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I've stopped knives that were coming to disembowel me

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A Close-In System (Isshinryu)

A bit of mindless meandering here, when I see seminars and demonstrations of martial disciplines and they present that system, like Isshinryu does, as a “Close-in” system I wonder how they define “Close-in?”

Often, in seminars and demo’s along with dojo practices, at least in the Isshinryu system that is my main system of practice, I hear the presentation and then when the actual actions are presented I see something else. Example: a close in system that actually practices kata, kata bunkai, paired kata practice, paired drills, kumite and competitions they all assume kamae, etc. that don’t appear to be “close-in.”

I guess I don’t understand their definitions of close-in fighting, combatives or self-defense references and meaning. For me, close-in means, “When I enter into a physical situation where hands-on become required I move in quickly so that I am within their elbow range. Elbow range or just outside of it means that my body is so close that my hands or fists if projected outward in a strike would extend past their spine. It means my body is so close that I can shift from close-in strikes, elbows especially, and knees especially and I can easily grab, twist and manipulate the others body with mine. 

I am so close-in that I can smell his breath and determine what he had for lunch. I can actually see the blood vessels in his eyes. It is like going in close for a take down but remaining on my feet using my entire body to unbalance his then use my hands, open, and knees, and elbows to end it fast. 

My type of close-in is about jabs, uppercuts, elbows to the ribs and jawline, etc. and that legs and feet are about movement to take me off his center line while maintaining mine so that such moves will unbalance and stop the damage so I can extract myself from the violence and move away safely (to remain as possible within the SD circle/square).

This goes on to the actual over the presentation when bunkai are demonstrated and explained. The distance may be closer than most who rely on the distance so that the legs and feet can be utilized but still not actually what I perceive as “close-in.” 

Admittedly, it took almost twenty plus years for me to realize I was in the same boat. Take for instance when explaining the Isshinryu system the traits that exemplify that system are, i.e. close in fighting for more realistic combative ability, and then we would practice and train for sport oriented competitions that actually put distance between competitors vs. close-in quick and blitz like attacks you could encounter in a street situation requiring self-defense. 

I am not preaching that anything is wrong with how one applies their craft be it close-in or at a competitive or social violence type distancing but the disparity between what is being passed vs. actuality or reality is a very wide chasm between perceptions and reality. 

Lets use the legs for determining close-in as I perceive it. If you can kick your opponent with the ball of your foot when the leg is extended in a front kick with the ball of the foot, you are not close in. Now, if you can end the attack in a SD situation this way and you are using the proper level of force for SD then you are good to go but if not, then you have to work harder and longer, not good. If the only thing you can do adequately with your leg and feet is to raise it up and stomp it down on the shin or instep or top of foot while doing what ever with your hands on the body of the adversary you are not really close-in but you are getting closer in on your adversary. if what you can do with your legs and knee now is knee the thigh area or the groin or even the ribs while smelling his breath and staying “INSIDE” his arms by his elbows with enough distance between your bodies to move hands, elbows, etc. to hit, twist, grab, move, etc. and apply the knees effectively you are “close-in”

Now, is Isshinryu actually a good “close-in” martial system? Yes, it is and it was originally meant to be taught that way and why it shifted into a more distant type of system may never truly be known or understood. All you can do is speculate, i.e. maybe due to misunderstandings by the students in the fifties, the luminaries who brought it to the USA. It may be to adjust it so that higher kicks that seemed to dominate the tournaments in the sixties and seventies and where close-in strikes and kicks were hidden from judges, etc. cause a shift or change, and so on. 

If Isshinryu is in fact a “close-in system” of karate then it means it was meant to move in quickly, very close to the adversary and then apply appropriate techniques and combinations and so on to get-er-done within the SD circle/square. Then that would indicate that all kata would have bunkai that actually related to “close-in” SD or fighting or combatives. It would mean that kumite would also stress that close-in bunkai.

Most of the kicks in Isshinryu would then be such that the stomp kick,the cross kick, the knee and other such techniques would be such that the practitioner would never raise their legs, knees or feet higher than the thigh or midsection and the off balance of said applications would be countered by the ability to grab, hold and manipulate the adversaries body, limbs and head to remain in control much like the Muay Tai fighters grabbing the head while jumping up to knee the opponent, etc.

Maybe the disparity is more about the water down effect of moving karate into the educational system and when taken for the military teachings in the fifties and later adjusted back but still simplified to a more sport oriented model. The answer are in the pudding so to speak so when you hear one thing and see another then it should turn on a light and one should say, “Hmmm, what a minute, something is wrong here.”

I believe it was stated that karate was great concerning body mechanics but when applying them is sparring, fighting, competitions and SD models it loses its ability to be adequate and effective. 

Lets say “close-in” is grappling range but not just grappling but strikes and kicks and such that can be used along with grappling and manipulation techniques, etc. 

Actually, when I practice my kata now I tend to visualize being close-in and it is very apparent that many of the bunkai originally taught to me as Isshinryu are actually ineffective in many ways especially in regard to SD. Try this out, do a search on “close-in fighting” in images and see what you see. It will be apparent that except in those systems like jujutsu, judo, etc. not many pics of karate, kung-fu, etc., actually depict close-in fighting style. 

(Note: notice that even my graphic does not include a really close-in shot because except for grappling, judo and jujutsu, etc. I couldn’t find any real close-in karate snapshots.)

Another bone of contention when one presents the traits of Isshinryu, i.e. the twelve traits unique to Isshinryu, you can see by my post that actually very little of those traits actually apply to the Isshinryu practiced. Read that post HERE.


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5 comments:

Charles James said...

Many will assume upon reading this that I have some "Issues" with Isshinryu or that I am disparaging both Isshinryu and its founder, "Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei." Not true, I don't disparage anything Tatsuo-san did or taught nor the system of Isshinryu itself. Both are outstanding systems of martial discipline. What I am saying here is that I question the motives of those who pass along the presentation that the public hears and sees of this system and this would go for any martial discipline where there is disparities between what it taught academically and what is taught on the training hall floor.

Charles James said...

Isshinryu karate is my core martial discipline. If not for Isshinryu and the teachings I have been exposed to over these many years I would not be a part of martial arts and disciplines today. It is the very essence of what I do and say and write and are as influenced by Isshinryu. I have a great deal of gratitude toward Tatsuo-san, a true visionary. I also have a great deal of gratitude to those "Today" who present a more realistic perception and reality of MA as well as its role in SD, Combatives for military and fighting as to its legalities, etc. Truly grateful!

Charles James said...

Now, lets not forget that sometimes one will have to traverse the ground and distance to gain access to "close-in!" Sometimes, depending on a great deal of different aspects of SD, one may have to tend to SD outside of the "Close-in" range. Having the ability to use skills like MA to achieve those goals is a good thing but remember that often the fight can be avoided, I would say about 98% of the time, if you are just paying attention and being polite. Just saying!

Charles James said...

I also wonder if it might be due to the concept that because karate is about the empty hand that we are to narrow in our applications because we have this blinder on that says we have to use our "Fists." By that I mean to use our fists in the manner we assume we have to have that particular distance as taught where we use the chambering over the more economical way as dictated by application of marital principles over technique. We assume a more boxing distance over moving in real close and using hands, not necessarily fists, elbows and other such things to "get-et-done!"

Rick Matz said...

I got a whole new perspective on "close-in" when I began practicing BJJ. It's been very eye opening.