How is Bushinkai Karate different?

I can sum up my approach to teaching self defence very simply – three sciences (violence, technique and learning). In other words, understand the subject, get good technique and learn how to make it work.

From white belt to black belt, the syllabus has much in common with any Shorin based school such as Shotokan or Wado Ryu. We cover the same stances, the same strikes, the same core kata (Heians, Tekki, Bassai, Kanku, Empi, etc) and many of the same activities such as Kumite (sparring). So that is the common ground, the Kata, Kihon and Kumite… So what makes Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu different?

Here are some of the areas unique or particular to the teaching of Toshu Jutsu:

1) The Ten Ks. We don’t just teach the three Ks (Kata, Kihon, Kumite) we also teach Kobudo, Kumiuchi, Kansetsu, Katame, Kakie, Kyusho and Ki. These are respectively forms, basics, sparring, weapons, grappling, locks, joint manipulation, sticking hands, pressure points and Chi.

2) Integrated grappling practices. In Judo the first two throws usually learnt are Osoto Gari and Tai Otoshi. In Karate the first punch is usually Oi Tzuki and the first block is usually Gedan Barai. Our syllabus unites both of these practices in a coherent way. In other words, we learnt the motion of Gedan Barai as a block, then we practice the Tai Otoshi throw using the principles of Gedan Barai (the hands move in a downwards diagonal taking the opponent over the Zenkutsu Dachi stance); when we learn Osoto Gari we do so with the principles of Oi Tzuki (one hand forwards one hand back, legs describe an arc). This way we still learn the most basic blocks and throws, but the students instantly connect with the idea of bunkai/oyo (analysis and application of a movement) and also with the idea that our Kihon are not just basic blocks and strikes, but also an intrinsic part of other areas such as grappling. This same idea is transferred to other throws and locks. Prior to 1920 especially, Karate lots of grappling techniques that were related to kata. Some of these were demonstrated by Gichin Funakoshi at the back of his book Karatedo Kyohan.

3) Self defence not Ippon Kumite. One step sparring is a useful concept. It teaches a finite defence against a single powerful attack. The main weakness with Ippon Kumite is when it only teaches defences against “Karate attacks” (usually straight thrusts), therefore we defend against all manner of attacks, from uppercuts, to bearhugs to headbutts. Karate was never intended for defences against sporting attacks. Choki Motobu’s ‘Kempo’ shows many of these types of defences.

4) Intelligent kata bunkai. The first katas are learned at approximately one kata per belt. At each grading students must also perform bunkai for each of the kata they know. These are prescribed techniques that can include throws, locks, chokes, pressure points and so on.
Again, bunkai movements were always intended to utilise grappling controls, such as those demonstrated in the Okinawan Bubishi.

5) Weapons kata.
 Each of the kata may be performed with weapons including Kihon (Bo), Heian Shodan (Sai), Heian Nidan and Sandan (Nunchaku), Heian Yondan (Tonfa, Tanto or Dip Dao), The empty handed movements are not replicated exactly with the weapon, instead the nature of the move is performed while keeping to the principles of the weapon. For example to perform a lower parry with the hand and with the Bo require totally different dynamics, but the end result is still a lower parry. In keeping with the heritage of the style, we also study Chinese sword (Jian) and Japanese sword (katana). Versions of Wansu (Empi) and Passai Guwa (Bassai Sho) have been developed for these swords, which keep to the nature of the Okinawan forms but are also faithful to the principles of Wutang sword and katana. Some kata have traditionally made sparse use of weapons applications, typically Bo grabs (Empi, Jutte, Kanku Sho, Meikyo) but several other kata can also be adapted for weapons. For example the Matsumuras used to practice Kushanku with hairpins as weapons.

6) Non-Shotokan basics. After around blue belt, students also practice, in addition to “Shotokan basics” a different set of strikes. These are more rounded, subtle and powerful techniques that resemble the techniques of Hsing-I, Budokan, or Kung Fu. They include the splitting strike (a circular shuto), the diagonal backfist, the vertical reverse punch, the circular block, the stepping kizami and others. These techniques evoke an opposite principle to Shotokan Kihon. Where Shotokan Kihon use “dropping” movement (sinking into the stance), these use rising movement (rising from the stance).

