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FISHER SHOTOKAN KARATE

INTRODUCTION

By Charles Rhodes, P.Eng., Ph. D. and Sensei Malcolm Fisher

INTRODUCTORY COMMENT BY Sensei Malcolm Fisher:
I have been very fortunate to have been given a superb education in Karate by the Japan Karate Association (JKA). This education was given to me for free. I therefore have always felt an obligation to pass on what I was given. The work that I have done since graduating from the JKA instructor program in 1985 is introduced on this web site. It is my hope that this web site will at the very least provoke some thought about the subjects that I raise and will provide a few answers to those of you who are serious students of karate.

Nakayama Sensei told me one morning after training at his Hoitsugan dojo that, "Karate would get better in the future with a better understanding of sports science and that it would be up to the next generation to accomplish that task."

Nakayama Sensei was happy to teach anyone who showed a serious interest in karate. In that vein I endeavor to do the same. It is my hope that I will not disappoint him or the memory of the discussions that we had.
 

11 JKA Instructors A historic photograph of 11 JKA Instructors taken in the mid 1970s. Malcolm Fisher identifies them as follows: The back row left to right is: Baba, Isaka, Osaka, Abe, Iida(pronounced eeda), I do not remember the visible guy on the far right. I saw him but I never knew his name. There is someone who is hidden on the extreme back right.

Front row left to right are: Asai, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Masatoshi Nakayama, Shoji Sensei's./P>

Malcolm Fisher trained 5 hours per day, 6 days per week with these JKA instructors for 3.5 years. Photo from Brad Jones collection.
 

KARATE:
Karate is a martial art that involves the development of kinetic energy and delivery of that energy to an opponent at the right place, in the right direction, at the right time and in the right manner to achieve a specific purpose, such as survival in an uncontrolled environment. Energy delivery is achieved using punching, kicking and other striking techniques.
 

KARATE-DOH:
Literally translated from Japanese "Karate-Doh" means "empty hand-way" or "the way of the empty hand". The phrase "karate-doh" includes all forms of karate.
 

SOCIAL BENEFITS:
Karateka (karate practioners) are highly disciplined individuals who are generally a benefit to society. Karateka are trained to remain calm in the face of imminent danger. The training of a karateka enables him/her to ignore minor irritants and to intervene with a proportional response to an imminent threat to prevent or mitigate a serious assault.

Karateka are not afraid to face reality. Karate gives its adherents the moral and physical strength to distinguish between fact and fiction and to confront and mitigate social problems. These problems may include but are not limited to criminal activity, civil disputes, lack of necessities of life, inadequate health care, inadequate education, corrupt government, disregard for the rights of others and disregard for environmental sustainability.
 

PERSONAL BENEFITS:
Karate is a way of life. Karateka enjoy the personal benefit of freedom from fear. Each karateka works out several times per week year round, which gives him/her underlying good health. Along with that good health comes confidence that the karateka can face and overcome lifes normal challenges.
 

METHODS OF LEARNING:
There are three methods of learning karate. The first method is to copy strategies and techniques used by someone else. The second method is to experimentally discover which strategies and techniques work best in practical situations. The third method is to obtain a sufficiently deep understanding of human body physiology and mechanics to enable optimization of strategies and techniques learned either by copying others or by experimentation. This website concentrates on this third method of learning.
 

ENERGY DELIVERY:
On this website the term "energy delivery" to the opponent are widely used. In the exact language of physics the words "energy delivery to the opponent" are more properly expressed as "nonelastic energy dissipation in the opponent". However, the words "energy delivery" have popular acceptance, so on this website they are used to mean "nonelastic energy dissipation".
 

KARATE STYLES:
The differences between one karate style and another primarily reflect the personal preferences of the style's chief instructor with respect to choice of kata. In practical kumite, as defined by maximization of energy delivery to the opponent within a half second time scale, all karate styles reduce to the same common movements. The remaining differences between karate styles tend to be founded on the instructor's kyusho point preferences or on beliefs that have little basis in reality.
 

