White Crane, Short Power and Having Your Back to a Wall 2

Most practitioners of Okinawan Karate know that it is generally a mix of Shuri-Te/Naha-Te/Tomari-Te (collectively Ryukyu-Te or Okinawa-Te) and White Crane Kung Fu from Southern China.  If you look at most modern Kung Fu or Kung Fu from Northern China you would not believe this could be the case, but if you ever get the chance to see a good White Crane practitioner you will see a striking resemblance to karate.  Class last night was largely focused on developing our power over short distances by using exercises that Sensei Poage learned from Master Liu (I believe that was his name, but I could be wrong).

The first exercises were basic shoulder exercises.  We started with our arms straight out in front of us with our hands open, palms down, elbows straight, and made circles forward using just our shoulders, then we did it in reverse.  After that we dropped our hands to our sides and did shoulder raises, which is a lot harder than it sounds after doing the first exercise!  These were done with quick, small movements to work on developing fast-twitch muscles in small sections of the body.

The next exercises were more reminiscent of what you would see in karate–empi-ate or elbow strikes.  The first set were simply letting our elbows hang at our sides, then bring our arms up to chest level, parallel to the floor, then strike yoko-empi-ate (side elbow strikes), alternating arms.  That really worked us on developing power in those elbows in just the 10 inches or so that our elbows had to travel.  The second set were morote-age-empi-ate (double rising elbow strikes) where we drew our hands back to hikite (“pulled hands” position, approximately between the ribs and the hip bone depending on who teaches it) then shot both elbows outward to chest level, keeping our hands close to our bodies.  I thought this one was a fantastic close-range defensive technique if you work it enough.

White Crane practitioner working Fire Hands or a similar open handed pushing drill

The last two exercises were a bit more obviously Chinese in style and were referred to are Fire Hands and Water Hands.  In Fire Hands you perform a key block (open hands, one deflects while the other parries), pull your hands to your chest and then strike morote-shote-zuki (double palm strike) to chest level.  We were doing this while alternating our key blocks and stepping off to 45* angles in nekoashi-dachi (cat stance), but I have seen it done a bit differently in videos online.  The Water Hands exercise looks exactly like you are scooping up water in your hands and throwing it.  You lower your hands in front of you and cup them together, then pull them straight up and when they reach chest level you fling your hands straight out in front of you, palms facing up, in what would either be morote-haito-uke/uchi (double ridgehand block/strike) or morote-nukite-zuki (double spearhand strike) depending on how you want to look at it.

Keeping these exercises and their purpose in mind we then worked a few self defense techniques off of both straight punches and haymakers that involved short power.  The most extensively practiced technique of the night was a key block followed by a right palm strike to the jaw which then popped back as a backfist to the jaw while the left hand punched the other side of the jaw, effectively dislocating it.  After working that for a while we also added another palm strike and an elbow to the occipital ridge.  It was obvious from Sensei Poage’s demonstration that he works on short power a lot because when he showed us the techniques on a pad he sent it flying, and when he demonstrated the power behind the left handed punch to the jaw on another student’s shoulder he just about knocked him over.  Needless to say I will be doing these exercises as soon as I can lift my arms again 😛

At the end of class we started working self defense from a slightly different angle–with our backs against a wall.  We were working against someone grabbing onto your shirt or jacket and pushing you up against the wall, threatening you, as well as working against someone who grabs onto one hand, pushing you into a wall while punching.  The techniques we used against these were fairly straightforward, and I liked the fact that we used the wall against our attackers.  On the attacker who is shoving you against the wall with both hands we simply cupped the ears to burst the eardrums, then broke down their grip with our elbows, either going into an armlock with their head smashing into the wall or a headlock falling back to smash their head into the wall.  Against the puncher it was actually still surprisingly easy to deflect the punch into the wall and I added a sweep to help the attacker’s head follow his hand into the wall.  From there it was easy enough to finish the attacker.  Sensei Poage said next time we might work on self defense from a chair, which is another interesting concept that I’m looking forward to working.

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About Noah

I began training in karate (Shuri-Ryu) in the Summer of 2006. Subsequently, I started training in judo, kobudo, and iaijutsu within the next 6 months. During my training there, I earned the rank of Sankyu (3rd Degree Brown Belt) in Shuri-Ryu, Gokyu (Green Belt) in judo, a certification in the use of the bo, and passed proficiency tests for the four tachigata of Shinkage-Ryu iaijutsu. I moved to Arizona in the Summer of 2008, and continued training and researching karate at home. I continued regular training in judo at a local club until 2010, when I was able to start training in Shorin-Ryu with Sensei Richard Poage. I have been training with him ever since, and currently hold the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shorin-Ryu under him. In addition, I began studying KishimotoDi under Sensei Ulf Karlsson in 2014.

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