Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Underutilized Shuto Uke

Pity the poor shuto uke (shuto mawashi uke, double knife hand block).  When does it ever get put to use except in kata practice?  Forget about fighting, right?  It seems traditional martial artists only use it for getting into a fighting stance.  They'll wave their hands in the air and Presto!  I'm a karate guy!  But there's so much more to it.

I like to think of the technique as a multi functional tool.  You parry and trap your opponent's strike.  Equally important, if not more so, while parrying and trapping you to cut an angle on your opponent to get into a safe position while leaving your opponent vulnerable.  If karate is a fighting system of multiple distances, shuto mawashi uke is the technique that enables you to close the distance.  Those familiar with Wing Chun, JKD, Silat will recognize what I'm talking about.

Kyokushin karateka who remember pinan sono ichi, might wonder about the different angled shuto mawashi uke at the end of the kata.  No, they are not intended to allow you to meet additional opponents coming from different directions.  They are meant to reinforce the idea of approaching your opponent form an angle instead of straight on.

Above, Alvin Guinanao, of Open Circle Silat, demonstrates how to get close to an opponent and take him down.  Pay attention to the hand movement starting at 0:10.  Notice how he's close and outside.  For karateka, imagine what moves follow shuto mawashi uke in kata.  They are very likely close-in fighting technique.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Moves like Jagger

I have been quietly (ok, maybe not so quietly) bemoaning a development in karate I find disturbing: musical kata.  The state of kata is bad enough, what with the narrow understanding of bunkai, adding music pushes the martial arts to the glittery side of art and rendering the martial unrecognizable.  Is there a way out of this death spiral?  I would argue in the affirmative.  Understanding is the key.  The truth is easy to recognize, even if disguised by music and dance.

Take the kembangan (flower dances) of Silat.  I've asked Alvin Guinanao to provide me with a vid of his moves which you will find above.  Notice the fluidity and balance.  Note the delicate hand gestures and intricate footwork that belie truly powerful and destructive self-defense technique.  "Well that's all nice," you might say. "But where is the powerful and destructive self-defense technique?"

Here's a view of Alvin's ground fighting class.  It doesn't look so dance like anymore.  Some of it vaguely resembles certain Judo throws (osoto gari, kosoto gari, kosoto gake).   You might remember my post on stances, or heard me in conversation refer to karate's funny ways of standing as takedowns.  Compare Alvin's flower dance to his ground fighting.  Now think about kata and how you might reinterpret it.

As for Alvin's delicate hand gestures while performing a kembangan, check out his class on blocking technique.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Why Silat?

When it comes to kata bunkai, it helps to view it from a distance, and I don't mean from the nose-bleed section of the bleachers.  I mean view it from the perspective of South East Asian martial arts like Silat. For the past few months I've been training with Duane. D., the US representative of Maul Mornie's  Silat Suffian Bela Diri and I must say that the experience is like hitching a ride on the long journey to understanding bunkai.  If you look at the some of the video's in Maul Mornie's YouTube Channel, you'll get a glimpse of the type of applications to be found in this rich and varied system.

Today, I had the good fortune to have met and trained with Grant S., SSBD's group leader of Germany, who happened to be visiting.  With Duane, I had been practicing basic knife and open hand fighting drills.  From Grant's perspective, the most advanced technique is simple technique.  In two hours, Grant taught a progression of simple knife passing and blocking technique, culminating in wicked joint destruction technique.  Duane and Grant assure me that what I have been exposed to is just a hint.  Maul Mornie's seminars are the main courses to the appetizers I've been given.  Maul Mornie is coming to NYC in October and I plan on being there.

While training with Duane, I was driven to find out what else is available in the world of Silat.  I contacted Alvin Guinanao of Silat Buka Lingkaran to see if he gave any seminars in my area.  Alvin teaches a comprehensive fighting system which includes weapons, standing and ground fighting, as well as locks, chokes and grabs, or pretty much what I think Karate could be if more folks understood the kata.  I became familiar with Alvin's work while researching all things Silat.  I am fascinated by the way he turns what looks like a dance into a full-blown deadly martial art.  Karate's kata always seems to fall short in this regard.  For some reason, karate's proponents focused on the individual and lost sight of the opponent.

Anyway,  I asked Alvin if he would consider giving a seminar in NYC and he has agreed.  I am very excited about this.  My karate buddy, Joe C. is helping me put this seminar together.  If you are in the NY tri-state area and want to experience Silat, or are more than mildly curious about making your karate a better karate, you have got to participate in these seminars.