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Thread: Okinawan Karate: True Combat Art

  1. #1
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    Okinawan Karate: True Combat Art

    This video is awesome. I wish this could be posted in the general kung fu forum. I think this is among the better TMA-related videos on YouTube. It certainly deserves to be seen because it's so well-done. I do wish they had given more acknowledgement to karate's CMA roots. It IS a mixed martial art, but so is EVERY martial art. So it's A mixed martial art, but not THE original MMA. Other than that, GREAT video IMO.

    It's divided into sections, which begin at: 0:01, 3:00 and 5:10.

    Last edited by Jimbo; 12-05-2016 at 04:08 PM.

  2. #2
    Someone has good eyes.

    Thanks Jimbo.

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    The only concern I have with some of the bunkai showed here ( and in other videos) is that when they try to explain some of the moves as grappling /throwing moves.
    Look, it may be POSSIBLE to interpret them as such ( and some, like low sweeps are obvious) BUT we have to be very careful NOT to make them up.
    Practically speaking, the way the kata is done MUST mimic the ACTUAL move to at least a good 90%, if not the gross motor skills will NOT be there.
    And in some cases they simply do not do that.
    Psalms 144:1
    Praise be my Lord my Rock,
    He trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle !

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    I see your point and agree in many ways, SR. And even if those particular bunkai are throws, in order to be useable they would have to be trained extensively apart from formal bunkai practice, much in the way that judo is practiced. Perhaps in the video they are simply demonstrating the throws as they literally appear in the kata.

    In CMA (and probably in Okinawan karate, too), it's often said that every movement has multiple possible applications. This is certainly true; however, IMO, there was/is always a primary application behind every movement. I do not believe that whoever created the forms had half a dozen applications in mind for every movement.

    As far as kata movements looking at least 90% like the movement, I'm wondering if the Okinawans might have purposely disguised some of them in the forms. In the same manner that there are applications in northern Changquan (Long Fist) styles that look different than in the form. This could be due to seemingly confusing changes in direction, etc., etc. I have heard that, at least in Long Fist, much of this confusion was created on purpose, but that in many instances it has backfired, with many teachers not understanding the true applications of many of the moves. This has resulted in LF schools in which they do the forms well but cannot fight with the techniques and principles within their art. Then the art itself is sometimes labeled as 'impractical' or 'hard to use'. I don't know about that; I'm just presenting what I have heard from some CMA writers(s).
    Last edited by Jimbo; 12-09-2016 at 07:19 AM.

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    You may have a point, I heard that to ( and read about it).
    IMO it does make sense BUT as you stated, it tended to be counter-productive in the long run.

    To be honest, any fighting sequence done as a kata is not very realistic unless you have a pretty good grasp of the core of the system so it may have been a away to guard the high level stuff not so much from outsiders but from practitioners that hadn't paid their dues yet.

    I toughly enjoy Ian Abernathy's stuff BUT to be honest, at times, it seems a bit of a stretch.
    I can say this though, many of the moves in forms are NOT counters to strikes but attempts to grab or grapple or to counter an opponents attempt to engage.
    Psalms 144:1
    Praise be my Lord my Rock,
    He trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle !

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    I see your point and agree in many ways, SR. And even if those particular bunkai are throws, in order to be useable they would have to be trained extensively apart from formal bunkai practice, much in the way that judo is practiced. Perhaps in the video they are simply demonstrating the throws as they literally appear in the kata.

    In CMA (and probably in Okinawan karate, too), it's often said that every movement has multiple possible applications. This is certainly true; however, IMO, there was/is always a primary application behind every movement. I do not believe that whoever created the forms had half a dozen applications in mind for every movement.

    As far as kata movements looking at least 90% like the movement, I'm wondering if the Okinawans might have purposely disguised some of them in the forms. In the same manner that there are applications in northern Changquan (Long Fist) styles that look different than in the form. This could be due to seemingly confusing changes in direction, etc., etc. I have heard that, at least in Long Fist, much of this confusion was created on purpose, but that in many instances it has backfired, with many teachers not understanding the true applications of many of the moves. This has resulted in LF schools in which they do the forms well but cannot fight with the techniques and principles within their art. Then the art itself is sometimes labeled as 'impractical' or 'hard to use'. I don't know about that; I'm just presenting what I have heard from some CMA writers(s).
    I think all the potential variations of applications are possible. But many are highly unlikely to present but as in the video sometimes.