SHOTOKAN KARATE:
Shotokan Karate is a widely accepted karate teaching methodology that lends itself to safe application in recreation programs. The scope of Shotokan Karate is set out in the second edition of the master text Karate-Do Kyohan by Gichin Funakoshi. This second edition was published in Japanese in 1956 and in English in 1973.

The word "Shoto" was a pen name used by Gichin Funakoshi. The word "kan" means "place". Hence the word "Shotokan" literally means "place of Gichin Funakoshi" and originally referred to his dojo. Over the years the word Shotokan became the name of the karate methodology taught by Gichin Funakoshi.
 

JKA SHOTOKAN:
The Japan Karate Association (JKA) is the national sport governing body for karate in Japan. JKA Shotokan is the modern implementation of Shotokan Karate. Details of JKA Shotokan kata were published in English in a series of texts by M. Nakayama between 1970 and 1989. Since then there have been only minor JKA Shotokan kata changes.
 

JKA INSTRUCTOR TRAINING PROGRAM:
1. The JKA sets world standards for karate. There is no other equivalent standard setting organization. The JKA is the only karate organization to operate a long term instructor training program. This program trains senior karate instructors to JKA standards. Instructors certified by the JKA travel internationally to present instructional camps and clinics and to conduct dan (black belt) grading examinations.

2. In terms of time, effort, commitment and required talent the JKA Instructor Program is similar to other programs of higher learning, cerebral and physical.

3. A major problem with the present JKA is that in recent years only Japanese have been accepted into the JKA Instructor Training Program. Furthermore, subsequent to factional litigation that occurred during the 1990s, the present JKA does not formally recognize many previous graduates of the old JKA Instructor Training Program.

4. The JKA Instructor Training Program establishes a physical environment that enables a unique learning process. All the JKA Instructor Training Program participants are superb athletes who experience extended karate training with the most proficient training partners in the world. Immersion in that environment forces participants to adopt the arm, body, hip and foot movements that are necessary to survive in that intense and highly competitive environment. Any karate training program seeking to achieve comparable results would have to create a comparable physical environment. Deep understanding of karate only comes from the physical experience.

5. The JKA instructors attempt to duplicate traditional JKA ideology that focuses on the end stance of a technique and on repeating the technique from its end position during kihon practice. Their devotion to this ideology precludes them from making any radical departures from either JKA Kata or Kumite because they are graded and judged by how well they conform to the traditional JKA ideology.

6. This adherence to traditional ideology prevents JKA instructors from teaching students to maximize the amount of deliverable energy that each karate technique can potentially develop.

The above observations should in no way be construed as JKA bashing. Instead these observations are a personal summary of the JKA instructor training program by one would had the good fortune to be a JKA kenshusei during the early 1980's for 3 1/2 years before the JKA split into five different factions. Any other analysis put forth by someone who has never spent any significant time in the JKA Instructor Program is speculation without factual foundation. Being taught by one of the JKA Instructors is not the same thing as having that JKA Instructor as a daily training partner.
 

SENSEI MALCOLM FISHER:
Malcolm Fisher was awarded his shodan (1st degree black belt) in 1976 by Sensei Masami Tsuruoka, father of karate in Canada. Malcolm Fisher is the only non-Japanese person to complete the original Japan Karate Association (JKA) Instructor Training Program from which he graduated in 1985 with a B licence. In addition to meeting the physical performance requirements of this program Malcolm Fisher wrote the 24 monthly papers required for graduation. A few other non-Japanese persons (Richard Amos, Walter Crockford, Tamang Pemba, etc.) participated in portions of the original JKA Instructor Training Program but did not write the required 24 monthly papers.

