"The Author, it must be remembered, writes from his own standpoint!"
My personal "Interpretive" Lens!
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"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon
Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.
Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.
It is the ongoing evolution of humans that progress due to the actions or inaction's of their predecessors. Our ancestry is what provides earned and learned properties that are shared with others in our bloodline so ancestry or lineage in karate is the inherited system knowledge that is shared with others in our dojo line, lineage.
In our personal growth our history, our lineage, our ancestors are relationships between one another that share a genealogical origin. That origin as to survival per nature's requirements means and meant life of death - the continuation of the family line. Isn't this the impetus that drives us to know and understand our karate lineage.
We then share a type of genealogical origin with the master through technical, cultural and historical descent. Isn't knowing and understanding lineage a form of a line of descent where each new practitioner becomes proficient from the result of a direct speciation from that immediate ancestral teacher, Sensei? As each iteration of a lineage appears it is also a new and distinct form that results from the natural evolution of each person ergo why it is so important to resist dogmatic adherence to the exactness once a level of proficiency and knowledge are attained.
Dogmatic adherence, it does stunt the growth potential of the system thus stopping its evolution basically "killing it" where its survival is jeopardized.
In closing it may seem ridiculous to exert so much mental energy claiming a specific lineage but it just may be a natural way like sleeping, dreaming and living life. There is, of course, a limit to how much is focused on lineage to the point of the ridiculous. When a group is so closed because of lineage then they also fall into a stunted and detrimental stage where extinction is ofter the result. If the world said it would not venture outside of the family lineage would the world today be as diverse and exciting as it is today? We might still be living in caves if not for a willingness to merge strong lineages forming a newer lineage or ancestry.
So, if your lineage is important to you, your dojo and your fellow karate-ka then why do we, generally, ignore an important aspect of our lineage, culture and beliefs of those who came before? Are we so caught up in titles, belts, trophies and accolades with self back slapping etc that we don't give cultures and beliefs their due?
This is worth considering.
First question, apparently a word or term or phrase can assume different meanings. It is not always dictated as to English by the dictionary definition. It can change according the the culture and their beliefs when they use a term, word or phrase. Often, in the past anyway, when it is used enough and accepted by a larger body of people it is often added to the dictionary as another meaning along with its relation causing the change.
Not to far in the past a city near where I live tried to even get a city ordnance/law to declare the slang usage of a particular culture/group to be accepted as a language. It, in my opinion, would have been a huge mistake if it had passed but that is how it comes about sometimes.
Usually the word, term or phrase new meaning is not far off from its original intended meaning. It is sometimes simply a modified version to suit the situation and the new intent. A bit like pronouncing tomato where the "a" is stressed one way or the other but with the same end meaning.
The Japanese language and kanji/kana characters are more fluid than the English dictionary. This is a blessing and a curse for it makes it difficult for Westerners to know "exactly" its meaning and it also makes it difficult for Japanese too. Often their words and characters take on different meanings as to when, how and who uses it. One word means one thing if used in a martial art content and another in a say arts and crafts content.
What am I getting at here, well the use of words, terms and phrases in our practice of karate-jutsu-so like the use of karate to encompass almost anything that is Asian sport oriented systems. MMA, grappling, aikido, etc. in a lot of instances will be billed on a training facility as "karate." Then there is the clumping of systems under the moniker of "martial art." Karate is not a martial art per say in my view yet I use that term a lot and so do a lot of others.
If this is incorrect then what do we do. In a nutshell the traditional practitioners will use it correctly, mostly. In general since the entire nation of America and in most probably the world uses it to cover all the sportive versions of the systems to include the mixed or more eclectic forms then its meaning has either "changed" or "been modified" to fit the new meaning. Is this acceptable? Yes, apparently it is and although I personally would prefer it not it is so I use it.
