C&S Self Defense Association
C&S Self Defense Association Core Training Standards
Grandmaster Peter Rose

The Association Core Training Documents outline rank promotion standards and in-rank study guidelines. The Association also has templates for all rank promotion testing forms. All documents have a release id, and this id is updated as the documents change. The following are the current release ids:

  • Association Core Documents: V20180401
  • Rank Promotion Testing Forms: V20080710

The Core contains both a public section that all association members should be aware of, and separate sections with specific requirements for each black belt rank.

The Core contains material in not only physical practice, but also intellectual studies and requirements. The Core provides a basic framework of common practice for all members of C&S Self Defense Association. The Core is designed to cover critical basic ability and knowledge. It does not layout anything other than the "things" that make up this common material. It is up to the individual program director as to how to present and build upon this Core to the best needs of the students in that program.

These Core documents are association level documents, and program directors are encouraged to obtain and/or review the association release content and compare that to any documents that are issued within your own line. Each Master, in fact in many cases each program, may have additional requirements to those of the association. Be advised that it is each program director's responsibility to make sure that the material listed under association Core is the current release id material. All documents, such as a green belt test form, should contain the current association release id so that everyone knows they are dealing with current association standards and requirements.

This page has been created so that each member of the association can verify that not only is their program operating in accordance with current association policy, but that they will know what that policy is. It is the intent that the association Core be minimally restrictive so that individual programs can, under the direction of their up line Master, train in areas that they feel their students will benefit the most from. It is not the intention of the association to restrict all students to one way; there are many ways. All we ask is that you are on the same path which will be the association Core, but that you are free to stop along that path at any point and pick up things that interest you in addition to that required by the association.

Anything that is listed as an association Core requirement has been approved by the Governing Council. Thus, if you have any changes that you'd like to see made to the Core, feel free to bring this to our attention and we will address it immediately.

As can be imagined, not everything that is taught can, or should, be documented. Our art should be conveyed personally from instructor to student. No document can be a substitute for that personal transfer of knowledge from teacher to student. This approach, however, can lead to confusion as each instructor has the flexibility of presenting not only the Core, but our whole association philosophy in a manner that not only is comfortable for them, but is suited for the audience they are addressing.

For this reason, everything that is Core level is discussed, and required, in the simplest structure possible. It is up to the individual student to examine this base, and seek out more detailed and sophisticated approaches for the application of what they are taught. This isn't to say that the student is on their own to do this. Again, our approach is to foster a collaborative effort between both teacher and student in order to resolve what otherwise might be viewed as either a deficiency, or an over simplification of the material presented.

As an example of this, Grandmaster Rose addressed one of these issues in his 2018 Annual Report to the Association. It concerns why we teach the simple meanings behind the movements of our forms that are not the full meanings implied within the techniques being taught. This discussion is provided below:

The topic I'd like to discuss with you all in this year's address has to do with work that I've been emphasizing with my students over this past year concerning forms training. The thrust of my message has been that the meanings behind the movements that we teach in the forms are not the real descriptions of the utility of the techniques. We teach very simple meanings that are reasonable to the particular technique, but the real reason for teaching forms, particularly at the under brown belt level, is to simply give the student a solid basis for combinational body movement.

This is a lot like learning to type: you type repetitive sequences that have nothing to do with being informative, but rather to teach mind body mechanics. Once you learn the patterns, you can then write your Great Novel.

So too in learning forms. The forms, though containing a great wealth of embedded knowledge, must be initially presented as simple body mechanics exercises. To me, the essence of karate for self defense is in developing power though efficient body movement. The forms give us this in the same way that scales exercises in music build a sense for music without actually teaching rigid musical theory.

Once the student understands this, and body reactions to self defense situations become automatic, again somewhere around that brown belt level, the student can be exposed to the real hidden meanings in the forms. What do I mean by hidden meanings? Well, take for example the first move in the first form: the simple sliding of the left foot over to the right, and then stepping out to the left to do a down block.

First of all, there are no "blocks" in karate; everything is a strike. For the new learner, it's just described that you're blocking a kick from an opponent to your left, and then sliding forward to punch them. But that's not even close to what's really implied in even just the so-called "blocking" part.