In 1985 at the 1st Shoto Cup Malcolm Fisher received his Yondan (4th degree black belt) from Sensei M. Nakayama, Chief Instructor of the JKA. For about 14 years after 1985 Malcolm Fisher was the dominant heavy weight male competitor in Karate Ontario.

During the period 1987 to 1998, in national and international individual and team kumite competition, Malcolm Fisher placed first or second 16 times.

Gaining and retaining a place on the Canadian national karate team requires consistent winning at the provincial and national levels. For example, in 1994-95 at the Karate Ontario Grand Prix tournament held in Newmarket, Ontario, while representing Brad Jones Karate-Do and Fitness, Malcolm Fisher came first of 12 competitors in men's Black Belt Plus 80 kg kumite.
 

EVOLUTION OF JKA SHOTOKAN:
Malcolm Fisher is a relatively big man who can move with what appears to be astonishing speed. However, detailed analysis of his movements shows that his speed is in large measure the result of his optimization of Shotokan technique in accordance with the laws of physics. The totality of this technique optimization is an evolution of JKA Shotokan now known as Fisher Shotokan.
 

BIPEDAL MOTION:
Part of the success of Fisher Shotokan is rooted in a deep understanding of bipedal motion. Sensei Fisher has observed that there are only three bipedal methods of moving forward. These are compress-slide, step-slide and full step. Most karateka rely on compress-slide or full step. Comparatively few have mastered step-slide to the degree necessary to successfully apply it in kumite competition.

Full steps cause the body center of momentum to shift from side to side. Most kata bunkai ignore this reality and hence are not realistic and do not properly contribute to kumite skills.
 

MAXIMUM ENERGY DELIVERY WITHIN A HALF SECOND:
As a result of his participation in the JKA Instructor Training Program, Sensei Fisher identified that a key goal in Shotokan karate is maximization of energy delivery to the opponent within a half second. Any karate movement, such as a sequential block - punch, that can not be completely executed in less than 0.5 seconds (<0.5 seconds), from the instant of initiation to the critical instant of energy delivery, is unrealistic. A technique that takes greater than 0.5 seconds (>0.5 seconds) can be avoided, blocked and/or countered by a moderately skilled opponent.

When Sensei Fisher analyzed basic Shotokan karate techniques he concluded that the published JKA Methods often do not meet this goal. In order to meet this goal Sensei Fisher made a number of seemingly small but important changes to the published JKA Methods. During the period 1985 to 1999 Sensei Fisher demonstrated the benefits of these changes in numerous karate tournaments.

The concept of maximization of energy delivery within a half second extends beyond the particular techniques that Sensei Fisher has optimized. However, in honor of Sensei Fisher's recognition that a key goal in karate is maximization of energy delivery within a half second, the entire range of Shotokan karate techniques so optimized is referred to herein as "Fisher Shotokan".
 

KATA:
In Fisher Shotokan kata = Kumite so that kata have a much deeper meaning than is conveyed in JKA kata manuals. Learning the sequence of movements portrayed in the JKA manuals is only the beginning. Then the movements have to be fine tuned for maximum energy delivery. Then the movements have to be further modified for simultaneous execution of block and strike techniques so that the aforementioned half second time frame requirement is met.
 

FISHER SHOTOKAN:
Fisher Shotokan was developed by Malcolm Fisher entirely as a result of his participation in the original JKA Instructor Training Program. The advances in Shotokan embodied in Fisher Shotokan could only have come from one of the approximately 110 graduates of the original JKA Instructor Training Program. Study of Fisher Shotokan is recommended for all persons who are serious students of karate-doh.

Elements of Fisher Shotokan were taught briefly by Malcolm Fisher at Brad Jones Karate-Do during 1994 and during 2008. However, the students did not have sufficient time to absorb and practice crucial details of Fisher Shotokan technique.

Fisher Shotokan is characterized by explosive linear movements, rapid energy accumulating turns and maximum delivery of energy to the target. The combination of explosive movements and maximization of energy delivery uniquely defines the detail of each technique.

Each technique in Fisher Shotokan involves a downward loading phase to accumulate potential energy, a Mid-Point Fully Loaded Position (MPFLP) that allows rapid body rotation and an unloading phase during which the stored potential energy is combined with other available kinetic energy to maximumize total energy available for delivery to the target. Most Fisher Shotokan techniques commence with a vertical Center of Momentum (CM) drop to load the leg muscles while simultaneously arm movements load the upper body. There may be a rapid energy accumulating turn at the MPFLP to optimally orient the body. Then there is a high energy drive toward the target for energy delivery. The vertical CM drop maximizes defense/counter attack options, permits faster turns and enables more counter attack energy than does a diagonal CM drop.

Every attack in Fisher Shotokan involves simultaneous unloading of both the upper and lower halves of the body.

Rapid turns are executed by unloading the upper body slightly before unloading the lower body, then during free rotation reloading the upper body slightly before reloading the lower body. When both the upper and lower body are reloaded the karateka is ready for another linear attack. This unload-reload sequence must be achieved in less than 0.25 seconds. During a Fisher Shotokan turn there is a lateral shift of the body center of mass which may be used to avoid an opponents attack.

Fisher Shotokan optimizes the karate learning process including development of relevant physical reflexes (muscle memory). A karate clinic imparts conceptual knowledge but there is no viable substitute for physical experience and repeated practise of Fisher Shotokan methods.
 

FISHER ONE PAGE:
The principles of Fisher Shotokan are set out on the Fisher One Page. These principles improve JKA Shotokan by allowing greater force to be applied over a longer distance within a shorter time, thereby making more kinetic energy available for delivery to the opponent at the critical instant.

The Fisher One Page resulted from Malcolm Fisher passing through the intense physical plane of the original JKA Instructor Training program.
 

FISHER SHOTOKAN TRAINING:
The basic movements in Fisher Shotokan are common to other martial arts. However, proper execution of Fisher Shotokan requires different training beyond normal JKA Shotokan training. Issues of particular importance in Fisher Shotokan physical training are development of: ankle flexibility, a highly erect stance, hip spinning and enhanced turning techniques. The mental training involves understanding and taking advantage of the physical constraints imposed by bi-pedal locomotion.

A key part of Fisher Shotokan training is recognition that:
Kihon = Kata = Kumite
Thus kihon movements, kata movements and kumite movements should all be identical. One of the main purposes of kihon is to perfect muscle memory. Hence it makes no sense to execute kihon in a manner that is different from kumite. Similarly one of the main purposes of kata is to train muscle memory in execution of sequences of movements. Again it makes no sense to execute kata movements in a manner different than would be used in kumite.

Another key part of Fisher Shotokan training is recognition of the law of conservation of energy. The maximum energy that can be delivered to an opponent is limited by the kinetic energy developed by the attacker. Thus Fisher Shotokan practice focuses on development of maximum kinetic energy in execution of every technique.
 

GOALS OF THIS WEBSITE:
A long term goal of this web site is to provide documentation with video support to aid persons who are seriously attempting to learn karate-doh. However, this documentation is not a substitute for direct instruction from Sensei Malcolm Fisher.

During the mid 1980s the JKA had several well known leading instructors, each with a different way of teaching. Cultural tradition has prevented the Japanese from putting into words that are easily understood by non-Japanese precisely who the JKA was during this period and what they did. One of Sensei Fisher's objects is to try to communicate this information.

Sensei Fisher sought common definitions of terms relating to karate-doh. Only when there is common terminology is it possible to have a serious discussion of different karate-doh methodologies. The branch of physics known as mechanics provides precise definitions of terms for describing karate physical movements.

Parts of this website rely on physics and calculus to precisely address various energy and momentum related issues.
 

This web page last updated January 27, 2017.

Contents Blogs Introduction Fisher One Page Contacts Links