Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Baka-na Osu ni Taishite

Baka-na Ossu ni taishite: Reigi wa Hitsuyo

Well, I am particularly looking forward to this first Karate week of 2009: Thursday will be 1st practice with YS; Saturday will be the 鏡開き (Kagamibiraki) and then on Sunday I'll watch the Dan Shinsa; I might get into having to fight some of the brown belts (no doubt to make them look good, eh!)

Kaiten Kumite
We had a great last session of the year and I am sorry that I have been so busy not to write it up permanently. Just think of the four major spinning techniques applied to yakusoku then ji-yu ippon kumite and you will get the picture. And if you don't watch it, you'll get your head knocked off! Doing kumite with kaiten waza is very dangerous for the blocker- if (s)he isn't up to par, it can be a bit of a knockout experience. The first jodan block has to be an intelligent one; that's all I can say, because the fist is a lot smaller than a foot, and it's coming a LOT faster, while the gedan is an opportunity for a test of who actually is controlling their center of gravity- the immovable object against the irresistible force. After that the next jodan block is the major area of trouble because that fourth spin is coming at you (or should be) like a tornado!
It was therefore very interesting to see Yoda vs. OS; there were a few of the sickening "smacks" of knuckle against skull, ribs, but fortunately both are complete gentlemen. I certainly would have gotten clobbered. In kaiten waza, the instructions are clear: there has to be commitment and if the defender doesn't, the defender gets clocked.

Baka na na Ossu ni Taishite
And now for the main thing on my mind before training for this year (for me) (officially) (in the dojo that is) begins. A bunch of us went up to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan where I am a member for dinner on December 24th as an excuse to entertain Ibusuki Sensei, who is 78 years young and one of the only men still around who is still teaching Karate who was actually taught by Funakoshi Gichin Sensei!
If you read the article on him The Shotokan Way, you will get a sense of where he stands on several issues. I am not sure about the other tables in the FCCJ overhearing our conversations about the best headbutting tactics women should use and how to practice them in the dojo! But apart from Karate that works in the street, Ibusuki Sensei wants people to approach their Karate
(a) Intelligently, because any thug who is loose can throw a mawashigeri
(b) Beautifully, particularly with Kata- for about a year Ibusuki Sensei focused on Yuko and getting her to do a beautiful Gankaku!
But Ibusuki Sensei was saying that's always what YS has been about. And I am sorry to say this, but YS doesn't like stupid students. He also doesn't seem to get on all that well with what I would call the Baka "OSSU" culture. (Baka means "silly" or "stupid," etc.)
Everybody with an elementary understanding of Japanese knows that Ossu is "spelt" from the characters "Osu" (押)push and that favorite of dilettantes of all stripes Nin 忍 (shinobu). Many will happily tell you that its the Nin in Ninja(忍者)while most Japanese people will tell you it's the Nin from Nintai (忍耐)which means patience or perseverance, or for the really masochistic, suffering. What most people won't tell you is that it can also mean a woman's hairstyle or even a species of fern!

But what I bet you didn't know is that the meaning of Ossu as Ibusuki Sensei understands it as O as in the honorific "O-"...as in Ohaiyo Gozaimasu ("Good morning") and "Su" as in sumimasen ("excuse me.") That's because "Karate begins and ends in courtesy and the proper spirit, and that's what Ossu is supposed to mean," said Ibusuki Sensei.
One thing I have noticed is that YS never really says "Ossu." He will reply with an "Ossu" sometimes if someone says "Ossu" to him, but he seems to have a low tollerance of Ossu replacing communication. For YS, answering with "Ossu" is not important. That's because replying "Ossu" is NOT a substitute for communication. It's not a substitute for communication. But it is sometimes an excuse for stupidity or even blind loyalty.

This was brought home to me a few months ago when he put a couple of university students (gakusei) through some Kata. When we have university students train with us, sometimes the session becomes what I might call an "Ossufest." No this isn't some sort of heavy metal event, but it does get very loud in the dojo having a bunch of young blokes very highly pumped on adrenalin shouting "Oss" at everything.
"Stretch forward" "Ossu!"

Stretch back "Ossu!!"

"Side stretch" "Ossu!!"

"Bed Bath and Beyond....er....Ossu!"

While all this enthusiasm is appreciated, it is no substitute for intelligence and communication and YS teaching style relies on breaking things down into its basic parts, getting people to practice them, then going to the next stage. It isn't rocket science, it's just a commonsense feedback loop. But it all breaks down if the person is what I would call an "Ossufanatic."
He was trying to get these two guys to work on merihari in Bassai Dai and it was pathetic and comical at the same time. For example:
YS: "OK, what is the meaning of the first move in Bassai Dai"
Gakusei: "Ossu"
YS: "What do you mean 'Ossu?'" Do you know what it means?
Gakusei: "Ossu"
YS: "Don't say 'Ossu', answer the question."
Gakusei: "Er, Ossu, Wakarimasen (don't know)"
YS: "So OK, you don't know, that's OK, but just don't say 'Ossu."
....Gakusei bellow "Ossu" of complete loyalty and understanding...
The irony of this was that the two guys involved in this, whose names shall not be mentioned in order to protect the guilty are actually very bright young engineers at one of Japan's most highly regarded electrical engineering unversities.
Looking at them and us, and them, and us, and YS...we seemed to have entered some kind of tear in the communicative space time fabric where intelligence and meaning would disappear...YS eyes rolled and we roared with laughter.
About a month later they were doing Bassai Dai again and it was much better. There is nothing like the fear of YS to buck your ideas up!
....and the moral of this story is as follows: ff you are visiting the KWF Honbu, remember you are in YS kingdom.
It is his lair.
What he says goes.
He expects 100% commitment.
He expects 100% effort.
He expects courtesy at all times.
His presence and his Karate demand this. But he also expects intelligence and communication: eye contact and intelligence are far more important than just barking out "Ossu."

Next Post: building rear leg compression and expansion drills- some fine tuning...

Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

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