What exactly is meant by the term Karate Jutsu? Let us first examine the various constituent parts of the term:
Kara- China or empty
Te – Hand
Jutsu – Science or art (depending again upon interpretations)
Recently, I was fortunate enough to read a first edition of Gichin Funakoshi’s ‘Karate Jutsu’ whilst on a trip to New York. The experience alone blew my mind, but it was what was contained in the text that was really firing me up.
I wanted to see how this book related to what we do in the Karate Jutsu Association. One of the first things that struck me was the sheer amount of grappling and throwing techniques contained within the text and clear statements relating to where the techniques can be found in the various kata. This alone was an eye-opener. Now, I am by no means new to the idea that kata contains various grappling and throwing applications as I have read all of Iain Abernethy’s work, most of Vince Morris’, Patrick McCarthy’s et al and am fortunate enough to train with an extremely open minded group of individuals under our Instructor, Jon Ryley.
However, to see it written in black ink, under actual images of Funakoshi performing the techniques, was quite remarkable. How was it then, that Karate became the laughing stock of the martial arts world?!
Which brings me back to the phrase Karate Jutsu. What is Karate anyway?
Rather than begin on a lengthy diatribe about the differences between Karate Do and Jutsu, I will rather discuss what we ‘do’ (pun intended) at our club and leave it up to other people to argue over whether it is ‘proper’ karate or not.
It is a well documented fact that the founding fathers of karate all adapted and modified what they did to suit themselves. Karate must adapt in order to survive as must everything else in this funny little universe.
On Monday classes we follow a formal ‘Karate style’ format including gi’s, kata, kihon, kumite and kiais! On a Friday the seniors wear less formal atire and generally hurt each other for an hour and a half. It’s all good fun though.
I feel a question coming on. At what point does Karate stop being Karate? This issue seems to really annoy some people, it makes me laugh actually. I have had friends remark how what I do at training sometimes isn’t Karate. My response (if I can be bothered to entertain such mind numbingly boring statements) is usually along the lines of, ‘Well, we were punching, kicking, elbowing, grappling, trapping,using pressure points, hitting with impact, sparring…so tell me…which part of that doesnt sound like Karate to you?’
What I find so refreshing about the way that we (and many other clubs these days) train is that we are not scared that other people may criticise that we are doing is not ‘Karate’. There are only so many ways to hit someone after all. Even the term Karate as demonstrated at the start has a confusing history. Motobu and Funakoshi themselves couldn’t agree on what Karate was/should be. Itosu Anko changed everything in Karate to make it suitable for children, Karate has and hopefully will be forever changing.
What you tend to find is that most martial arts at some point come to a juncture, some sooner than others due to stylistic features and we start to notice patterns. For example, we frequently use the gunting method as found in the Filipino Arts to attack the opponents attacking limbs, we also use the same principles when applying torite Jutsu techniques, or when we are body boxing and for Karate purists the same principle can be found in the preparation hand of uchi-uke.
So. If we are in a room with music playing, wearing grappling gloves and t-shirts, training hard utilising combative principles, is that any less of a Karate class than two hours of line work? I believe not. In Funakoshi’s own text of the same name adaptation and application of concepts are encouraged. None of the ‘old masters’ copied their Sensei’s version of Karate, so why should anyone now believe that they are the authority on what Karate is or isn’t.
I know that I train in a scientific empty hand combat system. For anyone who wishes to translate that into Japanese, go back to the start.
By Kris Mansfield
Within our training we incorporate various principles into what we do in order to improve the effectiveness of our responses to aggression. These principles can be explained in various ways, but for the purpose of this article we shall refer to the principles using the phrase ‘Players to the Game’ as coined by Grand Master Rick Moneymaker of the Dragon Society International in the 1990’s. Listed below are the individual ‘players’:
Absorption of Attack ~ Go with flow
Body Alarm Reaction (BAR)
This list, in my humble opinion, involves some principles which are not required for the purpose of self-protection, but which can have an effect upon a given technique. For example (though it is not listed here) feng shui could technically be considered a ‘player’. However, if you have time to check out your surroundings for how furniture and walls are positioned with relation to how they affect the energy within the room prior to protecting yourself, then I would suggest that the threat is minimal! You may however, quickly look for walls and chairs to hit people with/ push them into, thereby utilising your zanchin or general awareness. Thus, not every player is essential for self-protection.
