Saturday, 30 May 2009

Heavy bag workout

Had a good bag session in the sun today.

After warming up with some loose kicks and punches I set to examining a few drills.

Jab, reverse, roundkick
I stepped into the jab with right hand, ducked low (to avoid punch) shifted to the left and rammed home the reverse punch, setting me up for a close range round kick to the middle.

Elbow strike, jump sidekick
Standing close to the bag, side-on (my right thigh was touching the bag) I pounded it with three or four straight elbow strikes high (the right elbow) then stepped out and jump side kicked with the right foot. This really rocked the bag nicely. Surprisingly I didn't really step out with the left foot that much- it was more of turning the foot out, thrusting the right knee up to my chest and then jumping into the kick. Good work.

Kicked the crap out of the winter jasmine on the wall but the chives and laurel seem to have come away unscathed!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Kuniyoshi exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts

From the Arthur R. Miller Collection
21 March—7 June 2009

The Royal Academy of Arts presents an exhibition on one of the greatest Japanese print artists, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861). Featuring over 150 works, the exhibition presents Kuniyoshi as a master of imaginative design. It reveals the graphic power and beauty of his prints across an unprecedented range of subjects highlighting his ingenious use of the triptych format.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

High Speed Martial Arts

Don't try this at home.

No, really...don't.

...and one for fans of iai:

How to make a back stance or Hugul ja sae

Back stance or fighting stance (hugul ja sae) is used extensively in Tang Soo for kicking techniques. This is formed by turning out your back leg so it is perpendicular to the front leg, aligned heel to heel. Effectively your feet form an L shape with your back leg bearing most of the weight and your front foot touching the ground only with the toes and the ball of the feet. Naturally the body tends to therefore be side on to the opponent which shows less target area for point-sparring. It also lends itself to kicking (off the back leg and) with the front leg for stopping shots but also facilitates higher head kicks off the front leg as the rear foot is already half turned out. Spinning kicks come easier too from this stance as pivoting on the front leg is easy. The reverse kick or straight kick is, of course, a different matter: the front kick has to bear the weight shift adding in a step into the sequence (weight shift, bear weight on front leg, kick off rear leg). But I find this fairly seamless really and not a deal breaker. My main point to work on is when we're practicing mostly straight kicks with the rear leg. When I return to hugul ja sae I find my back foot has drifted inwards and makes less of an L shape with the front and more of a wonky V. This back leg naturally wants to be in a walking stance with both legs more facing forward but the trouble (for executing techniques in Tang Soo Do) is that when this happens my leg bends at a funny angle and doesn't bear the weight straight up, vertically. It suddenly adopts a kink in it, more like a dog leg than a human one! 

Tonight I aimed to keep returning to the L shape.

Of course there's nothing to say we shouldn't change from one stance to another according to circumstances. Walking stance (or front stance) is much mmore natural for those reverse kicks-  I'm not advocating a complete back stance policy here! I just want to keep working at it so that my legs bear the weight in a more natural manner. 

Note: Korean back stance is much shorter than Japanese back stance! Photos to follow.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Beside my shoes

I was fed up tonight and didn't want to go training. It had been a lovely day and as it was a bank holiday it all had the feeling of a Sunday evening. I don't train on a Sunday evening. and I was tired. But I hauled my ass onto my bicycle and by the time I'd got to the river I was feeling much better. 

Still fed up though. Very curious feeling of indifference but I managed to get there, change, help out with samu and then into the lesson. I didn't have that usual corporeal heaviness when I'm having trouble concentrating. My body was ok despite my mental mist and I eased through the warm-ups and was lucid during kihon but there was a strange dream-like sensation. The French have a saying which sums up how I felt: "à côté de ses pompes" (to be beside one's shoes). This strange out of body experience: as if I were standing next to myself. Not quite right.

All this despite good tuition, smiles and help from colleagues and at the end a feeling of having learnt something (potentially profound).

I still couldn't shake that feeling of being à côté de mes pompes, but I'm glad I went.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Hobble, hobble...

Looking at this technique makes me wince. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and I value my knees, or (a bit) wiser and know that you could smash your opponent's keens up really badly if this isn't practiced correctly.

