BIOGRAPHIES AND ARTICLES FROM THE KENSANKAI KYOSHI
By Kyoshi Jason Perry: Lessons Relearned: A Few Thoughts on Karate Principles
July 4, 2012 Musa Qala District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan
For my karate friends, I thought I would share some thoughts I have had recently on karate principles. I am not able to go to a dojo but I still train and think about karate. It is a little long and somewhat random so forgive the lack of structure and coherence. A few things that have been on my mind follow. I hope you find this enjoyable and maybe even helpful. I also hope you will recognize my intended sincerity and humility and will forgive anything that smacks arrogant or judgmental.
I began Okinawan Karate training before my powers of recollection begin. My father tells me I was three - or two depending on who you talk to. Suffice it to say, I don’t recall ever starting to take Karate lessons. I don’t recall ever thinking of Karate in terms of lessons or classes at all; Karate was and is just the natural state of things in my life. As I got older I became interested in many different sports and activities. In college I ran every day and became a decent runner. I joined the military and as an infantryman conduct physical training and combat conditioning on a regular basis. In 1998 I became interested in running marathons and ran eight marathons over the next 10 years. I was in great running shape but my fitness became very one dimensional as a runner. My marathon experience culminated in Boston where I ran the storied Boston Marathon. By the time I got to Boston I was plagued with injuries. Nothing debilitating, just nagging injuries that I continue to deal with. It could be the hundreds of miles of hiking under heavy loads; it could be the endless hours of sitting at a desk writing policy or fitness reports. My inability to run the way I used to compelled me to vary my work out routines. I became interested in CrossFit and while deployed to Iraq did the Workout of the Day religiously. During my first deployment to Afghanistan I teamed up with a buddy and did the 6 week Insanity work out and then bounced around between CrossFit and Sparta workouts along with regular running of up to 6 miles or so. During my second tour in Afghanistan (where I currently hang my cover) I teamed up with the battalion Operations Chief and we started the deployment doing the TRX work outs together.
These exercise formats depart from traditional thinking about effective exercise. Instead of isolating and fatiguing a muscle to get results like weight lifters, these formats emphasize multidimensional movement and muscle group coordination. They emphasize full range of motion and energy transfer between large muscle groups. Unlike distance running they emphasize core strength and an assortment of omni-directional movements. As I have dabbled in each of these formats I have realized there is nothing new under the sun. We are only rediscovering what I learned in the dojo (or the backyard or the garage) from the beginning. The principles of Karate are found in all of these workout formats. I would like to highlight some of those principles. I do not seek to convince anyone to change what works for them or to do anything different only to consider the wisdom in how we are taught to train in the dojo. It seems I am rediscovering what I always knew. Growing up in the dojo, I just never recognized it until now.
Kutsu o nuide keiko (Remove your shoes and train). When we enter the dojo we remove our shoes and train without their support. Interestingly, it seems the running and athletic fitness world is discovering the value of going sans shoes also. In the book “Born to Run,” Christopher McDougall talks about the Tarahumara people in Mexico who are known to run races that go on for days. While their endurance is noteworthy what is amazing is they run hundreds of miles barefoot. By and large they run injury free. The book has spurred a whole barefoot running movement. Even shod runners espouse an occasional barefoot work out consisting of strides and speed work on the infield of the track. CrossFitters are increasingly using the Vibram Five Fingers to maintain proper balance and stabilizer muscle fitness. One trip to Joshua Tree National Park and you will see barefoot (Five Finger shod) hikers all over the place. Nike came out with its Nike Free line of running shoes that are supposed to get out of the way of your foot’s natural motion when you run. Over the last few years as I have seen runners and hikers and CrossFitters (including me) latch onto this “new” fad, it occurred to me that I rarely ever worked out in shoes until I began running and wearing combat boots. There is nothing new here at all. It was only after multiple marathons in the cushioniest shoe with good arch support I could find for my medium arched, biomechanically efficient feet and a little bit of age that I began to feel leg and back pain. The only pain I ever experienced in the dojo was due to frozen feet on the concrete deck at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point dojo, or the occasional stubbed toe, cut lip or unintentional kinteki geri. OK, there was that time when Moose broke my ribs during some "light" kumite only weeks before one of my marathons (I ran 18 miles the next morning) but I forgot about that long ago - that was painful and apparently not forgotten. Working out barefoot strengthens muscles that are critical for martial arts. It teaches us how to balance properly. Shoes, by their design cast us forward and off balance us by lifting the heel of the foot. Kutsu o nuide keiko.
The Core. It is hard to open an exercise or running magazine without seeing something that involves core strengthening. These articles convince us to get in all sorts of plank positions and strengthen the muscles that stabilize our center. In the Insanity work out, much of the core strengthening is done by lifting the knees high, often while doing jumping exercises. Imagine that, core-specific training. From day one in the dojo we learn about hara. Tuck your hips in, shoulders down, rotate your hips and drive power from your hara. Lift the knee high with the foot of the kicking leg coiled back before driving with the hips. When I was young, my father would have me walk up and down the dojo in zenkutsu dachi with my back straight, hips forward under my shoulders. He would admonish me to move from my hara. He would have me punch a bag with an imaginary pole running through my head to the deck locking my hips and torso at the end of the punch to generate power through my hand. Using a shinai he would check to see if I was maintaining a tight torso by tapping me (OK that might be a little understated but I don’t want CPS showing up and arresting the 75 year old) on the torso. Everything worked the core and if a technique was not executed from the core it was weak. If your core was weak your karate would be weak. As a runner, I realized that running does nothing for the core. Your body will rely on larger muscle groups to generate speed but your core muscles will weaken. Your hips will begin to destabilize and injury will set in. Thus the steady diet of core exercises for runners now found in Runners’ World magazine. Crossfit, Sparta, Insanity, PX90 all emphasize core strengthening through posture and core-specific exercises.
Explosive movements and the transfer of energy. If you do Crossfit you will notice there is not a lot of isolating muscles and fatiguing them like you see with weight lifters. The movements are powerful, full-range-of-motion movements that require the transfer of power from one muscle group to another and incorporate timing, balance, and coordination. The kipping pull up is a prime example. While kipping pull ups are easier to do than strict or dead hang pull ups they require a level of coordination, timing and energy transfer you do not get from strict pull ups. Every technique in karate is just that – a transfer of power from one place to another until eventually that power is delivered at the point of impact with all the energy of one’s body behind it. To generate that kind of power requires our feet to grip the deck, our legs to drive our hips forward, our shoulders to rotate but not enough to lose control and eventually to transfer all that moving energy in the form of a strike through the hand into the target area on our opponent. If the timing and coordination of all the disparate muscle groups is off, the strike will be less effective. Like a speed bump in the road the forward energy is interrupted and power is lost. Just like the kipping pull up, the less we get in the way of that power the easier and more efficient our techniques will be. The value of the exercise is not in how hard we can make it but how efficiently we can coordinate the movement of the body.
Weight distribution. The barefoot runners talk about running on the toes and allowing our feet to work naturally to absorb shock. They also talk about keeping the feet under the body’s center of gravity instead of landing on the heel which reduces efficiency by interrupting forward motion. Crossfitters advocate driving through the heels when doing squats, wall ball shots or kettlebell swings and keeping your feet underneath your body and tucking the hips at the end of the motion. Both of these techniques are consistent with karate principles. As I learned the techniques taught in these exercise formats they all rang true to me.
As I said earlier, I spent a lot of time just walking up and down the dojo in zenkutsu dachi. When I graduated from zenkutsu dachi, dad would let me do neko ashi dachi. What a treat that was (the reader should sense a great deal of sarcasm here). I would literally go to the dojo and walk up and down the dojo until class was over, bow out and go home and eat cheese and crackers with dad while watching baseball games until past my bedtime. But in just walking up and down the floor I learned the very principles we now view as revolutionary. In moving from one stance to another we glide along the deck keeping the hips traveling on an even plane. The ball of the foot is in contact with the floor as we transfer weight. We keep our center of gravity over our feet. This echos much of what the barefoot runners talk about. But we drive with power off the heel. If a shiko dachi is too wide, it is not effective because our center is not supported properly. When we turn around in the dojo we pivot on the heel to generate power. When we punch we pivot on our heel to generate forward motion in our hips and create a solid surface (bone supported by the deck). When power is needed the Crossfitters and Sparta fans will tell you to drive through your heels. Your weight should not be forward when doing kettlebell swings or squat thrusts. Drive through the heels in a powerful motion, tuck the hips at the end as you transfer energy to lift the prescribed weight. I remember a camp I attended with Kevin Roberts. Ridgley Abele sensei taught us these same principles during a class about generating power. He also took us on runs in our gi and taght us about how to run efficiently. I thought it strange at the time but now realize he was teaching us to apply karate principles into all of our activities. Kevin has a picture of he and I on his website standing under a waterfall during that camp.
All this sounded very familiar. Think about Kusanku dai when you drive from the shiko dachi to shizentai (hachiji) dachi at the beginning of the kata. The power that drives the hips up comes straight through the heels. If your knees, hips or shoulders are forward of the heels the strength of the technique is lost. If you are up on your toes, your shoulders lurch forward and your hips back; you have no power because you are off balance and the muscles are not able to transfer power efficiently so there is a loss of power in each transition. To get the power needed to execute the technique properly you must explode through your heels keeping everything aligned and sequenced for power.
Short intense work outs. A good number of Crossfit workouts only take about 20 minutes. They are intense, high energy workouts that will leave you puking your guts out before you can say, “Fifty Wall Ball Shots.” The Crossfit mascot is Pukey the Clown for crying out loud. The Insanity work out is basically 30-45 minutes of interval training turned on its head with sustained high intensity periods of work with very short breaks followed by subsequent sets of high intensity work. The warm up alone had me in the fetal position in a puddle of my own sweat during week one. Kata, if done with speed and power, can have a similar effect. Try doing all of the kata full power and full speed with a 30 second break between them. Starting at Naihanchi shodan allows you to start with moderate intervals and build to longer more demanding periods of work through Gojuushiho. Then make your way back down from Gojuushiho back to Naihanchi Shodan. Give yourself 30 seconds between kata. Throw Tsuken sunakake, Kubo no kon and Saijutsu dai whatever in there and prepare to get broke off. Intense bursts of effort with short periods of rest will quickly increase stamina, speed and power. Most fights are short and intense so make your kata that way sometimes.
Dynamic stretching. In the last few years I have seen an increasing number of articles about the value of dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching involves active movements of the muscle that bring forth a stretch but are not held in the end position. It loosens the muscles and joints through motion. If you attend a class with Eizo Shimabukuro sensei at his Ginoza, Okinawa dojo you will see this technique but I don’t think it comes from the latest Men’s Health magazine. He’s been doing the same warm up routine since Bill Hayes sensei was a Private. While in the 1980s static stretching (holding a stretch at the end of the movement) was all the rage (think the stretching racks we used to have in the dojo), now in some arenas static stretching is a hiss and a byword. The most effective way to stretch is probably somewhere in between. Since I was a kid we always warmed up lightly then moved the joints by rotating them and swinging them back and forth (dynamic stretching). We would do some bouncing as we stretched and in some cases we would hold the static stretch. I remember Perry sensei counting to 10 as we would dynamically stretch and then hold the last count for a few seconds as in static stretching. These principles are still seen in most of our classes in the dojo today. You will see a mix of static and dynamic stretching which convinces me that karate principles are timeless.
I have recently begun to create my own workouts that incorporate what I enjoy about all of these workouts. In Five Fingers I will do 4-5 rounds of 1 KM run followed by 20 kettlebell swings or wall ball shots, followed by a 3 minute round on the heavy bag, then some incline sit ups, elbows to knees, or planks followed by a kata. I will mix in strict pull ups, squat thrusts, switch kicks, burpees or other horrible exercise to keep things interesting. At the end of the workout I feel like I have worked hard and have applied karate principles I have known my whole life. In the desert of Twentynine Palms I would often go on a 6 mile run that consisted of 3 miles then 4 to 6 kata at full speed with a 30 second break between then a 3 mile run back. It was like doing a standard speed day with a warm up, sprints and then a cool down. It is also develops the mind and body to accept hard work when you are tired. I don't have that luxury here in Afghanistan so I stick to my circuits.
So why put these thoughts on paper - uhhh interspace? I am not trying to change the way anyone trains or alter what aspect of karate you find attractive. Most of you probably already understand these principles because you had gym memberships and were doing the Nautilus workouts or Arnold’s get huge now workouts that just weren’t giving you the results you seek and discovered the wholeness of a traditional martial work out. The very thing I am just now internalizing. I never transitioned from that experience to karate. I never appreciated the uniqueness of karate as a workout system. I am probably handicapped by the fact that I knew nothing but karate from the time I could walk. Now that I am a little older and more prone to injury and soft midriff syndrome, I need to work out for my physical, spiritual and emotional health. I am reminded after doing all kinds of exercise programs that karate principles are enduring. And therein lies the purpose of this essay.
This doesn’t mean I am no longer going to run (with or without shoes), or knock out “Cindy” or “Fight Gone Bad,” or “Dig Deeper!” with Shawn T every once in a while but I do appreciate the martial principles in all the workouts I do. I also work kata into my workouts much more than I used to. Instead of doing kata as a separate part of my regimen, I incorporate kata into my normal routine. We often talk about bunkai and oyo bunkai and find ourselves with our hands on our hips engaged in lively discussions about the intricacies of the techniques embedded in our kata. While this helps us understand the meaning of our art it does not condition our bodies or minds for the combat we so energetically discuss. Occasionally, we should put those important discussions aside and just go fight our way through kata. When I say fight I mean just that – make kata a combative event. Forget the meaning of the technique. The meaning is inherent in the movements themselves. Case in point, just walk up to someone and execute the first technique in Kihon kata. The meaning of the technique will become apparent very quickly whether you were taught the bunkai or not. It is an inherently combative movement. Learn to move with combative intent and commitment and you will learn a skill most of your potential opponents do not possess - and one that is often the decisive factor in an altercation. Dismiss the count and just go fight. Not only will the kata become meaningful in a combative context it will also become a challenging workout that incorporates all the principles that seem to be re-emerging in mainstream fitness. Karatedo ni Hissho.
Okinawa's Bushi: Karate Gentlemen Article: Coutesy of Kyoshi Estes
By Charles C. Goodin
Recently, I was conducting a search of Yoen Jiho Sha /1 issues when I came across an article entitled A Small Talk on Karate - Kinjo, a Benefactor of Karate-Do in Hawaii, by Sosen Toyohira. November 16, 1961. /2 One section of the article in particular caught my attention:
"In Okinawa, an expert of Karate was called a "Bushi," which meant a true gentleman or a noble character. In feudal times in Japan, in contrast, "Bushi" referred to "warriors" or "samurai." Karate is a defensive art only - it is never used for offense. It is a self-defense art that should be mastered to conquer oneself and learn to behave modestly. For that reason, a well trained Karateman was looked upon as a "Bushi" - a noble Karateman."