Why do I use it? Because I believe that it attracts participants and readers, etc. so if they does then maybe the actual content of what is written as to blogging or books or what is said and demonstrated such as in seminars and actual ongoing training it will allow those with serious intent to "change their views and beliefs." I can be absolutely right all day long but if another's beliefs are different it will just be ignored. Change almost always has to come from within the person because they "want to change."
Where I draw the line is when it goes outside sport and into "self-defense or self-protection" against attacks or even more important when it involves those professionals who choose to enter harms path. They must not be deluded, fooled or plain lied too for it means often life or death.
Words, terms and phrases can change meaning and intent. It may not be desirable or beneficial. It can be a means to enter a belief system and cause that belief system to change from within - use it in those contexts with intent to influence possible change.
As each person, group and system assimilates correctness then they can promote it from all their various perspectives so it reaches more folks of like interests. It is a good thing and takes time, must be patient.
This in itself is not that critical but then again it begs the question as to whether folks in the training hall are using it correctly. In the form, Kiotsukete, it means something a bit different. It means "be careful" or "take care" or it refers to anyone who might face some kind of danger. Ohhh, that doesn't mean "attention" now does it but is it possible there are two words with the only difference as to spelling in English?
As I do the research I found only one set of characters, i.e. kanji, that speak mostly to paying attention or coming to attention: 注意を払う pay attention !!! But, when I translate it into English, take with a grain of salt here, I get "Chuiwoharau." What the ....? When I punch in the characters above and listen to the Japanese spoken word I do not get kiotsuke or kiotsukete.
注意 - caution, attention, warning, heed, regard, being careful, advice
気持ち - feeling, mood, sensation, temper
注意を払う pay attention !!! good one
注目 - attention, notice, observation
アテンション - attention
着目 - attention
耳目 - attention, eye and ear
So, if I were to take the third one down in bold as correct for attention or pay attention then I would say it is not kiotsuke or kiotsukete. I can also say that the term and meaning may have evolved from a military influence because even in a traditional dojo my suspicion is they don't assume a position that is a military form of attention stance.
If I were to make some assumptions as to the use of this term in a dojo I might think that it means one who practices a system such as karate-jutsu must also be careful or take care or as a notice to the practitioners that this discipline is one that places them in harm's, danger, way so be careful, take care or remain diligently aware of all things at all times. I would then make another assumption that it might be telling the practitioners to focus on training and leave all else in the dressing room for this is a dangerous endeavor requiring your full attention, care and caution in applying knowledge and technique.
This may not be a short, terse and precise definition/meaning but it does cover a lot of the more philosophical aspects of the way, yes? Maybe? Comments?
"Meant to ward off evil spirits, modern koma-inu statues are almost identical, but one has the mouth open, the other closed. This is a very common characteristic in religious statue pairs at both temples and shrines. This pattern is however Buddhist in origin (see the article about the Niō, human-form guardians of Buddhist temples) and has a symbolic meaning. The open mouth is pronouncing the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet, which is pronounced "a", while the closed one is uttering the last letter, which is pronounced "um", to represent the beginning and the end of all things. Together they form the sound Aum, a syllable sacred in several religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism." - Symbolic Meaning
In addition the question came up in my mind, what side does one or the other sit to the torii gates. Take a look at the snapshot to find out.
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This equated to "testing for black belt" or just about any belt in any system be it karate-do, ju-do, aiki-do, ken-do, and so on. It also tends to leak into the more commercial aspects as well as the "school system" mentality, i.e. larger classes which equates more income, etc.
Even in the school systems today the testing tends to be outside the human person, i.e. can you add 2+2, do you know the capitals, etc. We don't teach how to be a good person, how to truly communicate, how to truly reflectively listen and most important how to avoid conflict. Even those few courses on communications tend to teach the easier aspect, i.e. do step one when someone does this (sound familiar, like self-defense lessons). We don't teach how to train the mind for the adrenaline dump, now to manage anger, fear, etc.