One player however is extremely important due to how it changes the psychological and physiological state of both yourself and your opponent/s. Body Alarm Reaction (BAR) is taken from the studies of stress upon the body, by Dr Hans Selye. Selye described the process of the effects of stress as General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). GAS itself can be divided into three sections, these being:
Alarm, Resistance and then Exhaustion each becoming more severe in nature with respect to how they affect the body.
The first part of GAS is the part which is of real importance to the Martial Arts as this is involved with the early stages of the pre-fight dialogue and the initial stages of an attack. BAR is also known as ‘Fight or Flight’ to which we can also add ‘Freeze’. For more information regarding this phenomenon I can do more than to recommend the works of Peter Consterdine and Geoff Thompson. Mo Teague also referred to it, somewhat eloquently as ‘F***ing shi**ing yourself!’ Excellent.
Now, what interests me the most about BAR is how it changes what we can physically and mentally do and also how it provides areas of weakness within ourselves and the opponent. During BAR the following things can/do happen. The legs will shake, the mouth will go dry, tunnel vision and auditory exclusion occurs, monosyllabic speech takes over (this is the case with some people anyway) the musculature of the body tenses and the lungs and heart go into overdrive. There are more physical symptoms but I find these to be the most useful for combative purposes.
Some have argued that due to these debilitating effects upon the body, it is impossible or close to impossible to utilise vital point technology/martial technique. I partly agree with this statement if by this means standing in Crane stance and striking a point with a finger-tip, however if you are blasting forwards into your opponent and striking with a large area of your own body, then I disagree whole-heartedly.
Rand Cardwell goes into great detail in his book ‘The Western Bubishi’ about how to attack the energetic structure of the body whilst experiencing BAR, so I will be careful not to simply repeat what he has already said. Instead I will utilise the knowledge of what I have learned from training and researching the information and attempt to summarise what I have ‘discovered’ so far.
When attacking pressure points in a combative situation you do not have time to think about the order of the points that you are going to strike, instead you should be ‘doing what you do’. What do I mean by this? Basically, in various arts ours included, the arms of the attacker are struck in some form usually prior to an attack to the head or body, if you haven’t been lucky enough to land your pre-emptive shot at a vital area.
From a TCM perspective, you have just attacked the fire and metal meridians of your opponent which are already in an excessive state due to the effects of BAR (The heart and lung meridians are ‘fired’ up as the heart and lungs are working at an increased level due to adrenaline released because of stress.) Following this a strike is ‘usually’ thrown to the head area or body which is designed to take the opponent out. The strike should be targeting a vital area in general and does not need to be perfectly accurate as long as you hit with impact (particularly for the body). From a TCM perspective you may wish to attack a point along the fire and/or metal meridians or strike a Wood point for the infamous three point energetic knockout, thereby utilising five element theory. Or, you can just hit them in the head!
It is essential never to lose sight of what you are trying to achieve. You are trying to protect yourself, not prove to yourself and those around you that you can hit in accordance with a theory. Also, when inBAR, the last thing that you can/should do is stand there ‘looking’ for the pressure points, this is why it is necessary to add points to what you already do, not the other way around. Any reality-based martial art (I’m never sure about that phrase) will be hitting pressure points anyway, so it is critical that you train in a system that involves actual contact and BAR if you want to improve your chances of protecting yourself. BAR can turn the best martial artist into an absolute rank beginner when attacked ‘on the streets’, if they have never experienced the stress of a physical/mental attack.
