Product Review � Free standing punch/kick bags

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The club has recently bought a free standing punch/kick bag to supplement the periodic training sessions with shields and pads. With a special sale price of approximately �100 compared to a RRP of in excess of �220 I couldn’t resist the temptation. Such purchases require a big commitment and risk from clubs so I thought I would share my thoughts of this product just in case others are contemplating similar orders.

There are two variations on a common theme. One incorporates a cylindrical dense foam target while the other takes the shape of a torso that helps in targeting strikes to appropriate areas. These are mounted either onto a height adjusting upright that can be an integral part of the base or a tube with a bellows section. My version incorporates a bellows section and cylindrical shield.

They say first impressions count and when I first unpack it I thought that it frankly was not robust enough for full adult strikes. The main problem with my version is that the bellows and tube deflects to far when the target area is struck. This results in a rapid spring back and follow through in the opposite direction. The reaction is very similar to that experience with speedball work. A far stiffer mounting post is really needed. Typical deflections of 45 degrees result in considerable forces being applied to the water or sand filled base. This was proved when a split develop at the top of the base and resulted in leaking water on the dojo floor during only its second session.

In conclusion I would only recommend this product for juniors on robustness grounds. One advantage is that it does enable these students to punch and kick something big without the risk of injuries. It also has a certain fun factor, which appeals to juniors. In hindsight I probably wouldn’t have purchased this and if it wasn’t for the logistic hassles I would probably return it and definitely don’t fill them with water!

Paul Edwards

Dragon Hill: Christmas, 2004

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On Wednesday 29th December, 2004, the Wantage Karate club made its annual (well, this is the second year) pilgrimage to a rather scenic part of the Ridgeway for some post Christmas / pre New Year�s training. This year the venue was Dragon Hill, close to White Horse Hill, where St George was supposed to kill the dragon of yore.

We met in the main car park at 11am (what joy: normally courses seem to start at crack of sparrow fart, but this one had a much more sophisticated beginning) and had a light jog from there to the hill itself. The weather was looking beautiful � hot, tropical sunshine with just a faint wisp of clouds over the tranquil sea. Well ok, maybe not, but there was some sunshine and although it was bitterly cold, at least it wasn�t raining and the wind wasn�t too strong so all in all, I think we can count ourselves lucky for pursuing an outdoors activity at the end of December in England.

When we arrived at the Hill, after a very brief wait for a couple of stragglers the session commenced with sensei Paul standing in front of a very motley bunch of karateka wearing all manner of attire (including a rather fetching Santa hat).

One standing rei later we were off practising Sanchin Gojo-ryu style. I am not sure how far through this we got, but I found it quite a pleasant kata, it kata can ever be termed thus. Without going in to too much detail, the part we performed was in sanchin-dache (I assume) and consisted of some fairly unusual blocks and strikes, though all in the same direction and without any kicks, which helped. Fairly early on in this I found my hands turn white, then red, then blue, as if they were doing a grading all of their own, but it was find because I soon lost most feeling in them � just a dull throb to remind me that I still had hands. The wind and sun kept their same strength (reasonably strong and pathetically weak respectively).

To warm up, after this warm up, we paired up with kick shields and practised basic kicks and strikes. It is incredible how weak these can feel when outdoors, compared with the nice, controlled (and dare I say warm) environment of the dojo. The trick is to imagine that the strike you are doing is against you: although the noise isn�t as spectacular, it doesn�t take much imagination to realise that yes, karate blows are every bit as effective on the street as in the dojo.

After a few rounds of this we were all nicely warm (well, outside � breathing fiery cold air is not the most warming experience for inside your body � can you have fiery cold air?).

Next up was a simple line up with a poor victim standing at the front, holding a kick shield and preparing for the worst while a mob of cold karateka queue up to strike the pad with all their might. Hiding behind a kick shied isn�t too bad when single punches are being thrown at you, which is possibly why Sensei Paul decided on jumping kicks instead. When I became the lucky one to stand behind the shield, I noted one thing above all others: even though the kicks thrown at me varied in strength and technique, every single one of them would have hurt me very badly had I not been behind the shield. A real testament to the quality of the karate being hurled at me!