Ok, when we test for a belt we tend to stick to the exactness of a technique, its form and its aesthetic aspects - what about function and how that function goes out the window due to the chaos of conflict. Why this happens, because it is most difficult to test for something you cannot see, grasp, or hear, it changes constantly and continuously in life.
Testing tends to be very restrictive. It is a form that is not allowed to fluctuate, change and adjust - it remains the same regardless. Is this actually beneficial for anything other than the form aspect because in my mind it means nothing as to the combative/conflict/fense aspects of karate-jutsu.
When we have large groups and not enough qualified Sensei we tend to test everyone with the exact same criteria, this is not adequate, fair or just. Humans are all unique, different and have varying degrees of both physical and mental ability. It is not a disparity or handicap but rather an understanding that each person is "different" and that means must be evaluated "differently and in relation to that person only."
Example: Oral exam, I ask for the result of 2 to the power of ten. One person answers quickly the correct one while the other person is still computing. Does this mean the person who didn't answer quickly and correctly first is not qualified to compute and answer the problem.? Honestly, if that second person still discovers the answer and learns from it then when it comes time to call up that ability in the future it may mean they can then answer with greater ability, efficiency and proficiency.
In karate-jutsu a practitioner may need to take more time and greater effort to learn how to apply a technique in chaos but when it comes time to apply it in a combative situation, conflict, his encoding may be superior and thus applies it successfully.
Yes, this is just another hypothesis but my studies and research indicates that this is how the brain works when encoding. How it is encoded to make it works is far more important than being able to quote Musashi or Sung Su or to demonstrate in controlled seminar's a specific technique in response to a specific technique. But the question comes up, how do you test for that?
Well, you don't test for that but rather evaluate individually over a period of time. There is a very good reason why teaching and learning is repetitive and takes a period of time with emphasis on continuous reinforcement for life. This is why it is more important to have a Sensei to Deshi ratio that will allow for Sensei to create a training and practice environment that is individual, unique and cohesive (Sensei+Senpai/Kohai relationship over time).
Testing is better thought of as a "shugyo session" where one is not tested for content, form or knowledge but rather the physical application of what they already know while under a great deal of physical and mental stress. It should be chaotic, unrehearsed and with absolutely no list of testing stuff at all. Impromptu, unexpected and not scheduled. Testing not in a group with a lead time but rather one day out of the blue one person is suddenly put into the fire where they either temper their steel or melt into the ground - either way it reflects not on that person but on you, the Sensei, for you failed - not them.
Ahh, I wax philosophical now so off the soap box and my sincerest thanks to Sue for the idea of this post which is not a reflection to her post but a different view of mine regarding testing and age and other stuff :-)
As I have posted on the brain and how it works is now clear to me also an intricate explanation, generally, on culture. The many mental perceptions and beliefs that people have as to their own existence, to all forms of life and to the "universe" contributes to the culture of a person and peoples. Culture of peoples contribute to the culture of the person and the creativity, etc. of the person contributes to the growing culture of the peoples.
Our brains are thus programmed and that programming influences our view and reactions to the world in ways as to cultural influences. It is the survival instincts of the group, tribe, society that along with culture, beliefs and growth that unifies us into our individual worlds or civilizations.
When I read posts regarding culture I always hear about this ceremony, this type of specific adherence to things that other than relate to a celebration by a peoples seldom do I see inferences to the actual people as stated above.
Shimabuku-san spoke to the early Isshinryu pioneers about the importance of learning Okinawan customs, culture and beliefs but few took up the task. Those who did may have limited that study to such things as those ceremonies that speak to the unique way they live but only when studied at a much deeper level speak to the culture, etc. We hear of the o-bon celebration but do we know the how, when, where, what and why of its inception centuries past? We express the meaning of terms and say, "ah-ha culture." Do we truly know and can we truly know?
Knowing the ceremonies of the people is a first step. Take the second and find out more about their creativity, how do they communicate and why they do it that way and how do they behave then and now. All these and many more will give us a better understanding of those who came before and maybe answer questions as to why it was done that way and why it is being done a certain way today.
