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Iain Abernethy
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Jigen-Ryu Swordsmanship

Hi All,

Below you can find a link to an article on Jigen-Ryu (“revealed reality school”). This was a system of swordsmanship that Sokon Matsumura is said to have gained his teaching license in and also taught to his students including Anko Asato (Funakoshi’s main karate teacher):

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/columns/0005/lens236.htm

The following quote caught my attention:

“Jigen-ryu places importance on the first sword strike, which must be extraordinarily fast and powerful in order to defeat opponents. Jigen-ryu teachings state that a second strike is not even to be considered.”

There is a strong parallel to the karate idea of fully committing to every strike in order to end the fight there and then ("one blow- one kill") i.e. we don’t use strikes to set up other techniques or to weaken the enemy. The intention of every strike is to end it there and then; whether we use one strike or many.

Anyhow, I thought you may find the article interesting and thanks to Stuart Squire for the find.

All the best,

Iain

Gavin J Poffley
Gavin J Poffley's picture

It is widely posited that there was great influence from the Jigen ryu on karate in it's latter formative period. Primarily in the adoption of the one strike kill (ichigeki hissatsu) ethos and the use of repetitive impact training with makiwara, possibly inspired by the Jigen ryu striking post.

On a more organisational level it is also theorised that the use of the term "dan" meaning level in the naming of the pinan kata was influenced by the Jigen ryu curriculum which is also organised into "dan" stages. This term is a very basic word in Japanese and so the possibility of unrelated adoption is also quite likely but it does stand out among the far more common koryu terms; shoden, chuden, okuden, mokuroku etc.  

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Gavin J Poffley wrote:
It is widely posited that there was great influence from the Jigen ryu on karate in it's latter formative period. Primarily in the adoption of the one strike kill (ichigeki hissatsu) ethos and the use of repetitive impact training with makiwara, possibly inspired by the Jigen ryu striking post.

I can definitely see that as there is undoubtedly a common and strong "end it NOW!" ethos in both systems. I had not considered the commonality of the makiwara and the Jigen ryu striking post, but that's a very interesting thought! Thanks for the insights Gavin!

All the best,

Iain

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

In terms of mindset, I get it - but technically IMO the karate kata often simply do not deliver this (ie it's finished on the first strike, there are many combinations present).

Also as practical men surley a reliance on such a strategy would be incrediably foolish and hopeful, reality just doesnt work like that often.

Putting it in clearer terms, take a system say Shotokan - look at the core strategy/training methods and clearly it does technically deliver the one strike finish (and often reliance) format, but it's kata are like any other karate system in technical terms, the strategy is what makes it 'different'.

Matsumura almost certainly did train at a high level in Japanese Swordsmanship based on what I have researched and been told (Im about as close to the Matsumura Lineage as anyone can get, within reason)- however none of that Swordsmanship was passed on in his karate system, I believe this is the same for Asato - why?

(The only Okinawan Swordsmanship of any substance that I know of is that of the Motobu Undundi, Motobu Family Palace Hand - vastly different from Japanese Swordsmanship in strategy and technique).

I think mindset, maai and angles along with Makiwara were the chief imports into his karate system from Japanese Swordsmanship and ultimatly when he left the Palace and taught 'publically' he didnt pass on his Military training, but his system of karate (no Kobudo was passed on either to my knowledge) - this I believe was directly attributed to the Meji Restoration (began in 1868) - teaching Samurai (Pechin) arts publically or privatly would not have been correct at all, in fact it would have been extremly dangerous.

The Kobudo element of the Seito Matsumura is pretty much imported to the Ryu by Hohan Soken as far as im aware, and it contains Bo, Sai, Tonfa, Kusari Kama, a little Nunchaku and Surachin.

Just chewing the fat - really interesting topic,

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Shoshinkanuk,

shoshinkanuk wrote:
In terms of mindset, I get it - but technically IMO the karate kata often simply do not deliver this (ie it's finished on the first strike, there are many combinations present).

Also as practical men surely a reliance on such a strategy would be incredibly foolish and hopeful, reality just doesn’t work like that often.

I think you may have answered your own question there when you differentiate between mindset and strategy.

“One blow-one kill” is most certainly not a technical instruction (i.e. just hit once!) but a statement of mental intent. The idea is to drop the enemy with every technique used; whether we use one technique or twenty.

We never intend to use a combination; ever! However if the first technique does not drop then enemy for whatever reason, then the kata does frequently show techniques that will flow on nicely from that position. And if that does not work then the kata has recommended techniques that flow on from that. And so on. These are not “intentional combinations” though.

The thought process is not, “I hope this technique does not work so I can use the full combination”. The thought process is “this will drop him! - this will drop him! - this will drop him! – etc”.

“One blow-one kill” does not mean we hit once and then just stand there doing nothing if it does not work. Nor do we leap to the other extreme and deliberately set out to use combinations (i.e. deliberately not finish them with the first blow, or the second, but to intentionally use a long sequence of techniques) as that is just as dangerous and flawed.

We fully intend to drop the enemy with every technique we deliver; that is “one blow-one kill”. If a given technique does not drop the enemy, then we will be hitting them with another one a nano-second later. We do this because we have to, not because we want to. The resulting seamless combination is a rapid series of “one blow-one kills”.

