For those with challenges in the cerebral palsy and arthrogryposis spectra there are often losses of flexion in the fingers, hands, wrists and forearms. The accompanying sensations range from an unpleasant tingling to something described as ‘burning arthritis’. So we do a fair amount of exercises designed to maintain if not increase flexibility. Some of these exercises involve wooden ‘tools’ (as opposed to weapons) like the tai chi bang and tai chi ruler. I prefer to pass along the history when I can – that is is easier said than done with the tai chi tools. More about them, including the rarely seen tai chi bar, in the future.
We also do several wrist exercises during warm-ups. I was somewhat shocked to discover that I had no idea where two particular exercises had come from. I had learned them in the early 1970s in Palo Alto California but it was unclear what art they were from. Upon asking around in my own martial arts e-grapevine, a fair number of people said the movements were familiar, and many mentioned that they had learned them in the 1970s or 1980s. I was cheered to hear that some still practiced the particular movements. But no one had a firm opinion where the exercises came from, what art might have originally developed them, who might have taught them or even when.
No one recalls the esteemed Professor Sig Kufferath (1911-1999; leftmost image below) teaching or doing the exercises, so there is some doubt that the exercises come from Danzan Ryu. Unfortunately, no one could point to an authentic written list of warm-up exercises from Professor Okazaki’s (1890-1951; rightmost image below) classes in Hawaii in the 1930s or 1940s either. There has been some speculation that the exercises were brought from Japan to Hawaii in the 1930s by two Kodokan jushodans who visited Hawaii to teach for extended periods. There are difficulties with the timing if one wants to claim the exercises come from aikido.