Shoshin Nagamine’s Early Evolution of Yakusoku Kumite in the 60’s

Today’s post should conclude my deep-dive into Yakusoku Kumite. We’ll analyze the early evolution of Yakusoku Kumite in a couple of vintage videos of O-Sensei Nagamine performing a few of his Yakusoku Kumite drills himself.

So in this post I’m sharing two Facebook videos from the video archives of Sensei Bill George. The first video above is from the early 60’s and the second video below is from the late 60’s. I’ve only embedded them here, with screen shots, to facilitate some analysis, commentary and comparison. [BTW: Check out Sensei Bill George’s great new book – Takayoshi Nagamine, A Simple Man. I enjoyed reading it and have posted a book review & recommendation.]

[NOTE: If the embedded Facebook videos fail to render in your browser such as Firefox, try relaunching your browser with all extensions off. Some browser extensions like Facebook Container block embedded Facebook videos. Or you may use the included links above to view the shared videos directly on the original Facebook posts as indicated.]

In the first video above O-Sensei Shoshin Nagamine performs Yakusoku Kumite II and V with Sensei Omine. In this vintage video Sensei Nagamine’s tremendous speed and agility is impressive!

In the second video, O-Sensei Shoshin Nagamine performs Yakusoku Kumite I, II, V and VII, again with Sensei Omine, at a dojo demonstration in the late 1960’s.

What I find most interesting in these old vintage videos is that there are a few differences in the moves between the two videos and also differences with Nagamine’s book – The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do. So these may show some specific tactical changes that Shoshin Nagamine made during the evolution of Yakusoku Kumite or at least differences in the performances from different times.

Let’s examine the differences between these two videos and the book. I’ve taken some freeze-frame snapshots from key points in the videos to make it easier to compare the moves between each video and to compare them with the photos in the book. You can refer back to the videos to see where each snapshot fits and how the moves flow together.

This drill is based on Yakusoku Kumite as described in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do.
Shoshin Nagamine's The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do


Yakusoku Kumite I

Yakusoku Kumite I is only shown in the later of the two videos. It does show a couple of interesting differences however and even two different variations in one move in the same video that is instructive.

1. Yoi
2a

2b

  1. The interesting thing about this first step is that when they perform this move in the video they do it twice, and differently in the same video. First they perform at full speed in zenkutsu-dachi (2a) and then they perform it again just stepping/posing slowly and in that version they are in shizentai-dachi (2b). This was fascinating because MJ & I found the same thing when we practiced this at full speed, we naturally tended to drop into lower more powerful zenkutsu-dachi similar to 2a, where the posed photos in the book are in a higher shizentai-dachi similar to 2b.
  1. In this next move there’s an even larger difference from the book. In this video the attacker steps forward and throws an oi-zuki second attack while the defender steps back and blocks it. But in the book, rather than the attacker throwing the oi-zuki second strike, the defender steps forward throwing an oi-zuki counter strike and the attacker steps back, blocking the counter strike.
  1. The final move in the video is the same as in the book. The attacker throws a high punch and the defender blocks it with a well timed punch inside the incoming punch to deflect it.

So in this video the defender steps back and blocks, twice, before throwing the final counter strike. In the book, the defender counter attacks on the second move, forcing the attacker to defend, before the final simultaneous blocking counter strike. This change in tactics in the evolution of Yakusoku Kumite has the defender put forward a more aggressive defense using multiple counter strikes in the book, while the defender is more defensive in the video..


Yakusoku Kumite II

Yakusoku Kumite II is performed in both of the videos with a big difference in how the attacker is stepping through the drill.

1a. Yoi.
1b. Yoi.
2a.
2b.
  1. In the earlier video (2a) the attacker steps forward right and punches right while the defender steps back right in an open stance, as in the book. But in the later video (2b) the attacker steps forward left and punches right while the defender steps back right in a closed stance.
3a.
3b.
  1. This continues with the attacker in the earlier video (3a) stepping forward left and punching left while the defender steps back left (out of frame) in an open stance, as in the book. The later video (3b) continues with the attacker stepping right and punching left while the defender steps back left in a closed stance.
4a.
4b.
  1. The final move continues with the attacker in the older video (4a) stepping right and punching right while the defender steps straight back right in an open stance while throwing the shuto counter strike, as in the book. The later video (4b) continues with the attacker stepping forward left and punching right with the defender stepping straight back right in a closed stance.

In the older of the two videos the attacker steps in an open stance and punches with same the lead hand as in the book. But in the later video the attacker steps in a closed stance and punches with the opposite back hand. In the first version and the book, the attacker has a longer reach with lead hand punches which accentuates the primary principle of this particular set, namely giving way to draw the attacker in before abruptly stopping and counter striking which throws off the attacker’s distance, timing and balance. The later video with the attacker punching with his back hand shortens his reach and doesn’t allow him to press the attack to the same degree. So that may have been a variation that was experimented with during the evolution of Yakusoku Kumite but discarded before the publication of the book?

Also notice that in both of these early videos and the book, the last move has the defender stepping straight back right, still in the direct line of attack. Sensei Nagamine continued the evolution of Yakusoku Kumite even after the publication of the book. In later demonstrations of this set in 1983, as seen in my previous post, rather than stepping straight back, he steps offline to the right and counter attacks from a more advantageous angle. This brings another of the seven key tactical principles of Yakusoku Kumite to bear – naturally shifting offline to attack from the side.


Yakusoku Kumite V

Yakusoku Kumite V is demonstrated in both videos. Other than the speed and agility of course, the main difference between these two performances comes in the final moves.

1a. Yoi.
1b. Yoi.
2a.
2b.
  1. In the first step in both old videos the defender steps straight back right into zenkutsu-dachi and blocks right while the attacker steps in left and throws a right reverse punch. In the book Nagamine changed this to have the defender step left offline to the left instead, which immediately gets the defender offline and out of the direct line of attack.
3a.
3b.
  1. In the next move in both videos (3a + 3b) it looks like the defender uses an ippon ashi-dachi as he blocks the kick. In the book the defender uses a kosa-dachi during this block.
4a.
4b.
  1. Both attacker and defender turn counter-clockwise, back-to-back in both videos (4a + 4b). This is the same as in the book.
5a.
5b.
  1. In the older video (5a) when they face off again the attacker is in a left zenkutsu-dachi while the defender is in a right neko-ashi-dachi and they both have closed fists. In the later video (5b), and in the book, both attacker and defender face off in left neko-ashi-dachi with the attacker’s fists closed and the defender using open-hand shuto.
6a.
6b.
  1. In this next move the attacker steps in right zenkutsu-dachi and throws a right punch in both videos and the book. In the older video (6a) the defender steps left backward and to the left while blocking/grabbing the incoming punch similar to the book. In the later video (6b) the defender steps left offline to the left letting the attacker step past him as he blocks and grabs the incoming punch.
7a.
Shoshin Nagamine Evolution of Yakusoku Kumite V 7
7b.
  1. In the final move the defender pulls the attacker into a right front kick. In the older video (7a) and the book the kick is from the front of the attacker and strikes the attacker’s front side. In the later video (7b) the kick is from the side of the attacker and strikes the attacker’s side.

In the older video and the book, the defender steps slightly left but mostly backward in the last move and kicks from the front of the attacker. In the later video the defender steps offline to the left side and kicks from the side of the attacker. So the later version would bring to bear another of the key principles of Yakusoku Kumite – stepping offline and attacking from the side.


Yakusoku Kumite VII

Yakusoku Kumite VII was only shown in the later video. So let’s take a look.

1. Yoi.
  1. In the video the attacker right grabs across to the right lapel of defender. In the book the attacker grabs the left lapel on the same side.
  1. In the video the attacker pulls the defender back one step. In the book he pushes the defender forward one step.
  1. In the video the attacker pulls the defender back one step. In the book he pushes the defender forward one step.
  1. In the video the attacker pushes the defender forward one step. In the book he pulls the defender back one step.
  1. In the video the attacker pushes the defender forward one step. In the book he pulls the defender back one step.
  1. In the video the defender left blocks attacker’s punch while right counter punching to the chest. In the book this counter punch is to the face rather than the chest.

So the main difference between this one in the video is that the attacker pulls, then pushes where the book does the opposite. The main thing is for the defender to just follow the attacker. So whichever way the attacker goes, just maintain your distance and balance as the defender and be prepared to block and counter strike when the attacker strikes. In the video the counter strike is to the chest, which is partially blocked by the attacker’s punching arm. Counter striking to the face, as in the book, presents a more open and vulnerable target.

This exercise of analyzing these old videos from varied sources was primarily done for historical interest in the evolution of Yakusoku Kumite. While it is sometimes interesting to review such variations of material, don’t get too hung up on such minor details in practice. It’s more important that you learn the drills the way your local qualified instructor teaches them and that you can perform them well enough to work, than it is to memorize the minor details of any particular stepping patterns.


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-Renshi Mike Scaramozzino

This drill is based on Yakusoku Kumite as described in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do.
Shoshin Nagamine's book The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do Matsubayashi Ryu

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