By: David Elkins, Michael DeDonato John Morenski
“This article provides a compendium of Okinawan Iron Body Conditioning drills and a comprehensive analysis of Sanchin Shime.” November, 2001
Hello Sensei Mattson I hope you and Susan are doing well and I am looking forward to seeing you in August. I have some news about what has been happening here in Uechi ryu. There will be a new inductee in the Karate Nova Scotia’s Karate Hall of Fame , Duncan MacLeod. He is being …View full post
I spent a really great extended weekend in N.H. with Buzz and Judy Durkin. They invited me to teach a class on Friday that that I really enjoyed. What hard working, energetic students and teachers. Thanks to all who attended. See you all in August at my annual Martial Arts Summerfest. This will be a …View full post
This year’s Winterfest featured, what I consider to be, a very interesting and important self-defense topic and test.The ability to combine a calm alertness with the skill to go from a normal walking or standing posture into a reaction-ready fighting mode able to deliver a strike within a fraction of a second . I’ve been training …View full post
Dec 13 2008
By: David Elkins, Michael DeDonato John Morenski
“This article provides a compendium of Okinawan Iron Body Conditioning drills and a comprehensive analysis of Sanchin Shime.” November, 2001
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Dec 13 2008
John The Greek and the Wigan Bouncer
by Raymond Wylie
I have practiced martial arts for many years and have tried everything that was available to me, from Tai Chi to Bando. During this time I have inevitably met highly skilled technicians with specialised skills. I am a great fan of the book “secret fighting arts of the world” by John.f.gilbey were he details the experts that he knew. This is what I shall attempt to do also.
Some of the masters, for I shall call them that, defy classification. Their method and approach is just so singular and different to anything that is practiced elsewhere.
One man that I recollect was the Wigan Bouncer. He used to regularly attend a Goju-Ryu club of which I was a member. He was employed of an evening, in a rough nightclub in the northern town of Wigan. A tremendous fighter, he commanded the respect of everyone in the club although he had never won, or even competed in a tournament and had not even started Karate until he was 28 years of age, then, approaching 40, he was awesome.
He was a heavily built man with a huge barrel chest and hands like shovels; the interesting thing about his method of fighting was that he hardly ever threw a punch.
The only punches that he used were the hammer fist or the one knuckle punch the rest of the time he would use open hand strikes, his favorite was the ridge hand, I once asked him why, and he then proceeded to demonstrate for me by hitting a heavy bag and sending it bouncing to the ceiling. The ridge hand had focus, he explained.
He always trained with his best friend, a bodybuilder, and together before and after the class, they would work on techniques using boxers hook and jab pads or, more often than not trying the moves out on each other. They were always light, gentle even, but they knew exactly what they were trying to accomplish and would spend ages refining or experimenting with different moves. Then after a few weeks the moves would appear in their punch pad routines or disappear entirely. There was nothing in his routine that could ever be described as flashy; everything was simple in conception and practise. A palm heel to the solar plexus followed by a ridge hand to the neck or side of the head then a vicious elbow jab, and a foot sweep to finish. These were the type of moves that he thrived on, he had numerous combinations of two or three open hand strikes followed by an elbow strike or head butt, then finished with a simple trip or foot sweep.
Continuous sparring with karate men of all grades and styles also refined his technique. The club at that time had a kick boxing section, and the kick boxers, like the rest of us afforded him tremendous respect for his skills and abilities. Here he learned how to combat the weakness of his style. He could not move anywhere nearly as fluidly or as quickly as the kickboxers, and did not try to, but his hands made continuous circling moves horizontally and vertically these he would punctuate with quick grabs and pulls to control overpower or throw his opponent. He would push and pull his opponents guard away in a very aggressive and intimidating manner, all the while lumbering around like a huge hungry bear, and throwing his fearsome open handed strikes, or low level kicks to ankles and knees, the groin he saved for fast slapping attacks.
One cold November in the Pub, after training, I asked him how he had come to develop such a distinctive fighting style. It was like nothing I have ever seen before, he replied that he had been a municipal bus driver and of a night he had to sometimes deal with drunken men getting on to his bus, very often they were alcoholics and he told me that sometimes they would head butt the steel door rail when they got on, they were so lost to their addiction. He knew that a punch would never work on these unfortunate souls, but he assured me that his method had never failed.
