Monday, March 31, 2008

Finding the origins of the Yantsu kata

Yantsu kata being performed by Sempai Cliff Van Tilburg from Sutani Dojo Belgium

Ever since I've made it a point to know where each kata originates, and the background behind it, I've been frustrated by the lack of revelation available on some of the kata. In many cases, I've been having to work with speculations, assumptions, and the memories of various higher level Sensei. Take the kata, Yantsu (Translated as "Safe Three", "To maintain purity", or "8th light"), for example, in all of the various places that I've researched, I have yet to find a conclusive "creator" of this kata.

There are some facts that are put forwards:

a) Some people have mentioned that they have only seen this kata in the Kyokushin syllabus. There are some kata that seem to be only found in Kyokushin like Tsuki No Kata, Garyu, Sakugi Taikyoku Sono Ichi/Ni/San/Yon.

Although, I have noticed an Isshin ryu website with the Yantsu Kata being demonstrated picture by picture for Shodan level, most of the Isshin ryu kata list that I've seen have only 8 traditional kata which do not include Yantsu. Since Isshin ryu comes from a Goju ryu/Shorin ryu background, their list does not include Yantsu either.

I've also stumbled across a website which teaches Kami-Do Karate that announces that Yantsu is a Tomarit-te kata. I've got to shake my head with confusion on the concept of Yantsu being Tomari-te. I looked up on the history of that style, and found this paragraph:

"Hokama passed on katas that he said be taught by the Oyadomaris: Naifanchi I & II, Passai, Wanshu, Wankan, Rohai, and Kusanku Dai & Sho, but, according Kojo Kafu the Naifanchi II and the two Kusanku came from Itosu. Another tradition, the purest, counts the katas Naifanchi, Passai, Chinto, Jitte, Jiin, Jion, Chintei, Wanshu, Rohai and Wandun as the original Tomarite. It is also said that the katas Chinpe, Chinsu, Juma, and Uenibu are of the lineage of Tomari, however, they were probably introduced in the 20th from Taiwan. There is also a kata known as Ananku or Ananko that was probably an old kata of Tomari restored by Chotoku Kyan around 1895. The Chinto passed on by Kyan is now known as Tomari-no-Chinto, however, the original Tomari Chinto was very similar to the Itosu’s. Wanduan is also considered a Tomari kata, together the version of Seisan passed on by Oshiro. Most of these kata belongs to the Fujian Monk Fist and Crane Fist systems." History of Tomari-te

Yantsu isn't even mentioned as a possibility of being Tomari-te by Sensei Camara in his article ( unless I didn't read it right).

Now, Sosai Masutatsu Oyama DID create the kata Garyu (Reclining Dragon)

Perhaps Sosai created Yantsu also? But if he did, why is it not well known that he has done so? You'd expect a definite statement of "the founder of Kyokushin created this kata that is visible mainly in the Kyokushin syllabus."

I looked at the Seido Karate Kata (founded by Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura) kata and found Yantsu listed there. Yet, the Garyu Kata is not on the list, neither are the Sokugi Taikyoku kata known to be created by Sosai Masutatsu Oyama in the 1980's. What could this point to?

It's a wild guess, but I'm thinking that maybe it was Kaicho Nakamura that created Yantsu, and Tsuki No kata... just because of the confusion, and silence concerning their origin. Please do not think for one second that this is a fact. I have nothing to base this assumption on.. it's just a wild reach in the dark.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Conditioning the knuckles

I've been conditioning my shins, forearms, and knuckles since the first time that I was introduced to the concept. It made sense to me to work on conditioning those areas that I will be striking with so that they are used to impact.

I knew that the beginning stages of conditioning is sharply painful, but I equated it with the same type of discomfort that I had to suffer through when I wanted to learn how to play guitar. It took months of painful stubborn application of pressure to my delicate fingertips onto the metal strings of the instrument before I noticed that it just didn't hurt anymore.

I started conditioning my knuckles just by standing near a wall, and leaning some of my weight onto them. I'd do this everyday as I cooked meals for my family. There are moments when something is boiling, or frying when you need to be near the stove, but you have "nothing" to do. So I'd just go stand and put weight onto my knuckles for awhile. Just this light pressure caused me to whine, and shake my hands afterwards.

Soon I was able to hold my weight onto my knuckles in the push up position on the carpeted floor. For some reason, I found cement floors, wooden floors, and tiled floors too "hard". I kept asking myself if this was just something in my mind as the carpet was not very thick at all where I was successfully holding a "knuckle" push up.

So now, I'm trying to crawl across the floor on my "knuckles" and knees. I've noticed that the shifting weight, and position of my arms/wrists causes new sensations of discomfort as I move forwards, especially since I struggle on keeping all of my weight on the first two knuckles.

I really wish that I had a canvas bag filled with sand, a punching bag, or a makiwari board to work with.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It's "who" you are that counts...

I was reading this article on the net about Managing: The Art of the absurd

I truly wish that I had read this article before I was placed into the position of Sensei of a dojo, I believe that the concepts contained in this article would have improved my ability to lead others, and teach immensely. I suggest looking over the article before continuing into the rest of my posting as I will be commenting on how I feel about some of the concepts.

1. In management, as in parenthood, it's not so much what we do as what we are that counts.

This idea suddenly rang a "bell" within my mind as I had always pondered about parenting/teaching, and it's effects on children. Always I have seen how a person's positive strength of character was more important than anything else. I know that one of the most important things that allowed me to even consider training in Martial arts was how strong a character I saw in the behaviour, words, and actions of my first Sensei. "Seek perfection of character" exhorts the first line of the Shotokan Dojo Kun. At first, at least to me, it seemed absurd that a physical activity that focuses on learning the most efficient ways of harming another person's body would center on improving one's inner character. But.. now I have understood how important Character is towards self defense. Someone with a character that needs to build itself up by demeaning, insulting, and stepping on other people will only bring violence upon itself. A Sensei needs to work towards becoming someone that one would want to imitate in character. "Who" the Sensei is would be more important than anything as it would effect how things happen in the dojo.

2. Remember what we might call the "reciprocity rule" of human behavior: over time, people come to share, reciprocally, similar attitudes toward each other.

Wow.. I haven't noticed the link between one's thoughts about a person, and the effect in relationships before reading this section of that article, but it's been proven true in my life experiences. As I look back at what I've learned in the almost past half century, I have seen how my impression of others affected how I treated them, and therefore, how they have treated me back. I know that I have placed my own standards, and expectations as first in my mind as to what is "right", and what is the "wrong" thing to do. I assumed that everyone agreed with me that certain values were important to cultivate. To my shock, I always learned that other people had different values. I wonder, is having personal values a negative thing? It cannot be so, because I have found that my personal values have been the strength that has supported me through the difficult moments of my life. I believe that negative effects happen when I insist that others have to have the same values as myself. I know that this attitude has brought frustration to me, and also in others. I believe that I can absorb, embrace, and live up to those values that I deem worthy as a Karate student/teacher. If others choose to go in the same direction as me, then great, we can travel that path together. If others choose their own path, then I can wish them well, and continue going where I want to go without feeling challenged, or judged.

3. If, in life, paradox is the rule and not the exception, then the popular view of management as a matter of gaining and exercising control is badly in need of correction.

I LIKE this statement! For me, it states that leadership isn't something that can be imposed onto others effectively. Leadership happens when a group of people recognize, and accept that a certain person has the qualities desired for that position. I remember my Internet Sensei Paul telling me this wise advice when I was just an 8th kyu yellow belt. " Do not seek to gain higher placement in the rank line by stepping on others. Instead, train hard, and improve yourself, and one day, you will see, all of the other students will move over, and make room for you to take your place as leader." I actually saw this happen when I went to a Karate camp. I had led the younger beginners class as the lead belt in the line up due to the fact that I was the highest kyu ranked individual present that morning. Then, when the next class filed into place, I thought to myself "Ooo.. I should make room for those higher ranked than I.." I moved over to the middle of the gym floor. To my shock, all of the incoming students lined up to my left so that I became the lead belt of the second class. Sensei Paul's words rang in my head, and I felt a surge of humility fill every inch of me.

I would like to comment on the other statements contained in this Psychology article, and speak about how it echoes in my Martial arts path, but time for me is limited at this moment, and this is all that I can offer today. Perhaps later on I will return to this article, and continue my thoughts.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Is it March already?

Oh I've been so busy! Work, family, work, karate, work, family, karate... etc.

I've learned some important things from the past weeks.

a) If I chose to do kata on my break, I only need to do it with no speed/power, and smooth out the movements. When people approach me to ask what I was doing, I just smile, and say that it's something "like" Tai chi, but faster. I still get to work on the pattern's timing, and movements without looking like a Martial artist. I even add some stretches in between the kata to make it look like I'm just an old sore lady clearing out the kinks from the demands of work. People just smile, and nod at me as they walk by.

b) I NEED to rest. I come home, look at the condition of the house, and then retreat to the bedroom, and lay down for half an hour. I find that I need to shut down, release stress, and regroup before I tackle meals, and housework. Those breaks at work just don't help me mentally, nor physically. Truly, there is just enough time to eat something, drink some water, go to the washroom, and do a couple of relaxed kata.

c) Karate has become more important as I find that I'm burning off the stress of the day when I go train. I come home feeling better, and I can almost call it "rested". Except for one day in these past three months, when I felt totally exhausted as I entered the dojo. It was a very demanding day at work where I had to wash down the whole seat of each row of each section of the stadium. The back, and bottom of the seat involved much bending over, and squatting. OH man.. that was a hard day at work. I felt it in every muscle of my body. Then, when I went to karate, I ended up feeling like I was moving through molasses. I understood what was happening to me physically, and I decided to lower my expectations on my performance. I gave 100% of what I had, but to be honest, I only had 20% energy left. I was reduced to the "point of no return" tiredness. Ladies, you know what I mean.. I'm talking about that moment when your eyes fill up with tears for no reason, and you don't know if you are going to start crying, or giggling.

d) I still train on my own. I just went through all the belt rank requirements from white belt up to my level in Kyokushin. I managed to put in some bo staff training, and to work on my latest Kyokushin kata thanks to the generosity of my daughter's TaeKwondo Master who allows me to train on my Kyokushin in the other half of the gym where he teaches, or to do my Kyokushin basics at the same time that his students are doing their Taekwondo basics.

Some people might get the mistaken impression that I'm training in TaeKwondo because I won the "Student with best manners" award in this club. I have to tell you that I am not studying the Art of TaeKwonDo, I have no knowledge of their "Poomse" (patterns), I do not participate in the sparring, I do not seek any rank advancement there either. I don't belong to that club as a student. I am a current Kyokushin Karate student with Shotokan karate background. So, Please do not ask me about Taekwondo information. I have some wise experienced TaeKwonDo Martial art friends that I can direct you to if you would like to know more about your Art.

e) I love to do Origami! I have been learning about origami since last Fall, and each month I am learning how to do more complex patterns. I'll collect my hard work in paperfolding, and take a picture of it. I'll add the picture to this posting as soon as I can.