After a decent pounding behind the shield, we formed the vicious circle. Always a favourite, how lucky did I feel to be first in the centre? Fortunately, there was to be structure to this particular circle, and after a round of simple head strike / block and counter we moved on to body strike / block and counter. Since the students were choosing the block and counter I felt we would get off fairly lightly. Alas. Woe is me. It was not to be.

The suggested defence against the strike (oi-tsuki chudan) was uchi-uki followed by gyaku-tsuki. Good, classic moves. But then sensei decided that this defence should be enhanced with an ashi-barai and arm lock This is difficult to explain accurately so I shall post a photo of this as soon as I get some! For now, suffice to say the there followed a great deal of pain, sheep output (well, this is a family web site), tapping out and more sheep output. Whilst rolling around in a particularly wet pile of said output (whilst practising the techniques � I don�t roll around in it for fun, you know!) I noticed it starting to rain. Well, I guess we had been lucky � it had been pretty dry up until that point. Then came a defence against a swinging head punch that involved a simple block followed by a neck grab that, if performed correctly, could lift the opponent bodily off the ground. As this was demonstrated on me, I could feel my spine prepare to be stretched (though of course, it never was � always safety first). It did lead me to wonder though if our sensei has had training as an osteopath … or a psychopath.

A few defences later, we finished with a standing rei.

One of our number had brought a flask of sweet coffee (thanks Cath!) and boy did a few sips of that feel good. Then we had a slow walk back to the car park, chatting happily about how the rain coming down was surely cold enough to be snow. On the way back, a question occurred to me that I cannot quite answer: if karate can be so enjoyable, outside, in wet, cold, windy sheep output, how is it more people don�t try it in the warmth of the dojo?

Dave Paine

Technical overview and analysis of Yakusoku Kumite

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This report describes in detail the various forms of pre-arranged sparring (yakusoku kumite) that exist within traditional karate-do, in particular within the Shotokan Syllabus. Etiquette, protocol and objectives of both the attacker (Tsuki-te) and defender (Uke-te) involved in the training forms of Gohon, Sambon and Kihon Ippon Kumite are discussed. Adequate proficiency in such formalised partner work should provide 4th Kyus and below an adequate foundation to progress ultimately to the unpredictability of free (Jiyu) sparring forms.


Prior to immersing into the precise details of these highly formalised, prearranged sparring forms I would like to clarify the scope of the report. Within the abstract, the Shotokan Syllabus is referred to and indeed the vast majority of what will now be discussed is appropriate for the TSKA Syllabus. However I urge the reader to seek clarification with their own Sensei as I have collated the following information from my training experiences since 1985 with a number of associations ranging from the south-east to the far north of the United Kingdom. Being relatively new to the TSKA (since 2000) these may differ marginally to the requirements and standardisation being sort by Sensei Peter Manning. The original references are detailed in full at the end of the report and referred to as a bracketed number within the body of the text.

Pre-engagement Formalities

As the reader will undoubtedly know all training methods incorporating partner work, start and finish with humility and the formal bow (Rei). Although synonymous with ancient martial arts, the karate (in particular the teaching environment) that is now practised was altered by the Japanese to enable it to be accepted and absorb within their culture and be comparable to Ju-do and Ken-do activities. Hence bowing should therefore contain all the formal etiquette used by the Japanese.

The bow should bend from the waist, not the neck and be low enough to display the appropriate respect for your training partner. Musubi-Dachi (informal Attention stance) should be adopted with the heels together and the feet turn out with a fist distance between them. The person of lower status usually initiates the bow, bows the lowest, and is the last one to rise. The most appropriate for partner work is a rather informal bow of about 15 degrees and is held for one or two seconds. Men should leave their hands at their sides while bowing, but women usually place them together resting on the pubis or groin area with their fingertips overlapping (1). Formally eye contact should be avoided during the bow as it is deemed disrespectful.