I do think “one blow-one kill” is largely misunderstood to mean we just hit once; but that’s not right. As you point out, the past masters has no problem endorsing “one blow-one kill” and also including the related “combinations” in kata. The reason being that the are not mutually exclusive and come together to ensure the enemy is always dropped as quickly as possible.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
Putting it in clearer terms, take a system say Shotokan - look at the core strategy/training methods and clearly it does technically deliver the one strike finish (and often reliance) format, but it's kata are like any other karate system in technical terms, the strategy is what makes it 'different'.

I think it would be fair to say that Shotokan has endorsed “Ippon” format tournaments more widely that other styles. What you may be referring to is the training for that type of event as opposed to what Shotokan people would do in reality. I would say there is no difference in the strategy used in real situations. Obviously neither of us can speak for all Shotokan practitioners; but I can say that all those in my circle take “one blow-one kill” to be as I have described it above and not as an instruction to hit once and then stop regardless of result in live situations.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
Matsumura almost certainly did train at a high level in Japanese Swordsmanship based on what I have researched and been told (I’m about as close to the Matsumura Lineage as anyone can get, within reason)- however none of that Swordsmanship was passed on in his karate system, I believe this is the same for Asato - why?

Because it is swordsmanship and not karate? Matsumura taught Azato karate and it is said that he also taught him Jigen-Ryu. There is no requirement to blend the two into one. Indeed, I would say it would make little sense to do that.

As you say, all interesting stuff!

All the best,

Iain

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Hi Iain,

Iain Abernethy wrote:
We never intend to use a combination; ever! However if the first technique does not drop then enemy for whatever reason, then the kata does frequently show techniques that will flow on nicely from that position. And if that does not work then the kata has recommended techniques that flow on from that. And so on. These are not “intentional combinations” though.

I disagree, in our Ryu we often use a combination - it is part of our srategy and is to do with not over commiting oneself, drawing an opponent, or setting up a finishing blow.

We do of course also train with every blow is a finisher attitude as well- in short we have both strategies alive and well represented in the Ryu.

I will respond to some other things you have raised a little later - busy buing christmas present labels right now.......the pressure is on.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Shoshinkanuk,

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I disagree, in our Ryu we often use a combination - it is part of our strategy and is to do with not over committing oneself, drawing an opponent, or setting up a finishing blow.

I think you may have misunderstood me. We train combinations too. Indeed we spend a lot of training time on the efficient transition between techniques. What I said was that “We never intend to use a combination” ... and that’s not the same as “we don’t use combinations”.

The key is “intent”. And that intent is to drop the enemy with every single shot. That is what I intend. I would never throw a technique with the intention of distracting them or setting up something else. If the technique does not work, then it may distract them or set up something else, but that is my fallback position; it is not my intent.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
We do of course also train with every blow is a finisher attitude as well- in short we have both strategies alive and well represented in the Ryu.

What do you mean by “both strategies”?

I think we are taking at crossed purposes. I am talking about the universal Ichigeki Hissatsu (one blow-one kill) concept which applies to every single strike we throw. If we are forced to protect ourselves, is there ever a time when we don’t want to end it “Now!”? I don’t know that the second option would be in this context?

I think you may be talking about single shots vs. combinations? Is that what you mean by “both strategies”? If so, I get where you are coming from but that’s not what I am saying. As I said in the last post, “one blow-one kill” does not mean we use just one blow; it means the intention is that every single blow will end the fight. I don’t think of blow number 2, 3 or 4 ending the fight … but the one I’m doing at that instant; regardless of how many have came before and how many may come after.

To get things back on topic, that’s what I feel is also represented in the Jigen-Ryu article:

“Jigen-ryu places importance on the first sword strike, which must be extraordinarily fast and powerful in order to defeat opponents. Jigen-ryu teachings state that a second strike is not even to be considered.”

As with karate, I’m pretty certain they don’t mean hit once and then just stand there. I see it as being like karate in that they fully commit to ending the fight with the cut they are delivering at that time; not the next one or the one after that, but the one they are doing then. I feel it’s exactly the same with karate.

As I say, this is not single shots vs. combinations, but fully committing to the moment to end the fight in that moment. That is Ichigeki Hissatsu. That is “one blow-one kill”. Anything else but full commitment to an instant end is not acceptable. There is no value or advantages in anything less. In short, blows that adhere to "one blow-one kill" are 300% more effective (whether they are in combinations or not)  than ones than ones that adhere to "three blows-one kill" ;-)

I hope that helps clarify what I am saying?

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I will respond to some other things you have raised a little later - busy buying Christmas present labels right now.......the pressure is on.

Best of luck with that! I’ve got 30 mins before I need to be out the door for Christmas related activities too! Isn't this time of year relaxing ;-)

All the best,

Iain

desparoz
desparoz's picture

Hi Gavin

Interesting info re. the dan. I hadn't thought about it before, but of course the dan levels in the Pinan naming came well before the dan/kyu system was introduced.

I assume that this also applied to the Naihanchin/Naihanchi/Naifuanchi kata?

Cheers

Des

desparoz
desparoz's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:

Matsumura almost certainly did train at a high level in Japanese Swordsmanship based on what I have researched and been told (Im about as close to the Matsumura Lineage as anyone can get, within reason)- however none of that Swordsmanship was passed on in his karate system, I believe this is the same for Asato - why?

