Vince Morris Kata Bunkai Seminar

Sensei Vince Morris is a Hachidan (8th Degree Black Belt) in Shotokan and founder of Kissaki-Kai Karate-Do, and he held a seminar today (January 26, 2013) at Atkinson’s Martial Arts in Peoria, AZ. The seminar was on kata bunkai (breaking down applications of kata) and how to apply them in a realistic way. Sensei Morris has taught all over the world, including teaching police officers, military groups and government agencies, and in the process he has had to put his training to use to actually save his life. This means that he has made sure that all of his applications really do work, and that’s the kind of kata application I like!

Geoff Thompson explains his take on “the fence”

The seminar started with about 15 minutes of Sensei Morris introducing himself and the concepts behind the way he does things, including his take on “the fence,” which is a defensive posture that one should be in whenever they are in a confrontational situation. Essentially, he advocates standing in sanchin-dachi (hourglass stance) to protect the groin, protect the arteries and nerves on the insides of the thighs, and provide a stable platform to strike from without giving away your intention to fight or your dominant hand (most people step back with their strong side), and he advocates keeping your hands between you and your opponent, but keeping the elbows tucked tight to the body to protect the liver, spleen and heart. From there he explained that you can bait your attacker from this position by putting one hand between you and the fist you don’t want them to strike with, and then either holding the other hand to the side a bit to invite a straight punch, or holding it in the middle to invite a hook punch. I had never really considered the concept of baiting an untrained attacker, but I did like the way he used it and explained it!

A diagram of the Shotokan kata Nijushiho

From there, we moved on to practicing techniques, starting with the first three movements of the kata Nijushiho, which is a kata that I do not know but the technique was still plenty useable and included concepts I can apply to other kata. The attack we were working against was a swinging attack–either a haymaker punch or a bat/tire-iron swing–and his idea was one that I hadn’t really seen exactly the way he did it. Rather then redirecting or blocking the attack, Sensei Morris taught to strike over the arm as if throwing a frisbee (he called it “frisbee-uke,” in fact) to slow it down and guide it harmlessly past your body. From there, you are very close to your opponent so he taught to headbutt (he included that in almost every technique we did) and then use nidan-geri (double kick) as a sweep to spread their legs apart, followed immediately by a kick to the groin. That was just the first move from the kata, so to use the rest of the beginning of the kata, we took out the nidan-geri and instead took our extended hand and struck the attacker’s head or the back of their neck, then punched them in the face with our other hand (likely causing them to lean back slightly) and followed with an elbow strike to the jaw.

Tiffany using an elbow lock to push her attacker to the ground

After working those techniques for a good while, we moved on to working on a technique to defend against a straight lead punch, at the request of one of the brown belt students present. This was a technique have actually already drilled hundreds, if not thousands of times–a key block (deflect the punch with a palm block and feed it into the other hand, which traps it) followed by an elbow lock that is used to drive the attacker to the ground. Where Sensei Morris differed was in the completion of the technique, because he normally teaches this as an arresting technique for police officers. Once the attacker was face-down on the floor, we made sure the arm was held at 1 o’clock, stuck our nearest foot under the shoulder and stepped forward with our other foot, keeping their hand at our hip. What this accomplished was putting us in a position where we could hold their arm and dislocate the shoulder with just our legs, freeing us to get our handcuffs and put them on the attacker.

A diagram of Tekki Shodan (Shotokan’s version of Naihanchi Shodan)

After that, we moved on to some Naihanchi/Tekki Shodan applications. The first thing we worked from Naihanchi was using the nami-gaeshi (returning wave) as an oblique heel kick to the nerves of the thigh, which we simply practiced with our partner by both standing in Sensei Morris’ defensive position, key blocking and stepping to the outside of a punch and executing the kick. This was very simple for me, as I have done the blocking and that kick a lot, but several people did have issues with it.

The figure-S-lock known as Nikyo in Aikido

 From there, he taught an application for the yoi (ready) position and first two steps of the kata as a counter to a wrist grab. The attacker grabbed our right wrist (the assumption being that this was a kata for the king’s bodyguards, and they would be handling their swords right handed so if either arm was going to be grabbed, it would be that one), and from there we locked their wrist with a figure-S-lock known as Nikyo in Aikido, then stepped across to help drive them down before kneeing them in the face.

One of Ted Kruczek‘s students executing morote-tsuki (double punch) from Naihanchi Shodan

As a follow-up to that, Sensei Morris demonstrated that if they were able to resist the lock you could simply step into the last movement of the kata, the morote-tsuki (double punch) with your leg behind them and throw them over your leg. This was a simple application, and a techniue I have worked on numerous occasions. What I like about what he did with it next was he used it as a defense against a grab-and-punch. We started off using our right cross block to strike the elbow of the grabbing (left) hand, then stepped in behind them, punched through their face and THEN did the throw. I really liked that variation!

