Hoshiyama sensei

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I have just talked with Hoshiyama sensei, and over the years I have formed a false opinion about him based on incorrect information and gossip and even shared this opinion with various individuals when asked about him. However after talking with him I believe that he is true and honest about his past training, intentions, and is truly passionate about his martial arts training. I’m very sorry if I have said anything in the past that would detract from his accomplishments, training, or character.

If anyone is interested in Kobayashi style Shorin Ryu (Chibana lineage) or in Koshiro Ryu (Kojo Ryu) I highly suggest that you contact Hoshiyama sensei or one of his branch dojos.

Gambatte Kudasai

Okinawa Creation Myth

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There are several of these stories in existence, and nearly all of the islands have some minor detail different here or there.  However this is the origin story that I put together based on the Chuzan Seikan (中山世鑑) from 1650, Kyuyo Gaikan Irosetsuden from 1745, and the Ryukyu Shintoki from 1608.  The Chuzan Seikan is the Ryukyu Royal court document, and there was a lot of outside influence in it, so that is why I used the other two documents to supplement the story to try to bring it back to the original Okinawan folklore vice a court approved version that added in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean elements.

Enjoy - Gambatte Kudasai!!!

In the beginning the world was void.  The giant named Amanchu rose from the depths of the void and divided Heaven and Earth.  As aeons passed the world caught the attention of the Sun God who lived in obotsu kagura (the other realm).  The Sun God and Heavenly Emperor Tedako Onushi saw Earth and thought it would have potential.  So he sent his heavenly daughter, Amamikyo (アマミキヨ), to earth.  Amamikyo took no time to pull islands out from the abyss, and came from heaven and then stood on earth at the Sefa utaki (斎場御嶽).  She covered the islands with rocks, soil, plants, flowers, and trees.  Satisfied with the results Amamikyo went back to the heavenly palace and begged her father for hitodane.  He granted her wish and the hitodane was placed on Hama Higa island, and Amamikyo and her husband (or brother) Shinerikyo (シネリキヨ) went to earth and their spirits filled the hitodane, and they became human.

The Sun Goddess Amaterasu stayed in the heavenly palace so she could watch after her children, as Tadako Onushi would travel back to obotsu kagura.  She would cross the sky each day and settle into a great cave called kumayaa in the evenings.  In the mornings she would come from the water by Iheya-jima and trek across the sky to watch her children grow.

As the children grew into adults food became scarce, so a giant bird brought 5 grains from nirai-kanai (underwater dragon palace, past Kudaka island) and dropped them on Kudaka jima and around Chinen and Tamagusuku.  The two divine children then began growing food from the soil in a spot between the Ukinju (受水) and Hainju (走水) springs.

Time passed, and one night when Amamikyo was in her hut, a passing wind impregnated her.  She had five children.  The first child was a boy, and he became first of the line of kings.  The second child was also a boy; he became a great hunter and warrior.  The third child was a daughter and she became a high priestess (Noro) and was set to advise her brothers in all matters.  The fourth child was a boy, and he took interest in the grains, and became a farmer so he could supply food for his family.  The fifth child was a girl, and she became a shaman (Yuta).

According to the Irosetsuden (遺老説伝), the family needed to be able to warm themselves and to cook, so the oldest daughter went to nirai kanai and confronted Ryugu (竜母) the dragon who controls the seas.  From Ryugu she brought back the secrets of the sacred fire.

All was right in the world.  So the oldest boy, Tentei, declared himself the king of the island, and the Tenson dynasty (天孫王朝, the Heavenly Descent dynasty) began with the grandson of the sun god and lasted for 17,000 years and 25 kings.

Olympic Karate

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It was recently announced that Karate and 5 other sports will be allowed into the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.  Personally I see this as a positive thing.  In Ryuhoryu I require my students to have a certain number of tournament wins in addition to knowing the material for each belt.  This allows the student to compete with their peer level and ensure that they are competitive in that level.  It is also really important in the development of a student that they know how to both win and lose.  This is something that a lot of kids these days are lacking, and honestly it's great to understand how to do both without pride or ego.

So with karate becoming an olympic event this is outstanding because now we have a standard to train our people to, and they have the potential to raise up that far.  This is awesome from a motivation standpoint, and also that it gives a set of rules that everyone can comply with.  Not some NASKA nonsense or creative BS.  Solid set rules!

Will this effect traditional karate?  I don't think so.  In the dojo you should be teaching your students solid traditional karate, but also showing them how to spar, etc.  This only gives you a new set of rules to work with for kumite scoring.  Doing kata is really about the same, make it sharp, make it count.  So most of the dojos that I have been at over the last 15 years or so are doing WKF rule kumite anyway.  So it's not a big deal.  Still teach your material, teach the applications, teach movement, theory, and all the other good things that go with that.  Encourage your students to get out and compete in their peer group so they can see if they are above average, par, or subpar.  This will only help them grow.