  7. #7
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    Okinawan karate does have a South China root and its combat origin is intact but the rage after WW2 has been sport for competition.
    The mindset is different despite the same or similar movements are being used as part of utility and function.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jdx5EWuxUs0
    Okinawan Old School Karata as distinct from what we see as sport Karate


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpNTwZyZZzI
    Okinawan karate Naihanchi kata

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by mawali View Post
    Okinawan karate does have a South China root and its combat origin is intact but the rage after WW2 has been sport for competition.
    The mindset is different despite the same or similar movements are being used as part of utility and function.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jdx5EWuxUs0
    Okinawan Old School Karata as distinct from what we see as sport Karate


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpNTwZyZZzI
    Okinawan karate Naihanchi kata
    Thanks for posting those!

    I agree that traditional Okinawan karate's combat roots are intact. It's obvious that when Funakoshi and others introduced karate into 'mainland' Japan, a LOT was omitted and/or modified. The Japanese/Okinawan style I studied for a period was Sh!to-ryu, which was a combination of two Okinawan systems, but it was thoroughly "Japanized". Even though my roots are Japanese (with probable Ryukyuan or Jomon) I say this. We practiced kata a lot and one-step a lot, but very little bunkai. And when bunkai was practiced it was very rudimentary stuff that seemed to take the kata movements literally and seemed impractical. The main focus of the dojo was WUKO and FAJKO sport kumite/kata. They were very good at it. The sensei was from Japan and was very good, but it wasn't the same as traditional Okinawan karate, though I did not know that back then (late 1970s).

    When the Okinawans introduced karate into Japan, it was aimed more for preparing school kids (boys) in large numbers for military service. Thus the over-simplification for teaching and 'safety' reasons. Then there was the fact that mainland Japanese were generally more competitive than Okinawans, and wanted to apply karate to a sport setting. The rules of sport karate were apparently based on/adapted from those of kendo. From what I've heard, there was also some modification of techniques/kata for aesthetic purposes, and/or to make the movements more vigorous/physically challenging. Which moved it even further away from its roots. Not to mention the Okinawans probably shafted the Japanese by withholding the true applications of a lot of the movements (for only one example, the hard "blocks"), since there was and still is discrimination against Okinawans in Japan.

    American karate champion Joe Lewis studied Shorin-ryu karate while stationed in Okinawa and got his black belt in a year. And while he was rough and tumble and became a great sport karate fighter, it's almost for certain that his knowledge of traditional Okinawan karate applications would have been at a fairly rudimentary level at best. It was basically a hard-core crash course. As it likely would have been for any of the U.S. servicemen who studied karate in Okinawa in the late 1950s/early '60s.
    Last edited by Jimbo; 12-13-2016 at 09:32 AM.

  9. #9
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    One of the many legends that I was taught ( and this was probably true) was that because the teaching of "TE" was hidden and private, taught only within family circles, it was trained at night, in seclusion, in very small groups and it was very much a "crash course" in which a person was able to fight very quickly and effectively against UNTRAINED attackers.
    Within a few months one could escape and survive an attack, within a year one could beat the untrained and within 3 years, beat someone with some fighting experience ( but untrained).
    The training was hard and tough, lots of conditioning and sparring with forms as a way to catalogue the moves and to condition the body ( sanchin).
    Defense were typically against surprise attacks, grabs and such.
    Psalms 144:1
    Praise be my Lord my Rock,
    He trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle !

  10. #10
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    That makes a lot of sense. I had heard that training was conducted in secret at night, but had not heard the details you've shared. I do believe that in the past, MA was meant to be functional at fighting fairly quickly. IMO, there wasn't the '10 years to become effective' that some MA systems tout. There isn't the time if you have an immediate need to defend yourself. So I suppose in a sense they were all crash courses. I'm sure greater detail came later, as they progressed.

