Karate-do: Basics

Advanced techniques are nothing more than applying a thorough mastery of the basics.

I remember meeting Sensei Sherman Harrill for the first time in 1983. He was a guest at Wheeler School of Karate in Powell, Tennessee. I had just been discharged from the U.S. Army and had a red belt (equivalent to brown in most systems) in Tae Kwon Do. But I was not too happy with Tae Kwon Do.

Not being overly flexible, I was looking for a style that didn’t require me to be like Gumby. I discovered Isshin-ryu Karate. Sensei Harrill taught a few classes I attended at the dojo … and then disappeared. I did not know enough about Isshin-ryu at the time to understand exactly what was going on, but the man really impressed me.

I again saw Sensei Harrill sometime later at an Okinawan Karate-do Union seminar where he did a bo bunkai session. He took the first movement out of the bo kata, Tokumine No Kun, and spent two hours astounding us all by what he could do with just that first movement. Bo’s went flying everywhere, and many fingers were pinched or smashed. It was glorious.

I did not see Sensei Harrill again until the mid-90’s when he and Sensei AJ Advincula gave a benefit seminar in Michigan for Sensei Don Bohan, who was battling cancer. By this time, I was a black belt, had my own dojo, and thought I knew something about karate. However, to put it mildly, when I saw what he was doing, my jaw hit the floor. I had never seen any karate instructor anywhere do anything like what he was doing. It didn’t matter who you were, how big you were, or what you knew. You hit the floor when he put his hands on you. It was the kind of karate you read about in history books but never saw on the dojo floor.

What was the difference you might ask? I quickly came to learn it was a thorough understanding and mastery of the system’s basics. Prior to that time, I had trained with just three other world-class instructors who had that same kind of mastery of their art, and who were true masters. They were Remy Presas (Arnis), Joe Lewis (Full-Contact Karate Champion), and Wally Jay (Small Circle Jujitsu).

All advanced techniques are made up of combinations of basic techniques.

If this is not true where you train, I suggest you hunt for another dojo, dojang, or school.

And I am not just talking about the basic Charts I and II of the Isshin-ryu curriculum followed in most dojos. Understanding basics, body mechanics, stances, distance, timing, etc. transcends any particular art or style. It is the key to real success in any technique, method, or system.

I remember returning to a dojo I had not visited in some time. Upon entering, I spotted one of the head instructors on the floor going through Isshin-ryu Chart 1. He was performing the techniques precisely the same way I was shown when I was a brand new white belt. How’s that for consistency? Great, huh?

I’m going out on a limb here and say, “No, not really.” If you are still practicing the basics today the way you did 20 years ago, what did you learn? Could you not have improved them over that period. Twenty years and this man had never gotten off the porch (most serious Isshin-ryu practitioners will know what this refers to).

Here is an analogy. I remember in elementary school being taught to write. We were given lined paper and shown how to form the letters. You’d make a row of As, a row of B’s. a row of Cs. etc. Do you still write that way today?

Before you say, “but that’s how I show a new student …,” I am not talking about working with a new student. I am talking about in your own personal workouts (which is what this guy was doing. Sunday morning workouts were restricted to black belts).

A difference in basics …

The first year I brought Sensei Harrill to Tennessee for a seminar, it was great. Friday night and Saturday, I got mercilessly pummeled in a very instructive sort of way. However, I loved it. Each pain, each loss of breath, or loss of balance was a light bulb going off in my brain. It was effortless, almost casual on Sensei’s part, but totally disruptive to me. And there was nothing I could do about. They were simple techniques. However, they were executed in a manner I had never experienced before.

Sunday after the seminar, we had several hours before I had to get Sensei to the airport for his flight back to Iowa, so we hit the dojo to train. I remember it being just Sensei, Charlie Taylor, and myself. But one or two others may have been present.

Sensei asked, “What do you want to work on?”

I replied, simply, “Whatever I have to … to understand what you do.”

The sad but straightforward answer was that I had to start over with how I did my basics. Many trained with Sensei over the years, mostly at seminars, and would sometimes mimic his techniques successfully while at seminars. Often, however, this was with cooperative attackers.

But they never changed the way they practiced back at their own dojos. Therefore, they could never really make the techniques their own and would eventually give up. It’s just the same old adage: You can’t train one way and fight another way!

