Mura, Muda, Muri
While training in the hombu dojo in Japan one morning, I was introduced to some terms that I had never heard before. While practising kihon or kata, Soke would say "muda" or "muri." I questioned Soke about them, but he only gave me a brief explanation. I think he just wanted me to keep punching during the morning workout.
It was only later when I pinned him down after lunch that I got an explanation of what turned out to be an everyday expression in the Japanese language muri, mura, muda which helped me appreciate and understand my karate a little better.
This is a reprint of an article written for Kime, the Canadian Chito Ryu Association Journal. Rick Rowell studied Chito Ryu Karate in Alberta for many years and is the author of "Budo Theory Volume I" a critically acclaimed book on the philosophy of martial arts. Sadly Rick has given up Karate and we are unlikely to see Volume II. [Ed.]
Muri means "no reason" or "no principle." It suggests that the budoka should look at his technique and 1. see if it is beyond his current capabilities, and 2. search for the reason or principle behind the movement. The author's sensei now only has to say muri and I understand that my movement has no meaning behind it or that it is currently beyond my capabilities.
Mura means "unnatural" or "inequality." This is the opposite of heijo or "ordinary (natural)." This could refer to an unnatural movement, action or way of thinking. I realize that I have been punching unnaturally for 20 odd years now!
Muda refers to doing things in excess of what is needed, which could involve time, energy, length of the movement, etc. It was only when Soke got a Japanese dictionary and showed me the characters that I understood its meaning. Muda literally means "no horse." This doesn't mean that you don't have a horse, but that you have one and are not using it. It's like you are carrying a heavy bag on your shoulders while your horse walks beside you unburdened
These three words give us a means to analyze our technique. If there is something wrong with our kihon, it is usually for one of these reasons. So next time you are sweating in the dojo and just cannot figure out what is wrong, ask yourself if it is muri, mura or muda? For my part, I tend to be a man with a horse who does not know how to use it.
November of 2005 marked the return of the head of Chito Ryu Karate, Soke Sensei (Yasuhiro Chitose), to Canada. His visit began in Newfoundland and worked its way west to Nova Scotia and Quebec to his last stop in Ontario where he taught clinics at three dojos. During his time here he visited Whitby's I.C.K.F. hosted by dojo cho Sensei Ed Docherty, 3rd Dan. The following evening Soke Sensei visited Richmond Hill Karate and Fitness headed by Ontario Chito Ryu Technical Director Shihan Romualdo Ferri, 5th Dan. The last stop on his Canadian tour was the Honbu dojo headed by Canada's Honbu-cho, Kyoshi Shane Higashi, 8th Dan. Although Soke Sensei was in Alberta this past summer, it has been 3 years since Soke Sensei�s last visit to Ontario and we are happy to have had the opportunity to train with him and benefit from his expert tutelage and guidance. Every time Soke comes to Canada, he leaves us with a few new challenges and some exciting new perspectives concerning Chito-Ryu. A lucky few Chito-Ryu practitioners got a sneak peek of Soke's current vision of the style this past July in Canmore, Alberta at the summer camp. The five day camp brought with it long hours, lots of hard work and some readily accepted ideals. The clinics held this November were no different. It is humbling when Soke Sensei graces us with his presence because it offers karateka of all ranks the opportunity to learn from a true master and experience the style and charisma of the head of our style.
Letter From the Editors
It is our hope that with the resurrection of the Hantei, Ontario Chito Ryu will once more have a forum for its practitioners and enthusiasts alike to discuss and reflect on issues concerning the style. We also hope that it will provide an opportunity for Ontario's brother and sister dojos to learn about and from each other for the betterment of the style as a whole. We would welcome any news, stories or pictures that you could send our way and will try to touch on as many topics as possible in our limited publications. Thank you for reading and supporting the efforts of your fellow Chito-Ryu practitioners.
Martin Sisler, Sandan, Jun Shidoin
Michael Ginn, Nidan, Jun Shidoin
Peter Wiles, Sandan
This may seem like a funny title for an educational paper but there is some history behind the funny sound. A mentor and peer of mine, Martin Sisler, was trying to illustrate to me verbally how to make my punches and strikes faster. He was attempting to make me understand the way to give them a snap or a whip, as the case may be, without resorting to using muscular effort and just pushing. As many of you will know when a really well executed punch is performed the practitioner’s uniform or gi makes a very loud and abrupt sound. We coined this sound “Pah”. You will never hear this sound when a punch is executed using pushing power or when the karateka is utilizing upper body strength to perform it. Instead, this auditory cue only exists when the practitioner uses proper technique and frees tension from the upper body.