Gambatte Kudasai!,

Don't put ice on it!

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A lot of people use ice for acute injuries.  Injuries like a sprained ankle, twisted knee, any type of inflammation, etc., however medical science has started to show that ice might actually do more harm than good.  I normally wouldn’t post one of my herbal mixtures online, but the use of ice is really out of control outside of the medical community and this type of alternative needs to be more widely used within the martial arts community.

RICE is an acronym that many people are familiar with (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) however studies (Hubbard et al 2004) have shown that compression actually does the most for acute injuries that many would ice.  The ice itself does little more than to numb the area.

So one of the major concerns is inflammation.  However ice has proven that it actually reduces the amount of macrophages in the newly necrotic muscle fibers.  Non-icing lets the macrophages form, essentially creating a natural clean up crew for the bruising and excess fluids.  Icing also reduces the regenerating muscle cells, significantly reduces the regenerating muscle fibers, creates abnormal collagen formation on the damaged cells, and long term use even damages the soft tissue and nerve endings in the injured area.  All of these ultimately will lead to a more severe injury if the area is ever damaged again.

Ok so I’m not going to tell you just to stop using ice without giving you a solution.  So what follows is an herbal mixture that I make that actually does exactly what most people think that ice does (reduce inflammation) without causing soft tissue damage as ice does, this promotes natural healing in your body and allows your body to naturally clear out the damage and promotes faster healing by promoting the lymphatic system and allowing nature to take it’s course.

So this mixture should be used on anything that you would normally use ice on.

黄粉 – 3 Yellow Powders or “San Ki Kona”

Huang Bai - Phellodendron Bark
Huang Qin - Skullcap Root
Huang Lian - Coptis Root

These are to be ground into a powder, then mixed together in equal weights.  For example, if you weigh the powder and set 10 grams, then there other 2 should weight 10 grams as well.

Once you have your herbs, next thing to do is use a mortar and pestle and grind them into a powder.  The Huang Bai is a bit tricky, because it makes into a really fine powder, just be aware of that one as you are grinding.

Break your herbs up before you grind them.  Also don't grind much more than a pinch at a time.  If you overfill your mortar then grinding becomes more difficult.

The powder that is produced should be somewhat fine, make sure that you separate the powders so you can weigh them individually.  The secret to this mixture is that all of the weights must be the same between the herbs.  

Once you have all three powders ground and weight you can put them together for the final grinding.  In this case you need to pour all three of equal weight into the mortar and grind them together so that you get the final product.

The final grind should take your mixture into a near dust fine powder.  When the color has changed to a golden yellow then your mixture is complete.

To use mix with a small amount of olive oil and apply to the injured area and wrapped with loosely with an ace bandage.

You can use it like a poultice.  In this case use about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the 3 yellow powder mixture.  Mix in some hot water to make a paste.  Use organic cheesecloth for a covering, and then put this on the injured area.  Wrap it with an ace bandage or some type of waterproof covering to keep it on the injured area.

Either method will work, leave the powder on the injured area for about 20 minutes to 3 hours as needed.  Reapply if the injury still persists.

Good luck with your training and keep yourself healthy and strong (and don't use ICE!!!)

Gambatte Kudasai!

1. Bleakley C, McDonough S, MacAuley D. The use of ice in the treatment of acute soft-tissue injury: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Am J Sport Med. 2004; 32:251–261.

2. Bleakley, CM and Davidson, GW. Cryotherapy and inflammation: evidence beyond the cardinal signs. Physical Therapy Reviews. Volume 15, Number 6, December 2010 , pp. 430-435(6). http://www.researchgate.net/publication/228481528_Cryotherapy_and_inflammation_evidence_beyond_the_cardinal_signs

3. Bleakley CM1, Costello JT, Glasgow PD. Should athletes return to sport after applying ice? A systematic review of the effect of local cooling on functional performance. Sports Med. 2012 Jan 1;42(1):69-87.
4. French SD1, Cameron M, Walker BF, Reggars JW, Esterman AJ. A Cochrane review of superficial heat or cold for low back pain. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2006 Apr 20;31(9):998-1006.

5. Hubbard, TJ, Denegar, CR. Does Cryotherapy Improve Outcomes with Soft Tissue Injury? J Athl Train. 2004 Jan-Mar; 39(1): 88–94.