The Sensei at that club had a passion for knives and was an enthusiastic collector of samurai swords
This rubbed off on many of the members, and one of the Sensei’s friends would come down and sell knives. There were all sorts of collectible blades unheard of in England at that time, Gerbers, Randalls etc. The Wigan Bouncer proved as individualistic as ever, in his choice of knives by purchasing two German Paratrooper’s knives. Thick sturdy bladed, and with deep green handles and scabbards. He would hold them in the ice pick grip and use them in much the same way as he spared, although he only ever shadow boxed with them.
He afforded me the greatest respect one day, by stealing one of my moves and incorporating it into his repertoire. The move was a variation on a low cross kick. One night during sparring practise he threw me a sly wink as he proceeded to use the kick on some unfortunate kick boxer.
John the Greek
Was an entirely different kettle of fish. I trained with him some years later and in a different club. The club practised hapkido and one of the instructor’s friends was a high grade in another Goju Ryu club, he used to come down to train with us, eventually he persuaded some of his contemporaries to train also. On a Saturday morning there would be a whole group of people from different styles and systems all training together.
This was how I met John, for convenience everybody called him John the Greek, nobody could pronounce his surname ( it had lots of “ous” in it) and for another he was extremely Greek. Small, swarthy, and with a large black moustache.
Ordinarily, I would not mention John in the same sentence as the ” Wigan Bouncer”
I trained with John for over a year and he was never very good, he could not punch powerfully, or kick hard or spar well. He was a very pleasant person and well liked.
The club closed and a few years afterward I bumped into one of the Goju guys that I used to train with on the Saturday morning. In the local hostelry, over a few pints of best mild, we talked and reminisced over the good old days and some of the people we had known. John’s name came up and I said that he had not been very talented, to which my companion almost choked on his beer. He related this story to me.
John and his wife operated a Social Security Hotel; all the clients were receiving some form of state benefit, though this proved a lucrative concern, it was not without its hazards. John had taken up Karate so that he could deal with some of the more troublesome clientele. Many of his patrons would go out drinking and return late, after the hotel had shut its doors. Trouble would ensue when they tried to gain access and they would become abusive and violent. I raised my eyebrows at this, how could John a small untalented karateka deal with this? My friend then related that John had one good technique, which he could do lightening fast. He would hold his hands up to cover his face when the fight started, protecting himself as best as he could, letting the blows rain into his arms rather like a boxer, then, when his attacker paused or there was a lull, or opening, he would spin around very quickly and elbow the man either on the chin or the side of the head. He could deliver this blow from either side and lighting fast. My companion said that very often an ambulance would need to be called and they would take his opponent off on a stretcher. What works on the street, sometimes cannot be used in the dojo. That is one; last ditch technique, to keep in your toolbox.
Some years later while training at my Gym, I tried to punch a heavy leather punch bag. It was so hard that I nearly broke my hand, I remembered John and set to with elbow strikes, and had it swinging like a hammock in a gale. I noticed that when you use a circular elbow strike if you miss your target but keep turning then you will automatically come into the correct distance for a perfect back elbow.
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Dec 13 2008
I’ve been asked on numerous occasions what do I look for when I observe someone’s karate. This question arises particularly in relationship to testing ranks from white belt to dan. I offer the following in order to help each student and each instructor have a clearer understanding of what I recognize as quality and depth in the demonstration of karate.
This quality and depth is dependent on the cohesive understanding and integrated manifestation of the components of karate – body, mind and spirit. Initially, these are experienced as independent and separate from one another. Body does not communicate with mind, mind is unaware of the body, and spirit is absent. Sanchin, in its translation as three conflicts, presents the opportunity to resolve and integrate body, mind and spirit as One. It is my hope that through the offering of these guidelines that integration can occur and ever grow as a practice for each of you.
1) Grounding: feeling the support of the ground through the feet. a) The feet are firmly and directly repositioned in each stance after each step. b) The feet plant and then root themselves into the ground (lifted toes or “loose” heels weaken this grounding). c) The feet are in a dynamic relationship with ground and body. This means that the energy of intent -incorporating both mindfulness and intrinsic energy (qi) – reaches from the feet into the ground and flows upwards into the whole body.
2) Centering: the understanding of the dan tien or belly in karate. a) The weight of the body positions itself appropriately in each stance. b) All movements connect to and radiate outward from the dan tien. (Reliance upon upper body strength as the primary strength negates the connection to the dan tien.) c) General emptiness in the dan tien is usually caused by a lack of intent being placed there or through the presence of tension or fear, both of which will cause the centre to rise into the chest area or higher. d) All movements are supported by the slight firming or compacting of the dan tien in coordination with the movement to activate the flow of qi.
3) Flow: the ease of movement in all of its various “flavours” (the activation of appropriate body mechanics in support of each individual movement). a) Tension creates rigid or uneven movement. b) The transition from movement to movement or stance to stance needs to occur with fluidity. c) The use of individual (not meaning personal) “flavours” creates a rich vocabulary of movement as opposed to a sameness of movement. Sameness arises from the tendency to want to make all movements feel strong in the same way. If the function of each movement is understood and felt, its unique “flavour” will show.
4) Power: the natural heaviness in all movement as well the impact of each strike as the body supports the completion of each extension. a) The whole body responds and supports the movement as it begins, transits and finishes. b) There is an integration of body mechanics and intent. c) Movements of the limbs do not occur in isolation from the rest of the body. d) Body habits (poor posture etc.) are corrected. e) The body supports but does not compensate (i.e. by leaning in an opposite direction) for each movement. f) There is an alignment of structure (bone, ligament, tendon and muscle) to support each movement and impact.
5) Precision: all movements have a clear beginning, middle and end point. a) All movements demonstrate their potential with detail and refinement. b) There is a sharp, vivid quality to each movement. c) Gaps in the mindfulness of a movement (i.e. lifting the shoulder with a punch) are seen and eliminated.
6) Speed: the velocity of a movement to support power and flow and to create impact. a) Speed issues forth in a manner that is appropriate to the effectiveness of a movement. b) Unequal speed in the extension and retraction of a movement is avoided. c) Too much speed in which a movement’s fullness is sacrificed is avoided. d) Too little speed in which an opponent’s body is not shocked (an important aspect of contact which allows for deep penetration) is avoided. e) The creation of an appropriate pause in the cycle of extension/retraction allows the transference of power and intent.
1) Intent: the clear commitment to a movement involving both the body and the qi. It is a summoning of all of the resources in an appropriate way. a) Each movement and stance projects and radiates the resources of commitment. b) The eyes (the Uechi “glare”) project an intense clarity of commitment. c) There is no self resistance (i.e. dynamic tension) or ambivalence present in movement.
2) Mindfulness: spaciousness and clarity of being. a) All aspects of the body are clearly felt. b) The body and intent is felt in an integrated way at the same time as an individual movement is also felt. c) The function of each movement is understood and informs each movement. d) The potential for change is always present in the moment. e) One is not distracted by thought or emotion. f) The mind is not “set” but flows freely from thing to thing, moment to moment.
3) Self: the body/mind experience of “me-ness” . a) One is not conflicted by self-judgment. b) Feelings of self are relaxed into mindfulness. c) One does not indulge in the pride of self inflation and glorification. d) The bow is practised with gratitude for the Way of Karate rather than as a formality. e) Fear and anger are no longer binding as both solo and partner work take place. They no longer manifest in the clear spaciousness of being.
a) Martial spirit is the evidence of martial force manifesting upon the integration of mind and body. There is not simply the demonstration of personal physical prowess but the clear flow of one or all of the collective forces of the martial art. In Uechi-ryu, this includes embodying the martial forces of dragon, crane and tiger. b) The Way of Karate comes alive and manifests throughout one’s entire life. c) The relationship of student to teacher is one of humility and is heartfelt as is the relationship of teacher to student. The teacher/student relationship further includes clarity, vision and compassion.
The various forms of karate, such as katas, drills, etc., are the means by which all that I have just described occurs. There are no fixed goals in karate that are ever achievable, because the practise of karate would then be limited and perhaps finite. So the last thing I look for is the practitioner’s relationship to karate as a student.
a) I’ve met many a practitioner who would change or re-arrange the forms to suit their own personal needs, desires or dislikes, not recognizing that to do so effectively deprives them of the inherent understanding that can spontaneously come alive in the practice of these physical movements. Katas have been practiced by many for centuries, and as the student aligns and attunes to them in right relationship, then the understanding of karate can fill each one as the movement is occurring. From this depth of foundation, each person can evolve via karate, which is the very means by which karate evolves.
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Dec 13 2008
By Dorothy B. Reitman, Uechi-Ryu Karate
The lay public and newcomers to the martial arts tend to consider the most serious injuries that a person may inflict upon another to be percussive injuries such as the breaking of bones or head injuries. However, strikes that may not even cause bruising could possibly lead to serious injury or even death. [Stephen Drehobl]
The karate style, “Uechi Ryu Karate- Do” contains such a movement that contemporary practitioners still struggle to understand. The strike is called Boshuken Morote Zuki in Japanese, which simply means, “thumb-knuckle strike with both hands”.
The black circles in the above drawing are the strike zones.
We will refer to the person performing the strike as “A” and the person struck as “B”. “A” drives both hands straightforward in nearly simultaneous bilateral palm heel/thumb knuckle strikes. In kata, the movements are as follows: “A”‘s right hand, starting at the ilium, strikes “B” on the left ilium; “A”‘s left hand, starting at the pectoralis muscle strikes the right pectoralis muscle of “B”. In other words, “A” strikes targets on “B” correspond to his/her own kata starting points. It is important to note that the strike when delivered in a real fight would probably not begin from the origin points in kata. The hands would simply srike from where ever they happened to be at the moment. The kata provides the key to unlocking the mystery of one possible application of this movement by cryptically informing the practitioner where the strike is to be placed on the opponent. The power for this strike is not confined to movement of the arms. It comes initially from the ground /feet, progressing to the knees, hips, waist, and subsequently up the spine and out to the arms to the thumbs. .
In order to understand the implications of the Boshuken Morote Zuki, we will examine the anatomy and physiology of the heart beat cycle.
The SA node (sinoatrial node) lies in the right atrium beneath the opening of the superior vena cava. See figure 18-2a. Each cardiac cycle is initiated by the SA node and sets the basic pace for the heart rate. The SA node is the pacemaker of the heart. The SA node initiates electrical impulses that spread out over both atria causing them to contract. The impulse then passes to the AV (atrioventricular node) located near the bottom of the interatrial septum. (Between the atrium and ventricle.) Contraction of ventricles is stimulated by the Purkinje fibers. [Principles of Anatomy and Physiology Gerard J. Tortora, Nicholas P. Anagnostakos ]
The operation of the SA node can be disrupted by shock, such as a physical strike to that area of the torso. When something disrupts the SA node the AV node takes over to initiate a basic pace for the heart rate. When both the SA node and the AV node are Almost simultaneously disrupted, the heartbeat can be dangerously affected. The heart could be profoundly affected to the point of cessation of function.
When the right hand strikes the Ilium a shock wave radiates across the torso, while at the opposite “corner” of the torso, the left hand strikes, which also generates a shock wave across the torso in the opposite direction. The proximity to the heart and the SA and AV nodes may allow the shock waves of the strikes to disrupt the operation of the SA, AV nodes and thereby disrupt the timing of the heartbeat cycle. How serious the strike is depends on where in the heart beat cycle the subject is when hit. The intensity of the strike may not have to be very strong in order to have devastating results. An interesting subtlety was noted by Mr. James Thompson, who pointed out that the potential energy in this movement is amplified by the whiplike phenomenon of the hand corresponding to the forward foot always striking almost simultaneously before the hand corresponding to the rear foot. [Oral seminar communication ]
In training, I was struck very lightly with the Boshuken Morote Zuki, and observed that my heart fluttered and that some light headedness occurred. The strike appeared to disrupt the rhythm of my heart. From my perspective as a registered nurse, I believe that the results of this strike could be very serious, even lethal .
Severe disruption of the heart’s life sustaining function is not confined to the martial arts.
In the Philadelphia area alone, several recent newscasts have reported that baseball players struck in the chest by the baseball subsequently lost consciousness and died. A five year old girl in Kyoto, Japan playing catch with friends died after having been struck in the chest by a rubber ball [Mainichi Shimbin, March 17, 2002]
Dorothy Reitman has been studying Uechi Ryu Karate at the Uechi Ryu Karate Academy in Collegeville from Sensei Stephen Drehobl, Yandan since January 2000. She received her Shodan from Sensei James Thompson, Shihan Kyoshi Hachidan June 6, 2003. She has been a registered nurse since July 9, 1977.
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Dec 13 2008
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Dec 13 2008
Bringing back the Best Uechi has to Offer:
Remember Thompson Island?
How about the ’85 Winter Camp on Okinawa, or the Masters’ first visit to the old Mattson Academy?
Maybe you were there for each of those events. Or, maybe like me, some of them exist only as old “Uechi legends” – tales the old guard talks about with friends and students after a hard workout or over a couple of beers.
When you recount these stories, how do they make you feel? Happy? Proud? Glad that you were there and “got involved”? I thought so. Me, too.
You know, the opportunity to create some new memories for your students and your school is alive and well today. Our Uechi Championships, Summer Camp and regional Exchange Workouts are just as fun and exciting today as they were 20 years ago! Just one visit will have your students psyched for the next one all year long!
And how does that benefit you? Your school? The answer is really very simple.
Getting your students involved in our traditional events keeps them motivated to continue training for months, sometimes years! Participation gives your students goals – something to shoot for other than “just another Thursday night workout”. That means students stay enrolled longer, creating a stronger, more reliable base for your dojo.
So what do you say? Encourage your students to get involved and give them the chance to create their own “lifetime legends”. Hey, it worked for us, didn’t it?
P.S. Wouldn’t you like to give a few of your students a taste of the “good ole’ days”? You can do that simply by getting involved! visit the tournament, attend Summer Camp ’99, or call an old Karate friend to work out! Let’s bring back the best of what Uechi had to offer – TODAY!
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Dec 13 2008
The path which we take as Uechi-ryu Artist is one of self discovery. It could be said that there are many “levels” to this self discovery but, just as each piece of a hologram contains the complete information to make the entire hologram, each “level” contains the same potential for complete growth as all or the other “levels”. We call it a path, and paths usually guide us from place to place but in reality, this path is a circle. Despite the gradual attainment of rank, which marks the development of one’s skill and knowledge, many of us will continue to discover new and ever more subtle lessons as we return again and again to what we may have thought was material already absorbed and which no longer required our attention.
Nevertheless, what is discovered along this path often reveals itself in a natural – though unrestricted order. That order is presented with the understanding that just as our effort may turn towards new directions, what has been learned must continue to be relearned and refined. Even though it is possible to learn most of the martial arts movements in a few short years, the depth and flavor of those movements will be ever changing according to one’s growth. Like these movements, the depth and flavor of one’s life will also be ever changing in the process.
Fear and Anger:
We have all undoubtedly been victims at some point in our lives whether as a child or as an adult. This victimization takes many forms, from the emotional to the physical, from the subtle to the horrific. The most basic aim in Uechi-ryu practice is for each of us to develop the confidence that we can protect ourselves. In doing so, we take a significant step forward towards removing fear from our lives and preventing the potential for any future victimization.
Anger is the complement to fear in that it often unconsciously arises in response to one’s sublimated experience(s) of being a victim. Unresolved fear and anger is frequently the unconscious motivation for the adult who makes victims out of others. Uechi-ryu schools unfortunately have their share of teachers who do not recognize this and use fear/anger in their dojo (karate school) to create an unhealthy emotional environment, thereby preventing the resolution of these two negative and debilitating emotions. Developing skill and power as a martial artist without the opportunity for personal growth is both undesirable and dangerous. A developing confidence in one’s ability as a martial artist, must be accompanied by developing the personal qualities of integrity, wisdom, humility and compassion. Recognize fear/anger as you would recognize unnecessary tension in your body. As you train and remake your body, learn to see these emotions and release them. If they cannot be easily released, channel and transform the energy into the intensity of your training.
The mind is what moves the body. In the beginning of one’s training, the mind is fully occupied with learning how to move the body correctly with individual and sequenced movements. There is no extra mind-space for daydreaming or maintaining our habituated internal dialogue. At the intermediate and advanced levels, the mind should be applied towards attention and intention. Here there is difficulty however. The body can now move itself with only a little intention, leaving the opportunity for the mind to wander without the mind’s attention. Intention can never fully develop. This is because at the higher levels of mastery, it is intention which activates the chi (our intrinsic energy) to augment muscle strength and efficiency. The chi can only be activated by using one’s attention to discover what is at first only a very subtle feeling.
Intention requires that the mind be fully and completely engaged in each individual movement as well as the flow of movements. As one progresses, there is more and more to be discovered in the feeling and flavor of each movement. Always be attentive to the inside of the body as well as the outside of the body. Let the body and the mind become one.
If the body is weak or unhealthy, one’s external strength will be insufficient as a martial artist.Cultivate a natural desire to develop the strength needed to support your martial arts growth and practice. This must be in harmony with the totality of your development, as over emphasis on one’s external strength will also restrict one’s progress. There is an old martial arts saying that with the accumulation of excessive external strength, the “core will rot.”
Eat healthfully and with awareness of how food nourishes the body. Allow yourself the necessary sleep and rest to regenerate the body. Drink pure water and seek out pure air, breathing deeply to rid the body of the accumulated toxins of the modern urban environment.
Learned negative physical habits or restrictive patterns of body movement contradict one’s development of strength and must be unlearned. Become aware of how the body communicates the messages of the self to others.
Developing the jing, or physical power, is more than simply strengthening the body so that one’s techniques are effective. It is learning the correct body mechanics so that the body completely supports the purpose or application of each movement. An arm which moves without the support of the body utilizes only 10% of one’s total strength. An arm which moves with the body’s support utilizes 90% (excluding the other arm) of one’s total strength. Physical power is dependent upon the centering of one’s body and the integrity of one’s stances and posture. The hands should always strike with the support of the feet; the body should root into the earth to achieve heaviness or should float like a cloud to achieve lightness.
Renew your awareness of your breath and how it empowers the movement of the body. Sink the breath for heaviness, float it for lightness. Store the breath to accumulate strength, release it to discharge strength.
Naturally coordinate the body with the senses to enable accurately timed movements without accurate timing, physical power will be either wasted or cut short. Like a tiger preparing to leap, learn to gather your energy, learn to wait and know when to move for the greatest advantage.
As one’s body ages, it becomes more and more necessary to cultivate the internal energy to offset one’s naturally declining youthful strength. Besides aging, this cultivation comes about as the result of your Uechi-ryu Practice “reaching the right temperature”. It is not only the practice of mindful intention, it comes from the process of learning of stillness. If you can learn to let go of the internal dialogue when not moving, you can discover the wholehearted power of intention when moving.
Through meditation, whether standing or seated, discover the three stillness’s: stillness of body, stillness of breath, stillness of mind. Of course, complete and absolute stillness is impossible but as one experiences more and more of the fine and subtle through approaching a point of stillness, the ordinary limits of the mind/body become open and unbounded.
The breath is the key to life. Shift your awareness to this essential element and discover how it flows through the body without limit.
Chi requires that you allow yourself the feeling of the subtle. As you work with this awareness of the subtle, it becomes magnified and will greatly aid your martial arts practice. It will also greatly aid your intention. This carries with it a responsibility to control your intentions. How will you use this energy, to take life or to give it?
The shen, or your spirit, must become strong, bright and clear through the regular practice of martial arts and meditation. The shen is best seen in your eyes. A powerful shen cannot be faked by making a dramatic facial expression. It should be an ever present clarity and liveliness but capable of an intense projection which some claim can even make the eyes glow in the dark. A Uechi-ryu artist should carry her/himself with a natural quiet dignity that is neither arrogant nor heavy. The eyes will register bad intentions and will carry the accumulation of such intentions with a duality of darkness regardless of their appearance. This darkness is called “bad shen” and will mark the person as clearly as if he wore a sign warning others of his intentions.
The eyes also give strength to the body movements. Without strong eyes, there cannot be strong movement.
Encourage the development of your spirit by committing 100% of yourself to every movement. If your spirit is lax, your body will be lax. If your body is lax, then your practice is empty. But if you put energy into your eyes, your spirit will miraculously rise up in even a tired body, providing you with renewed energy.
Form, Feeling, and Function
These three words alone provide the key to quality Uechi-ryu practice. To have good form, one must understand the function of each movement and must feel that function. To have feeling, one must be keenly aware of the inner quality (as though one’s eyes are gazing inward) of each movement, the outer purpose of its function, and the flow of the transition to the next movement. To have correct function, the movements must have the integrity of good form with the feeling of intention. If you practice these three things, your ability will always continue to grow. Without any one of these three things, your development will be limited.
Balancing the training
Keeping all parts of our practice in balance is important. It is true that from time to time, each of us may devote our effort primarily to one area or another depending upon our need. Still, while recognizing our strengths and weaknesses as martial artists, it is important not to avoid a part of our training which may cause us more difficulty than the others.
Martial arts master Liang Shouyu writes of this balance of training and practice and his words are adapted below:
A person who only fights is nothing more than a brawler.
A person who only practices his/her forms without being able to apply them, is nothing more than a dancer.
A person who theorizes about the martial arts without being able to demonstrate his/her knowledge is only an armchair theorist.
A person who practices all of these without applying the martial arts to the art of living misses the inner usefulness of all of this activity.
A person who practices all of these, applies it to the art of living and takes great pleasure from this effort, is a true martial artist.
Openness and the Miraculous
The ultimate goal of learning self defense is to become open. This means that through the process of becoming secure in your ability as a Uechi-ryu artist, the need to be defensive diminishes and eventually evaporates. When that happens it is possible to perceive the unity of this world without the quality of “me and other” or the perceptive boundaries of inside and outside. This is called the spiritual or the mystical. It is also called the miraculous. From this openness springs many of the legends about martial arts masters. In fact this openness, this unity, is our birthright. All young children have it and most lose it in the process of growing into adulthood. But as this is a natural process of loss, the path of the Uechi-ryu artist provides us with the means to return to this openness.
The most highly skilled masters were often able to defeat their opponents through what appeared to be only the most minimal, often casual effort. Efficiency of effort is only possible if: there is no mental gap between you and your opponent; you have an attentive and creative openness to your opponent; you have a mirror like clarity with the ability to reflect back precisely what appears in front of you; you can spontaneously command your skill with complete and extraordinary ease.
But so far we have only been talking about fighting. Most of us seldom have to fight for reasons other than training. Nevertheless, all of the principles of “walking this path” can and should be useful to everything in one’s life. One can perform even the most mundane task with wholehearted attention and intention. In doing so, Uechi-ryu mastery should become the “art of life” mastery. This means that you can live moment to moment applying yourself completely and appropriately. This provides us with freedom in that, while we can never change the things that happen to us, we can change how we respond to them. We cannot change the circumstances of our birth, but we can change the way that we live. Even so this is an active practice which can never be assumed just as even the most advanced masters still drill themselves on the fundamentals.
No doubt, every day, each of us encounters and has to respond to diverse problems. Fundamentally, this is no different than our martial arts knowing how to parry and block, side step and avoid, absorb and discharge, cut short and jam, or leap in suddenly, are techniques which are clearly available to us in our lives and interpersonal relationships as well as our Uechi-ryu. Can you act completely and spontaneously?
One final importance to being open is the possibility for insight. It is insight into our lives which provides us with the opportunity to develop integrity, wisdom, humility and compassion as people. These are personal qualities which have to be earned every day of our lives. So how do you live your life? What self discovery has your Uechi-ryu art practice led you to? Do you understand yourself and your life? Do you naturally and unselfconsciously demonstrate your openness?
If you discover the true path of the Uechi-ryu artist, you will find that you can walk that circle repeatedly without it becoming a rut, without the familiar becoming the mundane, and with endless opportunities for self discovery.
Cold Mountain Uechi-ryu Dojo
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