Monday, 29 September 2014

The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do

Shōshin Nagamine was a Japanese author from Okinawa as well as a soldier, police officer, and karate master. He wrote two books, The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do and Tales of Okinawa's Great Masters. Both have been translated into English.

Although his style is not Gojuryu, the Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do contains plenty of interesting and useful background, insights and terminology. The Table of Contents alone makes for a highly informative glossary.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Aragaki Misako 新垣美佐子 2005 Kata CHAMPION

I should have posted this a long time ago - Misako Aragaki of the Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo, taking the gold medal at the 48th All Japan Karate Championships in 2005.  Misako-san’s kata starts from 3:14.  Amazing execution and one of the nicest people you could meet.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Zanshin 残心

Zanshin is a term used in Japanese martial arts. It refers to a continuous state of awareness or alertness, particularly one’s posture, balance, stance, concentration and attitude after a technique or kata has been executed.

The literal translation of zanshin is “remaining mind," though the simplest interpretation is perhaps “staying focused."

Just as in the kamae state of ready awareness at the beginning of any action, zanshin means being continually aware of one's surroundings, prepared to instantly react – a state of mental alertness and physical readiness to meet any situation - including further attacks. 

Zanshin, as considered from the perspective of Aikido, is given a more detailed and interesting explication here.

Friday, 19 September 2014


There are many terms used in karate and other martial arts.  Sometimes different terms are used to refer to the same thing, such as juji uke and kosa uke, or the same term is used differently according to the art, school or style.  Often, Japanese, Chinese, Okinawan and other dialects are the source, and this can add to the confusion. But ultimately, it is the technique and results that are important, not the correctness of the nomenclature. Here are two links (dictionary and glossary) to assist in understanding karate terminology, but you will find other terms used depending on where you train.

Thursday, 18 September 2014


“Feet first” is good advice in karate, as without a firm foundation most techniques will lack real power.  But when moving, it is very important that it is done with the “koshi” rather than the feet.  As this site states, “All good martial techniques arise from the koshi.”

Koshi” is the Japanese term for the hips, roughly the pelvic region between the abdomen and the top of the thighs.  It includes the seika tanden described in a previous post and is essentially the body’s center of gravity.  When moving, the “koshi” should be tensed and lead the way - the legs will automatically follow.  

One way to practice this, for example, is in shikodachi, by first turning the waist toward the front before moving forward; this can be most easily practiced at the beginning of both the Saifa and Seiyunchin kata. 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Yakusoku Kumite

Here is a video of Higaonna Sensei demonstrating applications of technique in the yakusoku kumite style. Yakusoku kumite is one of the forms of ippon kumite, where one practitioner attacks using a single, predetermined technique, such as chudan oitsuki or chudan maegeri, and the other karateka blocks and counters accordingly. For beginners, the counter attack usually takes the form of a single strike, but as the practitioner's level advances, the responses become more complex and varied, ideally incorporating applications from the higher-level kata. This should be the approach of all yudansha or black belts.  In the video, the techniques are demonstrated once slowly and then again naturally and swiftly. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Muchimi 2

If you don’t stick to the opponent when blocking and defending, you are not in control. Either you are in close, or far away.  In between, you don’t have control. So when you are close, be sure to stick. Muchimi is also related to kakie, as explained in the excerpt from an interview with Morio Higaonna Sensei that follows below. So one of the best ways to develop muchimi "stickiness" is when practicing kakie.

"When we block, we shouldn’t use force. “Muchimi” means that before your adversary attacks you already have to be in control.  It also means that before the blow arrives you must read it and curb it. In this way we can take hold of the opponent’s arm and push him back. If this is done after the opponent has used force, the result is a clash of forces. We must lessen the blow before force has been applied. If we push before the blow arrives, the distance between you and your adversary is reduced. This is why the most effective blows are the short ones. In order for them to contain energy our breathing needs to be correct. The Masters of old used to teach that once we had blocked we had to pull and get in closer. This, in Okinawa, is called “Kakie”. But also in China this technique was expressed by a sound like “kaki”. And once you had gotten closer, you followed on with a technique called “Kou” (leaning). By blocking in this way, we pull the opponent and we attack by following the arm. And this is done at great speed, like a whip. If we follow the arm, it doesn’t matter how our opponent moves, we will find him."  
Morio Higaonna Sensei