Our Karate system’s technical method

Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu is the name of our Karate, Jujutsu and Kobudo system. The name is a throwback to the pre-war Karate systems (names such as Ryukyu Kempo Tode Jutsu or Rentan Goshin Karate Jutsu were used in Okinawa). Hakuda is an old term for Jujutsu or Yawara common to southwest Japan and Toshu Jutsu is an old Okinawan term for Karate. Many people think of Jujutsu as Judo/BJJ a grappling art but styles such as Akiyama Yoshin Ryu or Yagyu Shingan Ryu had much more in common with Karate. Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu aims to take Karate and Jujutsu back to their roots as a complete combat art.

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The Bushinkai Method is central to our martial arts. The belief is that whether you are teaching Karate, Wing Chun, Ninjutsu or Aikido, there are certain boxes that must be ticked for the art to be self defence worthy. We call these the 3 Sciences. The Science of Violence, The Science of Technique and The Science of Learning. Understanding self defence, gaining the technical principle competance to make techniques effective and the ability to learn the arts so they are effective.

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THE SCIENCE OF VIOLENCE

You cannot learn anything without learning some of the theories behind it. You wouldn’t learn to drive without knowing the Highway Code, you wouldn’t send a soldier into battle without telling him who his enemy was and you wouldn’t play a sport without knowing the rules. Of course in a street fight or another violent situation there are no rules (except the laws of the land) so instead we learn about human fighting habits, we analyse violence, we examine possibilities and most of all we try to keep training realistic. The science of violence is as much about “what not to do” as “what to do”. So here’s some things we don’t do:

1) We don’t treat “ippon kumite” as if it were self defence. Nobody will attack you by bowing, shouting “jodan” and launching an Oi Tzuki. Therefore we defend against regular attacks from natural body positions.
2) Attackers don’t punch and then stand with their arm in the air waiting for you to perform your technique so we train basic, brutal techniques that can easily be applied “in the heat of battle”
3) We can’t predict the exact situation you’ll find yourself in so we don’t do “live action role play” instead we drill simple, basic principles that can be applied to any environment.
4) We don’t do anachronisms there’s no “imagine a samurai is coming at you on horseback and there’s two ninjas behind you.” We keep it simple and keep it real.
5) We don’t give students unfair or unrealistic “pats on the back” we don’t give out blackbelts as if they were sweets, this would make people think they could defend themselves when they could not. Our students progress slowly and steadily. We only teach adults (current class range 18-59) and they must all prove themselves on the mat.

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And now some of the things we do:

1) We train for every fighting range – that means kicking and punching ranges, clinches and throws, groundwork, weapons and more.
2) We train against dozens of types of attacks – punches, kicks, hairgrabs, bearhugs, headlocks, headbutts and so on
3) Our students crosstrain in arts like MMA, Brazilian Jujutsu, Kyokushinkai, Judo and Muay Thai. Many Karate schools seem unrealistic next to arts like these. Our style is kept fresh and realistic by putting ourselves to the test.

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THE SCIENCE OF TECHNIQUE

There are different aspects to learning. Its ok to learn by “doing” for example sparring and grappling, but students’s individual techniques must also be learnt, corrected and examined in isolation. Just like in driving lessons, one does not just get in the car and drive, you also need to sometimes just work on your 3 point turns. The science of technique is just this. But we approach our techniques a little differently to some schools.

1) We don’t learn complicated sequences “parrot fashion” so we don’t say “if an opponent throws a right hook punch, you must block it with a left uchi ude uke, counter with a reverse punch and then throw with Osoto Gari.” What we do instead is give students ideas. So I will say, okay now we are looking at a hook punch here are a few things to look at when defending. I may then suggest themes like whether to move “inside” or “outside” a technique, I may show to how to practice instinctive “flinch” blocks and I may demonstrate how a certain type of foot position allows me better movement. It is then up to the student to drill defences against that technique. The techniques must be simple, instinctive and finite
2) We look at postural principles that can benefit any technique, for example how to relax, how to whip, how to rise and sink, how to break the opponent’s balance and how to get below their centre of gravity
3) We don’t teach thousands of techniques we teach endless variations of a few basic principles. For example in Judo there is at least 50 different throws, but actually these can be subdivided into hand throws, hip throws, foot sweeps and sacrifice throws. When you understand that “uke goshi”, “o goshi” and “koshi guruma” are all basically the same thing withe minor tweaks, the art becomes less mysterious. Personally I like Osoto Gari as a “take them backwards” throw, whereas I like “Tai Otoshi” as a “take them forwards” throw.  When you understand just how random real situations can be, the ability to “just do something that works” over rides the desire to perfect 300 techniques.
4) We steal techniques from any and all martial arts, and if a technique is no good we don’t cling to it. The syllabus has been written so that it is ever growing and “organic.” MMA people have a great attitude towards collecting any good techniques that work. We have that same attitude.

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THE SCIENCE OF LEARNING

Foremost is the student’s ability to make a technique work for them. If I have a 60 year old student, I can train him like a 16 year old. Neither can a 10 stone student be trained like a 20 stone student. A student must take responsibility for their own ability to own the technique whatever modifications they need to make.

There are a few stages we must go through in assimilating techniques:

1) The instructor must teach the technique thoroughly, openly and honestly. There is no: “Here’s a 5th Dan technique that was handed down by Ninjas. I can’t show you the real applications because they are too dangerous, but I could kill a man with a single blast of Chi” Instead a technique is shown on a physical (as in “pertaining to physics”). Why does a lock work? Is it because of a fulcrum point? How can the technique be adapted?

2) The students must not just practice the technique they must drill it. A technique cannot become instinctive without repetition, repetition, repetition.

3) The student must test the technique against a “live” opponent. This means sparring (kumite) or grappling (Judo style). We must do all we can to replicate the conditions of a real fight while maintaining a safe training environment.

4) The Dojo has a culture of “asking questions”. Yes we do show traditional etiquette (we bow, we use Japanese terminology) but we are not so quasi-military that students are taught like robots. We chat and discuss, we question and analyse. We use many old school training methods but we are also open to modern training.

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Overview

Our Karate method is above all a simple effective self defence method. From day one students are taught a few simple movements that make for good self defence habits – the way we move into an attack, the way we guard and cover and the tools we use and the targets at which they are directed. It is a complete martial art in the sense that all ranges are covered, from standing to grappling. Although we do some drills with a competitive nature (such as sparring) the focus is on combat in an environment where anything goes.

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What is the aim of the Karate classes?

1) Self defence: Teaching that self defence can be scientific and pragnatic.
2) Karate that incorporates Jujutsu: Teaching that Karate and Jujutsu are two sides of the same coin
3) Karate that incorporates Tai Chi: Teaching that Karate includes the technology of the Chinese internal martial arts
4) Karate as a complete combat system: Teaching that Matsumura and Azato’s Shuri Te was a complete martial art
5) Back to the source: Researching the source of Karate/Jujutsu in the arts of Hakuda, Yawara and Toshu Jutsu
6) Kata as a complete syllabus: Relating the skills back to the kata through Bunkai and Oyo
7) Fitness, confidence and enjoyment

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The basics of Bunkai

In martial arts like Karate, there are pre-arranged forms called Kata (also known as Quan or Hsing) which are stylised ritualised and themed representations of fighting techniques.

To analyse these often abstract movements is called bunkai and to then work with another person to apply the resulting technique is called Oyo.

There are several layers to Kata, Bunkai and Oyo study:

  1. The Science of Violence: Understanding what kind of purpose the movements would likely have
  2. The Science of Technique: performing the movements in an efficient and accurate manner
  3. The Science of Learning: The kata being used to drill responses
  4. Internal or health benefits: Fast Shotokan type kata can have Calisthenic benefits whereas forms like Sanchin can have muscular (isometric tension) benefits and can also be of internal benefit (ie as in Tai chi and Yoga), improving relaxation, breathing, bloodflow etc
  5. State of mind. Kata can help with focus, meditation, concentration, visualisation.

These factors aside if we look purely at the physical self defence aspect of the bunkai, we have various possibilities:

  1. Consider the possibility that the application could involve a weapon
  2. Consider the possibility that the most obvious application should be applied (ie what looks like a punch actually is a punch)
  3. Consider the possibility that the most obvious application should NOT be applied (ie what looks like a punch can’t be a punch and therefore must something else like a throw)
  4. Consider primary sources. Does the work of Motobu, Funakoshi, Miyagi etc actually present a decent oyo for us?
  5. Are you looking for something that is not there? Don’t over complicate things. The bow is just a bow – it may look like a headbutt but it’s not
  6. Could the technique have multiple applications?
  7. Consider changing your perspective. Maybe the attacker is behind you. Maybe you are in a confined space.
  8. Don’t be put off by labels and old wives tales. Tekki is not for fighting in a boat or paddy field and Bassai is not for storming a fortress.
  9. Don’t be put off by bunkai nay-sayers who will (mis) quote Bruce Lee and say any form study is a classical mess and the mind should be free. it is only by applying constraints that we are able to think laterally about a problem. if somebody told you you could not use your hands, you would use your feet more creatively.
  10. Keep it real. Bunkai should be simple and brutal. don’t get TOO creative.

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Is Karate really any good as self defence?

Yes – and so is any martial art if taught correctly.

Central to our teachings is the Bushinkai Method of Self Defence. This is not a style or syllabus but rather a disciplined way of teaching and learning that maximises the student’s capacity to improve. How Does it do this? We divide our teachings into 3 areas: 1) The Science of Violence, The Science of Technique, The Science of Learning.

The first thing we must do is understand that effectiveness transcends style. it doesn’t matter whether you study Karate, Wing Chun, Ninjutsu or Jujutsu – your martial arts should equip you for self defence. So stripping away all the style, etiquette, terminology and abstract notions, we deconstruct the syllabus into its raw components.

a) The Science of Violence

Self defence is not random and about guesswork. It is about habitual acts of physical violence. In other words what are the realities of self defence? If you are a Taekwondo student and you really think people on horseback are going to attack you with flying kicks, you need to think about what you are being taught. In your training do you encounter shoves, headbutts, garment grabs, hair grabs, bearhugs, kicks, chokes? If not, then consider cross training. If you do not know the nature of the game you cannot play it.

b) The Science of Technique

You have a reverse punch for example. Is it as hard as it could be? What about your feet, your knees, your hips, your tail bone. Are you using your waist. Are your shoulders relaxed, are your elbow down. Are you breathing correctly? Are you punching with the correct part of the fist? Are you targeting the right part of the opponent? Could you be punching faster? Could you telegraph it less? How would a boxer do the same punch? How would a Thai boxer? Could the fundamental principles of this punch be applied to anything else like a throw? How about its relationship with combative distance and unbalancing. Now you have done this with your reverse punch, do it with every technique.

c) The Science of Learning.

If you think about how we learn other things, for example learning a language or learning to drive, the person learning uses many different methods to ensure the information stays with them. it is ok to be shown something and copy it, but how do we learn it so that it becomes instinctive or when we are under pressure? This is why we use drills, testing methods, kata and resistance training.

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How come Karate and Jujutsu are taught as one system?

Some systems historically have combined Karate and Jujutsu. For example Hironori Ohtsuka’s Wado Ryu and Minoru Mochizuki’s Yoseikan. But there are reasons, both historic and technical why we believe the two arts are complimentary:

1) Most people think of Karate as linear “punch kick block” and Jujutsu as softer “throw choke grapple” actually both arts were in no way restricted to these areas and both included a complete repertoire.

2) People think of Karate as Okinawan-Chinese but pioneers like Matsumura (fl1850) and Azato (fl1880) received their formal qualifications with the Japanese Jigen Ryu

3) What many think of as Jujutsu is actually Judo, modern Jujutsu, Brazilian Jujutsu which are essentially sport forms of the safer grappling techniques of Tenshin Shinyo Ryu. Many Jujutsu styles were closer to Karate in appearance.

renshi
Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu pioneer Simon Keegan is chief instructor of Bushinkai’s Karate and Jujutsu divisions

Manchester: Karate & Jujutsu

Circle Martial Arts
Marlboro House
52 Newton Street, Manchester M1 1ED
Mondays: 8:30pm  (first class October 17 2016)
Simon Keegan 5th Dan Renshi
Email: simonkeeganmedia@gmail.com
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