Which got me thinking...why practice it at all? I think I'd have to be really hard-pressed and in a real situation to use a direct kick to my adversary's knee. So I won't practice it. Ah, but if I don't practice it then it won't be in the memory bank of techniques when I really am hard-pressed and need it! So practice it. Well if I practice it will I be pre-disposed to use it, even in error or in haste?

We have to train sensibly and with control across a wide variety of techniques but I just think this one freaks me out a bit. After all, apart from the hapkido explanation, the other two videos show a fairly straightforward front kick, aimed low. Learning anatomy and vital points may well be enough to empower you to disable an opponent without causing extreme injury! (Article on kyusho, vital points).

Found an interesting clip about the anatomy of the knee and its ligaments:


Thursday, 21 May 2009


Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in, 
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee. 

Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Exploring Common Martial Concepts - Seminar, 7th June 2009

Wayne Swietoslawski, 7th Dan Shihan Ju Jitsu - Professor (Waskido Ryu Ju Jitsu)
2007 International Black Belt Hall of Fame Inductee,
4th Dan Kobudo, 3rd Dan Juko Ryu, 2nd Dan Kickboxing,
2nd Dan Aiki Jitsu, 1st Dan Choi Kwang Do, 1st Dan Dynamic Self Defence,
1st Degree Seni Silat Kesatria.

“Exploring Common Martial Concepts”

7th June 2009, 11AM – 4PM 

Covering locks, control and restraining, grabs, releases, takedowns and pressure points from the perspectives of Ju Jitsu, Karate, Kung Fu, Muay Thai, Silat and other arts.  

Featuring guest instructors
Chris Bird - Canemaster
Guru Simon Das - Seni Silat Kesatria
Guru Shaykh Mohammed Zaynal Ariffin –Silat  Chumande 

£25/Seminar – Advance bookings, or £30 on the day.

Wavell-Cody Community Campus, Lynchford Rd. Farnborough, Hants. GU14 6BH. 

If you're interested I'll put you in touch with him, email/comment me.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Are you violent sir, madam? Mmmm?

Whatever you think of Michael Portillo's Tory politics you couldn't label him a violent man. He seems relatively charming, softly spoken and fairly self-assured but in the show 'Horizon' he's looking deep into himself (and probably all of us) to examine human violence and looking particularly at the questions: do we learn to be violent or is it instinctive? Or what drives people to beat the crap out of each other? (That's my line, not Mr. Portillo's).

An interesting programme in this series examines the South American idea of a tinku: a celebration of violence whereby locals congregate and literally pick fights with each other, even encouraging small children to emulate this sort of stand-off. Portillo is there to see if anyone can act violently or even enjoy it. Somebody, say who's had a posh upbringing, never been in a fight in his life and abhors violence. Yup, you've guessed it: Portillo faced his very own tinku.

A video of a tinku (not Portillo's)

Another thing the show looks at is the pleasure we get when we fight. Dopamine occurs when we experience pleasure through sex, exercise, drugs and indeed violence. Some people are addicted to violence it seems like others are to booze.

Interestingly some studies show that being taught to share before the age of three years old (upto when children can't really control their tempers) helps shape their pre-frontal cortex where violence control mechanisms are built for use in later life. 

Doctors have seen that patients who have undergone trauma to the pre-frontal cortex can become more violent. the damage to the brain injures the control mechanisms which are in place and this is why post-trauma patients can become violent.

There are other ways that our control mechanisms can be broken down too: through alcohol and drug use, sleep deprivation, extreme external pressure as well as something we can't change: ageing...


Do you drink cola?

A recent study shows that excessive consumption of 'cola' can lead to mild muscle fatigue and worse! This, says the report, is because the caffeine, fructose and glucose found in these 'cola' drinks can cause hypokalemia or low blood potassium levels.

The author of the report points her finger mostly at the caffeine content though: " most of the cases we looked at for our review, caffeine intoxication was thought to play the most important role."

What I'm surprised at is not so much that caffeine or the consumption of lots of fizzy cola can have an adverse effect on your body's performance, but is Dr Clifford Parker's comment that he feels that it's, "tens of millions of people in industrialised countries drink at least 2-3 litres of cola per day."

TWO to THREE litres of the stuff a day! I'm not surprised one would feel impeded after that. Maybe two to three litres of sugary coffee would have the same effect. 

