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Delayed Death Touch: Instructions to the Coroner of China Reveal Knowledge of Vital Points

One of the joys of researching a topic in depth are the little gems of knowledge you often uncover. Several years back I camp upon a reference to a manuscript that was translated by Herbert Giles. One of the reasons this caught my eye was the name of Herbert Giles. He was one of the men responsible for developing the Romanization of Chinese (Wade-Giles).

Then there was the title, “Instructions to the Corner” or “Records of the Washing Away of Unjust Imputations”. With a Masters degree in Criminology I began to wonder what type of forensic information might be discussed in an old Chinese manuscript. The “Hisng Yuan Lu” dates from the reign of Shun Yu (1241 – 1253) and was written by Sung Tzhu. Giles first came across this work while stationed at Ningpo in 1873 and subsequently translated this text. It was then published in the “China Review” in 1874 and later republished in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine” in 1924. Once I acquired a copy of the translation I quickly scanned the text and to my pleasure there were two charts showing vital points! Not here indeed was something to look at. A text that dated from the mid 1200’s, translated into English in 1874 that clearly addressed vital points. This may be the earliest text in the English language that mentions vital points. Consider, the “Hisng Yuan Lu” made available to us information on vital points forty eight years prior to the introduction of Karate into Japan by Gichin Funakoshi in 1922. Also, remember there are a number of books published in the early 1900’s that clearly discuss and demonstrate the use of vital point techniques.

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Are Kata and Forms Bi-lateral?

acupuncture-chartLately I have been involved in some discussion on why kata (forms) do not appear to be bi-lateral. If you stop and think for a moment you will notice in kata you will find techniques performed only on one side of the body, or in sets of three. There are any number of techniques that are to be found in threes or singular movements. Look at Pinan 1 (Heian, Pyung-ahn) you will probably find a sequence of movements where you execute a down block and while remaining in position perform a high section knife hand block. This technique is done in only one place in this kata. Looking at this same kata you will notice there are ways to turn that we do only in one direction. At the end of the “cross bar” in the “H” pattern you pivot on your right foot in a counter clockwise direction so that your body turns in a 270 degrees. Then as you return back along the “cross bar” you will once again make a turn in a counter clockwise direction with a pivot on the right foot. Notice that you are performing this type of turn in only one direction in this kata, nor do you make this type of a turn in any of the Pinan/Heian/Pyung-Ahn kata. This kata like many others are based on a basic “H” pattern. Even those forms that do not follow the “H” pattern you are likely to find a series of three movements. Or you will find single movements in a form, many times this movement is performed only on the right side.

The apparent right side bias has always been a source of interest to me. Over the years I have heard a number of explanations of this bias. Some say “most people are right handed, therefore we practice more with our right side”. This never rang true to me, I am of the opinion if we have a weak side we should practice that side a bit more in an attempt to make both sides equal. Then there is the argument there are more vital points on the left side of the body of your attacker. Therefore, by using your right side attacks you will have the potential of attacking more vital points. While this may have some merit, a look at any acupuncture chart will show the points on the body are bi-lateral. Yes, there may be a couple of extra points on the left side of the body which are deadly but in the overall picture this logic seems flawed.

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The impact of Dr. Erwin Von Baelz

There are two major divisions of martial arts, and they can be described in several different ways. A very simple yet effective way of looking at the arts is to say one is a “sport” and the other is “self defense”. Of course this is a very simplistic way of making a differentiation of the arts. You could differentiate the two major groupings as “Do” or “Jutsu”. Or, in a more simplistic way we can describe the arts with a primary interest in “sport” or “self-defense”. Of course these are not hard and fast, a martial art system that promotes the sport or physical fitness aspect can be used in a self-defense situation. Likewise, an art that promotes self-defense as a primary concern can have aspects of sport and physical fitness. There are as many variations on these two broad categories as there are instructors. I do not want to place any value judgment on the value or worth of any one system, or orientation. Each is valuable and serves the purpose of the individuals. This is of course the way it should be.

Drager (1974) notes “traditionalists and to those who regard classical bujutsu from the viewpoint of actual combat, the modern disciplines are nothing but an ass in a tiger’s skin.” (p.55) It is quite clear there is a distinction made between arts such as Kenjutsu and Kendo or Ju-Jutsu from Judo. Prior to the Meiji restoration there was a need to have the martial arts to be combat effective. However, once the modernization of Japan and her military forces began they were trained in the most modern methods of the time. Japan based its navy on that of Great Britain and their army on the German model, each was dominant powers at that time. Japan recognized it’s need to create a modern army and navy and the infrastructure to support the modernization of a nation. They were able to recognize feudal warfare techniques, which relied on the samurai, were not practical. Living in this time seems unimaginable to me. I find it hard to even imagine what the time must have been like. When all you have known is turned upside down. Try to think what it would be like if our whole country found out they were 50 to a 100 years behind the rest of the world in technology? Just think what we would do to try to catch up. Think of what we would have to discard the old and how quick we would have to grab on to the new.

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Pareto's Law and the Martial Artist

An excerpt from "75 Down Blocks - Refining Karate Technique" by Rick Clark

paretoPareto's 80/20 law is a statistical discovery I think has considerable relevance in the study of the martial arts. In brief, over 100 years ago, Vilfredo Pareto discovered a relationship that manifests itself repeatedly in larger systems.

In its most basic form, Pareto's 80/20 law states you will get 80 percent of your results from 20 percent of your effort. In the business world, for example, it implies you'll get 80 percent of your business from 20 percent of your customers. In the academic world, it implies you'll get probably get 80 percent of your research results from 20 percent of your time spent in the library, or 20 percent of your fieldwork.

When you first encounter this 80/20 rule, you may get the mistaken idea the ratio between effort and results should be exactly 80/20. This is not really the case; the actual percentages vary from case to case. Rather, this ratio should be thought of as a guide, designed to remind you of the disproportionate effect of effort compared to results.

As you begin to recognize the 80/20 patterns that exist around you, the application of Pareto's rule will become apparent in everyday situations - in personal relationships, financial dealings, and national and international events.

In this chapter, I hope to demonstrate a few ways in which you can use the 80/20 rule to help you analyze and improve your martial arts training.

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Kata Combat – Bunkai Training Drills Part 1

I state in ‘Practical Applications for the Kata Jion’ that Kata was originally intended to capture the ‘highlights’ of an effective combative system. The distillate of this system survived over generations as it had an inherent aid memoir that enabled the practitioner to communicate it to his incumbent generation. As a result of the balance needed between reliance on memory and the need to maintain the principles of Kata, an optimal and not a limitless number of movements exist.

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