Tag Archives: shorin ryu

The Merger of Tongbei Kung Fu with Karate

How Tongbei Influenced Karate

The two styles of Karate are Shorei and Shorin. One of the styles of Karate is for large people, and the other is for small people. Another way to look at it is one of the styles of karate is for heavy handed power, and the other is for quick, light people.

To be honest, the distinctions between these two martial arts variations have largely disappeared. This is because, in this writer’s opinion, there has been a lack of teacher ability, and a general obsession for power. This has resulted in a loss of the quick footed style, and a degradation of actual power in the heavy footed art. 

tongbei karate

Tongbei blocking drill done Karate style.

I first began martial arts in Kenpo, back in the 60s, and the teacher (Rod Martin) was short and light footed. As Kenpo was more intent on hand motion, and less on stances, there was virtually no development of power. Speed, however, was there aplenty. The best teachers had a natural speed.

When I went to the Kang Duk Won I encountered tongbei speed and power. Tongbei refers to internal Kung Fu, much like Tai Chi Chuan, and it had been injected into the Kang Duk Won.

The teacher at this school (Bob Babich) was short and fast. He had the same natural speed, but there was a difference between the two teachers.

The Kenpo teacher was quick and fast, and when he hit you you knew you were hit. Fine and good, what everybody expected from Karate.

The Kang Duk Won teacher had the same quickness and speed, but everything was totally different.

When he moved there was a whiplike motion to him, and you could feel the very air crackle with power.

He was speedy and light, perfect for a light art, but he was injecting Tongbei power into it, internal power.

As I said, the air would crackle with his motion, and when he stomped his foot to emphasize a technique you could feel the floor shake…and the timbers in the building would actually shiver.

Further, he had a sixth sense in everything he did. He would anticipate and move before, seriously before, any attack. He had immaculate control, able to actually touch your eyeball with his finger in the middle of freestyle. Most important, and probably crucial to it all, he was polite.

I know, doesn’t seem to fit, but there it was, and it took me decades to figure out the significance here.

He was doing less for more.

He was exerting less and less effort, and getting more and more power.

And this made him not hungry for power, but polite.

When I explain this to people, even quoting The Tao to them (Do nothing until nothing is left undone, etc.), they don’t understand.

The large misfortune is that I am large person, over six feet.

I tapped into the tongbei power, but in a different manner than Bob. I can do things, but because of my frame I can’t do them the same as Bob, and I have different abilities. It makes it difficult to teach in the same manner as he.

Still, the Tongbei influence is alive and well, just manifesting differently in a different person with a different body.

The good news is that I wrote down many of the pertinent exercises we were doing at the Kang Duk Won.

Some of these had no names, we just did them.

Most of them I have never seen in any other school. They simply don’t seem to exist outside the Kang Duk Won of the 60s and 70s, nor in any style of Kung Fu I have seen.

I often wonder if they were a simple invention of the fellow who ‘invented’ the Kang Duk Won. A fellow name of Joon Byung In. He was at the crux, he learned Kung Fu, then twisted it into the style of Karate he learned.

Well, it is something to wonder about.

Anyway, I wrote down many of these exercises, put them in a book called ‘Amazing Fighting Drills.’ It is possible to get that tong bei power, which is no longer taught in any style of Karate I have seen, if one reads that book and does the drills listed in it.

The person would have to change his style of Karate, eliminate the obsession for (false) power that has become the hallmark of Karate, but it is possible.

I make no guarantees.

I put that book up for sale, and sold almost no copies.

The problem was probably in my marketing, maybe even in the title itself.

What if I had called it something like, ‘Tongbei Fighting Secrets of the Ancient Masters,’ or something else like that. Hmmm. I’ll have to think further on that.

And, if I was really good at marketing, maybe that would have helped.

I eventually took that book off the market, let it gather dust while I thought about it. Then I put in as a freebie on the course offered at KangDukWon.com.

That’s where you’ll find it. Three or four belt levels along, in the best online Karate course in the world.

This has been an article about two styles of Karate and the Tongbei Solution.

In Karate Pain Can Be a Good Thing!

In Karate Pain is Not Necessarily Bad!

Karate pain might be good, and it might be bad. It depends on the circumstances.

I know, we’ve all heard the saying, ‘No pain, no gain,’ but that isn’t what this is all about.

karate pain

In Karate Pain can be an instruction

You see, there are two types of Karate Pains.