(The only Okinawan Swordsmanship of any substance that I know of is that of the Motobu Undundi, Motobu Family Palace Hand - vastly different from Japanese Swordsmanship in strategy and technique).

In the system of karate I practice (Shorinjiryu Karate from the Hisataka Kori lineage), one of our kata (and an associated yakusoku kumite) is Nijushiho. Our form of Nijushiho is quite different than other versions, and the oral tradition is that the version was from Azato (not Aragaki as per other Nijushiho forms). The oral tradition holds that Azato modified the kata based on his concepts of fighting a sword wielding individual, possibly based on his encounter with a Satsuma samurai present in Okinawa (the name of whom I have in my notes, but don't have on me at the moment).

Being an oral tradition, and with only very minimal info on Azato available, I've yet to substantiate this. But it does provide an interesting account. I personally think that its plausible that Azato modified the form not based on his knowledge of fighting *against* a sword, but borrowing the tactics (angles, movement, etc) of fighting *with* a sword and applying them with empty hands.

Personally I would not want to face a swordsman, but I guess from an "intent" perspective, understanding some of the strategy is interesting. OUr version of nijushiho has interesting

Quote:

I think mindset, maai and angles along with Makiwara were the chief imports into his karate system from Japanese Swordsmanship and ultimatly when he left the Palace and taught 'publically' he didnt pass on his Military training, but his system of karate

Agree. And add movement to that list.

Cheers

Des

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
 What do you mean by “both strategies”?

Hi Iain - I think we are talking at cross purposes for much of this, but it's good stuff!

Strategy 1 - hitting with absolute intent of finishing the situation on first strike Strategy 2 - hitting with absolute intent of not finishing situation on first strike, but for example on the second

I believe these 2 methods are represented in our kata, in fact I believe that Strategy 2 is represented far more frequently. Especially If you consider a decent application of Uke Waza you will of course know that it can, and often is a 'hit' that leads to a Gyaku Waza to finish - these combinations are not seperate - they are one.

Also my first hit, may at times be to draw Uke Waza from the attacker and to 'open' them up for the second hit - this is really very core to what we do. 

Im starting to research 'karate duels' much more in relation to the late 19th and early 20th century Masters - my findings are that this element would seem to be far more significant in the formation of the karate kata than perhaps I once thought - obviously this does change the strategy considerabily away from specific self defence methods.

By the way I really like and agree with what your saying on this topic, just not around a couple of small issues as they relate to our Ryu.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Shoshinkanuk,

Thanks for the clarification.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I think we are talking at cross purposes for much of this, but it's good stuff!

Strategy 1 - hitting with absolute intent of finishing the situation on first strike Strategy 2 - hitting with absolute intent of not finishing situation on first strike, but for example on the second

I thought we may be saying the same thing in different ways, but the above is very different from my take on things. I don’t see why you would ever opt for “strategy 2”?

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I believe these 2 methods are represented in our kata, in fact I believe that Strategy 2 is represented far more frequently.

Totally disagree. I can’t think of one single example in the kata where there is a technique where the intention is not to finish immediately. Sure there are follow ups if a technique does not work, but I don’t see any examples where a technique is applied with the deliberate intention of it not working.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
Also my first hit, may at times be to draw Uke Waza from the attacker and to 'open' them up for the second hit - this is really very core to what we do.

My intention would never be to draw a block but to KO them. If my attempt to KO them was blocked then I’d aim to immediately exploit the opening the technique created. But my intention was to KO them immediately, not draw a block to KO them later on. I can’t see why you would intentionally delay victory in that way?

To put it another way, what would you do with the first technique if it was not blocked? Start again? Alternatively, why not knock him out with the first technique if it was not blocked? And if it were to achieve that you’d need to throw it with the intention of knocking him out ;-) Which would be the way I would approach things.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
By the way I really like and agree with what your saying on this topic, just not around a couple of small issues as they relate to our Ryu.

I love throwing these issues around as it opens up discussion, gets me thinking about things, and hopefully makes for a great resource for visitors to the site. I do think we disagree on this one though. Not that there is anything wrong with that :-) It makes for a much better resource when a mix of alternative views are expressed. We are in danger to derailing the thread in Jigen-Ryu if we explore this too far, but I think this “interlude” does add something to the thread as “one blow-one kill” is a piece of common ground.

All the best,

Iain

PS I hope you the Christmas labels sorted?

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Hi Iain,

Yes indeed - we had an online spar about a topic very similair a little while ago from memory - I scored it 3-2 to you which considering your experience aint half bad for a guy like me!

Theres alot to digest in your responces and im aware that im not giving my words enough thought, just chatting - which leaves me open and you will strike at any opening...................LOL

Just something to consider - Jigen Ryu Swordsmanship has by default, a sword - karate is empty hand - there is a BIG difference.

Going for KO will not be the appropiate way to deal with things for many people, in many situations.

I do understand the mindset and lessons to be learned from finishing a situation at all times, im just saying that in Seito Matsumura Shorin Ryu (from Bushi Matsumura) there are also other strategies taught as well, and these are taken straight from the classical kata.

Where you and I will differ at times (and we seem to be very much in agreement most of the time) is down to the focus we place on our arts, mine is a lineage driven, classical karate system straight from Okinawa - I have a huge interest in it's history and teachings and these will on occasion be MORE important to me than it simply being super effective, effective is often enough.