    I believe the difference between that and the way the American servicemen were taught in Okinawa in the late '50s/early '60s is that they were (for the most part) *probably* not taught beyond a rudimentary level, technique and detail-wise. Many of them did become very effective fighters anyway, though. But the Okinawans probably taught them much in the same way they taught the Japanese; at a more superficial level.

    When I was a kid, a man I'd known in the neighborhood for years gave me a makiwara pad that can be tied onto different posts one day, almost out of the blue. He told me he'd studied Isshin-ryu karate under Tatsuo Shimabuku while a marine stationed in Okinawa. I'd had no idea that he'd ever studied karate or any MA at all. He just asked me if I would like to have it. I've kept it but never used it. Pretty cool, though.
    Last edited by Jimbo; 12-14-2016 at 07:58 AM.

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    I think that it takes years to be able to beat another trained fighter ( more like 5 than 10 in my experience, but that is 5 years of daily training so maybe 10 is right for the 2 or 3 times a week types).
    A MA should be able to be used, effectively, against the un-trained in a matter of months and I say this because most SPORT systems, like boxing, are like that.

    I think that, because the Okinawan teachers only taught those they knew or were recommended to them by someone they knew, there was probably not much of a "character weeding out process" but there was a "mental toughness" process of sorts. TE was a hard and painful system that gave the trainee a nice collection of pain and bruises BUT if he kept with it, he would be able to protect himself and others.

    Once it got "pussified" by the likes of Funakoshi and others, then we kata and bunkai and himistu ( Hidden hands) was reserved for the inner circle.
    Psalms 144:1
    Praise be my Lord my Rock,
    He trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle !

  12. #12
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    Reportedly, Funakoshi would get angry if he saw his students trying to free-spar. I've heard it said it was because Funakoshi thought it was against the 'spirit' of karate. Whereas I suspect that, in reality, it upset him because he was never a fighter himself. Funakoshi seriously underestimated the desire of his Japanese students to fight competitively, even if it meant altering his teachings a lot.

    Funakoshi had a bitter rivalry with Choki Motobu, who was a fighter. Funakoshi looked down on Motobu for a number of reasons, many of which always sounded prissy to me. But on several occasions, Motobu reportedly challenged Funakoshi to try using his karate against him. Then Motobu would simply push Funakoshi to the ground. I can imagine that actually happened.

  13. #13
    Jimbo, I believe it was under ground because Japan occupied Okinawa. Sort of like what MacCarther did in Japan. Banned all martial practice only sport allowed.

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    Yes, Japan had outlawed MA practice on Okinawa (or at least traditional Okinawan MA). But by the time Funakoshi introduced karate into Japan in the 1920s and started teaching it, that was no longer the case.

    I believe it was sometime in the 1930s that some of Funakoshi's Japanese students first began trying to freespar behind his back. I heard that if he caught them doing it, he would become extremely upset. I heard he felt that kata practice, with one-step and makiwara practice, were enough (or something like that). Of course, WW2 put a stop to that as many of his students had to go to war, and many died. But in the 1950s some of his students went about developing sport karate.

    Japanese were traditionally very competitive, as you can see with their other martial sports. Even Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, originally envisioned judo as more a way of self-improvement and physical education, but he could not stop it from becoming primarily a competitive sport, which was against his original wishes.
    Last edited by Jimbo; 12-14-2016 at 07:08 PM.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    Yes, Japan had outlawed MA practice on Okinawa (or at least traditional Okinawan MA). But by the time Funakoshi introduced karate into Japan in the 1920s and started teaching it, that was no longer the case.

    I believe it was sometime in the 1930s that some of Funakoshi's Japanese students first began trying to freespar behind his back. I heard that if he caught them doing it, he would become extremely upset. I heard he felt that kata practice, with one-step and makiwara practice, were enough (or something like that). Japanese were traditionally very competitive, as you can see with their other martial sports. Even Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, originally envisioned judo as more a way of self-improvement and physical education, but he could not stop it from becoming primarily a competitive sport, which was against his original wishes.

    I believe that was the forming of the JKA. Funakoshi was asked to teach at Kodokan. I forget the Okinawan master that was likely responsible for the "possible"
    watering down of Okinawan karate. To be taught in the schools like gym class.

    The Kodokan invited all Jujitsu masters to teach there. It was not just for sport. That came after MacCarther if I am correct.

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