One type of Karate Pain is the real injury. The broken bone, the accidental punch in the nose or poke in the eyes. These injuries, these types of Karate pain are real and should be attended to.

If you’re bleeding, stop the durned bleeding. If you’re nose is broken, see a doctor. A poke in the eye could result in all manner of eye problems.

So you take care of it.

The thing here is to be able to tell the difference between karate pain that is real, and karate pain that is in the mind.

A bruise isn’t usually serious. So just inspect it, take care of it if you have to, and move on.

A dislocated joint, better get that sucker looked at.

A bone bruise…hmmm.

Bone bruises, especially when they are the result of some fast and intense sparring, can be quite painful.

I remember a blocking exercise which kept me in bone bruises for years.

I remember overextending punches, and suffering bone bruises inside the elbow joint where the bones slapped together. That was painful for a long time.

But, bruises, even bone bruises, are just something you go through.

The karate blocking exercise I spoke of, it was called the eight step blocking exercise, and we did it every class, and we all had constant bruising of the forearms.

BUT, after a couple of years of this we would be doing freestyle, do a block, and our opponents would yelp in pain. Simply, we got used to the pain, started ignoring it, and got the abilities that we wouldn’t have gotten if we hadn’t persisted in our karate classes.

And there were other exercises, some quite painful, that gave us abilities that people who don’t take karate, or other martial arts like kung fu or taekwondo, would never get.

The ability to grip somebody with a hand and bring them to their knees simply by squeezing.

The ability to get calm and focused when terrible things are happening and everybody else is going into a state of panic.

There is a saying, you don’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. Man, is this true.

For seven years I broke eggs. I still have bumps on the bones in my forearms from the durned eight step blocking exercise.

But when it comes to getting things done, I’m the go to guy.

Simply, I have faced pain, and now no the difference between real pain, and fake pain, the kind of pain one should just ignore and go ahead with his work.

This is something that is not taught in school.

And, truth, this is something that makes people great.

Pioneers of America had this quality. There was nobody there when they broke a wagon or got shot with an arrow or whatever, and so they had to fix everything themselves.

In recent times this ability, to forge ahead when the going gets tough, has been weaned out of people. But the martial arts, especially exercises that result in the karate pain i describe here, bring this ability out again.

Here’s a great article on the toughest Martial Arts class I ever taught. And if you are seriously interested in finding out more about this Karate pain type of thing, and how it can help you, check out the Evolution of an Art course at Monster Martial Arts.

The Meanest Taekwondo Kicks You Can Ever Develop!

Want Hard Kicks?

Out of all the great kicks I have ever witnessed, and this includes all my practice in Karate, Taekwondo and Kenpo, the ones Ted launched were the best. This was back a ways, back in the last century, and training methods were just becoming known. And the things we did were often extreme, to say the least.

karate kick pic

Practicing Kicking in 1974.

We often didn’t have hanging bags, so we would kick mailboxes and telephone poles and whatever else came to foot. The crucial item to this, however, was good form, and the number of times you threw a foot while practicing. I tell you the truth when I say that how much you practiced was the key to it all.

Ted was known for throwing lots of kicks. Most of the budding kenpoka would throw a dozen kicks each side, not all the kicks, and consider that they were breaking a sweat, so they must have really worked out. Do you understand?

Ted would saunter into the dojo a couple of hours before class and begin work. He would start with yoga, do a full regimen of stretching, and then he would start his work out. Two hundred kicks for each side for each particular kick.

I know what you’re thinking, they were only airkicks, right? Nada. He would start with air, move into bag work, and by the end of his workout he was really pounding those bozos.

Most important was his attention to detail. He was obsessed with his hips being just right, the arc of his foot being perfect, and the shape of his foot upon impact. He was a perfectionist, to say the least.

One day he was driving home, got behind somebody sleeping at a stoplight, and he tooted his horn. This big, huge, monster got out of the car and stomped back towards Ted. Ted stepped out, raised his hands for peace (a perfect ready position in the martial arts), and tried to move back.

The monster drew back a gnarly fist and started to punch. Ted launched a rather perfect and speedy wheel kick to the chest. The bully sat down on the asphalt and stared up in shock.

“I don’t want to do this, man!” But the bully got up and charged. Ted executed a perfectly arced, full hipped, ball of foot wheel kick to the man’s chest.

The fellow collapsed to the ground, and Ted got into his Ford and drove off. And the message here is pretty easy to get. No matter which art you do, Karate, Kenpo or Taekwondo or whatever, pay attention to detail, and practice like you mean it.