Tuesday 23 March 2021

OI ZUKI: 'The model of hand-foot timing'

 Using oi-zuki as ‘the model of hand-foot timing’ that it is, please allow me to unpack it as a technique that can be used in both jiyu-kumite in the dojo, competition and, yes highly effective on the street as well.

 Before I go on, it needs to be stated that SO MANY PEOPLE CLAIM OI-ZUKI IS INEFECTIVE ON THE STREET.


The 'basic' oi-zuki: which is important for foundational training, but incomplete practice.

 Well, the reality is, OI-ZUKI IS EXTREMELY STREET EFFECTIVE. The problem is that "...their oizuki, training, skill, physicality, and/or understanding of it, is incorrect (or, more to be more accurate, 'incomplete').

Of course, most techniques in the foundational training are not directly transferrable from their basic form (specifically for their ‘so-called basic function’). Let me give a few concrete examples (other than oizuki):


(1)      Opponent throws a jab or cross at your chin, you meet it with a classic age-uke. Yeah right!!!


(2)      You decide to launch a mae-geri and you do so with gedan kakiwake-gamae. Please punch me in the face!!!


(3)      Opponent raises his fists; you drop into a long and low zenkutsu-dachi with gedan-barai, before raising yours. Best scenario: your opponent(s) collapse in laughter.


These are clearly all just silly; moreover, doing a basic oizuki in a real fight is also a ridiculous notion.


However, these training methods have a lot of value. To save time I’d just like to refer to one of these… The kakiwake position when practicing kihon mae-geri. This is position with arms diagonally downward at both sides of the body help us to control our hips and core (and most importantly, monitor these aspects via this position). In combination, forming a triangle with the top of the head, we develop less telegraphed keriwaza, amongst other things. In sum, it is basic isolation training of mae-geri in its most simple form. This practice is important, but “…if this is all one does, they will not develop the technique fully”. Of course one also needs to practice it in freestyle, solo and in kumite, on the bag etcetera.


OK, so onto oi-zuki… Oi-zuki as I said is what I refer to (as I said in the opening of this article): ‘the model of hand foot timing’.


Why is this the case. Well, like all techniques with timing, there are multiple stages between initiation and completion (also pre-initiation and post initiation, including zanshin, which I wont go into today); however, THERE ARE THREE MAIN FORMS OF TIMING. I’ve written and taught much on this before, but it is very well worth my recapitulating this subject: as I really want to take these points to much higher levels in future courses and, certainly, with future renshusei as well.


FIRSTLY, the foundational Shotokan timing; that is TE-ASHI ONAJI—the hands and feet complete at the same time. This is our basic style… It’s our ‘reference point’ or marker for the other two main forms of timing. I'll come back to this later a few times.


SECONDLY, there is what I refer to as OKINAWAN timing. In this case, the stance is completed then the tsuki (or other tewaza) is launched. It is also seen in many other styles. An obvious example of this are movements 2-7 in 雲手 (Unsu) kata. This methodology can be used to cause one’s opponent to mistime their defense (just think of Gohon Kumite between beginners and intermediate level karateka). Often, in this type of situation, the beginners timing is really awkward for their training partners. I’ve even heard students complain about their partners ‘incorrect timing’ resulting in them being hit… I also say "Bravo, how fat can you make their lips!" But that's another story. Indeed, while the technique itself might be incorrect (incorrect shisei, tachikata etc.), they are instinctively/naturally using good timing to 'whack' their partners! The problem is that the intermediate karateka are not watching to receive the attacks with the right timing: cheating, moving too early. This is because "...the basic oi-zuki is not effective". Yes, this is the only oi-zuki that 'the people who think oi-zuki is ineffective' actually know. Yes, their concept of oi-zuki is like Kindergarten students understanding of quantum field theory. Well, hopefully not that bad, but it makes a point.


So, this (delayed tsuki) is actually a good thing ‘when masterfully utilized’ in the aforementioned context. It is also very useful in combination with grappling techniques (again, note: the aforementioned use in Unsu and its applications); furthermore, in environments that are less than ideal (i.e. – the floor of a slippery bar, on a stairway etc.).


THIRDLY, and lastly, the tsuki precedes the step/transfer. In this way, it almost becomes gyaku-zuki—and indeed it can be half-way between oi-zuki and gyaku-zuki; nonetheless, its nothing more than a linear punch which is different in timing. This results in increased hand speed and greater mass behind the fist because you are literally attacking your opponent with your zenkutsu-dachi. Driving from the back leg and unweighting the lead leg is extremely powerful. Once the weight forward with the head of the knee above the toe tips, the technique is already over. This is the ‘post attack loading’ for your next attacking or defensive maneuver.


So, we have:


(1)      Oizuki which is completes exactly with the completion of zenkutsu-dachi.


(2)      Oizuki which is delivered sometime after completing zenkutsu-dachi.


(3)      Oizuki which is completed sometime before completing zenkutsu-dachi.