We went through Chart I, a technique at a time. First, I would demonstrate a technique from the chart. Sensei then showed me how he did it and why. He never told me what I was doing was wrong, but there was no question in my mind after we finished each technique which way was better, and more importantly, WHY!

You cannot learn basics from a book, a website, a blog, or even a videotape or DVD. You need practice time, one-on-one interaction with an instructor who understands all of these things, and enough repetitions to create CORRECT muscle memory.

However, here are a few tips that might help

  • Stand on stakes
  • Never violate the principles of body mechanics
  • As your understanding progresses and your basics begin to smooth out, your hands should start to NOT cross the body’s centerline.
  • Always use crescent steps when you move forward or backward ( or even sideways).
  • Each technique is a whole-body movement.
  • The “snap” in the “snap punch” comes from your waist (Understand that the knot in your obi is not just to tie your belt around your waist. Pay attention to how it moves).

If the knot’s not moving, you’re not doing it right.

Sensei would always say, when sizing up a new opponent or training partner, watch the knot on his obi. It will tell you if you want to let them hit you or not.

Isshin-ryu Karate Charts I and II

Practice at least 10 repetitions to each side, several times a week.

Chart I

Chart II

  1. RFF / RH Straight Punch
  2. RFF / RH Upper Punch
  3. LFF / LH Straight Punch
  4. LFF / LH Upper Punch
  5. RFB / LH Low Block – RH Reverse Punch
  6. RFB / LH Mid-Level Block = RH Reverse Punch
  7. RFB / LH Open Mid-Level Block – RH Gouge (Nukite)
  8. RFB / LH Open Arc Sweep – RH Upper Punch
  9. RFB / LH Upper Block – RH Reverse Punch
  10. RFB / LH Bridge of Nose – RH Reverse Punch
  11. LFF / LH Low Block – 3 Punches
  12. LFF / LH Mid-Level Block – 3 Punches
  13. LFF / LH Strike to Mid-section – RH Strike to Base of Neck
  14. LFF / LH Palm Heel Block – 2 Hook Punches
  15. RFB Bear Hug Break
  1. Bend Forward / Touch Floor
  2. Back Bend – 5 Exhales
  3. LH Hold Right Heel – RH Push Knee Down
  4. Leg Stretch
  5. Front Kick
  6. Cross Kick
  7. Angle Kick
  8. Side Kick (Heel and Edge)
  9. Side Kick (Ball of Foot)
  10. Squat Kick
  11. Toe Rip Kick
  12. Knee Smash
  13. Knuckle Push-ups
  14. Side Twists
  15. Breathing

Note:

  • In Chart I, 5 – 15 repeat to the other side.
  • In Chart II, 3 to 12 repeat to the other side.
  • RFF = Right Foot Forward. LFF = Left Foot Forward
  • RFB = Right Foot Back, LFB = Left Foot Back
  • RH = RIght Hand, LH = Left Hand

Remember, simple practice does not make perfect. It takes proper practice to make things perfect. If you practice incorrectly 25,000 times, what have you gained?

The Belgium Connection!

Adirondack Bear Tales has gone international!

Adirondack Bear Tales has gotten some great reviews from several folks I respect, including Joy Neal Kidney, the author of Leora’s Letters. However, it seems that Adirondack Bear Tales has also now gone international, getting a great review from Denzil Walton, a full-time freelance writer living in Belgium.

Discovering Belgium is Denzil’s personal blog, which focuses on exploring the many wonders of Belgium, offering suggestions for days out, hikes, cycle rides, nature reserves, castles, museums, city trips, and much more.

A few excerpts from the review …

The stories are all short, and there are only eleven, so the entire book can be read in 30 minutes or so. But they are all delightful, easy to read and captivating. Quality rather than quantity!

A 12-year girl comes face to face with a bear during a night-time bathroom break! … The hilarious account of Grandma locking Grandpa out of the car while Grandpa tussles with a bear for ownership of a bag of garbage. The stubbornness of an Uncle who refuses to let the local bear destroy the bird feeder and steal the seeds … a handful of other stories illustrating the close relationship between the people and the bears of the Adirondacks.

The book is well-written … frequently involve the author’s grandparents … ideal for grandparents to read as bedtime stories to their young grandchildren … in my case, as someone living in a country where wild bears disappeared centuries ago, as an insight into a completely different world where a black bear might appear in your garden or even your kitchen!

You can read the entire review by clicking here!

And thank you, Denzil, for the amazing review. It is much appreciated.