What exactly is it that I’m getting at here? Well, it’s this. I believe that you must train BAR first before attempting to utilise the other players for combative purposes, otherwise knowing all the players on the list won’t help you one iota as you won’t be able to apply them due to stress. Grand Master Tom Muncy said this exact thing to me when I last did a seminar with him. Now, if you train using BAR and you are actually making contact with your training partners, being aggressive etc then lots of these players can be very useful in a combative situation. If you want to learn these players because you have an interest in Martial Arts, then excellent, enjoy yourself and have fun, but remember not to confuse art and combat.
How can BAR help rather than hinder us then? Everything that you are experiencing, your opponent is experiencing, we must remember this. Geoff Thompson has written in length about how the feelings associated with BAR remain no matter how much we train, it’s how we deal with it that can change. I know that I am a naturally nervy and energetic person by nature, I also know how I act when experiencing BAR so I cater for my psychological and physiological responses when formulating self-protection techniques. I would NEVER be able to launch a head height kick whilst experiencing BAR, (unless my opponent was lying down) due to the fact that my legs shake like mad if I don’t act quickly. Secondly, my targeting goes off big time, so I want to hit a big target on my opponent (jaw/face) with something hefty usually a palm or head as powerfully as I can.
Something else which I have used in the past which Peter Consterdine and Geoff Thompson also swear by, is the use of an action trigger in the form of a word. I tend to use a word and gesture simultaneously as it allows me to ‘set myself’ as it were, that’s whenever I have been ‘fortunate’ enough to be able to line them up. If you have absolutely no other choice other than to hit, then you must do it first and as hard as you can with total mental commitment, an action trigger which you (should) use whilst training will help with this initial explosion and decision making process.
What players could have been used in the last example? If we take a look back at the players we can see numerous things that could be applied in order to ‘enhance’ the effectiveness of the initial strike(s). Possible Players that you could/should use in a pre-emptive shot:
I am sure that you can think of others players that could be added quite easily without altering the example of:
A) Set yourself/Fence
B) Be committed to strike
C) Use action trigger
D) Explode into opponent with slap/ Head butt /Punch whatever.
The Players when used in this way are maybe more useful than merely trying to learn them all and make techniques to fit them, I find that the wrong way of looking at them. The only way that I have changed ‘what I do’ is by paying more attention to details of techniques during training in order to improve my chances of utilising the science when under the effects of BAR. When I slap now, I use visualisation, footwork, a waveform/double hip motion, intention and so forth but I also aim to hit Stomach 5, the ear or Stomach 4. Stomach 4 would be my chosen strike due to its intersection with the Large Intestine Meridian, the Conception Vessel and the Yang Heel Vessel. It is also the release point of the neck so could create a whiplash effect on my opponent’s neck to improve the chances of a KO. Or, I could miss, catch their temple (result) and still buy time to escape. I aim to hit areas that have a high degree of success at taking someone out without the need for pressure points, let’s not forget that pressure points should be the last 5% of a technique.
The Players to the Game should be added to your techniques in the gym, not when you are standing outside a chippy minding your business when some Neanderthal decides they want to ‘have a go.’ This prevents the ‘technique log jam’ which we are reminded of by those who have been there for real. You don’t want to be stood there thinking, ‘Should I try to reverse the cycle of destruction or not because if it’s 2 AM then the Liver Meridian is active..’BANG! You’re down and are being used as a play thing for potential murderers.
We need to be sensible when using the Players they are not a Martial Arts panacea, they are merely the ‘bits’ which make a technique work better, with exception to BAR which, as I have stated should be the principle part of any combative technique. This may then help to avoid over-complicating things, but we must analyse techniques in order for them to be more natural.
Bruce Lee said the following and I believe that it succinctly sums up what I am trying to say:
“Before I studied the art, a punch was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I studied the art, a punch is no longer a punch, a kick is no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick is just like a kick.”
Having recently read ‘Streetwise’ by Peter Consterdine and finding it to be absolutely fantastic, I believed it was high time to check out ‘Dead or Alive’ by Geoff Thompson, which works alongside Consterdine’s modern classic perfectly.