I want to clarify here that... "I am by no means saying 'I have the best way... This is my personal style of teaching from my experiences here, over the last few decades". However, it really sums up the ‘proper and basic Shotokan approach to timing’ by all of the greats. Especially 'the combination of their demonstrations and explanations in Japanese' within the more exclusive trainings and private lessons. To reference a few instructors in this regard: Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei, Tanaka Masahiko Sensei, Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei, Kagawa Masao Sensei et al. I want to stress here again, that this is THE SHOTOKAN METHODOLOGY. The other authentic ryuha/kaiha have their equally effective methods, which I also deeply respect! Nevertheless, I personally find that sticking to ‘the Shotokan way’ avoids strange adaptations of techniques, which in the past I've found to hinder people's kihon. This is because many of the core principles are conflicting. Again, this is only my opinion from my own experiences in training and in the coaching of others. To be honest, I have yet to meet anyone at successfully cross training (kihon and kata) in vastly different styles and not seriously deforming their kihon. I hope one day I do. Even training full time, I could never do that. Perhaps I should write about this in the future in greater depth, as I have had some excellent conversations with Osaka Sensei about this topic.


So, again let me now break 'the three main types of timing' down from the Shotokan perspective. 

The first type is a generic reference. However, its application is good in the case countering with a gyaku-zuki, moving/stepping back and countering, when doing waza with tenshin (rotation), when dropping with a waza, and, indeed, when jumping (you can easily reference the photo below for the 'tobi oi-zuki' timing). This stabilizes the waza and allows one to utilize ground power/reactive force—driving from the floor with power going to the impacting weapon (or, driving from the center going simultaneously down the floor and to the impacting weapon). No need to explain dropping/falling and and jumping, as they are self-explanatory. We also have third and far more advanced method.


The second type (finishing moving then making your waza), as already said, can be used to mistime your opponent. However, also as I said, it is good in combination with grabs, holds, locks, throws, take-downs and strangulation techniques. Not to mention with follow up percussive blows potentially after an ‘weight transferred attack’. And let’s not forget the environment, which I won’t mention again here.


The third type is the timing for rapid and heavy attacking. You can use this in a street fight as is. Ironically, though, without the prototype ‘te-ashi onaji’—the first type—this waza cannot be optimized. So ironically, all three must be practiced.


So how can I use oizuki in a fight? Well, attacking with this waza requires three basic points to be covered. The first is distancing, the second is positioning, and the third is using ‘the third type of timing’.


STEP ONE: Try this… Stand natural with a training partner in orthodox stance (left foot forward). Both hands up protecting your chin and jaw line.


Oh no! This position is not good. If you try a stepping through punch (oizuki) you’ll 70% most probably walk straight into either of their fists. It is literally a ‘Kamikaze’ move. You are all but asking them to break your nose.  


OK, let’s fix this! Instead, for oizuki, have the opposite foot forward to the opponent. That is, if they are in an orthodox stance, you should stand southpaw and vice-versa.


So, you are in the opposite stance and you step through and punch. Nope! This is not ideal either! The best is where you use your lead arm to ‘check their guard’ whilst simultaneously attacking. Note – whilst doing this one must still focus on ‘collapsing the front knee forward’ as in kihon kumite and essentially maximizing ‘juryoku’ (gravity)’. Ideally 'prep the knee' before initiation and 'cut down the seichusen': this really mitigates cues for the opponent to detect your attack.


This is a good oi-zuki that you can use… However, there are a couple of other really important points. Namely:


(1)      Don’t attack from too far back. You need to be close enough to go right through the opponent’s head, but so close that it can instantly turn into a ‘slug fest’. This also functions to give the opponent very limited time to defend and/or escape; furthermore, to ascertain your attack. I’ll quote Tanaka Masahiko Sensei here: “When I attack I concentrate on driving my hips through my opponent”. I want to say that this advice helped me over the years and helped me better understand Tanaka Sensei’s ‘ankle spring’.


(2)      Don’t hikite unless you are pulling the opponent in (to control, ‘blindside’ and or ‘set’ them. Best still, if your aim is a rapid 'king hit' is a light 'check' of their guard and with simultaneous (or near simultaneous) impact on their jaw, chin, neck/throat, temple or jinchu.


(3)      Zenkutsu-dachi can be big, but doesn’t have to be. The determinant is ‘case by case’. In any situation, the extended position we call ‘zenkutsu-dachi’ (and all the other stances for that matter) are “ACTIVE POSITIONS as opposed to STATIC one’s.


(4)      Even though this is freestyle version, DON’T LOSE THE CORE KIHON and PRINCIPLES OF OIZUKI. By doing this, your tsuki will be more direct and have far more impact.


If oi-zuki is done in the aforementioned way, in addition to Kihon training, it is a highly effective tsuki in any context: dojo shiai-jo and street. The problem is that many people only train the basic way.  Yes, the basic style of practice is critical—'IT IS THE BASE’, but without practicing it in the freestyle way, it has no meaning. Lastly, we can see WHY OIZUKI is practiced so much in Shotokan-Ryu and why it's such an important technique for mastering timing, lightness for speed, moving from the center, and maximum heavy transfer of mass. Next time when you hear that oi-zuki is not a useful technique, know this: any person 'who thinks and says that' does not understand oi-zuki. I hope you enjoyed this article. Osu, and greetings from Western Japan. - André

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

No comments: