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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:09 pm 
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Crescent Step
From: maurice richard libby
Date: 12 Aug 1998
Time: 14:06:49

OK, I admit it, I feel really envious, not having been to camp. Now that that's out of the way, if the "little crescent" isn't traditional, or even "good", how, exactly does the foot move? In Shotokan, all the steps are "crescent moon", even though in Shorin Ryu, from which most of its katas are
derived, (at least the ones I am most familiar with), the steps are straight, (the
stances are higher and narrower,as well). The crescent step in Shotokan supposedly comes from Goju Ryu, (about which I know next to nothing), which is a Naha style, often grouped with Uechi Ryu.

The explanation for the crescent step is that bringing the foot in keeps the center of gravity over the weighted foot at all times, making for more stability and balance, and thus keeping the energy focussed forward.


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:11 pm 
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From: paul giella
Date: 17 Aug 1998
Time: 19:36:52

Do you guys remember the zen story about the 'finger that points at the moon'? In the tradition of zen teaching, the point is often made that the heart of zen is to be found in direct experience. Why then, asked an alert and inquisitive student of his zen master, is there so much writing and so many scriptures in zen and Buddhism? The teacher replied "if I point my finger at the moon you will first
notice my arm, then your attention will travel to my hand and my finger and then up toward the moon itself.The writings of zen are like my finger; they indicate where you should begin to look. But the writings are not 'zen' any more than the finger is the moon. The moon can only be experienced by direct perception". In my view, the many kata and related exercises, and parts of kata - right down to the small details like the crescent step - are like the scriptures... they point the way toward direct experience, but are not themselves the be all and end all of applied karate.I have rarely (if ever) seen anyone perform a classic crescent step
in sparring, let alone in real fighting... but I have seen many reflect in internalization of the covering principle in their sparring. The training exercise
leads to an integration on a very deep and subtle level of the critical principles, but does not need to be applied the way it is practiced in the kata.


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:12 pm 
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From: Jason Bernard
Date: 20 Aug 1998
Time: 10:58:11

Osu!
Although I usually frown upon "me too" posts, this post was especially insightful and eloquent that I just have to say "me too!". Very nice!
Osu! Jason
P.s. - Don't you just love those moments where you hit something dead on and you know it? Or when you are watching somebody a technique/kata and it just fills you with a sense of "martial beauty"? Reading your post was like one of those moments ... pure beauty of words.


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:14 pm 
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From: paul giella
Date: 22 Aug 1998
Time: 08:04:04

Well, it appears I have given words to a concept we have all experienced, and I would like to continue our expansion of these thoughts. Sensei Van Canna and I were talking about this very point just last week... how for the very advanced practitioners it is not necessary to stick to the basic-basics, so to speak, at least in their outward and observable manifestions such as perfectly correct 'form', because the basic principles of focused spirit, strength and body mechanics (i.e.; "eyes, breathing and posture")have been truly integrated and assimilated to the core at a very deep level... it is no longer necessary to follow the exact 'school figures' that we practice ad infinitum in the early years. The great and thorny problem is how does a teacher know when a student has reached that level, when it is not only okay, but actually beneficial to his greater progress, to 'give him his head', so to say, and not distract him by minor corrections of form. And what does one do about the issue of modelling or example setting in class. If the juniors perceive the seniors as 'getting away with' abbreviate or sloppy-looking movements will they prematurely abandon correct form themselves? I don't have the answers, and I would greatly appreciate your input. Thanks.


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:16 pm 
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From: John Hassell
Date: 23 Aug 1998
Time: 00:42:19

Paul et al,
When you know the execution of a technique, I mean really know it, not just know about it, your implicit knowledge allows/prepares you to know when integral and fundamental parts of it are missing. This type of real knowledge, coupled with what you know about your student's ability to learn and assimilate teachings prepares you to then make correctioins when the time is right. I firmly believe that a martial artist should always be looking for opportunities to identify what he or she does not know. It's one thing to not know something, then at some point learning it (if of interest); but to go on and not seek to identify what's not known,
can lead to superficial mastery and a false sense of security. To not know something and then going out and learning it is growth; to not know what you don't know is scary to me.
John


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:17 pm 
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From: maurice richard libby
Date: 22 Aug 1998
Time: 12:30:32

When i taught, (not Uechi Ryu) I would always tell my students (excepting maybeve ry young children) That you learn basics for the principles and to learn the body mechanics, develop proper reflexes, etc but that in real situations and/or when you reached a fairly high level of proficiency, you could vary the technique. In other words, the kihon waza is a blueprint, not a finished structure. Most people understand and accept this.

Advanced students in mixed classes should always stick to basic basics for two reasons: 1) out of respect for the less advanced students, and 2) it's good for everyone to practice the basic basics to keep the skills sharp.


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:19 pm 
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From: david
Date: 19 Aug 1998
Time: 19:54:14

Paul,
You and John have very insightful observations and understanding of the basics.
That's why you guys are the teachers, and I am not. The beginners should be grateful!
david


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:20 pm 
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Re: Crescent Step
From: Phil
Date: 19 Aug 1998
Time: 13:23:41

Direct Hit!


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:23 pm 
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From: John
Date: 13 Aug 1998
Time: 12:02:09

I would like to contribute to this topic, so please allow me to introduce myself. My name is John Hassell and I practice the Wado style of Japanese karate with a strong Shotokan influence. I also practice Yamani Ryu bojutsu, the Okinawan long staff art (which I taught at camp). My first decade of karate ('70s) was spent practicing Kyokushinkai (also Japanese).

When I practice stepping, I spend time on a drill where I do crescent stepping. During this drill, the objective is to crescent step without changing the body's center of gravity. I'll skip the specifics of the drill here, but I think that the benefits of it and of crescent stepping are many-fold. I will list a few here in no order of importance:

1. The groin area is protected.
2. Development ankle strenth/flexibility.
3. Development of hip strength and endurance. 4. Development of balanced, fluid body movement (tai-sabaki).
5. Development of spring in the ankle, knee, and hip.
6. Development of tame (pronounced tah-meh). Here, think of the center of the body as an inflated ball. After "squeezing" the ball, it will expand and provide energy to the body's movement.

There are probebly other and better reasons, but I can't think of them now (or probably just don't know them).
John


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:26 pm 
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Date: 14 Aug 1998
Time: 05:30:54

Hi John,
Thanks for weighing in. I can understand how crescent stepping can help develop the qualities you describe in points 2-6. Point 1 about protecting the groin was also given for the crescent movement in sanchin stepping. But, realistically, it is a minor point since it would only protect against an upward, looping football type kick. Against a snapping or thrust front kick or well placed
round kick, the defender with have to block/parry, jam or at minimum turn the hip to protect the groin.

The point about "tame" is very intriguing. I've seen Chinese styles that use this,
"bak mei" ("white eyebrow") comes immediately to mind. The proponent visibly compresses and explodes outward with the strike. In aikido, we also have a whole category of throws call kokyuhonage ("breath throws") where the
proponent compresses and expands outward to effect the throw. In both cases, the feet does come closer together and spit further apart to effect the strike or throw. In aikido certainly, we don't practice crescent stepping to get tame. We simply practice stepping ahead or back, dropping weight, pivoting and torguing the hip to effect power (some would say "ki") into the technique. The feet does come together briefly and expand out. So, for me, there is a question whether
crescent stepping has a utlity as a training tool vs utlity as an application technique.
To digress, I've never seen anyone practice Wado-ryu in my years. I am very interested by what little I read about it in Donn Draeger's Modern Bujutsu and Budo book. Otsuki Hidennori (? sp), the founder, was quoted as saying any "resistive" quality in movement is "uneconomical". This contrasted sharply with
the dynamic tension quality that most karate styles are practiced with.

Empirically, I tend towards his viewpoint from my experiences in boxing and more recently in practicing aikido. What really caught my eye was three photos showing Otsuki lightly deflecting a punch in a cat stance and then extending into a solid but not too deep stance for a counter strike. I like that approach of not clashing head on. Perhaps, someday you can demonstrate a wado ryu kata for me. I really would love to see it.

Another digression, your bojutsu techniques are very impressive for their speed and power. As I practice jo (more like "play around" with) as a minor part of aikido training, I am amazed by the power transfer that you generate in your strikes with that longer staff. I would've loved to hear how you think your training techniques could help me with my jo work. But, you were definitely a popular man at the camp. Maybe, next year...
regards,
david


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:28 pm 
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rom: John Hassell
Date: 14 Aug 1998
Time: 10:04:41

David,
Thank you very much for the kind words. I enjoy working with the Uechi Ryu practitioners at Mattson Sensei's camp. You are all fine martial artists, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share an art I have a passion for with you.

Thanks, also, for linking what I wrote about to how some Chinese martial artists and Aikidoka might use similar concepts.

I think I agree with what you wrote about the crescent step being initially a drill.

