A Little Mantis « Striking Thoughts

Part one of the video course on bunkai discusses how the original intent of the inside middle block was probably intended as an arm break. However, after it was sanitized to make Karate more acceptable for school children, it evolved to a block against a punch.

This got me to thinking about a core Mantis technique: The Mantis hook-hand which is used to snatch an arm. One of the drills that we practiced to death was a snatch that was followed by an arm break which is similar to what Wildish describes. Here’s a few relevant videos:

A lot of Mantis techniques flow from the initial catch. One of my favorite things about Mantis was the head control. Incidentially the following can also be a throw.

Finally, my other favorite thing about Mantis were all the trips. Again, here’s another example that flows from that intial arm snag:

Incidentally, there’s not many Mantis videos on YouTube. However, those of you wanting a taste of insect might want to check out this play list.


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(This article was originally posted on Feb 7, 2011 at http://strikingthoughts.wordpress.com.)

via A Little Mantis « Striking Thoughts.

Sober Up with Drunken Fist

Happy 2011. Wishing everyone a great new year ahead. After a night of celebration and partying, what better way to start the new year off with a sobering post on…Drunken Fist.

Many might have been initially exposed to the Kung Fu style of Drunken Fist through Jackie Chan’s famous movie, Drunken Master. The illusive movements involved is no doubt captivating to watch, and to some the effectiveness of the style still remains debatably a myth. We found this short and nice clip from Fight Science attempting to do a quick sum up of the style and the underlying science involved.

The notion of “finding the balance” and the deliberate deceptiveness of being drunk and “off guard” seem to make sense.  Others have made comments that such deception in motion has more to do with confusing opponent and making it difficult for others to predict the next move.

No doubt the Drunken Fist is one of the more interesting style of martial arts to observe. To our disappointment, we weren’t able to find any video on the web that pits the Drunken Fist against a different style for comparison (at least in any serious fashion, anyway). If anyone knows of any good comparison, please let us know.

Lastly, here is another interesting display of the “real” drunken fist….Not quite Jackie Chan, but nonetheless a blast to watch. Enjoy. Happy New Year!

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The Humble “Yoi” | Bunkai Jutsu

The kata’s (patterns/forms) within a traditional style often have different salutations and ready positions. This would indicate that they have different meanings, beyond being just a salutation. Think about it, if they were no more than just a salutation, why would they not be standardised. Why would any style need more than one salutation which it would use on all of its kata’s/patterns/forms.

Logic would suggest that these salutations/ready positions are moves that could stop an opponent early in the proceedings, before a full blown fight breaks out. If that does not work, then its into the kata to use techniques that will deal with a full blown fight.

The most common salutation or ready position in Karate is the “Yoi”. The performance of the Yoi may vary from style to style, but generally the arms come up to head height (sometimes higher) then circle inwards and downwards, crossing over your center line, then back outwards, before settling just about hip height at about a torso width apart.

Here’s our interpretation of how to use the humble Yoi against somebody who is acting aggressively, to turn the tables on them and put them in a position of disadvantage which you can exploit as you see fit.

Please tell us what you think. Is your Yoi or salutation very much different? Do you see the Yoi as being no more than a salutation with no practical function, or do you see it as a functional movement as we do? Feel free to leave your opinion in the comment box below.

(This article was originally posted on Oct 28, 2010 at http://bunkaijutsu.com)

via The Humble “Yoi” | Bunkai Jutsu.

Back To Basics With Al Peasland | Bunkai Jutsu


Al Peasland

Al Peasland (5th Dan with the British Combat Association, 3rd Dan Traditional Karate and internationally renowned teacher) wrote an interesting article on “Back To Basics“. In this article he compares an experience he had learning to ski with how he teaches self protection. He spent most of the time learning how to do “the plough” (position where the front of the skis point inwards, forming a triangular plough shape).

Al asked why they spend so much time in the plough position when it is not the way that they do “real skiing”. The instructor explained that practicing the plough gives you control over the snow, when you have that, the rest of the fancy stuff can be mastered. But without control over over the snow, the ability to ski fast, turn and (most importantly) to be able to stop; will be very difficult to learn. When you see a good skier whizzing down a slop, skis parallel, twisting and turning around obstacles, you don’t see the plough. Yet without learning the plough first, you would not see the speed and agility.

So (as Al explains) it is with martial arts and self protection. Without learning the basic stances, basic techniques and sparring/drilling routines, you would not have a very a structure that you could use under pressure.

