Thursday, October 13, 2011

Abernethy Seminar Review

This last weekend Sensei Nick and I had the chance to go to a seminar in Missouri hosted by the Blue River Martial Arts Club. (Thanks to Eric and Sarah Parsons for putting this together, it was awesome!) They brought Iain Abernethy over from the UK for a weekend of Bunkai.

Friday night was a brief introduction to Funakoshi's 9 throws. Which was pretty nifty. There are a lot of people who say there are no throws in karate, but there were definitely some built into the system. Iain broke them up into 6 practical and 3 frivolous throws. After getting to practice all of them, I agree. But it was still cool to go over them. Iain taught us all 9 with the precept that even if something is not practical or would probably not work in a fight, you should still learn it anyway because it is historically interesting. As an instructor it is good to learn all of the techniques, even if they don't work for you (your body type, etc) because if you only pick the ones that work for you and discard everything else you are cheating your students out of a complete education.

Saturday was Bunkai for the Heian Kata. (Heian Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yodan, Godan). Some of the applications were surprising, but usually once Iain explains them and goes through how it works, it makes a lot of sense.

The more we went over the more it became evident that Iain REALLY knows his stuff. He has clearly spent a LOT of time in the martial arts. Not just practicing, but researching and studying the history of the forms, the founders of the systems, the language, and the applications. I tried to write down everything I could, and Sensei Nick and I have been going over some of the Bunkai and sharing the information with our students, but I would certainly jump at the chance to study with Iain again.

Some things we are currently sharing with our students that we picked up at the seminar are:
- Bunkai is something you do to an enemy, not with a partner.
- Do NOT help your partner back up, this is because you can get into the habit of it, as Miller often states what you do in training you will do in real life. There have been studies of military men doing drills where they disarm their partner, and then hand the gun right back to them. When they are in the field, they have disarmed their attacked and simply handed the gun right back to them out of habit. We never want to get into this habit.

Some of the notes that I took that morning before getting into practicing the Bunkai are as follows, they are a mix of wisdom from Iain and the karate founders/masters:

  • Karate is not intended to be used against a single adversary. It is a use of hands and feet to defend oneself should one need to against a ruffian or vagabond.
  • Kata is self defense, it is NOT a fighting system. There IS a difference. Kata takes place at fighting distance, which is not as most people think the same thing as sparring distance. Sparring distance is two people standing with their arms outstretched and their fingertips touching. Fighting distance is actually standing close enough that you can touch your opponent's shoulder. Iain refers to this affectionately as 'kissing distance'. 
  • It is better to be the hammer than the anvil. Which is also to say it is always better to hit or strike than not. 
  • Always strike for the head and neck for this is most effective.
  • Karate is self defense. It should not be used for fighting. 
  • There are three contexts Martial Arts can be used in. When practicing, you should always set the context and practice in that context.
    • Martial Arts - a formal setting, this is done because it is fun, we like it, it is fun, it feels good, etc. Martial Arts and a hobby. 
    • Fighting - a fight to a conclusion. This is a mutual decision to fight, whether a sparring setting or a monkey dance/bar fight.
    • Self Defense - practical. I DON'T want to fight, but since the situation is absolutely unavoidable,  the FIGHT is totally MINE. If someone jumps you, you can't hesitate, you have to take the fight to them. Their limbs, their jaw, etc, its MINE. 
  • Never have a dead hand, both hands should ALWAYS be doing something. 
  • Even monkeys fall out of trees: even the best of us mess things up sometimes. It is always better to hit them than not. 
  • Start with raw skill and refine as you get better. If you start out practicing and aiming for very very specific targets, your training will not come through in an adrenaline rush. Work on getting the basics down first and then refine.
  • Always take the path of least resistance
  • Cheating is ALWAYS allowed.
Sunday we went over advanced kata, including Tekki Shodan. I have not (or at least am not supposed to be learning Tekki Shodan just yet in the grand scheme of my training. Since Nick does not have an actual karate class going right now, only Aikijutsu I can learn the kata in any order I want. When I was talking with Nick before I moved to Oklahoma, he sent me videos of all the kata. He sent me the 5 Heian kata and Tekki Shodan. After watching all of them I told Nick I wanted to learn Tekki Shodan. "That one! That's my favorite!" I was completely tickled pink that we got to go over the Bunkai for Tekki Shodan. It was GREAT! I really liked the Bunkai and I feel like I picked it up pretty quickly, especially for not having officially learned the kata yet.


To sum it up, I took a lot away from the Seminar, far far far more than I actually wrote down here. But I think one of the things that I was most impressed by was how knowledgeable Iain was. I have been wanting to read the history behind a lot of this Martial Arts stuff and the people who have been monumental in making it what it is today. Iain knows A LOT of that kind of information and its infectious. If I wanted to know before, I REALLY want to know now. The desire to be as knowledgeable as Iain is, as well as to be as proficient in the Martial Arts is burning strongly. The best way that I can explain it: some people have idols and heroes they want to be like, sports players want to be like Brett Farve or Jerry MacGuire, or whoever. (I know NOTHING about sports). Architects and artists look up to Frank Loyd Write or Picasso or Monet, etc. Martial Artists want to be like Abernethy and Wilder and Miller. Including me. Nick is always quoting Basho "Choosing not to follow in the footsteps of the masters, but rather seeking what the sought". So its not like I want to be an exact Abernethy replica, but I certainly want to know the things he knows and be as good as he is, I just have to get there my own way. 