From my experiences in karate and kobudo practice, many of the techniques we learn initially (and later perform formally in kata) include exagerated movements.

As the practitioner becomes more advanced and the techniques mature, these exagerated movements tend to disappear. It often looks like the mature martial artist is violating a lot of the principles taught early on.
Nevertheless, the results of the drilling in exagerated form have settled in and become a natural part of the advanced practitioner's technique. A beginner seeing this execution may then think: "...well, if he or she doesn't have to use hip action or crescent stepping, then why do I?" If the ingredient is then overlooked, an essential aspect of the overall technique that has lead to the development of an integrated execution,
may be missing, and so the student might never understand how to harness, store, and seamlessly deliver energy and momentum from the body to a weapon (hand, foot, bo, sai, etc.). I go through the "...how did he do that so smoothely?..." every time I train with my sensei. So, what I'm trying to write here is that it's a process that we might need to go through.

Regarding Wado Ryu. It is a style of karate that stresses the relaxed execution of technique. However, Ohtsuka Sensei also believed that in order to understand the concept of "relaxed" you might have to train with tension at times. This is why Seishan (the Wado version) is an important kata in his curriculum. The kata begins with dynamic tension movements, then transtions into light, fast techniques. I had planed to do a karate and kobudo demonstration at camp on
Saturday evening, but I incurred a hamstring injury (and re-injury) within a week of camp, so I had to forego the opportunity.
John


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:30 pm 
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From: paul giella
Date: 23 Aug 1998
Time: 08:05:11

Yes, Sir,... but how do you know what you don't know? and what if 'what you don't know' is that you have reached the point of trusting your own intuitive sense of what direction to take your own personal training? In the class in which I train, Sensei George Mattson's Saturday class, there is noone below the rank of brown belt and several third, fourth and fifth dans in regular attendance. While we certainly review the basics (for example, in the first speed kata)we have found that it is much to the benefit of the class to encourage the more senior members to "think for themselves", and develop their own personal expression in the
'full-out'exercises. As one world-famous musician once wrote in his autobiography, 'from my first teacher I learned music, but from my second teacher I learned musical expression'. We have been thinking that many of the senior students are at the point to develop personal expression.


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:32 pm 
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From: John Hassell
Date: 23 Aug 1998
Time: 09:03:56

Paul,
Since being invited to teach at camp, I have come to witness some of what you wrote about (albeit, on a smaller scale). The Uechi people are being exposed to all kinds of knowledge, and that is great and a tremdous credit to your seniors and their leadership and quest for knowledge.

From my experience, I must write that people often stumble onto what they don't know (about). I can't begin to write about how many times I have thought or heard said "...wow, I didn't event realize that..." So, my take on it is that we have to open our eyes and minds to knowledge, and shrug things off so quickly because "...it's not how I was taught." I have found that many, especially some very senior people who are often set in their ways, try to fit things in their preconceived molds. The inflexible mindset either distorts what is being learned or prevents it from being recognized or entering period.
John


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:33 pm 
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From: paul giella
Date: 24 Aug 1998
Time: 08:25:24
Remote Name: 209.154.61.33
Comments
Yes, I think we are on the same track here... open minds, empty our teacup, if you will, to get beyond the rigid lockstep of the early years.


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 Post subject: Crescent Step
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 1998 10:35 pm 
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rom: John Hassell
Date: 14 Aug 1998
Time: 11:43:23

David,
I thought that I had touched on everything in your note, but then on further review, I realized I overlooked an important question you asked.

Yes, there is a correllation between your jo swing and the typical bo swing I practice. There are several interrelated components to the swing. Some of them include the folowing (in no particular order): grip, elbow position, hip position, sequential delivery, leverage, tip velocity, extension, control,
relationship/connection to center of body, fulcrum action, bo density, biomechanics, leg action, foot action, mid-section (consisting of tanden, l+r gamuka, an koshi), etc. A "sweet" bo cut, like that of a golf swing, is one where all the above (and more that I missed or don't know about) are in place. An
efficient, effective bo cut (and maybe some day I will develop one) should cut cleanly through an intended target. However, just being able to cut through the target is not sufficient if you can't recover and redirect the energy in the bo if you miss or after you've made contact. The ability to control the bo by correct and timely "squeezing" is essential.

I believe that the manner in which the above are put together for the bo swing is very transferable to the jo, both for offensive and for defensive reasons. Please keep in mind that I have not studied with a qualified jo instructor; however, the jo is used in early bojutsu training to work on developing some of the sensitivity and control.
John


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