To fully explain “Pah” one must almost invariably revert to using careful analyses of the body and its physiology coupled with colourful imageries and metaphors. This time will be no exception. To harness the innate power of the body to facilitate “Pah”, one must truly empty the upper body of all restrictive forces; in this case the antagonist muscles. If we separate the muscles in the body in two groups we have the Agonist muscles and the Antagonist muscles. These polar opposites are constantly in flux depending on the movement that is being performed. A bicep curl for example, (bringing the hand towards the shoulder in front of the body by bending the elbow) uses the bicep (front of the arm) as the Agonist muscle and the tricep (back of the arm) as the Antagonist. The most effective way to perform this action is to have muscular activity occurring only in the bicep and not in the tricep, thereby reducing the amount of drag or resistance that acts on the desired motion.
To put it in mathematical terms:
If B is the bicep’s muscular activity, and T is the tricep’s muscular activity,
When B > T, the arm will curl
When B < T, the arm will straighten
When B = T, the arm will remain in its current state
By reducing the amount of activity in the tricep, we increase the productivity of the bicep.
This relates to “Pah” because when we punch, we need to maximize the chest and tricep’s energy use and minimize the bicep and back’s energy use to create an uninterrupted flow of energy. We can accomplish this task by relaxing the muscles in our upper body and activating only those that we need. This will improve our Karate in a few ways:
1. We expend less energy because we eliminate the tension in our antagonist muscles
2. We punch faster, due to the lack of resistance
3. We can truly harness the sources of power (linear, ascending, descending, rotating, and vibrating)
4. Our kime has more effect because it hits with a more drastic change in speed.
And now for the colourful metaphors and imagery. Imagine the Hara (a person’s center both physically and spiritually which is located two inches below the navel) as being a tap which controls the flow of energy to the limbs, and the limbs as being hoses which the energy flows through. Every time a person uses both Agonist and Antagonist muscles in unison it is like putting a severe bend in the hose, impeding the flow of energy. If the kinks in the hose are repaired or lessened, the energy will flow freely and powerfully. That is the essence of “Pah”.
To practice this concept in your Karate, train your punches, kicks, blocks and strikes to be fast rather than strong. A good way to do this is to practice by tapping an opponent with the fingertips rather than punching and seeing which one of you can be faster at this. This will teach your body and mind to only use the muscles that aid the technique and not those that hinder it. To prevent injury be sure to have a firm grasp of kime before attempting this exercise. To expose ill-prepared joints to this kind of treatment will stress or injure them to the point where training will not be possible.
The concept of “Pah” is one that is only truly understood by those that have already trained for years to make their body strong and hard and are now intent on becoming pliable as well as powerful. My recommendation is to only instruct the “Pah” method to those of Shodan rank or higher because to do so any earlier would be confusing and would mean working against the ideals and concepts the students are trying to understand and internalize at those ranks.
“Pah” can also be a metaphor for the kind of training that a karateka should engage in. A senior level practitioner should discipline themselves to only practice in a way that will help them to excel and not one that can hold them back. Working hard with a dedicated mind, body and spirit is the only way that a karateka can improve and move to the higher levels of their art. Otherwise their training is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere. Like the sculptor strips away the inessentials to reveal the masterpiece within, so must a martial artist strip away all the impediments to his/herself to create mastery in all they do.
Nidan, Jun Shidoin
Why Do We Celebrate Kagami Biraki ?
In Japan the New Year period is considered the most important time of the year, and 'Kagami Biraki' coincides with its celebration. Ritually it is held on the second Sunday of January and is usually celebrated by offering 'Mochi' (a concentrated round, flat rice cake). Men offer the mochi to their armour; women offer it to their mirrors.
Like many Japanese terms, the term 'Kagami Biraki' has different meanings. The literal translation for 'Kagami' is 'Mirror' and 'Biraki' means 'Open' or 'Opening' as well as abstinence; i.e. to break. The expression translates as 'Open Mirror, Mirror Opening' or 'Rice Cutting Ceremony'. The tradition stems from an old military custom.