Zenkutsu-dachi (front stance) with a forearm block/strike

After that, we worked on a defense against a takedown attempt, and the request of one of the black belt students present. The question was “with the popularity of MMA, what technique do you use against someone trying to shoot for a takedown” and the answer was perfect–“the defense is the same thing it’s always been, which is the sprawl!” He did go on from there, however, to say that it is possible to defend a takedown in other ways, but they are more difficult. The technique that he demonstrated was to step back into a very long zenkutsu-dachi (front stance) to prevent them from being able to grab both legs, although they may still get the front one, and striking into the brachial plexus with the forearm to stop their forward motion and stun them. From there, he reached under the head, grab the chin and twisted my head around (I was the demonstration dummy for this technique) so that I had no choice but to turn around until I fell, and he demonstrated how to dig your fingers into the pressure point behind the jaw when you do it (that felt pleasant). Having really pushed this with my partner, I know it can work, but the grab is a bit fiddly and difficult to manage–I would probably just drop an elbow on the back of their head and call it done.

A diagram of the Shotokan kata Jion

After that, we worked on a technique from the Shotokan kata Jion, which is another kata that I don’t do, but specifically it was an application for manji-gamae (swastika position) which is present in the Shorin-Ryu kata Chinto, which I do practice. Manji-gamae is the position shown in 18, 20, 26, and 28 in the diagram above. The attacker grabbed both lapels, pulling us in aggressively, and we struck their throat with nukite-tsuki (spear hand thrust), then hooked their arms, bringing one up and one down, which is the manji-gamae position. From that position, we brought them off balance by pulling down on the lower hand while lifting with the upper hand, then stepping back and dragging their lower arm between our legs to throw them over. This is a variation of a throw I have done before, but it was a little tricky for me to get right. I was also the demonstration dummy for this technique, which was fine except that on the very last time he demonstrated it I fell wrong and landed with all of my weight on my pelvis (sacrum, I think), and after my muscles cooled down I now have a very hard time walking. Hopefully it’s just bruised and I didn’t fracture anything.

Manji-gamae in the kata Chinto

At this point, we started working some knife defenses–one against someone thrusting the knife at your belly and one against someone holding a knife to your throat after backing you against a wall. For the thrust, we again used manji-gamae. First, we scooted our body back to make space and jammed the knife hand back into the attacker using gedan-juji-uke (low cross block or low X block), which is a defense I have done before, but from there we hooked the knife hand and brought the arm up onto our shoulder (the upper arm in manji-gamae) while striking the back of the neck with a hammer fist (the lower arm in manji-gamae) and pushing their head down into a knee strike (which is something I see in the manji-gamae of Chinto, shown in the photo above). I was a little skeptical about the lack of control on the attacker’s knife arm, but it definitely did seem like they couldn’t do much with the knife from there either, so I’ll have to drill it more.

A manga-style drawing of the position described below–I couldn’t find a good photo

The defense against a knife being pressed to your throat while your back is to a wall was somewhat similar to one that Sensei Poage brought back from a seminar with a police officer, but there were a few key differences. First, instead of pulling the knife away from the throat, Sensei Morris had us simply put our outside hand against the outside of the attacker’s arm (the one holding the knife). The idea behind this was that, unless a knife has been sharpened to a scary-sharp, hair-popping edge it can’t cut you without being dragged across the skin in a slicing motion, and the only way for them to do that is to slice outward. Being a knife nut with some bladesmithing experience, many blades I come in contact with ARE sharp enough to cut you without slicing, so I was not particularly fond of this idea, but I can agree that most knives that thugs use will probably NOT be that sharp. From there, we struck the nerve below the nose, then dropped that hand to strike a nerve in the swell of the back of the forearm (which did pull the knife away from the neck), then we struck the jaw/neck with a jodan-uke (high block) before bringing the hand back to pin the knife to our chest with both hands. In the version Sensei Poage teaches, you basically go straight to the forearm strike to bring the knife down. After that, instead of twisting and driving the attacker to the ground (which is what I am used to doing from their) we twisted and put them into an armbar to slam their head into the wall. I’m still a little iffy on this technique, but I think if I play with it a bit I can definitely put it into practice.

Vince Morris teaching bunkai in Washington, D.C.

In the end, I enjoyed the seminar a lot, got to work with some good martial artists, and I learned some neat things. Overall, I would say that it was a good seminar and I would definitely go to another of Sensei Morris’ seminars in the future!

Facebook Comments



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.