This discussion made me start thinking - how did the Okinawan and Japanese concepts of "Bushi" differ and what does this mean for students of Karate? I started to review literature and websites and quickly found that many people associate Karate "Bushi" with the Japanese concept of warrior or samurai. If Karate people are this type of "Bushi" it is natural to think that they should follow the Code of "Bushido", literally, the way of the "Bushi." While at it, why not throw in Zen training for good measure?
Now wait a moment - at the time of the formation of Karate, Okinawa was not part of Japan. The Ryukyu or Loo Choo Kingdom, of which Okinawa was the largest island, was independent (albeit dominated by its much larger neighbors). It traded with Japan, China and many other countries. It had its own king, political and social structure, language, religion, arts and culture (don't get me going on this). Okinawans were not Japanese. So why should their martial artists follow the Japanese Code of Bushido, which was only applicable to the Japanese warrior class?
Was the problem with the word "Bushi" itself? Fortunately, my sensei, Katsuhiko Shinzato, is a professor of linguistics at the Okinawa International University. /3 I emailed a series of questions to him about this subject.
He explained that although "Bushi" uses the same kanji and is pronounced the same in Okinawa and Japan, it means different things. In Japan, a "Bushi" was a member of the warrior class. In Okinawa, the term "Bushi" was honorific. It was used to refer to a Karate practitioner who was respected and revered not only for of his superior martial arts skill, but for being a civilized, principled gentleman as well. "Bushi" did not mean the Japanese "samurai." As evidence of this, even the Okinawan King's official guards, who were referred to as "samurai" in Okinawa, were not referred to as "Bushi."
As it turns out, different types of "Bushi" are recognized in Okinawa.
A "Kakure Bushi" is a "hidden Bushi", one who never tries to let himself be known as a Karate practitioner. Occasionally we hear about Karate hermits, experts who live in caves, tombs, or the mountains, and have completely withdrawn from society.
On the other extreme is a "Tijikun Bushi" or "knuckle or fist Bushi." This type of Karate practitioner has large, grotesque knuckles and is known for fighting skill only. He lacks the culture and principles of a gentleman. A reference to this type of "Bushi" can be found in Noma of Japan: An Autobiography of a Japanese Publisher, by Seiji Noma assisted by Shunkichi Akimoto, The Vanguard Press, 1934. Mr. Noma, a kendo expert, was stationed in Okinawa as a schoolteacher in 1904. Okinawa used to be referred to as Loo Choo (or Luchu) and Okinawans were called Luchuans. Tijikun is a Hogen (Okinawan dialect) term. Noma uses the Japanese term "teko" (knuckle):
"My unruly behaviour was not confined to drinking and courtesans. I fought with roughs and thrashed men for imagined insults. The Luchuans are a pacific people, but like all those given to strong drink and leading a primitive life, they would commit acts of nameless cruelty if their blood was stirred. The Luchuans had developed through centuries of practice the peculiar art of self-defence and aggression, known as tekobushi, which consists in making incredibly deft and powerful thrusts of the fist after the fashion of jujitsu or even boxing. This was the only possible mode of self-defence for the Luchuans, who had been prohibited the use of weapons by their double rulers of China and Japan. A Luchuan expert in the deadly art could smash every bone in his victim's body with the thrusts of his arms, as if he had struck with a giant hammer. Not infrequently poor victims were found dead by the road-side bearing marks of terrible blows from naked fists. Near Tsuji at night there were always gangs of roughs supposed to be skilled in tekobushi, who were ready to pick quarrels with unwary strangers."
A "Tijikun Bushi" is the worst type, since he is the most likely to harm others, and in the process, impugn the reputation of all other Karate practitioners. Morio Higaonna, /4 who visited me at the Hawaii Karate Museum in August, 2004, explained to me that such a person is also referred to as a "Bushi Gwa," or "small Bushi." "Gwa" is the Hogen word for "small." /5 A "Bushi Gwa" grasps only a small aspect of Karate.
Another negative example of a Karate practitioner is a "Kuchi Buchi," or "Mouth Bushi," one who pretends to be well trained by bluffing. While a "Tijikun Bushi" might have callused, wart-like knuckles, a "Kuchi Bushi" has a silvery tongue - he can talk the talk but not walk the walk. He lacks or only has a low level of martial skill. Such a person spends more time reading about Karate than training and tends to dwell on and exaggerate the exploits of famous fighters. In doing so, he misleads young students who are easily impressed and distracted.
Higaonna Sensei also mentioned that there is an "Uhu Bushi" or "Greatest Bushi." He recalled hearing Kanryo Higaonna (an outstanding proponent of Naha-Te) referred to as "Uhu Bushi Higaonna No Tanme." "Tanme" is Hogen for "respected elder."
Shinzato Sensei further explained that "Uhu Bushi" is an honorific term for one who was the greatest among certain schools or styles of Karate. Kanryo Higaonna was considered to be the originator of present Goju-Ryu and thus deserved the title "Uhu Bushi." Likewise, in the genealogy of Shorin-Ryu, Sokon Matsumura and Kosaku Matsumora would be referred to as "Uhu Bushi" as they are regarded as the restorers of Shuri-Te and Tomari-Te respectively.
Now before anyone runs off to change their email address to "Bushi" or "Uhu Bushi," these terms are honorific: titles or phrases conveying respect. They are only used by others. I'm sure that Sokon Matsumura never introduced himself as "Bushi," nor has any sensei I have ever trained with referred to himself as "Sensei." Perhaps the only person who would do so is a "Kuchi Bushi" or "Bushi Gwa."
These terms also seem to be more or less reserved for the leading Karate experts of the 19th century or earlier. Anko Itosu was certainly a "Bushi" by any standard, but I have never heard him referred to as such. The same applies to Kentsu Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro, Chotoku Kyan, Chojun Miyagi, Choshin Chibana, and others noted Karate practitioners.
The case of Sokon Matsumura deserves special attention because it both highlights some of the confusion surrounding the term "Bushi" and provides an example of what a "Bushi" truly is. Born in Shuri in 1809, Matsumura practiced the fighting traditions of both Okinawa and China, and also studied Jigen-ryu Kenjutsu (swordsmanship) while in Kagoshima (Satsuma). Due to his prowess in both Karate (which then was referred to as "China Hand") and intellectual studies, such as calligraphy, he ultimately served three Kings. There can be no doubt that Matsumura was an outstanding martial artist, one of the finest ever. However, he was not called "Bushi" simply because of his martial skills, nor was the title given in recognition of the fact that he was a "samurai" (or bodyguard) for kings, or trained in swordsmanship in mainland Japan.
Instead, Matsumura was given the title of "Bushi" by retired King Shoko-O (then called Boji-Ushu) for something he did not have to do. By now, I'm sure that you know I am referring to the episode of Matsumura defeating a wild bull. This story has been told in many books, but in a nutshell, Boji-Ushu asked Matsumura to fight a bull that had become a nuisance. In those days in Okinawa, bullfights were staged between two bulls. Knowing of Matsumura's Karate skills, the King wondered how Matsumura would fare.