Click here to check out some of my book reviews. You might find a few you want to read to help pass the time during the Covid-19 stay-at-home period.

The Red Circle

My Life in the Navy SEAL Sniper Corps and How I Trained America’s Deadliest Marksmen by Brandon Webb

“If you want to know what makes up the DNA of a Navy SEAL and have a behind-the-scenes look at the best sniper program in the world, then ‘hold 1 right for wind’ and read The Red Circle.”

Chris Kyle, SEAL Team Three Chief and bestselling author of American Sniper

“Impressive and well-written…The Red Circle is a great book.”

Howard E. Wasdin, Navy SEAL and bestselling author of SEAL Team Six

About the book

Brandon Webb’s experiences in the world’s most elite sniper corps are the stuff of legend. From his grueling years of training in Naval Special Operations to his combat tours in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan, The Red Circle provides a rare and riveting look at the inner workings of the U.S. military through the eyes of a covert operations specialist.

Webb’s distinguished second career as a lead instructor for the shadowy “sniper cell” and Course Manager of the Navy SEAL Sniper Program that trained some of America’s finest and deadliest warriors-including Marcus Luttrell and Chris Kyle, that makes his story so compelling.

From hair-raising close calls with Taliban and al Qaeda forces in
Afghanistan to designing new sniper standards and training some of the most accomplished snipers of the twenty-first century, Webb describes how the Special Operations warriors at the forefront of today’s military are forged.

About the author

After leaving home at age sixteen, Brandon finished high school and joined the US Navy to become a Navy SEAL. His first permanent assignment was as a helicopter Aircrew Search & Rescue (SAR) swimmer and Aviation Warfare Systems Operator with HS-6. In 1997 his Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) package was approved. He would class up with over 200 students in BUD/S class 215, and go on to complete the training as 1 of 23 originals.

As a SEAL, he served with SEAL Team 3, Naval Special Warfare Group One (NSWG-1) Training Detachment sniper cell. And completed his last tour at the Naval Special Warfare Center (NSWC) sniper course, where he served as the Naval Special Warfare west coast sniper course manager. Throughout his career, he completed four deployments to the Middle East, one to Afghanistan, and would later go back to Iraq in 2006-7 as a paramilitary contractor. His proudest accomplishment in the military was working as the SEAL sniper course manager, a schoolhouse that has produced some of the deadliest snipers in US military history.

An accomplished and proven leader, Brandon was meritoriously promoted to E-6 while serving as an advanced sniper instructor at NSWG-1. He was recommended and advanced to the rank of Chief Petty Officer (E-7) his first time eligible while at the sniper course. He has received numerous distinguished service awards, including the Presidential Unit Citation (personally awarded to him by President George W. Bush), and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with “V” device for valor in combat. Webb ended his Navy career early after over a decade of service to spend more time with his children and focus on entrepreneurship (both his parents were small business owners).

Today Brandon is focused on building his first billion-dollar business. He is the founder and CEO of the Hurricane Group, a Global Media to commerce business focused on military and outdoor entertainment (news, digital tv, & podcast), subscription-based clubs, and products.

Brandon is regularly featured in the media as a military and business subject matter expert. He has contributed to ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today Show, FOX News, CNN, the BBC, SIRIUS XM, MSNBC, and The New York Times.

Webb is a New York Times bestselling author. His books include The Red Circle (St. Martin’s Press) Among Heroes (Penguin-Random House), Benghazi, The Definitive Report (Harper Collins), The ISIS Solution (SOFREP books), and The Power of Thought (self-published). He has two books scheduled to publish in 2017. The Killing School: Inside the World’s deadliest sniper program, is set to be released with St. Martin’s Press May 2017. Total Focus: How to Make Better Decisions Under Pressure, publishes with Penguin Random House in August 2017.

In 2012, after losing his best friend, Navy SEAL & CIA contractor Glen Doherty, in Benghazi, Libya, he founded The Red Circle Foundation (RCF), a non-profit with a 100% pass-through model. Every dollar donated goes to the mission, and business partner donors pick up the Foundation’s overhead. RCF is focused on supporting families of the Special Operations community through emergency memorial, medical, and child enrichment programs (camps & scholarships).

Brandon is a member of the New York YPO (Young Presidents Organization) chapter and serves as a board member on the veterans’ advisory committee to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

He enjoys spending time with his tight circle of fantastic family & friends, being outdoors, and flying his experimental aircraft upside-down. He splits his time between his residence in San Juan, PR, and Manhattan, NY.