6. Meeusen R, Lievens P. The use of cryotherapy in sports injuries. Sports Med. 1986 Nov-Dec;3(6):398-414.

7. Starrette K, MobilityWod video: http://www.mobilitywod.com/2012/08/people-weve-got-to-stop-icing-we-were-wrong-sooo-wrong/

8. Takagi, R, et al. Influence of Icing on Muscle Regeneration After Crush Injury to Skeletal Muscles in Rats. J of App Phys. February 1, 2011 vol. 110 no. 2 382-388

9. Tseng CY1, Lee JP, Tsai YS, Lee SD, Kao CL, Liu TC, Lai C, Harris MB, Kuo CH. Topical cooling (icing) delays recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 May;27(5):1354-61.

10. van den Bekerom MP1, Struijs PA, Blankevoort L, Welling L, van Dijk CN, Kerkhoffs GM. What is the evidence for rest, ice, compression, and elevation therapy Train. 2012 Jul-Aug;47(4):435-4

Hachi Mon Go Ho 八門五步

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Hachimon Goho is a somewhat complicated theory that originated in the Chinese martial arts a long time ago.  It came to Okinawa by the way of Chinese martial arts teachers associated with the Sapposhi (Chinese envoys) and from individuals who trained in China.  This concept is really the core concept of many of the basics of the Okinawa martial arts, even though very few seem to have been passed this information.  I wrote about this concept extensively in my book Ryuhoryu (ISBN 987-1329126589)

Ok so the idea of the hachi mon, is that there are 8 ways that a body can move.  These 8 movements are associated to the Bagua and are each represented by one of the trigrams often seen in the Bagua drawings.

1. Peng (ward off) - ☰  - To bounce off.  The idea is that you are moving forward so fast that any incoming attack simply bounces off of your advance.  It is grounded in movement and comes from a person's center.

2. Lu (roll back) - ☷ - Collect an incoming attack and redirect it to the side.  Chudan and Soto uke are excellent examples of Lu in action.

3. Chi (press) - ☵ - Creating a sudden and abrupt stop of your attacker's incoming attack or movement.

4. An (push) - ☲ - If an attack comes in press it down.  The movements in Seisan as you advance forward are an excellent example of An.

5. Tsai (pull down) - ☴ - This is an energy transfer based on grabbing an incoming attack or movement.  By grabbing an attack physically you can control the energy transfer from the movement.

6. Leih (split) - ☳ - This is the action of both pushing and pulling simultaneously.  This is very much the action of Shisochin where you are using one hand to press down and one hand to push out at the same time.

7. Chou (elbow strike) - ☱ - This is the idea of whipping a short movement into an opponent for maximum effect.  Longer attacks don't always need a whip to generate the motion, however shorter movements like with the elbow and knee do to increase the movement's velocity.

8. Kao (shoulder strike) - ☶ - Much like the idea of chou but instead of using a whipping motion you use something at the base of your torso to conduct the attack.  Body bumping, shoulder slamming, ramming, etc are all examples of kao energy.

Goho - This is the 5 directions that the body can move in while conducting one of the hachimon.

Chin (advance) – Metal 金 - Moving Forward
Tui (retreat) – Wood 木  - Moving backwards
Ku (shift left) – Water 坎  - 45 degree angle movement/shift to the left
Pan (shift right) – Fire 離 - 45 degree angle movement/shift to the right
Ting (centering) – Earth 坤  - Center your body in one spot and becoming immobile, much like using the Ryu Kamae (Sanchin Dachi Nihon Chudan Uke).

This is of course a really quick description of this concept.  As you are training see if you can apply these ideas to make your karate better and more effective.

Gambatte Kudasai!

Rogue Karate

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This is a phenomenon that has been taking hold in places for the last few decades, but I don’t know how much it is actually acknowledged as a problem.  Personally I think this practice may be the root cause of the McDojo scenario that we see over and over again.

Ok what is Rogue Karate?  Rogue karate is schools that practice a “style” but the style has been passed either by someone who wasn’t qualified to teach the system in the first place or that it has been through so many hands that the original structure of the style was lost.

Let me back this up a step and explain.  In Japan and Okinawa there is a format for specific ryuha.  In Goju Ryu for example, you bow in at the beginning of class, do the junbi undo (that is the same for all Goju Ryu schools), followed by the Kihon undo (that is the same in all of the Goju Ryu within that kan), and from there the main topic is taught.  There is a closing that is the same in virtually every dojo and then you are done.  The point there is things that happen every single class in a certain order and that is within every school in the system.  If you had studied Goju Ryu in Okinawa or Japan you know the order, and it’s what is to be expected for a school that claims to teach Goju Ryu.  Same with Uechi Ryu, etc.  Same routines.