When the time came for the fight, Matsumura entered the arena. He was either wearing a certain colored robe or carrying a small wooden club (depending on who tells the story). Upon seeing Matsumura, the bull cowered and ran away. It was terrified.
Before the stunned crowd, the ex-King promptly pronounced that Matsumura was to be known thereafter as "Bushi Matsumura. As we all know, Matsumura had sneaked into the bull's pen at night for the week preceding the match and beat it fiercely on the nose with a club. No wonder it was terrified when it saw him! What we don't know is whether the ex-King ever found out about Matsumura's strategy.
Now, if Matsumura had been a Tijikun Bushi, he might have killed the bull or it might have killed him. Perhaps he might have succeeded in breaking of its horns. But at best he would have been considered to be a "Bushi Gwa". Had Matsumura been a "Kuchi Bushi," he could have lectured the bull, boasted about his exploits, or shouted at it, but the outcome would have been certain - he would have been gored and probably killed. But because Matsumura was a true "Bushi," an "Uhu Bushi" at that, both he and the bull lived to see another day.
In a letter to his student Ryosei Kuwae, Matsumura described three forms of martial arts: gakushi no bugei, meimoku no bugei, and budo no bugei. The first two categories roughly equate to "Kuchi Bushi" (mouth Bushi) and "Tijikun Bushi" (fist Bushi). Only the third category is worthy of study. As he writes:
"[B]udo no bugei, [are] the genuine methods which are never practiced without a conviction, and through which participants cultivate a serene wisdom which knows not contention or vice. With virtue, participants foster loyalty among family, friends and country, and a natural decorum encourages a dauntless character. With the fierceness of a tiger and the swiftness of a bird, an indomitable calmness makes subjugating any adversary effortless. Yet budo no bugei forbids willful violence, governs the warrior, fortifies people, fosters virtue, appeases the community, and brings about a general sense of harmony and prosperity. These are the "Seven Virtues of Bu."
Yakusoku Kumite - a discussion: Courtesy of Kyoshi Jason Perry
Yakusoku (約束) means appointment or promise. Kumite (組み手) means to pair hands or spar. Yakusoku kumite, therefore, is a prearranged set of movements done by two people. One is a defender and the other the attacker. Yakusoku kumite offers karateka the opportunity to execute kata-like offensive and defensive movements in a controlled environment.
Unlike Jiyu kumite or in actual combat, each individual executes his / her technique with a complete understanding of what his aite (相手) or partner is going to do in response. Practicing Yakusoku kumite has several merits but it also potentially teaches bad habits that if carried over to actual fighting may have unwanted results.
If we accept that we fight the way we train, one must understand the demerits of yakusoku kumite and be careful not to allow those practices to become habits in our fighting philosophy or style. Such is the case with any training tool to include kata, makiwara, jiyu kumite or other drills and exercises. Each has its purpose and training objectives but each also falls short of replicating actual combat. I would like to limit my thoughts to yakusoku kumite and offer a few merits and demerits each karateka should consider when training.
No training can completely replicate combat, therefore we train different aspects of fighting by means of various methods that stress certain, albeit limited, concepts of fighting. Kata teaches balance, breathing, body mechanics and the fundamentals of combative movement. But to be proficient in kata will not make one a skilled fighter in and of itself. Kata must be applied in the context of the nature of combat such as fluidity, confusion, fear, fatigue, environment, etc.
Similarly, yakusoku kumite teaches valuable combat principles. I will offer a few of them here:
1) Maai (間合い): Ma (間) means between or interval and ai (合い) means to meet or merge. Maai is the meeting distance between two combatants. Maai changes based on the individual, the techniques involved, and the intent of the combatant. When properly done, yakusoku kumite can teach karateka how to manage this distance. As the attacker closes the distance to execute a technique the uke or defender (literally receiver) must adjust the distance and direction between the karateka and the aite. Both partners must attempt to adjust the maai to best achieve his/her intent (defend or attack). Maai is a component of combat that can only be learned with a partner. Kata offers ways to close or open distance but has little value in terms of managing maai in a fluid environment with an opposing will.
2) Initiative and timing: Kata can be executed in accordance with the karateka’s own understanding of the timing of the “fight.” One look at modern Japanese shitei kata makes it clear kata timing is not realistic with its slow motion and long pauses for effect. This results in pure theatrics vice applicable combative motion – performing a kata vice fighting through a kata. Yakusoku kumite, on the other hand, compels a defender to react in response to the attacker’s timing and distance. This is fairly easily done when the defender knows the method of attack. Nevertheless, it is a lesson arguably best learned in the confines of prearranged movement before or as a supplement to progressing to free flowing attacks. Because initiative is with the attacker, the uke must learn to relax and execute the response in an efficient manner. Wasted movement will result in a successful attack even when the defender knows what is coming. The value of this training lies with the integrity of the partners not to overly choreograph distance and timing.
3) Kansetsu and Kyusho jutsu: Yakusoku kumite offers a controlled environment in which to experiment with how to attack joints and vital points without the danger of a free flowing sparring session.
4) Fundamentals: Yakusoku kumite is a great method of confirming the soundness of one’s fundamentals of karate principles. Instability in one’s stances comes into clear focus when done with a partner, for example. How many of us have thrown a punch at a partner and realized our stance was not nearly as stable as we thought? The fundamentals of tai sabaki are also tested to a limited degree when performing yakusoku kumite.
There are no doubt other merits but I will stop there. More important than what yakusoku kumite teaches us are the lessons we must not take away from the exercise. Here are a few salient “Lessons to Avoid” when training.
1) Maai: I have put maai as both a merit and a demerit. Generally, attacks in yakusoku kumite are straight attacks. The defense normally involves the defender moving back in the opposite direction of the attack to defend. In most of the dojo practice I have seen, the attacker is rarely ever close enough to actually execute an effective technique. Similarly, the defender never does anything to gain a tactical advantage by either opening, closing or changing the distance or angle of attack. The result is normally that the status quo comparative tactical advantage is maintained between the two combatants. In other words, neither aite gains or looses advantage. In a fight, we must always seek to gain positional, psychological and physical advantage. Doing so requires us to change the timing, distance and direction before our opponent can observe, orient, decide and react to our action. If the wrong lessons are taken away from yakusoku kumite we will only be skilled at not loosing advantage. We will fail to lean how to gain advantage and initiative.
Another lesson to avoid within the category of maai is that of appropriate combative distance. Whether we are aware of it or not, kata applications often teach us to close with our opponent even as our opponent is attacking us. By closing with (or entering) we change the status quo in terms of distance, timing and by creating a psychological effect on our opponent. Karate is, despite its reputation otherwise, a close in fighting method. Anyone who has experienced a fight or seen a fight will agree most fights involve opponents grabbing, pushing, pulling, swinging, and or wrestling each other at close quarters. If we train ourselves to move away from an attack (as yakusoku kumite often does) instead of using it as an opportunity to gain positional advantage we fail to train ourselves to seize tactical initiative and change the status quo to our favor. One of the most difficult things to do in a fight is to effectively close distance and gain kuzushi (off-balancing) over an opponent. Judo players spend countless hours doing uchikomi (entering) practice for the various throws. Getting inside the opponent’s defense in a way that establishes an advantage is difficult and must be practiced. Yakusoku kumite can be used to teach us to seek opportunities to close but often those lessons are lost in application and training. I have even had students talk about finding a good yakusoku partner because they move well together. In reality we should seek partners with a variety of body types, timing, reach, and speed otherwise we are only seeking a dance partner not trying to close the gap between form and reality.