An old Japanese legend tells a story of a certain deity who fell out of favour with the other gods because of his unusually cruel nature. This deity was banished and eventually found his way to a secluded cave where he came upon a mirror-like object. This mirror-like object forced him to look at himself, reflect upon his actions by looking deeper inside and try and reason why he was such a cruel individual. After a great many years of personal reflection, the deity returned to the other gods who immediately noticed a great change in his mannerisms and character.
Eventually the mirror image was used to illustrate to the common people that they should try to look at themselves as if they were looking in a mirror and thereby, judge themselves for what they truly are. This type of personal reflection is an excellent exercise in self-improvement. This being the case we must always look at our highest examples of discipline and good moral character and try to mirror them. We all train with some of the best instructors Chito-Ryu has to offer, let us not forget what they are trying to teach us about ourselves as well as our technical progress in Chito-Ryu.
The Kagami Biraki celebration has become a custom to various martial arts such as Judo, Kendo, Karatedo, Aikido, etc.. Its occurrence officially kicks off the dojo's year and, for students, it represents a renewing of the 'Spirit' and 'Rededication' to training. It has come to mean the first gathering, (Hatsu Geiko - martial artists call it 'first training') opening or coming together in the new year of many people (members of a clan) dojo, family etc. to assemble for a lecture, message or speech given by the headmaster or leader. It is usually in order that he may share with them how he really feels and what he's really like deep down inside. It follows that the members would also use this occasion to reflect upon themselves and their actions of the previous year. I personally feel the term 'Kagami Biraki' is an expressing and opening-up of the inner-self so that all of us can share new experiences I hope will enrich our training and our lives.
Sandan, Jun Shidoin
“Where does my money go?”
“What does the CRAO do?”
“How can I help or get involved?”
Important questions worth answering…
Many years ago, our senior instructors and dojo heads decided that a board of directors needed to be formed in Ontario. The purpose of forming this board was to have them perform certain administrative tasks, keep records of membership for the dojo heads, organize events, manage the assets of the province, and act as a liaison to other boards in Ontario and across Canada. The Chito-Ryu Association of Ontario (CRAO) exists for one reason: To represent and act on the voices and needs of its members. All positions on the CRAO are voluntary and have no monetary retribution. The reward comes from bettering Chito-Ryu in the province, and from a sense of giving back to your karate community. All CRAO members are elected officials who belong to different dojos and are of different rank, sex, creed, and age, so as to fairly represent our diverse population of the membership at large. The CRAO today consists of 4 executive members (President, VP, Secretary, Treasurer) and several general directors. The current board stills holds on to all the ideals of the original board members and does its best to support the ideas and needs of the membership across the province.
One of the most challenging and potentially problematic tasks facing the CRAO every year is determining the best uses for funds raised primarily from membership dues and CRAO tournament attendance. The goal is that the funds should be put towards causes that improve the quality of the style for the entire membership, not just a select few. A long standing tradition is that the CRAO provides backing for events such as clinics with senior instructors, summer training camps, tournament supplies, and as much as can be spared to the Soke Cup athletes who decide to travel and compete in order to represent Canadian Chito-Ryu on the international scene.
Chito-Ryu as a style strives to be a meritocracy above all else. One can only take or have what one has put in. Therefore you will often see financial support given to the members in the province who assist with organizing, administrating, and participating in whatever is going on. It is only fair that if someone truly works for the betterment of Chito-Ryu, and by doing so elevates our style’s image and the image of the members within it, financial backing from the CRAO should be there to help them in their efforts. So long as an individual’s intentions remain pure and their efforts benefit all members of Ontario, the membership at large has always supported these ambitions.
There are many different issues simultaneously in need of addressing within our large province. Decisions about how to spend the province’s money are never made without a great deal of discussion and deliberation, as well as input from our most senior instructors, dojo heads, and at times, the Canadian Chito-Ryu Karate Association. This ensures that a decision that is fair, moral, and beneficial to as many members as possible is reached and acted upon. The membership of Ontario must realize that with any large organization a board of directors cannot satisfy the needs of every single member with one action. Only with honourable intentions and continued patience on both sides can we, as Chito-Ryu members in this province, move forward for the betterment of the style.
