Thursday, September 18, 2008

Compression and Spin; Rock and Roll...

Tonight's lesson was a very light practice, but, I think most of us felt, interesting and productive. I think for those not used to this practice, tonight's session will have raised more questions than answers. And I think for those used to this form of practice, tonight's session will have raised more questions than answers!

So on to our truncated lesson tonight- no kumite tonight because we will focus on that on Friday.

Kihon: The Kihon of KWF Kurobi Kihon- Gyaku-zuki
Oh what fun we had...First of all we did basic kihon. It is the truth that you just cannot escape. But can you actually do it? I mean, can really stand there and do a lightening fast, linearly correct, no shoulder stress, perfect 65-75% front leg, 10% off-straight leaning forward, 0.2 second total kime/kiai gyakuzuki in gyaku-hanmi and then swing your hips back through to genkai-made hanmi with your rear hip over your rear leg 1.5 -3 cm lower than the front hip (i.e., showing the huge kushin compression required on the rear leg with tsumasaki mae) while keeping that spin on the same plane and accomplish that in 0.3 of a second and then whiplash that back again into gyaku-zuki...?

Well, can I do it? Nope. But I give it the old Columbia try.
..and can you look really handsome (male) or beautiful (female) doing it?
Well, the wife can. But she's gorgeous anyway.

...And if you can, then you are on your way to mastering KWF kihon.

Funnily enough, if are migi kiki (right handed) and you are serious and you train with us, you may well find that your left side is far more talented than your right side in doing this. Because there is less to unlearn.

Genkai-Made Simple Application
Actions speak louder than words: if your hikite is not pulled to the last millimeter, if your hanmi is not to the last degree, if your oi-zuki extension is not to the last millimeter, you are amai. Bryan Dukas Sensei is no longer amai!


Did you ever sweat just standing in hanmi? (Did you ever get fed up with my rhetorical questions?) If you didn't, you didn't get KWF hanmi with YS on you. As the Japanese say...Irrasshai! ("welcome!")
Of course all this is pretty basic stuff. Today's main lesson was...Kushin and Gyaku-zuki and Uraken combinations. So let’s make a subtitle, and as Mentor of Arisia would say, on with it!

Kushin and Gyaku-zuki and Uraken Combinations
Today we just did two simple patterns after basic kihon. I love doing the mae->mawashi-geri->yoko-gerikekomi->ushiro-geri gotta roll with it even if that last ushro geri does tend to flop around like a bunny rabbits ears sometimes. Jusslikedat.

First YS checked Bryan Dukas Sensei's Kushin-> gyaku-zuki and asked him to work on that. Actually, this was put in as a further revision for us, and a double check of Sensei Bryan. One of the fundamental abilities yudansha must have at the KWF is a relatively simple one, but it’s actually sometimes conceptually difficult to learn. It’s the dynamics of compression and expansion off the rear leg and foot (otherwise known as....3...2...1....Kushin). You can’t get more basic than this ability, and somehow when you make it, a lot of things become clearer. It’s difficult to explain, but we see it time and time again with sports Karate yudansha who are technically proficient to, say, old Kyokai standards. The hanmi shomen hip rotation is big and dynamic and the length of the punch is great and handspeed is impressive. But by KWF standards, it just looks fast and loose- uncoordinated and amai.

I don’t care how many times I have seen it, and I never get tired of it, is the KWF’s approach to rear leg work. I was taught by Richard Amos Sensei that tsumasaki mae and keeping the rear knee angle unchanged when rotating massively back to chamber for gyaku-zuki is essential. Kushin and pressure is understood in this explanation YS takes it a stage further by emphasizing the kushin, harnessing the joints and compression and twist. Frankly, if it doesn’t hurt and you don’t actually strongly need to release it, then you are amai. This is YS doctrine on the issue. That’s why if you aren’t sweating like hell, you are amai!

Kushin from Soto-Uke: What a difference 2-3 cm makes.
Next YS broke this down for us and then moved to personally work on Sensei Bryan. This was just great because it gave him the opportunity to put things together quickly with feedback. It also reinforces the body’s understanding of the relationship and importance of kushin and rear leg compression, orientation, and hip balance and vector for more advanced combinations. Obviously, soto-uke kushin gyaku-zuki is a logical step (forgive the pun, which was half intended) from hanmi-shomen.

The first critical thing here of course is the red hot poker feeling in your thighs- that’s how low in kushin you should be going. As we battled through last week, the next is keeping weight orientation forward, butt in and perfectly balanced forward to ensure maximum thrust forward for gyaku-zuki.