Now, before I begin let me state that I have been involved in “real” fights, though not hundreds, due to the area I lived in and had trained on and off in a few different martial arts. Whilst in University I decided to take up WTF style Tae Kwon Do and was making good progress. Or so I thought. I was actually busy reprogramming what had always come quite naturally to me. I wasn’t punching as much because they don’t score points in competition. I wasn’t head-butting or grappling because, yes, you’ve guessed it, you can’t do that in competition! I was almost starting to believe that I could pull off a spinning hook kick in a real encounter because I had used them in competitions. A few years ago I was given a massive wake up call. I was quickly forgetting what a real fight was like. There is no referee, there are no rules.
Five years on from starting TKD, with my first Dan grading looming on the horizon, I was out in town for drinks. It was your average Saturday night out in Liverpool city centre, my girlfriend, step-brother and I had met friends, had a few too many drinks and had a good night. Walking to get a taxi we met trouble. We were subjected to a nasty and unprovoked attack involving eight Neanderthals. Needless to say, we didn’t “win.” I managed to get away with a split lip, fending off three of them with my arms forming a barrier (which I later discovered was a form of ‘the Fence’) my girlfriend was armed with a bag of chips, which she launched at the nearest person (nice one!) and my step-brother, well he was on the floor at this point, after throwing maybe two punches and was unconscious having his head jumped on and kicked into the curb by the remaining cave –dwellers.
I feel a question coming on at this point. Maybe something like, “Well, what did you do when you saw this happening? Did you use your previous TKD training?” The answer quite simply is no. In all honesty, I froze and watched the assault happen in slow motion. After what felt like an actual eternity I ran to help my…what? Unconscious? Dead? Step-brother/best mate. Thankfully he began to regain consciousness, still lying in the middle of the road, with cars driving past. I was so angry at myself. Why did I drink that last pint? Why didn’t I cross the road when I saw a group of drunken lads? Why didn’t I start dropping them as soon as they were in front of me? Why did they pick us? It took me a good while to take control of these feelings. This feeling, which Geoff Thompson refers to as the ‘Black Dog’ in his book, was well and truly chasing me around the park.
Even when the police finally arrived and we identified the culprits, we were then faced with questions such as “Who started it?”(!) I was told to calm down and stop swearing or I would be taken away. I had never experienced this sort of situation before. We were the victims of the assault, yet we still needed to justify this to the ‘second-enemy’, the police. Both Geoff and Peter, remind us that even if you do act in ‘self-defence’ and with ‘reasonable force’, it is what you say after the encounter, that determines the outcome in court. I told the Police that I had ran after two of them chasing them on to a bus. I was asked “why” I had chased them, as the attack was over. If I would have hit one of them following this I could have been charged with assault. This subject matter is explore in great detail in ‘Dead or Alive’ and is something that should be contained in every book on self-protection. No charges were made, as there was no evidence that the people who we identified had attacked us. CCTV, we were informed, was not working that night.
Fortunately, the only damage left, was a severely bruised ego and a lot of pent up anger. I realised that something needed to change. As a child and teenager, growing up in your typical working class area, my Dads’s advice was always, stay away from trouble, but if you can’t, make sure that you get the first shot in! This is basically the crux of ‘Dead or Alive.’ Avoid violence at all costs. Escape a situation if possible. But if you need to protect yourself, hit first and hit hard.
I decided to stop training in TKD as it is unsuitable, in it’s sporting form, for an actual street encounter, in my personal opinion. I was learning techniques that are used in a sport with rules. I had spent no time training in workable bunkai, as you only needed the patterns/forms to pass your grading. I also realised that I, myself, need to take responsibility for what I was doing.
Mo Teague, in the Appendix of ‘Dead or Alive’ reminds us all that alcohol and fighting do not mix well. It can make you aggressive and become the loud, obnoxious ‘Two-can Van Damme’ type, who wants to take on the world, or simply it reduces your perception and decision making skills. I know that I was too drunk when we were attacked, I thought that it happened ‘out of the blue’ because I was not switched on. I was in ‘Code White’, happily munching on my take-away thinking about being home with the missus.
