PasaiDai Bunkai – escape and throw from double wrist grab

Sensei asked that the black belts write up two techniques demonstrating Bunka. Since I already keep a martial notebook – I am going to cheat for this second one and use my write – up of a Bunkai he showed me last month for Pasai-Dai. I am choosing this one since – like the other technique I wrote up – it also starts from an escape from being grabbed, only this time from the front.

In the Pasai-Dai kata there is a move representing a response to a double-handed wrist grab from the front. The arms are drawn up and out breaking the attackers grip, while at the same time you strike him in the sternum with your knee. From there things get interesting.


You close with your attacker, going chest to chest, and wrap up his arms with your own. I believe this technique works best on an attacker of similar size – plus or minus maybe 30-35% of your body weight; I have been thrown hard this way by someone 6 inches shorter and fifty pounds lighter than myself.

The throw can be turned into a reap or a hip throw depending on the specific energies going into the attack and response – but in either case the thrower needs to be aware that they have the attackers hands bound up – which can make for an incredibly high hard fall. In other words don’t be an ass – when training the technique let the person out on the way to the ground a bit early so they can break fall.


Another interesting part of this throw is that you can hold the person with their arms bound up, and your hips turned to avoid a groin strike giving them a moment to calm down while you have a quiet few words with them. Then if they don’t calm down you can throw them to the ground and pin them there as needed. So it’s a throw for calming down someone you don’t want to hurt if you don’t have to.

Not my favorite technique – but I thought it was interesting enough to record and come back to and practice. The weird arm entanglement looks like it would be ineffective or hard to get to – but when the technique was shown to me I found it was unexpected and effective at locking up my upper body and my normal responses.

Response to “come along” grab of the arm

Several weeks ago my Sensei asked all the black belts to generate a lesson plan taking a bunkai (hidden teaching) from one of the Kata and turn it into a lesson.

This is a move from Pinan San-dan kata that I constantly hear people say is not any sort of useful technique. I got the idea I am showing here from Nakiyama’s book on defense against multiple assailants – but he also shows another use of this technique to defend against a knife in his “Defense against Armed Assailants” book. The entire series is excellent.


Basically when your arm is grabbed from the side, or from behind, one response is to anchor your hand to your hip. Mechanically coupling your arm to your hip then lets you bring the power of shifting your hips to bear on the arm, generating techniques for breaking the attackers grip, off balancing the attacker, or even throwing them. If possible technique should be timed when it will maximally off balance the person grabbing you – like between their steps. This technique is especially useful for with uneven or slippery ground, or stairs. If possible step into the hip twist for extra power. You want their grip fighting the momentum of your entire body.

In the even that the attacker holds on during the twist – they may open themselves as a taget for a back fist to the face or shove outwards. Ideally the strike / shove will continue to unbalance them, while it opens distance for escape or counter attack.

Moving the machine shop

Moving your machine shop is like a reverse barn building, only in this case your friends show up and start taking things apart. In this picture Joel and Ben are about to lift the head off of my mill.


It was a long weekend – but we broke down my machine shop and moved it 1200 kilometers into Ben’s shop. Having shops and a lab is awesome, but they do sort of keep one foot nailed to your home base. Ben is being nice and taking care of the machining equipment for a few years, enabling me to be more mobile and do some traveling.

Ben recorded the move – so we have this video.

If this all seems like some high testosterone weekend – it was quite the opposite. I spent as much time making flowers from gravel on the driveway with one of Ben’s daughters as working on the equipment. Sure – that was mostly so ben could work on things undistracted, but I actually had a lot of fun. Getting older is both fun and weird.

Böker Gnome Training Blade

While the glue was drying on the kitchen knife trainers I am making – I decided to make a trainer for the small knife I sometimes carry. It is a Böker Gnome. It is only 4 inches long in total, with a 2.125 inch blade length, so you can carry it anywhere – but it is a tiny knife.


Working with small knives is always different, as they tend to just disappear in your hand. The Gnome has that same property of being hard to see – yet its curving blade feels like an extension of your hand. It should be interesting to train with – especially to defend agains.

Wooden Kitchen training Knives – (part one)

I’ve wanted a set of wooden kitchen knives for a while now. All the training blades I have ever run across were all patterned after crazy blades meant for poking holes in, or cutting, other people; basically large combat or hunting blades.

For knife work, I figure that if I ever have to defend myself form a knife attack, it is way more likely that my attacker will be using a weapon of opportunity than pulling out some crazy combat or hunting knife. Conversely, kitchen knives seem like a good pattern to practice basic knife attacks – as they are easily found most homes. So I am making a set of kitchen patterned training knives.

I started with some holly that I had harvested a few years ago.


The piece of holly I started with was fairly thick – so after cutting out a knot
I planed the rough cut stock flat on both sides, cut the stock in half, and then planed it flat and to the desired thickness.


From there I traced the pattern of the pattern of the knife in question onto the wood. I tried and pick a location and alignment with the grain that will work best for the knife pattern in question.


The next step is gluing on the handle scales. Holly is a very white wood, so I am glueing on American cherry scales. I’m hoping after a few coats of linseed oil it will finish off nicely. The scales are taking forever to add since each side takes a day for the glue to dry.