Now fly a few thousand miles, and you see kids instructing adult classes and there is no order or rhyme or reason to anything like there is in the motherland.

So I hate to use this analogy, but think of a style of karate like McDonalds.  If you go to one McDonalds in Japan and order a Big Mac you are expecting a certain product.  When you go to another McDonalds in the US and order a Big Mac you are expecting the same thing.  However to make this analogy more accurate in Japan you order a Big Mac, and know what it is.  You come to the states or Europe and order a Big Mac and someone brings you a few pieces of Chicken then says theirs is the only authentic Big Mac.

The point being that the teachers are not teaching in the correct format.  This happens in my opinion from a lack of actual knowledge of what the system should be.  Shotokan karate is a great example of this, in Japan the JKA had a death grip on Shotokan for many years, it became a product and you knew exactly what you were going to get.  I go to schools in the US and they don’t even know the kumites, or warmups, and the kata have been modified.  Missing knowledge.

I think this happens when someone who was maybe a very low dan rank from a legitimate school breaks off and starts teaching using the name of the school that they were from originally, but without enough understanding of the system to actually teach it, then they try to fill in the blanks by adding nonsense.  After 1 or 2 generations of this the school has become something completely different, but the teachers are still holding onto the name, but have lost the practice itself.  If the teacher of one of these schools is confronted with someone who is knowledgeable of the original system as it is being practiced in virtually every dojo in Japan, then that person becomes a “jerk” because they say that something is wrong.

Very few of the teachers in the US or Europe will actually try to fix what they are doing because they have completely bought into the story that they are selling, and from here the nonsense spreads and becomes further and further away from the source.

These schools are what I term Rogue Karate.  The teachers completely believe that they have the system that they are professing to teach, and aren’t trying to mislead people, but they don’t know that they are so far off point.  Rogue Karate is endemic, even in places in Japan who are long disassociated with the main karate groups.

So when you are looking for a school, find out who your teacher trained with, and who your teacher’s teacher trained with and for how long.  Ask to see credentials showing that the individual is recognized to teach the style they are professing, and question everything.  If you have access to groups (through social media) ask about how the format of a particular school is.  You can find out a lot about a potential school by knowing if the classes are even taught in the same manner as they group they profess to be.

Remember you ordered a Big Mac not a pizza, so get your Big Mac and don’t settle for anything less.  You are only going to hurt yourself in the long run by thinking you are getting correct information, when it turns out to be completely false.

Gambatte Kudasai!

Nigiri Game (握り甕) Alternatives

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I've been stopped more than once and been asked where did I find my jars...  This is always in reference to hojo undo methods and equipment.  For years I was pretty strict about using large ceramic jars, however these are extremely difficult to find, shipping them to the US is nearly impossible, and you never know what you are going to get when they finally do arrive.  Will they be some pristine work of art, or are you left with shards of broken pottery?

Over the years I have seen and heard about people trying to use anything and everything for jars.  From jars of weight gain filled with concrete to large glass mason jars filled with sand.  All interesting alternatives, however you can't really get the correct grip on these items.  So while they provide some of the experience, the real trick is getting something that has a lip that is large enough that you can get your thumb under it.

For those of you who are new to the whole hojo undo game (not ga-mai) with the nigiri game (握り甕) you want to be able to bend your thumb under and have your other four fingers reaching over the top.  This is best done with an opening that has some type of lip on it roughly about 4 inches across.

In 2012 I moved back to Okinawa for the second time, and this time around I noticed something that I didn't notice before.  Many of the smaller personal dojos had an alternative to the nigiri game that I never even thought of.  The sensei were using ceramic electrical insulators.  I first ran into this at Toyama Zenshu Hanshi's dojo, then again at Hokama sensei's dojo, and yet again at Kurashita Eiki Hanshi's house.  All of these guys were using insulators.

So I got on eBay and what do you know, they are really easy to find, and really cheap.  So I picked up a pair of LAPP-35 insulators and started comparing them to the jars.

From a side by side, the insulators are a little shorter.  I think this could just be the model that I bought though, it looks like others might be taller.  The weight for the insulator is about 20 lbs.  The jars unfilled are about 10, but can increase easier.  The mouth on the jar and the top of the insulator are a near perfect match.  The only minor downside is the insulator has a space on the top where cabling used to go.

So here are some pictures from my side by side analysis.  In the first two pictures you can see a jar and an insulator side by side.  This should give you some rough ideas on the size difference.

These next two pictures are of the grip between the jar and the insulator.

So in my opinion for a cheap alternative to getting jars made and shipped, look for vintage electric insulators.  They sell on ebay pretty cheap and have a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and weight.

Gambatte Kudasai!