Contrary to Japanese practices some individuals abdicate maintaining eye contact throughout. The reasoning behind this is to foster the spirit of zanshin (awareness) as the Attacker or Defender may not have the same honourable aims or understanding of the situation as each other. This deviation from Japanese etiquette may have been instigated due to the scene in the Kung Fu classic ‘Enter the Dragon’. In which Bruce Lee reprimanded his young student for not maintaining eye contact with the words ‘If you look at the finger pointing at the moon you will miss all the heavenly glory’ (2).

Having carried out the formalities, the Attacker (Tsuki-te) and Defender (Uke-te) adopt the Ready Position (Yoi) in a parallel stance (Heiko Dachi). With the circling motion of the arms in preparing for Yoi both participates must wipe their minds of all other thoughts and focus on imminent risk of injury if concentration wavers. The correct martial spirit should assume that an engagement with swords was about to be pursued and that there are no second chances. This ‘to kill in one blow’ attitude is known as ikken hissatsu. It is at this point that eye contact must be initiated if it has not already been instigated particularly during prearranged (Yakusoku) rallies.

It should be noted that some parties advocating observing your opponent by looking at their mid plane level corresponding to the sternum and solar plexus area instead of maintaining a ‘psycho stare’ that may lead to tunnel vision affects over prolonged sparring periods (3). The theory behind this being that both arm and leg attacks can be monitored. I have certain sympathies with this theory but it is perhaps more useful in Jiyu Kumite (free sparring) forms where feinting or setting up techniques may be incorporated.

Kumite rallies

The exact details of the sequence of events for Gohon, Sambon or Kihon Ippon Kumite will not be discussed within this report in detail as it is assumed that the reader is conversant with the physical mechanics.

In general the Shotokan syllabus requires jodan and chudan attacks with blocks consisting of age-ukes, uchi-ukes and soto-ukes for both Gohon (5 step) and Sambon (3 step) Kumite. The counter attack consists of a gyaku-tzuki (reverse punch) immediately after the last block of that sequence. This sequence is required for the grading examination 9th, 8th and 7th Kyu. It should be noted that variations in the requirements of 7th Kyu consist of a three step rally with the attack sequence being jodan, then chudan and finally mae-geri (front snap kick). This requires the Uke-te (defender) to move backwards blocking with age-uke, then soto-uke then gedan barai (downward block) (4).

Likewise the general requirements for Kihon Ippon Kumite consist from one to all of the following attacks for the grading examination for 6th to 3rd Kyu. Attacking sequence consisting of jodan, chudan, mai-geri, kekomi and mawashi-geri from both sides of the body.

Common to all forms of yakusoku, confirmation of the target area for the prearranged attack by Tsuki-te is clearly announced prior to the attack being instigated. A very common mistake is for the Uke-te to acknowledge this by saying Oss. On no account should any acknowledgement be fed back to the Tzuki-te, adopting the ready position (Yoi) is adequate enough. Initiation of the rally should be on the whim of the Tsuki-te and not on a verbal response of Oss by the Uke-te or Hajime by the Sempai, Sensei or Grading panel. The aim is for the Uki-te to learn to react to movement at an instant and not a verbal command.


The majority of the objectives for all yakusoku kumite are common to all three forms. The differing types help develop and quicken the reactions as karate-ka practise the techniques. The main aims are to learn, experience and practise ma-ai (distancing), tai-sabaki (body judgement more so for Gohon and Sambon while body evasion for Kihon Ippon), atemi (vital/weak point strikes), weight distribution on offensive and defensive stances, blocking and implementing controlled offensive and counter attack techniques (6).

