Sunday, April 22, 2018

With Each Breath I Take…


I Breath,

Therefore I am


For the most part your breath is invisible.

Only with frosty weather do we see it.


When someone in injured,

Most first see if they are breathing,

And when not work to establish it again.


When I first studied karate breath was not discussed.


When learning Seiunchin kata.

We were shown about 1/3 of the movements with focused forced breathing.

The remainder of the movements were done with normal natural breathing.


Then when I learnt Sanchin kata,

We did the entire form with focused forced breathing.


Why that was so was not discussed with me.

So I followed instruction and trained, and trained and trained.



Several years later I had the occasion to learn Yang Tai Chi Chaun.

The reason was from studies into Taoist literature when I was in College,

I became interested.


The reality of those studies was very different from what I imagined.

There was almost no intersection at that time with my Isshinryu.

It was entirely a separate study.


The form was taught to me move by move, and it was done slow,

Much slower than I could do.


The form was broken into 6 rows of techniques.


And after I completed learning the movements of the 1st section,

I had to relearn it 2 more times.

Once with a special focus on breathing, inhalation or exhalation, with each technique.

Once with the eyes focused on a moving point,

 before the hands as the movement progressed.


What I discovered how integral breathing and eye focus,

were involved in balance.


There were so many interesting aspects to explore.


For the basics there are drills exploring stepping and breathing,

Drills holding a single position for a very long time,

Even the simple act of raising the arms then lowering them had their uses.

All of them ways to slow down, enabling one to enter the flow more efficiently.


Tai Chi is a unique fighting art.

Beginning slow, too slow to show it’s fighting relevance.

But after years of work it is supposed to be done faster and faster.

At speeds akin to other Chinese fighting arts.


I would surmise that correct techniques was far more important

In student development and only when correct, really correct technique,

Was present was it time to move forward into the full expression of the art.


Around 100 years ago,

it was decided that only the health aspects of tai chi would be the purpose,

and for many practitioners the other aspects were abandoned.



I did not attempt to combine my karate and my tai chi studies,

Keeping each a separate art in my practice.


But the decades of study did give pause to consider other uses for both.

In time I began to explore the application potential of tai chi.

In time I began to explore the breath use in karate.


Perhaps Yin and Yang,

Two sides of the same coin.


I began to understand the role of breathing in karate.

Step by step, inch by inch,

I made progress.


Structurally there are two aspects of breathing.

Breathing within a technique series.

Breathing between a technique series.

They are not the same thing.


They are independent of whether the breath is inhalation or exhalation.


There are technique series that are enhanced when exhaling.

There are technique series that are enhanced when inhaling.

Understanding the key when each is appropriate.


The speed of a kata is enhanced by respiration

when inter technique series is addressed.

There are inter technique series that are enhanced when exhaling.

There are inter technique series that are enhanced when inhaling.


Kata is but a tool to explore these potentials.

There is not one correct performance.

There are many possible correct performances.


Not for the beginning mind, the first 5 of 10 years,

But studies the advancing mind should explore,

 to understand the potential of kata more fully.


For example you are the definer of what a technique series is.


Inner technique breath might be one continuous exhalation,

Consisting of many movements made with a single breath.


Inter-technique breath, such as a single exhalation,

 is then done to control the speed moving between technique series.


You control the vertical and the horizontal.

You chose whether or not to use these potentials or not.


You decide whether using reverse breathing will confound

The opponent being able to key off your breath.


What you don’t explore

Is your choice.


So invisible,

So much potential,

With each breath you take.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Not a Master of GO



I played checkers and chess when I was a kid, but only in a casual way. I did understand what the games were about. Later I read about chess masters, and looked a bit into what they did. Can’t claim I got a lot from it.


Years later I became interested a bit in Japanese literature, and recall reading about a Go Master. Then I began looking into the game of GO. I found it fascinating and even bought a cheap set for my use. I learned how the game was played (a very small bit) and worked at it over the years a bit.


I found it described that if Chess was a battle between two sides, GO was a war between two sides. And in Japan there was master level play both in Chess (Japanese and world wide) as well as GO.


In GO you use either white stones or black stones and attempt to build structures which have a least two consecutive spaces that cannot be surrounded by the opponents stones. You are jockying for the most free spaces. And play proceeds one stone at a time. There is more that that but I believe that suffices for a brief description


I never went beyond light attempts to play.


Then now living, working and teaching karate in Derry, NH. A new opportunity presented itself.


I had a teenage Korean student, Young Lee, and spent a lot of time with him, helping him acclimate to American culture, for his parents had moved here from South Korea. One day our conversation turned to GO and he told me his cousins played it with him when he was a boy.


That gave me the opportunity I wanted, someone to play GO with. I didn’t understand how different he was taught to play it. It was speed GO, my best description. And in 5 minutes I had my head handed to me. Whatever I had learnt wasn’t enough to give him a challenge. My head was handed to me on a platter.

I would never become a Master of GO.

Just because I can



I go to an Okinawan Newspaper web site and translate articles about karate using Bing translate just because I can.   Karate is a very closed society, even one that spans the globe, very few outside of karate even know what it is about, or not about.


I look at what Okinawan’s are seeing about karate, just to have an idea what is being openly discussed there. It is interesting to see what is being shares, as well as what is not being shared there. Giving some perspective about what is being shared or not with the rest of us.


What I see is pride in what Okinawan’s are doing, promotion of karate for international cash flow perhaps, and more than a bit of illusion (watch what the hand is doing, so you don’t see what the other hand is doing.


I have knowledge of one site talking about their art, Motobu-ryu, and try and translate their thoughts, again not to study that art, but to see what they are interested in. It is most amazing that they share so frequently compared to what others share.


Then I have one Chinese site I regularly follow, one with dozens of new articles daily. I select one and attempt translation, just for a hit about what some Chinese are seeing.  Not very scientific, but again to just touch on what they are saying.


And as little as I touch, I am surprised how I find no others doing the same.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Eagle Claw Snake Strike

Within many systems there are specialized techniques safely tucked
away in their arsenal that you often do not notice because of their rare use.
They often require decades of conditioning to use them properly.
That would make many believe they are not useful.
But to those who pay the price
and train in them diligently they can be rare treasures.
I want to select one of the rarest techniques I have seen.
The Eagle Claw Snake Strike.
I am not a master of the movement. But I was shown the technique.
It took me over a week of practice before I could even regularly form the movement.
The only reason I know about it was one day I was watching a video of his instructor using the movement in a demo in NYC. I questioned him about the movement, and he explained how the fingers were formed for the move We did not go into other details.
On my own it took me about a week to get my fingers used to create the positions involved.
It was not part of then Eagle Claw I studied. And I never saw it elsewhere.
Then today I was viewing some Lily Lau videos. A different Eagle
Claw lineage and I recognized what she was showing. Of course it is
just one use for the movement, what I had seen years ago was another.
I thought this would be interesting.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Reminder of Where Skill Came From


I realize this photograph is likely from a Japanese movie,
but I like it for it shows in my mind where I believe Okinawan karate came from. No special uniform, No belts. Just someone in their street clothes doing their art.

It also makes another point, all of the really highly skilled individuals I have trained with, came up from the bottom, where they were continually on the receiving end by their instructor.
They could do it because they had it done to them over and over. Then when instructing a student, they know from remembered feel when the hold used is in the correct place, or where it needs to be adjusted.
Just being able to show a technique is not the same as really knowing the technique.
The last photo makes that point.
Even Bruce Lee was able to take the fall to instruct.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Bushi No Te Isshinryu Kobudo

I just realized that I really didn't photograph myself with weapons, or doing the weapons kata.
It was always done for the students.
So I am going to place our kobudo kata here.
Mike Cassidy - Tokomeni No Kon
Mike Cassidy - Urashie No Bo
Charles Murray Shihan - Shi Shi No Kon No Dai
** We never filmed Kusanku Sai **
Young Lee & Mike Cassidy - Chantan Yara No Sai
Victor Smith - school tonfa study 'wansu No tonfa'
Mike Cassidy - Bando Staff form - the Horseman's form
Young Lee - Bando Short Stick - the Hidden Stick 1/2
Mike Cassidy & Young Lee  - the Paired Hidden Stick
Young Lee - Bando Short Stick - the Complete Hidden Stick
There are also instructor Tanto studies not shown here.