One Karate Misconception I Discovered In China

– Wow, I just published the final episode of Karate Nerd in China, which is my most popular video project ever If you haven’t seen these five videos, then you should really go watch them, because they took me three months to make And I actually flew to China to study with these different grandmasters of ancient Kung Fu styles that trace back to the roots of karate And in today’s video, I’m gonna answer your questions about this project, because you had tons of them, and I can’t wait to tell you more But first, I wanna share something that unfolded during my trip to China And it’s a very personal valuable insight that I gained about kata, the solo forms that we do, and their functional applications, also known as bunkai in Japanese And I think that this insight might be valuable to you as well (upbeat music) So we have tons of solo movements that we do in karate all the time And some of them look very strange or different from each other, like, we could have this move, or this move or this move And usually, we don’t really know exactly what they mean, we just repeat what our instructor tells us and then in a few years, we will teach it to somebody else, and the circle continues So whenever you ask an instructor to explain the meaning of a movement, they will usually not give you a clear answer, because there are many meanings of a movement See, in the evolution of karate, the original functional application of these different solo techniques has been lost in the sands of time So usually, you will hear something like, oh, this move could mean this, this or this, or that move could mean one of five different things because we don’t really know, right? So in karate, you usually hear that one solo move has many functional applications or bunkai Well, not really You see, I think we put the cart before the horse in the karate world Because something that I discovered when I went to China was the exact opposite Let me explain So, imagine we have a technique where I grab somebody’s arm, and then I smack them in the groin with my other hand This is something that might happen in a self defense situation, okay? It could be against a push or a punch or a grab, or just some stand up grappling, doesn’t really matter The point is just that I’m grabbing somebody’s arm, and I’m smacking them in the groin with my other arm Now, this is a self defense template It is a two-person exercise or technique, right? However, when it comes to the solo expression of this technique, it might look wildly different depending on who you are One person might do it the way that they would sink down and close their hands because they wanna come under the arm and smack the groin, while another person might wanna twist your hips a little bit more, and then express it with open hands Already, it looks like two different kata, but it’s the exact same movement just expressed differently in its solo form Better yet, another person might wanna do it with closed hands and sink into the technique or another person might wanna have open hands and drop down or have closed hands and twist away Again, it’s the exact same technique, but it looks completely different meaning it’s not that one solo technique has multiple bunkai, it is the opposite One bunkai has multiple solo expressions Now you might be asking yourself, Jesse, how did this happen? Well, there are many reasons (dog barking) (beep) Well, there are many reasons But one of the most interesting ones, which I also coincidentally discovered in China, is the language barrier, or let’s just say terminology Because it seems a lot of stuff got lost in translation Now, this is something that is not talked about a lot because most karate practitioners don’t know the original Chinese terminology And one person who can speak better about this Chinese poetic and sometimes esoteric language that they use for their techniques and their kata is my friend Will, who’s the world’s biggest Kung Fu nerd Check out what he had to tell me – And if we’re looking at Chinese martial arts as a whole, I do think understanding the language is really, really important I suppose it’s the same with Okinawan or Japanese martial arts as well Because you need to understand the thinking,

the thought processes of the people that created it If you understand how they’re thinking, then you understand why the system is made like it is Otherwise you tend to have a kind of a skewed understanding in the Western languages and Korean and Japanese are alphabetical languages, right? So if you have a word, it’s made up of letters, right? And then you take these letters ABC, whatever and, Japanese hiragana, Korean hangul, you take these letters and you put them together to make a word So if you look at Japanese and Korean martial arts, you tend to have like, the basics will be, punch A, punch B, block A, block B, kick A, kick B, so you’ve got these kind of building blocks, and then you put them together, and you get their system, am I right, yeah? – Yeah, yeah, yeah – Okay, whereas Chinese languages characters, so one character is one word, and it’s made up of components, but it’s essentially inseparable So, you don’t have punch A, punch B, punch C, kick A, kick B, whatever in Kung Fu, you have whole postures So say “Monkey Steals Peach”, like that, that’s one posture, it’s not head grab, plus knee, plus step, that is one thing Even a punch will be like the straight punch will be called “Black Tiger Steals Heart” So, that’s not a punch plus a step, you lunge in, you step and punch That is one whole just like a Chinese character You have to look at Kung Fu from the point of view of how the language is constructed – Because the language represents their thinking – Yeah, because you can only think in language, right? You can’t think without language So, your entire worldview, your entire perception of the world is through language – Today, we do one kata technique and it has many bunkai But originally, there was just one bunkai that could be expressed in many different ways in different kata, in different styles And the reason this shift happened might be because of the language shift that also happened once these techniques were transferred from China, to Okinawa, to mainland Japan and then to the rest of the world, we became further and further removed from the original terminology, which is key to communication, which is key to understanding I mean, we have this example everywhere when it comes to just the last step between Japanese language and English Like the word for blocking which of course is uke in Japanese but uke doesn’t mean block, it means to receive which is the complete opposite And that was just one step back What if we go back to the Okinawan language or to the Chinese language Imagine how much got lost in translation As somebody who loves karate and language and just understanding in general, I found this insight very fascinating But I learned a lot more in my China trip too And I want to give you guys the opportunity now to ask me your questions I’m gonna answer some of the most common ones right now Okay, question number one, “Were you able to show or demonstrate “your own katas to those Kung Fu masters? “And if you did show them, “what did they think or say about it?” The answer is no And this is really interesting, actually, because in Okinawa or Japan, usually if you visit a new master or a dojo, they want you to demonstrate something so they have something to compare with And usually they wanna kind of judge you to see if you’re worthy of learning their stuff But in China, nobody asked me to show anything at all It’s like they didn’t really care And I found this to be an interesting cultural difference, because I think they were actually very proud of their stuff, and the fact that somebody wanted to learn it was good enough I didn’t have to show or deem myself worthy to learn their stuff They openly shared it with me And that was actually quite surprising and relieving No, actually, I did show one kata to Alex, my local guide over there, because we were at my hotel room and having some tea one evening, and, he was so curious to see what our karate look like, right? ‘Cause he didn’t have any real experience with it So I showed him one kata In this case, it was Kururunfa because he had heard the word of that kata, and he thought it sounded interesting because many of our karate katas the names are actually Chinese So he really wanted to see that one So I demonstrated it to him And actually, his reaction was so funny because he said, he wished that their Kung Fu katas

were as simple and minimalistic as our karate kata because it will be way easier to teach his students and his kids and they could focus more on the practical applications and how to actually use the moves for fighting, rather than remembering these long and complex forms that they have in Kung Fu So that was actually also a surprise “Hi Jesse-san, awesome series! “In your China karate adventure, “did you find any forums that resemble Naihanchi? “Thank you.” So for those of you who don’t know, Naihanchi is considered one of the oldest kata in Okinawa, and in other styles like Shotokan, it has different names, it’s called Tekki over there, and there are three of them, Naihanchi, or Tekki, Shodan, Nidan and Sandan But many people think that there was just one original form that later got split up And I did not see the actual form, but something surprising is that I saw the exact same cross stepping foot work that you see in the Naihanchi or Tekki kata in the White Crane School of Master Yu which you can see in episode one, that was the whooping crane style master So I actually asked about this footwork off camera, and I think the reply was something like the crane jumping, because they used it in a jumping fashion rather than this stakato and stable fashion that we do in in karate And it was actually a leg manipulation how to trip somebody or hook their leg or stomp their knee in So, it was these cool leg maneuvers that you can use in a fight And that’s how they explain this cross stepping movement Or you could actually use it to escape Let’s say you’re fighting somebody and you quickly need to separate from that close quarter engagement distance, then you could kind of jump or shuffle back with those steps So the steps of Naihanchi is something I saw and it was classical White Crane stuff And, of course, the elbow strikes and the backfist and all of that is exactly what they do all the time in White Crane applications So I would say that I didn’t see the kata, but I saw all of the movements in it “My question is how far back “do you realistically think you can trace “the roots of martial arts? “I’ve made the tongue in cheek comment “that inevitably it would all route back “to caveman with club, but in all seriousness, “where do you believe the line ends “for a distinguished set of techniques “that were more than just wild swinging and bashing, “and would you consider going further back “in time with this than you already have?” It would be overwhelming to trace the roots of all martial arts but just having a quick guess I would say it comes from Africa because that’s where evolution traces the roots of human beings back to, right? And, self preservation is the first law of nature You gotta be able to defend yourself And sure, cavemen with clubs, they had to have survival tactics as well that were passed down to the next generation and so on, but I don’t think we’re gonna find any karate kata in old cave paintings But for the roots of karate, I believe that you could go a little bit further back from China because there is some evidence or speculation depending on who you ask that this Indian monk who came to the Shaolin Temple brought with him a set of practices Now, whether these were martial arts or more health-focused in nature is another question But for sure, there is a reason many dojos in Okinawa have a photo or some, not a photo, they didn’t have cameras, but an illustration of this guy, Bodhidharma on the walls of their dojos because he was the founder of their Shaolin Temple, where at least that’s where he came and made it famous And so there may be something there going back to the roots, maybe all the way back to India “Jesse, I have a question “In one of the episodes, you said something like, “I didn’t come here to learn Kung Fu, “I came to learn about karate “But wouldn’t it be true to say “that if you do learn White Crane Kung Fu, “you would be very much deepening your knowledge “of karate anyway?” Yes, of course, and that is what I meant I want to learn more about the styles of Kung Kung that help my karate This is why I learn many different kinds of martial arts in my travels not because they wanna learn those martial arts but because I wanna improve my own martial art So I wanna kind of connect the dots and not just collect the dots because you have a lifetime to learn as many martial arts as you can, right? But then, you would be kind of a jack of all trades and a master of none And, my focus is mastering this one particular art that we all love so much, which is karate And, some of the greatest insights that I have learned about karate have come from other martial arts But if I go practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it is not to master that art, but to master my own art Because at the end of the day, you gotta make a choice, right? And I have chosen karate But of course, for example, when I practice White Crane Kung Fu here in China, or there in China because right now I’m actually in Dubai They said that you should incorporate this crane power into your karate kata, and they will be more likely should be So I think that was a great tip

And I’ve incorporated a lot of stuff that I actually learned in China into my own karate techniques But I don’t consider that Kung Fu, I consider it karate Hope that helps “What was the greatest change in striking style “or pattern of motion from Chinese to Okinawan “and Japanese martial art styles, sir?” Well, speaking of karate right now, and not any other martial arts because there were other Chinese arts that came to mainland Japan and influenced Jiu-Jitsu and stuff as well But, the greatest change that I’ve seen is the complexity of these Chinese forms that I saw For example, let’s take a karate kata like Nipaipo In episode one of Karate Nerd in China, you saw Neipai, which is the original form, and as you could see, it is way more complex, right? But the Okinawan and then the Japanese versions, they become more and more minimalistic, or you could call it essentialism It seems like as things evolved, people kinda pick the essential elements or the highlighted parts of each kata, and kind of skipped other less necessary parts So imagine if you, you learn a really complex kata, right? Maybe five different sequences stand out in your mind that are highlighted when you practice maybe those are the ones you actually keep and the other technique just fall between the gaps kind of And this is a natural process of any learning experience I think So that’s what I see when I see how things have changed in their patterns and motions throughout history “How do you see that these Kung Fu styles “relate to Shurite versus Nahate, “Wing Chun oh sorry White Crane is mainly Nahate “or Goju Ryu, yes?” That is correct, so White Crane is mainly the Nahate, Goju-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu type styles, and the Incense Shop or southern Shaolin boxing is mainly the Shurite, or the Shotokan, for example, and those other stats And, these are the two main streams of martial arts that were passed from China to Okinawa All the old masters, the pioneers and founders of big styles like Shotokan, Shito-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, and so on, Miyagi Chojun, Mabuni Kenwa, Choki Motobu, Funakoshi Gichin, these Okinawan masters all said that there were two main streams of Kung Fu passed down to Okinawa And these are the two that I discovered in China, in person and I got to experience them And they are documented in the Bubishi, which is what I followed during my travels So that is correct “Who was your favorite master “to learn from while you were there? “Do you feel that there is more to uncover? “Did you see or visit any karate dojos “while you were there?” Good set of questions Actually, one of the things that I had written down that I wanted to see was a karate dojo in China just to see how they view it But I didn’t have a chance to do that because it was a very short and intense trip I like, I left my hotel each morning, and then I was out all day just doing these Kung Fu things, and then I came back in the evening, I unloaded my memory card and started sorting my files and backing up everything and charging off my batteries and stuff, then I just had to sleep and do the same thing the next day So, I didn’t have any time for a lot of stuff that I wanted to do So I could definitely go back and uncover more things I believe, including karate schools And who was my favorite Master? Well, first impressions last, as they say, and I think that Master Yu who was featured in episode one was somebody who I would say, was my favorite Plus, his wife also made really good food because there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t get to film including a dinner with him So, I would have to say, Master Yu “What will your follow up series be? “I recommend going to Korea and learning “the origins of Korean styles “like Tae Kwon Do and Tang Soo Do “Either that or the origins of Kyokushin.” Well, actually the origins of Kyokushin, Tae Kwon Do and Tang Soo Do, that’s exactly what I discovered in China Because if you look back in history, these styles come from karate in Okinawa, and so on, right? But regarding a follow up series, I have some ideas, but I don’t wanna reveal them right now Because then I mean, it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you, right? “Apart from the obvious reasons for the trip, “which captivated you in China?” The obvious reason for my trip was to uncover the roots in China of karate, something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a kid Me, I’ve been speaking to my mom about this since I was like seven years old, like wanted to go to Shaolin, and all of that But the reason that it actually happened was because I had this one month gap in my calendar, where I didn’t have any real trips planned And suddenly, I just remembered this idea that I’ve had since I was a kid And so it happened “How are the usages of the Dan Tian, “center of gravity or chi in Kung Fu different from karate?” For those who don’t know, we call this Tan Den in Japanese and it’s basically your center of gravity

and where they say that your energy or your chi is stored in the body And I think that it was pretty much the same The only difference is that each master I practiced with in China, always like, continuously said that, everything starts in your Dan Tien But in karate, we usually say that you should use your hips, or some other terminology, right? It’s not emphasised as much as it is in Kung Fu, so I think that they actually highlight the importance of your Dan Tien or Tan Den much more in Kung Fu than in karate But the way you use it is not any different “In the episode at the southern Shaolin Temple, “the monk said to snap your shoulder forward, “then back at the end of a strike, “what’s the purpose of doing this?” Good observation, that’s one bonus karate nerd point for you Well, for the same reason, you would snap, let’s say a kick, right? You can either kick through like they do in Thai boxing for example, imagine a roundhouse kick that goes straight through like a baseball bat, or you could snap it back like a whip, or a chain These are the two methods of power generation, right? One requires relaxation and speed, and the other requires using your center of gravity and your mass to