Ma-ai, (distancing) often defines the counter by students too most given attacks. Unnecessary space and/or leaning is often wrongly practised to enable the most familiar counter to be used i.e. gyaku tsuki (reverse punch). Distance must be adjusted particularly for Kihon Ippon Kumite (basic one step) to enable the correct technique to be applied. General examples being ura, kagi and tate tsuki (upper cut, hook and vertical fist punches), empi and hiza waza (elbow and knee techniques) for short range. Gyaku, mawashi and kizami tsuki (reverse, round house and front snap punches), shuto, tetsui and haito waza (knife, hammer fist and ridge hand techniques) and mai-ashi geri waza (front leg techniques) for medium range and ushiroashi geri waza (back leg techniques) for long range techniques. It should be noted that the previous examples are general examples and the range category will vary with the individual’s ability. Students should be encouraged to experiment with the lesser known and used techniques without detriment to the listed objectives and strive for seriousness at all times.

Tai-sabaki makes use of the eight compass directions to avoid direct head on confrontation with the attacking technique. Such glancing techniques avoid the use of brute strength to successfully defend a direct attack that can lead to injuries. This is one of the main principles of Wado-Ryu and significantly adds to the Shotokan repertoire (5). Movement of the Uke-te in a 45 direction either right or left and either backwards or forwards may significantly affect Mi-ai. A common mistake of the Tsuki is to attack where the Uke-te was originally standing in Yoi even after moving from that position. If movement of the Uke-te is too early then the Tsuki-te should still aim for him, anything else is of no long-term gain to either party.

Targeting appropriate areas (atemi) is an important requirement for both Tsuki-te and Uke-te. The Tsuki-te attack must correspond to his or hers declaration immediately prior to the rally and must be focused on the centre line. This sounds an obvious requirement but is unintentionally wrongly executed on a regular basis. The Uke-te must equally counter attack to appropriate areas. A common mistake occurs with a mawashi geri response. The opponent may be significantly taller than the Uke-te who is attempting a jodan kick. Inevitably the foot connects with the Tsuki-te’s shoulder blade or top of his arm. The correct response for this example should have been a chudan targeted kick.

The potential list of target points could be a topic for another thesis however the following gives a typical indication. Frontal chudan counter attacks should consider the floating ribs and sternum. For the exposed back counter attacks should considered kidney strikes and base of the skull (occipital). While for jodan counter attacks should consider throat, mandible (lower jaw and chin), maxilla (upper jaw and bridge of nose) and temporal area (temples). To maximise damage to the opponent and minimise damage to the striking medium, soft (fleshy) parts should strike bony areas while bony areas should strike flesh parts. An extreme example of this would be the delicate bones (metatarsals) of the instep (haisoku) being damaged from striking an opponent’s elbow.

The declared jodan attack from the tsuki-te must be fast, accurate and totally controlled. While a chudan attack should aim to connect. This is not a licence to kill but should be sufficient to let the Uke-te realise the error of his or her ways. In contrast the counter attack must be controlled in all aspects as the Tsuki-te should remain stationary and is not allowed to block.


Although Kihon Ippon Kumite is commonly practised within the dojo environment adequate Gohon and Sambon rallies are often neglected. However these rallies allow attacks to be either continuous/rolling or broken up with a series of differing pauses designed to improve the uke-te reactions to movement. It is far too common to see such rallies carried out monotonously and metronomic. Unfortunately these are seen as an unnecessary exercise that needs to be learnt parrot fashion immediately before a grading. This is unfortunate and does not provide students with an adequate foundation. Once individuals partner taller, heavier, faster and more aggressive karate-ka they will struggle because of their lack of proficiency. Inadequate kihon practise and rushing to advanced rallies does not allow mistakes to be rectified. As in many aspects of traditional karate students must resist the temptation to advance onto the next grade without achieving an adequate competence.