2) Focus on individual position vice opponent’s position: One of the drawbacks to kata is that it teaches us to focus on our own posture but because there is no aite it fails to teach us to place importance on what we are doing to break down our aite’s posture. Thus we often see karateka who are hyper aware of their own body mechanics (what angle should my foot be? What is my elbow doing during this technique? for example). These are important elements but meaningless if there is no effect on the opponent. Many of the mechanics / bunkai of kata are meant to teach us to break an opponent’s posture down and create vulnerabilities that we can then exploit. The focus must be on how our aite reacts and how that reaction creates opportunity. We may execute a technique with perfect form but if it does not physically or psychologically damage our opponent or create a window of opportunity to do so it is meaningless. As karate ka we should be skilled at placing our opponent’s body in an unbalanced, weak and vulnerable position while maintaining our own center of balance and power. In all but the final technique of the Yakusoku Kumite of Shorin Ryu Shorin Kan (and by extension Shorin Ryu Kensankai) does either aite attempt to upset the other’s balance, momentum, or power other than by rudimentary blocks and some taisabaki. The focus is generally on ensuring both partners remain in a strong, balanced and powerful position until the culminating technique. I recognize fully that this is by design but we must recognize that in executing yakusoku kumite we are allowing our brains to identify weaknesses, create openings and establish kuzushi and exploit opportunity to damage our opponent. By understanding this shortfall we then see the need to use other training tools to develop our ability to create, recognize and exploit opportunity.
3) Ukekata (受け方): Ukekata in Japanese means “way of receiving.” Ukeru means to receive. Kata means way or direction (this is a different character than what we all know as kata 型). Most karate glossaries translate uke as block. This is not necessarily incorrect but it does limit the meaning compared to the Japanese nuances behind the word. Thus in English, a middle block is chuudan uke and an upper level block is joudan uke. The English interpretation suggests the aim of chuudan uke is to prevent your opponent from hitting you with a strike against your midsection - say from waist to shoulders. Similarly a joudan uke would suggest the action you take when someone attacks your head. The Japanese term uke, however, suggests more than just prevention. It implies receiving or reacting to or dealing with an attack. In other words, it implies a complete response.
Yakusoku kumite tends to limit the application of technique to its most basic form. Generally, if an opponent attacks with a middle level punch, the uke steps back and executes a chuudan uke. At that point the technique or response is complete and the next movement begins.
At a more advanced level, chuudan uke is a complete technique with multiple potential applications that involve strikes, kansetsu waza, kyuushojutsu and taisabaki. A chuudan uke applied only as a block is quite inefficient and ineffective when looked at in its most basic application, which is generally the application we see executed in yakusoku kumite.
One other thought on blocks not necessarily related to yakusoku specifically: For the most part karateka understand that a middle block (chuudan uke) is an appropriate response to a middle level attack such as chuudan tsuki. While this is not incorrect, I offer a slightly different way of thinking about uke. I am of the opinion the uke has more to do with how the defender intends to respond to the attack than it does with the location or intended target of the attack itself.
When attacked we are generally unaware of the intended target of the attack (except in yakusoku kumite). This means the defender must 1) recognize or observe the attack, 2) orient on the attack, 3) decide how to respond and 4) execute the response. This decision making cycle is called the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act). All of these steps must take place between the moment the attack is initiated and the moment it culminates. The defender has very little time to react. It follows then that a response to an attack must account for and defend against as many potential targets as possible.
Executed properly the basic uke waza do this. But because we have limited our application of chuudan uke to chuudan kogeki we have a tendency to execute improper technique.
I prefer to think of uke waza in terms of how I intend to respond to an attack regardless of what my opponent’s intended target is. Even if my opponent’s intended target is a low, I may respond with chuudan uke. It is a middle level response to a low level attack. A middle level attack (a punch to the mid-section) may be received with a low level response (gedan uke). With this way of thinking, it is no longer incumbent upon me to first determine my opponent’s intended target to respond. I only need to execute proper technique to cover as many potential openings as possible and then complete the technique. In this way, I seek to gain the initiative, impose my will on my opponent and not merely react to his attack.
4) Gorei (語例): Combat is fluid. Combat is continuous motion, which generates a tempo that overwhelms your opponent’s ability to observe, orient, decide and act. When we teach kata, we artificially break up what would otherwise be a continuous motion so we can teach basic principles. Itosu Anko sensei simplified kata from their original form so they could be incorporated into school curriculum. We teach kata at the basic level by artificially disconnecting what would otherwise be simultaneous techniques and break continuous movement up in time and space so we can break the kata down into “bite sized” movements. Where one movement begins and ends is largely immaterial in terms of application. Yet even after we get to more advanced levels we tend to execute kata and by extension yakusoku kumite the same way we did the first time we learned the kata – with a count. I have often heard of groups going to Okinawa to learn new knowledge. They come back with nothing more to announce, “the count for this kata has changed.” The count itself is an artificiality of kata, yet we seem to be tied to it. I often hear in class, “we will now do kata X or Y gorei nashi,” meaning without a count. Yet when the command “hajime” is given the class executes the kata in perfect synchronicity as if someone were at the head of the class calling for the execution of each technique. There may not be an audible count but each student is following a count in his or her head.
This practice is often carried over into the execution of yakusoku kumite. People seek out a good yakusoku partner who knows the count so the kumite can be done smoothly with little disruption. To make yakusoku more effective the idea of count should be dismissed after the routine is mastered. This will provide greater training value. Otherwise yakusoku kumite becomes a dance with a partner just as kata without bunkai is little more than a dance. Is looses true martial meaning.
There are many great benefits of practicing yakusoku kumite. I do not want to suggest we should not practice yakusoku kumite, however I believe we must do it in the proper spirit and with a clear understanding of the training opportunities and pitfalls of the drills. Here are a few suggestions to make yakusoku kumite a more effective training tool:
1. Get close to attack. Stay close when defending. Learn to be comfortable inside your opponents reach. Unlike in sport karate the safest place to be in a fight is either well outside attacking range or will inside your opponent’s optimal power generating range. In karate we train to generate power through short violent movements – the nexus of chinkuchi and muchimi (maybe the topic of my next essay).
2. Get comfortable visualizing each technique as a complete technique. For example, when executing a chuudan uke, use the “non-blocking hand” to parry and use the “blocking hand to attack a vital point or a joint. Get the feel of how to bridge an attack between both hands/arms.
3. The kogeki has the initiative and should execute on his/her own timing. The uke must manage the maai to best disrupt the attack and create opportunities to gain kuzushi and positional advantage. This must all be done within the stylistic constraints of the routine.
4. Stop synchronizing movements based on an artificial count. Avoid having a designated yakusoku partner.
5. Tai sabaki can be practiced in yakusoku kumite even when the movements are straight forward and back. Yakusoku can be a great opportunity to learn the basics of the use of hanmi (half facing) to create off-balancing momentum and power for follow on strikes.
6. Occasionally, work with a partner using the same techniques in the correct order of yakusoku drills but do it from more natural fighting positions and timing. Move with a partner and try to effectively off balance your partner using tai sabaki and more realistic ukekata or uke waza.
7. Supplement yakusoku kumite with other training drills. Types of kumite include but are not limited to kakie, renzoku kumite, iri or jiyu kumite, contact sparring or body sparring and/or randori kumite. These various training tools can help fill in gaps left by other training tools. These tools together can help karateka learn how to create, recognize and exploit opportunities when they are presented.