strike through So it’s just a way of biomechanics, right? And this is how they do it in White Crane, snapping kinda power The other kinda power is Incense Shop Boxing, the southern Shaolin style So these are like the two main ways of using your body that then were fused into karate, which is why different karate stands generate power differently, but both are present just in different styles “What is your opinion about the karate bunkai “and Chinese bunkai, which one do you prefer?” Well, of course, I prefer the original because that’s the way it’s meant to be Like when I saw these two person exercises in self defense stuff they did in China, I recognized so many karate kata immediately, and hopefully you did too when you started watching the videos And I would rather have that than some kind of afterthought, which is a lot of what we experience today when we try to reverse engineer and kind of reimagine how these techniques could have been used, right? “Do you think karate could benefit “from some soft and flexible aspects “of Chinese Martial Arts that allow them “to feel the structure and attacking power “of the opponent and also leads “to a kind of mental softness and flexibility?” Yes, this is super important This is why many karate practitioners start cross training in more softer arts like let’s say Aikido or Jiu-Jitsu or something because you need both sides of the coin, right? You can’t just be super stiff and strong all the time because then that’s not practical So we can definitely benefit from that and the mind and the body is also two sides of the same coin So when you learn how to develop that softness in your body, then your mind becomes also more adaptable, which is super important for a real fight that is chaotic and unpredictable and you need that adaptability because you never know what you’re gonna face and if you’re set and fixed in your mind and your body, then, it’s not gonna go well Okay, next question (sips coffee) Moving on so, next question “What were the four kata of Incense Shop Boxing? “Are you going to show Seisan in its entirety? “Any footage of the others? “It will be really exciting to see, thanks, Jesse.” You know I couldn’t leave without seeing all four kata, right? I saw them and let me tell you, wow, the final last fourth kata of these four in the Bubishi that are the backbone of Incense Shop Boxing, the last one is, let me just say how they told me it was pronounced, Sobalinbei And guess what we say in karate… Suparinpei And they are even wrote it down for me it means 108, 108 is the translation of that kata name, and it’s one of the most popular kata you will see in karate today Like, even in the sport of karate, like world champions are doing this kata, right? But if you thought Suparinpei, the karate kata, was complex, oh my god when I saw Sobalinbei, as they call it, the original Incense Shop version, it blew my mind I think there was at least 108 different directions or techniques in this kata And of course, there were four of them So that was the last one and I don’t know if this is true or not, but they told me, maybe they were joking, but they seem sincere that when I came back, I would learn Suparinpei or the last fourth one Sobalinbei Anyway, so I gotta go back, right? But then they had two other kata because there were four, one was called four gates or four doors, that was the translation and then another,

I think was called eight steps I don’t remember exactly because I didn’t really focus on those, but they could be present in karate as well I gotta check my notes, and I have those at home because I’m in Dubai right now So I can’t really see Are you going to show Seisan or the first kata, also known as Hangetsun in Shotokan in its entirety? Honestly, I don’t feel qualified to demonstrate it because I can’t say I’ve mastered it I had that one lesson you saw with Master Lin in the park Then I had two more sessions that I didn’t film But honestly, it is so different from what I’m used to Because it’s my like, second Kung Fu kata that I ever learned because the first one was Babulen or Papuren with Master Yu that you also saw in episode one, right? So I’m definitely not qualified to show that and I’m probably never even gotta try to teach it I currently am at second kyu level of Shotokan-ryu, nice Japanese spelling there, If I want to learn any sort of Chinese martial arts in the future, which would you suggest I learn, Jesse sensei? Honestly, you can pick any of the Chinese arts, I think they all will help you expand your mind when it comes to your own training in Shotokan or, but, probably it’s a good idea to talk to your Sensei first because everyone are different Some people need something more soft, other people need something stronger and harder So I suggest that you speak to your instructor or teacher because it’s kind of a case by case thing what you need, but many karate people and even Japanese karate experts are and the sensei aren’t actually cross training the Chinese arts