1. ‘A Guide to Japan’, Time Square Travels’ Centre Ltd, Canada,
2. ‘Enter the Dragon’, Warner Brothers 1973.
3. ‘Techniques and training for competition karate’ Volume 1 & 2, Ticky Donovan/ V.M.A International, 1990.
4. ‘The Shotokan Karate Union Grading Syllabus’ 3rd Edition, Derek Kirkham, Yudansha Press 1998.
5. ‘Karate-do, The Way of the Empty Hand’ Eddie Ferrie, The Crowood Press 1996.
6. ‘The Complete Coaching Manual for the Martial Arts’, Derek Kirkham, Yudansha Press 1990.


Paul Edwards

Elvis has left the dojo

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Much has been made in the media of Elvis Presley�s musical career and about his sad demise. However, what does not get much attention is his involvement with the martial arts, except for his custom made $1000 karate gis.

Elvis� interest in the martial arts began in 1958, when he witnessed a judo/jujitsu demonstration, shortly after his induction into the US army. His first karate instructor was a German Shotokan karate-ka, by the name of Juergen Seydel, who began teaching him while he was stationed in Germany. It is also known that around this time, Elvis trained with Vietnamese martial artists whilst on leave in Paris.

Back in his hometown of Memphis during 1960, Elvis qualified as a shodan whilst training under Hank Slemansky, a Chito-Ryu stylist. It was this same Slemansky who provided early training for Dan Inosanto, a prot�g� of Bruce Lee. The only other information we have about Elvis� interest in karate at this time, is that he spent many hours training with an ex army pal called Rex Mansfield. It would appear that whatever endeared Elvis to karate, also endeared him to others physically involved in its practise. Some of his closest friends were chosen for their enthusiasm for the martial arts.

Elvis could be given credit for exposing karate in films. During a fight scene in GI blues, made in 1960, he can be seen using karate techniques. The only other example of martial arts in celluloid prior to this was in a 1946 film titled �Blood on the sun�, where James Cagney used judo techniques to dispose of an opponent. Throughout Elvis� movie career during the 1960�s, all his films featured martial arts in the fight scenes, and although crude and unimaginative compared to the slick sophistication displayed in the Bruce Lee films of the 1970�s, they still captured attention.

Ed Parker, the pioneer of Kenpo karate, a style which incorporates a lot of dynamic self-defence techniques, was to have more influence on Elvis, than any other karate-ka during the early 1970�s. This transcended itself to his routines on stage, which accompanied his singing, sadly hideously parodied by Elvis impersonators today.

By 1975, Elvis had gained considerable weight. Prior to this during late 1974, he was filmed training at the Memphis Karate Institute, a club run by Bill �superfoot� Wallace, at that time the world middleweight karate champion. Elvis rarely allowed himself to be photographed whilst training. The resulting exposure was featured in and American publication called �People�. With its vast readership, this represented another substantial Presley endorsement for karate. In total about forty minutes of footage was filmed, of which only two minutes has been released. However, I have just discovered that it is now available on DVD in its entirety.

In the final years of his life, Elvis seesawed between states of excitement and depression. Two of his bodyguards recall karate sessions when Elvis would warm up, meditate (mokusu) and then sit around eating while the others trained. If only he�d trained at our dojo!

There is no doubt karate played a large part in Elvis� life. As a practising martial artist for some nineteen years, his fascination was hardly whimsical. He was a credible shodan who unselfishly used his money, power and influence to enhance the growth of karate. Sadly, his dedication went unsung during his lifetime.

With regard to Elvis� advanced 8th dan grade, this can be explained by virtue of his famed generosity.

The aforementioned Bill Wallace was Elvis� instructor in Memphis for a period during the early 1970�s. Wallace promoted Elvis to seventh degree black belt at the same time that he [Elvis], gave him a brand new Cadillac. The strange thing is that Wallace himself was a seventh degree black belt! Reportedly, Master Kang Rhee, a Korean tae kwon do instructor, who taught in Memphis, bestowed an honorary eighth degree rank on Elvis in 1974. Perhaps the fact that Elvis had given him a car too had nothing to do with it!


Tony Hetherington

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