The changing face of prototyping

Cleaning up the shop I found my clay and wax working tools hadn’t been used in years! Not that long ago – just 8-10 years ago – before cheap access to 3D printers – and I used to have to make my initial physical prototype concept mockups by sculpting them from clay or wax.

Looking in the boxes is a weird dichotomy. On the one hand it seems like such a long ago in building of my skillsets, but against the backdrop of my life it seems like I was just carving up models.


The icing on the cake was I then uncovered a wall of boxes of parts scavenged form old electronics from the days before you could easily order parts. While I do feel old now – my shop is much cleaner.

Thing a Week No 1. The Crowbar Rack

It is that time again, time to spring clean the project list, and that means Thing a Week is back! To get started – this weeks project is a crowbar rack.


If you are wondering why you would need a crowbar rack – you have obviously never had a multi hour crowbar hunt with your visiting father looking for the right one. Ok, being serious – crowbars are weird. You only need them once or twice a year – but when you need one you really need one. Having one of the right size also usually makes the job in question significantly easier.

Dad’s not going to be visiting for a while, but I am moving my machine shop next weekend and figured I would want to know where my crowbars and cats paws were.

(If the “Thing a Week” idea sounds familiar – I blatantly ripped the idea off from
Jonathan Coulton a few years ago. Its an amazing tool. )

Coding so hard I cried

I was just staring at my code so intently I forgot to blink. I noticed because when I finally did look up for a moment I got a weird look from someone in the coffee shop I am in coding in. I had been absent-mindedly wiping my eyes, but my best guess is that it looked like I was softly crying while typing in public. Thinking about that got me to pause long enough to realize that my eyes do indeed hurt.

Sometimes I really do wish someone would hurry up and invent a neural jack. Until then – more coffee.

The up side of AI

With all the crazy advancements in the technology in our daily lives it is easy to miss the fundamental fact that we are near the trough of the wave of crazy changes coming and not anywhere the crest.

More often than not I hear smart people saying that AI is going to come along and make humans obsolete. The problem with that fear is that it has as its premise the belief that everything, or at least most things, have already been invented. That’s been the fundamental fallacy throughout most of human history, but in this case it hides within the abstraction that AIs will invent everything for us, while robotics will manufacture everything for us.

Its true, making real AI could go seriously wrong for humanity. Thing is – as much as humans suck – we are also awesome. Case in point – this guy building a suit to let him fly.

Now look at that suit – he is using a bunch of tech preventing it from having been build-able just a few years ago. The cool part though is not what he is doing with the new tech. Once he has the suit working with him basically using his upper body to manually maneuver the jets – more sophisticated control and flight can be thrown at software and some machine learning.

So while a Skynet is something to be cautious of, humans plus AI to help them make crazy stuff has the potential to make it worth while exploring. I have a dish washer, a washing machine for my laundry, a phone, all sorts of incredibly powerful things that free up my time as a human. Because of that I live better than most kings did even 150 years ago. Rather than “take our jobs” – a human and AI collaboration has the potential to free humanity to explore a crazy and exponentially increasing number of things.

Whatever else it is, the future is going to be weird and awesome.

Starting over with a black belt

It is funny, rather than feel like I accomplished something by getting a black belt it feels more like I am just starting out. For comparison it was as much shear work and learning as obtaining a college degree. However, rather than closure or accomplishment the primary result is an increased self imposed pressure to improve my technique. Rather than “whats next?”, the feeling is more like that of the minimum acceptable quality bar being raised significantly.

I think the pressure to improve comes from having new people starting to watch and copy your technique. Seeing your own errors mirrored in someone trying to learn is horrifying. At the same time the quality bar gets raised and you start getting more fine-grained feedback from peers and seniors. The net result is this feeling of looking at your own technique and going “ick”. I don’t think it is just me feeling that way either.


The other day I was training with a friend who had just gotten his second-degree black belt, and who was nice enough to work with me to correct a bunch of mistakes in one of my kata. A little while later when I looked up from practicing what we had gone over – and I saw he was working with one of the third degree black belts on one of his kata. After noticing that I started paying attention, and it turns out all the black belts in the dojo regularly take time to come in early, or stay late, and doing extra training with each other. I mean we all do that – it’s the entire point of training – but the black belts have apparently been doing this whole extra level of training I was unaware of the entire nine years I have been at this dojo. I am embarrassed that I never really noticed before. I am still wondering what else I have missed.


The other weird thing is that I think I had been worried about quitting after getting my black belt. I had not really acknowledged that worry, but it feels a bit like exhaling after having held your breath. People don’t talk about it much, but post belt quitting happens a lot. Some people say they just lost interest, others that they had finally “mastered” enough of the art and were ready to move on to something else. Most just disappear. I have trained at a lot of different dojos, and if I had to guess I would place the drop out rate in the first year at 30+% on average. Luckily our dojo seems to retain people, but we have still lost a few over the years. So I think I feel quietly relieved that it seems like Karate is going to be one of those life long pursuits, and that I can ask “What’s next?” without first giving something up.

Thank you to all the amazing teachers I have had in my life, both on and off the mat. For anyone looking to train I can’t recommend Koei-Kan enough.