Deep Arts of Goju-Ryu Karatejutsu Follow the links to the pages on TCM and Internal Arts for more details
It is important here to recognize that the original creators and founders of Okinawan Karate did not see their styles as all that different from one another beyond the particular kata practiced and their personal philosophies and experiences. The greatest differences were between those masters whose studies were limited only on Okinawa and those that were privileged enough to have studied on mainland China or other countries and/or had personal relationships with practitioners of other styles outside of Okinawa.
One analogy would be that of chefs from different cooking styles. Although there may be differences between French and Italian cuisine, the chefs receive common training that is basic to all chefs; the proper use and care of knives, an understanding of herbs, spices and seasoning, different types of meats and the most beneficial cutting methods, etc. These "basics" or "cooking kihon" allow one chef from one style to quickly learn that of another. The main differences would be those relative to the specific region and those of the experiences and philosophies. But in watching the chefs there would an indiscernable difference in their actions.
With that being said, the following ideas and concepts are transferable to any style of Karate, Okinawan or Japanese, as well as those styles that were directly derived from Karate including Taekwondo and Tangsoodo; just as most of the original Okinawa arts are derivatives of Chinese and other Asian arts. In this case we are simply using Goju-Ryu as the physical means to transmit this information.
"Lost Art of Karate"... With the introduction of Karate into the public school systems of Okinawa in the late 1800's and early 1900's to help physically prepare young men for military enlistment, the "secret techniques" of these arts were removed, making Karate an art of "punch-kick-block". Several instructors at this time created "training" kata, such as the GekiSai Kata (Goju-Ryu) and the Pinan Kata (Shorin-Ryu), making it easier for the general public to learn the "new" Karate and propagate its growth. The classical kata, considered "deadly" by pure design, were kept for the personal students.
The creation of systematized competition in Japanese society, brought about by the Meiji Era (a post feudal period stressing education and democracy from 1868-1911), the original intent of kata would be set aside. Within the high schools and universities of Okinawa and Japan, karate would no longer be taught as a civil defense art. "Rules of play" and player safety would require dramatic changes to the once lethal techniques and practices that were the original Okinawan life protection arts.
Aesthetic appearance became more significant than functionality. Stances, hand formations, timing, individual movements and sequences were altered to allow for a more dramatic performance. Effective low kicks were replaced with less effective mid and head level kicks for audience appeal. The soft, flowing movements characterized by the influence of the internal arts of China (Shaolin, White Crane, Tiger and other animal based systems of taijixuan and xingyixuan, for example) were made "harder" and more dynamic, giving kata a more "obvious" strong appearance. Some styles even went as far as to permanently delete some of these "flowery, seemingly non-effective" movements from their kata.
As the second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) slowed the movement to formalize karate in Japan, WWII arguably had the greatest impact in designing today's karate. Acceptance by the US and other occupying military governments was key for the Japanese to regain acceptance among the rest of the world. Karate and judo aided in this undertaking. Some Okinawan karate practitioners were contracted to teach the occupying military for physical fitness and to give the soldiers something "to do" in their down time. Competitions were sponsored between local base dojo and different branches of the military and occupying countries. These veterans returning to their respective countries gave way to probably the single most significant rise to karate's spread and popularity throughout the world.
Tatsuo Shimabukuru, founder of Isshinryu, went to the extreme of creating a style specifically designed to teach Westerners. He simplified and/or changed many of the techniques and altered the original kata to make it easier to teach and learn. In doing so, he furthered the dilution of karate. The gap between the "old" karate and the new sport karate became even more expansive. Line of reasoning... As discussed earlier in the Kata section, beyond the obvious techniques of Karate lie the most valuable of all aspects; the understanding of the relationship of man to all things in the universe which gave way to powerful medical sciences and a very defined application of this paradigm to all things. Many of these "ancient" medical and life practices are scientifically proven and alive in today's scientific based medicine including pharmacology, surgery, anesthesia, autopsies, preventive medicine, proper diet and more. To truly understand the "modern" style of karate that we practice today, we must discover and study their origins.
Think of kata as a house. In it of course will be bedrooms, a den, kitchen, etc. Some of the rooms will be pre-assigned due to plumbing requirements and the like, while others will be determined after the occupants move in.
Until it is inhabited it is an empty shell. And though each room my suggest an intention, it is not until the people move in that the house and each specific room take on a genuine identity and becomes full of life. The same applies to kata and Karate in general.
Without the comprehension of the laws and sciences that were utilized by the originators of the martial arts, kata is an empty shell with little purpose beyond competition and/or promotion requirement. These next few pages will help define this understanding and hopefully bring about a more realistic and viable understanding of the true nature of the practices of the martial arts.
Not all is as it seems... Every kata is made up of individual techniques, i.e. high block, front stance, reverse punch, etc. For the most part, many of these techniques seem unrealistic in a real time self defense situation and to that I whole heartedly agree. I would "never" use a "high block" to defend against an over head attack or face punch... at least not as it is expressly taught. Just the term "high block" would seem to limit it's ability to defend against anything other than a head attack.
Subsequently, a term like "high block" implies the main emphasis of intent or execution on the "blocking" arm. Little importance, if any, is placed on what is generally considered the "chamber" or "support" arm. In all reality, one motion or arm relies on it's counterpart just as walking requires balanced movement and full support of both legs as well as balance between the legs and arms. Weaken or lessen the importance of one and the entire body suffers.
But what if the "motions" of a high block could be understood and utilized in defense against attacks from differing directions (front-side-back) and levels (low-mid-upper)? Therefore, rather than the term "high block" being used to refer to a specified defense against a head level attack as its nomenclature would intend, let the term suggest specific motions substantiated with precise mechanics and principles that can then be utilized in a multitude of self protection applications.
Pick up any book on the martial arts that details a pattern of movement like a kata and you will see that the pictures depict the "end" of a motion. Little or no emphasis is placed on the importance of getting to that point. Understandably the availability of space and relevant cost for that space limits how much can be placed on a book's page. However most of the authors of such books do not offer any preface to the importance of the "journey" over "being there".
Enter the "Bunkai".... Just as most books focus largely on the end result of a motion, the explanations of those movements, or bunkai, to students in real time isn't much different. Herein lies the greatest fault. The instructor offers the student explanations for a particular move from the last frame of a series of frames or "snapshot" with little or no consequence on the frames of movement involved in the entire motion. Just as one may travel from home to a vacation sight, it is the preparation and understanding of all that is involved in "getting there" that makes the vacation an enjoyable success.
Bunkai has become grossly misconstrued and blatantly abused by many in an attempt to achieve notoriety and personal gain. Because bunkai in the West has intentionally, by some, been mystically associated with "ancient secrets of the Far East", the invitation to jump on this martial arts bandwagon presented an undeniable appeal for many around the world. This lead to the inevitability of others to capitalize on what would become a distinct, formalized field of study; even an art all to itself. Fortunately, the mal-intent by some has lead others to seek and realize the true nature of the martial arts, secrets and all.
The term bunkai is made up of two kanji which can be translated as "dissect; breakdown; analyze; explore". As with any exploration or analysis, though many answers are discovered, more questions are incited. Any doctrine offered must be presented with sound and proven evidence to meet and hopefully defend against the certain onslaught of attacks. In many cases, these "attacks" do more to prove a doctrine than disprove... that is if the doctrine's presenter has done his homework.
As with anything, time and opportunity will offer new issues or attacks. This would suggest that there is no one single answer and that any answer offered is continually subject to scrutiny and criticism and therefore subject to redefining in accordance with any new applied evidence.
The idea of change or alteration would create a thorn in the side of most "traditional" martial artists in their belief that a style must remain exactly the same as handed down from it's founder and is void of inspection or improvement. They would insist there is but one "bunkai" or interpretation, and for anyone to offer anything new would be an insinuation that this person would know more than the founder and that, in the traditionalists' mind, is an impossibility.
Alternately, many would suggest the application of a technique or segment of a kata must be performed exactly as it is demonstrated in the kata. Again this would minimize the effectiveness of the technique(s) and void the technician from asserting any of the "combative postures" or concepts learned from real time application.
Just as one may practice a technique or combination in preparation for sparring, once applied in free sparring it is inevitable that the execution of that technique or combination will be subject to every possible factor and cause alteration, even deletion, of that technique or combination. Application of a technique or segment of a kata is therefore dependent on the same factors. Only through continued study and scrutiny can one truly begin to understand the strengths and weaknesses inherent in every technique or part thereof.
Scrutiny and criticism can come in many forms. Physical combat against another in an attempt to save life and limb is the ultimate form of scrutiny. Every feasible situation that could present itself will. Height, weight, speed, reach, power, experience, differing weapons, surroundings, etc. are all real-time sources to cause review. It becomes more important for the author or creator to do everything in his power to disprove his own design before anyone else has the opportunity.
That means he must not only apply whatever resources are readily available but he must seek out and include any person or form of knowledge, experience or extenuating factor, however bizarre it may appear, as functional evidence keeping in mind that any failure is an indispensable identifying factor for continued studies. Just as a boxer training for a title fight selects sparring partners that will test and increase his abilities, so must the "karate scientist" advance the same to ensure success.
There is nothing mysterious about bunkai. Nor does bunkai reveal any "super, secret death technique" hidden away in a karate move. Bunkai is nothing more than what is applied in any business on a daily basis. Or practiced by students, car mechanics, song writers, animal breeders, etc. Bunkai is simply the dissection of a thing to it's simplest component, thorough examination of all it's parts, individually and in composition, and the application of all known and possible influences to better understand and improve.
On the other side of the coin, without bunkai, any martial art would suffer the same fatal consequences that medicine would without continued study and research. Bunkai also serves to maintain the martial arts ties of its creators and their undeniable genius and incite.
Karate as a language... Analogize kata to mathematics. Mathematics is a language invented to explain those things in life that cannot be explained in ordinary terms. In the beginning one has to understand numerical values. Then the exercises of addition, subtraction, multiplication and subtraction are introduced. Models such as variables, fractions, symbols and others come into play as well. These become the foundation of more defined mathematics like algebra, geometry, trigonometry, etc.
The execution of principles (addition, subtraction, etc.) become more important than any numerical value in that while the numerical values may change, the execution of principles remains constant. The deeper the understanding the more complex a simple equation can become. For example a+1=2. It is easily understood that "a"=1. But "a" could represent an elaborate equation whose sum represents the value of 1. Hence, a high block can represent a=1 in it's simplest form or a high block can be a compilation of applied sciences, concepts and principles with unlimited understanding and application.
How many times have you heard, if not from your own lips, "How will geometry or algebra help me in the real world?" Retrospectively, I believe that question is asked largely due to the manner in which these sciences are taught without any implied application past the obvious. Let me offer a few reasons why and how they may apply and an analogy to the martial arts.
Personally, I feel any study increases our ability to learn and process all types of information through defined understandings and continued uncertainties. It lays down definitive concepts and principles while the values continually change giving different but valid results. The most minimal change of a value in an equation can result in an extraordinary change of the sum.
Secondly, though both geometry and algebra may seem difficult and separate entities, they are smaller components of much higher forms of math which are necessary in other sciences like chemistry and physics. Without their understanding, learning the higher forms would be extremely difficult if not impossible.
Karate and it's kata, like math, is a language all to itself. It was developed to help explain and identify precise principles, values, applications, etc. A single motion or "variable" may represent a lengthy and heavily detailed equation worthy of its own study. It is imperative to learn and understand this language and to quickly identify and apply exact principles and concepts. To those uneducated in the original "language" of karate, this would all sound alien. However, the more learned martial artist subconsciously acknowledges and assimilates these underlying concepts quite readily.
This was the world of the ancient developers of the martial arts. They had a language and understanding of a world alien to us in many ways. As technology has improved life and sped up our ability to gather information, we must not forsake the past however primitive or obsolete it may seem. Just as a paleontologist's study of the past helps us to better understand our world today and that of our future, so must the cultures and "languages" of martial arts past be understood to help us understand the martial arts of today. Toritejutsu, the brainchild of Professors Tom Muncy and Rick Moneymaker, is a system of definitive study applicable to any style or school of martial arts. It's tagging is derived from the term "torite", used by Gichin Funakoshi in his book "To-Te Jutsu". Torite is interchangeable with other well known terms as toudi, tuite and tegumi, all which refer to the original combative Okinawan arts. Torite can be interpreted as "grappling hand" or "grabbing hand". Likewise as previously seen, any literal translation is far from complete. "Jutsu", as a suffix, represents the combative nature or science of the ancient Eastern arts versus "do" (tao in Chinese) which is used to describe today's emphasis on personal and social betterment through disciplined training. The implication of "jutsu" is therefore placed on the emphasis of life protection techniques rather than as a sport or socio-philosophical agenda.
Do not get the wrong idea. Just because the techniques can be devastating and seemingly brutal, Toritejutsu is not socially brutal. Toritejutsu is not void of the laws of society but encompasses them as part of its training. Many of its instructors and affiliates are members of or in some fashion associated with law enforcement agencies. The "laws of the land", just as in ancient times, must be understood.
The purpose of Toritejutsu is to supply and exchange evidentiary research to foster deep, intense study of the original fighting arts of the ancient East among like-minded individuals. Toritejutsu, as a specialized field of study, has spread throughout the world with schools throughout the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Shihan McMains is one of the original founding members of Dragon Society International and one of the first to receive Black Belt ranking and instructor certification in Toritejutsu.
Toritejutsu's emphasis is on the study of the combative side of the martial arts where most "rules of play" do not apply. The foundation of study is based on the sciences and concepts of a culture that gave birth to Chinese and other Asian medical and life practices, including acupuncture, and ultimately lead to today's scientific based Western medicine. Where most schools of "pressure point fighting" concentrate on either Eastern or Western thought, Toritejutsu focuses on the inseparable relationship of both in application and study. Within Toritejutsu are more defined applications including kyushojutsu (acupressure point striking/manipulation), atemijutsu (percussive body striking) and tuitejutsu (joint/muscle/connective tissue manipulation). Though these can be taught separate from one another as one might separately study the organs of the body, their combined presence is essential.
This understanding is not enough if one cannot readily apply it in a real time situation. The proponent must understand combative postures or concepts as well. These combative concepts include: - Distancing - Targeting or Placement of Technique - Timing - Body Alignment - Footwork - Balance - "Listening" / "Sensing".... and more
Although these seem rather simple, nothing could be farther from the truth. Applying them along with the acquired knowledge as expressed above, requires hours upon hours of practice and failure. It is through failure that the student understands the realistic nature of a combative confrontation and learns.
Many of today's "masters" have never been exposed to the original intent of their respective arts as they were only taught the modern version. Therefore, in many styles the original intent and understanding of their arts literally no longer exists. However, there are some schools that have kept a lifeline to the past. Since Okinawan karate or Ryukyu Kempo has it's roots in other Asian arts and almost all Japanese and Korean "karate-style" arts have their roots in Okinawan Karate,Toritejutsu is the perfect addition to anyone's martial study and will fill in many of the "blanks" and "mysteries".