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 Post subject: evolutionary change
PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 1999 10:50 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 27, 1998 6:01 am
Posts: 317
Once again the issue comes up for discussion in class; who has the right to introduce changes into the Uechi-ryu system? We have our teachers' seminar at Sensei Mattson's dojo in Newton, and the leadership rotates among a group of experienced teachers, with each of us taking a segment of three months (twelve Saturdays) to present the class with our particular point of view. Needless to say, there are differences of opinion, differences of emphasis, different stylistic variations that we all try out for a few weeks. We have been at this for about the last five years. As you can imagine, some of the "new" exercises seem to have merit and tend to get held over... even to enter the 'corpus' of the art. When this happens, one always runs into the old-school types who question the authority of the group to make any changes at all. But why not? Don't all arts and sciences evolve? Imagine if doctors decided that the absolute height of medical science was achieved with Paracelsus, maybe 800 or 1000 years ago... we would still be using leeches and spells and potions, and an awful lot of prayer, to help our loved ones who we now know can be cured of formerly lethat diseases. At the end of the Renaissance in Europe around the year 1550 or 1600 there was a general belief in the art community that painting had reached its absolute pinnacle with Michelangelo and Rafael... all any future painter could hope to do was to mimic the technique of the great masters... and schools of painting stopped experimenting and simply tried to turn out as many Michelangelos as they could, with the predictable result being that alot of pretty pictures were done, churches decorated, etc, but the expressive side of painting went into hibernation. That period is now called, in retrospect, "mannerism". In the martial arts one also runs into the school of thought that says scientific fighting reached a state of perfection with the "old masters" of several hundred years ago... and all the modern student can hope to do is decipher, and mimic, their secret skills. And all of this without a shred of real data about what the old masters knew or how they taught. (Legends and stories have some value, of course, but they are as subject to distortion in the retelling as anything can be!)


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 Post subject: evolutionary change
PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 1999 10:54 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 27, 1998 6:01 am
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(sorry... lost my connection!)
I am seeking discussion here about the proper role of evolutionary change. Since we do not advise our students to actually go out and hit or fight people to test the merits of their techniques, how do we assess the value of a new idea? Or an old idea, for that matter. Let's hear what you all think.


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 Post subject: evolutionary change
PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 1999 12:12 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 18, 1998 6:01 am
Posts: 108
Location: Boston, MA USA
Paul: In some ways, the art of the Renaissance has never been surpassed (in number or depth). Although there have since been many equally gifted artists whose work is as good or better, in all of their work, in every show that I have seen, there appears a clear demonstration of the same dynamic. Their work at first is stiff, usually copying a style or imitating the masters, they become grounded in the basics, then there is period of confidence in skill and experimentation, then refinement etc.

We just came from the Mary Cassatt exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts and the same thing is evident. Many of her mother and child work is as good if not better than the Renaissance masters BUT there is clear proof that her early work is not spectacular, rather plain and unremarkable. It is clear she received inspiration and support from Renoir and one suspects she worked hard to gain that respect. But hard work is necessary to raise one’s level of skill and that means hard work with the basics. Once that is mastered, one can go on to experiment.

In fact, the real pity now is that most art students want to move to experimentation and mastery before they understand the basics: i.e. how to draw, understand color, light, etc. It shows in the work too.

Anyway, the same sort of thing happens in the martial arts. Many who study the martial arts for years are not well grounded in the basics. Experimentation can help someone understand the basics to the extent it is tied to the core system but does not, in and of itself, guarantee success. When someone is double weighted or high in the chest, the hip does not engage the waist, breathing is held, etc. these are the basics of Sanchin. Power can not be generated. If that is not understood, if blocks are not powerful without effort, if movements don’t work, the person has trouble with balance, regardless of the years of practice, the basics aren’t there. Experimentation at this point can sublimate the ego but can actually reinforce incorrect movement or divert attention from the real issue.

