In 2007 Traditional Karate magazine (by this point part of Combat magazine) did a focus on two of the original methods of Karate – Tiy and Toshu Jutsu. Koiei Nohara was the main cover star talking about the Okinawan art of Tiy and inside in an article called “Karate is an Exact Science” Simon Keegan taked about Toshu Jutsu. This was our first appearance in Traditional Karate magazine but you can also read about us in Martial Arts Illustrated.
Here is the Traditional Karate article in full:
There is an old exclamation that says: “This isn’t an exact science you know!” and when I hear this said in martial arts I always chuckle.
Because this is an exact science, you know.
Karate Jutsu, or Toshu Jutsu as I refer to it for reasons I will detail at the end of the feature, is very much an exact science and I will explain why.
I teach according to three sciences. The Science of Violence (SOT), the Science of Technique (SOT) and the Science of Learning (SOL).
We will first examine the elements of the SOV.
SOV1. Attacking range
There are only a finite number of distances from which an assailant can launch an attack. The opponent may be at “long range”, so far away from us that the only way he could hit us is with a projectile or firearm attack or medium long range where maybe they could attack us with a hand-held weapon. The next distance is “kicking range” where the only way he could reach us is with a kicking attack. So we know that if the opponent is five foot away we don’t have to worry about throws! Then we have “punching range”, typically the type of distance between two boxers. Here the opponent can reach us with a kick or a punch. The next range is “close range”. We are too close for the opponent to kick but he can still punch with hooks, he an also use knees and elbows and can clinch. This is the range favoured in MMA when one man has the other pinned up against the cage and “dirty boxing” commences.
The next range is the full clinch. We don’t really need to worry about kicks or punches as much as but the main threats are throws and trips. Finally we have the groundwork range, with both opponents grappling or pounding on the floor. So there we have it: just seven fighting ranges. The real skill is twofold, firstly we must learn to defend against appropriate attacks at appropriate ranges. The second skill is mixing and matching the fighting ranges. For example you are on the floor and the opponent is stood.
SOV2. Habitual Attacks
To explain the nature of habitual attacks I can do no better than to refer to the pioneering research of Hanshi Patrick McCarthy. The principle of the Habitual Acts of Physical Violence (HAPVs) is that violent attacks are not random they are habitual. McCarthy Sensei cites 36 main attacks. These include punches, kicks, grabs, trips, locks, distractions and posturing.
They key to understanding the Science of Violence is combining knowledge of habitual attacks with the appropriate attacking range and ensuring no range is neglected.
SOT1. Understanding the syllabus
Many martial arts schools use a syllabus as a means only to assist in grading revision or as a curriculum outline. A truly successful syllabus should of course include all the elements necessary for a student to pass a grading but it should also ensure that the student is learning the skills at the appropriate stage of their development. At academic school we are taught the ABCs, then we are taught how to form words, then sentences, the joined-up writing, then prose and poetry and so on. A martial arts syllabus should not teach the poetry of the art before the ABCs. A good martial arts system should emphasise both quantity and quality. By quantity I do not mean learning a thousand kata. By quantity I mean a full complement of techniques. Strikes, locks, throws, hold-downs, reversals, escapes and perhaps some weapons training. But quality should also be paramount. Not just to make the student look “pretty” enough to pass a grading or tough enough to score an Ippon, but in order that their techniques are performed with efficacy.
SOT2. Understanding Defence
Just as there are only four fighting ranges and a habitual set of attacks there are also a finite number of ways we can defend against a technique. In fact there are four* We can
Block the attack. To obstruct it before it becomes effective
Parry the attack, redirect it or blend with it
Avoid the attack, duck, weave, or run away
We cause pain to the attacker which makes him voluntarily (or involuntarily!) cease the attack. Once we understand there are a finite number of ranges, each of which only cater to a finite number of attacks and each of these can only be defended in a finite number of ways, we start to realise that martial arts are a very precise science.
SOT3. Understanding Technique
Did you ever show a technique from your style to an advanced martial artist from another style who, despite never having seen that particular technique before still managed to do the technique better than you? This is because after reaching a certain level of skill, how the technique seems to manifest itself is unimportant. What matters are principles common to all techniques in all arts, from archery to Sumo.
The Five Major Principles of Martial Arts
- Relax. There is no technique that is better as a result of being tense, locked-up and rigid
- Breathe. Breathing is emphasised in arts like archery, Tai Chi and Iaido. But is also important in more external arts. Learn to breath fully, naturally and move in time with your breath
- Use the waist and/or hips. All movement must originate from the midsection. A baseball hitter would not dream of moving the bat using only his arms.
