Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Welcome to the KUGB

We were delighted to have a party of KUGBers over on Tuesday Black Belt trianing under Otsuka Sensei (YS is in New Caledonia until the end of the week) and it was nice to get back in the saddle. I've been laid low with pneumonia but it was, right, get the asprins and caffeine in and go for it!

My gosh it felt good to be back in the saddle, although my stamina has been badly impacted personally, it was best kick (or in my case, get the foot out, at least) forward.

Getting a Kick Out of Basics
Our guests lead by Nick Sensei are a really nice bunch and with a good atmosphere in the dojo, OS in their honor decided that we should do basics, and more basics and more basics. There's an expression in the UK that says, "Tired of London, tired of Life." Those people never lived in New York or Tokyo!

I say, "tired of basics, tired of Karate," so just go and do kick boxing instead ;-)

But what I really liked about Tuesday was that OS observations were aimed at all of us. For good reason in some cases, Japanese instructors are sometimes criticised for not explaining things enough. But it definitely depends on the instructor. OS decided to do a diagnostic in the first half and then work on a couple of points on the second. And you can guess what those were!

Kihon: Hanmi and Shomen
OK there is no doubt that a lot of us delude ourselves about our hanmi and shomen. And there are arguments that KWF 's movements are unnessarily extreme. But what Tuesday's lesson boiled down to was trying to get people to logically understand why we have hanmi and shomen in Shotokan Karate, and while the scale and technical correctness of these movements is fundamental.

Tuesday's key points:

1. The vector of an oizuki without gyakuhami actually has the wrong vector
2. The mechanics of the kick dictate that oi-geri and mae-geri must be done from shomen/ gyaku-hanmi
2. A weak hanmi in a block is nonsense; why give your opponent a bigger target, and why sabotage the scale of your hangeki
3. With all blocks, age/soto/uchi/gendan uke, you block with and from your body, not your arm
4. Lack of (3) particularly sabotages shuto-uke. Actually it's quite obvious who understands this and who doesn't. People who don't get it look like they are dancing. People who do get it, well you get hit in the head with one of those and it could well be lampshade time.

Point 4 is a big point with me because YS patiently re-taught me this point 5 or 6 times in the run up to my shodan: shuto is done from the hips, that's where the whiplash and power comes in. Until I was taught this by KS and YS personally (I am so dense that sometimes the only way to drive in a point is the old fashioned way, to beat it in) I used to regard shuto as a bit of a joke. KS gradually ground into me the the scale and then YS the whiplash. Now, at least I feel that I am competent (on a good day) on this beautiful, beautiful basic technique! :-)

Of course there were a lot of ohter points, and others may have different takes on the session, but that was my takeaway.

Giving 100%
Well, that was a very difficult session for me to get through personally because I seem to have lost lung capacity. I wouldn't give up, but I did get a bit wobbly. OS kept on asking if I was OK. He would say things like, "Paul san, that's an interesting shade of grey you're going!" Despite the fact the session was a very light one, I wouldn't give up.

But actually it's OK to stop in the KWF. YS expects you to put in 100% -total committment; but if you can't take the pace, you are free to rest. The instructors know who is doing what and I can guarantee whenever you think you are not being watched, you are being watched like a hawk!

Down the Aldgate
Any excuse. In order to celeberate our guests arrival from England, and in order to help their total emmersion into Japanese culture, Nick Gardiner and I took them down The Aldgate, a fine establishment serving traditional Brit ales and grub in the middle of Shibuya. The group will also be training at the JKS over in Sugamo and then back to KWF on Saturday! We wish them an enjoyable trip and excellent training in Japan.

Yoroshiku ;-)

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