I won't try and classify what you do, as that would be to limiting and I could be way of the mark as im not your student - but I would say I think your progressive approach to traditional karate (note not classical) is outstanding, I would train with you in an instant given the realistic oppertunity.

Classical Karate IMO was a very poor science - it was far from logical, ordered and sometimes not very sensible in its format, it is what it is of course.

What is wonderful of course is it can be what a practioner wants it to be, its very powerful in that regard.

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

Interesting topic to say the least. There's no doubt Jigen-ryu had influence on Okinawan fighting arts, how much though we''ll never know due to the lack of recorded evidence. However with the assimilation of Okinawa into the Japanese empire, the long term effects of assimilation and migration of Japanese officals to Okinawa then it should stand to reason that the Okinawans borrowed what they could from Jigen-ryu, as well as from other fighting arts which made their way to the island. What I'm curious about is how much influence the Okinawan fighting arts had on Jigen-ryu?

I'd also be curious to know if Jigen-ryu is the only source from which the makiwara was imported. Striking posts are found in many combative arts past, present and pre-historical. For instance Roman legionares used striking posts to practice on as did swordsmen during the medieval and renassiance periods. It'd be safe to assume that they were also used by others, both weapons and empty-handed practitioners, so claiming that the makiwara came only  from Jigen-ryu might be a little off.

One punch-one kill is another philosophy found in many fighting arts, espically those primaly concerned with combat and practiced in a functional manner. Combat tends to make one pragmatic, so taking the opponent out as fast as possible is always a favored tactic, though it's easier done with a weapon than one's fist. The one punch-one kill philosophy however, (IMO and from what I've read) really gained popularity after Karate was introduced to Japan. I have a feeling one reason for this was to promote karate and to draw a parallel between karate and traditional Japanese fighting styles thereby making karate more appealing to the Japanese.

Personally I feel every technique you throw should be done  with the intention of taking the opponent out. I have seen some karate-ka who think that since they practice a stylized form of combat that they have the ability to "play with the opponent" if you will because their techniques and skills are superior. It's a dangerous assumption, one classical practitioners never made, combative sports practitoners such as MMA fighters or boxers don't make, nor people who face real threats on a frequent occasion. IMO if the altercation turns bad then make every shot count because you might not get another.

Have a good day!

Mike R

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

On a serious note are you guys saying that say for instance using a jab (or Nukite etc etc) or a low kick to draw an opponent to set up something else dosn't work (ie a combination), isn't useful  and isn't part of classical karate?

If so were doing something very different! (LOL, im sure were not it's just words are difficult to express and clearly from my perspective).

I do understand the mindset thing, but I often try and open up someone before commiting fully (or Uke) - isn't this absolutly ingrained in martial arts and combat sports?

Once im commited (in reality), im ,more open from a defensive perspective - of course there is risk in every strategy, and the situation dictates the correct strategy not the other way around.

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

Patrick McCarthy wrote this about Jigen-ryu:

[1] Patrick McCarthy remarked about this martial influence  from the Japanese perspective that, “This phenomenon clearly illustrates how the principles of combat were ingeniously applied to occupationally related implements and then unfolded into a folk tradition, not unlike that of Okinawa’s civil combative heritage nearly a century before.  When I asked the eleventh-generation Jigen-ryu headmaster Togo Shigemasa about this potential link, he said, ‘There can be no question that Jigen-ryu is connected to Okinawa’s domestic fighting traditions; however, the question remains, which influenced which!” (McCarthy, Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts Vol.2, 51)

It's also one of the footnotes in Comprehensive Karate From beginner to Black Belt.

I thought it might prove of interest.

Here's a link to the book if you're interested: http://iainabernethy.co.uk/news/free-comprehensive-karate-e-book-back-on...

Mike

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi All,

I found this video on Jigen-Ryu which shows the use of the striking post & a variety of pair work drills. Fascinating stuff and I hope the video proves as interesting to you as it was to me:

There’s a longer really good demo here too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnLNExI_uK4 Sadly I can’t embed that one directly as it’s been disabled. Well worth watching!

All the best,

Iain

PS Their Kiai really grates on your nerves after a while ;-)

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Shoshinkanuk,

Thanks for the follow up posts. I think you’ve expressed your views very clearly, but I’m still not certain that you get what I mean?

shoshinkanuk wrote:
On a serious note are you guys saying that say for instance using a jab (or Nukite etc etc) or a low kick to draw an opponent to set up something else doesn’t work (ie a combination), isn't useful and isn't part of classical karate?

If so were doing something very different! (LOL, im sure were not it's just words are difficult to express and clearly from my perspective).

I would answer that by saying it’s nowhere near as effective as the alternative of utilising “one blow-one kill” and that – from my perspective at least – it’s not part of karate because it violates what I see as a central principle of karate. As I say, I wonder if you’ve still not quite grasped what I’m driving at?