Having said that, there's a marvelous book written by Bruce D. Clayton called "Shotokan's Secret" where he is very insistent that every move in every form, particularly the first 5 forms of the Pinan Series, has one and only one specific meaning, and that each of these forms was created to solve very specific conditions for the practitioner. He even goes so far as to imply that if these aren't the meanings that you are teaching, that you're basically not as knowledgeable as you should be. Clayton's book is on our Pending Black Belt reading list to give the student this view of these first 5 forms.

Master George Dillman has done extensive writings on these hidden meanings, as well as the many videos produced by Master Evan Pantazi, Master Christopher Thomas, and many others on what's called bunkai, literally meaning "analysis" or "disassembly". This is the term used in Japanese martial arts referring to the process of analyzing forms (kata) and extracting fighting techniques from them.

If you study all of this stuff, you'll probably become confused as any move in a form can have many meanings. Every one of those meanings is as valid as the next, even the simple and rather pedestrian meanings we attach to our forms. The specific meaning is not what's important. What's important is the student's ability to train their body to move in very specific patterns with power.

Once that becomes effortless, again somewhere around that brown belt level, the student can then start to study some of these other "hidden" meanings to the movements. Having said that, let's get back to that first down block in the Pinan Shodan form. As a first stab at explaining this movement, we tell the student that there are no blocks in karate, but only strikes. Thus, that first move could very well be a strike to a nerve point on a meridian line in the opponent's leg.

Because of my physics background, I complemented that movement by describing the retraction of the right arm to a punching position as not only a chamber for the follow through punch, but also as a reaction to the striking arm movement itself. The key to understanding the movement itself, however, is the meridian strike.

Remember that the Okinawan karate which we study has its origins in the Chinese arts, originated from India over a thousand years ago, and brought to China by the Buddhist monk Bodhidarma. The Chinese developed much of our understanding of energy flow, called chi (or ki in Japanese), as well as the entire study of body meridian architecture.

The early development of karate in Okinawa called Te originated in three different villages – Shuri, Naha and Tomari. The styles were named Shuri-te, Naha-te, and Tomari-te, respectively. As you all know, our lineage descends from the Shuri-te systems, though all styles developed for the purpose of overthrowing the Satsuma Domain of Japan which had invaded the Okinawan islands in 1609.

Though karate uses meridian architecture as strike points, those same points are points of healing in other arts. Because of this, why would we call such strikes to these areas "blocks"? Well, things got a little confused when Okinawan Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate-Do, perhaps the most widely known style of karate, and is known as the "father of modern karate" first brought karate to Japan in 1922. Obviously, the karate he presented to the Japanese could not be the lethal killing art that it was, and thus began the systematic parsing out of key elements from the basics and forms to create a more sport oriented activity.

The problem with describing that first down block as just a strike to the opponent's leg with a corresponding right arm "reaction" is only telling a small part of the story. What about the actual covering position of the arms into a down block initialization posture as the body rotates counter clockwise? What does that mean? Well, the first question is: why does it have to mean anything other than getting into a striking position?

For the beginner, nothing more needs to be said because it makes great sense, and is a very simple explanation of the movement. For the advanced student, however, the understanding of even this simple initialization move is critical to decoding every move in our forms. The key is that no move is done as a set up, or initialization. Each move is an attack against the opponent.

What's really going on here for what I'm referring to as the initialization posture through to the execution of the downward strike is that all of that is a series of strikes with one arm coupled with either complementary strikes with the other arm, or grabbing/pulling movements to the opponent to throw them off balance, and open to the subsequent strike with the other arm.

Let's walk through all of this with one plausible explanation that is not a block or even a strike to a kick. First, is that arm covering movement. As you do this covering move, you're also turning counter clockwise. What you could be doing is striking one of the opponent's arms (doesn't matter which one) with your left hand as you simultaneously punch the opponent to the ribs or solar plexus with your right hand. You can see that this explanation is the same as the simple "covering" movement initially taught.