My thoughts …

I purchased this book at Barnes and Noble some time ago, originally reading it as research for the main character in Serpents Underfoot and its sequel, Montagnard. I just finished re-reading it, and for the second time, I could not put it down.

If you read and enjoy books like American Sniper or Lone Survivor, then this is another book you will absolutely enjoy. Webb takes the reader through SEAL training, the war in Afghanistan, his role in improving the SEAL sniper training program, and so much more.

This is not a book of nonstop SEAL adventure, though there is enough of that to satisfy most readers. This is a book about what it is actually like to be a SEAL written by a SEAL.

I give this book an easy 5 Stars and recommend it to all.

Tunes for Tuesday: Go Go Godzilla!

Blue Oyster Cult was another of my favorite bands as a teenager and, along with Black Sabbath, was one of the first heavy metal bands. The first album I bought was Agents of Fortune. While they had released three earlier records, this was the one that crashed through the door to commercial success for the band.

The album’s first single, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” just missed the U.S. Top 10 in the summer of ’76, hitting #12, and the album sold, in large part, based on that one song.

From the Byrds-inspired main riff to the mid-song eruption, it was unlike anything else on the radio at the time. This classic riff was one of the first I learned to play on the guitar.

Don’t Fear The Reaper (Live 1976)

Over time, of course, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” not only became a genuine rock classic but gained another lease on life via the infamous “more cowbell” skit on Saturday Night Live.

More Cowbell

Godzilla, from their next and fifth album Spectres, was one of the bands more popular songs, but neither it nor any of the other songs on that record ever made the charts. However, Godzilla did have a very long life on Classic Rock radio

Godzilla (Live 1977)

Blue Oyster Cult continued to be a great concert draw but did not strike big pay dirt again until 1981, when they released the album Fire of Unknown Origin with its smash hit, Burning For You. Burning for you hit #1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Chart.

Burning For You (Live 1981)

Blue Oyster Cult was one of the few American rock bands that were making videos when MTV launched in 1981. The single version of Burning For You was released in July that year, and when MTV went on air on August 1, they were happy to put it in rotation since they wanted to push a rock format but had little to choose from. Thanks to exposure on MTV, the song rose in the charts, reaching #40 in October.

Bone up on some great American Rock and Roll

As we’re sitting at home, one way to keep from going stir crazy is to check out some of the fantastic Classic Rock music produced during the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

I do a lot of that when I need a break from working on my next book!

Be sure to check out Serpents Underfoot and Adirondack Bear Tales while you are sitting at home at the computer as well.

Montagnard is in the hands of my editor and will be out soon!

The Military Mind?

I paid another visit to CHERRIESWRITER – VIETNAM WAR WEBSITE, and came across this gem of a post called, I Jest You Not! I actually remember many of these military sayings. A lot of them are hilarious, and they all get the intended point across. I listed a few of my favorites here. To view the post and the entire list, click here!

Military Wisdom: Sayings and terms to reflect on.

Recoilless rifles – aren’t.

If it’s stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid.

If at first, you don’t succeed, call in an airstrike.

Never forget your weapon was made by the lowest bidder.

The Old Ranger’s Addendum: Or else they’re trying to suck you into a serious ambush!

Tracers work both ways.

The one item you need is always in short supply.

Interchangeable parts aren’t.

Teamwork is essential; it gives the enemy other people to shoot at.

Never draw fire; it irritates everyone around you.

Incoming fire has the right of way.

If the enemy is within range, so are you.

And remember,

The least questioned assumptions are often the most questionable.

Stephen R. Covet

Vietnam Veterans Day

March 29th

I have counted several Vietnam Veterans among my closest friends. Sadly, several are no longer with us. Please remember our Vietnam Veterans today as you go about living your daily lives.

They sent me

and my friends

and my generation

To Vietnam to die

and some of us did.

The rest of us have been dying

in bits and pieces

since the first day they sent us

home.

Unknown

Reblog: Redefined Words by Changing a Letter

These are really very humorous! And, really tickled the upper end of my humerus!

Oops! I changed one and omitted one! My bad …

e-Quips

 The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding,  subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
Here are the winners:
> 1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
>
> 2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
>
> 3. Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
>
> 4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
>
> 5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
>
> 6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
>
> 7. Giraffiti:…

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