Monday, December 8, 2008

Purgatory in Motion: More DOWN!

As I mentioned in a previous mail, a few Saturday's ago we had an especially intense Saturday training; it was actually a bit of a breakthrough for me personally. It was Isaka Sensei (IS) at his best.

One of the first things that people unfamiliar with IS training who don't know the basics -or rather sometimes are not aware of what they have been taught, or haven't been taught at all- is asking "what the hell has this got to do with Karate?"

It also struck me last night watching the slow motion portion of Osaka Sensei's old JKA-era video of Shochin just how low standards must be getting if people can't figure out what's going on in Isaka Sensei's lessons. It's a sad, sad sad to see people shuffle around the dojo unable to do the basics- basics that should have been drummed into them from day one. And here I am talking and I have only been doing Karate 9 years- a newbie.

Anyway, going back to Osaka Sensei's video, those of you familiar with it will remember the long slow motion section in the old Ebisu dojo. Watching Osaka Sensei's Sochin, well, it's enough to make you fall in love with Karate again just watching it, isn't it? What YS has in sheer power and vibrancy and artistry, Osaka Sensei has in technical perfection, balance, focus. Of course, I am totally biased, I love this stuff and have no interest in the stupid, shallow and gaudy corruption of Kata that you need to accumulate gongs in sports Karate.

(The point is here that YS can still do a great Unsu. How many 61 year olds can do it at all? Sure he has to warm up, and you know, he growls a bit. He' s still the fastest, most dynamic person in the dojo- you feel a sort of whipping vortex force from him when he moves. Watching the man's Karate, it's so good, you are just left with a cheese eating grin: no wonder he makes people so jealous.)

Going back to the point: if you have the video or can access the slow motion part, put a piece of tape on the telly screen along the line of his hips. Of course, you don't have to. I guarantee you won't see a more than a fraction of a movement up or down no matter what the stance or the twist of the turn. OK, don't trust me? Watch the video. And then watch YS on Unsu. Have a party!

Back to Osaka Sensei's Sochin. Now imagine doing all those moves but lowering your hips 20 centimeters- no go for the whole foot down. Maximum compression. And keeping your center of balance perfect over your legs. And never raising your hips. This is Isaka Sensei's poetry in motion.

For Poetry in Motion read Purgatory in Motion
Basically, there is no mystery what is going on. IS movement training is designed to lock you into maximum compression and balance through every millimeter of your Karate training. If you have ever been told that Karate is different from boxing because you use your whole body, because the power in the taco on your knuckle comes off driving from ball of your foot through each joint all the way up and through your body then you'd better practice it. This is the core of IS training.

Sweat (occasional) Blood (and don't mention the) Tears
If you are not sweating within a minute or two of an IS lesson, you are cheating yourself. Go home.

I had a talk with this about Isaka Sensei the day after. Yuko and I couldn't make it that week because of business commitments and I was dying to get to the dojo so we asked if we could pop in to see Isaka Sensei. There he was, with the full panoply of equipment, including the tetsugeta, which were invitingly placed ready for Yuko. I ended up with the tube, which, as IS says, “a good teacher.”

The thing was, IS and YS had decided to lay down the law. It was a "MORE DOWN" day. And that was the lesson. What I realized this was that when YS or IS shout this, the people who react are the people who are (a) not aware that they are not doing things properly or (b) not doing things properly.

You don’t need Occam’s Razor here to figure out that you have not being doing things properly.

YS and IS decided to lay down the law; they would shout "DOWN MORE" and those who would be nameless, excluding me, would lunge down. This was then followed by the shout, “if you are going down more, then you aren’t doing it properly.”

It's another Homer Simpson d'oh time!

Time to confess; until that point I regarded it as a badge of honor to be able to squeeze an extra five centimeters lower when the baying starts. Then, you know, like the ape with the femur in 2001: A Space Odyssey (or in my case, waste of space idiocy), it occurred to me- do it properly.

After nearly four years in the black belt class, it all fell, not a bit like Martin Luther, in a heap! Walk out of the stage, Kallender, and into the Sun!

I took a good look at myself and realized that I had just become very good at appearing to do things properly. When it comes to moving from heisoku-dachi into kiba-dachi, I am one of the people who appears to be able to move without sticking my leg out, keeping my hips in the center at all times.

Talking to IS about it, it wasn't really a question of me being lazy (I guess I am subconsciously when it comes to Karate) but arrogance; constantly trying to unlearn what you have learned. So many of us just want to try to look good and move fast (both of them not really options for me) and we are paying lip service to the fundamental mechanics. By realizing this and pushing myself to the limit, I had just made a realization that will help me get to the next stage- said IS.

I'll drink (a cup of coca) to that!


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