This is not to say that I blame myself or my friends for the attack, rather we/I should have perceived the problem before it was, quite literally on top of us. The people who attacked us did it because they wanted to. It’s that simple. ‘Dead or Alive’ goes into this in far more detail, interviewing “people” who purposely go out to attack random people for enjoyment.
In terms of actual ‘fighting’ there are a couple of chapters in ‘Dead or Alive’, which explore techniques, but it is the other information that is essential in a real situation. Coopers Colour Code system is explained, something that is also recommended in ‘Streetwise’ and is definitely a mind-set which I use now. In addition to this Geoff Thompson covers all of the pre-fight rituals, which must be understood and trained in order to survive a violent encounter.
Having became a member of Peter and Geoff’s brainchild, the British Combat Association three years ago, under the tutelage of Jon Ryley, I have never looked back. The training is realistic and honest. The training can be painful at times. But this is needed. We ‘absorb what is useful’ from the likes of Western Boxing, Kali, Karate Jutsu, JKD, Torite Jutsu and apply them to realistic scenarios.
I have wanted to write this little article for a while now, as I am an avid reader of martial arts books and have read some seriously bad/dangerous books in the past few years. Also having been in a number of dangerous situations, I have a minimal, but actual understanding of what is required to survive a street encounter. ‘Dead or Alive’ is straight to the point and contains some of the most important martial arts information that you can find. This book is an absolute must for anyone interested in the life protection arts and I cannot urge you enough to read this text.
By Kris Mansfield
The train journey from Preston to Edinburgh was nearly over. I couldn’t believe it. I was literally minutes away from training with none other than Guru Dan Inosanto, protégé of Bruce Lee, John Lacoste and martial arts aficionado in his own right.
My instructor, Jon Ryley and I collected our belongings from the train, hailed a taxi and made our way to Leith Academy. Upon arrival at the academy I felt the bitter-sweet feelings of adrenaline begin to kick in, as we proceeded down a corridor following signs for the ‘Dan Inosanto Seminar’. We stepped into the training hall quietly (aside from a creaking door-hinge) as Guru Dan already had the entire room captivated. And silent. A few looks headed our way but we were only minutes late. Not the best room full of people to disturb I thought.
Jon and I placed our bags down and waited for Guru Dan to finish speaking. I was amazed by what I saw. The first thing that came to mind, when I saw Guru Dan was that he was a smaller, faster version of the Jedi Master Yoda. He beamed vitality and enthusiasm. Now, if I was to be brutally honest I had trouble remembering the first few minutes in the room as I was completely and utterly star-struck. Sad, I know, but that’s the truth.
Rob and Mike, along with my new friends Brian and Neil, were already there and so explained what we had missed, which wasn’t too much thankfully. After a warm up and play with some drills, Guru Dan had us return to the mat whereby I witnessed one of martial arts’ true orators and teachers. Guru Dan is a literal encyclopaedia of knowledge or as he phrased it an Ipod full of songs. Allow me to expand upon this.
Guru Dan eloquently likened the martial arts to music. Everybody in the room, he explained, would have their own preferred melodies, harmonies, rhythms and so forth that they can bring to a discussion about music. No one in that room has the ‘best’ music, nobody has exactly the ‘same’ music on their ipod, we simply keep the ones that we like as individuals. In essence we are espousing one of the main principles of JKD ‘Absorbing what is useful’ to us.
Guru Dan’s humility shone through as he continued by explaining that everybody in the room has something to share which you may never have ‘listened’ to before, himself included. To actually hear such a prominent martial artist say this, was truly inspiring. Needless to say Guru Dan articulated this point far more gracefully than I have and whatever music he has in his play-lists seems to be damn good!
Rather than merely listing every drill, which took place over the course of the two days, I believe it is more useful to explain the themes of what was taught, as that way it can be researched and experimented with individually.