As I said in some posts above, this is not a single shots vs combinations matter. It’s a matter of “intent” and, although I will use combinations, it is never my intention to do so. I’m therefore not saying (as is suggested in the quote above) that combinations don’t work. Let’s look at a basic jab followed by a lead leg groin kick combination. One that uses “one blow-one kill” and one that deliberately does not:

Using “one blow-one kill”: I intend to end the fight with every technique I use. The jab is thrown with the full intention of ending the fight and knocking out the enemy. The enemy brings their arms up and the jab hits the arms. If the jab had hit it would have knocked them out. As the arms are now high, a groin kick is ideal and the kick is delivered, connects and drops the enemy.

Not using “one blow-one kill”: I do not intend to end the fight with the first technique, but the second one. The jab is thrown not with the full intention of ending the fight; but of provoking a response. As I happens, the enemy brings their arms up and the jab hits the arms. If the jab had hit the enemy’s jaw it would have done nothing because I did not utilise the “one blow-one kill” principle and hence an opportunity to end the fight would have passed me by. And my plan of setting them up would have gone out the window because the enemy did not respond as I wanted. However, as the arms are now high (because the faint did work this time), a groin kick is delivered, connects and drops the enemy.

In both of the above a combination was used. However, on the first one my intention was to end it on every technique (one blow-one kill). On the second, my intention was to use a combination. On the first one, the fight could have been ended by the first technique. On the second one, the fight could not have been ended by the first technique, only the second one. On the first one, it does not matter what my enemy does, he is getting dropped whether he blocks the technique or not. On the second one, it matters what my enemy does; if they don’t respond as expected I can’t end the fight. And so on. The first example is therefore far more effective and likely to end things quickly because “one blow-one kill” is utilised.

I hope that helps make it clearer what I mean and why I believe the “one blow-one kill” is a “must have” because it makes everything we do much more effective and helps ensure a quick finish.

As I said in the earlier posts “one blow-one kill” is not about hitting once and not using combinations; it is about intending to end the fight with every blow used … whether we end up using one or twenty.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I do understand the mindset thing, but I often try and open up someone before committing fully (or Uke) - isn't this absolutely ingrained in martial arts and combat sports?

It probably is fully ingrained in many combat sports, but not in “traditional karate” (which is a civilian self-protection system). Using feints etc can work well in a competative bout. They have no place in reality though where you are highly unlikely to be fighting someone who has been trained to respond to feints in the way you expect. “Playing the game” in dojo sparring is one thing. When we are talking about a “real fight” though, we need to end things faster than fast and not engage in “game play”. This is why karate (as I see it) emphasises one blow-one kill and why it should be at the heart of karate.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
… the situation dictates the correct strategy not the other way around.

But then again the correct strategy will create the desired situation :-) There are some things that are variable, but others that are universal and never change. I see an intention to end the fight as fast as possible to be one of those universals for civilian conflict. Hence the intention to end the fight with every blow and why I see “one blow-one kill” to be at the very heart of karate and a rule that should never be violated.

If you look at the Jigen-Ryu clips I’ve put above, you can see that they use combinations (if they are forced to); but they also endorse a “one blow-one kill” approach (as expressed in the original article) and no doubt intend to end it with the first technique of that combination, and if not then the next one, and so on. The common ground here, as I see it, is an universal intention to end it “now!”

If we look at the intensity with which the Jigen-Ryu guys attack we can see “one blow-one kill” being manifest. Karate should be exactly the same in my view.

All the best,

Iain

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Hi Iain,

Right time to absorb what has been written and I do now see your perspective and I think I have also narrowed down where im misunderstanding you,

I don't clearly 'see' how you can apply one blow finish mentality to strategical combinations intended to break a defence down, or indeed open a gap to reveal a target- and my mindset is more in the 'dueling' arena around this, as I don't see karate as just civilian self defence - but as a historical civilian fighting method. (the legends elude to a fair bit of arranged fistycuffs by the old Masters).

But that to oneside, I agree with the vast majority of what your saying, and thank you for taking the time to explain your perspective on this subject.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I don't clearly 'see' how you can apply one blow finish mentality to strategically combinations intended to break a defence down

You start a combination where the intention is to finish the fight with every technique within it. Such a combination is structured so that it flows and fits with likely instinctive reactions – not trained reactions – from the enemy (and it can be easily varied if things vary). We do not demand or expect those reactions though and the technique will finish the fight if the enemy fails to protect themselves by not reacting.

You don’t intend to use the whole combination though (because you are thinking “one blow-one kill” not “one combination-one kill"). You want to end the fight as early as possible; ideally with the first shot. If the first shot does not do it then the second one will, and so on. The aim is therefore to finish with one blow (as in “the one you are doing” then), but that one blow can still be part of a series if things don’t go as intended. As I said in the first post on this:

Iain Abernethy wrote:
The intention of every strike is to end it there and then; whether we use one strike or many.

You continued …

shoshinkanuk wrote:
or indeed open a gap to reveal a target

You don’t need to “open” a gap is there already is one or if you simply create one by moving the enemy’s arms out of the way of the target (one of the key functions of the non-striking hand in kata). We don’t need to “open the enemy up” by provoking them to move their own arms … we can always take control and move them ourselves; if we need to move them at all.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
and my mindset is more in the 'dueling' arena around this,

I think that’s where the difference is coming from. I think that much of what you have said with regards to feinting and drawing can have relevance to consensual fighting (i.e. game play), but not to self-protection or “real fighting”. Match fighting and fighting each other, can be part of modern karate (it is in my dojo too), but I don’t see it as being part of “old karate” (i.e. the karate of the kata) which is where you began in the thread:

shoshinkanuk wrote:
In terms of mindset, I get it - but technically IMO the karate kata often simply do not deliver this (ie it's finished on the first strike, there are many combinations present).

