Over forty years ago, Gary Tiktin and I collaborated to create Fundamentals of Shorin-Ryu Karate. Our goal was to supplement Shoshin Nagaminie's The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do with a description of training and other practices in the American Karate Federation. Our first step was to achieve clarity of scope in the form of a table of contents. Then, the process was for me to write a first draft and send it to Sensei Tiktin for revisions and eventual approval.
Everything in the text derives directly and completely from Sensei Tiktin's adaptation of Shorin-Ryu karate classes to American students and circumstances Nothing is included from my earlier training or from anywhere else. Accordingly, the first draft was a sound basis for additional work. In those early days before email, packages of pages went back and forth often between Fort Collins and Cleveland. Sensei Tikin read every word several times and changed many of them. When the text was as he wished it to be, he added a signed introduction to the last draft.
The illustrations, which I think are clear and effective, began as high-contrast black and white photographs. It was Byron Mallory's original idea to trace them, refine and darken the tracings as needed and then copy them onto heavier paper for the first printing.
When the decision was made to download this book to the American Karate Federation website, there was complete agreement among the senior AKF leadership to present the original version exactly as Gary Tiktin had approved it in 1975.
Hanshi - 10th Dan
American Karate Federation.
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AKF Principles as expressed by Sensei Tiktin:
"Karate exists between the instructor and the student". In other words, the karateka can practice movements and exercises on their own, but unless they are teaching a student, they are not practicing AKF Karate. This is one of many ways Sensei Tiktin encouraged the growth of the AKF.
"The American Karate Federation is a ranking system". That is, rank within the AKF is relative and has no relationship to other martial arts organizations. AKF classes and formal tests are conducted according to rank in terms of authority and structure. AKF rankings are life long.
"Members of the American Karate Federation should all perform the kata the same". Sensei Tiktin requested that all AKF karateka perform the same AKF kata the same way. AKF instructors at the various dojos may teach different kata and different techniques. However, formal AKF rank tests should require only AKF kata be performed. For example, a rank test may require performance of Tiktin Kata Ichi, which is an AKF kata, but not Ananku. Although Ananku is included in Nagamine’s "Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do", it is not considered an AKF kata. Ted Bechtel demonstrated Ananku (learned from Nagamine’s book) for Sensei and Sallie Tiktin in 2001. Although he recognized it as a Shorin-Ryu kata, he had never seen it practiced in Okinawa or elsewhere. And so, it is not considered an AKF kata.
The practice of AKF kata is developed in three stages: mechanical, energetic, and no-mind. The first stage of kata practice focuses on the mechanical nature of the kata movements. Starting from the stance up, the student learns the mechanical movements of the kata as demonstrated by the dojo instructors, usually by observation and imitation (see the Fundamentals of Shorin-Ryu Karate). The student learns mechanical techniques involving breathing, stability, force, speed, focus, telegraphing and targeting. For example, the student learns that stability is based on the area of the stance and the height of the center of gravity within that area. Sensei Tiktin taught how the entire body is tensed at the moment of impact to connect the strike with the rest of the body's momentum. Sensei Newman emphasized that the power of a strike or block is dependent on the distance and speed the elbow travels in the movement. The beginning student eventually learns these and other mechanical aspects of the kata through years of practice.
The second stage of kata practice generally comes when a student has begun to master the forms as a sensei (instructor). The focus during this stage of kata development transcends the mechanical and moves to the expression of energy. Air is no longer just a mecahnical practice of breathing, but becomes the flow of energy. Sensei Tiktin described this form of kata expression as simply "expansion from the center outward".
The third stage of kata development is AKF Mastery known as no-mind (also known as "the way" or "mushin" in Japanese). In this stage of practice, the kata are no longer performed with a mechanical or energetic focus. The kata are performed without any focus or concept at all, (i.e. no-mind, a pure present moment experience), without a means to an end. At this stage the kata become a moving meditation. Sensei Tiktin described kata practice at this stage as a ceremony or ritual. He often referred to the same state of no-mind in other forms of practice: with the heavy bag, he described it as "bag, no-bag". In one of his last video recordings, while practicing punching with the other black belts, he described it as to punch, "so that your opponent is no longer your opponent. He's no longer anything at all."!
Finally, the first priniciple of AKF Mastery is one does not talk about AKF Mastery. The second principle of AKF Mastery is one does not talk about AKF Mastery!