Guru Dan gave everybody a talk on the history of the Philipines and how various arts have stemmed from the area. This was extremely fascinating and has provoked me to delve further. Guru Dan went on to discuss Filipino Dirty Boxing (Panantukan) and how it differs from Western Boxing, guiding us through ways of trapping, head-butting, unbalancing and so forth whilst in the punching range. This again was incredibly interesting and could be integrated seamlessly into what you normally do. An extra song had been downloaded.
What I found to be particularly remarkable about Guru Dan was his ability to switch, or perhaps more accurately ‘blend’ between ‘styles’ without you being aware of any change. As has been said many times, there only so many ways to hit someone, but Guru Dan was able to physically display this notion in an elegant fashion. He would effortlessly refer to various martial arts as he was explaining concepts, flowing from JKD to Muay Thai, to Kali, to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and so on, without changing the appearance of what he was doing. It was not possible to say “he’s moved into a boxing stance, he’s going to do boxing now” likewise, when he was on the ground with his opponent in the guard he proceeded to combine a triangle choke with eye-gouges and vertical elbows, incorporating kino-mutai into his BJJ.
To say that watching this display of martial skill is magic, is not hyperbolic. I liken Guru Dan to an expert magician, with flawless sleight of hand. Within each technique demonstrated there must have been at least six or seven main ‘sleights’ occurring, that I could see anyway, which influence the overall illusion. The only difference being that Guru Dan’s illusions, were very, very real, not cheap parlour tricks.
After spending time playing with techniques in order to understand footwork, flow, touch sensitivity etc we were back at the mat, engrossed in what Guru Dan had to say to us. Those in attendance were given background on Guru Dan’s own inspirations and instructors through the years, right back to when he was in the Paratroopers and further still as a student under his Uncle.
Guru Dan spoke in great length about a lot of his past Instructors, however two in particular stood out for me. One of the particular men that he still has an extremely high regard for is, Grand Master John Lacoste, a seemingly enigmatic yet brilliant Kali practitioner who greatly influenced Guru Dan’s Escrima /Kali. Guru Dan went to explain and demonstrate some Hubud and Sambrada flow drills from the Lacoste system, giving us all a taste of his speed, power and co-ordination even now.
Guru Dan then began to speak of another Instructor of his. Needless to say, as soon as Guru Dan mentioned the name, Bruce Lee, many eyes began to widen, not excluding my own. Guru Dan told many funny tales about their time together, it was clear that this was a man whom he still misses tremendously and to whom he feels indebted to. Everybody was in good spirits. It was reminiscent of a Primary school scene with the pupils sat on ‘the carpet’ listening attentively to their teacher as Guru Dan took us on a journey through the years. One particular moment that sticks out was when he told us about how Bruce and he were training with focus mitts in the late 1960’s and how martial artists were mocking them. Empty vessels really do make the most noise don’t they? Guru Dan continued, referring to how people found it slightly insulting that he was training with that ‘cocky Chinese kid’, to which he replied, “Yeah, but he’s really good!” During this talk, Guru Dan showed us all pictures that Bruce himself had drawn, “Bruce was a genius” he explained with reverence still on his face. Bruce Lee for Guru Dan, isn’t just a name, it is the name of one of his best friends and mentors, something that we should all remember and respect.
Sadly, as with all things, the end of the second day was drawing to close allowing people time to get a picture with Guru Dan and to also congratulate Rick Young on being presented with his lifetime achievement award under Guru Dan. This was a truly special moment for all whom where there and Rick deserved it entirely. Those who attended the two-day course were presented with a Certificate of Attendance, which everybody appreciated. Of course, I just had to get Guru Dan to sign my Licence and to get a picture with him; these moments in life cannot be missed.
On the way home Jon and I settled ourselves into our train seats and discussed the fantastic time that we had just experienced. I made a note in my journal to remember to do something important when I returned home. To charge my ipod and continue searching for that ultimate, never-ending symphony that is the martial arts.
By Kris Mansfield
1st Dan KJA
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