So how many of you move your front leg first? I’d wager a bet with the devil (I’m an atheist who is prepared to be agnostic to keep his valuable friends) that most of you move that front leg first and don’t thrust off the back!

Then we moved into combinations.

1. Traditional Combination: Shizen Kamae into reverse spinning Uraken
This seemed to be thrown in just to check the basic technical level of the black belts in the class and most seemed to be able to cope with it. I had trouble with it, but that’s because I am a donkey in sheep’s clothing. But you have to keep on going...the only answer is more practice, more thinking, and more practice.

The key is to be able to twist and compress down from the front leg without moving the back leg for leverage. The compression down is essential for the WHAP! uraken. Psychologically more than ever before, think efficiency- lean, tight, clean. How else would you want your best person, that person you project in the dojo to learn from in your daily life- to be?

KWF Karate is beautiful! Poetry in motion. You have to be there and see YS in motion to see how great this move is. Ok, enough of the warm up and onto the two major kihon renshu.

2. Zenshin Extended Kihon Jodan Oi-zuki-Gyaku-zuki, genkai-made Age-uke Gyaku-zuki Kushin Soko-uke->Gyaku-zuki ...
What a beautiful set of zenshin tonight- pure pleasure to put together. If you think each time you move, the next move must be better than the last, longer, more kime, more linear motion, less waste, more relaxed, stronger and more beautiful, and each time your hips must be lower, then you love this sort of level of training! To me, it's the Karate equivalent of sinking a draft of cold beer on a hot day, or a chocolate éclair when you want comfort food and you know your blood sugar is low.

Think about it: a huge oi-zuki but the discipline of keeping perfect kihon and then the second punch (which always gives me great satisfaction, like a left cross after a jab, but this time with 10X the power and with seishin)...then going into basic, comfortable shodan kihon. KWF shodan kihon syllabus emphases the ability to produce powerful efficient genkai-made hanmi from gyakuhanmi (nidan develops the emphasis on shinshuku).

The next step is the most vital in this combination- it's the Kushin/soto-uke combination. There are several things going on here to be mindful of. The first is to make sure that your soto-uke is as it should be a weapon. In a sense, if you are inexperienced with this, you should forget the soto-uke and just go back to the basic shodan syllabus of shuto->gyaku-zuki. Why? Because by "thinking shuto" with your body, you will be able to execute Kushin.

This drill caused us (including your bumbling scribe) a lot of problems. For me extreme compression going back wasn’t the issue. When you have had YS make you do it until you are gasping and slipping in your own sweat, with the only thanks being comments like “Naniyatta-no Omae?” (What in the hell do you think you are doing, son?) or “DAME! Mo-ikkai!” (What a load of rubbish! Do it again! …and again…and again), I am telling, you don’t forget. So changing the practice to shuto was like getting on a bicycle after a long and weary stumble on stilts. But it’s the bloody soto-uke that’s the problem! Me being me, I can do one thing quite well if trained hard and repetitively enough, but getting that snap (think Asai Sensei level) with the elbow yet keeping the move to YS-level linear efficiency. But what about that soto-uke? OK- think Kushin and then think soto-uke and you should be fine.

And now for the tricky bit: Age-uke gayaku-zuki, soto-uke uraken:

This was the normal execution of going back into age-uke (no kushin) but there was a hell of a job for all of us to get that soto-uke done with snap and power, and then snap round for uraken. And the most critical thing (apart from, in my case, not falling over) is going down, twisting down through that uraken. What a night!

Tonight's kata: well it's quite obvious in Bassai-dai that that first move forward is going play a large role in dictating, at least unconsciously, an examiner’s judgment of the credibility of your kata. Did you hunch or wobble, did you vector down, were there any extraneous movement…let’s face it, if you did it in the street would get bowled over or back giving you the space and the time to give him a rapid and much nastier piece of your karate wisdom.

Well, to YS, the opening of Kanku-dai has three or four points that are absolutely critical for KWF Kanku-dai

1. Dynamic acceleration and scale of the two initial blocks
2. Correct timing in chambering for blocks and balance shifting from kushin-style kokutsu-dachi
3. Proper chambering and extreme merihari between upper and lower body for the two uchi-uke blocks and compression off the rear legs for each of the punches.
Kanku Dai- we’ll leave it for another time.

Thank you and oyasumi!

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