One staple of a good movie fight scene is a hero or villain working their way through a myriad of weapons. They might start off with knife, but that will get kicked out of their hand, leaving them defenseless until they grab a nearby pool cue. Once that breaks they eventually find their way to a chair, and so on.
You’ll find this classic situation popping up in all kinds of martial arts movies. Take this scene from Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon”:
In a mere three minutes we are treated to Bruce’s skill in open hand fighting, bo, escrima style sticks, and nunchaku.
Most of the time this is done just to keep the audience interested. However, the idea of being able to use multiple weapons effectively is intriguing and warrants a little deeper investigation.
When discussing the use of a weapon, I generally break things down into two “spirits”: the spirit of kobudo combat, and the spirit of the weapon itself. Each are equally important when endeavoring to maximize your ability to utilize tools as a means of enhanced life protection.
The Spirit of Kobudo Combat
When fighting with weapons (especially against other weapons) damage can accrue quickly. Certainly empty hand fighting can be lethal, but adding the force and physics of a weapon increases the likelihood of being mortally injured. Bearing that in mind the spirit of kobudo combat must always be one of a brief and fatal meeting.
As such there are certain matters that require special attention to achieve success. Stancing must be used in a manner that reveals as few targets as possible to the opponent, even if it means narrowing traditional stances. Centerline control must be so precise that there is only a razor’s edge allowance for error.
The need for control of distance and timing in kobudo is paramount as opportunity occurs in a moment’s notice. Nowhere is the idea of ichigo ichie more apparent.
Understanding the spirit of kobudo combat means building a solid foundation of principle and concept.
The Spirit of the Weapon Itself
Although all weapons share commonalities in fighting, each also has it’s own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Understanding how best to use the weapon means understanding the spirit of the weapon itself.
An Array of Weapons From Okinawa Kenpo
Long range implements are capable of different tactics than short range ones, which can be broken down further into wooden weapons vs metal weapons, bladed vs non-bladed, and so on. Properly assessing these capabilities will allow you to stay within your zones or strength while avoiding zones of weakness.
Just as an example of analyzing each weapon for its own unique qualities, consider the kama. The kama is weak when it comes to long range. A bo user can keep a kama user at bay and outside of the kama’s effective fighting distance. However, the kama’s unique hooking ability can control, manipulate and ensnare an opponent’s weapons or body parts in order to force a closure of distance and quickly dismantle vulnerable and hard-to-access parts of the body.
The winner in any match is determined by whomever is in better command of themselves and their weapon.
Open Hand / Weapons Separate and as One
I’ve come to believe that the spirit of kobudo is the same as the spirit of karate, with very minimal differences. The importance of centerline, distance, timing, kiai, kokoro, etc. are all present in both methods of life protection. The emphasis and execution will vary, but both systems will ultimately augment each other and spur on a practitioner’s growth as a complete artist.
An example – in sparring we often find it acceptable to take a few blows knowing that we can bounce back and try again. In weapons combat it becomes intensely obvious that a single mistake will result in real life injury. This is an excellent mindset to transfer to self defense. Conversely, training in empty hand can teach us how to move the body quickly and utilize all eight of our attached weapons (hands, feet, knees, elbows) even when one or more weapon is occupied. This resiliency and creativity can be lost when using a single weapon all the time.
It should be noted that the spirit of a weapon itself is something that cannot be faked or assumed through other means. If you wish to learn how to use a kama-like weapon effectively, you must practice with the kama. If you wish to use the sword effectively, you must practice with the sword.
As such, kobudo is both exclusive and inclusive in the realm of martial arts.
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Hey everyone. It’s been awhile since we’ve done a giveaway, and I don’t want you to think I’m hoarding all the goods for myself. I wouldn’t do that. Although…it’s tempting…
Anyway – a milestone is approaching that I thought would be perfect for some prizes. The Ikigaiway Facebook Fanpage is rapidly approaching 5,000 fans. Honestly I didn’t think we would reach that mark for quite awhile yet, and I am very grateful to everyone who has shared ikigaway with friends and family. The Facebook page was created as an extension of the website so as to expand community potential and give everyone a chance to interact. My goal was to create a positive environment for martial artists of all backgrounds and the active members there have certainly helped in guiding that mission.
So, this particular contest will run between now and the time 5,000 is reached. To become eligible simply leave comments either here on the website or on the facebook page. Every comment you leave will get you an entrance vote into the contest. Every vote will be placed into a big randomization generator and the winners will be selected. Keep in mind the sooner 5,000 is reached the smaller the pool of contestants is likely to be (meaning a better chance for you to win).
BONUS: Help spread the love to qualify for the special prize. Use Facebook’s ‘suggest to friend‘ button, blog about ikigaiway, or do something else to help get the word out and let me know about it!
Cool? Alright, here are the prizes you’ll be gunning for:
Prize #1: Bushido Apparel Green Insignia T-Shirt
Bushido Apparel is a small, privately owned company that is making some top-notch products. The style and design of their T-shirts stand out amongst typical martial arts designs. The Green Insignia T Shirt is a fine mix of style and subtlety.