Don’t get me wrong, a certain amount of experimentation is necessary to understand the basics but as in the fine arts, until the level of skill is there (not simply presumed to be there) experimentation is irrelevant. Anyone that can draw the body like Picasso in his early years can do any style, including stretching the boundaries of art. Best regards…phils


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 Post subject: evolutionary change
PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 1999 11:55 am 
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Joined: Thu Sep 17, 1998 6:01 am
Posts: 1897
Location: N. Andover, Ma. USA
Giella Sensei,

I was under the impression that Black Belt meant you had your "Basics" down. Now the individual must examine themselves to see their personal truths. Stripping away the material that is not suited for them as they continue to build on the personally applicable (the balance and grace of the Crane), portions of their foundation. It is the seniors of each individual to make sure the set forth on their own path (the everchanging spirit of the Dragon), without too much diversion from their strengths and foundation, (the tenacity of the Tiger).

Thus change is mandatory for each individual as they continue on toward their own goals and concepts, (this fostering is where real growth can occurr).

------------------
Evan Pantazi
http://www.erols.com/kyusho


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 Post subject: evolutionary change
PostPosted: Wed Apr 14, 1999 7:01 am 
Evolution vs. Revolution:

While only a guppie on the JD chart, it has never stopped me from giving my opinion before, so here it is.

First let me take this a step farther:

EVOLUTION VS. REVOLUTION VS. DE-EVOLUTION VS. RE-EVOLUTION

What is Uechi Ryu and where did it come from? It is a style evolved in China from Tiger, Dragon and Crane, or maybe Tiger/Crane, or maybe Tiger/Crane/Mantis or maybe Tiger/Crane/Cobra or Tiger/Crane/Dragon/Cobra/Mantis, or Hungar or Five Ancestors or a Haka system, or maybe who the heck knows.

What we do know is that someone, or some people, combined or extracted, or created, three kata (minimum) Sanchin, Seisan and Sanseirui, and one exercise Kotakitia.

We know this because this is what left China to Okinawa. There might be another kata, there might not - who knows. Heck, if Uechi Ryu was a synthesis of a few styles there might be many more related kata.

Regardless, the essence of the system is in these three kata and that conditioning exercise. But, if we take an optimistic view, Uechi Ryu was in the beginning an evolution of the systems that it was drawn from.

Since it went to Okinawa there have been five other katas created and a number of bunkai and kumites have come and some have gone, and some have stayed but changed, as the style continued to evolved.

So, one can say that there is a history or precedent for Uechi Ryu evolving. You might even say that is the tradition.

Evolution guards against de-evolution. Hmmm. Evolution is the seeking of a stronger path. By constantly seeking better ways it should result in a stronger system. We may occasionally go down the wrong path and the dinosaur will have to be abandoned but we will understand that is NOT the way to go. If a principle is lost, then the search for a stronger path may lead us back to it, or to a new but improved way

If someone were to look at a Taiji master performing a positive circle and then try to perform it, the result would probably be a large ARM movement because that is what they SAW. If they work hard at improving the use of that circle, as opposed to blindly following what they thought they saw, they may discover that it works far better by using the body (not the arms) to do the circle. Is it an evolution? If they now went back and watched that Taiji master doing the positive circle, they probably will see that he was doing it with the body the whole time. Evolution? Or simply stopping de-evolution -- a re-evolution.

If you watch a Uechi Ryu circle block being performed, what do you see? I was told a story that they once attached lights all over Master Uechi, then filmed him in the dark. When he did his circle blocks his elbows only came very slightly out of Sanchin (yet his arm performed a full block). Yet when I first tried this I found it impossible, I was doing the circle block with what I saw - arms. In working with it I found that using the body makes a much stronger bock and the arms are used only as an attachment (or an addition) to the real circle. (In fact there are circles all the way from the feet to the hand.) By doing this the elbow moves far less out of Sanchin, because Sanchin is moving. An evolution, or did I just finally get it?

The other thing that happens as a real master evolves is that everything becomes smaller and more internal. Therefore the more chance that what is observed is not what is really happening. Only the superficial movements are being picked up.

So in regard to the big picture - should Uechi Ryu evolve, I say of course. It is the only thing that will keep pace with the past and takes us into the future.