"Each cultural world operates according to its own internal dynamic, its own principles, and its own laws - written and unwritten. Even the dimensions of time and space are unique to each culture." - Edward T. and Mildred D. Hall
DeMente, Boye LaFayette. "Etiquette Guide to China: Know the Rules that Make the Difference!" Tuttle Publishing. New York. 2008.
I am a Marine. I served for ten years on active duty. The kiai of Marines like the kiai of the different Japanese dojo is distinct and unique to the Marines. When I say distinct and unique I am not say the word or syllable or terse sound by themselves but rather the spirit you detect that says U. S. Marines when you hear it.
Often, you see it written as "Oh (ewww) Rah (Ra)." When the single syllable sound is shouted then you know. The Oh-Rah simply spoken version is a quiet camaraderie version between Marines. The Kiai is similar as to the spirit shout.
The other military organizations of the United States also have their own Navy, Army or Air Force kiai. Greek warriors of old had one. You hear it all the time when a huddle is broken to start the next play.
When the Mongols rode off to conquer a world they had a shout too. The Roman's at the battle line did the same. The Germans during WWI as they would leave the trenches to attack the opposing line/trenches would shout.
The Viet Cong in Viet Nam would use it for psychological warfare at night, etc. using sometimes loud speaker systems to make noises. As soldiers have done over the history of man they growl, shout and yell as they charge the hill. There is something primal in the kiai of the world.
So, does kiai work? You betcha! If you tend to use one in martial training you might want to consider what it is. I understand different dojo in Japan had a unique word or sound they used for kiai that distinguished that dojo, system, style of martial art. If I use one, there is a silent kiai too, I stick with the tried, true and traditional Marine kiai.
Grrrrraaahhhhhh Ohhh-Rahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Semper Fi, Do or Die - Mariiiiiiinnnnnnnnnneeeee Corps!!!!!
The deep bow is the highest form of salutation which was more common during the feudal times in Japan. It is unusual to see it used in today's Japan. You will definitely see it when in audience to the Emperor. In the dojo the deep bow should not be used. Oh, the deep bow is referred to as, "Sai-keirei (sigh-kay-ray).
The formal bow is the medium one. How it is done is the arms are extended downward along the legs with the hands resting on the legs above the knees. When you bow you bend at the waist, the head and neck remain in alignment and the eyes remain straight ahead while the body bends about 45-degree angle. It is held for about two or three seconds. [note: no where in any of the descriptions does it indicate that the bow must remain at 45-degree's until the more senior person returns the bow, etc.]
Now, the medium bow (30-degree angle) is the one used when greeting and/or meeting seniors. It is used to show a special kind of respect to the senior or when one is expressing strong feelings such as sorrow, humility or simply apologizing to someone. What is important to remember is that if you encounter that senior several times in the same day, you greet them with the proper medium bow the first time that day and drop back to the light bow thereafter.
The bow most used and I believe most used in the dojo as well is the light bow. The body is bent as described above but at a 15-degree angle instead. It is held for about a second or so and the hands are down at the sides, not above the knees. Even tho the hands are incidental for this bow it is more polite to make the effort to bring them down to your sides. [note: I believe this is more appropriate even in the dojo]
Sometimes you will observer a casual nod of the head in lieu of the light or medium bow. This may be done when in a hotel or restaurant or other places where the staff regularly bow to guests.
Often I have observed over use of the bow in dojo, training halls. I think this is incorrect simply due to inaccurate conveyance as to the use and purpose of the bow. The only variance I understand that should be applied in the training hall is a use of the junior-senior medium bow required at the beginning and end of the training session although decorum in general it is used at the start while the light bow is used for the remainder of the time that day in the dojo.
