waza to be practiced, ie, must include clinch, elbows, knees, and takedowns) plus consistently train Isshinryu drills like kotekitae, ashikitae, sawtooth and other parry-block drills, Naihanchi head blocking (aka 1/2 Crazy Monkey), trapping entries, and a smattering of other applicable techniques, it's pretty much an invalid question. It may not have an answer, and if it does have an answer, I may never get around to finding it. It's very possible that either A) Isshinryu is dead, or B) Isshinryu is dead to me.

    What is the purpose of half-ass kata? The point of the kata is not to do the kata hard. Modern Motobu guys (who learned it from Motobu like Tatsuo did) do it easygoing too. The point of the kata is to act as a file system, or a curriculum, or a notebook. Techniques go in it, and your effort should go into practicing those techniques alive with a partner, instead of towards doing a solo form hard and fast and pretty (which is OK once in a blue moon for a demo, of course).

    For instance, and I picked Naihanchi intentionally because I think it's the most fundamental, what should one get from Naihanchi kata? Off the top of my head:

    - Trapping to an over-the-top-of-their-arm straight punch or backfist, with or without following up with more, with or without a simultaneous leg check
    - Entering a single collar tie plus elbow strikes from their punch, preferably a wide punch
    - Various knockdowns and sweeps from attacking the front, side, and back of the knee
    - Elbows, uppercuts, and knees from a single collar tie
    - Taking the outside ("preferred" in IR nomenclature) position, somewhat like a Russian 2 on 1, from an "en garde" position
    - 1/2 crazy monkey head blocking
    - Perhaps that wonderful CMA-style Parting Wild Horses Mane takedown
    - A bad standing Kimura that assists a mediocre kaiten nage that relies on an OK sasae-tsuri-komi-ashi (off the single collar tie entry, if you want)
    - A rear takedown (sentry-style)
    - Front-arm blocking and attacking the mastoid process

    All of these things were "taught," so to speak, in Isshinryu. Yet, I can perform maybe two of them, and of those, I do poorly. Why? Of course, training methods, aliveness, poor focus, yadda yadda yadda. But the question is, what would the practitioner look like if they actually trained those techniques correctly? Wouldn't that be cool!? If a bunch of guys did that, with proper modern training methods, I bet they would have a claim to doing Isshinryu that was legitimately a standup/clinch entry based style.

    Oh, and for the original point: Tatsuo also does the kata half-assed because he was hung over that day. Plus, he used to wander around while doing kata; he didn't think Japanese-style precision was necessary in forms. He'd do Naihanchi, then work these techniques. Plus a couple wristlocks.
    What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. -Xenophon's Socrates
  10. foxguitar is offline

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    Posted On:
    8/14/2009 12:41am


     Style: Shotokan/Shorin Ryu

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Quote Originally Posted by 1point2 View Post
    The Nordic IR does look like KK, which makes me think it's more influenced from competition rules than tradition. Nothing wrong with that.

    To answer everyone's question in one big hodgepodge, let me say this. The original post, IMO, is 99% golden; I wouldn't change a thing. Even as I wrote the 2nd, however, something was nagging me.

    The idea of "what would it look like" is classic theory-based martial arts, which is to say, everything I want to leave behind. Until (and if) I establish a root of hard sparring (which rules must allow Isshinryu waza to be practiced, ie, must include clinch, elbows, knees, and takedowns) plus consistently train Isshinryu drills like kotekitae, ashikitae, sawtooth and other parry-block drills, Naihanchi head blocking (aka 1/2 Crazy Monkey), trapping entries, and a smattering of other applicable techniques, it's pretty much an invalid question. It may not have an answer, and if it does have an answer, I may never get around to finding it. It's very possible that either A) Isshinryu is dead, or B) Isshinryu is dead to me.

    What is the purpose of half-ass kata? The point of the kata is not to do the kata hard. Modern Motobu guys (who learned it from Motobu like Tatsuo did) do it easygoing too. The point of the kata is to act as a file system, or a curriculum, or a notebook. Techniques go in it, and your effort should go into practicing those techniques alive with a partner, instead of towards doing a solo form hard and fast and pretty (which is OK once in a blue moon for a demo, of course).

    For instance, and I picked Naihanchi intentionally because I think it's the most fundamental, what should one get from Naihanchi kata? Off the top of my head:

    - Trapping to an over-the-top-of-their-arm straight punch or backfist, with or without following up with more, with or without a simultaneous leg check
    - Entering a single collar tie plus elbow strikes from their punch, preferably a wide punch
    - Various knockdowns and sweeps from attacking the front, side, and back of the knee
    - Elbows, uppercuts, and knees from a single collar tie
    - Taking the outside ("preferred" in IR nomenclature) position, somewhat like a Russian 2 on 1, from an "en garde" position
    - 1/2 crazy monkey head blocking
    - Perhaps that wonderful CMA-style Parting Wild Horses Mane takedown
    - A bad standing Kimura that assists a mediocre kaiten nage that relies on an OK sasae-tsuri-komi-ashi (off the single collar tie entry, if you want)
    - A rear takedown (sentry-style)
    - Front-arm blocking and attacking the mastoid process

    All of these things were "taught," so to speak, in Isshinryu. Yet, I can perform maybe two of them, and of those, I do poorly. Why? Of course, training methods, aliveness, poor focus, yadda yadda yadda. But the question is, what would the practitioner look like if they actually trained those techniques correctly? Wouldn't that be cool!? If a bunch of guys did that, with proper modern training methods, I bet they would have a claim to doing Isshinryu that was legitimately a standup/clinch entry based style.

    Oh, and for the original point: Tatsuo also does the kata half-assed because he was hung over that day. Plus, he used to wander around while doing kata; he didn't think Japanese-style precision was necessary in forms. He'd do Naihanchi, then work these techniques. Plus a couple wristlocks.

    Im starting to understand why you feel the way you do about Kata .
    watching that version of Naihanchi I would feel the same way. We do the same kata in shotokan we call it Tekki

    We do it full power and speed with Kime . Its the same movements performed vastly differently. The difference is tremendous .
    Move along citizen ,nothing to see here !!!!!
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