Let's look what we teach then simply as a down block, or strike to a kick. Remember, you're now in that "cover" position after actually doing the 2 strikes. So now shoot your right forearm in a sharp upward arch, strike a meridian point on the opponent's arm, grab it, and as you pull it toward your right side, execute a downward strike with your left arm to one of the pressure points along the meridian of that arm.

Because of that strike, the opponent's upper body will be pulled slightly forward toward you as you pivot your body into a completed stance. The next move of the form is to slide forward, and execute a punch. While that's all true, look at what you're doing with your left arm: it's in that classic down block position, and the next move is described as pulling that left arm back into a chamber position as a reaction element to the punch as you step forward.

How dull…. Instead of just pulling that left arm back into a chamber position, the move becomes a short back fist strike to the opponents chin or occipital bone, followed by that punch that is directed to the nerve points either in the soft tissue in the upper chest by the shoulder joint, or one of many other meridian points.

By doing this series, you've struck that left arm 3 times, punched the opponent to the ribs or solar plexus, struck them on the chin (or occipital bone) with a back fist, and made another punch to a frontal meridian point. Much more effective than the simple explanation given when you first learned the form.

Based on that alternative explanation for those first 2 moves, rest assured that the next move, that is described as spinning around and doing a down block in the opposite direction, has an equally different sequence of events. To give you a hint: it could very well be a continuation of techniques against that same opponent. Interesting....

So, why not teach this then instead of the "simple" explanation we provide? Again, it all has to do with what the instructor is trying to teach the student at their various levels of development.

At this point, it's highly likely that you've never actually been taught those alternative explanations behind just that first move in the first form. You might have been taught something else, or maybe no one has actually pointed out any alternative meanings for these moves. And you're probably wondering why. The reason is that if you have the general body mechanics of the move down, you can do any number of things.

Go online and watch several videos of folks explaining that opening to Pinan Shodan. I'd be surprised if any of them will be exactly the same, but they would all be reasonable, even to the extent of the very simple description that you were given when you learned the form from us. That's why those moves can mean anything, and if they can mean anything, then it is imprudent for us to cloud the sophistication of the move with one or even a couple of specific explanations.

When you learn how to drive a car, you're taught basic driving mechanics. Those basic mechanics work whether you are on flat pavement, sand, ice, or snow. You can be prepared for most of what will happen, but certainly there are conditions you'll meet where those basic skills will be tested.

For example, I live in New England where you can easily get caught in some very nasty snow conditions. When I taught my kids to drive, I took them over to an empty parking lot after a large snow storm. I had them get going fairly quickly, lock up the breaks, and go into a broad slide so they could get a sense of what the car would do. It was either that winter or the following where one of them not only hit a huge patch of snow and went into a broad slide, but also a 270 degree spin on the highway, slamming into a snow piled embankment on the side of the road.

Because of their basic skills, and the introduction of one specific complication, they were able to remain fairly calm and control the car the best they could. Basic skills practiced diligently will automatically become sophisticated responses under duress. This is why I not only don't feel it necessary to teach sophisticated forms methodology, but why I also feel that doing so could actually compromise a student's quick and automatic reaction to a sudden dangerous situation.

And one final note about forms. When we ask you to do a form, we expect that form to be done with great precision and, at a more advanced level, with theatrical flair. Forms are our greatest asset. They are the equivalent to the purpose of scales in music. Both are essential to their respective arts.

Having said that, I personally do not demand this of my students until they get into the brown belt ranks. I ask my students, even a second day student, to work toward the perfection of their craft. All I expect is that they try; not that they are successful. In my mind, and ultimately in the full scope of life, it's immaterial how well you do something, but rather far more important that you strive for the perfection of it.

You can ask any 20 year, 30, or 40 year student of mine to confirm what I've always said: I base my judgment and my feelings about a student on only two criteria: their intent, and their seriousness of purpose. This is very much in line with my following of the Hopi principle: "Seek the way to conduct our lives in friendship and peace, without anger, without greed, without wickedness of any kind, among ourselves or in our association with any people." Do that, and the rest of the stuff will come out just fine....

Thank you all for your continued participation with us in C&S Self Defense Association. Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments at any time.

With peace in our Art –
Grandmaster Peter M. Rose

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