Other than the generalizations indicated above there is some latitude in bowing. As most things in Japan it is dependent on many cultural requirements that make Japanese - Japanese. With this said, we are not Japanese and we are not in Japan (or Okinawan for that matter).
p.s. one small note, all that I have posted regarding the why we do this in relation to culture, customs and beliefs, these are things that apply most strictly to being in Japan, with Japanese and out of courtesy to Japanese. In the end, if you wish to practice the traditional way of martial arts then a well-meaning and well-informed attempts is ok.
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There are many other sub-traits, i.e. maturity, responsibility, respect, etc., that follow that title and to actually make direct reference to it in the segment, in the dojo and in the life is far more critical to black belt development that it should be a mainstay of instruction from white belt to red.
What is attitude? It is two things in general, it is a way of thinking or feeling and it is also a position the body takes to convey through body language a mental state or to imply some action is to be taken. I tend to think of both mental and "kamae." Kamae being a transitional position of the body to take some form of action but in the case of the martial artist "not implying or conveying" intent. An opposite to the actual definition of the physical attitude meaning.
An attitude is driven by more than the influences of the martial training hall. It begins much earlier in one's life. It can be either Yang or Yin using that metaphor of Yang=bad, Yin=good. There of course in reality a balance of both since humans have both as a part of human being.
It is a complex mental state that involves feelings, i.e. emotional with chemical infusions due to those feelings, values, i.e. personal belief systems, dispositions toward actions, i.e. as driven by the other states, and overall beliefs. These are building within each of us from the moment after birth when our brains begin actual awareness to life and the worlds around us.
The physical aspects are subliminally taught and learned in life which result in the posing, position or arrangement of the body and limbs that are also subliminally interpreted to mean some attitude which inspires an effect on either party.
All one can do in the dojo is try to present another perspective relating to such attitudes that hopefully inspire individuals to incorporate the more Yin aspect of attitude which presents positive influences on the individual and to the group and as a whole society.
If one is provided a black belt without this influence then the belt becomes a symbol of something that may or may not be the original intent of the system. It can be strictly combative without an attitude of compassion or with one. To dominate or to benefit. One might ask, "marital arts are intended to dominate and win, right?" I say, no - it is a means to overcome dominance and damage and to instill an attitude that conveys peace and tranquility with a posture and attitude that speaks to those who would dominate and damage that it would be to their benefit to not dominate and damage others.
How many teach proper attitude? How many demonstrate proper attitude in their actions and deeds, in the dojo and outside it? How many actually contemplate such things before, during and after practice? How may actually look inward before looking to others for proper attitude resulting in proper action?
Just because a technique is performed a certain way is not indicative that it is night-fighting. One that comes to mind, which I was also told is a night-fighting technique, when performed tells me a lot more as to its possible purpose other than night fighting. I can extrapolate it to mean "ducking" things like weapons attacks or even high kicks both in daylight or at night - regardless.
So, I ask the question, "Is there or are there night-fighting specific bunkai to this kata?" Is it possible that someone decided that because it was given an explanation as to "night time" that it and the kata are a night-fighting oriented kata?
Let me go a bit further, why would anyone designate any kata to be specific to just "one" strategy, tactic or bunkai? Why would anyone "limit" the possibilities of any kata? This seems to me a form of "limitation" which to my view "limits" a person's ability to very specific things, isn't this a bit "limiting?"
I will admit that Joe Swift's assessment is valid, " ... such interpretations were contrived to fit movements that are not very well understood. ..." I would agree that American's who returned after such a short period of instruction tend to "fill-in" in lieu of just stating, "I don't know," is a plausible validation to this statement.
May explanations to this "night-fighting" premise is always related to viewing the night or vision. In a nutshell night means vision is either limited or non-existent. Relying on say "moon light" to guide you also seems "limiting." To my mind it would be more inclusive to provide other sensory revelations such as "tactile," or "feeling." The sense of touch in many cases can be far more effective in night fights then always assuming some sort of visual enhancements are required.