Now if you are reading this and your first thought is, “Congratulations, you are a master of the obvious,” then I apologize for wasting your time. Nothing here should be overly revealing. But in my observation, yakusoku kumite is often executed absent a clear understanding of the training value and limitations involved. Yakusoku performance becomes an end – not a means to an end. I am not suggesting we should not do yakusoku kumite. It is a good learning tool. Use it but be careful what you learn from it.
Okinawan Symbols and History of the Hidari-Gomon
When one thinks of Okinawa there are a few common symbols that may come to mind. I didn't really give it a second thought when I first saw them and simply believed that they stood for Okinawa the way a state symbol represents a state in the USA. I guess I never really gave it a thought what the various things portrayed in the state symbol for Wisconsin were either. Anyway, these symbols do have meaning and I will attempt here to explain the meaning of some very common symbols you may see when in Okinawa or any of the other Ryukyu Islands.
Let's begin with the Prefectural Symbol of Okinawa. This symbol was adopted as the official government symbol to Okinawa Prefecture in 1972 when reversion gave Okinawa back to the country of Japan. The outer circle of the symbol represents the ocean which plays such a large part in Okinawa's identity. The white circle symbolizes a peace-loving Okinawa and the inner circle symbolizes a globally developing Okinawa. In short, the mark symbolizes "Ocean" "Peace" and "Development" all primary concerns to the people of Okinawa.
Official Prefectual Government Symbol of Okinawa
The next common symbol is called the Hidari Gomon and it was once the Royal crest of Ryukyu Kingdom in Okinawa. In Japanese it is called the Hidari mitsudomoe and is a common design element in Japanese family emblems (家紋) and corporate logos. The Hidari Gonon is the primary traditional symbol of Okinawa. It is unclear who used the symbol first but it has special significance to the Okinawan people especially those practicing the ancient art of Okinawan Karate. I have heard a couple different interpretations of the meaning of the symbol so their may be more than one definition for the symbol.
The Koyasan Shingon sect of Buddhism which came from China to Japan uses the Hidari Gomon as a visual representation of the cycle of life. Others believe that the symbol is Shinto related because in Shinto mythology the symbol is often used to signify the structure taking place between three worlds. Such worlds include heaven, Earth, and the Underworld.
One explanation that was particularly interesting to me was the Okinawan folktale where they interpret the "Hidari Gomon" as representing loyalty, heroism, and altruism to a proud island people and their descendants. They believe it to be expressed through a past full of struggle and hardship, but also a willingness to face the difficulties the ahead no matter what the cost.
According to the story the origin of the Hidari-Gomon takes place in feudal Japan, when the feudal lords and their private armies of samurai fought fiercely for land ownership. It was during a time of constant war in Japan. During these wars, Okinawa was defeated and dominated by the lord of Kagoshima, who imposed conditions on the Ryukyuan people. He proclaimed without exception that the people should go unarmed and that those who were found carrying weapons should be executed. Also, as a tribute of war, he proclaimed that Ryukyuans should submit an annual tax of rice to Kagoshima.
For many years the Ryukyu people religiously fulfilled the terms of the lords agreement. At the time rice was plentiful and no one went armed because a way of fighting had been developed in Okinawa which did not require the use of weapons. We now know this as Karate. Karate was developed because the Ryukyuan King did not want his people to be defenseless and he began secretly sending members of his guard to China, where he knew various forms of bare-hand fighting were being taught. Gradually, karate was being formed, the weapon was the body of the fighter, and it did not conflict in any way the terms imposed by the lord of Kagoshima.
Everything was fine until a great drought occurred in the Ryukyu Kingdom, which caused a shortage of rice throughout the islands. This cause extensive poverty and hunger among the Ryukyu people and prevented the kingdom from being able to make the payment of rice to Kagoshima. Seeing the suffering of his people the Ryukyu King decided to send a delegation to Kagoshima with a message reporting the sad situation of his people and asking at the same time to forego the rice tax that year. This in the Kings mind was surely a reasonable request as there wasn’t even rice for those farmers who planted it.
The King’s envoy left the kingdom escorted by three unarmed samurai guards and was received by the lord of Kagoshima, who was outraged by the audacity of the Ryukyuans. Not only did they not bring the rice, but they had the guts to still come and ask him to excuse their debt. The Lord of Kagoshima then ordered his Samurai to kill the messenger. One of the lord’s samurai came towards the envoy with his spear but the three unarmed Ryukyuan guards were able to easily defend against the attack. This surprised the Kagoshima Lord who considered his samurai to be invincible warriors. As other samurai came to assist in the capture of the Ryukyuan guards, the envoy tried to reason with the lord by explaining further that the people in the Ryukyu Islands were starving, trying to make him understand the pain and suffering of the Ryukyuan people.
The lord ordered the immediate execution of the three guards by having them thrown into a huge caldron of boiling water used for extracting oils for fuel. They struggled in front of him and the envoy where they screamed out, pleading not for their own lives but for the lives of the Ryukyuan people. Hearing their screams for him to save the Ryukyu people even as they were boiling to death moved the Kagoshima lord. It caused him to finally open his mind to the suffering of the Ryukyu people. When he finally realized the extent of the of the Ryukyuan people’s plight he expressed solidarity to those people, and not only accepted their excuses for not paying tribute but had his men carry a cargo of rice to the islands to ease the hunger and suffering of the island people. In return for his generosity he requested that the masters of the art of Karate come to Kagoshima to teach his men the fighting techniques he had observed defeat his warrior. The value and courage of those three Ryukyuan warriors initiated a new period of relations between the two kingdoms and eventually led to the cooperation and friendship of both peoples.
Later, back in the Ryukyu Kingdom, the envoy described the death of three warriors to the King. The King after hearing the story of the Ryukyu guards deaths had up the Hidari-Gomon drawn up to symbolize their heroic action. The symbol is said to portray the three Ryukyu warriors spinning around in the pot giving their lives for the greater good of the people. The symbol has since become the symbol of the Ryukyu Kingdom, a symbol which can now be found just about everywhere in Okinawa. Many Karate dojos have also incorporated its use into the symbols they use to represent their particular style of the ancient Okinawan art of Karate
Kyoshi Chris Estes
R. Christian Estes, M.D., F.A.A.O.S.
Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karatedo Kobudo Kensankai
Started training in Shorin Ryu Karate/Kobudo under Sensei Mike Arnold, Shobayashi Ryu in 1973. Learned the Basics of Karatedo/Kobudo.
In 1974 changed over to Shorin Ryu Shorinkan under Kyoshi Sid Campbell, Oakland, California. He opened the first Shorinkan Dojo in the United States after discharge from the Navy, and is responsible for Kyoshi Estes’ Intermediate level of training. In 1995 I had the great honor of meeting Hanshi Perry at a camp. I knew I had found the person that could guide me into the advance levels of training.
I moved to Hendersonville, N.C., in 1990 to train under the Hanshi Perry and continue to do so, getting closer everyday to my objective to learn the higher levels of Karate/kobudo. Maybe, one day I will reach Ri like Hanshi Perry.
On November 28,1975 was promoted to Shodan.
On January 13,1977 promoted to Nidan by Hanshi Nakazato.
On August 18,1980 promoted to Sandan by Hanshi Nakazato.
On June 24,1982 promoted to Yondan by Kyoshi Campbell and presented with certificate on September 18,1982 by Hanshi Nakazato with Shihan Certification.
