abstract techniques; is karate a floor wax or a dessert topping?

Posted on: Wed, 09/19/2012 - 18:52 By: Tom Swiss

I was recently showing some students the technique we call shuto mawashi uke, circular knifehand block. (Here's a page with a video of a Kyokushin instructor doing this technique, slightly different than the way I learned it in Seido but you can get the idea: http://www.ehow.com/video_2368639_do-shuto-mawashi-uke.html) It's an interesting technique because it has many different self-defense applications, but each one would require the technique be done slightly differently than the basic way it's practiced. It can be a block, a strike, an escape and reversal from a wrist grab, a takedown against a kick , but each of these options requires a bit of variation.

As a software geek, the situation reminds me of the concept of "abstract base classes" in object-oriented programming. As a classic example you might have an abstract base class in a graphics program for a "shape" which would define general operations, but you would never actually create a "shape" software object when running the program, you would create a "triangle" or a "square" or a "circle" -- in programming lingo, you would "derive" these concrete classes from the abstract base class. In the same way, the "abstract" version of shuto uchi uke defines a general pattern of movement, but in an actual fight you would use some variation of it.

Mean Sensei Part 2: Bushi No Kokoro

Posted on: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 18:32 By: Tom Swiss

I recently wrote about an experience helping with promotion testing at my sensei's dojo, where I had to work with a student who wasn't fully prepared. I had to find the path between challenging her and discouraging her when she could not remember her kata.

To continue the story: the next week, Jane's [not her real name] test continued. She still owed me the kata she'd been unable to show me, but first there was kumite -- sparring. After a couple a matches with other young, kyu-level students, our sensei sent Jane to line up against me.

Mean Sensei, Nice Sensei

Posted on: Wed, 08/01/2012 - 20:37 By: Tom Swiss

To teach any subject, I think, sometimes requires one to take a tough edge. However much you may encourage a student, you must also be an honest critic. The balance required is different for different topics; an art teacher can be more of a softie than someone teaching medical school, both because art is a more subjective field and because the results of an artist making a mistake are generally less harsh than those of a medical error.

While there are subjective aspects to martial arts training, I think that at least at the kyu levels grading students centers around fairly objective questions. Does the student know the kata and techniques that they are supposed to? Can they demonstrate the appropriate physical strength and stamina? And does it look like it would actually hurt if they were to hit me?

Reflections on the "Peaceful Warrior"

Posted on: Tue, 07/24/2012 - 17:07 By: Tom Swiss

From the archives, an old post to the "CyberDojo" mailing list.

From: Tom Swiss <xxxxxx@xxxxxxxxx.com>
To: "karate@xxxxx.xx.xxxxx.edu" <karate@xxxxx.xx.xxxxx.edu>
Subject: Reflections on the "Peaceful Warrior"
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 18:07:45 -0400

This lags behind discussion on the list. It's also a bit long,
rambling, and personal. You have been warned...

"Know Yourself, Know Others"

Posted on: Tue, 07/24/2012 - 17:06 By: Tom Swiss

From the archives, an old mailing list post.

Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2001 13:26:19 -0400
From: Tom Swiss <xxx@xxxxxxxx.net>
Subject: "Know Yourself, Know Others"

Hi folks. Thought I'd share this with you. In two weeks (yikes! Only
two weeks left! Ahhhhhhhhhh! Panic!!!) I'll be testing for sandan. A brief
essay is art of the requirements. Here's mine. Enjoy.

Know Yourself, Know Others
Tom Swiss

thoughts on rank

Posted on: Mon, 07/23/2012 - 01:27 By: Tom Swiss

Since this weekend my sensei made it more-or-less official that she wants me to start training to take my godan test at the next opportunity, it seems appropriate to begin this new blog with some thoughts about rank in the study of karate.

As with much of the framework of contemporary martial arts, the dan and kyu ranks as we know them today in Japanese arts were invented by Kanō Jigorō, the founder of judo, in the late nineteenth and earth twentieth centuries. (The system is possibly based on a ranking system from the game of go.) Going back before that, in the older Japanese arts there was a menkyo, or "license", system, and also the shogo system of titles for teachers (renshi, kyoshi, and hanshi). Some aspects of the menkyo and shogo systems survive to the present day, but in Japanese karate they are secondary to the kyu/dan system.

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