One of the most important things for all members to remember is the following. No matter what rank you are, no matter what age you are, no matter who you are, you can help the province move forward. Every time you involve yourself in a CRAO sponsored event you will be able to “plug in” to what is going on with the style, get excited, and in turn spread that excitement into your dojo, workplace or family setting. It is what we can call a true “win-win” scenario. The more people involve themselves and support the province’s events, the more money we will have to put back into our members. We may also find that people will start to see that Chito-Ryu is a great style with great things to offer anyone who is willing to get involved. You need only avail yourself of the opportunities that exist all year round. If you are unsure as to what you can do to really get involved ask your Sensei or a member of the board when you see them. CRAO board members are always willing to take time and explain what we do and are more than happy to accept extra help at different events.
On a personal note, I would like to address our members as an individual involved in all aspects of the Chito-Ryu style in Ontario. I have competed and refereed at all levels of tournaments for more almost a decade. I am a member of the CRAO, and I am an assistant to the technical committee of Ontario. I must say from my own personal experiences, that anyone who wishes to develop a greater understanding of their style, their own character, and a attain a sense of self worth, needs to be involved in at least one of these challenging facets to the Chito-Ryu organization. I guarantee that you will not regret it.
|Children: At once karate’s easiest and most difficult audience
By Michael Ginn
They can push you to your limits. They can make you want to scream. I have seen them reduce strong grown men and women to their knees. At the same time they can be the things that cheer you up or make you so proud you want to cry. That’s right... we’re talking about kids.
All parents and teachers have experienced a moment or two in their lives, however fleeting, when they have thought long and hard about throwing something at a kid who wasn’t listening. While parents have children all day every day, karate instructors also have a daunting task laid in front of them... keep the kids happy, keep the parents happy... don’t go crazy.
At Richmond Hill Karate and Fitness, where I teach, different people have different responsibilities. Some teach kata extensively, some specialize in kumite, some have a penchant for beating up adults. My specialty at the dojo is working with children... the smaller the better. I am by no means a master at this and I have a lot of improvement to be made at the way that I approach children’s classes, but I do have one thing going for me... I’m one of them.
In that lies the key to my past successes with children. When teaching children I think about what I loved about karate when I was a kid and try my best to duplicate it. For some of us, it has been longer since we were kids than for others, but inside everyone is a child that just wants to have fun. I believe that when you show that side of you to the children you teach, you will form a connection with them and be able to accomplish your goals much more effectively.
The way that karate curriculums are broken down should differ from age to age. The older the karateka, the more detail can be given and required, and the more intellectual the classes can become. For children though, you may as well be talking to a brick wall if you want to have philosophical discussions about mental preparation, distance, timing and budo. What you have got to do is just try to have some fun. In an NCCP coaching course I participated in (and which I would recommend to anyone interested in teaching), it was explained to us about reasonable expectations to have and goals to set when teaching children and adults of different ages. Here is a basic breakdown:
Ages 0-5: For children of this age you will be lucky to have them do anything you say and if you are looking for actual karate techniques, good luck to you. The best things you can hope for at this age are basic fundamentals of movement, eye contact, listening and speaking. If you have a child who is constantly banging into other children, walls and objects, your goal should be to work on spatial awareness. If a child is not listening to your instructions, you have to make them understand why the order and decorum you require is beneficial. If a child is timid, you should try to bring them out of their shell. All of the abovementioned goals are basic and simple and do not require complicated movements or techniques. Most important of all, keep the kids moving and don’t talk too much because it is when children get bored that they have to find their own fun... the disruptive kind.