Prize #2: Rhino Equipment Bag and Gym Mat
This is a tough Rhino gym bag constructed out of silver vinyl. It features a large main compartment and mesh side compartments for dirty or wet gym clothes. The great thing about this bag is that it comes with a foldout gym mat that can be unrolled at a moment’s notice. (In the picture above there isn’t an actual smaller bag, that is just a different angle to see the size of the gym mat). Courtesy of Karatedepot.com.
Prize #3: Everlast Reflex Bag
This is a really cool training device, the Reflex Bag. To use this bag effectively you need a combination of quick hands, great footwork, and a strong sense of timing. In short it trains a lot of very important martial art elements at once. Here is a quick video of how the reflex bag looks in use. Courtesy of Karatedepot.com.
Special Prize: ProForce Thunder Heavy Bag
The Thunder Heavy Bag is an outstanding model that provides a fine balance of resistance and comfort. The vinyl surface can take abuse and the weight (70lbs) is perfect for martial artists of all shapes and sizes. This bag comes with an assembly chain and hook as well as beginner bag gloves. Courtesy of TheMMAZone.net.
Get started right away! Click through the link below and become fan, leave some comments, and suggest the page to your friends.
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How do you go about exploring an art fully without getting lost in it?
One of the most important elements of any martial art is being able to use it effectively at a moment’s notice. The techniques and methods of the art must be simple enough to ingrain in muscle memory for use when adrenaline pumps and mental decision making could be costly and difficult.
With that being the case it might seem like a mistake to dig deeply into an art or to allow for creative exploration. After all, you’re probably just obfuscating a technique that did what it needed to do in the first place. However, I have found that there is an important difference between simple techniques and techniques with deep simplicity.
Starting with Simplicity
Properly programming the body to maximum efficiency is a process that takes a lifetime. However, when a student first joins a school they really need to focus on the basics of how to move. It’s almost like learning how to walk again. The hands move in such a way, the legs in another way, the body weight shifts here and there…half the time the end goal for each class is to not trip over yourself.
Launching into the full complexity of an art right away is neither effective nor productive.
Drills like yakusoku kumite are often valuable to teach a person what it’s like to get “attacked” (even if it’s under strict controls) and how to program the body to respond.
Kata, sparring, and base level bunkai all help introduce the student to the ways in which they might defend themselves should trouble arrive.
The Fog of Complexity
As the years go by and students get exposed to the arts, they realize there might be more going on than previously suspected. Real altercations are rarely so organized as dojo drills, nor do they end as neatly as we might hope. Grappling, joint locking, pressure points, internal blending, dynamic striking, etc etc start to blip onto the radar as ways to improve overall skillset.
With so much out there it’s easy to get lost completely in the fog of technique collection and creative brainstorming.
Moving from simplicity to complexity is something that often inspires trepidation and hesitation (with very legitimate cause). Nobody wants to become the armchair Sensei who can spout off 20 different vital point techniques but couldn’t actually defend him/herself against Glass Joe from Punchout.
Furthermore, simple techniques with no particularly enhanced explanations still work. A kick to the groin and jab to the eyes requires very little tweaking. Why muck things up?
For me personally, deciding to jump into complexity came when I saw the depth of knowledge possessed by my instructors and how they translated it into their art. Instead of blocking an arm just to keep it from hitting me, I realized I could be activating a vital point for a devastating follow-up technique. Or I could be applying kuzushi at the same moment to off balance my attacker. Or perhaps I could be moving his centerline to make his next attack more predictable and therefore manageable, reducing (albeit never eliminating) the chaos of real combat.
Complexity invites you to explore the possibilities of human interaction.
The Depth of Simplicity
I wish I could tell you I’ve got everything figured out and the fog is gone, but that is woefully untrue. I keep my many limitations close in mind to make sure I don’t get lazy.
However, there are certain things I have been able to bring back to simplicity through depth of study. The amazing thing is that my muscle memory has not gone away, nor has my ability utilize mushin (no mind) in unpredictable situations. Instead I have been able to better understand how to improve the simplicity of my techniques and utilize complex ideas like pressure points, tuite, etc within the same movement that would have been a simple block or punch previously.
The point of breaking down bunkai (kata applications) into minute pieces is not to impress others with your 10,000 ideas, but to get a little taste of why all those possibilities work or don’t work. I have found many situations where I’ve said to myself “I better not do that again”, which is extremely valuable to discover in the safety of a dojo environment.
With deep simplicity the body learns how to improve height, distance, angle, stance, and timing in conjunction with a continuum of strikes, grabs, and manipulations. All of that sounds complex unless you’ve thoroughly explored it and reapplied it to habitual acts of physical violence, such as common pushes, punches, and grabs.
All of this amounts to not needing the construction of yakusoku kumite or kata or even padded sparring when you arrive in a moment of conflict, but being able to effectively handle live situations at any range and with little warning.
The following is a short clip taken from our IKKF Annual Training (2000) featuring Bill Hayes Sensei discussing a technique that starts out simple, but can be enhanced with depth of study and training. The technique is simple throughout but hardly the same from the beginning of the clip to the end.
(available here – http://fileserver.uechi-ryu.com/videos/hayes.wmv)
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