You continue the most recent post with …

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I don't see karate as just civilian self defence - but as a historical civilian fighting method. (the legends elude to a fair bit of arranged fistycuffs by the old Masters).

We have differing views here. I know the masters fought each other, but I don’t believe they trained with the express purpose of doing so. Indeed there is some pretty clear direction that they did not.

In 1908, Anko Itosu wrote, “Karate is not intended to be used against a single adversary, but is instead a method of avoiding injury though using the hands and feet, should one, by chance, be confronted by villains or  ruffians.”

In this line – which I consider to be the most important in the history of karate – Itosu states that karate (the karate of his time) was not intended to defeat a single person in a “square go”, but was instead a method to prevent villains and ruffians from harming the practitioner.

Itosu was not alone in making that distinction. Choki Motobu said, “The techniques of the kata have their limits and were not intended for use in an arena or on a battlefield. They are, however, very effective against someone unfamiliar with the methodology being applied against them.”

When you say “historical civilian fighting method” (as opposed to “civilian self defence”) I would ask who are they fighting? For it to remain “civilian” they would have to be dealing with civilians i.e. it is still self-defence. If it was each other, then it would now be a sporting or duelling method for fellow karate. The word “civilian” would therefore not belong.

Boxers are civilians (in a political sense) but they train to fight each other and hence you could not draw a distinction between “boxing” and “civilian boxing”. The word “civilian” does not mean anything in this context. Likewise for karate. Is it a method for fighting karateka or dealing with civilian violence?

Itosu and Motobu both say the karate of their time / of the kata was for “villains and ruffians” and “those unfamiliar with the methodology being applied against them” i.e. not fellow karateka. I think this is pretty clear cut both in their statements and the nature of the kata themselves.

I think modern karate contains both “dueling” (which is a modern development and which is not addressed by kata) and civilian self-protection (which is what kata is all about). The differing environments, differing enemies, different objectives and different problems require different solutions (a whopping 10,000 word free audio book on this issue to be released by me via this site next month).

Self-protection (inc kata and bunkai) requires a “one blow-one kill” mind set to be effective. Feints, drawing, trying to provoke trained responses, and deliberate delays to a quick finish may have a place in exchanges with fellow martial artists in the dojo, but they don’t fair well in reality and that is why I don’t see them in kata or in “traditional karate”.

I also believe this is why the likes of Itosu and Motobu were so keen to make this distinction. There would be no need to do that if kata could be used in an arena with people familiar with the method (i.e. other karateka), or it the karate of Itosu’s time was intended for use in a one-on-one fight. I think such distinctions are a sure sign they understood what their art was for and how physical self-protection differs from consensual fighting.

I accept we have differing views on this though and I return to this, not to try to convince you of my position, but to simply ensure the thread concludes nicely and so that my perspective is thoroughly laid out.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
thank you for taking the time to explain your perspective on this subject.

Likewise! Thanks also for ensuring our “compare and contrast” fully opens up the issue and hopefully contributes to making this site the good resource for karateka that we all want it to be.

All the best,

Iain  

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Hi Iain,

Thank you for the detailed responce - you make lots of sense and I appriciate you stating sources etc etc, im not so organised.......................

We can just shake hands on this one (I score this one 3-1 to you, nice work.....) and hope we all got something from it - I really like what your saying and where your coming from, it just isn't totally consistant with our (albeit very small, private) Ryu from Okinawa.

It's no big deal for sure as we are not consistant with Itosu and Mabuni in terms of the karate we practice, and I guess more importantly how and why we practice. Of course there is more in common than different.

Slightly different angles of view can make HUGE differences in training for sure!

Be great to get some of the other members input on this subject.

SueC
SueC's picture

A little more information on Matsumura and the Jigen sword technique: As has already been established the aim of the Jigen technique is to kill with the first strike. Training is aimed at performing this cut at increasingly faster and faster speeds until it is lightening quick. The highest level of perfection was called flame cloud. The speed of a flame cloud cut was one rin. In modern methods of measuring speed one rin equates to performing the cut in 0.00075 seconds! Masters of the Jigen technique were said to be able to, '... cut raindrops falling from the roof three times before they hit the ground.'  Training to achieve these speeds, which required a lot of mental concentration, was done using a wooden sword to hit a wooden block diagonally with a loud kiai. This training technique was called 'hitting a standing tree'. Matsumura achieved flame cloud and became a Master of the Jigen sword technique. Matsumura became known as the 'Miyamoto Mushashi of the Ryukyus'.

Kenei Mabuni (son of kenwa Mabuni) writes quite extensively about the influence of sword techniques on the development of karate in his book : Empty Hand -the essence of budo karate, published by Palisander 2009. The above information on Jigen sword comes from this book. Also in this book Mabuni  talks about the influence of the Yagyu Ryu style of sword fighting, which was adopted as the 'house style' by Ieyasu Tokugawa, on the development of karate. The philosophy of this style was that it was designed first to defend oneself, not to kill (another principle that karate has adopted) and was known as the 'life saving sword'.  It's main principle is to adapt to the opponent's attack. The opponent moves first and one responds with a counterattack from the defense position of go no sen. Basically, the idea is to receive the attack, control it and then neutralise the opponent (sounds like karate again!) . The highest principle in Yagyu Ryu was the principle of muto dori. This is about disarming a person of their sword when you yourself have no sword and requires both speed and judgment of distance. It is about controlling the opponent so they cannot strike you and is as much a mental as physical skill. Under Satsuma rule the Okinawans had no swords and had to face the fearsome Jigen Sword trained Satsuma samurai. The principle of muto dori was therefore the starting point of all karate. If you are interested in the influence of sword on the development of karate then Mabuni's book is worth a read.

Since I have been learning some sword myself (albeit not Jigen or Yagyu style!) I have come to see some parallels between sword and karate techniques. I have also started to see some muto dori techniques in karate kata, particularly Bassai Dai. What do you think Iain - are there sword disarming techniques in Bassai Dai?   

Jon Sloan
Jon Sloan's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I don't clearly 'see' how you can apply one blow finish mentality to strategically combinations intended to break a defence down

You start a combination where the intention is to finish the fight with every technique within it. Such a combination is structured so that it flows and fits with likely instinctive reactions – not trained reactions – from the enemy (and it can be easily varied if things vary). We do not demand or expect those reactions though and the technique will finish the fight if the enemy fails to protect themselves by not reacting.

You don’t intend to use the whole combination though (because you are thinking “one blow-one kill” not “one combination-one kill"). You want to end the fight as early as possible; ideally with the first shot. If the first shot does not do it then the second one will, and so on. The aim is therefore to finish with one blow (as in “the one you are doing” then), but that one blow can still be part of a series if things don’t go as intended. As I said in the first post on this:

Iain Abernethy wrote:
The intention of every strike is to end it there and then; whether we use one strike or many.

You continued …

shoshinkanuk wrote:
or indeed open a gap to reveal a target

You don’t need to “open” a gap is there already is one or if you simply create one by moving the enemy’s arms out of the way of the target (one of the key functions of the non-striking hand in kata). We don’t need to “open the enemy up” by provoking them to move their own arms … we can always take control and move them ourselves; if we need to move them at all.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
and my mindset is more in the 'dueling' arena around this,

I think that’s where the difference is coming from. I think that much of what you have said with regards to feinting and drawing can have relevance to consensual fighting (i.e. game play), but not to self-protection or “real fighting”. Match fighting and fighting each other, can be part of modern karate (it is in my dojo too), but I don’t see it as being part of “old karate” (i.e. the karate of the kata) which is where you began in the thread:

shoshinkanuk wrote:
In terms of mindset, I get it - but technically IMO the karate kata often simply do not deliver this (ie it's finished on the first strike, there are many combinations present).

You continue the most recent post with …

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I don't see karate as just civilian self defence - but as a historical civilian fighting method. (the legends elude to a fair bit of arranged fistycuffs by the old Masters).

We have differing views here. I know the masters fought each other, but I don’t believe they trained with the express purpose of doing so. Indeed there is some pretty clear direction that they did not.

In 1908, Anko Itosu wrote, “Karate is not intended to be used against a single adversary, but is instead a method of avoiding injury though using the hands and feet, should one, by chance, be confronted by villains or  ruffians.”

In this line – which I consider to be the most important in the history of karate – Itosu states that karate (the karate of his time) was not intended to defeat a single person in a “square go”, but was instead a method to prevent villains and ruffians from harming the practitioner.

Itosu was not alone in making that distinction. Choki Motobu said, “The techniques of the kata have their limits and were not intended for use in an arena or on a battlefield. They are, however, very effective against someone unfamiliar with the methodology being applied against them.”

When you say “historical civilian fighting method” (as opposed to “civilian self defence”) I would ask who are they fighting? For it to remain “civilian” they would have to be dealing with civilians i.e. it is still self-defence. If it was each other, then it would now be a sporting or duelling method for fellow karate. The word “civilian” would therefore not belong.

Boxers are civilians (in a political sense) but they train to fight each other and hence you could not draw a distinction between “boxing” and “civilian boxing”. The word “civilian” does not mean anything in this context. Likewise for karate. Is it a method for fighting karateka or dealing with civilian violence?

Itosu and Motobu both say the karate of their time / of the kata was for “villains and ruffians” and “those unfamiliar with the methodology being applied against them” i.e. not fellow karateka. I think this is pretty clear cut both in their statements and the nature of the kata themselves.

I think modern karate contains both “dueling” (which is a modern development and which is not addressed by kata) and civilian self-protection (which is what kata is all about). The differing environments, differing enemies, different objectives and different problems require different solutions (a whopping 10,000 word free audio book on this issue to be released by me via this site next month).

Self-protection (inc kata and bunkai) requires a “one blow-one kill” mind set to be effective. Feints, drawing, trying to provoke trained responses, and deliberate delays to a quick finish may have a place in exchanges with fellow martial artists in the dojo, but they don’t fair well in reality and that is why I don’t see them in kata or in “traditional karate”.

I also believe this is why the likes of Itosu and Motobu were so keen to make this distinction. There would be no need to do that if kata could be used in an arena with people familiar with the method (i.e. other karateka), or it the karate of Itosu’s time was intended for use in a one-on-one fight. I think such distinctions are a sure sign they understood what their art was for and how physical self-protection differs from consensual fighting.

