Tag: Ninja

Hand Meets in Air

If two hands meet in the air, can you “suddenly enter?”

This post is a continuation of the thread started in my last post, No First Strike. If you are unfamiliar with my thoughts on this idea, you may wish to read that post first. And again, there is no right or wrong here. This is just one of my understandings and interpretations of these concepts after many years of training and research into Okinawan Karate. And, in no way do I imply that I am the originator of these ideas. They are things I learned from many other karate practitioners I have met on my journey.

In the Kenpo Gokui (also known as the Isshin-ryu Code), we have line #6, whose kanji can be translated as, Hand : Meets : In the air : Suddenly : Enter

The more common interpretation of this idea found in the U.S. is, the time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself. As mentioned in the previous post in this thread, I prefer the more exact translation of the kanji.

First, a quick example of understanding body mechanics.

Try this exercise with someone strong.

Have someone get into a solid stance, make a fist, and extend their arm. Stand in front of them and ask them to resist the pressure you apply to their arm.

  • First, press down on their fist. Can they resist that?
  • Second, lift or press up on their fist. Can they resist that?
  • Push their fist to the left. Can they resist?
  • Push their fist to the right. Can they resist?

Now holding their fist with your thumb and second finger, move their fist in small circles. Can they resist that? Not so much…

There are muscles in place that allow your body to resist the up, down, left, and right pressure pretty effectively. Of course, to what extent does depend somewhat on how strong you are. However, there are no muscles, specifically in place to resist those small circles. That is a simple example of understanding and applying the concept of body mechanics.

So, let’s think about this for a few seconds.

If that same arm was being extended toward you in an attack, and you met that arm with your own, could you use that understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the arm structure to redirect the attack and suddenly enter with your own counter? … as in

Hand Meets In The Air, Suddenly Enter

In the above illustration, arm A. is the punching arm. Arm B. has met arm A. in the air. There would be several options open to arm B. at this point, one of which might be the basic Isshin-ryu low-level block.

They’re not blocks! They’re really Ninja Delayed Death Strikes!

First, let me just go out on a limb here and say that I do not subscribe to the idea adopted in recent years by some Isshin-ryu Karate practitioners that there are “no blocks in Isshin-ryu Karate;” that the blocks are actually ” some kind of top-secret pressure point, Ninja delayed death strikes.”

It is much more likely that nobody ever showed them how to properly practice and employ these blocks in technique. The blocks do, in fact, work extremely well for me and several practitioners I know quite well.

So, the answer to the above question is …

Of course, you can. In fact, this is one of the key elements of blocking in Isshin-ryu Karate. A second is that Isshin-ryu does not typically employ linear blocks. They are designed as circular blocks. However, the circles are tiny. Can these blocks be used linearly? Of course, they can. But many of the Isshin-ryu kata techniques are set up through the use of this “two hands meet in the air” concept combined with circular blocks and then followed up with an aggressive counter-attack.

However, it is important to remember that combat is fluid and ever-changing, so as soon as you understand a concept, someone tosses in an exception. This, too, is also fine. That is where years of training, experience, and flexibility come into play.

Experience and Flexibility

As an example of this experience and flexibility, the third seminar we held in Clinton, Tennessee, with Sensei Sherman Harrill was on Seisan Kata. The opening technique in that kata is essentially a mid-level block followed by a reverse punch. We probably spent the first two hours of the seminar exploring variations of those two basic techniques. And nobody was bored! Two hands would meet in the air. The entry would vary with each version, and therefore the counter-attack would target different areas of the attacker’s body. But the technique was the same.

Then, of course, there would come the “those are the things I do with these techniques. What Sensei (for him that was Master Tatsuo Shimabuku) showed me was this …

It would be a simple block/punch karate technique. But it would also be very effective. Two hands would meet in the air, a sudden entry, and then – the fight is over. Ikken Hissatsu 


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The Ninja: Death on a Moonless Night

A return to Flash Fiction … 500 words this time.

Death on a Moonless Night.

It was a dark, moonless night. The humid air lay heavy, almost suffocating those trying to sleep after the day’s long battle. A lone Union sentry, posted about twenty yards from the general’s tent, shifted his tired feet. He glanced nervously around. He could feel it … an unconscious foreboding nagging at his conscious mind. There was a sense of death on the night air.  His post was deep within the Union encampment. A safe enough post. The sentry listened … hearing only the buzz of mosquitoes and the constant chirping of crickets.

In the tent, a mosquito buzzed the general’s ear. He swatted at it futilely, then rolled over on his cot.  Despite the heat, he pulled the wool blanket up over his head … protection against the buzzing insects. Grant was exhausted. Today, he’d sent three divisions to push the Confederates from Big Black River Bridge. They’d captured over 1,800 enemy soldiers. Tomorrow, he would lay siege to Vicksburg. Grant’s mind kept churning over the many important preparations for tomorrow’s action.

Damn Mississippi. Nothing but swamps, rebels, and mosquitos, he thought to himself.  Gradually, the physical need for rest overpowered the general’s brain, and he drifted off into a fitful sleep.

Saitō was the night. He was invisible, a lethal force hidden in the darkness; unstoppable. The sentry died. A small shuriken, its points dipped in deadly toxin distilled from chrysanthemums, nicked his neck. The poison did its work. Saitō caught the sentry as he fell, dragging him into the tree line. Saitō crept up to the tent where Grant lay sleeping. Concealed in the shadows, he listened to the snoring emanating from the other side of the canvas. His target slept. Time to complete his task.

Saitō scanned the encampment. All was still quiet. A living shadow, Saitō moved stealthily toward the front flap of the tent. An imperceptible movement of the flap and he was inside.  Saitō rose silently from the plank floor of the tent platform, sliding a tanto from the scabbard in the small of his back. He approached the cot where the general lay sleeping. The tanto was poised, ready to stab downward. Grant’s death would breathe new life into the Confederacy. It was why he’d been paid.

“I wouldn’t,” a voice spoke from a corner of the tent. Even in the dark, Saitō could make out the seated figure of a man, his feet propped up on a wooden whiskey keg. The man’s hand rested on his right thigh inches from his holstered .45 Colt Peacemaker. Moving like the wind, Saitō whirled, changing his grip on the tanto, ready to kill the impertinent fool interrupting his work. The man’s hand flashed. The colt barked, a bullet stuck Saitō, centered between his two black eyes.

Grant sat up in his cot.

“What the … ?”

“It’s alright, Sir. I’m Agent Jim West of the U.S. Secret Service. President Lincoln assigned me to keep an eye on you. You’re safe now.  Better get some more rest. You’ve a big day tomorrow.”

 

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