Although I am a further down the martial arts food chain than Al, I agree entirely. People often talk of “muscle memory”. However, muscles don’t have memory, only the brain does. When you do a movement, any movement, or even a particular behaviour pattern, you fire a series of tiny electrical signals across the brain. These are the parts of the brain that control that movement or behaviour. When you repeat a movement over and over, those tiny electrical signals get stronger and the brain forms more links inside to carry the stronger signals. This is called a “neural pathway” through the brain. It is here, rather than the muscle that the memory of movement is stored. The more we practice a movement over and over again, the stronger and bigger that neural pathway becomes, until eventually we no longer have to put in any conscious thought, we just fire the neural pathway and instinct takes over.

This is what we want when under pressure. We want such strong, deeply rooted neural pathways, that we don’t need to think about how to punch/strike/kick etc. We just want to be able to think this is it, action, and the rest just happens automatically. The main difference between a master and a beginner is not necessarily their strength or physical prowess, it is the strength of these neural pathways, forged by years and years of repetition.

People often look for the quick fix (which is human nature).  Partly for that reason, pressure point fighting has become popular over recent years.  However, as I’ve said before, if you don’t know how to hit, if you can’t move with speed and accuracy, you will not be able to strike pressure point targets effectively.

Whatever your style of martial art, practice basics, basics then some more basics.  It is the only way to really be able to perform under pressure.  I promote the use of practical bunkai on this blog, but without good basics you will struggle to make them work.

I liken it to the foundations of a building.  The first thing the builders do is to dig a bloody great hole and fill it in with ugly cement and steel.  When the nice new shiny building is finished, you don’t see those foundations, you don’t see that hole and cement.  You only see the building on top.  But without that cement filled hole, the building would easily collapse.  So it is when you see a great fighter performing great athletic feats, breaking boards, fancy jumping kicks or annihilating an opponent.  You don’t see the years that the same fighter spent in a basic stance practicing a basic technique over and over again until he/she had a really deep foundation and incredibly strong neural pathways.

And let face it, if it was easy to learn in a few weeks, then all the muggers and predators would have done it to, so they would know what we know.  What sets us aside as martial artists is that we take the time to study and to evolve.  And in so doing we not only become better able to defend ourselves, but we become better human beings in the process.

(This article was originally posted on Nov 8, 2010 at http://bunkaijutsu.com/)

via Back To Basics With Al Peasland | Bunkai Jutsu.

The Changing Tides of Martial Arts in East Asia | Ikigai | Blogging the Martial Way

We martial artists in the West sometimes gaze East with a sense of gratitude and wonder in our hearts. While we struggle with cultural differences and strive for legitimacy, we are also tempted to assume that the birth countries of China, Japan, and Okinawa are somehow above these problems. We suspect that while some modernization is occurring, by-and-large the classical arts are still alive and thriving.

Alive…yes. Thriving, perhaps not as much as we would hope. Globalization is a juggernaut and while some westerners choose to look into the deep past of Eastern countries, more and more Asian youth look toward our western way of life. They, like us, have tasted the convenience of technology, the pleasure of quick rewards, and the lure of fame and recognition.

Modernization is fairly evident on a national scale, but to understand how it is affecting the martial arts I would point you to the studies of a few notable artists who have been there and seen it.

Recently Mario McKenna posted a link to a very well produced documentary regarding Kung Fu (the ancient martial pursuit of China). The movie is entitled Needle Through Brick: The Vanishing Art of Traditional Kung Fu. It follows the path of a handful of Kung Fu experts, exploring how they came to learn their art and what they are doing to spread it. The film also examines the life of young, modern artists and how they perceive martial arts in the world they live in.

Watch more free documentaries

Watch more free documentariesIt’s very interesting to hear the younger Kung Fu players discuss the difference between traditional kung fu and sport kung fu, and how they actively choose sport. The older generation struggles to find ways in which to preserve their heritage while keeping new generations interested.

It seems that in China most of the more antiquated quanfa arts are pushed into the background and seen as twilight-year pursuits. Instead they are replaced by high flying acrobatics and stunts like those performed by Shaolin troupes. The athleticism and dedication is impressive, but quite devoid of the original martial applications.

Okinawa As Well

In an article entitled “The Okinawan Karate Myth“, Jesse of KaratebyJesse describes some of his findings during trips to Okinawa, and shares stories of the younger practicing generation there.

In the article Jesse introduces us to a youthful competitor referred to as Ushi Kun. Ushi Kun does very well at tournaments and attends a well respected karate school. His dedication to the art is unquestionable. However, he and his dojo-mates revolve their entire study around winning competitions. Things that are classical (like kobudo) or foreign (like boxing) are seen as uncool and even slightly embarrassing for anyone participating in them.