So who gets to evolve? Some people talk about others changing kata and how that is wrong if you are a true traditionalist. Well, generally I have kept the gross movement as my teacher, David Mott, does them. Since David accepted me as a student, I certainly have altered moves within the kata from what I was doing previously. Many of these changes are the result of interpretation differences. Some of them have taken me back to the gross movements I see in the videos of Master Uechi, which are often seem more complex. Are they better? For "myself" I think they contain more principles and therefore I prefer them. I also make great use of him as a guide in my search for evolution. But in my search I do indeed work at the internal mechanism of each movement in the kata to make it more effective.

I began this search by working Saturday mornings with some black belt friends striking each other. As we pounded on each other we found that certain ways of hitting had far more effect than others. There was no question as the proof was very evident and could be physically demonstrated.

I had also been told that the basis of what we do is contained within our kata. Work on your kata and you are working on the essence of what we do. The only problem (FOR ME) was that I was not performing the moves of the kata with the same body mechanics that I was using to far more effectiveness on Saturday mornings. So, I began to alter HOW I performed the mechanics of the movements to include what I knew to be essential effective body mechanics. Is this evolution or revolution or re-evolution? If kata is to contain the essence of our principles then it MUST fit what we do. If we continue to seek and learn then we will find the right path.

Am I a level to decide to do a circle block with strong body mechanics over simple arm movement - don't care, I'm going to do it anyway because it works better and if I find something else even more effective then I alter it again. Is this arrogant, to some I am sure it is. Sorry if this is coming off too strong, but, I am not in this for them, I am in this to make myself as effective in self defence as possible. And if that means I am going to be doing something different, then so be it.

Rick


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 Post subject: evolutionary change
PostPosted: Wed Apr 14, 1999 11:02 pm 
Hello Paul,

I like Uechi-ryu the way it is! It was designed by a fighter and was expanded for fighters. Uechi-ryu is a most practical fighting system, and some things are better not fixed if they are not broken.

But what I really DO like, is that a number of Uechi stylists who run dojo and have experience in a number of other martial arts, this includes myself too, bring these additional talents to the table and share them with their students in various ways without changing Uechi-ryu.

The evolution I have witnessed over the last quarter-century, and is one which I do NOT like, is that classes have become easier, and the students less apt. 20 years ago I would have pit most Uechi-ryu brown belts against most Taekwondo 1st dans and would have put my money on the Uechi-ryu student without hesitation. I can't say that today.

Now, my statement is not about everyone, so for those of you who still have tough dojo, don't take offense, but I do see is a general trend.



------------------
Allen - uechi@ici.net - http://www.uechi-ryu.org


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 Post subject: evolutionary change
PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 1999 6:59 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 18, 1998 6:01 am
Posts: 108
Location: Boston, MA USA
Sorry Paul... I must have hit the new topics button by mistake. Best regards. phil


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 Post subject: evolutionary change
PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 1999 2:01 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 27, 1998 6:01 am
Posts: 317
to Rick Wilson,
No Guppy, you! Your thoughts are very well taken and much in accord with our philosophy at Sensei Mattson's dojo. "Evolution guards against devolution" you said, which is the same as the principle in physics called 'entropy' (I am nobody's idea of a physicist, so I hope I'm not talking through my hat)...which states that systems cannot stay stable without a constant infusion of new energy. Without this, there is a very gradual loss over time. In other words, it would be impossible for Uechi-ryu to stay static (or "traditional" forever, for their would be an eventual deterioration without new energy in the form of new ideas. I agree entirely with your point that there never was a time in which Uechi-ryu was a "fixed" system... there was always a tradition of innovation and growth. Sensei Mattson has often commented to us that some of the "traditional" exercise (dan-kumite, body conditioning, the kata themselves) were invented by individuals striving to introduce growthful change. Some of these "venerable" practices are no more that twenty-five or thirty years old anyway, so they hardly constitute a immutable, ancient tradition. Combine what you have said with Phil's point about the importance of using the different exercises to study the basic principles at ever-deepening levels and you will have a winning formula IMHO.I believe Evan P. is on board with this point of view also.


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