In fact the British Soft Drinks Association countered that the cases used in the research were "extreme" and that "moderate safe".

Either way I'm gonna stick to my potassium rich bananas thank you very much... 

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Taekkyeon or Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 76

Ok so I'm getting it. Slowly, but I think I'm getting there. You see it's difficult when you've been fed the Tang Soo Do party line for a long time you kind of ... accept it. But after a bit of digging and reading around you realise that things aren't quite what they seem.

All the official manuals would like you to believe that Tang Soo do is an indigenous Korean martial art with a heritage of 2000 years and including the Hwarang Knights in its family tree. You can tell I thought something wasn't quite right:

...and these ruminations were confirmed by reading 'A killing Art' by Alex Gillis which shows how General Choi and his main technical director Nam Tae-hi both trained in Karate-do, called in Korea Tang Soo Do. When Choi met the South Korean president, Rhee Syng-man,  soon after the Korean war it was the president who insisted that the demonstration of martial ability that had just been laid on for him by Choi be called Taekkyon. Rhee, understandably, didn't want to hear that these Korean warriors were practicing a Japanese martial art. This got Choi thinking about a new name and a new art form and he ultimately went on to form Tae Kwon Do.

What Rhee was talking about, Taekkyon, is a traditional kicking martial art performed in Korea and while it may not be the pre-cursor to Tae Kwon Do or Tang Soo Do as some insist it must have an influence on these styles post-Second World War. How can I be sure? Check out these videos and you'll see what I consider to be typical Tang Soo Do kicks. Of course there may have been some cross-fertilisation between the two arts. Taekkyon had been banned during the Japanese occupation (and before that Confucian ideals frowned on physical feats in favour of intellectual ones) so both Tang Soo Do and Tae'kkyon attempted to recreate themselves in the late 20th Century. 

Tae'kkyon has an intriguing dance-like quality similar to the jinga of capoiera but the kicks look powerful and focused enough to make a mess of your face! Interestingly it is has the crazy sub title of 'Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 76'!

Good Taekkyon history site (in French only).

...and compare the Taekkyon initial 'dance' to the Brazilian martial art of capoeira and it's 'Jinga':

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Kenjutsu Nitô and Naginata and Reaction Time

Amazing footage of nito (two-sword) against naginata with graceful looking slow motion. You might get more out of it if you speak Portuguese...

At about 1'09" you'll see red score on black with a good 'men' shot. Black seemed to be chasing for red: looking for the point. Red laid off, esquives, then takes his opportunity.


What sort of time does it take to sense a stimulus then respond and strike. What is the reaction time? In the slow motion clip it all seems as graceful as a ballet but full speed is full on!
Check out this startling 5 minute (no embed) YouTube video of kendo matches examining reaction time. See Susumu Takanabe score a point in 0.10 second from perceiving an opening to scoring a men point. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Breathing out the bad

I had a bad moment during the day today so during training my mind was a bit mixed-up. I was focusing on the bad moment during training instead of leaving it behind me and outside of the dojang. I tried breathing it out: breathing in cleansing air down into the belly and all the dark thoughts out through my feet. Whether you believe in Chi movement & the power of breath or not, this sort of visualisation helps me 'reset'. It provides a tool for me to get out of the loop of negative brooding. Once I've reset I can (try to) focus on technique only. Or not focus on technique but have a free mind... That's the idea anyway.

Good sparring session with Master Campbell and I learned two things: Master Campbell can stop you dead with a reverse front kick. As I tired my technique combinations became sloppy and I was chasing him down (this sort of hot headedness was the reason I had a bad moment today!) and as I stepped in he stopped me: gasp

the second thing is that I need to work on my fitness levels (and lose some of my spare tyre). After three two minute rounds I'm facing AC. He's tall, strong and experienced and during the first minute I'm toeing the line, scoring points and pushing him (sometimes) onto his back foot. During the second minute I was paggered (tired)! My ability to fend off attacks diminished and needless to say I was clattered round the chops a few times. Your hands tend to drop somewhat when you're tired.

I need more training and less chocolate.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Stiff back

My lower back was stiff tonight. I pulled up short during the initial kihon and after having taken the warm-up. It suddenly felt like it was going to snap! Sensei DD gave me some extra stretching and emphasised I should take some time out but I wanted to work it a bit. As I said to him, I must be stressed-I don't feel it but something's got me wound up and knotted down there.