because they believe it’s a great benefit to them So, go ahead, it could be Wing Chun, it could be Tai Chi To me, all of them are great But what you need is hard for me to say because it’s individual Question, what did you learn or find out that you wanna start incorporating into either your daily or personal karate or start teaching Well, there are many things Let’s see, one thing that I could share that’s super easy for most of you to understand, I think, is the idea of using your ass, okay? You might have heard that in the final episode where Master Lin tells me to use my ass literally and then Will translates that and I’m kind of shocked because I thought it was such a funny statement But then when I came home from China, I started thinking more about that And I realized that, a legendary karate instructor, Sensei Inoue Yoshimi, who is the, who was because he passed away, he was the teacher of people like Rika Usami or Antonio Diaz, he was a very famous kata expert He actually told me the exact same thing that I should use my butt, okay? And he used to slap me on the ass when we did private sessions to kind of hit that point home So I started thinking more about that And actually, here’s the idea If you’re standing up, just stand up right now, okay? Just try this for me, stand up, and then sit down But don’t sit down actually, just feel like you’re sitting down Let me demonstrate So, I stand up, and then look, I sit down So I just kind of do a posterior pelvic tilt, and I kind of contract my glutes and my abs so that my ears and my shoulders line up with my heels So it actually affects your posture a lot, and the way you transmit power and force and that kind of connection between your feet and your center into the target So this thing of using your ass, aka, acting as if you’re sitting back, as if you’re chilling in your stance, so when we do our different stances in karate, what I started doing now is I don’t say that you used to stand in a Shiko Dachi or stand in a Zenkutsu Dachi I say you should sit in your Neko Ashi Dachi or whatever stance because this sitting motion tilts your hips and your glutes guide your pelvis into an anatomically stable position This is something that I was also corrected on when you see me learning the original Sanchin kata, or Sanzhan, with the Master Zheng up in the mountains, right? He actually went and corrected my, on the small lower part of my back right here and he tilted my hips in that exact same motion But I didn’t really understand that until I came home and watched the footage and heard it again, so everything clicked So, what I’ve started to incorporate when I now practice and teach is this idea of sitting into your stances and into your techniques And, believe me it changes everything and it sounds so simple, but it has a big impact Will you ever plan to do China or Japan tours with your fans maybe a group of 20 people or so? Well, we actually did this at the Karate Nerd Experience, which was 2018 I believe, in Okinawa, right? Or was it 17, yeah 18

And it turned out great, right? But in China, I mean, I don’t know the language, I don’t really know the people, where to go, who to meet Of course, I’ve met these different masters but it would be a massive undertaking to try to organize a trip like this, not to speak of the visas you need just to get there and that’s also a pain in the butt So, I don’t think I will do it but somebody else might definitely be able to pull it off especially if they live or speak Chinese And can you break it down for us for dummies, what the influence of white crane was versus the influence of incense shop? Yeah, okay, so to keep it simple, the White Crane stuff is Nahate karate, styles like Goju-Ryu and Uechi-Ryu and Toon-Ryu and Ryuei-Ryu and so on And the Incense Shop or the southern Shaolin techniques is what actually came before that, which is like Shorin-Ryu or styles like other versions of Shorin-Ryu like Matsubayashi-Ryu, Kobayashi-Ryu, and even by extension, Shotokan because that was later in Japan, right? Or styles like Shito-Ryu is a combination of both And even if you extend further, Tae Kwon Do and Tang Soo Do are also Incense Shop, and you can especially see that in the body dynamics, this kind of bouncing up and down motion or using your body like a lever, meaning when one part of the body goes to the front, the other goes back, when one goes up, the other goes down, and so on, as opposed to the whip like mechanics of Nahate styles like White Crane That’s how you can see kind of the difference between them And that’s an easy way to break it down and know what karate style came from where And that’s it, thank you so much for supporting my work in my crazy projects It means a lot because I couldn’t do this without you An especially big thank you to the Karate Nerds out there who supported the crowdfunding to make this project happen You can find your name at the end of the episodes in the credits section And stay tuned for the next wild adventure