Tag: Traditional Karate

Isshin-ryu Karate: In-Line Stance Drill

The in-line stance drill is a great little drill that teaches the practitioner to break the line of attack and remain safe, while staying close enough to deliver an effective counter. This is not a kata. It is just a drill designed to develop understanding of a few key concepts in Okinawan Karate.

In my dojo, this drill was typically taught after the Basic Kata and before learning the Tachi Kata, which was developed by Sensei Harrill as an intermediary step before starting into black belt level kata. The Basic Chart Kata and Tachi Kata will be examined in future posts.

In the two videos below you will see both a front and side view of the drill performed as a single-person exercise, much like a kata. And while, not a kata per se, this drill is made up of techniques taken from kata to illustrate the concepts.

In-Line Stance Drill from the front.
In-line stance drill from the side.

However, this drill is a two-person drill and is worked back and forth repeatedly. Beginners will start out slowly and perhaps give themselves a bit more “working room.” As you become comfortable with the drill, your speed and power can increase, and the distance may decrease a bit. You will learn to control your distance and remain safe while being close enough to deliver effective counters. And, not so close that you cannot execute good technique.

Here is an how the drill will look with two people.

Right-handed initial attack.

The nice thing about truly understanding techniques, is that you begin to realize that it does not matter what your opponent does, so much as how well you can utilize your technique. In this drill the attacker started with a right-handed punch. What if he hadn’t? Suppose he had attacked with his left-hand first? Do I change what I am doing?

Nope, the nice thing about good technique, is that it works (as we say, “Right, Left, Up, or Down). Yes, of course there are specific techniques for certain types of attacks. But for most techniques, if you truly understand them, it does not matter. In this next video, the attacker will initiate his attack from the other side, and I will not change what I am doing. It still works.

Left-handed initial attack.

I would like to thank Lucas Davis for helping me with the two-man aspect of this drill. Lucas trained with me in Isshin-ryu for several years before I moved to Raleigh, NC for about three years. He now trains in Uechi-ryu with Sensei Bob Noel who is also an excellent instructor.

Karate-do: Choose wisely!

There are essentially two mindsets when it comes to karate.

  1. Karate is a sport.
  2. Karate is a system of personal combat or self-defense.

And, we all know that Americans do love their sports.

While both versions of karate certainly do exist, the two conflicting viewpoints are not really compatible. One is a relatively modern interpretation of karate with its beginnings in the 1920s, and the other, what I call classical karate, can trace its roots, at least according to some sources, back to about 450 AD. They are very different in what they teach, what they focus on, and how they train.

There are rules in the sport karate ring. Even the more brutal modern extreme martial arts sports such as found within the UFC or MMA have rules. Do not misunderstand me. They are tough competitors and I take nothing from them. However, in the street, as on the battlefield, when it come to life and death, there are no rules. And the simple truth is that, you cannot train one way and fight another.

karate-do

These opposing views can create a real problem in understanding for those who are interested in karate-do, and much depends on why they are interested. Some want to be the next tournament or MMA grand champion. That is fine. However, there are also those who want to study the art of karate as practiced for generations on Okinawa. The art that was used by palace guards to defend the Okinawan Kings. The art of such karate notables as Seikichi Uehara, Sakukawa Kanga, Matsumura Sōkon, Itosu Ankō, Motobu Chōki, Chōjun Miyagi, or Tatsuo Shimabuku.

I have over 35 years of training in Isshin-ryu Karate. This in not counting a short time studying Uechi-ryu in high school and Tae Kwon do while stationed in South Korea during my enlistment in the U.S. Army.

The first 15 years of my training was with a dojo that subscribed more to the sport version of karate. We certainly practiced our kata to earn rank and even held self-defense and “bunkai” classes. But several critical elements were missing and that made any real understanding all but impossible. That being said, that dojo turned out some excellent tournament competitors, so if that was what you were looking for, it was a great choice for a karate dojo. However, my interests were really elsewhere.

In the mid-90s, I was reintroduced to Sensei Sherman Harrill and began to train with a group of karate practitioners who take the second view of karate. Eventually I became accepted as a student of Sensei Harrill’s and that has been the honor of a lifetime (anyone who has had a chance to train with him will understand what I mean by that). It was also an enlightening and often times, mind-blowing change. It totally changed how I train. what I train, my understanding of basics and kata, and my effectiveness in executing solid, well-focused karate technique.

A Series of posts on what I call “Classical Karate.”

Over the next few months, I will be posting a series of articles in which I will endeavor to identify the differences in sport karate and classical karate, and what that means to the practitioner. These posts will include true stories to help illustrate the points I am trying to make, as well as tips on what to look for in an instructor, training methods, kata and technique. My goal is to help anyone interested in exploring the art of Okinawan Karate make the best decision in their choice of a karate school based on what they want to achieve through their training.

I think this will be fun as well as interesting to anyone who has an interest in Okinawan Karate.

Isshin-ryu Karate