When Jesse attempts to interact with the students, bringing his traditional and diverse background, he is mildly mocked and tolerated as someone who “doesn’t quite get it”.

The main issue, as Jesse explains, is that Ushi Kun and his fellow karateka are not peculiar in their mindset. In fact they represent a healthy portion of their generation.

Okinawa As Well

Youth in Japan, Okinawa, China, and Western Countries are all beginning to look more and more alike. The sight of a 15-year-old absorbed into their cell phone, texting away is now a near global one (in the developed world).

Of course, this is not to say that no true classical arts can be found in their countries of origin. There will always be something uniquely authentic about the far East when it comes to budo pursuits. However, propagation of classical arts is now more about the individuals passing it on rather than the country of study. If a lineage is preserved well it will retain it’s value, even if it happens to cross the ocean and arrive in the hands of an occidental. If a lineage is not preserved well, it will be a sham in the hands of any proponent.

It may sound like I am opining about days lost and the misguidedness of youth, but that’s not my intention. Instead my goal is to reveal a more accurate understanding of how martial arts fit into current society. New generations face the same kind of obstacles as generations previous, and as technology increases so does the sheer volume of things to occupy people’s time.

Quick rewards will always be tempting, and exciting sport will always attract more people than tradition.

Ultimately it is up to each of us to decide where we would like to take our arts, regardless of our place of origin.

(This article was originally posted on Sept 27, 2010 at http://www.ikigaiway.com)

via The Changing Tides of Martial Arts in East Asia | Ikigai | Blogging the Martial Way.

A Little Wing Chun « Striking Thoughts


I’m far enough along in Teacher’s Mook Jong set to avoid being lumped with the newbies. In fact, I’m also far enough in that we’ve already covered certain basic Wing Chun blocks within the form. Last night Teacher took several of us aside and had us work these Wing Chun blocks on the dummy — both within the context of his personal “form”, and also with each other. Here is what we covered:

Tan Sau

Bong Sau

Pak Sau

Fuk Sau

After practicing as much as we knew of the dummy form, we practiced these specific blocks on each other. Yes, yes, I know that a WC purist might not describe these technically as “blocks.” However, I have to communicate somehow to the non-WC crowd who read this post!

Our two-person drills focused on two things:

A nifty two-person drill that incorporated blocks and punches

Using blocks to “deflect” kicks

Which sucked worse for me? Not sure! I think I was a tad better at the two-person block/punch drill thanks to my time in Praying Mantis. Here’s a video that captures the “spirit” of what we did? Please note that we did not do this exact sequence.

(Pay particular attention to the first few seconds of the video — this is similar to our drill.)

With kicks I had Taekwondo on the brain! As you can see in this video, WC generally tries to deflect and redirect kicks. It also checks them with legs and stop kicks or just evades them altogether. In Taekwondo we often blocked kicks in a very “hard” fashion. That or we’d just get out of the way. So I found myself struggling with the notion of redirecting or deflecting the kick. Based on my lackluster career in TKD tournament sparring, Mr. Patterson tends to evade first and hard block second!

Anyhow, this may have been my favorite lesson so far! Yes, the ground stuff I’m learning at this school is filling a gap in my knowledge. However, I have to say that I like a lot about Wing Chun. We are not learning classical Wing Chun but some day, just maybe, I’ll be in area that gives me a chance to try classical Wing Chun! There’s just a lot about it’s philosophy that fits with my personality and physiology.

Some random notes about Teacher:

No longer practices his karate or Chinese Kempo forms

Still teaches certain techniques from Shotokan Karate and Kempo

Was in Wing Chun long enough to make it to the dummy set

Still practices (infrequently) with a local Penjak Silat group (the only one in the area)

Pissed off members of the Columbus Wing Chun school for not being traditional

Is in his late 50s and is trying to learn BJJ!

Was a pretty good Army boxer and coached several students to local and regional wins

Still coaches boxing and admits that this is his first love

Is not happy with boxing’s decline

It pays to network. I would have not considered this school where in not for a friend of friend. After Tornado (aka Taekwondo pal) heard I was looking for a new school, he put me in touch with his pal who is taking BJJ lessons from this current school.

When I am in my late 50′s I plan to be that proverbial “empty cup” that Teacher emulates.


(This article was originally posted on Sept 16, 2010 at http://strikingthoughts.wordpress.com)

via A Little Wing Chun « Striking Thoughts.