- Two directions. This is the most abstract of the concepts. Every technique make use of two directions or more. When we punch we not only move one hand forward, we move the other back. When we block we do so diagonally. When we apply a wrist lock the wrist is moved backwards and to the side. When we cut with a sword we come down in a chopping action but also arc inwards in a cutting action.
- Train slowly. Learn to practice each technique at Tai Chi speed to ensure perfect attention to detail. Also, as the defender you can afford to move slower than the attacker. If he is punching you in the face his fist has to travel two feet in distance, whereas your face only has to move a few inches to avoid it. So why try to move at the same speed as the attacker.
*The five principles: I must give credit to Renshi Reiner Parsons for teaching me this lesson.
Other common principles in martial arts
When you are studying for self defence, remember there are no rules (and not like in MMA where there are no rules apart from about 30 exceptions!). There are few techniques that are not improved by first distracting the opponent. Spit in his eyes, flick him in the groin, throw your coffee in his face, rake your car keys across his eyes, throw a handful of coins in his face. You only need to buy yourself a fraction of a second.
- Kiai. Whether you view a Kiai as a war-cry, a harmony of energy or a way of expelling all the air from your stomach, this under-rated technique will pay off
- Keep good stature. This means keeping the elbows and shoulders down, the spine straight and the hips relaxed.
- Keep techniques finite. A reverse hook kick to the shoulder blade may score a point in the Dojo but can you rely on it to end a confrontation? If you can’t use a technique that guarantees the opponent is knocked out, use a technique that at least puts him on his backside.
SOL1. Making it work for you
Once we begin to understand the Science of Violence and the Science of Technique we need to learn how exactly we can learn these techniques so well and so throroughly that they become instinctive. It is great to be able to perform a technique well in the Dojo (and even better to perform it well in a competition or grading) but what is the use if you cannot perform it when it really matters, on the street?
And so we practice the individual techniques (Kihon) applying the principles of technique to them. Then we work with a partner (Kumite) and he attacks us (the Science of Violence) and depending on his range and his attack, we use a technique to defend against it, then we get in our retaliation.
This is our ABC: Avoid, Block, Counter.
Now we need to practice the technique by Drilling it. We can use shadowboxing, Kata, flowdrills or simple repetition. We practice, practice, practice and then practice some more. Eventually it doesn’t matter from which angle the attack comes because our defence is so well drilled it seems to spring from nowhere.
But now we have learn the technique and drilled it, we need to somehow simulate the state of mind and environment we might find outside. The opponent is angry, fast, coming at us powerfully and violently. Can we still pull the trick out of the bag? For this we use sparring. Kickboxing style, Judo style and MMA style.
SOL2. Managing your mindset
When your first practice a technique your state of mind is Kime, full focus and concentration on the task in hand. Learning the technique, examining it and getting it right.
The next state of mind is Zanshin. Awareness of surroundings, awareness of the opponent’s actions.
The final state of mind is Mushin (no mind). The ability to perform the technique without thinking about the opponent’s attack or your defences.
SOL3. Have faith in your system
I believe that the men who created the Kata that we practice knew what they were doing. I believe they understood violence, technique and learning and so encrypted all the necessary techniques into our Kata. There are lovely Aikido-style moves in Heian Shodan, wonderful grappling techniques in Heian Sandan and so great throws in Bassai Dai. And if ever you get attacked in a confined space, you’ll truly value Tekki Shodan….
Practice the techniques and then try to find them in the Kata you already know. Karate kata are a wealth of self defence techniques.
Why Toshu Jutsu?
Why do I call my own system Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu? The two characters for Chinese Hand can be pronounced To/Kara/Ku/Tang and Te/De/Di/Shu/Soo. I use the Onyumi pronunciation which is To-Shu, whereas the Kunyumi pronuciation is Kara-Te. The Koreans use a variation of the Onyumi which gives Tang-Soo and some Karateka use a combination of Onyumi and Kunyumi which gives To-De.
The characters To Shu when reversed gives us Shu To, which by an Okinawan pun can also mean “Hand Sword”. And in the words of Master Funakoshi, “Think of the hands and feet as swords.”
Hakuda or Hakuda Kempo was, essentially Kyushu’s (a south Japanese island) answer to Karate/Toshu Jutsu. In the 1600s a Japanese master called Akiyama travelled to China and learnt a striking art. I believe this art was White Crane Kung Fu, forerunner of Karate. Since Hakuda literally means White Hand.
The name Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu pays tribute to the old ways of Karate and Jujutsu known as Toshu and Hakuda.