Saturday, October 31, 2015

Another video to be released shortly!

I am pleased to announce the pending release of another video, this time on the Chang Dao (2-handed sabre) of China.

The promotional blurb reads as follows:
This video contains a distillation of techniques of the long sabre known as the "Chang Dao".  It does not attempt to present one single style, but rather a synthesis of practical fencing techniques of the two-handed sabre in China, using forms primarily intended for 2-person practise.
More modern martial arts forms, particularly ones created after the Cultural Revolution, might be very acrobatic and crowd-pleasing in their performance value, but they give practical application a back seat.  In this video, researcher Dan Djurdjevic (author of the award-winning blog "The Way of Least Resistance") attempts to present the techniques relating to the chang dao in the form they were originally intended: as training for war.  So rather than serve an aesthetic function, the two forms in this video are in fact a codification of various 2-person drills, inculcating situation-specific responses to various cuts and thrusts.
The video is intended to provide a conscise, self-contained course for inclusion in an existing syllabus.
For convenience, Japanese bokken (wooden katana) have been used as practise weapons in the video since these are more easily sourced than any Chinese variant.
I've prepared a  teaser for the video below:

The video should be available for purchase in about 2 weeks.

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bridging Hard and Soft DVD now available!

I'm pleased to announce that my video "Bridging Hard and Soft Vol. 1: Fundamentals" is now available for purchase from my online shop which can be found here.

More details can be found in my recent press release and article.  Otherwise, here's a teaser for the video:

Addendum: the video is now also available from direct download (at least in the US - it might take another week or so to reach other countries Amazon stores).

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Monday, October 26, 2015

Deflections with the upper arm and shoulder

Possibly one of the most neglected surfaces of the body in the art of deflection or, as I've called it, interception, is the upper arm/shoulder.  It just doesn't seem practical.

But it all depends on where the punch is launched from.

If the punch is a high cross, jab or hook - sure: the shoulder can be very hard to use.

But if the punch has any "rising moment" to it - whether it is a pure uppercut or merely a slightly rising cross - the shoulder/upper arm can come in very useful; particularly if you're caught in a surprise attack, where your shoulder/upper arm may very well be your last line of defence.

I really began to realise the utility of this surface as a tool for interception when practising systema with Alex Kostic.  In systema, you learn to "ride" blows, and this frequently involves "rolling' them over and around your upper arm - even if you have to shrug your shoulder slightly.

Both the Chinese and Okinawan arts solve this problem by using stances to get you into the right position for shoulder use.  In particular, the horse stance can drop you into a position where the shoulder is the natural point of early interception for any rising punch.

I recently filmed two examples.  One is from Feng quan 2 - the second mountain top boxing form:

I also filmed this example from Seipai kata from goju ryu:

It is salient that both moves occur pretty much at the opening of the forms.  I guess it indicates that upper arm/shoulder interceptions/deflections really are "last line of" defence, when all others have been breached in a surprise attack (which the kata assumes at the outset).

It's also salient that both examples deal with a flurry of punches intended to overwhelm you - but which you can subvert starting with the "desperate" and "last second" upper arm/shoulder deflection, followed by a "sticky movement" ("muchimi" in Okinawan) that lets you read and follow your opponent's movement and "turn the tables" in very short order.

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Review of Jonathan Bluestein's "Research of Martial Arts"

I occasionally receive books for review and I can privately say that in many cases they turn out to be disappointing.  Others are, however, the complete opposite.  This is the case with Jonathan Bluestein's Research of Martial Arts.

To call this work "epic" would be understated.  What Jonathan has done is really quite unique - and that is put down what appears to be his life's study into external and internal martial arts styles into book form.  If anything, it shows the depth and breadth of Jonathan's knowledge.

In Part 1 Jonathan does a comprehensive dissection of the fundamental differences between the "external" and "internal" traditions of the Chinese (and related Okinawan and Japanese) martial arts.  While I have my own ideas on this topic and they vary from Jonathan's here and there, I couldn't fault his thorough and thoughtful treatment of this topic within his own paradigm.  I'm fairly sure that there will be legions of martial arts practitioners who will agree with him on most, if not all of his points.

The fact that they are presented in one place, in such a complete way, means that for many traditional martial practitioners - particularly those tending towards the internal arts - Jonathan's book is really a "must-buy".

He begins with a fairly accurate and detailed description of the "external" method, examining the importance of such factors as physical conditioning (stamina, flexibility and "iron shirt" type training) and training reflex responses.  The fact that he references both legendary karate masters, like Higaonna Morio Sensei, 10th Dan, and modern combat sports fighters like boxer Manny Pacquiao, is both pertinent and informative.

He then proceeds to outline his understanding of the "internal" method.  Again, while I don't always agree with Jonathan on every point, I can't help but be impressed by his thorough treatment of what I perceive to be the "orthodox" view.  He also does so in a way that is thoroughly "modern", covering such "hot" topics as proprioception and interoception (fascinating areas that really do profit from closer analysis), the role of "intention" and, of course, the current "it" word, fascia.

Jonathan then proceeds to give a comprehensive account of such traditional wisdom as the "six harmonies", "dragon body" and "short-wave force" (what people like to call "short power").

He even outlines common objections to the "internal/external" dichotomy, and I found his views on "hard" and "soft"  on page 180 particularly pertinent.  Consider this passage:
"Being soft is related to muscle relaxation, and/or diverting an opponent's attacks by using his own power or momentum against him.  Aikido is not internally-oriented (by my definitions), yet it uses the principles of being "soft" all the time.  Uechi-ryu and Goju-ryu Karate stylists employ both direct-forceful striking techniques with tense muscles and "soft" blocks and diversions."
I could't agree more.

Part 2 of Jonathan's book is less a technical guide and more a treatise on the Daoist underpinnings of Eastern martial philosophy.  In its rather random structure, it succeeds in echoing precisely the Daoist's view that, unlike knowledge, wisdom cannot be structured in any particular way that is "correct" or even "optimal".  Rather it is best reflected as art - poetry.  In this respect, Part 2 succeeds admirably.

Finally, Part 3 wraps up Jonathan's text with a series of rare and insightful interviews with luminaries such as Chen Zhonghua, Neil Ripski and Itzik Cohen (who gives an account of the "Spirit of Okinawa").

If any criticism of "Research of Martial Arts" is to be made, it lies in the scope of the book.  In many ways it seems a bit too wide.  Others might have decided to split the 3 parts into separate, shorter books.  As it is, the book is quite daunting in its size.  On the other hand, I think this reflects Jonathan's personality and I doubt he would have it any other way.  Such things are, after all, a matter of taste.  And Jonathan is to be commended for doing things his way and no one else's.

On another note, I'm not terribly enamoured with the layout of the book, finding the headings a little too chaotic for my liking (I have never been a fan of underlined headings, for example).  Again, this is a matter of taste - and at least Jonathan's structure is logical and consistent, moving from Parts to Chapters to Sub-Chapters.

In the final analysis, what Jonathan has achieved is really something a martial artist can realistically only hope to achieve once in a lifetime - the holy grail of putting down what is (in Jonathan's case) a considerable body of knowledge and accumulated wisdom into one treatise.  The fact that he has done so at what is a relatively young age (for martial arts mastery, anyway) makes me wonder what he will do now - and how much he might want to change future editions (perhaps by adding more material - or changing some of it).

For now, "Research of Martial Arts" is a mammoth undertaking that contains a large body of knowledge particularly relevant to internal martial arts students.  Those of us who dabble in both external and internal martial arts styles will also find it informative.  With its detailed descriptions and generous illustrations, Jonathan Bluestein should be commended on a very impressive achievement.

Those wanting to purchase a copy or find more information can go to Jonathan's site here.

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Monday, October 19, 2015

Coming soon - Dan's first DVD release!

Some of you might be wondering what I've been up to in recent weeks.  Well I certainly haven't been idle!

Rather, in response to countless emails and personal messages requesting it, I've been preparing a very special DVD series:
A comprehensive course introducing karateka and other external martial arts practitioners to functional, practical internal arts methods (not "woo woo"!).  
Ultimately the 2 DVDs that comprise this course provides a complete sub-system for students wishing to add practical "softness" to advanced training within their own art.

The DVDs feature techniques from the hybrid forms of Hong Yi Xiang's Taipei-based Tang Shou Dao (Karatedo) system.  Because of their "crossover" nature, they will have sense of familiarity to karateka, northern and southern Chinese stylists and even Filipino/Indonesian artists.

Accordingly, they are designed to act as a kind of "plug-in" for most traditional "hard" styles, ie. you'll be learning something that adds a new dimension to your art via new footwork, hand techniques and hand and foot timing.  This is packaged in useful solo exercises and 2 person drills.  The second volume will follow with 2 elegant short forms/kata that are half-way between the Chinese and Okinawan arts in their design, and half-way between the northern and southern Chinese systems in empahsis.

The first hour-long DVD - Volume 1 - is to be released for sale within the next fortnight... so check back periodically for announcements!  It will be available for purchase from the shop page on this site, Dan's personal site, the website of The Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts and, of course, Amazon (all at a reasonable cost).

For those in Perth, copies will also be available at Ray Hanas Martial Arts Superstore.

The footage comprising Volume 1 is taken from my 4 hour seminar on 4 October 2015 as well as other sessions filmed before and after.  All up, even the first DVD provides its own, self-contained, detailed step-by-step instructional guide to material that intermediate to advanced students will be able to study from home.

A preview/teaser will come out at the same time as the DVD release.  I'll also be providing some free, longer excerpts on Youtube.  The free material will however not be complete and won't provide detailed instruction.

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic