To View The Sky; Empty Hand Part 5

Following on from Empty Hand Part 4, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor presents you the with next mighty Kata in order of advancement through the formal Karate gradings.

Kanku Dai is the longest Kata in the Shotokan syllabus, with 65 movements and is the most complex and demanding Kata thus far.

It is the first of two Kanku katas; they do not follow the Embusen or ‘H’ shaped path, like the Heian Katas. Better start getting used to that, beloved reader, they seldom do from this point on.

That’s right, beloved readers, today we learn one of Shotokan karate’s most symbolic Katas. Ganbatte.

This is a shot of sunset on the South coast of Okinawa. Perhaps the inspiration for the Kata's naming.

This is a shot of sunset on the South coast of Okinawa.
Perhaps the inspiration for the Kata’s naming.

Kata History

Unlike most of the Kata that have Chinese origins, Kanku Dai was created  in Okinawa, rather than adapted and / or modified from the original Kung Fu as some are.

Before being changed to Kanku-dai, the kata was originally called Kushanku, (the Okinawan mis-pronunciation of Kung Siang Chin), the name taken from a Chinese military advisor who visited Okinawa under government orders.

He  resided  in Okinawa from 1756-1761. Kushanku, also called Kosokun in some styles of Karate, was a master of a variety of Chinese Martial Arts. He impressed the natives of Okinawa, by showing off his combat skills by easily dispatching larger opponents.

Sensei Sakugawa. Mighty in Martial skill and radical of beard.

Sensei Sakugawa. Mighty in Martial skill and radical of beard.

Okinawa’s top Martial Artist at that time was Tode Sakugawa. Sakugawa was one of the top students of monk and Astronomer Peichin Takahara. Takahara, sent his student to train under Kushanku as he believed him to be the most skilled Martial Artist to ever to set foot in Okinawa.

Sakugawa studied under Kushanku for 6 years. When Sakugawa was 28 years old, Kushanku passed away and from the teachings left to him devised the Kushanku Kata as a way to honour his instructor and in its own way act as documentation of what he had learned from his teacher.

This illustrates the importance of kata, not only are they the most practical method of Martial practice, but they preserve the knowledge of the techniques.

Although the kata is now named Kanku-dai, it is not an abbreviation of Kushanku. It was when Gichin Funakoshi introduced karate to mainland Japan he gave the Kata a new, Japanese name of Kanku-dai, which means to ‘to view the sky’. He also changed the names of many of the Kata he taught, to have Japanese names, such as the Passai became Bassai.

Once again our instructor will be that 80-year-old guy that can kick seven shades out of all of you

先 生 金 澤 弘 和

Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa 

Sensei Kanazawa showing perfect form as always. And more nice scenery.

Sensei Kanazawa showing perfect form as always.
And more nice scenery.

観空大

Kanku Dai

The Bunkai

As you can see from the Kata, it contains pretty much all the techniques from the Heian Katas. Kanku Dai is where each of the Heian Katas, (Empty Hand Part 2), are derived, so it’s kind of like a compilation-and-then-some-Kata.

The father of the Heian Katas as it were, most Sensei thinking the Kata too complicated to teach to new students broke it down into 5 easier to learn, shorter Katas.

Until next time. Stay tuned for more.

Hadouken! L.U.F.A.S’ Second competition!

Welcome, beloved reader, to the second L.U.F.A.S competition.

Your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor regrets that the prize is humble, such is the nature of the impoverished Level Up. Using the handy link below you can access the incredibly fun Hero Machine 2.5. With enough creativity, one can make any kind of character using it. Thus you are hereby challenged to create a Street Fighter character.

Hero Machine 2.5

Isn't it a wonderful feeling to kick seven shades of s**t out of your mates in video game format.

Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to kick seven shades of s**t out of your mates in video game format.

The rules are simple; create a pugilistic enamoured character using the awesome Hero Machine 2.5, and email it to your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor for the chance to be the proud new owner of a little plush Ryu.

Ha-freakin'-Do-Ken y'all.

Ha-freakin’-Do-Ken y’all.

Behold! An example character, with special moves included, that is one of the parameters of winning.

Streetfighterpunk

Lex O’Leary. She’s Irish, she’s punk, and she has weird special moves.
The palm trees and giant mosquitoes are completely irrelevant. I just liked that background.

After making a glorious image of pugilistic excellence, detail the character’s moves, using references to light, medium and heavy punch and kick buttons, and explain how to pull them off on the  joystick / D-pad.

Lex O’Leary’s Special moves

Celtic fury: Lex spins both pairs of her nunchuks, kinda like E Honda‘s hundred hand slap – press any punch button rapidly, the stronger the punch the weaker her defence will be.

Luck o’ the Irish: This move allows her to dodge any attack if timed properly – press forward, diagonally forward  down, then forward.

Have that you Sassenach: Lex dashes across the screen, grabs her opponent and smashes her forehead into their nose, splaying it across their face in a red smear of gristle and gore – hold the directional button back for one millisecond, then press forward and all three punch buttons at the same time.

Four leaf clover slam: With this devastating maneuver, Lex slips around the back of her opponent and puts them in a kind of full nelson grappling style grab but by holding them fast with her nunchuks.

Once she has them in her paddy clutches, she then proceeds to backflip their face into the floor 4 times in a row – press forward, then a full rotation of the joystick / D-pad to grab them and then press punch, the lighter the punch the faster she pulls it off but the less damage she does and visa versa.

Goddamn that's a cool picture. be inspired.

Goddamn that’s a cool picture. Be inspired.

Now it’s your turn, beloved reader

Make your Street Fighter character with special moves explained then email them to your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor. Deadline for entries is the 21st May. The best entries will be blogged and immortalised for all to admire.

leveluprogueadvisor@gmail.com

Until next time. Keep creating.

To Storm a Castle; Empty Hand Part 4

Following on from Empty Hand Part 3, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor presents you the with next mighty kata in order of advancement through the formal Karate gradings.

This powerful display of Shotokan prowess does what it says on the tin. This is the Kata you need when you really have to kick seven shade of s**t out of every mother fu**er in the place. Bassai Dai means ‘To Storm a Castle’.

It is the first of two such brutal katas; they do not follow the Embusen or ‘H’ shaped path of the five katas presented in Empty Hand Part 2, but move at varying different angles as if attacking and being attacked by multiple attackers in a close environment.

This s how you do the business D&d style. Non-D7D players will have to use that seldom come by stuff called imagination.

This is how you storm a castle D&D style. Non-D&D players will have to use that seldom come by stuff called imagination. D&D is awesome. Deal with it.

Kata History

Born in 1796, Sokon ‘Bushi’ Matsumura created Bassai Dai, he was a pioneer of the practice and the development of the Okinawan style of Shuri Te. He began his training at the age of 14, by the age of 25 he was acknowledged for his achievements in Martial skill. Matsumura’s combat prowess and fearsome reputation got him a massive promotion as Chief Of Security to the Okinawan King. In effect he was head bodyguard.

An honourable position, but an unenviable one, the Okinawan King was little more than a puppet to the Japanese overlords. It was these same overlords who banned the carrying of weapons on Okinawa, (ironically triggering the birth of both Karate and Kobudo), even the bodyguards to the Okinawan King were not allowed to carry weapons.  Making them the only bodyguards to a head of state in history who were not allowed to carry weapons.

Due to the technology of Japan's' isolation at that time, this is the best picture you're gonna get of him. Deal with it.

Due to the technology of Japan’s isolation at that time, this is the best picture you’re gonna get of him. Deal with it.

In 1853,  Japanese isolationism was forcibly ended by an American fleet led by Commodore Perry.  An often overlooked footnote of history is that Perry stopped at Okinawa merely for supplies, before going to Japan to go about his true business.

Whilst seeming arrogant and headstrong, Perry understood the Japanese mindset at that time. He deliberately set about bullying the unarmed Okinawan’s so that when he arrived at Japan he would bring with him a pugilistic reputation.

The Okinawan’s had no clue as to Perry’s true intentions;  likely, they would have viewed it as an invasion. When Perry led a parade up to the Shuri Castle, (the King’s own centre of government), joined by 2 companies of armed US marines, 50 naval officers, 2 brass bands, and some big f**k you Okinawa cannons from the ships! EEK!

Commodore Perry. A twat. A fat twat. Deal with it.

Commodore Perry.
A twat. A fat twat.
Deal with it.

Despite the odds, a lot of non-Okinawan ass was kicked that day. Perry didn’t attain the reputation he desired. That’s bullying for you.

Everybody working for the King, whether they were a Head Of State or just a Clerk, would be required to be a very competent Martial artist.  If a situation broke out, everybody would be expected to jump in and help out.

It is also known that Matsumura studied psychology diligently; one tale of how another Okinawan already skilled at Karate asked Matsumura to teach him.  Matsumura refused, so the other man challenged Matsumura to a duel.  Matsumura, knowing that the other man was superstitious agreed, but set the time and place for the duel at dawn by a graveyard.

A very spooky setting for a superstitious man.  When they met and confronted each other, Matsumura issued a loud kiai, (shout), and the other man surrendered without a single blow being struck. That is the definition of the art of fighting without fighting, eh?

The sanity of the King of Okinawa was slowly diminishing, he issued a proclamation that Matsumura could defeat a bull without consulting Matsumura. He set a date for the duel. With a freakin’ bull. However, Matsumura knew the keeper of the mighty bovine in question and made an arrangement with him.

This may have been what the bull looked like. Or not. Deal with it.

This may have been what the bull looked like. Or not. Deal with it.

Each night for a week preceding the duel, the bull would be penned up so tight that it could not move.  On the day of the duel, the bull was close to being crippled, the spectators, didn’t seem to realise this was abnormal. The unhealthy bull was  released into the ring; Matsumura glared at the bull, the beast took one look and run away in fear.

During the American bombing on Okinawa in World War 2, most of the records of this time were destroyed. However, the irony of history is that records taken by Perry and his crew during this time gives us all the insight we need. Paintings and photographs taken by Perry’s expedition show that when Perry lead his parade to the Shuri Castle.

So what’s all this got to do with the kata?

OK, back to Bassai Dai

Another, less than 21st Century style portrait. Deal with it.

Another, less than 21st Century style portrait.
Deal with it.

Suckers that ‘we’ are for consistency here at Level Up, once again our instructor will be the Shotokan Karate legend himself

先 生 金 澤 弘 和

Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa 

Sensei Kanazawa demonstrates a perfect Yoko tobi geri. Deal with it.

Sensei Kanazawa demonstrates a perfect Yoko tobi geri. Deal with it. Bet you can’t.

披 塞 大

Bassai Dai

The Bunkai

That’s right, beloved reader, even though you can clearly see that Sensei Kanazawa had to slow his movements for the audience in the demonstration below, you can clearly see that the bunkai work. At the risk of sounding arrogant, you friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor has had to employ these tactics against some of the less desirable denizens of Southend-On-Sea and Hackney, (South-East ‘Brooklyn’ level violence areas, for non-British readers).

 Until next time. Stay tuned for more.

Peaceful Mind; Empty Hand Part 2

Spring is here. Yay. Sort of. It’s been snowing in larcenous old London, but do not despair beloved reader, for like most of you, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor also has a crappy job which he braves nature’s wrath to attend and pay-day has arrived; and with it more storage space is available to the gradually growing Level Up, and that means videos. Actual Yay. Still no recording studio of our own though. But here’s a little inspiration just to show off the new feature.

Following on from the last instalment of Okinawan bad-assery, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor thought it only proper to begin assisting all you dedicated KarateKa out there, and padawan beginners with your empty hand techniques. Katas are often overlooked in most Martial training, much to the detriment of the practitioner. Most believe Kata to be nothing  more than a fancy ‘dance’ routine just for show in competition. This is not so beloved reader.

Kata is the original means of cataloguing and practising all of a Martial skill’s techniques in the most efficient way possible. This is even truer of Karate, as it was developed in secrecy at a time when the government had banned the Okinawan people from owning / using any weapons and practising martial arts, thus all they had were their Kata and it had to be super efficient.

松濤館

Shotokan

See! Ratchet performs a perfect tobi mae geri against Thundercracker.

Just to prove that the Autobots practice karate, here is Ratchet performing a perfect Tobi-Mae-Geri against Thundercracker. And it looks like he booted him square in his Decepti-nuts.

Here at Level Up we also like to keep training uber-efficient just like the Okinawan warriors of bygone days. So in this second instalment of Empty Hand we will cover some of the early Katas of the Shotokan Karate system. Why drill yourself over and over again in the same Oi-Zuki, Gedan Barai or Mae Geri, when all those techniques are contained within the Kata. Thus, logic dictates that practicing of the Kata repeatedly, you will be performing all these techniques, with the added bonus of them already being arranged into functional combos. Sweet.

No one is expected to master the Katas through the study of video alone, and holding a 4th Dan ranking myself, I would be happy to arrange a one on one session to help you, beloved reader, to perfect your pugilistic prowess. Due to a crappy 72 work hours per week job, giving me scheduling problems, I will only be able to offer such assistance to London-based L.U.F.A.S. fans. But first it is important to make you budding exponents of unarmed warfare familiar with arguably the greatest living KarateKa.

先 生 金 澤 弘 和

Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa 

I have had the privilege and honour of training under this incredible Sensei once, many moons ago. This embodiment of Karate perfection will be the instructor in the videos.

This great man is Hirokazu Kanazawa.
I have had the privilege and honour of training under this incredible Sensei once, many moons ago.
This embodiment of Karate perfection will be the instructor in the videos.
He also knew the value of resistance training to increase the power of his techniques.
And as you can see it makes him ripped too.

Kanazawa is one of very few KarateKa still alive that trained with Master Gichin Funakoshi. Born in 1931 in Japan, he began his Martial training Judo. But when he was accepted into University, he witnessed a Karate demonstration by Sensei M. Nakayama. This left a lasting impression on young Kanazawa, he began training under Nakayama’s tutelage straight away, with regular teachings from Sensei Funakoshi.

Within just over one year, he achieved Shodan, (1st degree black belt), in took only three years for him to attain his Nidan and Sandan. Believe me, beloved reader, that’s unprecedentedly quick progression for any KarateKa. Karate Sensei are notoriously fickle about dishing out black belts.

He gained an even more impressive reputation in 1957 when he entered the All Japan Karate Championship tournament. During the contest he broke his wrist and going against medical advice he decided to continue, because his mother was watching, and he didn’t want to disappoint her. He won the final bout like a bad Mo-Fo.

After such success he wanted to teach Shotokan. He completed the extremely rigorous and strict JKA instructor’s programme and was sent off to teach in Hawaii. Five years later in 1966, after establishing Karate in Hawaii, he was sent to Great Britain, where he had to start from scratch to teach a far away Western land that had little knowledge of the Martial skills of the East. Whilst in good old Blighty, he attained his 6th Dan.

All who have met Kanazawa remark upon his charisma, which I can testify to myself. Sensei Kanazawa is not only knowledgeable, disciplined and patient but a very approachable and empathic man. These qualities and his undisputable skill earned him the position of Chief instructor of JKA Europe.

However, in 1977, Kanazawa attained 7th Dan, and was forced into a position that meant he had to leave the JKA, he was just too bad-ass for them. There were fears that his career was over. Thus, in typical Kanazawa style he went ahead and proved to all his critics that they were dicks. He established the SKIF, an organisation that rapidly gained millions of members.

As well as being successful in climbing the ranks of Martial arts greats and establishing Karate around the world, he is also an author, an awesome selection of his works can be found on the SKIF website.

分解

Bunkai

Bunkai is literally translated as ‘analysis’, but as happens so often, much is lost in translation. Bunkai are the applications of the techniques. I will explain as many as possible here, but one on one tuition with yours truly would yield the best results, I would expect no fee for this tuition but would ask that you help popularise the soon to be mighty Level Up Fitness & Skills. Most of the Martial arts masters of the East always been a little bitchy about not revealing their true applications, especially xenophobic towards westerners. Some of the real moves are ‘disguised’, usually through repetition of other moves to hide them. We’ll be covering the true Bunkai as I have been fortunate in whom I’ve studied with, you’ll just have to trust me. Have I misinformed you yet?

This man is 81 years old. And can kick the ass of each and every one of you.

Sensei Kanazawa is 81 years old. And can kick the ass of each and every one of you. With the greatest of ease.

Anyone who trains with Kanazawa, (as I have. Yup I’m gonna keep plugging that), cannot help but be impressed. At his very mature age, he still puts the young-uns to shame. Like Funakoshi and Nakayama before him, he is not just a KarateKa, but also a pioneer, his legacy will live on through generations of KarateKa for eons to come.

The Heian Katas

These Katas are the second five students will encounter, the first  are the Taikyoku Katas, (meaning first clause), Shodan, Nidan and Sandan. They are fairly recent Katas, created to further breakdown the techniques into easier to digest chunks. These Kata are not vital to the syllabus though, as the Heian Katas will ‘break you in’ quite nicely. The name Heian is roughly translated as ‘peaceful mind’. the name comes from the Okinawan saying Heiwa-antei, meaning ‘peace and calm from within’. The name suggests that once mastered, the student can feel confident in their skills and themselves for their discipline, leaving no doubt to their prowess.

The five Katas, were created in 1906, by Sensei Itosu to prepare the student by instilling the specific gross motor skills and body awareness required for the rigours of Karate training. They were originally called the Pinan Katas, and the first and second Katas were reversed. When Sensei Funakoshi brought Karate to mainland Japan, he changed all the names to Japanese.

Most of the Heian Kata follow the same Embussen path, (it looks like an ‘H’), as do the Taikyoku Katas, many Martial skills have historically emulated this path as it allows for turns and dynamic straight manoeuvres. Each Heian Kata gradually introduces new core basics, adding combos and progressing the student to intermediate level. At the time of their creation, the Okinawan people didn’t bother with ranks, Keikogi or the Coloured Obi, so there was no indication of the practitioners skill.

Heian Shodan

The techniques in this first kata are simple enough: Gedan-Barai, Oi-Zuki, Tettsui Uchi, Age Uke and Shuto-Uke. Stances: ZenkutsuDachi and KokutsuDachi.

As you can see from the video, Katas begin and end on the same floor marking. This trains stances and footwork to be perfect. Do not ignore the KIAI points either, they occur to generate extra power for finishing moves.

Bunkai

This is how Sensei Kanazawa applies a Mae Geri. EEK.

This is how Sensei Kanazawa applies a Mae Geri. EEK.

Heian Nidan

Many of the same techniques from Heian Shodan are included here, don’t be dissuaded by the repetition, that’s the point of all this. These Kata will get you primed for advanced kick-assery and even though each kata takes only about a minute to complete, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how knackering it is. This is because it uses anaerobic metabolism. Some techniques are specific to an individual Kata alone, like this one, making them truly centrifugal to training. Thus no handy link for pre-practice of individual moves. The new movements to learn here: Haiwan-Uke /zenwan-hitai-Kamae, (Back of forearm block / forearm forehead posture), Soto-Nagashi Uke / Kentsui-Soto-Mawashi-Uchi, (outside flowing block / outside hammer fist strike), Sokumen-Zuki, (hammer fist block punch), Ryoken-Koshi-Gamae, (both fists one hip posture) and Uraken-Yoko-Mawashi-Uchi / Yoko-Geri-Keage, Shihon-Tate-Nukite and Osae-Uke, (pressing down block), Mae-Geri, Gyaku-Zuki, Uchi-Uke, Morote-Uke, and new stances: Ashi-Dachi, Ashi-Zenkutsu-Dachi.

Bunkai

Heian Sandan

This one has some odd-looking movements, but have faith in your Rogue Advisor, these all have great application and effect. On that same point, do not be dissuaded by how ‘simple’ or even daft some of the moves look; having been practiced in secret during development, they are efficient. The third Kata’s new techniques: Uchi-Uke / Gedan-Uke in Heisoku-Dachi, (inside block / down block in stand to attention stance), ketsui -Yoko-Mawashi-Uchi, (inside hammer fist strike), Ryokan-Ryokoshi-Gamae, (both fists on both hips posture), Fumikomi / Furi-Empi, (stomp kick or thrust step / swinging elbow block), Uraken-Tate-Mawashi-Uchi, (vertical back fist strike), Tsukami-Uke / Oi-Zuki, (grasping punch and lunge punch), Koho-Tsukiage / Ushiro-Empi-Uchi in Kiba-Dachi, (rising punch to rear / backwards elbow strike in horse riding stance), this move uses Yori-Ashi, (sliding), footwork.

Bunkai

Heian Yondan

As you can see, beloved reader, the Martial applications are advancing at a nice manageable rate. The fourth Kata is no exception. Mastering this Kata is part of a 6th Kyu ranking. The initial belt grades count down toward 1st Kyu, the penultimate belt before 1st Dan. The new techniques: Haiwan-Uke /zenwan-hitai-Kamae, (Back of forearm block / forearm forehead posture, as performed in Nidan, but with open hands), Ryokan-Kosa-Uke, (‘X’ shaped block / strike), then we get Ryoken-Koshi-Gamae / Uraken-Yoko-Mawashi-Geri-Keage from Nidan but this time followed by Mae-Empi-Uchi, (elbow strike), and performed on both sides, Ryoken-Kakiwake-Uke, (both fists wedge block / guard), Hiza-Uchi, (knee strike).

Bunkai

Heian Godan

The first new technique is the delightfully named Mizu-Nagare-No-Kamae, (water flowing posture), Ryosho-Juji-Osae-Uke, (both palms pressing ‘X’ block), Uke-Zuki, (block strike), Kake-Uke, (hooking block), Mikazuki-Geri, (crescent kick), Koho-Tsukiage, This is performed in Renoji-Dachi, (rising punch to rear opponent in a stance that looks similar to Ashi-Dachi), and the vicious-Soto-Nagashi-Uke / Shuto-Uchikomi and Uchi-Uke / Mangi-Uke, Jotai-Sonomama / Manji-Gamae, the new stance is Kosa-Dachi. This is a nice Kata, it will really get you primed for the more advanced stuff.

Bunkai

Stay tuned for more

Until next time. Stay informed.