On July 2,1988 was promoted to Godan by Hanshi Nakazato.
On November 15,1992 was promoted to Rokudan by Hanshi Nakazato.
In October of 1998 traveled with Hanshi Perry to Okinawa and tested in the Honbu Dojo in front of Hanshi Nakazato and was promoted to Nanadan, Kyoshi as well as Godan in Kobudo.
On Febuary 1, 2010 was promoted to Hachidan by Hanshi Perry.
I attended Texas A&M University from 1973-1977 and started a Karate club there with Sean Riley (Kyoshi), then went onto Medical School at University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio. Moved to Temple, Texas and spent five years in postgraduate training in Orthopedic Surgery. I have been in Hendersonville, N.C. for 21 years where I moved so to be able to train under Hanshi J.D. Perry. I have been in private practice with emphasis on Sports Related Injuries serving as Team Physician for West Henderson High School and the United States Shorin Ryu Shorinkan Karatedo/Kobudo Association. I have been married to my wife for 32 years and raised three children. My first born, Christian is a graduate of the North Carolina School of Science and Math and earned a degree in Chemical Engineering with Magna Cum Laude honors from North Carolina State University, and works for Cree as a process engineer. He is presently ranked as a Yondan in Karate and Sandan in Kobudo under Hanshi Perry. My daughter Morgan was a national dance competitor and graduated as the Valedictorian of her high school class and magna cum laude from Elon College and presently works for Credit Suisse as a Technical Analyst. The youngest is my son Brooks, who is also attending NCSSM and is ranked Shodan under Hanshi Perry.
Hanshi Perry has been training since 1956 and is the first Non-okinawan to be promoted to Kudan in one of the major Okinawan styles. He served a distinguish career in the U.S. Marine Corps rising to be a “mustang” Major and served three tours in Viet Nam as a sniper/recon marine. He also is a world famous Shag dancer, winning several national championships and is a member of the Shag Hall of Fame.
Under the teaching of Kyoshi Campbell in the performance of kata, I was able to win several tournaments most notably the United States Karate Championships in Dallas, Texas in Black Belt Kobudo two years in a row, using a Double Nunchaku kata taught by Sensei Campbell.
In the summer of 1997, I traveled to Okinawa as the Team Physician for the United States AAU Karate team and competed as an Independent from the U.S. in the Mens Sai division performing Shugoro No Sai, and was the sole mens competitor from the United States to make it into the following days Finals performing Chatan Yara No Sai, finishing 11 th.. This was the year that the Okinawan Budokan was dedicated.
I have competed in many AAU Karate tournaments winning several Gold medals in the state and regional contests, culminating with the 1998 AAU National Championships where I won a Gold Medal in Kobudo performing a Sueishi No Kun kata, a Silver Medal in Kata performing Hakutsuru, and a Bronze medal in Kumite.
In 2001, I competed in the Okinawan Rengokai World Tournament in the Men’s Kata and Kobudo divisions. I won a Gold Medal and World Championship in the men’s Shorin Ryu Division after two rounds of elimination, and then competed in the overall kata competition performing Gojushiho kata. Also, competed in men’s Kobudo division performing Shugoro No Sai kata after one round of elimination finishing third with a Bronze Medal. Had the honor of performing Nakaima no Kama Kata in the closing ceremonies.
I have trained under many very accomplished and skilled martial artists over the 40 years of my training journey.
In Shorin Ryu I have trained under Hanshi Nakazato several times including 4 trips to Okinawa. Years of training under Sensei Arnold, Kyoshi Campbell and most significantly, the 21 years of personal training under Hanshi Perry in Hendersonville, N.C.. In the Henderson- ville dojo, we have Yudansha Classes three times per week which challenges us to met Hanshi Perry’s high expectations.
Additionally, I have had the great pleasure to learn Hanshi Hohan Soken’s concepts and principles under Hanshi Ron Lindsey and Kyoshi Chuck Chandler in Matsumura Seito.
I have been exposed to and learned some of the vast knowledge and ground breaking teachings of Hanshi Taika Oyata and his student Hanshi Jim Logue from the Ryute Kempo Ryuha.
More recently over the last 6 years, I have had the opportunity to train and learn the teachings of Sifu Liu Chang I, the 12th. generation Grandmaster of Shehequan/Feeding Crane Gong fu. He has generously revealed his foundational training of Ji Ben Gong for the attainment of Lei Gong Ji/Body Thunder.
All of these teachings have only added to the immense knowledge and skills that I have and continue to learn from Hanshi Perry.
Kyoshi Jerry Taylor
1970 – 1978: Received lower kyu ranks in Chinese Kenpo, Taekwondo, Shotokan and Pai Lum Kung Fu. 1978 – 1988: Received 3rd in Shobayashi Shorin-Ryu From Hanshi Eizo Shimabukuro.
2010 – Current: Received 8th Dan From Hanshi Doug Perry
Kyoshi Jason Perry
Kyoshi Jason Perry
Perry sensei has no recollection of starting karate training. He began learning the basics at the age of 3 from his father Doug Perry. The dojo was the driveway or the backyard or the garage depending on where the Perry family lived.
Jason’s first memories of serious karate training are of a small nondescript building on Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina when he was about 5 years old. The dojo was the gathering place for martial arts practitioners of several styles and schools. There he continued to train under the tutelage of his father and with respected karate ka such as Bill Hayes sensei (Shobayashi Ryu) and Jeff Hobaugh (Shorin Ryu Shorin Kan). He also began to participate in karate demonstrations on base and in the community during this time.
After 9 years wearing a white obi, Jason was promoted to rokkyu (Green Belt) in Quantico, Virginia at the age of 11. At that time, Hanshi Perry was stationed at the Marine Corps Base there where he trained again with karate ka of all origins and styles. John Correa sensei (Uechi Ryu) presented presented Perry his green obi.
In 1981, Jason moved to Hendersonville, NC when his father retired from the Marine Corps. He helped his dad teach classes at the Hendersonville YMCA being promoted to the rank of sankyu (brown belt) in 1982. During this time, Jason began to compete regularly in tournaments throughout the southeastern United States winning multiple state, region and national level events in weapons, kata and kumite.
As Hanshi Perry’s senior student, Jason taught classes regularly at the Atha Plaza dojo where Hanshi Perry still teaches. There Jason helped develop the dedicated students who continue to train with his father today. He was promoted to Shodan in 1985 at the age of 15 after twelve years of karate experience. Kyoshi Kevin Roberts participated in the promotion ceremony.
After graduating from high school in 1987, Jason served a two-year mission in the Chubu Region (Nagoya) of Japan for his church. During this time, he became fluent in Japanese. Upon returning to the United States he resumed his studies at Brigham Young University graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Japanese.
Jason was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in 1996. After deploying to the Arabian Gulf in 1996 and 1998 as a platoon commander, Jason moved to Yokohama, Japan where he conducted advanced Japanese language studies. In 2002 and 2003 he deployed as a company commander to Okinawa where he trained for one year as a guest student of Hanshi Eizo Shimabukuro (Shobayashiryu).
Jason’s relationship with Japan and Karate continued when he was transferred to the Pentagon where he served as the Japan Director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. During this time, he made multiple trips to Japan and Okinawa where he trained in Hanshi Shugoro Nakazato’s dojo and served as an interpreter for his father.