7) Two man drills. Our two man drills are in different categories. Some are designs to build reactions, some are to build sensitivity, some are to build reactions, some are to build ‘flow’ and are some are designed as a method to practice percussive techniques in a live environment. Most Chinese schools use some form of sticking hands or push hands, including Tai Chi and Wing Chun, but for the most part these have been “forgotten” in Okinawan/Japanese Karate. Drawing and condensing drills that are true to styles like Uchinadi but also drawing on arts like Tai Chi, I have also extrapolated a kata called Matsu from our longest drill which demonstrates the relationship between kata, drill and bunkai. This kata strongly resembles Fujian Quan like Sanchin and Suparimpei.

8) Kata as styles. In old Chinese systems there was no distinction between a form and a style. Okinawan masters would also refer to the old forms as styles. We study in this manner. The first style is represented by the five Heian/Pinan forms and originate as their previous name ‘channan’ suggests in Chang Chuan (long fist boxing). These forms are the most basic yet versatile in our repertoire. The second style is the Shorei which includes the fundamental forms Naihanchi (Tekki) and Fukyugata (Gekisai). The former was a favourite kata of Choki Motobu and the latter was developed by Motobu’s student Shoshin Nagamine. They are very close in styles that use tight stances but also have a stronger internal element. The next style is “Wutang Chuan”. These are Shuri/Tomari kata – namely Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai and Empi that were derived from the Chinese internal arts of Bazi Quan, Taiji Quan and Hsing-I Quan. These forms are also internal but have a much lighter feel to them than the slow, heavy Shorei forms. Next we come to the Shaolin (Shorin) forms that were the type learnt by Aragaki of Kume. These include Matsu, Matsukaze (wankan), Nijushiho and Hangetsu (Seishan). Studying both Taiji/Hsing-I and Shaolin Chi Kung forms has given us insight into the different unique styles of these Quan.

The kata groups we study are (not in order of study):

1) CHANNAN:
Heian Shodan and Heian Nidan derived from Chang Chuan. Lend themselves well to long range weapons like Bo and Sai

2) SHOREI
Tekki (Naihanchi) and Gekisai. Close-range “Wing Chun-like” forms with emphasis on Fa-Jing and close explosive power

3) WUTANG
A) Bassai, Heian Sandan and Heian Godan. Related to the arts of Bazi Quan and Bagua Zhang. Power through lifting and dropping, turns and spirals. Bassai Sho is studied later but this form also references swordsmanship.
B) Kanku Dai and Heian Yondan. This form (along with the later Kanku Sho) are derived from Wang Zong Yue’s teachings which was the Kung Fu style introduced the Chen Village that later became Yang style Tai Chi. Therefore study of Tai Chi helps us understand the movements of these forms.
C) Wansu (Empi). This form is related to both Hsing-I and Wutang sword.

4) SHAOLIN
Forms like Matsu, Matsukaze, Nijushiho, Seishan and Jutte are related to the Fujian (southern Shaolin) traditions, as are later forms like Gojushiho and Meikyo.

These areas are largely matters of curriculum content. The actual teaching of self defence (see previous articles on the Bushinkai Method) and the technical principals of Toshu JUtsu are too numerous to name. Here are some of the differences between Toshu Jutsu and Karatedo:

In Karate Do (for example modern Shotokan) strikes use Kime (tension at the last second of a technique for ‘focus’)

– In Toshu Jutsu there is consistent power throughout techniques

In Karate Do (for example modern Shotokan) blocks use Kime (tension at the last second of a technique for ‘focus’)
– In Toshu Jutsu blocks use “heavy hands” transferring power “through” the opponent

In Karate Do the techniques are practiced long range
– In Toshu Jutsu the techniques are practice close range primarily and then at other ranges

– In Karate Do the defender steps back away from the attack
In Toshu Jutsu the defender advances in on the attack, or turns with the attack

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