I was happy when he called us round for Seiho practice. All for my benefit.

Check out something about Seiho techniques here.
The Edinburgh Shorinji Kempo site has a nice introduction page too.

Seiho and chinkon were aspects that really attracted me to Shorinji Kempo. Also the use of Juho and Goho made me think that, for me, this was really a well-rounded martial art. Up to now I haven't been disappointed! I also appreciate that with Kenshi there doesn't seem to be a lot of ego about. There is some. But nothing like I've encountered elsewhere. On the whole I find martial artists to be friendly but there is a fair proportion who like to knock your style or are so full of themselves it hurts. So you deal with it. But Kenshi have much less of this attitude and prefer to adopt a much more cooperative demeanour which suits me just fine. 

..and it had a direct benefit tonight as it helped my back! 

Despite the healing cooperation of my classmates tonight I still had to take some more medicine, after my shower at home. Fizzy medicine in a dark brown bottle...


Sunday, 10 May 2009

Cantona's way

Taken from Ken Loach's new film Looking for Eric, out on 12th June.

"If they are faster than you, don't try to outrun them. If they are taller, don't outjump them. If they are stronger on the left, you go right. But not always. Remember, to suprise them, you've got to surprise yourself first." (Tongue in cheek?)

How to tie a Tang Soo Do belt

Having a beard is not obligatory for practicing Tang Soo Do, wearing a belt is.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Saya construction

The saya is the scabbard of a sword in Japanese. The saya has a beautiful finish to it and is very often so highly lacquered that one might think it was plastic! It is, in fact, traditionally made from magnolia (ho) which is easy to work, has very little sap and is said to have oils wihtin it to help preserve the blade (An introduction to japanese Swords, I. Bottomley). 

I found a very interesting website outlining the main processes of making a saya:
Usually the hilt (tsuka) is also made from magnolia wood. I believe the ho wood is cut from the Japanese magnolia or Magnolia hypoleuca (possibly Magnolia liliiflora).

The saya is an important part of the sword in iai. Correct usage of the saya helps the drawing of the sword rendering the iai-to a two part weapon: sword and saya.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Train, train go away

I missed Shorinji Kempo training on Monday due to a slight illness and as I was thinking through a few techniques today I found they weren't as fluent as I'd have liked. It's amazing what effect a week or so away from training can have. 

When I trained in Tang Soo Do I really didn't want to be there. As I warmed up my calves felt like lead: really heavy and stiff. I jogged round the dojang cursing myself for not skipping it and putting my weary calves up on the sofa and sipping some whisky. But I was there. So I got on with it. It's important not to let that feeling linger otherwise you might as well leave the training hall. I have to admit it kept creeping in but part of training for me is to try and stay on task, stay focused: put in as much as you can to get good returns on your investment of time and energy.

On top of it all Alex decided to do some circuit training as a warm up! It's good sometimes to push your body and condition it up. You may well one day be glad of the extra work you put in when you really need to dig into the reserves you've built up over time. It's also good to push yourselves to the limit and then see how your techniques work. Can you cope? How does the technique cope? It was a good tonic too. I wouldn't recommend it every week though!

Wobbly hands and the dan jun
Strictly speaking hands that flapped back instead of pulling straight back. After thrusting out a front punch (reverse) it's easy for the arm to fold back in on itself as it returns. And this is the problem: I was letting the arm return and not actively engaging with the return mechanism. Consequently...good choong dan kong kyuck, poor return with the arm *bending* (gasp) at the elbow. Too much shoulder movement, not enough pulling it back with the dan jun (tanden). Out with the dan jun, back with the dan jun *in the same line on which it went out!* 

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Ō-Yoroi 大鎧

O-Yoroi is a Japanese medieval armour worn between the 10th and 14th Century. Of mostly lamellar construction it covered the trunk of the body and the right flanks (the covering of the right flank was called the waidate): this was to aid the mounted warrior who largely fought on horse back with the bow.  Using a bow meant that carrying a shield was not practicable so shoulder guards called sode were developed to offer protection but maintain freedom of arm movement.

Armour changed in the 14th Century when the samurai fought more commonly on foot and the O-Yoroi gave way to other constructions of armour such as the do maru and the haramaki.