After his Pentagon tour, Jason deployed to Al Anbar, Iraq as an infantry battalion executive officer in 2009. In 2010, he deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan as a Regimental Combat Team operations officer. In 2012, he deployed to combat yet again as the commanding officer of Second Battalion, Fifth Marines.
Jason is a Black Belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and has continued to train in Okinawan Shorin Ryu while teaching his 4 children in the same manner he was taught as a child. While Karate is primarily an individual endeavor, Jason cherishes his relationship with the many good people from across the world of martial arts who have influenced him as a person and a warrior.
Sensei Oscar Alarcón
||Renshi Oscar Luis Alarcón Belmar
Born on February 13, 1970, Sensei Oscar Alarcón began training in his first style, Goju Ryu, in 1976 at a very early age. He displayed an innate aptitude and dedication. Sensei Alarcón achieved black belt level in several Japanese disciplines, among them 4th Dan in Jujitsu and 1st Dan in Aikijujitsu. He has been practicing Shorin Ryu Karatedo for 24 years and has trained many black belts in Chile and South America.
|He has worked for 15 years training private security guards, conducting classes of police self defense to security guards, private bodyguards and institutions like the Chilean Army and Navy. Sensei Alarcón was an instructor at Coalivi (Corporación ayuda al limitado visual – Corporation for people with limited sight) of the University of Santa Maria at Talcahuano and he has lead national and international seminars. In the academic realm, he is a university professor with a degree in education and a civil servant in a prestigious institution.
Kyoshi Paul Kline
Kyoshi Paul Kline
Paul Kline started his karate journey at the local Jackson, Michigan YMCA in February 1970 under Walter Knox, when he was 17. Knox had received his black belt during his military service and had spent time in Vietnam. Paul trained with him for around one year and achieved the rank of green belt. After Knox closed the school Paul went 6 months before finding his second instructor in Jackson, Roger Pratt. Pratt was under Tadashi Yamashita at the time and after about two years Paul earned the rank of brown belt.
| The school then went under Ernest Estrada from Grand Rapids, Michigan around August 1973; he was under Nakazato Sensei. Paul continued training with them and received his Shodan on September 3rd, 1975. Paul trained with Roger for three more years until he closed his school. Paul trained alone for approximately six months but stopped until 1983 when he began formal training again at Jim Webb's school. Mr. Webb and Paul had started their training under Walter Knox around the same time in 1970 and also trained together at Roger Pratt's. He helped Paul get back into training. Jim was under Toby Heberly who at the time was under Nakazato Sensei. Paul made the rank of Nidan on March 7th 1987, his Sandan on September 17th, 1988 and his Yodan on June 3rd, 1989 when Nakazato Sensei came to the US to visit and do a seminar. Paul and Jim then had a parting with Toby Heberly and went under Frank Hargrove in 1992. They trained with Mr. Hargrove for a while and Paul received his Godan on July 3rd, 1993. In the fall of 1994, Paul and Jim found Sensei Perry. Paul made his first trip to Okinawa in 1997 and then again in 1999, 2004 and 2006. He earned the rank of Rokudan on March 1st, 1999 and also the Kobudo rank of Yodan. Paul then received the rank of Kyoshi 7th Dan on January 1st, 2010 from Sensei Perry. Paul has trained under Sensei Perry for many years now and has learned more about Karate and Kobudo than in all the previous years. Once he started to go to Sensei's summer camps in 1996 he never missed once and frequently visits his dojo.
Kyoshi Thomas Harris
Kyoshi Thomas M. Harris
Sensei Harris was born in 1954 in Irumagawa, Japan. The son of an Air Force fighter pilot, Tom was the third of six children. Growing up, they traveled around the world as his father’s military service required. Tom’s first contact with Karate was as a very young man in Las Vegas in the 60’s. A friend, who was a brown belt in Kenpo Karate, would demonstrate his skills and try to get Tom and the others to train in his Karate. It wasn’t until years later that he found himself in a place in his life that afforded him the opportunity to start his Karate journey.
Tom visited a Shorin-ryu Karate Dojo, after hearing an advertisement, and it just so happened a class was getting ready to begin. A young instructor named CD Williamson greeted him and got him into a Gi and on the floor. This was a major eye opener for Sensei Harris who often recalls that he thought he was going to die after the first 30 minutes. By the time class was over he had signed up for Shorin-ryu Karate and his journey had started. He attended class almost every day the Dojo was open for over three years. Sensei Harris has always been thankful for the strong training that made up his association and tutelage under Kyoshi Williamson who was the first major influence in his early years of training and remains today his close and respected friend.
Over the years Sensei Harris has made the most of his many opportunities to study with Hanshi Nakazato and the other Okinawan Shorinkan Sensei when they journeyed to the United States. He received his Shodan and Nidan certificates directly from Nakazato Sensei. The Okinawan Sensei’s great spirit and kindness had made for many fond memories.
Sensei Harris has also trained in Iaido and Kenjuitsu, receiving his Shodan in Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido. Tom’s training in these Martial Arts afforded him some great insights into the martial mind, etiquette and character that flow through the core of all the Martial Arts. Along with the study of Zen, these paths of training and study have greatly helped to create a deeper understanding that is intrinsic to realizing the breadth and depth of the study of Martial endeavors.
In the early 80’s Tom had a chance to meet Sensei Doug Perry at a camp being held in Virginia. He was immediately impressed by the Karate he observed. Sensei Perry and his student’s martial arts strength and abilities appeared to demonstrate something that Tom had always imagined his Karate should be. Sensei Perry personified the essence of martial character and his innate skills appeared to define the inevitable next step for Tom’s journey. Hanshi Perry has, for many years now, afforded Sensei Harris the opportunity to study in his Dojo and shared his friendship and knowledge without limitation. Sensei Harris has often asserted that he hopes someday to understand half of what his Sensei tries to teach him.
This association has also allowed Tom great opportunities to expand his understanding and skills by meeting and studying the knowledge of so many other Karateka both in and out of the Shorin-ryu system. A favorite of Sensei Harris has been attending Hanshi Bill Hayes’s seminars that have educated so many interested students in the concepts and culture that make up the foundation of all Okinawan Karate. The opportunity to attend classes with the late Hanshi Jim Logue and his teacher Taika Oyata of the Ryu Te system have demonstrated the subtle differences and even more the similarities of all Okinawa Karate. One of the most prolific opportunities of this journey, for Sensei Harris, has been and always will be the friendships and privilege to study with his seniors and peers at the Hendersonville Kensankai Dojo.
As an Instructor, Sensei Harris has enjoyed the opportunity to help students better themselves through training in Shorin-ryu Karate Do for over 30 years and in turn, he says, “They have had plenty of opportunities to teach me also”. He is always insistent that it is imperative to pass on our Karate to our students in the best manner possible so they may learn all of the advantages including physical, spiritual, self discipline, self defense, confidence and the self realization that come through their in-depth study. Kyoshi Harris stated “There is always the hope that one day you will find those few dedicated students that will continue the teaching to the next generation of karateka”. Sensei Harris opened the Small Forest Karate and Kobudo Dojo in Poquoson, Virginia in January of 2011. The Dojo is dedicated to the study of Shorinryu Kensankai Karate Do and Kobudo.
“Karate is a life long journey that weaves its way into all aspects of ones life. To strive to develop noble character and live life in concert with all mankind is no small endeavor. Every true Karateka understands this journey and strives daily, with fortitude and determination, to maintain the high principals that define our way!”
Kyoshi Thomas Harris