I accept we have differing views on this though and I return to this, not to try to convince you of my position, but to simply ensure the thread concludes nicely and so that my perspective is thoroughly laid out.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
thank you for taking the time to explain your perspective on this subject.

Likewise! Thanks also for ensuring our “compare and contrast” fully opens up the issue and hopefully contributes to making this site the good resource for karateka that we all want it to be.

All the best,

Iain  

 

Hey Iain, I think every karateka should read this passage for the truth it contains. Then decide what kind of karate they want to practise - sporting or real. But understand and accept that they have chosen one or the other and don't pretend that they're doing one thing when they're clearly doing the other.

@shoshinkanuk - to reinforce (hopefully - though not that it needs it) Iain's comments, we have to remember the three second rule in civilian self protection - most fights are over in that time. If they do happen to last longer then all sorts of factors come into play that you don't want rely on - cardio, luck, his mates, etc. So, the best strategy in every single case has to be end the fight in the shortest possible time. So "one punch, one kill".

Remember, we fight how we train. So train how you want to fight.

Jon Sloan
Jon Sloan's picture

SueC wrote:

Kenei Mabuni (son of kenwa Mabuni) writes quite extensively about the influence of sword techniques on the development of karate in his book ........... .... Also in this book Mabuni  talks about the influence of the Yagyu Ryu style of sword fighting, ....., on the development of karate. The philosophy of this style was that it was designed first to defend oneself, not to kill (another principle that karate has adopted) ..............  It's main principle is to adapt to the opponent's attack. The opponent moves first and one responds with a counterattack from the defense position of go no sen. Basically, the idea is to receive the attack, control it and then neutralise the opponent (sounds like karate again!) .

Hi Sue, can I clarify that you're talking about modern (i.e. Japanese Karate as developed from the 1920s onwards) karate here? I don't see this as being a principle of original Okinawan karate, or any system of civilian self defence. Waiting for an opponent to attack is the last thing you should do, right? After all, before go no sen there is sen no sen and sen sen no sen. Go no sen is a position of last resort, for me, when I've failed to do the first two things. And, if it comes to go no sen then I will want to position my body, if possible, in a way that limits his options giving me a better chance of anticipating his angles of attacks and destroying them.

 

SueC wrote:
The highest principle in Yagyu Ryu was the principle of muto dori. This is about disarming a person of their sword when you yourself have no sword and requires both speed and judgment of distance. It is about controlling the opponent so they cannot strike you and is as much a mental as physical skill. Under Satsuma rule the Okinawans had no swords and had to face the fearsome Jigen Sword trained Satsuma samurai. The principle of muto dori was therefore the starting point of all karate.

Do you think that the best way of disarming/stopping a Samurai is to knock him out before he has a chance to draw his sword? That would be my preferred course of action - get close and knock him out with one blow. I doubt that even the most skilled karateka would survive an attack by even an averagely skilled samurai who already had his sword drawn and the distance to use it.

SueC
SueC's picture

Hi Jon,  I was just talking about karate, modern or otherwise (but not sports karate which is a different thing again). Over time the context in which karate may be used has changed but the underlying principles haven't in my opinion. I didn't mean to imply that I would stand there like a lemon waiting to be attacked before I took action. I would actually avoid being there in the first place but if that wasn't possible I would attempt to run away at the first opportunity because I would be anticipating being attacked (perhaps this is a form of sen no sen?). If I couldn't escape and had to 'fight' then, as a woman (and a pretty small one at that) I probably wouldn't do a pre-emptive strike. This probably wouldn't do a lot of good but may provoke a worse attack on me. You have to remember that men attack women in a different way to how they attack another man. Women are generally grabbed rather than punched. I may be able to anticipate that someone is about to grab me (sen no sen or even sen sen no sen) and move to prevent it. If he grabbed me I would have to respond to that with an appropriate technique (go no sen). Either way my initial response is defensive and non violent.

With regard to muto dori - punching the swordsman before he drew the sword would probably count as muto dori because it prevents him from attacking you and so essentially disarms him of his use of the sword. However,a skilled swordsman draws his sword very quickly and getting close enough to punch him first may not be an option - disarming him of the sword before he strikes will be then be the priority.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Hi Sue, you said -

Matsumura achieved flame cloud and became a Master of the Jigen sword technique. Matsumura became known as the 'Miyamoto Mushashi of the Ryukyus'.

 

I'm not aware of the source for this information - could you state it or point me in the right direction?

As far as I know Nagamine Sensei stated that he saw some kind of written evidence that Matsumura was trained in Jiggen Ryu Kenjutsu, and that's all we have apart from legends! (Granted the legends are strong I have seen some Japanese comic books about Matsumura that involve katana).

My personal belief is that Matsumura would have indeed been an accomplished swordsman, due to his positon, the cultural backdrop and time frame - but no evidence exists of any teachings passed on in this area in his traditon that I have seen.

SueC
SueC's picture

Hi shoshinkanuk,

My source for the information on Matsamura achieveing 'flamecloud' is the book I mentioned: 'Empty Hand' written by Kenei Mabuni. Whether this was just word of mouth passed down from father to son or whether Kenei Mabuni had access to any documents I couldn't say - but he's still alive so you ask him!