I would also add in that the sense of "smell" also contributes more to this aspect, a small one, to handing night attacks. Let's not forget that "avoidance" is also another night fighting strategy, lets remove the particular of specific waza which is limiting, where one does not travel where one does not have adequate lighting to see as well as to avoid environments where the need to fight at night is prevalent. This comes back on to limiting our methods, i.e. strategies and tactics, because we "label" something into a rut, a hole and pidgin hole that few think to "think outside of, like a box."
Exaggerated movements is counter productive to the fundamental principles of martial systems, economic motion for greater conservation of energy, etc., which does not compute for night fighting, i.e. protection against a wider range of attacks .... how is this night-fighting for it makes no sense. We are seemingly making assumptions that are not readily present in this explanation so I would say this needs further investigation. It does not make sense to me.
I sense some explanations are geared toward a mindset that one is standing against a night attacker at a sparring distance which is also not conducive to fighting with the sense of sight limited or nonexistent. If one is attacked in the dark the best strategy is to use feel or tactile touch, i.e. move in close to feel the attacker's body and then use feel to unbalance, control and defeat.
Another one to consider is the explanation of reading silhouettes which relies heavily on sight which is also fooled by many factors and then exacerbated by darkness. In a nutshell most night-fighting explanations are predicated on the ability to use "sight" where I tend to think it is a matter of close in, feel and conquer which can be in any kata without limitations placed on applications.
I cannot see any proof in any of kusanku waza that say they are or are not night fighting techniques. I can see how to extrapolate possible strategies and tactics from various bunkai interpretations but would not name or label them night-fighting techniques. My assessment which could continue in this analysis is that kusanku is not a night fighting kata per say but rather one of many kata that can be used to determine appropriate strategies and tactics to avoid and defend if attacked at night. Any of the kata can achieve the same results.
Oh, and using sound to misdirect. Sound at night is not easily determined as to directions as sound travels differently at night and according to acoustics of the environment. I would not rely on sound for much but rather touch. When an attack touches me the instinct would be to close in and use my grappling abilities, etc. to remove the threat but then again to avoid being attacked at night prevails over any possible night-fighting technique you extrapolate from any and all kata - not just kusanku.
So, back to the question, "What are night-fighting techniques?" The question is better stated as, "What are the night-fighting strategies?"
One, know that the only effective strategy at night is to move in close, so close you can smell the garlic on the attackers breath.
Two, know that touch is the dominant sense used to remove the threat.
Three, smell can tell you just what your up against when you move in close.
Four, the best strategy against night-fighting is to avoid it all together but always remain prepared for it in as close to reality-based training you can get.
This is all off the cuff so to speak. It would be interesting to hear other views and suggestions. I doubt seriously many spend much time thinking of what it would take to actually fend off an attacker in a very dark place. Some other considerations I can think of are:
1. An attacker is not going to do so unless he or she has all the advantages.
2. An attacker is not going to attack you with a full moon to shine down on the arena but rather attack where the darkness provides him or her the complete advantage.
3. The attacker is in all likelihood going to know the arena of the night attack far better than you will so your at another disadvantage.
4. If you walk into an arena that is dark and triggers your awareness and spidey sense then what the fuck are you doing there to begin with.
5. If your surprised in a dark arena then your not paying attention, your probably listening to music or playing a iPhone game so you are going to be easy.
6. If you willingly go into a dark and dangerous arena, unless your a professional whose job it is to go into harms way, then your ego or monkey brain along with pride and a lot of testerone are driving the bus and who gives a shit, your just being stupid.
7. If you are a martial artist or a professional and have not considered night-fighting in your training/practice then you might want to reconsider your training syllabus.
9. Once again, avoidance is the absolute best strategy because if the attacker is a predator you can be guaranteed that the night is going to be only the beginning advantage for him, disadvantage for you, and your toast because you allowed yourself to enter that arena.
Again, would love to hear more input on this aspect to defensive/protective training. Night-fighting is the Yang of the Yin most train in, i.e. daylight, well lit dojo, smooth and comfortable dojo wood floors, willing participants, dojo mates, etc. ;-)