Kata analysis from Koto ryu

By Asaf Hochman

Go to Setto no kata in the AKBAN-wiki

Koto Ryu is one of the Japanese martial arts systems learned in Bujinkan and the various X-Kans. It is an extensive martial art system that exits also outside the Bujinkan.

In Koto Ryu Kata we can see, even before applying reverse Kata analysis the extensive use of Daken, hitting vulnerable points, and the use of the third AKBAN timing – attacking simultaneously with the opponents attack.

The Kata I’m referring to today is Setto no kata, where, even in the variations, one can see the use of pressure point hitting and various timings used in Koto ryu.

In Setto no Kata tori pushes a pressure point with the boshi, the end of the thumb, to unbalance the opponent. This unbalancing (kuzushi) using pressure points is very common in some of the martial systems learned in AKBAN. Here, in the variation it is used to move the opponents balance to the rear leg enabling the front single leg grab.

Different stages of Kata learning according to the Methodical pyramid

1. Preserve – in this stage we do the Kata exactly as it was transmitted.

The tori stands in hidari seigan no Kamae, uke grabs with right hand, tori uses a boshi to unbalance uke and uses a second punch to the ribs to push tori away.

2. Break – this is the stage where we change different parameters of the kata, look for a different ways of doing it and for context usability.

Tori now can do the kata against a Tsuki attack and use the first or second boshi to unbalance the Uke to prepare him for takedown.

3. leave – this is the stage where we try to perform the kata or the sequence in free sparring.

My advice is to practice this and other kata in randori situations. It is also important to practice the simultaneous timing as it is this feature that make these Koto Ryu kata so useful.


Harmony with the surrounding

By Gabi Frishlander

In every visit to Sinai, I felt that this desert carries a different and sometimes enchanting flow of life. Good karma goes a long way there. Nir Unger and I were on our way to Muhammad’s family near Santa Katrina, when we met on the beach with an expert on finding water, a real dowser, there by invitation of the Egyptian government. He was invited to help locate water in the arid expanses of Sinai. He was also on his way to meet Muhammad, who is known and respected throughout Sinai. Andre, Nir and I were in a minibus loaded with groceries for the family when it started to drizzle. Water came down from the sky after a dry spell of years. Although not a torrent, the drizzle signified to me that this visit will be extraordinary.

There are states in which we perform well, with accuracy and correctness and there are states in which things are done in true harmony with others and the environment. Not unlike a Jazz jam session or sparring with and old friend, like a song that resonates off distant cliffs or a physical structure which blends with its surroundings and reflects its location.

Shortly before sunset, after tea and a rest from the drive, Muhammad asked Andre the dowser to come down with him to his wadi behind the family’s home. He suspected there was water there and wished to know what Andre thought of it. Andre can describe where the underground water stream starts and ends, he can determine the kind of rock that will be dug up and the salinity of the water below, as well as the depth of the water basin. We went down to the wadi, Muhammad, Andre, Nir, Salah (an old friend of M) and myself with a camera to record the search for water.

After returning to Tel Aviv I was editing the footage while in the background Caetano Veloso was singing “Maria Bonita”. The song somehow felt right for the piece and I simply pasted it into the clip. The result was beautiful. First, I saw how Andre was actually dancing his explanations to Muhammad while sensing the water below in eerie synch to the music. Next I noticed that all persons present (including the cameraman with his pans and zooms) were “dancing” in a kind of non-verbal communication and without audible music, but in a harmony that cannot be ignored.

3 things were common to everyone present there: Firstly, all were types of warriors – Andre having an extensive background in Aikido, Nir in Ninjutsu, Muai Thai and various Chinese internal martial arts, myself and the two Bedouins whose very lives in the desert represented the warrior’s way. Secondly, I think it was a common love of humanity and nature. Thirdly, we were all there to give some kind of service, Andre, Nir and myself to Muhammad and Salah, and vice versa.

Trying to narrow it further, I could say that all were persons connected to themselves. People who feel at peace in their inner homes, whether from living a spiritually clean life in the desert as our two old Bedouin friends, or by learning Maharaji’s meditations (as I did) or through whichever spoke of the wheel they traveled to get to the center.

If we use the wheel as an analogy to life, then outside, furthest away from the center, life is fast and turbulent but closer you get to the center, things slow down. At the very center the movement stops altogether and, in fact, a new reality presents itself, one that is different from the one we are used to experiencing in our daily lives.

The wheel has many spokes leading from outward within. The paths are many but in the center all differences are removed. That is the moment we experienced in this video clip.


What can Ninjutsu learn from Emmanuel Augustus and Roy Jones Jr.?

Here are two of Oded’s favorite boxers (one that he did not even know he liked).

These guys are Emmanuel Augustus and Roy Jones Jr. , two boxing legends . When  I look at their stuff I’m amazed by two similarities: first the flow of the Tai sabaki, and by that I mean the control these boxers have over distance, stepping and evasive body movement, wow!

Then there is the more subtle but very visible control of the flow (Nagare in japanese) and tempo (Tempo in Japanese, ha). The effect that controlling the tempo of the fight is so obvious that we guys, doing traditional Ninjutsu / Taijutsu should watch and learn from.

Integrating traditional system with modern day demands and insights is a complicated job, and we try to do this every time we’re at the dojo, but these clips are so great they kind of  take the weight of day to day training.


Gatka – a weapon based martial art

Gatka is a Sikh martial art that has a unique and efficient use of weapons. Gatka warriors practice randori, shiai and the instructors practice too. Many places in India host the Gatka dojo in the Sikh temple grounds.

For us in AKBAN the background upon which the system rose is not the main issue. The main issue here is the superb method. Martial arts that originated in the Indian sub-continent have been poorly researched in comparison with their Chinese and Japanese counterparts. We begin to remedy this with a special section in our martial arts encyclopedia, the AKBAN-wiki.

In the video Ran mixed we can notice some interesting points:

  1. A perfect Tai sabaki for rough surfaces.
  2. Control and techniques using many weapons, just like in our school
  3. Working against many opponents, special use of vision and flow
  4. Amazing techniques that don’t necessitate a cooperating training partner

We at AKBAN can not adopt all the Randori methods because it diverts a bit from our safety protocol. But we will continue analyzing the video footage Y. has photographed in India to incorporate it into the AKBAN-wiki and our weekly syllabus.


Experiences from Brazil, or – The Body as an Independent Learning System

By Gidon Zaghar


When you go down to the beach in Brazil, you can see, aside from the amazing view, many people playing volleyball of two types. One of the types is the known form of the game; the other is played without using the hands. The latter requires agility even for a single move. Interesting, it’s not a small group of talented people who play the no hand volleyball, but rather many regular beach goers. I asked one of the players who had taught him to play, “the ball” he answered.

Passing the improvised volleyball court, near the waters’ edge, you can see a mass of people on surfboards waiting for the next wave. When it comes, it appears as they were all born on a surfboard. Their performance is of a very high standard, men and women alike.

I took a surfing lesson from Kauli, one of the veteran surfers (a 50 year old regular that has been surfing from a young age) and my friend. He told me this: “If a big wave crashes, dive under the water. When coming back up, protect the eyes from the board.” This is all he had to say about surfing. Later he showed me, just one time, how to paddle, how to dive with the surfboard under a wave, how to sit on the board and finally how to surf a wave. “You saw?” he said, “Now it’s your turn”.

The rest of the day until sunset – I fell into the water. At the end of the day I managed to surf for a few seconds on the board. “You’re already surfing” he said. I asked him for another lesson the next day, but he refused, saying that the sea is the surfers’ teacher. “Tomorrow we will go as two surfers, not as a teacher and a student”. And so, in the weeks to come we surfed, with him shouting comments from time to time. “Loosen your shoulders”, “stand up now” and “breathe”.

As I watched him surf, the water often appeared more solid than he was. It seemed that he and the sea were one, the currents pulling him. It was as if the waves had carved into his consciousness through the years and his personality has been dissolved into the sea.

Time is an important commodity because one needs to make enough mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes are necessary, and in order to accumulate enough of them, you have to act. It is impossible to surf without falling, to play tennis without losing a ball, fight without getting hurt or dance without losing the beat. This is called experience. Time enables resistance to merge with reactions and brew in a sauce of mistakes and learning. A man with experience, like Kauli, who throws in a comment or suggestion once in a while, is in fact giving a taste of an already cooked stew. A strict remark is rare and would be made only at the very beginning, in case of too big a mistake or in cases of clear danger.

Brazilian music is always cheerful. But even in this cheer there is sadness.

The music goes into the body and comes back out again as dancing: Samba, Hesha, fegogi, Forró. Dances are carried out either solo or with a partner. The difference between the two is great. I don’t understand much about dancing, but I noticed an interesting phenomenon. There are fewer people in Brazil who can dance Samba than those who can dance Forró. In other words, most people dance couples dances rather than individual ones, which require fixed steps in accordance with the music. In couples dances, the man is in the lead and the woman is being led, two very different skills, and on the surface, it seems that leading is more difficult. A leading man will always lead the dance according to his particular style, whereas a woman would have to change every time to be in sync with her leading man. Leading and reacting to it are not separated by time, so the reaction must be void of thinking and desire. When you see a woman who is a good dancer, every partner she has would seem to both lead her and be led by her, and often she would add style and movement that do not threaten her partners lead.

She dances as one with her partner, he pushes her and she pulls him equally.

In Israel I have also seen surfers. As my brother told me once “there are no surfers in Israel, only disappointed surfers”, there aren’t many good waves. I also saw two people playing the official national game – Matkot. The speed and precision of the ball, along with the strength of the hits were amazing. I asked one of the players how he got to be so good at the game, how he learned, “Just play” he answered, “with time you will improve”. He also said: “the sky is the limit”.

The body learns on its own how to react and is the best teacher when the following terms are met: surrounding resistances, actions and time.

Surrounding resistances are the forces applied to us in a certain setting: the behavior of the ball, the waves and currents, the training partner or anything else. Surrounding resistance is the “sanding paper” for us or for our consciousness. There is no way of deceiving the surrounding, it points out our limitations: what we can do, what we can not and when. Surrounding resistance will knock me off my surfboard if I fail to find my balance, will make the ball fall on the sand if my kick wasn’t precise, will make the hammer pound my thumb if I didn’t hold the nail correctly and it will hit me with a fist in the face if I fail to evade in time.

In places where there is no resistance to a certain field, or if the resistance is being faked, the learning process becomes erroneous.

Action is the attempt to be integrated in the surrounding resistance. When a fighter has real resistance, such as a fighting adversary, he has to react without a time interval. He has to be like Kauli surfing a wave.

There are many ways of reacting to the surroundings; this is the place for self-expression. Actions should be taken from a place of courage not of fear or done automatically. Fear causes paralysis, since there’s always the question “maybe this is not the way to act?”, “perhaps there is another way?

Acting automatically is means of defending from the real confrontation; creativity, on the other hand, is a useful tool that stems from initiative and experience.

There’s a sentence I like: “Ships docked at the harbor are safe, but that is not what they were built for”. Mistakes should not be feared.

In Portuguese there’s an appropriate word “Jinga”. It is used in fighting, dancing and many other fields.
There is no translation for this word, and no-one I met could explain its literal meaning, but I think I understood it.


Human Substitutes

By Yossi Sheriff

Few days ago I heard someone say: “Everyone is replaceable”. At first, I agreed, but then rethought, of course not, only machines and certain kinds of food are replaceable. Even so, margarine is only margarine.

Human beings never have a substitute. What gives these people their wholesomeness is the place they occupy in my life. If someone occupies a functional, narrow place in my life then this place has a substitute, but the person never has.

The heart has no replacement, but the heart as a pump has a replacement. Who is the stupid person that would exchange a heart for a pump? Ah, that’s a stupid question, I guess many will.

With courage come losses, there is a life in it. One finds such big treasures that are not achievable to a person in the “substitute business”.

I heard P. say: “One life” and stop to think, then he lifted his right index finger and added: “One person“. He then said some more, but, never mind now, I’ll write about it some other time.

of course, Gaby F. made this movie. Thanks.


Renzo Gracie in AKBAN

By Yossi Sheriff

Just two years ago, G. called me and asked: “Renzo Gracie is in Israel and he has a free evening”.

“Well, let’s hone our BJJ skills with the best”.

When Renzo walked into the Tel Aviv dojo he took a step back, either the smell, the beer or the number of people took him by surprize. As some veterans in AKBAN have been to Renzo’s New York place the hesitation changed to smiles.

We learned and laughed a lot and, once again, understood that the man is not only a world class fighter but a humane and happy person. What a king!

I just caught Renzo and Pat Milletich On “60 Minutes” and now it’s on Youtube. Here it is (update – it’s not there anymore).