Ages 5-10: For children of this age their comprehension is better as are their motor skills. They can concentrate and stand still slightly longer than their younger counterparts, but they still require the classes to be mostly fun. Competition is a great way to spur children of this age on but do not play games where there is a loser. If you can get everyone to win every time, you’ve found yourself a good game. You can stress more accuracy with the techniques you request but remember that these children are going through rapid growth over a short time, and when your body is never the same twice, coordination and accuracy prove exceptionally difficult. The name of the game is still to have fun with the children and encourage them to challenge themselves all the time (jumping higher, punching faster etc.). Competing against yourself is very productive and no one’s feelings get hurt. Back to Top
|Ages 10-15: Children at this age are starting to not be children anymore and should be treated as such. They should be required to perform, almost at the adult level, and have a serious attitude towards the class. As the instructor, it is your job to make sure that there is a good mix of fun and hard work... sometimes all at once. The fun that children have at this age does not have to be a game however; I have found that challenges and competitions will bring the best out of them. Some children don’t like competition at all, though, so you don’t want to overload a class with games or exercises that they will hate. Fun should still be present in your mind because, honestly, these children do not show up 2 or 3 times a week to become better people or learn the exquisite art of the empty hand... they come because it’s fun... end of story.
Ages 15-99: These people are really not children anymore and so will not be discussed in this article, however, some of the games that will be discussed momentarily can still be applicable.
It’s all fine and good for me to say that you should have fun with children but, to this point, I have not mentioned one good way to do it. Well then, here we go with just a few examples. (Not all games will work well with all ages so you will have to experiment)
1. The Finger Race: Have the class sit down on the floor with their legs straight and open. Tell them to warm up their fingers by opening and closing them really fast (teaching coordination and working out wrist flexors and extensors). Put your fingers on your thighs, close to your hips and run periodic races out to your toes, getting faster every time (stretching the backs of the legs and the lower back).
2. Hold down the Butterfly: Sit with soles of the feet touching, knees out to the side. Tell the class to push down on the knees and try to hold down the butterfly (stretching the inside of the legs). Then, encourage them to make the butterfly fly away (flapping knees up and down).
3. The Jello arms: To teach the children how to have tension and relaxation, instruct them to hold their arms in front of them as tense as they can (you can tell them to make muscles or whatever language you find works best). Then tell them to make their arms like jello. To really sell the game and give the kids a good time, go up to each one (or have an assistant help) and shake their arms vigorously making their whole body shake (they just LOVE IT!).
1. Ship & Shore (joseki & shimoseki): Put all the children on one side of the floor and explain that they must go wherever you shout; either the ship (one side of the room) or the shore (the other side). You can shout one or the other and the kids will run back and forth like crazy until you decide to end the game. To make it more interesting, add in more tasks they must perform in between lengths. Examples can be punches, kicks, jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups or silly ones like Ninja attack (bounce up and down on one leg holding the other as though it got cut off), Soke’s coming (stand at attention and bow), or Uchi-deshi (where two children sit back to back, link arms and have to stand up together).
2. Over and Under: One child goes on their hands and knees while their partner stands beside them. The standing partner jumps over their back, the ground partner straightens their legs and makes a bridge, then the standing partner crawls back underneath.
3. Team races: Put the children into teams and have them run across the dojo one at a time and perform a task (ex. Some punches, kicks, etc.) and run back to the back of the line. Once all the people are done that team wins. Try to fix the game with some loophole where every team gets to win once (not sitting properly, not paying attention, really good spirit, etc.).
1. How many kicks: Put one kid in the middle of a small circle of kids all holding punching/kicking bags. Organize a contest where the child has to do Mawashi-geri all around the circle as many times as they can without putting their foot on the floor. Give them a maximum number as well so the game does not drag on. Once the first child is done, let each other child go according to rank. The other children take part in the contest by counting each of the kicks out loud in Japanese.
2. Jodan Uke Tag: In this game all the children will run in a large circle (all going the same way) and you will try to tap them on the head with something soft (a punching bag, blocker, I’ve even heard of using a cut up pool noodle). If you manage to hit them, they have to come to the centre of the room and do push ups or sit ups etc. They can then join back in and keep playing. The best thing about this game is that the kids are having fun, always moving and there are no losers.
3. Balance game: Tell the students to stand toe to toe in Uchi Hachiji Dachi and place the palms of their hands on those of their partner’s. From here the students have to try to push each other over with out falling over themselves. The key to this game is demonstrating to the students that sometimes the best tactic is not to resist because a lack of resistance can be what makes the opponent fall over. You can do the same game in Seisan Dachi and use the back of the hand (haishu).
If you keep the spirit of fun alive in the dojo, teaching children will be a fun and rewarding experience instead of cruel and unusual punishment. Remember, they’re only kids, and if you can’t beat them, join them. Top