Abernethy is all around a great guy. He has a great sense of humor, a personable disposition and is helpful with instruction and pointers. Again, I cannot stress how knowledgeable he is. If you are ever in the UK or if he ever comes back to the states, I HIGHLY recommend attending one of his seminars or talking/studying with him if you get the chance. You can find information about him via his website. Check it out. His Bunkai is pretty damn awesome. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

5 Elements merchandise

Since I mentioned on my sketch blog, I thought I would post it here as well:

I just finished putting together some things for Sensei Nick's Cafepress store: Power Line Designs. We now have a section set up for merchandise based (loosely) on Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings. There are t-shirts, mugs, clocks, pillows, posters, and pretty much anything you could possibly want up for grabs. If you have a moment, check it out.

Musashi's 5 Elements

You can also find all of the stuff from Guinn Martial Arts online as well: GMA Store.


I will be posting my review of the Abernethy seminar soon as well as a review of "How to Win a Fight" by Kane and Wilder. I'm excited to post these, its just hard to find time to sit down and write.

I am working hard with Sensei Nick on learning Kata and working towards being able to help teach in his school. I have been able to lead warm ups and offer a few pointers to my partners here and there in Aiki classes. After the seminar this weekend I was adamant about learning Tekki Shodan, so I am currently working on the kata out of order. @.@ Oops.

So far I am still a white belt in Shotokan Karate Hachikyu, as there are only 7 belts to black belt in Nick's school, but the material is very in depth and covers the same amount of material with fewer tests. Nick and I are of the opinion that more belts is generally a commercial idea and since we don't charge for tests anyway, you may as well rank from one belt to the next without all the little half way tests in between. Its a long story and probably another post in and of itself entirely; but I know Heian Nidan pretty well as well as more or less all of the Bunkai for the kata. I am working on Heian Shodan, making it look nice and making sure I have all the Bunkai, etc. Tekki Shodan, which came very naturally to me and is my favorite of all the kata I have seen so far. I am looking forward to learning Heian Sandan, Yodan and Godan, but I think Tekki Shodan will always have a special place in my heart.

I am a white belt with two stripes (going for green belt next) Hachikyu in Aikijutsu and working towards my Nanakyu. Which is nice since I started out at Juukyu. As far as Aiki Kata goes I know Walking Kata 1, 2 and 3.

So much to learn... @.@

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Updates and Upcoming Seminar

It's been a while since my last post. I have been feeling a little under the weather lately and have been having some back problems, but overall, things are busy and there has been quite a bit going on. There are a lot of things coming up and some good posts that I should be finishing up and posting in the next two weeks or so. Here is a quick update:

1) Musashi, the Great Dane samurai dog has settled in as an honorary Uchideshi. He is adorable and learning fast. He starts obedience classes later this month and is sure to do well. He is only 11 weeks old and already weighs more than 20lbs. Now that he has acclimated and his appetite is back, that should be skyrocketing. Sensei Nick and I ran into some people on our walk last night, they have a 7 month old Great Dane puppy who already weighs 120lbs. I cannot believe in another 4 months my dog will more than quadruple his weight. @.@

2) Working on both Aikijutsu and Shotokan Karate. Both are loads of fun and I am learning a lot. I received my 8th Kyu in Aiki last week. I am now a white belt with TWO green stripes! Hizzah! :D I'm not sure how close I am to testing for my yellow belt in Karate yet, but Sensei Nick says its not too far off. I am working diligently on both Heian Nidan and Heian Shodan as well as the Bunkai for these kata. In addition Sensei Nick and I are working on all our rank material and thinking about how we would like to set up the school once things get going, I have more training, we get our own facility, etc etc etc. Lots to think about. We also have new rank certificates! Congrats to Jared for achieving Nikyu and Caryn for Kukyu. I am excited to stream-line the look of our material and the school's identity. Graphic Design is so much fun, especially when you get to work on something you are really passionate about.

3) Preparation for Iain Abernethy's seminar in Missouri this weekend. I am really looking forward to meeting Mr. Abernethy and learning all about Bunkai and different techniques from different kata. Should be awesome. Sensei Nick is probably 10x more excited then I am as he has already had a chance to work with Abernethy. Should be all around a great weekend. I will post a review of the seminar and some of my thoughts and things I learned when I return. Probably Monday evening.

4) Almost done with "How to Win a Fight" by Kane the Wilder. Sensei Nick is about half way through it. I should be posting a review of this book soon, and I will make sure he does the same.

5) Working with Sensei Nick on getting PowerLine Designs up and running. We will offer a wide variety of T-shirts and related items (cups, coasters, clocks, backpacks, buttons etc.) Stay tuned for more information on this. Many of them will be Asian or Martial Arts related. Chinese Zodiac Signs, Elemental Kanji, etc etc. In addition to humors T-shirts and the like. I think some of the designs are sure to be really neat and most are turning out really well so far. Also, if anyone is need of any Graphic Design work, or knows of someone who is. Keep me in mind and/or send me a message if you are interested and would like to take a look at my portfolio.

I think that about covers it. Been very busy and have lots going on, but all good things. Hope everyone is doing well. Best wishes to everyone!